Mantilla joins Australian coaching ranks
Melbourne, 18 September 2008
Felix Mantilla competes in the ATP Masters Series event in Monte Carlo.
Tennis Australia has bolstered its clay-court coaching expertise in dramatic fashion hiring former world top ten Spaniard Felix Mantilla.
The organisation is not stopping its Spanish lesson there, also announcing the addition of a Barcelona-based clay court facility to its Canberra and London training bases for elite Australian athletes.
The Spanish approach to tennis is one of the most respected in the sport yielding 21 current top 100 players in the world, including an amazing presence in the men with eight in the top 50, five of those in the top 20, two of those in the top five headed up by the incredible Rafael Nadal. The Spanish women have just finished runner-up in the Fed Cup.
"For a couple of years now we have been ramping up our use of clay courts, clay court techniques and knowledge as major training tools for our developing players," Tennis Australia Director of Tennis Craig Tiley said today.
"It is fair to say that this announcement is another great step for our player development program."
"The expertise Felix will bring to our players will be world class. This is no part time hobby for him. He has given an unequivocal, unconditional full time commitment and will travel with several of our top younger players."
Since finishing his playing career Mantilla has already forged an impressive reputation among the international coaching fraternity for his work with some of the top Spanish juniors.
The Spaniard is himself a product of his nation’s prolific junior development system.
He was an outstanding clay-courter who made the semifinals of the French Open and won 10 tour titles in an injury-curtailed career. Mantilla will be based in Barcelona and is passionate about joining Tennis Australia.
"I wanted the job as it was a full-time position and I know that's what it takes to develop a young player. It won't be easy with the level of commitment required with regards to travel and time on court but I am ready for that challenge," he said today.
"After talking to Craig Tiley and Brent Larkham [AIS Pro Tour Program head coach] I am convinced Tennis Australia has an excellent and highly-professional program which will ensure success."
"I am extremely grateful to them for wanting me to be a part of it."
Mantilla will be primarily based at the new training facility in Barcelona and will start next week in the AIS Pro Tour Program under head coach Brent Larkham.
Understandably he is a strong advocate for developing young tennis talent on clay.
"The clay court ensures more consistency in your game and helps develop mental and physical strength," he said.
"You have to be stronger mentally because the points are longer and you must be more patient to finish the point. The physical benefit is in the stamina it provides for the big tournaments like the Australian Open and other Grand Slams."
"The good thing about practicing on a clay court, is that, everything you learn can also help you on faster courts and help you change strategies mid match if need be," Mantilla said.
"I am looking forward with passion and optimism to starting a new chapter in my life developing Australian youngsters into top tennis players."