An overview of the Mouratoglou Academy (Picture: Mouratoglou Academy)The second Grand Slam of 2019 is almost upon us. Players from far and wide will gather on the clay courts of Paris, hopeful that months of preparation will prove fruitful at Roland Garros.
There’s an awful lot of work behind the scenes that goes into being ready for the biggest events and Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou provides one of the most-used bases for players hoping to make their mark on the Grand Slam stage.
Based at the heart of the French Riviera, Mouratoglou boasts some of the most impressive tennis facilities in the world – and he’s not afraid to innovate.
Andy Murray training at the Mouratoglou Academy (Picture: Mouratoglou Academy)It certainly attracts a high calibre of player. Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Williams all have courts named after them – each complete with a concrete hand print and signature – while Grand Slam champions Stan Wawrinka and Angelique Kerber are among those known to have trained there in the past.
During a visit to the Mouratoglou Academy last month, France’s Davis Cup team met for a training camp, British No. 1 Kyle Edmund was on site and Stefanos Tsitsipas arrived to fine tune his game ahead of the Monte Carlo Masters.
– 34 hard and clay courts (8 indoors)– Indoor and outdoor gyms– High-tech medical centre– Student campus– Multisport field– Padel courts– Indoor and outdoor pools– Spa– 4-star hotel on site
‘Mouratoglou has always been my base and I’m pretty sure it will be my base for the many years to come,’ Tsitsipas said. ‘They have thought about everything.
‘They have indoor courts, clay courts, clay courts outdoors, indoor hard courts, outdoors… the ideal place to prepare for me to be ready for tournaments that are in the Europe region.’
Edmund added: ‘It was very nice. First time there. What Patrick has got going there is really good from a tennis point of view.
‘It’s really busy, the atmosphere was good with the training. It probably helped because the tournament was on at the same time so it probably felt busier but the facilities were great.
‘The weather throughout the year probably helps a lot being in the south of France that you’re able to get outside a lot more.’
Andy Murray’s handprint at the Mouratoglou Academy (Picture: George Bellshaw)With the French Open on the horizon, Serena Williams made her return to the site to fine tune her game for Roland Garros.
Back to work. pic.twitter.com/qfWZpIN2me
— Mouratoglou Tennis Academy 🎾 (@MouratoglouAcad) May 18, 2019
Here is an inside look at how the Mouratoglou Academy became such a breathless, bustling space for the world’s most famous tennis players…
Patrick Mouratoglou moved his academy in 2016 (Picture: Mouratoglou Academy)Had Mouratoglou’s life taken a turn down a different path, the academy may caese to exist.
At the age of 15, when one of France’s top young tennis players, his dreams were put on ice by his parents who felt his future would be brighter down more traditional avenues.
A void was left inside the youngster – one he found a way to fill some 10 years later.
‘I had nothing else. I was only about tennis,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘It took me many, many years to recover from that.
‘One day I decided what I can’t achieve myself I’m going to have others do it. It’s going to cure me. That’s why I started in 1996. I was 26 years old. That’s why I started.’
More than 20 years on, does he feel cured? ‘Oh for a long time,’ he smiles. ‘Cures is too much.
Map of the Mouratoglou Academy (Picture: Mouratoglou Academy/George Bellshaw)MORE: How Mouratoglou is using Serena, Djokovic & Murray to help Tsitsipas rule tennis
‘I was dreaming about what was up there because I wanted to be part of that. I didn’t do it myself but I was still dreaming about what was up there. For me it was unattainable. That was the only way to get there. Not as a player but a different way. I was happy to give others a chance they didn’t have.
‘In 2002, 2003 we had players in the top 100. In 1998 I started my first group of players. I had Mario Ancic, Paul Henry-Mathieu – these were guys that I found. They were very young and not famous.
‘Of course, Marcos Baghdatis, Gilles Muller, Ivo Karlovic, Sergiy Stakhovsky… the list is unbelievable. All those guys were young and I started with them and went through all the stages. It went fast the results.’
The secret to success
Patrick Mouratoglou on court with Stefanos Tsitsipas (Picture: Mouratoglou Academy)Mouratoglou isn’t a man who goes with the flow.
While others in the sport can be guilty of blindly following suit, the Frenchman has consistently proven his determination to follow his own path.
‘My theory was to go the opposite side of what everyone was doing, including [Nick] Bolletieri who was kind of the model for everybody,’ Mouratoglou continues.
‘I decided to do something really personalised for every player, nobody was doing that at the time. Bolletieri was doing exactly the opposite and because he had success, everyone was copying his system.
‘But I thought this system would destroy a lot of players because when you don’t give to people what they need it doesn’t work: a lot of injuries, a lot of bad results.
MORE: Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou wants more controversy in tennis
‘Of course, a few were going through very strong because they could go through all that. I thought every player deserves respect. The very exciting thing about my job is I want every player to reach their full potential. And the only way to do that is to do something personalised.
‘Otherwise he is not going to reach his full potential. In ’98 we had incredible results so now everyone is doing that… which is great. It’s good for the players. It’s better.’
The Frenchman lives by one simple rule: to help everyone – regardless of ability – reach their full potential. ‘You can be satisfied as a coach if you find a way to get the best out of the players,’ he says.
The Mouratoglou Academy offers plenty for non-professionals, too (Picture: Mouratoglou Academy)That notion is not limited to just top professionals. There are around 200 full-time student athletes who are permanently based on site, while close to 4,000 people come through the doors every year.
It would be easy to streamline the academy and put all Mouratoglou’s vast resources through a select few, but that doesn’t fit into his philosophy.
‘[It’s] because I love tennis,’ he says. ‘When you are passionate about something you want to share. You don’t want to keep it for yourself.
‘We’ve developed an incredible method to help top players and anyone who wants to improve should be able to benefit from that. We have members from the country club because we have incredible facilities, top players, come with us enjoy!’
By bringing people from all different walks of life together, Mouratoglou hopes to inspire.
‘When you practise here you turn your head and see “oh Serena is on the court!”, “oh, Novak is on the court”,’ he adds.
Andy Murray training at the academy (Picture: Mouratoglou Academy)‘You see [Lucas] Pouille, the No. 1 in France. You saw Kyle Edmund was here. They’re used to having those kinds of people around.
‘But it’s incredibly exciting to have someone like Stefanos – who is already a star and is going to be a superstar – overlooking their programme and talking to them. It’s lucky but it’s something we can do here, which is why we’re doing it.
‘He’s the ambassador of the tennis and school programme. A very cool guy he is. He wants to give. He’s a very genuine person. He’s happy to do it. He’s different.
‘It’s like when Serena comes and she says “I can do a Q&A if you want with the kids”, they all sit down and ask questions to Serena. Who does that? It’s incredibly lucky but it’s the things we can do here. That’s why this place is special.
‘She said, “I can do a Q&A if you want with the kids”. After that she said, “that was cool, I’m really happy to do it again”. People are nice. But I’ll tell you something I genuinely believe in, if you’re nice with people, when you’re genuine and you help people, they give back.
‘Not all of the time, but most of the time. The problem with most people is they’re afraid to give. ”What will I get if I give?” You cannot think like that. When you’re a coach you give and you’re used to giving so that’s what I do in my life.’
Mouratoglou boasts some incredible facilities (Picture: Mouratoglou Academy)Of course, while the academy is opened up for wider use, it was purpose built for high level performance in the professional game.
‘We offer the perfect conditions for a pro,’ Mouratoglou says. ‘We have all the courts, all the surfaces. We have the weather. We can play outdoors all year, there are a few days of rain but we have indoor clay and hard also.
‘Even in the middle of winter during 10am and 3pm you can play in a t-shirt and you’re not cold. We built this academy to be fitting the pros’ needs, it’s completely thought for them.’
The recovery centre is one of the most impressive features of the academy – and has earned rave reviews from the players.
‘Dustin Brown [the champion of this year’s Mouratoglou Open] told me after his win that it’s an unbelievable place,’ Mouratoglou adds.
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Fun day at Mouratoglou academy today. Did an interview with Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou this morning (which will land at some point this weekend), watched Stefanos Tsitsipas train before having a hit myself (sadly no footage of me but you just have to trust my one-handed backhand is as good as the Greek’s 👀) and then I went through some of his post-match recovery process with his physio. First, I did the hot and cold baths (1 min in 40 degrees followed by 1 minute in 10 degrees six times over) and then three minutes of cryotherapy. Neither particularly enjoyable 😂 but good to get an insight into what these top athletes are doing to keep their bodies in tip-top condition. #tennis #tennisfitness #fitness #serenawilliams #mouratogloutennisacademy #nice #day #tennisnews #tsitsipas #sport #injury #cryotherapy #icebath
‘He said, “If I had a place like this when I was 18 I would have had a completely different career”. That’s what he said to me, word for word.
‘Then he said after the quarter-finals, “I wouldn’t be able to play the next match if I didn’t have all these things, physios and recovery centre”. When you are practising, it’s unbelievable to be able to recover that well. To be able to be fresh the day after and then push again.’
The head of the centre is Jerome Bianchi. On the tour since 1990, Bianchi has worked with some of the biggest names on both the WTA and ATP sides including Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sebastien Grosjean, Amelie Mauresmo, Yannick Noah, Stan Wawrinka and Caroline Garcia.
Undoubtedly his best-known client was Maria Sharapova but he now heads up the Mouratoglou Academy’s medical centre while also acting as Stefanos Tsitsipas’ physio.
Bianchi took Metro.co.uk through two typical recovery methods used by players after practice or a match: hot and cold ice baths and cryotherapy.
Bianchi’s sample post-match routine for Tsitsipas
– Active recovery 10 to 20 minutes light bike. At the same time he is drinking protein shake and water while dissecting the match with his coach.– Light stretch (sometimes after stetching can have a light meal if really hungry)– Cold bath or contrast bath if available. 10 mins in cold.– Massage and osteo adjustment if required. 45-90 mins depending length of match and location of soreness.– Media duties
Can last 3 hours in total. Sometimes when a match is finished very late, the process is shortened in order to ensure good quality of sleep to aid faster recovery. Cold bath always maintained. At Grand Slam level, process is repeated on days off after lighter practice.
Testing both recovery methods out was eye-opening. It’s really, really not fun. Players can go to hell and back in long, exhausting matches but the processes employed to keep their bodies in tip-top shape behind the scenes is equally unenjoyable.
The hot and cold baths are pretty self-explanatory. You spend a minute stood in a warm bath (think jacquzzi), get out and scuttle over to a cold bath of about 10°C. Then repeat the process 10 times.
Bianchi says: ‘The benefits of hot and cold or “Scottish” baths are to increase blood circulation by vasodilation [the widening of blood vessels] and vasoconstriction [the thinning of blood vessels] like a blood pump. It will help reduce the effects of pain, muscle inflammation and trauma.’
Players typically use the hot and cold baths when at tournaments but an alternative is cryotherapy.
Far more expensive to install – hence why it’s less common at events – the chamber essentially blasts cold air at the athlete (or, in this case, me), with temperatures dipping as low as -150°C.
Gloves and slippers are worn to protect the digits and the subject stands in the chamber for around 3 minutes.
‘The body is going to react against an extreme cold by boosting the levels of hormones such as endorphins (a pain reducer), serotonin [often known as the ‘happy’ chemical for boosting one’s well being] and norepinephrine (which plays a role in inflammation),’ Bianchi says. ‘It will help also for a better quality of sleep.’
Dustin Brown was the champion of the Mouratoglou Open (Picture: Getty Images)In an exclusive interview with Metro.co.uk last month, Mouratoglou stressed the importance of tennis of becoming less ‘flat’ in order to reach a wider audience.
One can’t accuse him of not being a man of his word. And he tested out some interesting innovations at the Challenger event he hosts at his academy.
Every day of the week-long event there was a concert, designed to attract non-tennis fans to the tournament in the hope they then stick around.
‘The tournament also to bring people to tennis,’ he says. ‘That’s why I did concerts because some people don’t love tennis yet but they come for the music and they discover tennis.
‘Thank you to the winner [Dustin Brown] who did an incredible show. It’s a good way to bring people to tennis, “wow this is tennis? This is fun!” So I want to share. That’s why I do TV also. I want to talk about tennis with people. I think it’s all about passion. If you want to do something well that’s the only way.’
So how are we naming this next year? ‘Mouratoglou Fest’ doesn’t sound too bad actually… 😂@jessica4stein @samstennis189 @vrcsports @PaulT_Tennis @TheTennisTalker#MO19 | @ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/5T7n68DzZ1
— Mouratoglou Tennis Academy 🎾 (@MouratoglouAcad) April 8, 2019
The weather wasn’t always on the side of the event organisers, but, again, Mouratoglou has the facilities at his disposal to cope with any such issue.
Dutchman Robin Haase, who claimed the doubles title along with compatriot Thiemo de Bakker, told Metro.co.uk: ‘There’s only a few Challengers in the world that have the facilities like they have here so it was nice.
‘Of course, you cannot do anything about the weather so they were a little bit unlucky having to go indoors but then again they had the facilities so that was good. I enjoyed playing here.’
Beaten singles finalist Filip Krajinovic added: ‘It’s really nice. I like to play here. The facilities are great, there’s a lot of courts. A lot of people coming to watch this tournament. I’m excited and happy I’m in the final.
‘I never train here but I know Patrick very well, I’ve known him forever. I’m happy he has this kind of academy.’
There were an impressive number of spectators in attendance for Sunday’s final, where Dustin Brown defeated Krajinovic, with the stands packed to the rafters.
Indeed, there was so much demand to see the final, which finished 6-3 7-5 to the 34-year-old German, that a heated argument even broke out next to the VIP section over a lack of space, with others craning their necks to grab a peek.
The sight of a full stadium at a Challenger event certainly suggests Mouratoglou is doing something right.