Coach Craig is Coco's calming influence on court

Coco Vandeweghe looking pleased after a point during her defeat of French Open winner Garbine Muguruza in their quarter-final match. The American has attributed her composure on the court to her coach Craig Kardon, who also worked with former greats
Coco Vandeweghe looking pleased after a point during her defeat of French Open winner Garbine Muguruza in their quarter-final match. The American has attributed her composure on the court to her coach Craig Kardon, who also worked with former greats Martina Navratilova and Lindsay Davenport.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MELBOURNE • Craig Kardon coached Martina Navratilova to the 1990 Wimbledon title, led Lindsay Davenport into the top 10 for the first time and drove Mary Pierce to No. 5 in the world.

He is now working with Coco Vandeweghe, guiding her into her first ever Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open, and the American is glad to have him in her corner.

After upsetting seventh seed Garbine Muguruza at Melbourne Park yesterday, she credited Kardon for helping her deal with the pressure-cooker atmosphere at the year's first Grand Slam.

"Craig and I get along great. It's kind of a give-and-take relationship definitely where I take from him right now more than he's giving me," she said following her 6-4, 6-0 win setting up a semi-final against Venus Williams.

"Before the match I was quite honest with him that I was a little bit nervous and I was a little bit scared. He's like, 'Okay, listen, it's normal to feel like that. But go out there, you'll be settled within the warm-up. If it's not the warm-up, the very first game you'll be settled. Don't even worry about it'.

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"It's just the calming voice of someone you trust, you know that trusts and believes in you, was enough for me to feel better about myself just in this one situation. That happens a lot."

The pair have been collaborating for several years and Vandeweghe extolled the virtues of having a good coach, particularly for young players. "I think it's very important for young players to get a good coach, just a good coach in what they need," she said. "Maybe it's a leadership role, technical role, or a friend, something like that. I think it's very important."

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As part of Vandeweghe's preparations for Melbourne, Kardon, who has also mentored Jennifer Capriati, Ana Ivanovic, and Zina Garrison, insisted she play doubles.

The American, 25, who teamed up with Martina Hingis but was knocked out in round two, said it was all part of the grand plan to take her game to the next level.

"Absolutely. It gives me a better idea of where to be on the court as far as angles go," she said, on the benefits of playing doubles. "That was part of the reason why Craig made me play doubles, as well as returning. Also along with that, just getting more time on the court. Being in different arenas.

"I made it onto many big stages for doubles before I did in singles. I think it's a little bit more calming when I get out there for singles because I've already stepped out on the court, instead of it being my first time in a big stadium."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Coach Craig is Coco's calming influence on court'. Print Edition | Subscribe