Feliciano Lopez's Coach Talks Motivation, Success And The Future Of Tennis
Jose Clavet shares insights on his vocation and on the ATP World Tour
Q: What do you look for in a player before you decide if you want to work with him?
A: What I really want to see is his motivation. The desire that he has for work and to do what it takes to reach his goals. I like to ask him: "What do you want to achieve and what do you think you have to do to reach this goal?" That's what matters to me most. From that point on I go about refining things: the method of work and everything else. But what interests me most is his motivation.
Q: What are the differences between working with a young player in comparison with a more experienced player, like now with Feliciano Lopez?
A: I've worked before with boys of 15-16 years old. There are lots of differences. Basically, when the player is young and you start working with him, he is taking shape. You have much more to work on and more influence than with an older player. When the player is older, you work more on the psychological aspect. That he is happy and motivated. Because he's been on the Tour for a long time. With a younger player you can work much more on the technical side and on the tactics. When he is older, it's different. Above all, you work on his motivation.
Q: How do you motivate older players?
A: It depends on the player. You can't motivate everyone the same way. With Feliciano, last year was his best on Tour. So, I said to him: "Let's see if you can get into the Top 15, something you've never done before." Depending on the player, the type of motivation is different.
Q: How important do you think it is for the coach and player to come from the same culture and speak the same language?
A: I think it's important. I don't know to what extent, but I give it quite a lot of importance. In my case, the majority of players I've worked with have been Spanish. I worked with a Russian girl and we didn't have any problems, but I do think it's quite important.
Q: If a player is injured for a long time or losing a lot of matches, what do you do to keep them positive?
A: Again, it depends on the player, but negative periods always pass. The year is long. Players only compete in 25-30 tournaments a year. You can't play well in 25 tournaments. Therefore I try to make them see that it's normal to go through these rough patches and I encourage them to work even harder. It's always the case that with hard work, the bad patch will end and they will start winning matches again. This is part of tennis.
Q: When you have spells like that, what sort of questions do the players ask you to try to find their way again?
A: Again, it depends on the player. For example, Feliciano loves playing on hard court and grass. He knows when the clay-court season comes around that it's going to be harder for him. Therefore he accepts he isn't going to win as many matches on the clay and losing is more normal. I tell him that this is normal, trust in your game and keep working and working.
Q: Do you think there is a bigger focus among coaches now to use technology and statistics to analyse matches?
A: Yes, much more. It's another thing that is totally different. Tennis has evolved that way. I played before I was a coach. I started playing in 1983 and it was nothing like it is now. To answer the question, yes. Now, technology and statistics help us a lot: first serve numbers and so on. It's influenced me a lot.
Q: You coached your brother, who reached the Top 20. Now, he too is a coach. Have you ever faced each other as coaches?
A: Yes, one time we have faced each other. I think it was when he was coaching Santiago Giraldo and I was with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. It's part of the job. I also faced him when we were both playing. Now we face each other as coaches. But at the end of the day, we are brothers above all else.
Q: What do you think will be the next generation after Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray?
A: There's now a generation of young Australians, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios, who are going to be next. I don't know if they will be No. 1s, because it's very difficult to say. There's also Grigor Dimitrov, who is still young, as well as Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. This is the future of tennis.