I have to tell you that I am becoming slightly fed up with the way Mouratoglou seems to be either aggrandizing himself, or allowing himself to be aggrandized through Serena’s success. It’s as if there was never a pre-existing, loyal TEAM behind her before he entered the picture. From the way people carry on, you’d swear she hadn’t won a tournament until she hooked up with this French dude.
If it is his PR machine that is responsible for fueling his exposure as the man behind Serena, then I can’t help but become suspicious of his motives. Could Serena possibly be being exploited? After all, he has an academy to promote. And he has never been as famous – either as a tennis player or coach – as he is right now.
Which is why I threw caution to the wind and pointed out to my friends that before hooking up with Serena, Patrick had never taken any player to the top. His list of students include Marcos Baghdatis, Grigor Dimitrov, Aravane Rezai and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – all solid players with potential – but not a Slam between them.
In fact, I continued, Serena Williams single-handedly had more titles than all of his other students combined before she even met Mouratoglou. So why, I asked, is he suddenly getting all of the credit for her success? Understand that I am not implying that he has been irrelevant to her current performance. I am querying only whether he deserves to be given all of the credit.
I also acknowledged the one thing that I can actually allow Mouratoglou – that he has a positive history of coaching both men and women. It takes a special kind of coach to be able to switch between genders. Most women generally prefer a personal approach to being coached. We do better in relationship. We thrive on connection – albeit one that is emotionally supportive and available, while respecting the clear boundaries that should never be crossed, in my personal opinion. It’s a tough dance. Not many men can do it.
Many believe that Mouratoglou (and Serena) have crossed that boundary and now enjoy a dual-role relationship. Which, in my profession, with its stringent ethical code, never portends well. Yet my colleagues apparently saw no ethical issues in the alleged Serena-Patrick relationship. And since the USTA apparently has no formal ethics code guiding the behavior of coaches, I myself have gone back and forth between my grandmother’s dictum of never shi**ing where you eat, and my clear support of Serena’s improvement since moving to France.
But let’s be clear that I am not implying any concerns about Annacone crossing that professional line with Sloane. I wish I could say that it helps that he has raised a daughter, but you would be right to point out that so has Mouratoglou. My trust in Annacone has more that the fact that even after Federer recently dumped him, Annacone has had only nice things to say about Federer’s continued success. That bodes well for Annacone’s solid understanding of boundaries.
But, as I mentioned before, Annacone is a man apparently used only to coaching successful men. Successful. White. Men. If I am to be truly honest. And Sloane is neither a Sampras, nor a Henman, or Federer. She is also not at the height of her tennis success.
My point being that there are polar differences between working with an already successful and privileged White male, and taking on a talented, hungry, and young African-American woman at the youth of her career. There is a gap between enhancing an already successful masculine success story, and nurturing a young woman to become her very best. I hope that Annacone is up to the challenge. Because I will not at all be upset if 2014 became the Year of Sloane Stephens.
And, having made the mistake of loudly announcing this, just like that, I lost a whole group of friends.
(Part 2 of 2)