Mouratoglou: Serena's "motivation will go to the next level" on return

Mouratoglou: Serena's "motivation will go to the next level" on return

The Frenchman also believes the American, along with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, will have an extreme advantage when the tours resume due to their breadth of experiences.

Though the WTA tour has been suspended since March 8 as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Patrick Mouratoglou hasn’t lost any faith in Serena Williams successfully tying Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major titles.

Williams began the year by winning a smaller tournament in Auckland, before being ousted in the third round of the Australian Open by Wang Qiang. Her last appearance came in a February Fed Cup Finals qualifying tie, where she split her two singles matches.

“What makes me be very positive is the fact that I feel her motivation is still the same. She came back to a great level, reached four Grand Slam finals. But she didn’t win one, so something is still missing,” Mouratoglou said Friday evening on Tennis Channel Live.

“This something, we really want to get it. She’s practicing like the other players but it’s so difficult for a tennis player to practice without any short term or even longer-term goal because nobody knows when they are going to come back. I can’t wait for her to know when she’s going to play next, because I know the motivation will go to the next level.”

As of now, the US Open is still on the books and earlier this week, reports emerged that the USTA proposed moving Cincinnati to New York in an effort to stage two meaningful tournaments for players to fly in for. While Williams is not able to look ahead toward a confirmed calendar yet, Mouratoglou believes her vast history in navigating a variety of circumstances will provide her and other name players a huge advantage when tour events start back up again. On the flip side, a skyrocketing talent such as Coco Gauff, who trains at his academy, will need more time to hit their stride.

“I think it’s more difficult for a young player because they are so hungry. They feel that things are going well, they think they’re getting better day after day. They’re so ambitious because they feel the tennis world will belong to them. So it’s difficult to stop and not be able to continue to raise,” he said. “The older players who have so much experience, such as Serena and of course Novak, Rafa [and] Roger, they will need less time to get back to their best level because they don’t need as much competition as the other players. They’re the only ones who are able to do that.”

When his academy shut its doors to minimize coronavirus exposure to students, Mouratoglou kept busy by developing a new exhibition series, the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS). Throughout the week, organizers have slowly released the confirmed lineup, which includes reigning ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, 2019 US Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini and 19-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime. Mouratoglou didn’t want to give away any unique specifics about how this event will be distinguished from others, but said the idea behind it is to discover the future format of tennis.

“I don’t want to say too much, because I want to surprise people. I think the format of tennis is too long,” the 49-year-old said. “There are too many downtimes where nothing much happens. I also think players struggle to share their emotions with the crowd, like they were doing in the '70s and the '80s.

“We propose a new way to showcase tennis, trying to bring much more emotion, a much more dynamic and modern show, to see if people are attracted to that, more than tennis the way we know. Real tennis fans, we like tennis the way it is, but I realize also, it’s a bit old fashioned. The world has changed a lot these past 40 years. The way people consume sports,  consume videos has changed, and tennis hasn’t changed at all.”

The UTS is set to kick off on June 13 with David Goffin taking on Alexei Popyrin.