WTA Insider: How did you get into coaching?
Vukov: I used to play. Not at the highest level, futures level of challengers and I had some ATP points. I came from a business family that didn't support tennis way too much. I mean, they love tennis, but education was the main thing. My mother was a dentist, my father a software engineer.
I really loved the game. I really love tennis. So when I graduated from college, I decided to stay in the sport a bit. I was playing quite a lot of matches around still, but I didn't feel that I had it in me maybe, to keep on going on tour, to push it, to try to go that path.
But I used to love to hit the ball. So I started sparring. I started working with juniors, with kids, eight years ago in Florida. I worked my way up with a couple of juniors, started taking girls ranked 800, 900 to future levels, 15Ks, 50Ks, 100Ks. Started winning some events.
I worked with Saschia Vickery, Renata Zarazua, Anhelina Kalenina. I remember Sofia Kenin when she was young. She was always coming to the academy when we were working. Coco Gauff, I remember when she was 10 years old. So I've seen quite a bit.
I had the pleasure to work with a lot of coaches around, absorb a lot of information. Only women's tennis. Never came to my mind to work in the men's. Who knows, one day, we never know.
I worked my way up until Elena [Rybakina]. I think I was ready to get a player from scratch and build from there.
WTA Insider: What is your coaching philosophy?
Vukov: I believe in hard work. I believe in working smart. I believe in trying to adapt to the player, not only have the player adapt to you.
Specifically, just to have the confidence to be able to admit that you need a team around yourself, that you cannot do everything by yourself. You have to touch various areas that maybe are not in your knowledge. Nutrition, fitness, you cannot do everything yourself.
I think teamwork also is very important. It's not only an individual sport - for them on the court it is - but outside, definitely, you need people to help you.
I think that tennis is changing, that the girls are starting to get a lot from men's tennis, especially approaching the net, slices, drop shots. Things have been changing. And I think it's good. A lot of rising stars are coming, on the way, I think.
WTA Insider: Your coaching timeouts have become must-watch television. How do you manage the communication aspect of the job?
Vukov: Well, it depends on the player. I think there are buttons you can push. You got to know when to provoke your player.
I know very well how to get Elena angry, to get her started. That's something that has helped me with her, with the success. Sometimes maybe people can say that I'm too much on the on-court coaching, but I know how to wake her up.
She's a bit in competition with me. We have this little thing going on. I know what buttons to touch to get her going in some moments of the match.
WTA Insider: What's a good day for you as a coach?
Vukov: To be extremely tired, to go to bed and feel good about myself, that I gave 100 percent. That I tried to be behind my player 24/7.
I think that you need to spend time with these young kids. You can't just be on the court for two hours and then let them be. It sounds like parenting, but it is kind of until she becomes a little bit more autonomous. That's going to take a couple of years I think.
It's a 24-hour job, definitely. But I think it's necessary. And for her, it's going to take a couple more years, then maybe I can have a vacation (laughs). When I give 100 percent, I feel good about myself and the results show.
WTA Insider: What is a bad day?
Vukov: A bad day? There are no bad days. Look at us. We travel the world. It's sunny, we're hitting a tennis ball, living healthy. It's very difficult to have a bad day. There is worse. Much worse. That's what I tell Elena.
WTA Insider: What do you enjoy the most about being a coach on the WTA Tour?
Vukov: I love competition. I love to be on the sidelines to watch my player compete, to try to help as much as possible.
I analyze a lot. I tried to learn from other players I see. I try to see weaknesses. I see what's going on. I try to use that in our advantage. This is what I love, the analytical part.
We have people on our team that help us with analytics. I think it's extremely important nowadays to have a set game plan no matter who you play against. That has been pretty, pretty new, I think, especially for the WTA Tour and I think that's very important.
I love this sport. I love this job. Passion is what got me to here, that's for sure.