***Gary Muller was born in Durban, South Africa and is currently Tennis Director at Ontario Racquet Club [ORC]. As a junior, he was not one of the top U12 or U14 players in South Africa, but he started making an impression in his second year of U16. He represented South Africa as a junior and in Davis Cup, but politics prevented him from participating in a number of important international competitions. Because he completed compulsory military service from age 17-19, he did not go on to college or university. He turned Pro at 20 and played on the Pro Tour for thirteen years [1985-1997], and coached on the Tour for eight. Gary is married to a Canadian who he met at Wimbledon in 2000. They have four kids – 3, 5, 7 and 9 years of age.***
ONcourt: What are your impressions of Canadian tennis compared to where you were brought up?
Gary Muller: The opportunities in Canada are much greater. South Africa has very little academy structure and the facilities are nowhere near what they are in Canada. For example, there is not one clay court or one indoor court in the whole country. To get good competition, juniors in South Africa have to travel very far, which is very expensive. Furthermore, there is very little support from the Federation in South Africa. However, one advantage South Africa does have is the excellent weather.
ONcourt: What do you find most difficult about your situation as it relates to coaching High Performance players [i.e. time and responsibilities]?
Gary Muller: The most difficult things are time and money. Everything is run by the clock and to develop world class juniors you need a whole lot of time. Financial demands on parents are very high especially in the high performance areas due to travel costs and access to coaches, hotels, etc. It is a huge investment of time and money and I really feel for the parents who are trying to make this work.
ONcourt: Do you have aspirations of helping Canadian tennis, of making a difference?
Gary Muller: Definitely. The primarily reason of me coming to Canada was to make a difference in Canadian junior tennis. Also, my wife and kids are Canadian, so I have a strong affinity to Canada.
ONcourt: Will your children play tennis?
Gary Muller: Right now my boys are more into rugby, and the girls are into dancing. They all dabble a bit in the game, but I am not going to push them. The desire must come from them.
ONcourt: What were the highlights of your professional career?
Gary Muller: My highest ranking in singles was 49, in doubles – 7. I made it to the semifinals of some of the slams in doubles and won a number of tournaments. In singles I have had wins over top players, such as Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Patrick Cash, Michael Chang and Andres Gomez. But I never won a major tournament in singles. Playing on the Tour for twelve years and interacting with so many great players and coaches has given me a better understanding of the game, and has made me a better coach.
ONcourt: What would you like to see happen in the short term for Canadian tennis?
Gary Muller: More tournaments that mean a lot to the kids and an improved ranking system. Canada has so many talented youngsters, but our coaches need to be encouraged to continue to develop their own coaching skills to be able to bring out the best in these players, especially, on a practical level. Also, I believe more clay courts would be extremely beneficial for junior development. I’d also like to see more cohesion between the top academies. We all need to work together with Tennis Canada to make a difference.