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February 19, 2021

Wim Fissette

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Congratulations. Another final. What have you made of her form coming into this match over the last week and a half?

WIM FISSETTE: Very happy. It's been a long, just thinking about it, it was actually a long project, this tournament which actually started the 2nd of November, our practice, with the plan of coming here early and with everything that changed it was, like, the longest preparation for a Grand Slam ever. But obviously also gave us the chance to work on different topics of her game.

Just seeing those things coming together, you know, things we wanted to improve and to see in the statistics also after the match, that we do feel like she made another step forward comparing to the US Open. Yeah, it's a really good feeling, you know, yeah, as a coach.

And then together with Naomi and the whole team, it really feels good to see things coming together and then to play at such a high level like tennis-wise but also like mental-wise, like, the way she has been through all the matches, very consistent.

Obviously very important, like, physically staying really strong through all those matches.

Q. What are those indicators you have looked for? She's obviously serving extremely well. From the baseline she looks like she's been a little bit more aggressive, certainly against Serena. Is that sort of stuff?

WIM FISSETTE: Yeah, from the baseline, I think she's more consistent but on the other hand also like even more aggressive than in the past, especially changing directions a little bit better than in the past.

Yeah, big point of our focus was her return. And, you know, like the match yesterday against Serena, bringing a lot of balls back into play and then putting the pressure on the opponent to always have the feeling like, yeah, having to win every point. Yeah.

Q. Speaking of yesterday's match, I think she was serving quite well, which she seems not happy at all, and she said she made a lot of double faults and first-serve percentage is not that good. Maybe she aces when she really needed. So how do you evaluate her serving?

WIM FISSETTE: Yeah, I think she can definitely serve better, but, you know, you have Serena on the other side, which is also kind of intimidating when you're ready to serve and you see Serena on the other side.

I think it's more because of Serena that Naomi made a few more double faults. Her first-serve percentage wasn't great, but at the big points, like, she served really well, and that's obviously the most important. It's better than the other way around.

But definitely I think moving forward, like, of course tomorrow but also after that, to get the first percentage a little bit higher hopefully tomorrow, like 60% would be great, yeah.

Q. A question regarding serve, yesterday, as well. I think that she, you know, the placement is really great and I think Serena, she couldn't read her where Naomi was serving. So is that based on like a statistics or like data or maybe she follow her instinct?

WIM FISSETTE: For 90%, it's more instinct, because as you know I give quite a lot of information to Naomi, but one part where I give her all the freedom is her serve. I want her to feel really free where to serve. Just, you know, like preparing, thinking about the next point and then walking to the baseline, just feeling, okay, which serve do I feel I have in my body right now, and where do I feel I want to serve now. So I give her all the freedom there.

But, you know, like Naomi, she speaks a lot about instinct but she's also a thinker. I think also yesterday in the match you see how many smart choices she makes. I think through the match you saw that Serena missed a few more returns on the forehand, and in the last game, like, Naomi was obviously going more to the forehand.

It's just great to see at such a big moment, yeah, serving for the match against Serena in the semis, that she has such a clear mind and she knows exactly what she needs to do.

You know, I think that's the best thing about Naomi. Like, she's a big server, she's a big hitter, but she's a lot more than that. She's also a great thinker on the court.

Q. What have you done with her mentally? You talked about her mental game. Her strength through the tournament has been pretty incredible. She's had patches, she started badly a few times. 2-Love down yesterday and serving at 4-3, to have three doubles, but then fight back in the very next game. Have you worked on her mental side?

WIM FISSETTE: I think it's just part of the work day by day and where we speak about different topics. And honestly it's a very important topic for her. Like, she knows the experience of the past years like when her attitude is good, her mind is very clear what she needs to do, what she wants to do, and then she plays well.

So the base of playing really well is a good attitude. Doesn't mean you cannot be negative, like, at some point, you know. It's only human or normal to be frustrated maybe at one point, but to reset immediately, that's a very important one.

So it's not something, let's say, we had, like, big conversations about, but it's just a daily -- it's a daily topic, and it's more coming from Naomi that she wants to be that person that's always, like, behaves well on the court.

That's kind of a role model also for younger players.

Q. This is kind of like a general question. You have been working with many top players like Vika and Angelique and, of course, Kim and Naomi. So did you see any kind of like common sense or talent in these players that like a kind of like a talent of a champion? If you find anything just very unique in Naomi compared to the other players you have been working with.

WIM FISSETTE: I think the most important common thing is that they love big matches and big moments, but especially Naomi, she, like, she was excited, like, yesterday before the match. She was like when I bring my kids to the toy store, you know, they are very excited. And Naomi was excited to go on court with Serena.

It's just beautiful to see. You know, like, at the end this is what you train for, right, to be on the biggest stage with the best player of all time, Serena. This is actually why you train, right? This is the moment where you want to play your best tennis.

And it's good also to see it that way, because a lot of times you feel the pressure, you know, like you kind of maybe fear to lose. But her mindset is just looking at the positives, like this is exactly where I want to be. This is what I train for. This is, yeah, the moment where I want to play my best tennis.

Yeah. The best players always play their best tennis when they need to, you know, like even in the match on breakpoints. And I think Naomi is very high there playing her best when she needs to.

Q. She was excited, but she said she was kind of scared and nervous. Do you think that being nervous, being scared, and being excited can co-exist?

WIM FISSETTE: Yeah. I mean, I think so. You know, even me sitting on side from the court, like, just seeing Serena coming on the court and doing the warmup of her, like, being ready for the return, it's kind of intimidating.

You know, like, it's something that will always be there, I guess. But it's part of, like, how you feel on the other side. You feel, like, excited and honored to share the court with such a big champion and then have the opportunity to beat that extraordinary champion, yeah, on such a stage.

Q. I'm wondering what you think Naomi needs to do to transfer her success to grass and clay.

WIM FISSETTE: Play tournaments and win matches. I think that's the key.

You know, in the long preparation we had to the US Open, we had a lot of weeks, and we used also some weeks to train on clay. For me, she's kind of a natural mover on the court and just seeing, like, the way she moves, the way she has the easy power, the way she can build the points, there are a lot of things that I see why she could really perform well on clay.

But she needs matches and she needs confidence in those matches and confidence in a certain game plan. I remember in the past when, long time ago when I was working with Kim and she didn't play many tournaments on clay, and she was, for me, she was playing great tennis, but as soon as she would miss a few balls, she would doubt a lot of things. Like, she would doubt her game plan, she would doubt, like, oh, maybe I should have gone bigger on this ball, maybe I should have been more patient on this ball.

I think when you don't have a lot of experience of success on those surfaces, that's easy to start doubting.

So if Naomi plays on hard court and she goes for the forehand winner and she misses, she will say, Okay, next time I will make it. But maybe on those surfaces she will think, Oh, maybe I should have hit with a little more margin, maybe I should have done this. So it's easy to start doubting.

So for me, we have to use opportunities to play a lot of matches, hopefully be successful, but otherwise also learn from those losses eventually, and then I'm sure she will be successful on both surfaces. Maybe this year, but if not this year, probably next year.

But I don't see any restrictions of her playing well on those surfaces.

Q. You talk about her attitude. What is her attitude as far as embracing the challenge of getting better on these surfaces? A lot of players are intimidated by the idea.

WIM FISSETTE: It was one of her goals this year to play well outside of the hard courts. So, you know, like, she's still very young. It's time to grow on those surfaces.

She also believes she can do well, and I'm sure, with the right preparation with few maybe tactical technical adjustments, we're gonna do well.

Then she's the person that wants to grow. She's looking forward to grow as a player and playing or being successful on those surfaces is again part of that journey.

Q. Naomi said yesterday that she remember your advice after Fed Cup last year February when she lost. Do you remember what you said exactly there and what was the problem with her at that moment?

WIM FISSETTE: Well, I started working at the end of 2019, right? Australia was my first experience with her at the tournament.

You know, as a coach, like, it's not that you can change a lot of things immediately. It's more about, first of all, observing, like, what's happening and how is she dealing with certain things.

For me, during the Australian Open last year, she looked very nervous to me, she was under pressure, and she only looked like that because she was not expressing her feelings.

When I asked before the Gauff match how she was feeling, and she told me she was okay. Everything was good. She was obviously not. She was completely blocked by her emotions in that match.

You know, like, it's gaining the trust of a player is a day-by-day activity or it's a day-by-day thing. And I think step by step, yeah, we were getting closer as a team and she started kind of expressing her feelings after Australia when we were at the Fed Cup in Spain.

She understood that we were listening and understanding her, her feelings. And if you express your feelings, obviously it helps you a lot also releasing tension, releasing pressure.

From then on, like, she has been really honest with her feelings. She's expressing when she was nervous more and more, how she's feeling, what worries she has before the match, yeah, just letting it out.

She notices that that gives us, as a team, the opportunity to offer her suggestions that might help or maybe to look at a match from a different perspective. You know, like, you can only be helped if you express your feelings, and she understood that.

Q. You just spoke at great length a moment ago about the mental side of transition to clay and grass. I was wondering if you could describe what you think are most promising about her physical attributes and style of play that translate well to those other surfaces.

WIM FISSETTE: Well, I think on clay she has shown already some results there, and then what I have seen from her on the training weeks we had last summer, I think she's quite natural in movement. She's very strong, and she's quite confident with the sliding.

I think the clay, from the movement from her body is not really a big issue. I think it's more about, like, just strategy and gaining confidence.

On grass on the other hand she has expressed already she's a bit afraid of falling or slipping on the court. I think that's, yeah, it's just spending a lot of time on grass. I think that's just the most important, just gaining that confidence.

Something I told her, you know, she never played juniors. So from all, let's say all top 20 players out there, I don't think anyone has spent less time on grass than Naomi has so far. You know, and I think that's one of the advantages of playing juniors, you know, to get to know different surfaces and, yeah, understand how to move on different surfaces.

But, you know, that's a challenge, and I think if you spend enough time, she's a very quick learner. She's a smart girl. I'm sure she's gonna be fine. As soon as she will get the confidence or movement, even if you fall, yeah, you fall. That's what it is. You know, it's not the worst thing in the world. But just having that confidence and that's gonna be the key.

Q. Just given how open she has been with you guys the last 12 months and how well you've gotten to know Naomi, as well as all the information obviously you would have had earlier about her just coaching against her, but does she continue to surprise you at all with the way that she has played this event, how she's handled moments against Muguruza, against Serena, in terms of, yeah, this aura that she now has of being "the" big match player, the one that can summon an ace when she needs it? Does any of that surprise you at all based on what you know or when that happens, you're, like, Yeah, that's right?

WIM FISSETTE: She surprise me every day. Honestly, like, the way she has been handling, like, tough situations, I mean, we speak about here, the Australian Open, but we also speak about last year, like, with the US Open and, you know, like all the things she has done and the extra stress that came with that.

But how she's dealing with those situations is spectacular, I think. And here, again, the way she, yeah, goes into a match playing with Serena, the mindset she has, like, the happiness, yeah, the coolness during that match, the big serves at the most important moments, the way she serves out the match.

Yeah, it's just amazing, like, yeah, how do I say it? You know, certain things you can train, but these are things that is just very natural. Yeah, it's -- well, I learn every day from her, also, like, the way, which perspective she's looking at the match. I think it's very interesting.

I mean, the past ten years I have been learning from a lot of players how they do certain things but I'm definitely learning a lot from Naomi.

Q. One quick question off the grass and clay questions, but of the two surfaces, which is the bigger challenge do you think for her right now?

WIM FISSETTE: I think grass. Yeah, just her confidence-wise, yeah.

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