Another Davis Cup weekend has come and gone (man, how about that Richard Gasquet? and now the clay-court season really kicks into gear. The women had their first big tournament in the spring swing and Maria Sharapova bagged her first title on the dirt. But with tournaments a-plenty this week (the men are in Valencia, Houston and Estoril, and the women are in Charleston and Estoril, too), the biggest news this week is Roger Federer bringing in Jose Higueras (both pictured above) to help out some as he ramps up his clay-court preparation earlier than usual by hitting Estoril.
Now, I have some concerns about this move. First, why Higueras? I know Higueras helped Michael Chang and Jim Courier win French Opens, but that was a looong time ago. Higueras helped those two by teaching a hard-court player how to play on clay and getting a temperamental freak-out machine to realize he didn't have to blast winners all the time (Chang and Courier, respectively). Basically, I think Higueras gets guys to play within themselves, or in the case of Robby Ginepri, motivates them to work harder. But Federer's a completely different animal than those three as his game is way more free-flowing and versatile than theirs. If he gets Federer to dial down his game, I think it can be disastrous.
Second, if Federer feels he needs a coach, which I think he does, too, why go with someone so surface-specific? So after Estoril and if they go through the clay swing, does he dump Higueras? There's no way Higueras can help Federer at Wimbledon. Or during the hard-court season, for that matter.
I hope it doesn't look like I'm always dumping on Federer, I just think he's at a crucial point in his career where the wrong move can snowball. I think this working-with-Higueras move is almost like hitting the panic button. Know who I wish was still around coaching that would be good for Federer? Tony Pickard. He got Stefan Edberg to the finals of the French back when the players were practically playing on mud, and Edberg did it by attacking. But Pickard's so far removed from the game there's no way that would work. I have some other ideas on possible Federer coaches, but I'll save them for later—or I might just shut up about them if the Higueras thing works out! Stay tuned.
An old friend of mine and I used to talk tennis for hours, whether it was our own games or what was happening in the pros. I've started Tennis Talk, Anyone? to, well, talk tennis with an even broader crowd! My name is Van Sias and I've been playing for 20 years now, and not only am I player, I'm a huge fan of the game as well: pro, amateur, you name it. I'll post links to news items related to the sport, and offer my own personal opinion, predictions and hopefully get some of yours as well.