Star coach Patrick Mouratoglou is not only the mentor behind some of the world’s top tennis players but also the mastermind behind the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), a new tournament format that aspires to revolutionize the sport. On the sidelines of the UTS event in Frankfurt, the 53-year-old shares insights into the concept behind this groundbreaking event, opens up about the motivation that drives him, and reveals the essential qualities that define a champion in the world of tennis
As the brain behind the UTS League, can you share the inspiration behind creating this unique format?
We thought, if we have to create tennis today, knowing what we know about how people consume nowadays, what will it look like? So time was one of the elements. We wanted the duration of the game to be within 45 minutes—the same time as you watch a series on Netflix. With this, fans also know exactly what time the players are playing in advance. So if you live in Australia, for example, and want to watch your favorite player, you don’t need to get up at 2 o’clock in the morning to watch a game that ends up starting at 6. We also wanted less downtime because in tennis, the downtime where players do not play is much too long. So we were trying to solve these problems—when I say problems, it is not a problem of tennis but a problem in reaching out to the new generation. We also thought about the way we coach, the way we work with the players. Sometimes you create some formats to make the training more interesting for them. That’s why we had the idea with the bonus cards. One card, for example, gives three bonus points on the next point, which forces the player to play more aggressively and makes it more exciting and fun for him.
“We thought, if we have to create tennis today, knowing what we know about how people consume nowadays, what will it look like?”Patrick Mouratoglou
What was the biggest challenge in combining both – the benefits for the players and for the audience?
It is extremely important that, of course, we created that format for the audience, for the fans. We wanted to attract younger fans to tennis. So that’s the whole point, but we also know that if the players don’t really enjoy it, if they don’t buy in, if they don’t feel like competing fiercely, if they are not excited to win, if they are not excited to play, the crowd is not going to be excited either. If the players are not interested, the show is terrible. The challenge is always to be exciting for both the fans and the players. The winning combination is very tough competition and a show that is extremely entertaining at the same time. We can do both, and we have to get both.
YOu are not only the founder of the UTS league but also a coach and have your own academy. It seems like you dedicate your whole life to tennis. What is the motivation that drives you?
The motivation is very simple – when I was young, I wanted to be a professional tennis player, and I was one of the best in France. However, my parents thought this was too risky, and they chose for me to study rather than become a pro. I was so frustrated because, to me, they took away my life when they did this. It took me ten years to recover from it. And when I did, I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to helping young players achieve their dreams in tennis.
⠀”The way champions process things is different.”⠀
You’ve trained and coached some of the world’s top tennis players and aspiring talents. What do you believe are the essential qualities that make a successful tennis player?
There are three things I look for: The first is the athletic side because it’s a sport that’s very, very tough physically. When I say tough, I mean that you have to change direction, be extremely fast, be balanced, have good cardio. So some people have natural athletic abilities. It’s going to be a great advantage, but you can reach the top even if you don’t have it naturally. The second thing you need is to be a great competitor because it is not just about hitting tennis balls. You see guys hit the ball incredibly, but you put them to play a match, and they are not good. Others may not hit as well, but you put them in a match, and suddenly they hit much better because they are competitors. And the third thing is the mindset of a champion. The way champions process things is different. Their level of expectation—they set the bar higher for whatever they do. Their focus when they are on the tennis court is unbelievable; they have different mindsets. So if you have these three qualities, you’re going to be a top champion. This is what I saw in Coco when she was ten. I saw the three 100%.
Photo: © The Tennis Circle, © UTS