Cover Photo: Mouratoglou Tennis Academy

Serena Williams' former tennis coach and founder of Mouratoglou Tennis Academy on partnering with Epsom International School Malaysia, fostering Asian talents, and emerging strong from the pressures of the sport

Patrick Mouratoglou was just four years old when his parents took him to a local country club on weekends to play tennis. After that, he seized every opportunity he could to play, practising on the walls of buildings and working hard to become one of the best tennis players in France for his age. However, the young tennis hopeful encountered a major setback when his parents told him to give up on the sport to focus on his studies.

“I was devastated. I felt like it was the end of my life,” Mouratoglou says. “It took me 10 years to recover. Then I decided to spend the rest of my life helping young athletes achieve their goals in tennis.”

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Renting two courts in a tennis club in February 1996, he started what would eventually become the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in the South of France, an institution training tennis athletes through a personalised approach. One of the most influential coaches in tennis today, Mouratoglou has trained the world’s top tennis stars, including Stefanos Tsitsipas, Coco Gauff, Holger Rune, Alexei Popyrin, and 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, who won 10 of her 23 Grand Slam titles with Mouratoglou as her coach.

Tennis is a wonderful tool that allows people to exceed their limits, embrace their potential and express their personalities. 
Patrick Mouratoglou

Convinced that rigorous tennis training delivered alongside a quality school education is ideal for an athlete’s holistic development, Mouratoglou continues his commitment to nurture global tennis talents, expanding the Mouratoglou Academy’s footprint internationally for the first time to Asia with the opening of the Mouratoglou Tennis Programme at Epsom International School, Malaysia in January 2022.

Facilitated by coaches who have been trained under the Mouratoglou methodology, the programme offers immersive and high-performance tennis training, with a rigorous coaching plan designed to reflect student athletes’ individuals skills and aspirations.

In addition to a world-class British boarding education at Epsom International School, students aged 11 and above who are enrolled in the Mouratoglou Tennis Programme will carry out their training in the school’s new purpose-built tennis complex, comprising ITF-compliant outdoor and indoor hard and clay courts, and dedicated physio and training areas.

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"One of the most exciting elements in this partnership with Epsom International School is bringing the Mouratoglou philosophy and methodology to the Asian continent, in a great country, a great city, and with a top level partner," enthuses Mouratoglou. "We will discover new students in a new culture, and bring what made us successful to the young athletes there."

What made you love tennis, and how has it evolved throughout your career?

I fell in love with the sport at first sight. I was an extremely introverted child, unable to connect with others, so the tennis court became the only place where I felt strong and good at something. Today, I love teaching and sharing my thoughts on the sport with fans through media and social media. In my spare time, I always find a way to play tennis for my own pleasure. Of course, I also coach professional tennis players and dedicate a big part of my life to that passion. I believe tennis is a wonderful tool that allows people to exceed their limits, embrace their potential and express their personalities. 

What makes the Mouratoglou Tennis Programme effective for future tennis stars?  

My programme is based on a personalised approach, unique to each player. We take care of each child on a 360-degree level, focusing on their tennis development and also their education and personal growth. From the last 25 years, we have applied this philosophy and these processes with unprecedented success. Every year we bring players to the top of the game in Juniors and in the professional field. After Coco Gauff and Stefanos Tsitsipas, we just brought Holger Rune to Top 30 ATP at only 19 years old. 

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Why was Epsom International School in Malaysia selected as the first destination for Mouratoglou Academy’s overseas expansion?

So far, Epsom International School is the only school that we have opened at besides Mouratoglou Academy in the French Riviera. The reason for this is that we are extra careful of the quality of education that our partners can provide, which has to be up to our standards.

The quality of Epsom’s education, the seriousness of the staff, the relationship we have established with its management made us feel secure that we will have a school at the same high level as the tennis. I’m also very keen to foster and shine a light on new talents, especially in Asia.

How has your approach to coaching changed compared to when you started?

When I started coaching, I didn't know much about the technical, tactical and mental aspects of the game. I had an enormous motivation and focus to help my players win. Then I decided to learn everything about my players: who they are, how they process, how they win points, how they lose them.

I created a methodology based on the player’s needs and way of communicating. After helping players make big steps forward with this, I realised that it was the right approach. Indeed, coaching is not about applying the same method to each player but being able to start every new collaboration with a blank sheet and create a process unique to each of them.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a coach?

Dealing with our own emotions. Sports and life bring so much emotion, and we all go through a mental rollercoaster ride. When speaking to our players or making decisions, emotion is often the worst advisor. Being able as a coach to recognise our level of emotion and disconnect from it to have the right attitude and the right thinking is a real challenge, and this also applies to life.

What do you think is the biggest hindrance to a player reaching his or her full potential?

The lack of confidence. We all know people who have dreams and passions who would love to live a different life. The fact that they doubt their ability to succeed will prevent them from trying. The fear of failure, and the pain potentially caused by that, is the main reason why some people accept to live a life very far from the one they would love to. For the very few who do try, the lack of confidence in their ability will prevent them from giving 100 per cent.  

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What has coaching Serena Williams taught you about helping young athletes to reach their full potential in this sport?

Coaching Serena who has such a champion mentality has confirmed everything I always thought about champions, their mindset and the way they process. It confirmed to me that anything can be achieved for people who believe and are prepared to give their all.

What helps you maintain focus under pressure?

When you are a professional tennis coach working with champions, pressure is present every day. You feel it every moment. You learn to live with it, but most importantly you need to love it. If you don’t like high pressure, I believe that it is better to choose another job. When you see pressure as an opportunity, and start to like it, I believe that it helps you increase your focus.

I have worked with demanding parents that have put me under a lot of pressure, either because they wanted immediate results or because they just refused to think that time was essential to develop skills.

As a coach, the pressure is more intense because I always take the responsibility of the results. I never find an excuse to blame the player because my job is to motivate them, to have them make the necessary changes, to have them listen to me and follow me. So I’ve learnt to see pressure as an incredible opportunity.

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