Patrick Mouratoglou begins new role as Simona Halep’s full-time coach
The Frenchman explains why he agreed to coach the former world No 1 and why he feels she can be at least as she good when she was winning her two Grand Slam titles
Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams‘ coach of 10 years, has accepted Simona Halep‘s offer to become her full-time coach. The Romanian began sessions at the Mouratoglou Academy this week and the pair will begin their collaboration on Tour in Madrid next month.
“You know me as Serena Williams’ coach. Today I start a new chapter in my coaching career: I am Simona Halep’s full-time coach,” Mouratoglou wrote in a newsletter sent to his subscribers at midday on Thursday to make official his return to the WTA Tour alongside one of the world’s top players.
Mouratoglou has mentored several top players such as Stefanos Tsitsipas and Coco Gauff, whom he supervises during Grand Slam tournaments, but has not been a full-time coach since Wimbledon 2021, when Serena Williams was injured and then had to withdraw from the US Open.
The 51-year-old French coach told Tennis Majors he realised “that he missed coaching big time, even more than what (he) thought”, and accepted a request from the 30-year-old Simona Halep, now ranked No 20, to become her coach after a suggestion from her former coach, Darren Cahill, that she visit the academy.
Mouratoglou flew to meet Serena
The agreement came about in two stages. First the former world No 1 visited the Mouratoglou Academy, the premiere academy in Europe, located between Nice and Cannes, before flying to Indian Wells. On the Mouratoglou Academy courts, the coach and the player got to know each other but ruled out the idea of a collaboration, despite the “loan” of a sparring partner, Arnaud Restifo, and an Academy coach, Morgan Bourbon, who has worked with Benoît Paire.
While Halep made it to the semi-finals in Indian Wells, Mouratoglou flew to Serena Williams’ house and express his interest in coaching on Tour again, should she, now 40, continue to postpone her return to the courts. “After this discussion, I knew that at least short-term I could start working as a coach with somebody else” says Mouratoglou.
Initial focus on French Open success
After Miami, a tournament in which Halep did not take part due to physical problems, the collaboration began on clay, with the French Open in sight.
“The goal is to probably one day stop her career thinking, ‘I’ve done the maximum of what I could have done'” Mouratoglou says in an interview with Tennis Majors, which will be broadcast on our English site later today.
“She has been No 1 (she became No 1 for the first time in October 2017 and last held top spot in January 2019), she has won Grand Slams (French Open 2018 and Wimbledon 2019). There is no reason why she couldn’t or she wouldn’t be able to do that again. She’s a champion. I also feel that she has a big margin for improvement in many aspects, and she’s still very hungry. So I think it’s a fantastic basis to build something and with the goal to do at least as good as before.”
Mouratoglou on Halep: “Her dedication is incredible”
“I don’t think we should put any limits, Mouratoglou continued. I always want to look at every detail and improve every single detail that I think can be improved, whether it’s on the physical, the mental, the technical, the tactical side. So we’ve looked through a lot of things already, from the way she competes to her fitness to her game in general to her practices. There are a lot of things I see I feel we can do better. And she’s completely in that mindset.”
Mouratoglou admits he didn’t know Halep particularly well outside of the 12 head-to-head meetings between Serena Williams and the Romanian player in the past. “Serena beat her most of the time (10-2), except one very important match, which was the final of Wimbledon, where she played incredible tennis. But I respected her game and her intensity. And I knew every time Serena was playing her, that when Serena would drop a little bit the concentration, that’s when Simona would be on top of her straight away.”
But he also says the ice was quickly broken. “The connection honestly went super fast; I would say the first two hours we discussed, yeah. Sometimes you feel the connection straight away. Sometimes it takes long. In Simona’s case, it was instantly, really. As I said, she’s super smart and she’s super sensitive also, and she was very open with me. So that was easy, in a way. She made my job easy in being open and giving me the feeling that she’s willing to work and fully commit to what we’re going to do.”
Halep rebuilding after injury
Simona Halep has had a difficult 2021, including a torn left calf that kept her off the court for three months and led to her withdrawal from the French Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics, and she is very popular in Romania. Down as low as No 27 two months ago, she has played 22 matches this season and won the title in the Melbourne Summer Set 1; reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open (losing to Alizé Cornet) and the semi-finals in Indian Wells (beaten by Iga Swiatek), after dominating Ons Jabeur, the only other top 10 player she has met.
“I think she did a decent part, the first part of the season”, said Mouratoglou. Doha, Dubai, were not great because I think it was a period where she was a bit questioning [of] herself, so she didn’t play well. But then I think she did a big effort in Indian Wells, reaching the semis, being injured from the first match. She’s doing well so far, but I feel she can do much better.”
Mouratoglou and Halep will travel together for the first time to the WTA 1000 in Madrid (28 April – 7 May) to begin their on-Tour collaboration.