Coaches' Corner: Moller Balancing Youthful Hurkacz & Experienced Isner
Hubert Hurkacz broke through in a big way in 2018. The Pole started the season at No. 238 in the ATP Rankings. And thanks to a clutch ATP Challenger Tour title run in Brest, Hurkacz finished the year by earning a berth at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
Hurkacz's coach is Rene Moller, who is based in Florida. Moller has worked with and continues to coach American John Isner, who is set to compete at the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. So how did Moller's partnership with Hurkacz come about? Find out that and more:
How did you go from working with Isner to Hurkacz?
His agent sent him to Saddlebrook Resort and Tennis Academy around Roland Garros time to do some training weeks and it just sort of kicked off from there. He’s been at Saddlebrook probably four or five times and this is the first tournament I’m with Hubi. Still working with John, obviously. But trying to juggle both if I can. [Hubi] is just a real down to earth, humble kid. I think the physical talents are very obvious. He likes to work hard and in my opinion he’s got everything it takes to do some damage here.
How weird is it to have a guy like John, who’s in London and Hubi, who’s on the way up?
John’s obviously a veteran. He’s 33 years old, he knows what he needs to do to get himself ready and doesn’t need that much input. And he’s got other coaches that help him also in David [Macpherson] and Justin [Gimelstob] and all three of us sort of tag team him, so he’s got a lot of good people around him. Hubert is obviously a lot younger and a little bit of an unknown commodity. I’m still getting to know him on the road.
Like I said, I’ve been working with him for a few months now, so I know him fairly well. But he’s definitely trying to figure out his game, his strengths and weaknesses and I'm trying to get him to understand the best ways to use them right now. There’s definitely a lot more time spent on the practice court talking about how to adjust and how to use his weapons.
So for Hubi, it’s more about trying to get him to know his own game whereas with John, coaching him involves more talks around match tactics?
Yeah, absolutely. John knows what he has to do and knows how he has to play in order to win matches. Getting John in the right mindset before the match is the key. As far as tactics go, he’s been on the ATP World Tour so long that he knows everyone’s game by now, there are no real secrets out here when you’ve been around for a while. Someone young like Hubi, there are a lot of guys he hasn’t played and he’s still trying to sort of figure his way around. So it’s a good challenge, I’m enjoying it.
What do you believe this experience has been like for Hubi, playing the best in the world his age?
There are nothing but positives from this week. It’s all new: all the press, all the media, all the off-court stuff he’s had to do. He’s not quite used to doing all of that. But it’s something that just comes with the territory.
Moving forward, how do you help him learn from an event like this, perhaps the biggest stage he’s been on thus far?
It can only help him grow. Obviously it’s not going to get any easier from here on out. At all the other tournaments, there won’t be as much going on off the court and hopefully he gets to the point where he does have a lot of extra media going on because that will mean he’s winning a lot more matches. So hopefully he does get to that point.
You guys have had very down-to-earth conversations over the headsets, one of the innovations here in Milan. What are your impressions of that innovation?
It’s a little stressful with the format and whatnot, but I do like it. I think we’re in such an instant gratification type of world right now that in order to get new fans and get people to turn TVs on, sell tickets, it’s something the ATP may have to think about doing in the future, maybe changing the format a little bit and this format certainly lends itself to that.