Landsdorp's ladies, Tales of Bravery Acts of Courage
By Bill Simons
Myskina wins the French, Sharapova takes Wimbledon and the Year End Championships, while Davenport puts together a 22-match win streak. It was a heck of a summer (year) for Landsdorp's ladies.
Before, the players were so bad at giving credit where credit is due- like Tracy Austin, like all of them. Now, who in the wold has coached five Grand Slam champions? Tracy gives me the more credit than I can handle. After all these year I’m getting credit. It’s nice. Maria is really thoughtful. She’s unbelievable and has good character. She’s a great girl and it’s nice to have a good relationship, where I’m finally getting credit. Now of days Davenport gives me credit. She’s talked about what a great influence I was and how without me she probably wouldn’t have been anywhere. Nobody has evolved the little ones into GS champions like me. The only one that came to me when she was older was Myskina, she was No. 58. She stunk. A year and a half later, she’s top 10 and she says her boyfriend did it all. And she says, “Yeah Landsdorp helped me with my groundies.” Excuse me, what else have you got?
You’ve coached Sampras, Austin, Sharapova, Myskina, Davenport...
Stephanie Rehe, got to be top 10, Eliot Telscher got to six, Brian Teacher, nine, Kimberly Po, 14.
Does the lack of recognition piss you off?
No, I’m used to it. Nobody has done what I have done, the way I did it. Some radio guy called and said, “You just rent a court? You’re not on some luxurious court at an academy?” But what else do I need> All I need is a basket of balls and a court. I don’t need all the B.S But I’ve always been the worst PR
guy. I never talked. Other guys have PR
people. So people say, “How come I’ve never heard about you, you've made all these champions.” But I’m feeling good and have a feeling I probably will have one more champion in my life.
Nothing can be done without discipline. then it’s motivation and the psychology of bringing kids along, understanding what the kid needs to become better, recognizing what they’re lacking at a very early age, what it is that they have to do become better. Look at Maria- the only one I knew who had better motivation was Tracy.
Really, more so than Pete?[/b]
Oh yeah. Pete looked like he was going to be a great player, definitely. Lindsay looked like she was going to be good, but never win grand slams but never win grand slams. So you look at what they need. And then, you stick to what is going to make them great. My system makes them great.
IT: Who had the greatest drive and determination of the five?
RL: Probably Tracy. But they all have it. In terms of showing it, it would definitely be Tracy and Maria. They were the most aggressive in wanting to win. You saw it in the slap of their thighs- they just can’t wait to win. Pete was a little lax. Sometimes I thought he was sort of throwing a match. Same with Lindsay.
IT: How would you compare Myskina’s desire with Sharapova’s?
RL: Myskina has come around. She wasn’t the same as Maria when she came to me. She was easily distracted. At Indian Wells, she’s up 6-1, 4-0 over Nathalie Dechy, who then took a bathroom break. Then Myskina fell apart. No way would Maria have fallen apart.
IT: Myskina was once up 5-0 against Henin at the WTA Championships and she blew that, not to mention this year at...
RL: She can go “walkabout,” but if she can overcome that, and also handle pace, she’s quick and has a devastating backhand.
We’ve seen Maria’s forehand, Pete’s running forehand- we’ve seen Lindsay’s backhand. Who’s got the sweetest stroke?
It’s a three, maybe four way tie. Myskina hits a little different than Maria. Maria, Davenport, and Austin drive the ball. Myskina doesn’t quite drive through, but tags the ball so well she generates a lot of pace. Davenport has an unbelievable backhand, which she had at a very early age. Very clean. When she was 12, she could flip the backhand. Maria didn’t rip the backhand. Her father kept telling me, “She missed a lot of backhands” I kept saying, ‘Yuri, don’t worry. She’s going to have a world-class backhand.’ Why? Because then she didn’t know whether she should be right- or- left handed. But since the motion was a little more natural with the right arm, I told him, “You should probably have her play right-handed. But because of the left hand, her backhand is going to be devastating.”
What about Yuri? Tough, tough, guy. Really motivated.
He’s an easy guy with me. No problems whatsoever. he believes in me. He took her to me because he figured i was going to be the one could make Maria hit the ball like Davenport. he never argues with me, he never says a word. All he does is jump down to pick up balls.
So at Wimbledon, Sharapova went up against Serena, a two-time champ, in the final and the conventional wisdom was that Serena would kick butt. What was your feeling going in?
Honestly, I thought Maria had a chance. I told her, you hit the ball hard and you crank it into Serena’s forehand and might break down. That’s exactly what happened. With somebody like Maria, you’ve got to instill a couple of things in her and then let her play on instinct. She’d never hit a lob, but on two crucial points she hit two unbelievable lobs. Did anybody tell her, hey, when Serena comes up to the net, hit a lob? No. It was instinct. She overpowered Serena’s forehand, which is one of the best. Serena got a little shell-shocked and couldn’t believe that this chick was actually beating her.
Talk to me about Alexandra Stevenson, who you’ve worked with and who just had shoulder surgery. I know you heart goes out to her.
She’s really nice. You can’t compete when you’re in pain. Obviously your confidence dives. She just hasn’t won any matches. She can be more consistent. She moves better than Lindsay, and Lindsay does just fine. If there’s any advice I can give, it’s make sure your kid understands consistency first. Once you have consistency, go with placement, and then finally go with power. Maria had consistency all the way. She could hit consistently to one spot. She wouldn’t make an error. That comes from repetition. There’s nothing like muscle memory. if you hit a couple thousand balls in the same spot, the same way, it becomes so natural that you never fear that you’re not going to do it.
Everyone says that Robert is the ‘guru of groundies’. True?
I’m just known for that Tracy had unbelievable groundies and the biggest suck serve you can imagine. It was worse than Myskina’s. Then, right away, people say, “He knows ground strokes but his players don't know how to hit a serve”. Sharapova hits a pretty good serve. Lindsay’s not bad. Pete has hit same serve since he was 11- never changed it.
IT: Did you teach Pete his serve?
RL: He came to me when he was nine and hit it so well, I wasn’t going to change it. But I cannot get anyone else to hit it like that. It’s funny, kids come and say, “I’m hitting the serve like Pete Sampras.” They think it looks like Sampras because of the way they’re standing, but the arm doesn’t do the same.
IT: So you teach the serve but don’t get the...
RL: ...the recognition for it. But I still say that groundstrokes have to be very good, if not the best.
To wrap up, the one thing that you’d like the world to know about Robert Landsdorp?
I’m really a nice guy.
IT: And the player who was the most appreciative?
RL: Sharapova. There better be a Mercedes in my driveway because my neighbor said, “How come your players never give you anything?” I never received anything from one single player I’ve coached. Not even a $500 gift. They’re all multimillionaires but I’ve never received one thing. And Im telling you, if Maria doesn’t put a Mercedes convertible in my driveway, I’m going to shoot myself.