Patrick Mouratoglou is considered one of the best coaches in the world, in any sport.
Since taking over as Serena Williams’ coach in 2012, Mouratoglou has helped the tennis star capture another 10 grand slam titles. He also is the coach to one of the biggest up-and-coming (more like already here) names in tennis, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
But Mouratoglou’s daily life consists of a lot more than just coaching. At this point, he is a brand himself and has his hands in all sorts of projects in the tennis world.
When I got the opportunity to talk with Mouratoglou, it came at a very unique time. Serena had just suffered a very emotional defeat against Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. In addition, Tsitsipas was just hours away from competing in his second semi-finals.
Templin: I know the emotions are still so raw from yesterday, but you have to be able to quickly turn things around. What are the nerves right now in the hours leading up to a big match, like tonight?
Mouratoglou: In a way, it is a chance. When you have a disappointment, like yesterday, it is very painful. Simply because I love my job. I am 100 percent into it. I put all my heart into it… the fact that Stefanos is playing today, I have to think about something else. In a way, it is easier. Of course, a lot of excitement.
Of course there is stress and pressure. Which is something that we all need. That is what brings the adrenaline that is necessary to compete at the highest level… if we didn’t have stress, I would open a bakery.
Templin: If you don’t mind, I would like to rewind the clock to your childhood. What is something that you took with you from your father’s music abilities into tennis?
Mouratoglou: What I get from that moment in time is the discipline, the work, and the repetition. Because he was not playing beautiful music, but he was rehearsing the same musical sentence for hours until it was perfect. As a child, it was annoying to hear the same sentence for an hour. But it taught me what that was about. And in sports, you have to repeat until it is perfect.
Templin: Social media has really captured a lot of eyes for tennis fans across the world. There are great moments in tennis. It could be one point, a 30-second clip, and it captures the imagination of tennis fans. But I would guess that as a coach that you see players attempt things, knowing that cameras are on and social media is around. And they are trying to attract fans and not trying to be good tennis players. Have you seen that transition? Has that been frustrating or do you think it benefits the industry?
Mouratoglou: That is a very good and unique question that I really like. It doesn’t frustrate me at all. People are who they are. And they do what they feel like doing. As a coach, I want to work with people who want to achieve big things in what they are doing. So, I am not attracted to people who play tennis thinking about, “this point is going to be on Instagram of the Australian Open.
But Patrick is aware of HOW important those players and moments can be for the sport of tennis.
Mouratoglou: Those people are great for tennis. Those points we see, they make tennis more attractive to the world. I love that players think like that. It grows tennis. But it is not the people I want to work with as a coach because they are more focused on the image and not the performance.
One of the big projects that Mouratoglou is working on is the Ultimate Tennis Showdown. It will be a league, centered on an alternative format with a different pay structure that is already attracting the biggest players in the world.
Now that Mouratoglou is on the governing side of the game, he thinks he has an even greater appreciation for those players.
Mouratoglou: As the President of UTS, I am very excited we have those players too. The showmen. The ones that can bring tennis to another era.
Templin: Knowing that you are so self-aware and conscious of your time and effort… I mean, being Serena Williams’ coach is a full-time job by itself. But you do so much more than that. Whether it is Stef, The Academy, or UTS, how have you managed that transition from being just a coach to being a brand, a social media account? What have been the learning curves going with it?
Mouratoglou: It is not easy to do a lot of things. But it is very cool and exciting. I think it is all about the team. But in a way, it is the same for a player. You can’t achieve anything by yourself. The idea of a team is having the right people in the right place. I don’t think I am good at everything…I am good at some things, but some people are better than me at other things. So, I just try to put the right people in the right places. The Academy could completely run well, without me. I need to be next to the players, I need to inspire the coaches, but if I am not there tomorrow—the academy would do well because the team is doing the job perfectly.
Templin: People with incredible tennis minds might understand this better than me… but last night Serena said it was a match of mistakes. A lot of unforced errors. But as I was watching, I saw Osaka putting her in difficult positions. This is a tennis question, not even a Serena question. How do you balance recognizing the opponents success vs your own player’s defects?
Mouratoglou: There is the reality. In a way, it doesn’t matter. What I want for my player is to have her concept of reality that makes her better. I have my own opinions of the match, but if 10 people watch the same match, you will have 10 different opinions. I know Serena. I know Naomi… it is very complicated.
Templin: As an entrepreneur, what does your week look like? How do you allocate your time?
Mouratoglou: The question every day is, ‘what will my day look like tomorrow.’ There are long-term goals, there are short-term goals. Are we in a competition week? Are we in a preparation week? Serena is always first. What does she need from me? That is always first. I always want to spend more time on the tennis court. But things come up.
For the press, social media work, it is probably an hour a day. I probably spend two hours a day on the tennis court. The business takes time, because there are big projects… It is a lot of hours, but it is very exciting. If you told me as a kid that I would do all these things, I would not have believed you.
Templin: When I think about high-level tennis, I think about the discipline and focus it takes. The repetition is so intense. These players have to be so serious. But you maintain a smile… finding that balance would seem to be difficult but you do it with ease.
Mouratoglou: I don’t know… I work in my passion. It’s such a pleasure. I know how lucky I am. I think about it every day. I never want to be the guy where everything is normal. Nothing is normal. I don’t want to look back and be happy with what I have done. You have to look at what you want to achieve. That everyday process is important. But every day, I think about the luck I have to work in my passion; I work with incredible people; work with Serena who is one of the greatest athletes of all time. I am friends with Mike Tyson. With my foundation, I get to do things with incredible people… you have to keep that perspective. Whatever you do, do it with 100 percent focus and determination.
Templin: If you were in charge of tennis, if you were the president. What would you change?
Mouratoglou: I would make it UTS. But not because I don’t love tennis the way it is, but because I do love tennis the way it is. But I am old and I am not the new generation, and the new generation doesn’t love tennis the way it is. Tennis fans average at 61 years old… simply because the format doesn’t convince the new generations to watch tennis… we need to convince the young people to watch tennis. If we don’t, it will disappear.
I love tennis enough to not want it to disappear. But it needs to change. I’m not saying I want it to change, I’m saying it has to change. UTS is not perfect, but we will try to perfect it over time.