PUBLIC TALK WITH IAIN HUGHES
- Not long ago you started collaboration with Anastasia Potapova. What could you tell about her as a person and as a tennis player?

- As a tennis player, I mean, she is a really good junior and she made a really good progress on the senior court. She is very competitive. That one thing really attracted me. Unconditionally competitive. So this is very important for player and my coaching stuff and she seems to be a good student. That's it, she is a student and very competitive.

- In today's game Anastasia seemed to be enter the game slowly – she was losing 0-40 in the first game, saved all her break points and then broke. Can you comment from the coach perspective, what was happening to her?

- She was very nervous this morning. Not quite sure with about how she was going to start the match. I think she was expecting that the game will be a little bit faster but it was unaware and slow. But actually her best competitive situation is when she is down. Every time, during to the game, during to the match. She is a true competitive. She hates losing. Any of the girls, the top girls on tour feel that losing is quiet painful and you have to be concentrated on the win. There are situation sometimes it's hard to get in after this situation. It can be a little bit nervous, a little bit slow. It was not a good start but she was killing the game.

- What features in tennis players attract you as a coach?

- For me number one is unconditional competitive. Doesn't matter if it is an ATP tour or WTA. Andy Murray is unconditional competitive. The girls that I worked with – unconditional. And ability to be a student and learn from the game. Tennis is not a stupid game. You cannot just go on the court and just hit. You need to be a student, every time you go on the court, if it is practice, if it is match, every time you go on the court you have just try to get better one way or another and I have been lucky enough to work with several players who have that mentality. This is it.

- Do you have a motto you repeat to your students?

- To repeat to the students? Yes, I mean my coaching philosophy is for roots to grow and wings to fly. So it's important for me to put in the roots to Anastasia's [game] so that when she goes on the court she can play for herself, alone, in the future.

[A motto] that I say to Nastia? I'm not sure, I have so many. The one that I probably repeat the most, when we talk together about tennis, I want to know what's in her head, her heart and her legs, because there are things that I can't see, so I need something from her: 'head, heart and legs.'

- What is your attitude to the rule of coaching timeouts?

- It's a good question. The four Grand Slams have no on-court coaching, so it's important to bear that in mind. But I also think, especially with the younger players, you can add a certain experience in what is already quite an emotional situation anyway, so that can be quite important. Definitely, I think the higher you go and older you get, for me, the less you would have that conversation on court. I think the Grand Slams are so important, [and] while they're still different, that's where you have to be aiming.

- During these coaching timeouts, what do you prefer to say to your player?

- A lot depends [on the player]. It's the player that calls you. So normally they are looking for something. You have already started the match, so [it could be] something tactical. If there is something glaring, yes, tell them. First, it's the player that calls you. Sometimes it can be panic. Sometimes it can be pressure, suddenly they have to deal with a situation they don't expect. You have to be ready to answer any questions, but in the back of your mind you already have to know how to [talk to her].

- What would you suggest to Jelena Ostapenko to halt her drop down the rankings?



- It's tough to talk about another player, especially when you're competing against someone. The biggest thing to remember is that she is a Grand Slam champion. Whatever happens for the rest of her career, she has won a Grand Slam. It takes a little bit of time [to get used to being a major champion] but she won't be the first and she won't be the last to have a little dip, or something. But history shows there are always players, and there are some current Grand Slam champions, who are struggling a little bit. You have a motivation to win a Grand Slam, and you chase all the way through your career – 20 years, or whatever – and then it happens. You then need to readjust the goals, the targets, and some players it takes a little bit longer. She [Ostapenko] can play the game, no problem. I don't know her goals or her targets, so for me it would be unfair to say [more].



- Why do you think some players, like Elina Svitolina or Sasha Zverev, who struggle to perform their best in Grand Slam tournaments?

- For Sasha Zverev, I can't say much. Obviously for Svitolina, I mean the semi-final at Wimbledon, she's getting closer and closer. [There is] pressure for sure, and then expectation: the higher the seed, [it's] like this. I think also with Sasha and Svitolina they have such strong years, and they compete every single tournament. Whether that's good enough for the Grand Slams, maybe [they need] to prioritise the Grand Slams. But when you are winning week in, week out, there's expectation – it will always be the same. You look back at someone like Andy. Murray lost five finals before he managed to win his first. It's not easy winning a Grand Slam. They're still young. They've got time.

- How do tennis players work on the mental side of their game?

- Yeah, I mean the mental side makes a difference, definitely within the Top 20, for sure. The Top 30, 40, they can all play unbelievable tennis for sure, power tennis. Now with [Ashleigh] Barty coming in, it is slightly different, but the mental side comes down to the unbelievable competitiveness, being a student, and experience. As long as you are learning every time you go on the court, you will be able to deal with situations as they come along. Those that enjoy competing, I think it's better [to have] mental training. From a coaching point of view, I'm lucky enough to have another competitive player, then you have to make situations on the practice [court] where it's competitive, so you can keep working in that situation. You can work maybe in the performance situation and then you bring it back to competitive because that's the type of player you have. So the mental training you have on the court, or it can be off the court, is competitive. It's an individual competitive sport and the training is through competition.