To understand how Patrick Mouratoglou found himself coaching Serena Williams you’d first have to comprehend where he came from and his genuine love for tennis.
Like many children, Mouratoglou struggled with his mental health when he was young, but given the time that he grew up in it wasn’t openly accepted to express those emotions.
The Frenchman struggled in school and often felt anxious around others, but the place in which Mouratoglou felt solace was on the tennis court.
His love for the game quickly overtook his daily life and for that reason, Mouratoglou really credits the sport for “saving” him from a different and less fulfilled life.
“I remember the tennis court being the only place I felt safe,” Mouratoglou told ONE37pm. “I knew I didn’t fit in with a lot of the other kids, but every time I held the racket I felt like I could be something … that I was something.
“I wanted to be great, and from an early age I knew I had the chance to be extremely good at tennis.”
Unfortunately for Mouratoglou though, his parents didn’t share the same vision for him in the sport. Despite regularly practicing for hours each day and continuing to grow into a formidable youth player, his family believed pursuing a career in tennis wasn’t in Mouratoglou’s best interest.
After years of resentment and anger over giving up his dream of playing professionally, Mouratoglou shifted his attention to something even more fulfilling; coaching.
Despite having no experience in the space, Mouratoglou challenged himself to learn the ins and outs of what it takes to start his own business through his tennis academy at the age of 26.
Through years of hard work and processing the relationships that need to be built to succeed in the business, Mouratoglou steadily began to establish himself in the tennis world, securing valuable clients like Marcos Baghdatis, Laura Robson and Gregor Dimitrov.
Then, in 2012, Mouratoglou received a call from an unexpected player; Serena Williams.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little surprising. She’s the greatest player to ever play the sport. She was obviously going through a lot at that time and it was a huge honor for me to be the one she called.
At that time, Williams had already amassed 13 major trophies in her career, however, she was in the midst of a dry spell that lasted over two years without a major victory.
Mouratoglou recalled a conversation he had with Williams at Wimbledon in 2012, a moment that served as a crucial point in time for the renaissance of the second half of her career.
“I was eating at one of the restaurants in Wimbledon and Serena ran up to me out of nowhere,” Mouratoglou said. “She was very excited and said to me ‘if I reach the next round I’ll jump back up to third in the world in the rankings.’
“I’m thinking to myself this is ridiculous and my response was so what? I don’t remember her even responding to me.
“Later that day I get a text from her apologizing for her comment and losing sight of her vision for herself as a champion.”
Williams ended her drought that tournament by winning Wimbledon and has gone on to win 10 majors since asking Mouratoglou to be her coach.
One aspect of Mouratoglou’s coaching that he always likes to instill in his players and the other coaches at his academy is that catering to each player is the most critical aspect of their jobs.
“I saw Serena and knew that she was already great,” Mouratoglou said. “Everyone knew how great she’s been her entire career, but she needed a reminder of her talents.
“It’s easy to lose sight of that when you go through the rough times, but my job is to make sure I’m reminding my players of what they can achieve no matter how challenging it is to get to that point.”
Although Williams isn’t able to compete at this year’s U.S. Open — currently taking place in Flushing, NY — Mouratoglou has a busy two weeks ahead as he coaches three players at this year’s tournament, including Stefanos Tsitsipas, Coco Gauff and Holger Rune.
While Tsitsipas and Gauff have significant expectations of reaching the later rounds and potentially winning the American major, Rune’s story is actually quite interesting.
He’ll face the top-ranked player in the world on Tuesday in Novak Djokovic after qualifying for the U.S. Open last week.
At the age of 18, Rune is currently ranked 145th in the world. His career is only getting started, but Mouratoglou says he believes the match will serve as a significant learning experience for the young Dane.
For players like Tsitsipas and even Rune, there’s a unique opportunity presenting itself at this U.S. Open and future tournaments.
Tennis is at a crossroads as the sport’s biggest names begin to age, especially on the men’s side with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
The two greats continue to battle injuries and that’s opened the door for another legend, Novak Djokovic, to pursue the all-time record for majors.
There’s a clear opening in this next generation though, with Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev leading the charge as players only in their early-to-mid 20s.
For nearly two decades, Djokovic, Federer and Nadal have dominated the sport on the men’s side, winning a significant share of the titles since 2000.
In fact, from 2010 to present, only four other players have recorded wins at a major championship for eight out of a possible 46 titles.
Mouratoglou recognizes the need for change in tennis as the sport desperately craves a younger audience and that’s why he created Ultimate Tennis Showdown.
The concept includes a condensed version of a traditional tennis match, with a 45-minute limit on each match and a variety of unique ways for younger viewers to become more engaged.
“I wanted to create something that brings a younger audience,” Mouratoglou said. “There aren’t as many young people watching tennis as there used to be and part of that is how long matches are.
“Roughly 15 percent of tennis matches actually involve the ball being in play. That’s way too much down time between points and it really hurts the sport because people lose interest quickly.”
While some may see UTS as a challenger to the traditional ATP and WTA Tours, Mouratoglou wants everyone to know that his goal isn’t to compete with the existing professional circuits.
UTS utilizes a 15-second serve clock to speed up down time between points as well as allowing coaches to become more involved in assisting their players.
“One of the biggest issues I think that happens in tennis is the lack of coaching that’s actually allowed,” Mouratoglou said. “In traditional matches, you’re very far away from your player and can’t really communicate.
“You simply don’t see that in other sports. All of my work comes with the preparation I have with my players because once they step out on the court it makes it very hard to help them when they’re playing.”
All matches from UTS can be streamed directly through the organization’s website.