I developed quite a few players in my time and I am not done yet working on the next one!
Most my players I developed from a very young age and all on one on one. I had some groups that were minor and only a supplement. The one on one development is the only way to develop champions. Just listen to me. Sending your kids to an academy by themselves is only going to Screw them up. Don’t Do it. If you want to go to the academy and manage your kids well he or she is there you better be very strong willed and your kids better be something special otherwise it is a waste of your money and their child.
None of my kids went to academies. Yeah Sharapova started at Nicks but she didn’t stay. The father Yuri saw the show and nobody and I mean nobody told him what to do. I’ll talk all about that at a later date if you want me to. Yuri never interrupted me at the lessons. Well only once and that lasted a minute. Always got along with Yuri and still do.
I started out with Tracy Austin at 7 and she won the US Open at 16, actually got to the quarter finals at 14 and became number 1.
Pete Sampras, at 10, unbelievable talent from a very young age. I remember giving him a lesson at 10 and Chuck Bennet, my buddy from IMG walked on the court and I said, “hey Chuck here is your number 1”. Actually, Pete signed with IMG on a later date. Where are you Chuck?
Lindsay Davenport was 10. She liked to volley and had a great backhand. She won the Swiss Open on clay at 16. She just hit the ball too hard for her opponents to handle even on clay. It was the same as Sharapova who won this April 2012 against Azarenka. She just hit the ball too solid.
So please don’t listen to the people to tell you that you have to play on clay to become great. Nonsense! They just don’t know how to develop players. Michael Chang grew up in California and won the French Open (I think at 17). Boris Becker grew up on the red clay in Germany and never won a clay court tournament – so there you go – it’s an attitude, it’s a personality and it’s developing the kids to become champions. Create confidence.
Maria Sharapova came to me at 10 years old very impressive and will talk more about all this later she won Wimbledon at 17 and became number 1.
Anastasia Myskinabecame number 2 in the world and won the French Open. She came to me at a later age I think she was probably 17 and ranked 58. A couple years later she won the French open. She was a great talent and a lovely girl.
Elliot Teltscher started with me at age 10. A skinny little kid with great timing and unbelievable fight. Great kid and great guy. Elliot had the greatest one-handed backhand in the game and I think it still is the best backhand because he was able to come over the return, something Federer and even Sampras never mastered. he got to number 5 in the world.
Brian Teacher came to me when he was about 17 years old and was at UCLA. He got as high as number 9 in the world and had a great 1st volley.
Anna Chakvetadze also came to me at a later age. She could have been 18, I don’t really know. i am highly frustrated when I think of Anna. She got as high as number 5 in the world and I feel that I could have gotten her to number 1. But never found the magic. I do miss her.
Stephanie Reke was 10 when she came to me. She became a beautiful tall girl and got as high as 10 in the world and had some injuries – a car accident and an accident on the court which held her back. But what a talent. She had timing plus.
Justin Gimelstob started with me on and off when he was 12 and lived in New Jersey. he won all the juniors and was a great prospect. he was and probably is highly intelligent. He is probably off the scale with his IQ. He got around the 40’s and played Davis Cup. I never was able to get him an unbelievable reliable serve. My fault Justin. he is a great guy and getting married in May 2012 to a lovely girl. Be happy Justin.
Michael Joyce came to me at age 7 and got as high as 36 in the world. Great returns of serve, just solid, took the ball early. I got him the deal with Sharapova. I should have cut myself in the deal but didn’t. I have some stories about Michael.
Jeff Tarango came to me around 12 I think. Got as high as 38 in the world. you couldn’t find a harder worker than Jeff. He was not oozing with talent but highly dedicated. I had great respect for him and his work habits. Take 200 at the baseline, you have to be nuts.
Kimberly Po is a great story and I will talk about that later. Kim came to me at 11 and reached 14 in the world at singles and higher in doubles.
Melissa Gurney was a great junior. She and Reke shared being number 1 in the 18’s when they were both 14. She was a little girl with a lethal two-handed backhand. she reached top 20 and Aaron Krickstein was crazy about her.
Alexandra Stevenson came to me at 9 years old. She made it to the semi finals of Wimbledon. Just a great run. Great serve. She a great two-handed backhand but mother wanted her to hit a one-hander like Sampras. She was going to be the Sampras of the women’s tour. I always liked the family and the mom was always very nice to me. I think she reached 30 in the world.