The Impact of Coaching: Agassi and Gilbert

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

The Impact of Coaching: Agassi and Gilbert

We all know how important coaching is when we discuss team sports such as basketball and football. However, sometimes people forget how important it is in tennis. I guess it’s because of the individual aspect of the sport. In a way, because of the individual aspect of the sport, it should be even more important. Don’t you think?


There are countless examples in professional tennis of how important coaching can be. One of the most interesting examples comes from Andre Agassi’s time with Brad Gilbert. I can’t help but touch on this example, because Andre Agassi is probably my most favorite tennis player of all time. When I was 12 years old, I remember him coming on to the scene as a long-haired kid with a massive forehand unlike the world had ever seen.  At 18, he quickly established himself in the top four, with numerous semifinal appearances in Grand Slams, followed by heart breaking losses in French Open and US Open finals – all of this before the age of 21.


Many thought it was just a matter of time until he broke through. And at 22, he finally did break through at Wimbledon. But then he kind of fizzled after that win. That is of course until he started working with Brad Gilbert in 1994. And we all know what happened between 94-2002 with Andre Agassi under Brad Gilbert as his coach. He won the US Open twice, three Australian Opens, and the French Open under his watch.


The interesting thing about Gilbert was his clinical approach to winning. In a way, he didn’t care how winning looked. He only cared about the score line. When Gilbert was on the pro tour many thought of him an over achiever by all standards – especially considering his level of talent compared to the field. Many dreaded playing him.


Once retired he wrote the now tennis coaching classic “Winning Ugly.” If you have not read this book, I encourage everyone to do so. It outlines how to beat players with numerous styles of play. For example, I’m a player that hates pushers. They drive me nuts, and I always end up over hitting. According to Brad, this is the completely wrong approach.  He says that pushers thrive on angles, so the best strategy is to hit down the middle to them and get into net. Try it! It works! I beat a pusher who used to beat me all the time like this. He never beat me again.


In a way Gilbert helped both Andre Agassi and thousands of club players the world over win tennis matches. Thanks Brad!


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