So, I read this article on Black Tennis Pros that originally ran in USA Today about James Blake and Andy Roddick taking different approaches in their career regarding coaching. Roddick's had a few, to say the least, while Blake has stuck with the same guy, Brian Barker, since he was a kid.
Roddick's working with Larry Stefanki now, the guy that made a huge impact on the career of the guy Blake lost to today for the seventh time in a row, Fernando Gonzalez. There's a reason the Chilean earned the nickname "Gonzo," and it just wasn't because it was a shortened version of his last name. Fernando swung out at practically every shot from any spot on the court—a style Blake knows all too well. But if Gonzalez could get under control—and make a Slam final in the process—why couldn't JB?
I'll tell you what I think: The coaching holds him back. Barker did get Blake to number four in the world. While that's very impressive, there's not enough title-winning hardware to go with that result. If you've made multiple Masters Series finals, as Blake has, then you should at least be winning some of them. And if Gonzalez can make a Major final, then Blake should, too.
But you know, let's step aside from winning the big ones: Coming up short in the two finals made last year in Houston and Delray Beach, almost-glorified Challengers, is ridiculous.
I think it's too late for him to win a Slam or even make a Major final, which is sad because I think he could have. But I don't think it's too late for a coaching change to salvage more out of his career, because it looks to me that Barker's strategy, or lack thereof, has run its course. I think Brad Gilbert or a Brad Gilbert-type could work wonders.
Who knows? Maybe this latest run of bad form is a result of coming up short in the Olympics last year. But a fresh voice could possibly help him move past that. It's a shame to see a talented player stuck in a rut without considering other options to get out of it.
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.