February 15, 2021
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. You posted on Instagram a couple days ago that the next trophy doesn't really matter for Serena, it's more about the process of having a go. Much less talk this year of the 24 slams. Does Serena really need that validation or is it largely media hype?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: Does she need that validation? I don't think she needs that validation. But, I mean, clearly she came back to tennis to win some other Grand Slams, so that's for sure the goal.
Now, she's not as obsessed with the 24 than most of the people in the tennis world, but definitely she wants to win Grand Slams. That's the only reason why she came back to tennis.
Q. Arguably if she won 25, it wouldn't really make any difference to her standing on 23 now, would it?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: I don't think so either. There is tennis before the Open Era and tennis after the Open Era. We all know it's two different sports. It's an amateur sport and a professional sport. Doesn't make really sense to compare.
But it's probably fun to talk about beating records, which is something that I understand.
Q. Serena talked before one of her earlier matches about the delicate balance between thinking enough and thinking too much, between playing and being in the moment but not being mindless. Does that balance become tougher now because it's hard to get this far, not going to get any easier? How does she not think about seizing the opportunity while she still has it in front of her?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: I mean, that's definitely not something you should think about.
Q. But how can you not when it's this close?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: The only way is not to think about the opportunities. Because when you think about the opportunities, you bring expectations, and we all know that expectations are not the best friend of the professional athletes.
The only way is to focus on how to get what you want. You don't think about what you want, you just think about what you have to do, focus only on that. Then I guess the people around the players can help also by the way they speak to the players. But it's definitely not easy.
I always refer to this Wimbledon that Marion Bartoli won, for example. If we remember well, there were several players that probably had the opportunity of their lives during that Wimbledon. We've seen that a lot of them have been completely unable to play tennis because, again, expectations and, yeah, opportunity, they don't want to miss it. If you think about that, it's finished.
Q. Is Serena moving better now than she has in a long time? It seems to be.
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: Do you have a microphone?
Q. Do I have a microphone?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: I hear you super well.
Q. I'm in broadcast, so I guess it goes all over.
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: Or you have a special talent.
Is she moving better than last year? Yes, for sure. Is she moving better than the last three years? Yes, for sure. No doubt about it.
Q. How do you explain that?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: First of all, it's something that we have put the emphasis on because in tennis that's probably one of the most important things. If you are late on the ball, you can't do what you want to do. Sometimes you don't even touch the ball, so...
I mean, it's a sport where you have to be able to move fast from side to side and long enough. It's something that probably in the last two, three years, this had consequences for Serena.
Even more, when you're not in a good day, you need a Plan B. To be able to have a Plan B, you have to be able to move well. If you can't move well, there is no Plan B. The only plan is attack. I think it cost her a few important matches.
So we have decided to find a way to bring back the footwork that she used to have in the past. I feel like she's done a great job. She's moving much better. I'm happy you've seen it.
Q. What did she do with you and whoever else to improve that footwork? What was the training process followed to improve the movement in that footwork?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: First of all, it's about the fitness. It's about being fit enough. It's working on speed. It's working on the split step that has to be done at the right time. So it's a lot of little detail. Fitness is not a little detail, but the fitness one was one thing, then a lot of little details that make big difference.
The ball travels really fast from one side to the other. If the split step is half a second too late, you lose one or two meters. It's huge. It has to be extremely precise.
Q. Speaking about movement. Obviously yesterday in the presser, Serena did speak to her fall. Has there been any residual effects? She's feeling well? Nothing came of that?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: No, no, she's feeling really well. I think she's very well-prepared. She's very fit. She has no physical issue at all.
Q. She mentioned she was probably just being dramatic.
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: When?
Q. When she fell on court yesterday.
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: No, she could have hurt herself. If you look at the video, because she lands on the side of the foot, so she could have twisted the ankle. But she fell, which is the best thing to do. When you fall, you don't resist and you don't twist the ankle.
I think she could have hurt herself. I don't think she was so dramatic.
Q. You are running your academy. You are having very interesting competition in your academy. Where do you see the future of tennis? What direction do you think tennis goes under this post COVID-19 world?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: First of all, I think tennis in general has become much more professional. The last 10 years tennis has evolved incredibly. The fact that the prize money is higher has a lot of positive consequences. First of all, they have more in the pocket, but they use it to invest. The players are using this money to invest a lot in their tennis. They have a fitness coach now, all of them. They have a physio, all of them. Not all of them, but a lot of them.
They take care of themselves much more, of their bodies. They work much more on every single detail of their game, whether it's the tennis, the fitness, the nutrition. It's extremely professional now.
I think they're much better athletes than they used to be. As an effect, they play much longer also. So tennis now is powerful. If you look at the top players, they're very powerful. They also have many more tools in their games, so it's also very tactical.
I think if you look at the match that Muguruza played against Osaka yesterday, it was very powerful, but it was very tactical also. That makes it much more interesting I think than in the past.
Q. Speaking of interesting. Do you ever run into Su-Wei in Paris? When you look at her as a coach, what goes through your mind when you watch her game?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: Very clearly she has a very unique game. I think she has incredible hands and incredible eyes. Like she sees the ball very early, seeing and anticipating a lot. That's probably why you don't see her run that much, because she's always earlier than other players. So that's why she's so difficult to play.
I think she really feels the game well, sees the game well, and has great hands. Very unique and very fun to see because I think tennis is interesting also because you have different game styles. Personally I really enjoy watching her.
Q. I want to ask you about injuries and discussions of them by players, whether it's before or after a match, before, during or after a tournament. Some players are more forthcoming about that thing. Others sometimes after a loss don't want to discuss. Sometimes after a win, a player will talk about being hurt. What do you think, as a coach, as an observer of the sport, players should share about that or not?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: It's an interesting question. I'm going to try not to be too long on this one.
Q. Go as long as you want.
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: That is not my number one quality, to be short.
First of all, some players don't want to talk about it because they are in the tournament and they don't want to give too much informations to the potential rivals. This is something that we can understand.
Also we are in a very politically correct world nowadays, which is not something I personally like, as you probably know. I've said it many times. This is also a side effect of that.
A lot of players after losing, they want to look gracious, so they say, Oh, no, I'm fine. They're clearly not fine. It's just to look good, which is not something I think. I think it's more interesting to say the truth. You're injured, not injured. At least it doesn't take away anything from your opponent, he beat you. We've all seen you injured, just say. It's simple. That's basically it.
I mean, there have been talks about Novak and Rafa. I said, and I'm going to say it again because I read stuff that I'm supposed to have said which is not true. What I said is clearly both of them are champions, and champions don't try to take pressure away by pretending they have an injury. This doesn't exist. Otherwise they're not champions. Champions don't try to escape the pressure anyway, they embrace and accept it. That's what I said. That's basically it.
Of course, they're injured. I think that Novak, when this happened, felt like it was worse than it probably happened to be because yesterday you all saw the match. He was moving, he was hitting the ball. At that level, if you have a muscle tear, it's just impossible to do what he did yesterday. But he clearly has something. He didn't create something out of the blue.
It's just I think a good thing that he's not too injured because the end of the tournament looks extremely exciting with still Rafa, still Novak there, and the young guys who are coming up who are still in the mix. We want to see those matches with those players at the top of their games. That's I think a good news.
Q. Serena said it was really difficult to pull out of the French Open, but that in retrospect it was the best thing. Can you speak to that? Is that what allowed her to start this fitness regimen?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: Yeah, we've been struggling those last years because she had a lot of injuries, so she was not able to practice the way we wanted. It's a bit of a vicious circle because when you can't practice well, you don't get fit. When you're not fit, you get more injured. We had to get out of this vicious circle.
In Roland Garros she had an injury that could get really worse, and that would have been extremely bad. That was definitely the right decision to stop, to heal, and to start working hard because she was able after that to do the necessary work in order to get fit.
Now we're more in a virtuous circle than a vicious one. You have to start that virtuous circle by being fit, then everything goes better.
Q. How long do you feel tennis can be sustained without fans? On the one hand they bring an atmosphere, interest, but on the other hand most revenue nowadays comes through digital means, TV. Does the game need a major rethink on how it is run? A lot of smaller tournaments aren't happening because of COVID. How long can we continue as we are?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: I mean, the situation is extremely worrying because, yes, the tournaments are suffering, for sure. A lot of tournaments can't be held because of that. But also the prize money of the players is too low. I know that a lot of people think they make too much money. I don't think they do. There are a few that make a lot of money, but most of them don't make that much money.
If you take away the taxes, and if you take away the tickets for the coach, the salary of the coach, the food every day, you put all that together, with the prize money being divided by two sometimes, they're losing money every week. This cannot last for a long time.
Does it has to be rethinked? Yes. But I don't think that it's sustainable without a crowd and without the ticketing. Or it hasn't been created yet.
We all know that a tournament works with 30% tickets, 30% sponsorship and 30% TV rights. You lose 30% of your income, you have to reduce the prize money, then the tournament just survives and the players don't for most of them.
Yes, it has to be rethinked probably, but I don't know if it can be rethinked. That's the real question.
I think the WTA has done a great job by having many tournaments in Australia, on the same side for some, close by for some others. I think that was extremely smart. First you don't have players travel, so they save a lot of money, the players. Second, you have a safe place where you're sure you can play.
The problem is you send players here and there, you're not sure they'll be able to play. They spend a lot of money on tickets, on hotels. Also the conditions are different everywhere. I heard that if you go to Singapore and you're unlucky, you're in the wrong plane, for example, you're 21 days in the hospital in a small room. You lose all the benefit of your training, and you lose a lot of money. This makes it so stressful for them. You can't work for the whole pre-season and get everything wasted like that. It's really stressful for the players and a real problem.
Yes, I think everything has to be rethought. I think sometimes it's great to say, Let's start from scratch, we forget everything we know, we rethink what tennis should be. That's what we did with UTS. I hope you guys watched. I mean, it's just a start, but we tried to rethink the whole thing.
Q. When you have a situation, let's say Serena as an example, is injured, or there's a question mark about withdrawing, how much of it is her own decision, how much of it is hers as well as the rest of the team? The second part is, in speaking with Simona a few months ago, she said the most perfect match she ever played was the Wimbledon final. Besides obviously conditions, how different or same do you think tomorrow will be?
PATRICK MOURATOGLOU: I hope it's going to be different.
To answer your first question, the decision is taken by Serena, and it has to be her. The process is simple: we get all the information needed from the medical staff because they have all the information we need in order to take a decision, then we have a discussion, she and myself. At the end of the discussion, she asks me, What shall I do? I tell her what I think, then she takes her decision. It's very simple. Of course, she takes the decision. Nobody else.
To answer the second question. I think Simona played the perfect match in Wimbledon. It's going to be a different process for her because she knows she can play like that against Serena, which she never did before. She will come probably with more confidence, and we're prepared for that.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports