A lot of fans’ favourite players are now getting older, perhaps inching up on retirements inside of the next decade. We’ve already seen the start of a new generation of tennis, one that has quickly ascended up the ranks to well and truly declare themselves the Next Generation of players.
As they grow and mature, they will need coaching – and here are our top picks for who could take up those roles.
Spanish ace David Ferrer is not short on skill – it would be foolhardy to say he is not among the top players. Widely considered perhaps the best player to have never won a Grand Slam, the Spaniard has won tournaments at every other level.
He reached as high as World No. 3 before a drop in the rankings and a recent lull in form, but David Ferrer has been on three Davis Cup winning teams in addition to making the 2013 French Open finals – going down to compatriot and longtime friend Rafael Nadal.
A seasoned team player, Ferrer is also an all-rounded sportsman. Having done well on all surfaces, Ferrer takes to clay incredibly well, and should a player choose to specialise in clay-court play, he would do well to be coached by Ferrer.
He is also a keen footballer and basketball player, meaning that Ferrer is at the top of his fitness.
Ferrer’s coach, Javier Piles, was famously strict, which has seen Ferrer say had scared him into discipline. Drawing on his own experience, we think the committed Ferrer would make a great coach himself.
This may seem like a surprising choice, but we think former World No. 1 Novak Djokovic would be a great pick! The Serb has an immense skill set that has seen him considered, without a shadow of a doubt, among the Greatest of All Time.
Even if Djokovic does not win another Major, the Serb has played – and continues to play – an immense, perfectly-rounded game in every way. Also not prone to too many outbursts on court, the Serb has an even temperament that would go over well with a young charge.
Fond of humour, Djokovic would be able to guide another player well whilst being able to help his charge effectively.
Proficient at both attacking and defensive tennis, Djokovic would be able to coach any player he takes charge of in every aspect, leaving that charge able to take on opponents in every shape and form effectively.
Over the past season – and in 2017, Belgian ace David Goffin, who lingered for a significant time on the cusp of the top 10, became the first Belgian man to have achieved that feat. He has since dropped back to 11th after a solid performance from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – who won the Marseille Open, ascending 4 ranks to knock Goffin out.
But the talented Belgian, who has often been described as knocking on the door of the top 10, has a rounded, balanced and consistent game that has kept him as close to the top 10 for as long as he has been.
Statistically speaking, Goffin has been stronger on his first serves than most, but that apart, the Belgian, like some of the best in the sport, plays a strategic game. On the shorter end of the spectrum for a tennis player at (only!) 5’11’, Goffin strategizes by being quicker on his feet – aided by his slim, lean build, and taking the ball early to make up for the lack of a huge serve, which many of his competitors have.
That strategic play is crucial for those who are not in the ‘epic-serving’ pantheon – aka most players out there, and is an extremely important skill to possess.
Goffin is also known for being calm and collected under pressure, something former World No. 1s Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have become known for. The rarely-stressed Belgian ace steadies himself on an even keel but is known for his humour, something that will be important should he take charge of an upcoming player.
Able to effectively balance his fitness, Goffin could help a new player with exactly those skills. Temperament has let some of the best players down in the past despite their immense skill, and it is something the Belgian could effectively teach.
At only 26, Goffin may be a bit young yet to consider coaching, but even 10 years down the line (should he have retired by then), he would be an extremely effective one.
Experienced in both singles and doubles, Stepanek has been in the Top 10 in both. A former quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in the singles, Stepanek has progressed beyond Round 3 at every Slam in the singles, but it is in the doubles that he truly shone.
Stepanek won the Australian Open in 2012 and the US Open the following year, in 2013, and has been a semi-finalist at both the French Open and Wimbledon, twice at the latter venue.
One of the last few serve-and-volleyers still on the current tour, Stepanek is also a powerful server.
Proficient in both the singles and the doubles, Stepanek has been on two Czech Davis Cup- winning teams. He’s also been an effective doubles and mixed doubles player, which means any player under his tutelage can become proficient in those skills.
In addition to his physical tennis skills, however, Stepanek will bring some key expertise that is necessary in making a good coach.
Given his experience at the Davis Cup, Stepanek is well-versed in working with a team; he will be able to handle all the accoutrements that come with being the coach of a player, and coordinate the squad that ostensibly accompanies one.
At 38, Stepanek is not only fighting fit, he is a top 30 doubles player who has had significant wins in the past few years – and that fitness will also play an important role in coaching.
Stepanek has great experience to draw from – his father was also a tennis coach.
Juan Martin del Potro
Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro has seen it all – successes, failures, near career-ending injury, and lived to tell the tale. The tall Argentine has speed, serve, placement and tactics, all aspects that have seen him race to success at Olympics and Majors.
After a long layoff, Del Potro came back last year to progress to the finals of the Rio 2016 games, going down only to an absolutely dominant Andy Murray. The Tower of Tandil, having experienced the best and worst parts of the sport, would be excellent even in terms of advising a young player going through his/her own career on how best to handle those ups and downs.
That said, he could impart his immense skill – although we wonder if that wristy forehand could ever be taught.
Incredibly importantly, Del Potro could teach a charge both fitness and perseverance. He is also known to be very mild-mannered, and would likely not be a harsh coach, but a physically exacting one given the standards he has meticulously placed upon himself.
For this, we think Del Potro would be a great coach in future.
BONUS: Nick Kyrgios
He’s considered incredibly skilled, but also incredibly problematic. Nick Kyrgios, still in his early 20s, has already appeared to become burned out, disillusioned, but despite this – and no coach – the talented youngster managed to win the ATP500 Japan Open title last year.
Kyrgios has also been described as immensely talented by the best in the sport – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, who have all reiterated the importance of Kyrgios not wasting his talent.
Should he take a long, and perhaps well-needed break from the sport, Kyrgios, who no doubt has the weapons in his arsenal, could guide and mould another player to avoid those same pitfalls.
Considering his age, however, we’ll give this just under a couple of decades, perhaps.