WTA Insider: How did you first get into tennis?
Sylvain Bruneau: I picked up a racquet when I was probably 9 years old. My parents didn't play tennis. I was coming from a small town and it's in Canada, a small town outside of Montreal, so it's snow from December to March.
But my neighbors played tennis and I started to play tennis with them. I loved every sport when I was young and I don't know why, but tennis was special. I played soccer, ice hockey, baseball, you name it. I just loved tennis. Sometimes I do reflect on this. How come? Why? But it was just like that.
From the very first few times I hit the ball, I just fell in love with it, just hitting the balls and trying to put it over the net. Like a lot of people, I hit on the school wall for hours and hours. That's how it started.
I played recreationally and then at 16 years old there was an indoor club that got built in my city and I started playing a lot more. I was 16 so it was a little bit past the prime time for me, but I played a lot and played competitions and started competing.
By 19, I was thinking should I go to college? I was thinking about it, to go to the U.S. I just elected to stay home and study at home. Then I started to teach. Quickly, I found I wanted to help youngsters. And then I found after that, I wanted to help youngsters get good at it.
I just found it super interesting. Maybe I could see a bit of me in them, you know, and that never happened for me because I didn't have that opportunity. Slowly but surely, things just started to roll really well and I was put in charge of the competitive team in my club and then we started to develop national level players.
Tennis Canada wanted me to do things for them and then boom, boom, boom. I've been with Tennis Canada for so long.
WTA Insider: Do you remember your first paid coaching job?
Bruneau: I do. It was in the public park of the city in the summer, recreational. Through the summer with kids who are not in school and they're doing summer camps. That was the first time I started teaching tennis. I guess I was 19.
I was going 9 to 2 every day, Monday to Friday, and had a different group every hour. They just wanted to have fun. I was having fun then, but I grew out of it.
WTA Insider: How did you get picked up by Tennis Canada?
Bruneau: Early on. My first assignment with Tennis Canada was for Junior Davis Cup. I was 23, with Sebastian Laraeu and Greg Rusedski. That went well. Then I went to Le Petit As with Sonya Jeyaseelan. Then I started to do more and more and more and more.
For about ten years I was working in my club as the head coach and developing players and I would do a lot of tours for Tennis Canada. And then after that is when I started to work exclusively for Tennis Canada.
WTA Insider: What do you enjoy about coaching?
Bruneau: There's a lot of things that I enjoy, but I would say helping someone to achieve their dreams, their goals. I'm wired in a way where I'm passionate about that, people who are just really passionate about what they want to accomplish and to strive to help them along the way. So I would say that.
I enjoy the travel. I'm competitive. So I really like the aspect of competing. So there's a lot of things. But I would say probably that. And I mean, I must say that I'm very fulfilled right now with Bianca. 2019 has been special.
WTA Insider: How has your coaching philosophy evolved over your career?
Bruneau: I'm the same person for sure, but as a coach, I'm different. Very different.
When I started to work with competitive players, I was way more strict, rigid, a tough approach. Over the years I took a different path. I don't know if it's the fact that I became a father and have kids on my own. My approach has changed a little bit in that regard.
My philosophy is to really try to help whoever I'm working with to put no limits and see where they can go and help them believe in that. That's not just tennis, it's just a philosophy of coaching and not just the philosophy of tennis coaching.
WTA Insider: Tennis is both a tactical and psychological sport. What aspect do you find more challenging to coach?
Bruneau: I enjoy everything, to be honest. I love the tactics. I love the technical standpoint of it and even the physical aspect. How do you develop your players to become more powerful, closing in on that. And obviously the mental side.
I will say that I think very initially in my career from the technical standpoint, I felt I knew what to do. I think from the mental standpoint, how to help a player I really adjust my coaching skills and my coaching type based on who I was dealing with, which I think is super important. To have this little bit of intuition, to know what works with someone, what might not work with another one.
Just look at Bianca and Genie. Two top competitors, but you go about them a bit differently. So to be able to have that ability to discover how to trigger them, I think I've got that a bit later in my career. It probably took a bit more time so maybe I can say that was a bit more tough for me. But now I feel good with it.
I was Fed Cup captain for Tennis Canada and I think I was very, very, very, very helpful for me because I worked with a bunch of players on the court during matches. It was really constructive and very, very important.
WTA Insider: What's a bad day for you as a coach?
Bruneau: Well, you know what? I did not have many of those this year (laughing)!
But Bianca had injuries, so that was tough. She lost matches, too, but for sure, the injuries this year, those setbacks were really difficult. So I would say that those were the days this year when I would go back to my hotel room or whatever and it was and I was not feeling as good.
WTA Insider: What's a good day at the office for you?
Bruneau: Well, first of all, every single day I wake up and I have to go to work, whether it's in Montreal or in Shenzhen, I'm excited. I just love what I'm doing, I'm passionate about it.
What is a good day is when I'm able to go to court with someone who wants to be on the court and we go there in good synchronicity and good chemistry, we go at it and work hard and try to make the day a good day, a productive day. For me, that's all I ask.