Patrick Mouratoglou may be known now as Serena Williams’ consultant extraordinaire but the Frenchman has played a significant role in the development of many players, through his coaching academy on the outskirts of Paris. British teenager Laura Robson, who is causing a stir at the US Open, was there for two years and Mouratoglou told The Tennis Space he always believed she would make it to the top and that we can expect to see her playing grand slam finals in the not-to-distant future.
Did you see Laura beating Li Na?
I missed the match with Li Na but I saw a bit of her match against Clijsters. I thought she has improved in a few areas which were very important. She always had a great game but she always had a few areas where she needed to improve. One was physical, her movement on court, which when I saw her against Clijsters was much better. She is simply covering the court much better. She also sticks close to the baseline, she doesn’t go back, she’s coming forward more and she’s also faster to run around the backhand and use her forehand. Her forehand is a really, really a good shot.
How good is Laura?
First of all she’s a leftie, so she’s got this angle with the forehand short cross, and the serve, which is also a weapon. I was not worried for her. I was sure she would (make it) because first she’s very motivated, she really wants to make it; second, she has a really great game, but she was very young and there was a question also of maturity. So mentally she has improved, she’s more mature, you can see it, she’s more relaxed. She was putting too much pressure on herself, when things were not going the right direction in matches she was really down and I think she’s more relaxed, she’s enjoying playing. For sure the mixed doubles (at the Olympics) helped her a lot, being confident in her game. She’s always been good mentally because when you win Wimbledon juniors, at 14, being English, at home, it’s such a pressure and she could handle it, it’s impressive. She’s always been good but she was just putting too much pressure on herself and it was hurting her. I don’t see this anymore. It’s just positive and she can use her mental strengths.
She says having an injury-free run has been crucial?
That’s also true. She was always injured. She was late physically – compared to her tennis level, her physical level was really low. Every time she was starting to work on the physical side, she was getting injured, so it was really a problem. It was important to accept it, to take time to build her body. The body has to be able to suffer in order to improve but first you have to build it, it was not strong enough, now it looks much better. When you see the way she moves on court, there is such an improvement.
There will be a lot of expectation on her now. Can she cope?
I understand there will be more expectations and I think that’s normal but I think she can handle better the expectations now that she has won those matches and she feels she can do it. Because when you have the expectations on you and you’re not sure you can make it, then the expectations can really pull you down, and this explains also for me that during matches when things were not going right, she was really down mentally. Now I think she’s prepared to handle that pressure much more.
How good can she be?
I think there is no limit (to how far she can go). I think she has a great game, she’s a great competitor, she’s won, and this means something, because when you win in juniors, major tournaments, with major pressure, it means a lot. And this is what it is about when you’re in the grand slams and in the main tournaments, in the quarters, semis and finals. I told some of your colleagues in Miami (in April), because they were worried she was always injured and not moving forward, I said it will come maybe this year, I said at least she’ll be top 20 for sure. With the game she has and the motivation she has, no doubt. Now we can look further.
Stosur is a great player but is the match-up good for Laura, being left-handed?
The main strength of Stosur, her kick serve, will end up on the main strength of Laura, her forehand. And also Stosur’s backhand is very weak. She’s used to running around it but with Laura’s forehand, and with her spin, she can find a way to hit to the backhand most of the time. So Stosur will play a lot her backhand down the line, for sure, and Laura should really stick to Stosur’s backhand and every time she has a short ball she has to go really strong for Stosur’s forehand, in the space. I think she has a really good chance to win.
Are you proud of your part in her development?
I don’t want to take credit for anything. I’m happy for her. She’s a great player and it’s always a pleasure to see a great player winning big matches and rising and soon we’ll see her I’m sure in the semis and the finals of grand slams. It will take a bit more time but I think the person who has to be proud is also the new coach (Zeljko Krajan) because she changed not so long ago and the results are also right there. It’s all about the results.