Myskina's relationship with coach sometimes stormy

Updated: June 17, 2004, 9:54 PM ET
By Greg Garber |

As Anastasia Myskina's former boyfriend, Jens Gerlach knows all about her moods.

Anastasia Myskina
At times, Anastasia Myskina's on court frustration has been aimed at her coach and former boyfriend Jens Gerlach.
It's just that now, as her coach, Gerlach is paid for his trouble by the French Open champion.

During her quarterfinal loss to Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open, Myskina had a meltdown, tossing her racket and complaining that Gerlach was not vocal enough in his support. It happened again at Roland Garros, when Myskina lost it while trailing fellow Russian Svertlana Kuznetsova in the round of 16.

After surviving pre-match tears and defeating Elena Dementieva in the French Open final, Myskina seemed to have found a new level of maturity. It came, in large part, from Gerlach, who never failed to remind her that she was good enough to win a Grand Slam.

"I know that it doesn't help if you yell at somebody," Myskina said, slightly chagrined, in her on-court speech to the crowd. "I've worked on it. Finally, I became more professional on the court. I started believing in myself more."

She turned and spoke directly to Gerlach, who was watching from her guest box.

"I'm a hard person," she said. "Sorry for everything."

A closer look at coaching takes a look at the intimate relationship between a top tennis player and his or her coach.

Wednesday: Why is Wimbledon title contender Tim Henman having such success? Look no further than coach Paul Annacone. Many players are making the switch to a new coach.

  • Players didn't have coaches until Bjorn Borg started the trend. Today, they're a part of a larger entourage.
    Thursday: It's not unusual to find some a family connection between a coach and player on the WTA.
  • Kim Clijsters' coach, Marc De Hous, discusses what it takes to coach a No. 1 player.
    Friday: Andy Roddick began working with Brad Gilbert after last year's French Open. Despite Roddick's improvement, Gilbert says there's still plenty for the player to learn.
  • Although coaches travel with players, they can't coach from the court. The only place that happens is at Davis Cup, Fed Cup and in World Team Tennis.
  • Later, the German coach downplayed the apology.

    "Every once in a while, she tends to lose her manners and her head on court, or towards me or her family," Gerlach said. "There are always going to be incidents. Many people have asked, 'Why you let her treat you like that?' Or, 'How can she do that to you?'

    "I always say we talk about it, she understands and she always says sorry."

    Coaching in tennis is a 24-7 job and that kind of proximity can tear a relationship apart -- or just the opposite. A number of women on the WTA Tour are married to their coaches: Sandrine Testud of France and Vittorio Magnelli, Italy's Silvia Farina Elia and Francesco Elia, South Africa's Liezel Huber and Tony Huber and Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi and Claudio Pistolesi.

    There are other combinations.

    Rita Grande of Italy and Virginia Ruano Pascual are coached by their brothers, Vincenzo and Juan Ramon, respectively. Germany's Barbara Rittner married her fitness coach Michael Diehl. Lindsay Davenport, after breaking with longtime coach Robert Van't Hof, was briefly coached by her brother-in-law, Rick Leach. Amanda Coetzer is coached by her former doubles partner, Lori McNeil.

    Parents, however, are often the coach of choice -- at least in the beginning. Melanie Molitor, a fine Slovakian player in her own right, was the architect behind the success of her daughter Martina Hingis. The combination worked for five Grand Slam titles, but there were often disagreements, particularly later in Hingis' relatively brief career. They separated twice, the last time in 2002, before Hingis retired.

    "There was tension between the professional and personal relationships," Molitor explained to a Swiss newspaper reporter. "The separation was the only possibility to avoid damaging the personal relationship.

    Serena Williams
    The Williams sisters have relied on their father as a coach, advisor and shoulder to lean on.
    "Martina is no longer 18 -- but nearly 21. You must not tell her everything. She's an adult."

    Russia's Dinara Safina still is coached by her mother, Raouza Islanova. Ai Sugiyama of Japan is coached by her mother, Fusako.

    The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, list their father Richard and mother Oracene Price as their coaches. In Serena's WTA Tour biography, Oracene is referred to as "coach/advisor," while Richard is referred to merely as a coach. Although the sisters have been coached by a number of different people on the technical side, the parents, apparently, fill that role today.

    "There's a very thin line between a manager and a coach," Serena has said of her father. "As a manager, I think he's the best."

    In March, at Miami's NASDAQ-100 event, Serena was asked why more players didn't keep their coaching in the family.

    "Everyone's different," Serena said. "I think it's just the way different people were brought up. I know I'm extremely independent. I know my sister is. We were taught never to rely on anyone else.

    "You have to pretty much rely on you."

    Greg Garber is a senior writer at

    Greg Garber

    Writer, Reporter
    Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for