Dirk Hordorff, Berankis’s coach, is speaking in an exclusive interview to Baltic-Review

Dirk Hordorff, one of the most famous and known professional tennis coaches in the world. The coach who is working with the first Lithuanian racquet Ričardas Berankis is speaking about tennis and the career of the Lithuanian.

The German who will celebrate his 58th birthday this May started his coaching career at 1995. Since then he coached the German tennis player Rainer Schuettler, who reached top 5 in the ATP world rankings, and won the Olympic Silver Medal, the Taiwanese Yen Hsun Lu for 10 years, the Serbian Janko Tipsarevič who is currently top 10 player, the Lithuanian Ričardas Berankis and some other players as well.

During his career Hordorff coached the Taiwanese Davis Cup team from 2004 to 2010, Head Coach of the Taiwan Olympic men’s tennis team at Athens Olympic Games at 2004 and men´s Coach for Taiwan Asian Games men´s tennis team that took place in Doha at 2006. “Diploma Kfm, Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe University. Dozent at the European Business School, Sports Marketing. Bachelor in Coaching in Sport. Vice President of GPTCA. Vice President of PTCA, 2012-2013. President of the Hessen Tennis Federation. Former Vice President of the German Tennis Federation. Former Member of the ITF Davis Cup Committee European Zone. CEO and Founder of Global Sports Management” wrote about his career the official site of the ATP Tennis World Tour. During this interview, Hordorff is describing the life as a professional coach and talking about the career of Ričardas Berankis and his future.

Baltic Review : Dirk, you are a very busy coach. You are working with Janko Tipsarevic, Rainer Schuttler, Yen Hsun Lu, Ričardas Berankis and some other players. How is it to coach so many good and high professional players?

Dirk Hordorff (DH): Rainer Schuettler retired already from tennis, Yen Hsun lu I coached many years, but not now, I just advise him.

  • Why you are not working with a single player?

DH: Sometimes it is more fun for the player if he is not alone and it can be motivating for both players.

  • As a coach, what are your personal goals when you are starting to work with a new tennis player?

DH: All is about the goals of the player. You sit together with him, discuss his goals and see whether you can help him on his way.

  • You coached the Taiwan’s tennis Olympic and Davis Cup teams, what is the difference to you to coach a player or to coach a whole team?

DH: I helped several years to the Taiwan Davis Cup Team some years ago, and I enjoyed the work with Yen Hsun Lu and Jimmy Wang a lot in this team. If you coach a team you look for the team result and the team spirit is very important. But in tennis the result is mainly the single result of each player or double team.

  • Dirk, you are a lecture at the European Business School in Germany teaching player’s management and marketing, Board Member of the European Business School in Germany for sports management, lecture in various courses for tennis coaches and other duties. How you are finding also time to concentrate on player’s career and able to help them when you are so busy person?

DH: You know my life well, but my lecture work and board membership for the European Business School is 10 years ago. I coached Rainer Schuettler, Lars Burgsmueller many years, later Rainer Schuettler and Yen Hsun Lu together and it was a successful time. But you need to focus and concentrate on what you do same what a player needs to do to be successful.

  • What is your highest achievement as a coach and why?

DH: There were lot of achievements and I can’t compare them.

First big experience was with Alexander Radulescu, who reached the Wimbledon Quarterfinal, in 1999. Rainer Schuettler won the Doha ATP Tournament , broke in the top 100 ATP by beating Henman, Ivanesevic and Pioline. In 2003 he reached the Australian Open Final and the Semifinal of the ATP Masters, in 2004 he reached a career high as top 5 in the world and had an impressive final in Olympics in the doubles. But also his semifinal in Wimbledon in 2008 was a highlight of his career.

Yen Hsun Lu reached the quarterfinal in Wimbledon, beating Andy Roddick before.

And in 2011 and 2012 I coached Janko Tipsarevič who finished both seasons in the Top 10, won the Davis Cup for Serbia and several tournaments.

All this s not to compare, but lot of emotions and great memories will stay. I am very proud of these players and thankful for the time I coached them.

  • You are also coaching the first Lithuanian racquet Ričardas Berankis. During the last few month Berankis felt down in his ATP rank. What has happened there?

DH: Ričardas had not a good end of year in 2013; there are many reasons which I do not want to talk about. Right now it looks he is stabilizing and working very hard to come back into the top 100. And it’s not only me who is coaching him, also Rainer Schuettler is working with him.

  • As his coach. do you believe that he can return to top 100 and even maybe to top 50?

DH: Ričardas is a very talented young player and I am sure that he will reach these goals.

  • The clay season is going to start soon. How you and Berankis are preparing to this season?

DH: In fact Ričardas decided to play in South Africa in the Davis Cup Tie in April and therefore he couldn’t start the Clay court season. To go to South Africa is a long way, to play all matches including two hard singles in best of five sets costs a lot of energy. But Lithuania can be proud to be in the final of the Europe / Africa Zone Group II, and the Lithuanian Team did very well and was successful with their mission and Ričardas took his part in this Davis Cup Team.

  • What are your and Berankis’s goals to the upcoming clay season?

DH: He will prepare carefully and make sure he is not injured. The goal of the clay court season is for sure the French Open. There he will try to qualify and win some rounds.

  • In your opinion, what Berankis has to change in his tennis in order to be a stable player in ATP top 100 and how you can help him to do it?

DH: Ričardas has lot of potential to work on his tactical skills. He will learn to use his fast legs not only in defense, also he will learn to get a better transition from the baseline to the net.

– Ričardas Berankis played well at Australian Open 2013 and since then he couldn’t pass the first round in any Grand Slam. Is it psychological pressure or lack of experience or something else?

DH: On a Grand Slam are playing the best players. All want to win, half of the players are losing already in the first round. Ričardas qualified this year in Melbourne, won 3 matches in straight sets, and against Alex Dogopolov, a top 20 player, he was close to win in the first two sets. There is the point when I believed he needs some improvement in tactical points.

– Some voices called that his bad performance during the last month is a result of wrong coaching. What would be your reactions to those climes?

DH: During the last month he qualified in Marseille in the 250 ATP tournaments and won a round against, the week after he played semifinal in the challenger in France, beating strong players. Two quarterfinals after was not what we hoped, but those are solid results. And whoever wants to comment on this should feel free to say his opinion.

– How would you summarize Berankis’s career so far? Do you fill that you reached your goals regarding to him?

DH: I just started to help him, therefore now it is not the point to make any summary.

– Let’s talk a little bit about very painful issue in tennis and it is drugs. During the last years the control regarding drugs became to be harder. Some players were caught like Marin Čilič and Viktor Troicki. What is your opinion about that?

DH: As the CAS said, both didn’t make any doping or intended to dope. Still Victor and Marin violated some rules. The example should show every player to be more careful in these doping issues. I can understand that a young player thinks if he is not taking any doping that everybody should believe and accept that he is not guilty. But it’s not enough as these cases show. Every player has to know about the doping rules and the ATP, the ITF and the National Federations are trying to teach the players about this.

– Do you think that the control and drug analysis has to be tougher?

DH: Tennis has one of the hardest doping control systems of all sports. Tennis Players are clean and are not taking drugs. Most cases just show that tennis players have to be more careful and should know better about the doping system.

– There are a lot of voices that are calling that some famous top 10 players used and are using doping and ATP does not publish it and punish them by quiet suspensions. What is your opinion regarding to that?

DH: There a lot of rumors and this is a bad rumor without substance. First of all the ITF is responsible for the Anti Doping Program, the ATP is just paying for this. Second especially the top players are more tested than other players. Third we should accept that there are always persons who are able to achieve better results than others and not bring out bad rumors to explain this. We should be happy for the top results of top players and not believe that they reached them with unfair methods.

– Dirk, what is it actually to be a coach to a professional tennis player?

DH: To work with young athletes and to help them to reach their goals is a wonderful experience. You always have to know that you are as good as your next coaching lesson. What you have done in past is history.

– Describe a day of a professional coach.

DH: That is not a day routine, it depends whether you are on a tournament or in a practice period. You are not working with a machine, you are working with an athlete and each day is a new situation and brings new challenges.

– What would you do if you were not a tennis coach?

DH: I studied economy, I am CEO of a Managing Agency Unique , I am owner of different companies in Real-estate, I am President of the Hessen Tennis Federation and be Vice President of the GPTCA, so I don’t think my life would get boring.

– What are the relationships between professional player and his coach? What are the relationships between you and Berankis?

DH: Ričardas is a very good educated and behaving person. It is not easy to define a relation, but let’s say it with one word: respect.

– As a coach, sometimes you are not jealous on the player? Would you like to be in their place?

DH: Not at all. I was injured when I was 19. I tried to be a professional tennis player. This was long time ago. And when I see how tough these players have to work, how much they give to reach their goal, I am happy about my life and I am motivated to help them on their way.

– To the end, tell us something that no one knows about you.

DH: I guess there nothing which no one doesn’t know about me. But there is a lot which doesn’t need to go in public.

Well, it can be seen that Berankis is going to have very interesting clay court season. With the experience and knowledge of his coach, it will not be a surprise that the first Lithuanian racquet will become to be a top 50 player. Berankis, who is 24-year-old still young and can reach higher points in his career. This season is very important to him, his main goal to this season is to return to top 100 in the world. Hordorff will give him the maximum support to do it, but only the results on the court will show how got this relationship. Berankis, Hordorff and Lithuania are hoping that it will be good partnership.

The interview with Dirk Hordorff did Baltic – Review journalist Aleksejus Podpruginas.

Photo: Dirk Hordorff 2009 | ©Bongarts/Getty Images



Aleksejus Podpruginas
Aleksejus Podpruginas is The Baltic Review author based in Israel

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