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Jose Perlas coaches Italian Fabio Fognini.

Jose Perlas: Turning A Good Player Into A Great

Jose Perlas has worked as a coach for a golden generation of Spanish talent over the past 20 years, including former World No. 1s Carlos Moya and Juan Carlos Ferrero. Today, as coach to Fabio Fognini, Perlas reveals to ATPWorldTour.com the keys for turning a good player into a world class player.

When you to choose to work with a player, what sorts of attributes or character traits do they have to have?
The only thing I need to know is that they will do everything for their tennis and they really do it because they want to do it, not because they want to be famous.

What are the keys for you to get your players to compete at the highest level?
One of the most important reasons is to understand what stops them from going further. I work with my team to find out what stops them, as each player is different. At ATP-level, they all have good qualities – maybe not developed as far as they could be – but it helps to find out. Once I find what stops them, I try to figure out a solution. I always try and plan ahead for the next day and I work with my wife, who is a psychologist, to help me to understand a player.

How much time do you spend on the mental side of tennis with a player?
The mental side is wrapped up so much in the technical side. If I can help a player open his eyes to play in a different way, in any given situation, then he has the key to relax his mind. Emotion plays a great part too and how you control it. With Carlos Moya, he had a very good mind. Albert Costa needed four or five tips to give him the confidence to play well. Guillermo Coria did not believe enough in himself. although we finished together when he was No. 7 [in the Emirates ATP Rankings].  When I started to work with Juan Carlos Ferrero he was No. 60, but he recovered his love for the sport and rose up once again.

How important is the mental aspect versus physical ability in tennis, at the top level?
I would always decide to work with a player who has good mental strength, as I can work on the other areas. Many players are well prepared physically and play a good game, but the mental side lets them down. It is so important. The difference at the top is mental.

Do you think champion tennis players are born?
Yes, but maybe nobody knows. Some players are born to get to the top, but they have to discover their talent.   

There have been many Spanish world class players, and you’ve worked with several of them. What are the keys to Spain’s success in creating so many champions?
The good weather in Spain means that you can play tennis outdoors all year. I feel that clay court tennis improves all aspects of your game – movement, technique and endurance. Combine everything together and you produce a complete player. The coaches in Spain are very good, they know they have to be dedicated. Spain also has plenty of tournaments to compete in around the country.

When did you feel confident enough to start coaching ATP-level players?
I played in all the national teams until I was 18. Then I undertook military service until 1981 and I returned to play in national tournaments. I felt unbelievable, but I never tried to go outside of Spain. I started to work with Andres Gimeno and subsequently became a technical director at a club for five years - winning several junior national tournaments. I then set up my private school, working with Albert Portas and decided I wanted to work with the best players. I wanted to know if I was good enough. I eventually worked with the likes of Galo Blanco and Carlos Moya, among other players. After 18 months, Carlos asked me to go with him. I believed in him and we worked together for five years. He is the best player I have worked with.

In a few words, what was special about some of the players you have coached…
Carlos Moya – mental.
Albert Costa – big fighter.
Guillermo Coria – big talent.
Nicolas Almagro – big power.
Janko Tipsarevic – hard worker.
Fabio Fognini – talent.