Brad, Ivan or Someone Else – Who’ll Be Milos’ New Coach?
May 24, 2013 · Print This Article
Since parting with long-time coach Galo Blanco earlier this month, Milos Raonic’s team seems to be actively looking for potential candidates to fill the coaching void. Former world #3 Ivan Ljubicic was seen in Raonic’s box in Rome, while Neil Harman of The Times has reported that Brad Gilbert is currently “helping out” the Canadian in his Roland Garros preparations.
Given Ljubicic’s career achievements and Brad Gilbert’s impressive coaching pedigree, we can safely assume that both men would be well qualified to give their inputs to Raonic. It’s hard to say who Milos will end up working with full-time, if it’s even either of those two, but let’s take a quick look at what each brings to the table:
While Ljubicic’s coaching experience is very limited, his natural playing style does mesh very well with Raonic’s. The Croat’s serve has always been his strongest attribute, and he might be able to teach Raonic how to best take advantage of his reach and power while protecting his unspectacular movement, something Ivan has been able to do en route to a career-high #3 ranking, behind Federer and Nadal, in 2006.
Brad Gilbert is probably best known for transforming a young Andy Roddick from a promising talent into a world number 1 in 2003 by tapping into the American’s tremendous athletic talents. Since Raonic is as close as it gets to a 2013 equivalent of Roddick, the same approach might pay dividends with the Canadian. Keep in mind that it was Brad Gilbert who convinced a skeptical Andy Roddick that he, indeed, could succeed on grass, even though Andy struggled at Queen’s and Wimbledon early on in his career.
A friend of mine who grew up playing junior tennis against Raonic in Canada once told me that Milos was a lot more emotional and demonstrative on-court back in the juniors than on the ATP tour. It seems that over the years, Milos has learnd to play more within himself mentally, much like his idol Pete Sampras. There is no denying that being able to stay level-headed in clutch situations has helped him win more than his share of tiebreaks and deciding sets, but would showing more emotions allow him to intimidate his opponents and otherwise get into their heads?
On the one hand, staying with the same mental approach which brought him to the cusp of the top ten is a safe bet. On the other hand, perhaps a change on that front is just what Milos needs in order to make the breakthrough from “pretty good” to “Grand Slam contender.” Considering that Ivan Ljubicic was also usually pretty quiet and even-keeled on the court, I’m not sure how much he’ll have to share with Milos on that front. Meanwhile, having coached fiery characters such as Agassi, Roddick and Murray, Brad Gilbert should be a lot better placed to advise the Canadian on the pros and cons of wearing your heart on your sleeve.
Because of their shared ancestry (both Montenegro, the country of Raonic’s birth, and Croatia used to be a part of Yugoslavia) and low-key demeanors, Ivan and Milos should be able to find some common ground and shared understanding from a personal point of view.
Conversely, the famously talkative Gilbert might be a bit of a shock to the system for Milos. Milos doesn’t drink and doesn’t really have many interests beside tennis; Brad loves beer and is a man of a world, in his own way. Having interviewed Milos at Davis Cup and talked with Brad on a few occasions at Flushing Meadows, it seems that it would take a bit of work to make the partnership feasible long-term. The question is, would Brad be able to adjust his coaching style and find an optimal way to get through to Milos, or would Milos get tired of how much Brad talks (about tennis, other sports or life in general).
Historically, Brad’s done the best with Agassi and Roddick, two extroverted, fun-loving guys who, like him, didn’t mind hamming it up once in a while. His partnerships with Mary Pierce, Tatiana Golovin, Andy Murray, Sam Querrey and Kei Nishikori haven’t been as enduring perhaps because Brad works his magic the best when his charge also happened to be his best buddy. Meanwhile, Ivan seems to be a pretty good fit from a personal point of view, but does not have Gilbert’s extensive coaching experience and tactic savvy from which to draw upon.
What’s actually going to happen with Milos’ coaching situation remains to be seen, but at least he seems to be starting his search in the right place.
Jack is a Montreal-based marketing professional and business lecturer. In addition to writing for Tennis Connected and traveling the world to cover the pro game, he also write about business for IndecentXposure.com. Check out his work for IX here.