The Two of Us: Groenefeld & Dier
Published February 10, 2010 12:00
No tennis player makes it on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour without a lot of help along the way - not least of all from her coach. During the Medibank International Sydney we sat down with amiable German duo Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Dirk Dier to find out what makes their working relationship keep ticking, week in, week out.
"Dirk and I teamed up quite suddenly. I had split from my former coach at the US Open in 2006 and a few weeks later I was in Stuttgart, looking for a coach to go with me to Moscow. I knew Dirk from Fed Cup because he was always traveling with the team. Within a couple of days he had agreed to work with me. I guess you could say we both knew what we were signing up for!
"For me, I was looking for a different kind of approach... a lot has been written about my previous situation. But I think Dirk and I complement each other very well. He was a player himself, so he knows the game and that experience is invaluable. We get along very well off court too and I think that's important - we share a sense of humor and we'll go to dinner.
"I'm quite happy with my progress so far. I think after I took the big break in 2007-08, to come back like I did at the US Open and reach the fourth round was great. I won a few ITF singles titles around that time and since then a couple of WTA doubles titles.
"And last year I won the Wimbledon mixed doubles with Mark Knowles, which was my first Grand Slam title - a big thrill.
"I'm ranked in the sixties at the moment and in terms of goals, right now the main aim is for me to get back into the Top 50. If it's a good year, maybe I'll make it to Top 30. I think since I was in the Top 20 the depth in women's tennis has increased, for sure. It's tougher to get up there and say there, because more and more girls are playing at a higher level. It's going to mean more hard work but I'm having fun doing it."
"From Fed Cup I already knew Anna-Lena as a great person and that made the decision to work with her very clear. I wanted to try and help her.
"Before, I was working with our federation and mostly with kids. Obviously that's very different to working with a Tour-level professional. Practice with kids is more about technique and tactics. With Anna, it's more about talking about the sport itself. Because technically she's very, very good - she was No.14 in the world - and tactically she knows the game.
"So especially in the beginning, the goal was to show her how nice it is to play tennis and show everyone what she can do. I wasn't saying to her, 'you have to do this and this and this'. I wanted her to enjoy herself when she was playing matches. The only thing she does that annoys me is when she's angry on the court and it's not necessary. That's something to work on.
"We have a good balance and maybe it helps sometimes that I'm a little older. I wouldn't say I was the boss, but as the coach of course you have to give direction sometimes. That's what I try to do. I'm far away from knowing everything in tennis, so I try to improve also every day. Anna is the player, so I learn from her too. I want her to have her own opinion and feel good about that.
"I've been very lucky because Anna got an apartment in my city, so when we are not on the road we can still work together. I think she likes it there and the facilities are great. For me, being able to practise close to home makes things a lot easier because I can live with my family - my wife and I have a one-year-old. Would I trust Anna to babysit? Of course! Why not?"
Check out Anna-Lena's official website at www.annalenagroenefeld.com.