Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is Monfils better off without Roger Rasheed?

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)


Pony said...

Hmm this article is upsetting. Poor Gael. I had the pleasure of watching him play the Legg Mason final. I would like to see more from him. I hope he fares better without Rasheed.

tennischick said...

Thanks for your comment. I too hope that Monfils succeeds without Rasheed.

LK Brown said...

I totally, agree with many of the comments of your article. The tennis media, I believe do an injustice to Monfils & some others, but to the tennis fans in general with the comments they make prior to & during broadcast. Chris Fowler, Pat McEnroe, are very blatant with there negative comments. The second issue, is that tennis, is now becoming so saturated with coaches, and I'm not saying they aren't important, they have become bigger than life, and in some cases, attempting to usurp the player. I hate telecast, that is always cutting to the coaches, when something going on with there player. The beauty of tennis is figuring it out.

tennischick said...

I could not agree more. Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

While I disagree with your assessment of Hewitt (seriously, he was 19 or 20 when that happened and there was never another hint of any racism from him; let it go), I believe Rasheed essentially ruined Hewitt's career while he, ironically, launched Rasheed's. Remember, prior to being promoted to Hewitt's coach, he was just a trainer. From trainer to coach of a then top player? And then he proceeded to waste Hewitt's last remaining good years by overtraining him instead of helping him adapt his game.

So Rasheed gets his hands on another talented player who should be in the prime of his career and does absolutely nothing for him. Probably because RR has no tennis wisdom to offer.

So now he's with Tsonga, and since Tsonga needed a fitness boost, I predict a placebo effect for the first stretch and then no further improvement. Then the stealth trashing will start.

Still, in a way, you gotta admire RR's hustle.

ps. OK, Hewitt has been a jackass in a number of different ways over the years, but I don't believe it's fair to brand him a racist.

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