In the year of 2008, I took on the position to become a hitting partner for the Team Chinese Taipei women’s tennis team during the Beijing Olympics. Then in 2009 I was hired by one of the key members from Team Chinese Taipei, Chuang Chia Jung, as a full time touring coach on the WTA tour after I completed my Master’s degree in Sports Management at Henderson State University in Arkansas. When I first started touring with the player, it was a very nerve-racking and intimidating experience because I was by far the youngest coach out there compared to the other touring coaches. However, after a couple tournaments, I eventually started to relax more and grew into my own element. A lot of my friends have asked me what is life like on the tour and I have always told them: Life on the tour can be summed up in 4 words – Airports, Planes, Hotel Rooms and Tennis.
When traveling to these tournaments, you spend a lot of time at different airports across the world. If you are not trying to book a last minute flight, checking in, going through customs, or rushing to make your connection to another flight, you are dealing with flight delays and paying ridiculous airline fees for overweight luggage. Once you finally make the flight, you are praying to God that the airline didn’t lose your luggage because if they did, you will be spending more time at the airport, which is the last thing you want to do after a long flight.
Being on the plane was not so bad. I was really fortunate that I flew in business class most of my international flights because my player was sponsored by a major airline. Nevertheless, a 14-hour flight can still be painful no matter what class you are in. One thing I usually do to entertain myself during these long flights was to look around in the cabin to check out the famous tennis players drooling with their mouth wide open. Just like you and me would do.
Aside from the constant flying, I also spent a good share of my time with hotel arrangements. I was surprised to see that a 4 star hotel in Japan can be the size of a 2 star hotel in North America. This is the reason adjusting to different hotel rooms in different cities around the world can be quite challenging as well. The one nice thing about these hotel rooms that the WTA provided is they are all very nice and clean. However, sometimes I wonder how Ivo Karlovi? would be able to fit his 6′ 10″ body in a tiny hotel room in Japan or Korea. Also, sleeping on different pillows in different beds every week is definitely harder than you can imagine. It is true how people say nothing beats your own bed in your own home.
After all the “fun” in traveling, it is finally business time. We usually have the tournament shuttle to take us to the tennis facility to check in and look for a practice court. This is the most exciting part of the trip for me personally because not only I get to watch players like Roger and Rafa practice, I also get to practice on the court next to them, Sometimes I think the fans were secretly watching me practice too and cheering for me! Not just for Roger!!
Being a coach on the WTA tour is very different than the ATP coaches. Female players tend to rely on their coaches more both on and off the court. Since the WTA has allowed on court coaching now, almost every player uses it during their matches. I was fortunate enough to work and share my on-court advice with great players like Sania Mirza, Lisa Raymond, Olga Govortsova, Alicia Molik, and Kveta Pechke because my player was their doubles partner during my time working with her.
My biggest takeaway from working on the WTA tour is that confidence plays a major role in professional tennis. In fact, it plays a major in any level of tennis. Players need to believe in what they are capable of to do and apply that in the match. Your body does what your mind tells it to do. If your mind doesn’t believe your body can make a passing shot, you probably won’t make that passing shot. I also noticed that being a coach for a professional player is very different than being a coach for a junior player. Professional players don’t need a lot of technical corrections because they are already professionals. How wrong can they be? What they need is someone to help them strategize their game plan, to evaluate their success and failure, and of course, to be their baby sitter.
Overall it was definitely a great experience for me. I enjoyed the opportunity to travel to all these cities in different countries, including all four Grand Slams and other major tournaments like Rome, Madrid and Tokyo. I also learned a great deal from watching great players like Rafa, Serena Williams or even legends like Johnny Mac and Jimmy Connors up close in person. Now I am excited to be back in Canada and have joined the ACE Tennis Academy as part of their coaching staff, I can’t wait to share my experience and expertise that I’ve acquired from the WTA tour with all the players in the Academy.