Hitting Partners & Brotherly Love

On FB, Rafa posted a photo of his new training partner, Teimuraz Gabashvilli.  The no. 136-ranked Russian recently lost in the Paris-Bercy qualies.  It seems he flew straight from Paris to Manacor to train with Nadal.

The Portuguese junior Frederico Silva (that’s his full name, I believe) had a two week stay in Mallorca, where he spent time training with Nadal.  Gabashvilli has now taken over the duties of hitting partner.

This is a common arrangement for top players.  Way back when, Bjorn Borg had an arrangement where he hired John Lloyd as a hitting partner in between Roland Garros and Wimbledon.  Federer also had a friend and hitting partner in Swiss player Yves Allegro.  Years ago, the tennis club owned by Allegro’s family ran into financial trouble.  Federer lent a helping hand by by playing an exhibition match at Allegro’s tennis club.  The match sold out and the extra promotion helped Allegro’s family.

Such an arrangement is pretty much only available to the top stars, who have the resources and command the respect to “hire” tennis players for training.  Andy Murray is well-backed by a small army of trainers and a personal hitting partner in Dani Vallverdu.

This is a stark contrast to the players outside the top 4.  Take Gael Monfils, who is ranked no. 14.  Gael’s younger brother Daryl is an up-and-coming tennis player.  Recently, Daryl gave a hilarious quote that revealed his opinion of Gael’s tennis:

“I do not like [Gael’s] style of play.  I like players like Isner, Karlovic or Söderling.”

Question for Daryl: Is blood not thicker than water? (It’s a rhetorical question, Daryl!)

This hurts even more when you consider Gael was recently sitting courtside at a Geneva Challenger, cheering for Daryl and adorably live-tweeting his younger brother’s match.

Gael's greatest non-fan: Daryl Monfils

In summary, if you’re Rafa, you can arrange for tennis players to fly to Manacor and they will be grateful for the invitation.  If you’re Gael, you’re doing time on the sidelines at a Geneva Challenger, trying to win the respect of your younger brother (who is probably embarrassed by your presence).

Thankfully, Gael has a close friendship with compatriot Tsonga (who has a stern-looking younger brother of his own–also an athlete).  For Gael’s sake, I hope he is able to close out 2011 with an impressive finish at Paris-Bercy, one that even Daryl would be proud to witness.


About mariposaxprs

I play favorites with Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon and the long line of mercurial talent that drives me to despair in front of the screen at odd hours during the week.
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14 Responses to Hitting Partners & Brotherly Love

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  3. queridorafa says:

    This is so funny…who LIKES Isner and Karlovic’s style of play?? Someone who doesn’t like to move much, I guess? So ironic considering how Gael is known for his movement.
    Also, I’m just going to put this out there–any players outside of the top 4 who would like me as a hitting partner, I say yes in advance! 😉

    • mariposaxprs says:

      I guess he’s still very young, so he has a couple of years to find better “tennis role models.” Maybe even take a few lessons from Gael in the footwork/movement?

      Would you say “yes” even if Karlovic needed a hitting partner, for say, target practice? 😉 I just might, for a day! It’s kind of surprising that more guys in the top 20 don’t have permanent hitting partners, since it seems like a much better way to prepare for matches.

      • queridorafa says:

        Hmmm..that’s a tough one. I guess yes, b/c Ivo is actually probably only about 500 times better than me from the ground, rather than all other players who are between 750-infinity times better than me from ground. 😉 If just for target practice?…maybe if I could bring my giant, full-body-size racquet. Which I totally have, btw, just in case… 😉

  4. ariennalee says:

    Thanks for posting this quote. I had no idea Gael had a younger sibling. Judging by his preferences, I’m guessing the kid can serve? 😉 Also, it looks like his knees are strapped as well. I hope he doesn’t suffer from the same knee trouble as Gael.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      I wish Daryl could expand on his statement that he doesn’t like Gael’s “style of play.” What does he really mean? 😉 I guess he in fact molding himself into more of a serve-based player.

      It cracks me up because both Gael and Jo-Willy’s younger brothers seem like more mature and level-headed versions of their older siblings. Granted, I know very little about the younger siblings though!

      • ariennalee says:

        Yes! I actually thought that Tsonga’s younger brother was his elder sibling– just from the way he comports himself in the stands.

        Perhaps Daryl simply means that he prefers not diving head-first into a slab of concrete!

        • mariposaxprs says:

          Hahaha watching Gael is always a scary albeit thrilling experience. Daryl is onto something here, although I’m not sure he wants to fully emulate Karlovic or Isner.

          I always thought Tsonga’s younger brother was his agent, because he looks older than 30 and sits in the stands with a very “business-like” expression. I think he’s actually 5 years younger than Tsonga though. Doh!

  5. jelena says:

    Even if you’re Rafa, there was a player just out of juniors who refused the offer of flying to Mallorca (not the ugliest place on Earth) and practicing with a champ for a couple of weeks during summer, all expenses paid.

    McEnroe never gets tired of repeating this story (featuring one Donald Young a few years ago) and scolding DY on air for foolishly passing up on such a great opportunity to learn and improve.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Wow, I had no idea that Donald Young refused the chance to train with Rafa in Mallorca! Was this during the time Young’s parents had problems with the USTA?

      I don’t know all the details about Young and the USTA, only the basic facts of his Twitter outburst against the USTA. But I feel like his career was mishandled by his parents and the USTA, which is always unfortunate when he was at a critical stage in his career. Thankfully, he seems to be proving himself bit by bit on the tennis court. Perhaps another invite from Rafa may be forthcoming?

      • jelena says:

        Yeah, it happened at the dawn of the USTA vs. DY’s parents.

        According to several tennis commentators, Donald had just become a pro, and most probably his parents thought he would immediately light up the tour the way he did in juniors, so a few weeks as a practice partner, even to a champion, would be a hindrance or something.

        Either that or he just couldn’t be without home cooking back then.

        • mariposaxprs says:

          Eeek, that sounds like a colossal mistake DY made. I’m looking forward to the next time Rafa and Donald Young play a match 😉 It’s kind of the same mistake Bernie Tomic made when he turned down an invite to practice with Lleyton Hewitt, because Hewitt wasn’t good enough. Foolish teenagers!

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