Is Magnus Norman the GOAT Coach?

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Is Magnus Norman the GOAT Coach?

Post by Born Slippy on Sun 18 Sep 2016, 11:37 am

Bar a spell with Thomas Johansson at the tail end of his career, Magnus Norman has had two coaching roles. After the US Open in 2008, he was appointed as Robin Soderling's coach. He held that role until the end of 2010, before deciding to end the arrangement to work on other projects. He was then appointed as coach to Stan Wawrinka in early 2013. The results in both cases were remarkable. 

In mid 2008, Robin Soderling was going nowhere. He was aged 24, had won 2 career titles (and none for 3 years) and had never been ranked in the top 20. His best slam result was the third round and he'd just been dumped out of the US Open in the first round. He was a decent player but no one saw him as a possible elite. 

The results with Norman were instant. He won his first title for 3 years in October 2008, breaking into the top 20 for the first time. In the slams, he shocked the world in Paris, beating the unstoppable Nadal with a display of controlled power hitting. He made the final at RG and then made the QF at the US Open. In a little over a year, Norman had taken Robin to number 8 in the world. 2010 was even more successful. He repeated the French Open run, this time dismantling Federer en route, and made the QF at Wimbledon and the US Open. His first Masters title in Paris followed and he broke the big 4 domination - rising to number 4 in the world in November 2010. In his two years with Norman, Soderling had records of 14-4 in the slams in each year. His best year before had been 3-3. 

In 2013, Norman returned to coaching. This time the challenge was arguably greater. Wawrinka had been a former top tenner (some 5 years before) but was just about to turn 28 and, in usual tennis terms, approaching the end. In his entire career up to then, his career highlight had been one Masters final in Rome. 

Suffice it to say, Wawrinka was swiftly transformed. He won a first title in two years in early 2013 and made the French QF. Since then, from the ages of 28-31, he's become a great of the game. He has won three of the four grand slams, 12 more titles and has been as high as 3 in the world. In his past 15 slams he has made QF or better 11 times. Up to Norman's arrival, he had made only 3 QF (going no further) in 31 attempts. 

I can't think of another coach in the time I've been watching tennis who has transformed a player mid career to anywhere near the above level. Norman has done it not once but twice - and has only had two coaching gigs! It's phenomenal. Does anyone else compare?

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Re: Is Magnus Norman the GOAT Coach?

Post by Henman Bill on Mon 19 Sep 2016, 1:50 am

Well argued, and a good and different article. I don't really follow who coaches who that closely, but it must be difficult to find someone with a better record for sure.

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Re: Is Magnus Norman the GOAT Coach?

Post by banbrotam on Mon 19 Sep 2016, 11:22 am

Yes!!

I find the talk about supercoaches (Lendl, Becker) quite boring and simplistic. Lendl, freely admits that he has no real role in improving Andy's technique and I'd be amazed if Becker etc had either.

They are not true coaches and I bet it really annoys the likes of Norman, Williams (Richard), Annacone etc, who actually made multiple significant improvements to their charges, that resulted in signifant postive outcomes (i.e. Henman's 2004 under Annacone)


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Re: Is Magnus Norman the GOAT Coach?

Post by Born Slippy on Tue 20 Sep 2016, 12:15 pm

I think even Annacone struggles to match Norman's achievements.

He did a good job with Sampras and Federer but, frankly, they were already incredible players. Henman was a success but he had been number 4 in the world before. The improvements weren't as dramatic as Norman's achievement of turning two top 20 players into slam contenders.

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Re: Is Magnus Norman the GOAT Coach?

Post by lydian on Sat 24 Sep 2016, 8:37 am

Don't really agree.
Soderling never won a slam...so the success only went so far there.

Basically Magnus gets his players insanely fit, although look what that did to Sodeing (mono...or whatever took him off tour?). Stan was already good but clearly unfit to compete at the highest level which made his mind wander more during matches. Like Soderling, Magnus spotted an opportunity for physical transformation and helped him get insanely fit (you don't see Stan breaking down over 5 sets these days) and that had a major mental boost which unlocked his true potential. But you know a lot of credit has to go to the players themselves. They have to really want to push through those pain barriers...

But come on, there are a number of coaches down the years who turned players around into winning machines. Look at Brad Gilbert with Agassi...Magnus is following the age old approach of getting players into absolute peak condition so the player themselves actually reach their innate potential. He's not the best coach ever albeit he has done well for sure.

Actually, you could argue it was Paganini's physical transformation of Federer between 2002-2004 that has produced the biggest results changer known to the game...
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Re: Is Magnus Norman the GOAT Coach?

Post by Born Slippy on Sun 25 Sep 2016, 11:58 am

Hmm, Norman took Soderling from a guy who had never been past the first week in a slam to two slam finals. That's remarkable. As for Wawrinka, I don't recall anyone saying if Stan got fitter he would be a slam champion. I don't recall him losing matches previously by being unfit - he was just standard top 20 fodder for the big 4. Heck, I recall various Fed fans explaining that he needed a better number 2 to give him a shot at the Davis Cup!

Gilbert did well with Agassi but, again, we are talking about one of the most talented players of all time who had already won a slam and made multiple other finals. Can you give an example of another coach who has taken two players who had never previously been slam contenders in their mid-late 20s to multi slam finalists/winners?

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Re: Is Magnus Norman the GOAT Coach?

Post by Guest on Sun 25 Sep 2016, 4:52 pm

You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Or can you? At what age does a tennis player become an old dog? I seem to recall when Brad Gilbert was Murray's coach he said Murray had to keep working on his forearms to turn them into tree trunks. That doesn't sound like coaching, more like body building. But I guess what works, works.

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