Serena Williams Is Not at the U.S. Open, but Her Mentor Is Just about everywhere

Probably it is the beard, the persistent, salt-and-pepper whiskers, usually trimmed to a excellent length that will make Patrick Mouratoglou at first seem extra like a French existentialist thinker rather than tennis coach.

Or perhaps he is a tennis venture capitalist. Or a tennis resort executive. Or a tennis “guru,” as Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek star, has referred to him. Based on the instant, Mouratoglou can be all of those people points, which can make it challenging for him to also be a coach, at the very least in the way he thinks a skilled tennis coach must mentor. That may appear to be odd for a male most effective identified as a single, a man who wrote a book about himself called “The Mentor,” but it is the way he generally meant it to be.

For a long time, Mouratoglou has been courtside at Serena Williams’s matches. He has coached her due to the fact 2012, and was presumed to be her boyfriend for a time. Coaching her from the stands for the duration of the 2018 U.S. Open last led to a single of the most notorious meltdowns of Williams’s job. She is not at the U.S. Open this yr, acquiring withdrawn to recover from a hamstring injury.

Mouratoglou, though, has been almost everywhere, just as he is at each and every big tennis match these days.

There he is sitting down a seat absent from Tsitsipas’s father and coach, Apostolos, in the course of early-spherical matches against Andy Murray and Carlos Alcaraz. Soon after a match, he grabs a microphone for a person of any range of tv interviews he does about the point out of the contemporary video game. At times he camps out in the plaza of the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King Nationwide Tennis Centre and indicators autographs for lovers who know him better than they know most of the players. Final Tuesday evening, he handed a sporting activities consume on to the court docket of Arthur Ashe Stadium, trying to help minimize the cramps of Holger Rune, the 18-12 months-old Danish participant who trains at his academy, as Rune fell in four sets to Novak Djokovic in the 1st spherical.

At age 51, Mouratoglou has turn out to be just one of the most recognizable stars in tennis, even even though he was hardly ever far more than a center-rung junior participant as a teenager in France. Corey Gauff, the father and coach of the increasing American star Coco Gauff, usually wears a baseball hat with Mouratoglou’s “M” emblem earlier mentioned the brim when he watches his daughter engage in.

He is the unusual mentor who has turned himself into a brand name, which may signify he is better at marketing and advertising than he is at coaching. Do not inquire Mouratoglou to boil down his approach to tennis into a basic technique or method.

“My philosophy is I know very little,” he mentioned in an job interview times ahead of the begin of the U.S. Open up. “I master the individual and I find out my participant. A lot of coaches start with their technique. There is a single technique for every participant and I require to come across it.”

Tennis is in an odd spot at the second. The professions of most of its major stars are in repose. Its greatest men’s player, Novak Djokovic, is worshiped in his individual region but has never been universally embraced. Naomi Osaka is currently a tennis megastar, but she has played tiny this year and declared Friday night time that she was likely to get one more split from the sport.

That leaves more than enough area for a coaching figure like Mouratoglou to fill.

Tennis does this every so usually, producing a coach who is a savvy marketer and businessman to become significantly a lot more than a teacher and coach, typically with the enable of television cameras that pivot to them as they observe their star players. Think of the Australian Harry Hopman in the 1970s and the New Yorker/Floridian Nick Bollettieri in the 1980s and 1990s.

None nevertheless, has attained the level of Mouratoglou.

His empire features the Mouratoglou Academy, in the south of France, which properties 200 pupil tennis gamers, lots of of whom live and show up at school and train there full time.

He runs camps for a different 4,000 gamers, like some adults, each individual calendar year. Next year, he will offer an e-coaching product.

He is also a chief organizer of the Greatest Tennis Showdown, a manufactured-for-tv competitors that has included numerous prime gamers and has introduced a more rapidly scoring procedure for matches.

There are Mouratoglou tennis centers at resorts in Costa Navarino in Greece and at Jumeirah in Dubai. He is an trader in the tennis media website Tennismajors.com.

With only 24 several hours in a working day, he not too long ago gave up his gigs as a commentator for ESPN and Eurosport.

He is the whole-time mentor of just 1 player, Williams, but will help oversee to different degrees the training and progress of several other people, like Tsitsipas, Gauff, Rune, and Alexei Popyrin, the 22-12 months-outdated Australian who attained the 3rd round of the U.S. Open up.

Possessing a portfolio as prolonged as Mouratoglou’s would look to run counter to anyone whose authority flows from his stature as a coach and whose philosophy relies on spending adequate time with every participant to tailor his approaches and tactics to the individual. That method, Mouratoglou said, requires a deep awareness of each and every player’s strengths and weaknesses, equally psychological and bodily, as effectively as their cultural and family members background.

The easiest explanation is that Mouratoglou is no for a longer period definitely a mentor, if he at any time was one in the initial location, with his get the job done for Williams as an exception. But she may not be all around for significantly longer. It is not a role he at any time meant to enjoy. He took it on out of requirement. His vision for his tennis empire was not likely to do the job usually.

As a little one, Mouratoglou dreamed of getting a top skilled, but his dad and mom explained to him it would be too risky and would not guidance the endeavor. He quit tennis at 16, pursued his education, and at 20 went to function for his father, a leading French industrialist and the owner of a significant renewable electrical power corporation.

When Mouratoglou was 26, his father told him he was completely ready to turn into a spouse. Mouratoglou told his father he was quitting. He nevertheless experienced a enthusiasm for tennis and preferred to establish a tennis empire, commencing with an academy for young gamers.

He partnered with Bob Brett, an Australian mentor and a protégé of Harry Hopman. Mouratoglou knew minimal about coaching and felt he needed a big title to entice gamers. Then in 2004 Brett quit. Mouratoglou recognized if he located yet another very well-identified coach to be his companion, the identical matter could transpire, so he discovered how to mentor and uncovered some young prospective customers whose early professions he could assist guidance, like a venture capitalist seeding a start-up business.

His early recruits incorporated Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia. He started doing work with Williams in 2012, and has utilised the stature from her unmatched success to build his empire and a new model for the much more expansive purpose a tennis mentor may well engage in.

Mouratoglou now operates like the chief govt of a organization with a participant advancement division, with each and every player operating as a separate unit or product or service. He has 50 coaches performing for him at his academy. The major professional gamers connected with him — the kinds whose televised matches he can make guaranteed to go to — just about every has anyone else who functions as their mentor. Most have only minimal call with Mouratoglou on a exercise court docket, nevertheless he supervises the crew of health trainers the players get the job done with. His academy can serve as base camp in which they can train.

Mouratoglou initially observed Gauff, 17, when she was 10. He recognized a relationship with her father, who introduced Coco to the academy. He very first spotted Tsitsipas, now 23, on YouTube when he was just 16.

“Patrick is kind of like the overseer,” Coco Gauff stated the other working day.

She stated Mouratoglou normally speaks to her by way of her father if he has any specific ideas, so she does not have much too lots of voices in her head. “He also allows with receiving the proper people on my group, figuring out who and what I need to support me thrive,” she added.

The two Popyrin and Rune, who has experienced Lars Christensen as his mentor considering the fact that he was 6, reported the most critical function Mouratoglou has performed is providing them an suitable setting for teaching.

It is a mutually helpful connection. The gamers, who get obtain to a very first-class teaching center with practically each attainable amenity, are the very best promoting units to draw in other aspiring gamers, who pay out for the academy’s array of expert services, or for tennis fans, who go to camps at a Mouratoglou tennis heart at a resort.

There is likely no greater way for Mouratoglou to make positive absolutely everyone is aware about his connection with these gamers than taking his customary place in their containers in the course of their matches. All Mouratoglou’s current players in the key draw shed during the early rounds, even though there are several gamers with Mouratoglou ties in the junior tournaments this 7 days.

He has 1 sacrosanct rule when he attends a match: If he begins with just one player, he stays to the end, even if yet another participant his firm will work with is actively playing on an additional court. Leaving halfway could send a lousy concept, he claimed.

It’s also one more way of letting the players know if they have to have everything, Mouratoglou or a person in his growing empire will be there. Popyrin, who has struggled this yr and is 73rd in the ATP rankings, stated Mouratoglou has lately been a voice of positivity trying to remind him that he can become a leading player, possibly like the third-ranked Tsitsipas, even though he added that Mouratoglou normally capabilities like a tennis Buddha, a sounding board who listens considerably a lot more than he speaks.

“I vent to him,” Popyrin reported. “He allows you speak your brain, and when you communicate your mind to him, a good deal of the time you get the respond to by yourself.”