WTA Coaches of the Year
Oracene Price and Richard Williams
Let's see what this pair accomplished in 2008. A Wimbledon Champion. A United States Open Champion. Olympic Doubles gold medalists. The winner of the YEC. Two daughters ranked in the top ten and both with the credentials and game to be named WTA Player of the Year. Along the way their daughters played two matches that rank in the top three for the year. Do I have to say anything else? I didn't think so.
Many fans make fun of this woman who has done nothing but keep her daughter among the top ranked in women's tennis and is being rewarded by seeing her daughter play the best tennis she ever has in 2008. I got a chance to see Elena play live this year at the US Open and saw an intent focused player who has improved the worst aspect of her game - her serve, and upgraded the rest of her always strong approach to play. Elena was rightly proud of her Olympic Gold Medal and played well at the YEC in Doha.
I'm sure that Vera will be sitting courtside again next year along with her son Vsevolod who is helping to coach his sister.
This former Croatian player is the man who lit a fire under Dinara Safina and taken her from being known primarily as Marat Safin's little sister to one of the powerhouses in women's tennis. Dinara has gotten more fit, more focused and instead of letting her emotions run wild when things get tight during a match he has shown her how to rein them in and use them to her advantage. Is he responsible for that primal scream Dinara let's loose with from time to time? Who knows? With the women's game poised to become the domain of Big Babe with finesse next year I think with a saner schedule his pupil will be a force late in the year.
This French national has been working with Vera Zvonareva since 2006. Vera, who up until this year was more known for her emotional outbursts on court arguably had her best year ever in 2008 and only cried once and that was during the YEC final in anger and frustration. Like Dinara's coach he has taught his charge how to rein in her emotions and stay focused on the task at hand. There will be a lot of pressure on this team in 2009 and of course there will be no time for tears.
Ricardo Sanchez should be mentioned since he coaches the WTA number one. He would not be my choice as a coach of the year due to his behavior which I detail below. All of the other people mentioned have done nothing but add to the sport of tennis. I just can't get over that stunt he and Jelena pulled against Venus with the stop watch and yelling out instructions during the same match.
Sanchez, who has been around tennis for decades, is coach of the WTA's number one Jelena Jankovic. I posted a picture of them together because if there ever was a mind meld between player and coach this is it. They both seem to thrive on stretching the meaning of the rules to the nth limit and enjoy the drama they create on court. Like their tactics or not Jelena rode the back of a grueling schedule to the number one ranking without a Slam win. 2009 will be a major challenge for Sanchez and his charge.
Special Note: Thanks to Haruka for helping decide who made both lists.