I believe that the relationship between a tennis coach and a pro player should be as sacrosanct as the one I hold with my psychotherapy patients. You will never ever see me writing or talking about a client. It just is not done. It’s unethical and unacceptable in more ways than I care to count. The same should hold true for the relationship between a tennis coach and his or her student.
As in any relationship based on trust, there should always be an inviolable zone of privacy and protectiveness around the coach-student relationship. A player should always be able to trust that his coach has his back.
So when in 2007, Roger Rasheed publicly announced his break-up with Lleyton Hewitt, a huge part of me went “Ouch”. Keep in mind that back then I was no fan of Hewitt. I was at the time still burning over the incident in which he implied that an African-American linesman at the US Open was cheating to help James Blake. Hewitt got rightly excoriated in the press for what was perceived as his own projected racism.
And yet I felt that Rasheed had done Hewitt wrong by going to the press to announce their break-up in such a distasteful manner. Understand that my problem with Rasheed was not that he broke up with Hewitt. My problem was with his decision to run to the press to passive-aggressively announce it. (And yes the timing was also disgusting, coming as it did a mere week before the Aussie Open. Even a jackass like Hewitt deserved better.)
I find it truly problematic that Rasheed so often seems to be running to the press to bad-mouth his player. And if he is not the one who is running to the press, then he himself needs to launch an inquiry into how come the members of the tennis media seem to be so insightful into his negative thoughts and feelings about his player.
Take for example the recent comments being made about Monfils by many members of the official tennis media. Am I the only one who has noticed that over the past few months, several of the regular tennis commentators seemed to be in the know that Rasheed was frustrated with Monfils? It seemed as if, in every tournament that Monfils appeared, a tennis commentator was able to speak on behalf of Roger Rasheed and to express how frustrated the latter had become with Monfils.
Lately, during the Legg Mason Classic, these comments became louder and more strident. With every match that Monfils played and won, the tennis commentators remained fixated on what a loser he essentially was. As a result, it came as no surprise when these same talking heads announced that Rasheed and Monfils were dunzo.
Indeed, Cliff Drysdale went one better and invited us to speculate on whether we had ever before heard of a situation in which it was the coach who had fired the student!! Pat McEnroe then started telling a story about how Monfils was dancing and clowning around in his hotel room as his girlfriend was trying to communicate with friends back in Australia on Skype. How do they know these things?
And I am watching and listening to all this and wondering why was it that the tennis media seemed to be going to such lengths to paint an image of Monfils as a hyperactive waste of talent. Mind you, I have on this very website referred to Monfils as a French clown. I too think that he squanders his talent and athleticism and often makes poor shot selections.
But I am not, as Sarah 'Malaprop' Palin would say, part of the lame-streamed media. Watching the ESPN talking heads in action, I found myself wondering why it was so important for the story to be that it was Rasheed who broke up with Monfils and not the other way around. And I also found myself wondering if Monfils isn’t after all, better off without this particular brand of poison. (Part 1 of 2)