Richard Williams deserves more credit

Eurosport - Tue, 27 Jul 11:38:00 2010

Richard Williams is a controversial figure who is loves having two of his daughters ranked as the top two players in the world.

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He would lift signs emblazoned with the words 'Welcome to the Williams show' when his girls competed in their early Grand Slam finals - and he was pleased with himself for doing so.

He is not shy of putting on a show, or making shocking statements. He admitted deciding to procreate after watching a tennis trophy ceremony on television, so stunned was he by the amount of money printed on the cheque. And he also asked his wife to have two more children in order to build further tennis champions.

But I think his goal was to create a buzz around himself and his family. I am not at all convinced these statements are true; I believe they were made to give more power to the Williams 'legend'.

You have to admire what Richard has done in powering his daughters to the world number one ranking despite starting out like two regular players at a young age. The sisters' resume is simply stunning: they have played each other seven times in Grand Slam finals; they have won a combined total of 24 majors; they are the top two players in the world, and are also number one in doubles.

Venus has claimed 21 Slam titles: seven in the singles, 12 women's doubles with sister Serena and two mixed doubles. She has also nabbed three Olympic gold medals - two in the doubles and one in the singles. Serena has claimed 27 Slam titles: 13 in the singles while she holds an identical record to Venus in the women's and mixed doubles.

What an accomplishment for a man who came from an underprivileged family - and most of all never played tennis! For those who suspect his success has been down to luck, I would say the fact that both girls have done so well increases confidence in his influence.

I had the chance to interview Richard for L'Equipe Magazine in Miami in 2006. I was chosen to do the interview because I had never hid my admiration for his accomplishments. And at that time I was coaching Marcos Baghdatis, whom I've been working with for seven years, and he had just reached the Australian Open final.

That result armed me with the credentials to talk to him on an even level. We are now good friends, despite being in direct competition: Aravane Rezai, whom I train, led 6-3 5-2 against Serena before losing in Sydney, and defeated Venus in the Madrid final. In 2009 I was training Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who met Venus in the second round of the Dubai Open.

Of course I know Venus's game very well, but I always like to watch players during their practice sessions to glean information regarding the level of their game and fitness. About 50 people were gathered to watch her hit balls the day before the match.

While I was taking notes, Richard approached me to ask: "What are you writing?" I answered: "It doesn't concern you." He replied: "I want you to leave."

I asked him to repeat what he had just said to me, because I couldn't believe it. He then said: "Leave at once, or I will call security."

While he disappeared to find this security I decided to leave in order to avoid creating problems, although I knew I was in my right to stay for as long as I wanted.

The next morning, the day of the match, Richard and I met again. He acted as if nothing had happened, shaking my hand and teasing: "Hi man, how are you, bro?"

Later in the day Venus beat Anastasia 6-0 6-1, playing one of the best matches I've ever seen her play. On that day she was unbeatable.

The episode highlights a striking aspect of Mr Williams's personality. He has what it takes to make his daughters win: psychology, common sense and spirit.

The man does not receive enough credit, which I regret, because he is not a typical coach in that he doesn't play tennis and did not receive a qualification.

Most coaches are good tennis technicians, but they can forget the best ways in which to use those techniques in order to win. That is something Richard has in abundance.

Most of the time coaches have good analysis and are fine tacticians, but they fail to communicate well with their player because they don't understand how their mind works.

They are very demanding professionals, but their technical knowledge sometimes prevents them from seeing things the easy way - the common sense aspect.

And last but not least, when you are so desperate to see your children winning, the spirit to achieve it comes naturally. He gave them that eagerness to win; he made them dream by saying: "We have nothing, we are poor, but we can have anything we want in our lives if we fight for it on daily basis."

He made them work very hard. He then built weapons: striking abilities, power and most of all extraordinary confidence. He confessed: "They would have succeeded in any job they'd chosen - because they believe in themselves."

Their mother Oracene has also played a key role, although she is much more isolated. Richard and Oracene are divorced but she is still very much around her daughters.

Since Richard and Oracene no longer speak, they split up the work - and take turns to follow them.

Patrick Mouratoglou / Eurosport

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