Simona Halep: “He brought that fire back”: how Patrick Mouratoglou helped the ex n. I rekindled her love for tennis



CNN

Last year around this time, Simona Halep he was on the verge of retirement.

The former women’s world championship n. 1 had announced her retirement from the 2021 edition of French Open due to a calf injury. Later that season, she also differed from Wimbledonand the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“I felt exhausted and felt there was no longer any chance of being on top,” Halep told CNN Sport’s Christina Macfarlane in an exclusive interview with her new coach. Patrick Mouratoglou. “It was really hard to look on the bright side.”

After breaking out of the coveted top 10 of the world rankings for the first time since January 2014, Halep was falling in love with tennis.

However, since he started working with Mouratoglou earlier this year, Halep says his passion for the sport has been rekindled.

“I didn’t really expect that because I’m not very open to people and it’s not easy for me to trust someone. But he’s been a great connection from the first moment I met him, ”says Mouratoglou’s Halep.

“I was almost done before I came here because I didn’t have that fire anymore and I didn’t trust that I would be able to play at the highest level again. So when I came here I found it and I found out again why I play tennis “, he adds.” I play tennis because I love it … It brought that fire back. ”

In April Mouratoglou announced on social media that he would start coaching Halep full time, after visiting his prestigious training academy in France ahead of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian wellsCalifornia.

“I always like to watch her play. I think she has an amazing game, so she’s super exciting as a player, “Mouratoglou tells CNN Sport.” She was already playing great, but she could play a lot more. I could see the progress she could make. ”

Known by the nickname “The Coach”, Mouratoglou is one of the most sought after tennis instructors.

He started coaching in 2005, working with Marcos Baghdatis in the junior circuit and helping him reach No. 1 at the youth level, according to his Official site.

A year later Baghdatis made it to the Australian Open final before losing to Roger Federer and in the same season also reached the Wimbledon semifinal.

Since then, Mouratoglou has helped a number of promising young players improve their game, including Grigor Dimitrov, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and most notably 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, the website adds.

The secret of its success? “Of course, passion is the most important. (If) the players don’t have the passion, they won’t achieve anything great, “said Mouratolgou.” So that’s the key. ”

“People in their lives also go through times when they perhaps lose their love of the game over a period of time or have less love of the game,” he adds. “I don’t think she (Halep) lost it.”

Tennis students train at the Mouratoglou Academy in Biot in southeastern France on September 23, 2021.

Even though Romanian Halep has 23 singles titles behind her – including two Grand Slam victories – she had to adapt to a particularly rigorous form of perforation to the Mouratoglou Academy.

He spent two weeks starting a new training program at 8:30 am, something he told reporters he “never did in my life,” the WTA reports.

“I did it with pleasure and I did it easily. So this got me thinking that I still love him and that I can still do it. So if I’m in good health, I think I can play a good match, ”she added, according to the WTA site.

In addition to his physical rehabilitation, Halep worked with Mouratoglou to rebuild his confidence.

“He’s super open, so it’s super easy to talk to him,” she tells CNN. “I am very emotional. I have a lot of fears in general and I doubt myself most of the time. And it was easy for me to really express myself as I am ”.

When Mouratoglou appeared on the Netflix series, “The Playbook,” in September 2020, he talked about how a player’s mental strength can make or break his ability to become a champion.

The series follows world-renowned sports coaches as they share their personal rules for success both inside and outside the arena.

Simona Halep shares a carefree moment with coach Patrick Mouratoglou while preparing for Roland Garros on May 18, 2022 in Paris, France.

“Everyone has limits, and everyone’s limits are not technical, tactical, physical. They are mental, ”Mouratoglou told the documentary.

“And when you don’t think like a champion, you don’t act like a champion and you don’t win like a champion. So it’s very important to make sure your mind is working well. ”

Mouratoglou tells CNN he has a similar approach to rebuilding a player’s psychological resilience as a legendary football manager José Mourinhowho also appeared in the Netflix series.

“He said something like: ‘Football starts with the foot, continues with the heart and ends with the head.’

“The head is the most important thing… because if you don’t deeply believe that you can achieve something, you will not go all out. You will go halfway. You will find reasons not to do things. You’ll find excuses, ”Mouratoglou says.

“I think an important part of my job is to help people, in this case Simona, to believe in themselves and in their ability to get what they want,” he adds. “I always tell Simona how strong she is mentally because I really believe in it.

“She made my job super easy, in a way, by being so open and trusting me so much.”

Mouratoglou is no stranger to reinventing players who have hit rock bottom.

In 2012 he approaches a turning point in his career when he starts coaching Williams, who had just suffered an unprecedented defeat at Roland Garros against Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano. It was the first time in Williams’ career that she had lost in the first round of a major competition.

Serena Williams trains with coach Patrick Mouratoglou in preparation for the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros on September 26, 2020.

She was also looking for a Grand Slam win, having stayed for two years without winning a major.

Mouratoglou and Williams were dubbed the “Dynamic Duo” on tour and ended up scoring 10 Grand Slam victories together, as well as a women’s singles title at the 2012 London Olympics.

“I’m super proud of what we’ve done with Serena. Now, of course, I’m super grateful for those 10 years that have been incredible, “says Mouratoglou.” She’s been trusting me for 10 years, which you don’t see very often in the tennis world. ”

Williams have not played since retiring from Wimbledon’s first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in June 2021, during which she sustained a leg injury.

“It’s not easy to tell someone you’ve worked with for 10 years that you’re going to start something with someone else,” adds Mouratoglou. “It’s a 10-year relationship … where you share so many things, so many emotions and so many moments.”

When Mouratoglou and Halep speak on CNN, they are preparing for Roland Garros, where the 30-year-old Romanian will play against Croatian Ana Konjuh in the first round on Sunday.

Halep has fond memories of the French Open after winning it inaugural title of the Grand Slam in Paris after beating Sloane Stephens in 2018.

“The French Open is my favorite Grand Slam,” he says. “I love the city. I feel great. I like the atmosphere. So it all comes together and I feel great. This tournament will be a great challenge for me. I am mentally ready. I’m ready to give my best “.

“I really thought I’d be done by 30,” says Halep. “I was wrong.”

“I want to play a few more years. I feel like I can, “she adds.” My body is fine. You know I feel healthy. I feel like my energy level is high. So I see no reason to stop now. ”

Simona Halep hugs the trophy as she celebrates her victory after the women's singles final against Sloane Stephens at the French Open final on June 9, 2018 in Paris, France.

However, there is one player who could stand in the way of a third Grand Slam title for Halep.

of Poland Iga Swiatek has had a dizzying rise to become the No. 1 in the last year.

In April, he clinched his fourth consecutive title of the 2022 season at Final of the Stuttgart Openbringing his streak to 23 games.

At just 20, Swiatek proved it no sign to waver. If she wins the French Open, she will equal Venus Williams’ record in this millennium of 35 straight wins.

“Over the past month, Iga has shown a lot of physical, mental and tennis stability. She is super solid throughout. That’s why she has won so much. But I think everyone is beatable, “says Mouratoglou.

And Mouratoglou is confident that Halep’s mental strength can rival Swiatek.

“She is also a great player, but what makes her special is the fact that she is extremely strong mentally,” she says. “I feel she believes in herself too and the combination can work wonders.”