***Number one player for NCAA Champion SIU-Edwardsville Cougars, John trained with Nick Bollettieri throughout junior career. Touring Professional from 1985-1988 with wins over several ATP Top 100 players including Glenn Michibata, Stephane Bonneau, Tomas Hogstedt and others. Personal Coach of Frank Dancevic from 1998 through 2005. Personal Coach of Philip Bester in 2006, and from May 2010-present. Canadian Davis Cup Coach from 2004-2007. Head Men’s National Coach for Tennis Canada 2004-2006. Tennis Director of the National Training Centre (Toronto), Chairman of the Tennis Canada Sports Science Committee, and Tennis Canada Liason to the IMG Bollettieri Academy 2004-2006.***
ONcourt: Philip Bester was once considered the top prospect in Canada and was an IMG boy, what do you think happened along the way?
Jon Sorbo: I think Philip needed a little more time to mature and get comfortable inside his own skin. Over the last year and a half, the change has been remarkable and has played a major role in his resurgence. It shows in his demeanor on court and his results in close matches; Philip has had a very high win percentage in tiebreakers and three-set matches over the last year and a half.
ONcourt: When did the relationship start with Philip, and what made you get back into coaching?
JS: I met Philip when I was coaching the Davis Cup Team in 2004. Marty Laurendeau and I invited Philip along as a practice partner and to get the feel of what the Davis Cup atmosphere is like. He was only 16 at the time, but I was very impressed with his professionalism and his attention to detail, and after watching him play, I knew he had great potential. We began officially working together in February 2006, and three months later Philip was in the finals of the French Open Junior Championships (Rolland Garros).
I retired from coaching in 2007 to pursue other personal and professional interests, but my oldest son Jonathan took up the game seriously and has his sights set on a professional career, so I returned to coach him. Philip phoned me last May and asked me if I would prepare him for several tournaments in Europe; things went really well, I was able to improve him immediately, and we’ve been working together ever since.
ONcourt: During this period of time [from the start to now] what did you prioritize in his development to bring him back from 700 to 250ATP?
JS: “Development” is the key word here. Philip’s development was never completed, and that had a great impact on the difficulty of his transition from junior to professional tennis. My primary focus from last May to present has been to complete his development and give him the professional tools he needs to make an impact at the top of the game.
ONcourt: Where is Philip now and how satisfied are you with his progress?
JS: Philip and I just finished an intense two week training camp here in Toronto where our focus was 1) putting the finishing touches on work we did in December in preparation for the current ATP season, 2) significantly raising his fitness, speed, power and agility levels, 3) adding some new tools to his tool box to give him more options in dealing with higher ranked players.
As for Philip’s progress, I couldn’t be more pleased. He learns at an exponential rate and is an incredibly intelligent athlete who has absolute trust in his coach. That’s a recipe for great communication and rapid improvement. It may take a little time, but when Philip integrates the things we’ve worked on into his game – when they become automatic – he will move up the rankings quickly.
ONcourt: What do you see in the future?
JS: If I can see my long-term plan to fruition, the only limits Philip will have will be the ones he sets for himself.
ONcourt: Will you keep us updated on the Bester/Sorbo journey?
JS: I look forward to it. Thank you for your interest in this wonderful young man. He’s a proud Canadian with a strong work ethic, and a great role model for kids everywhere.