How Serena Williams’ former coach brought Simona Halep back from the brink of tennis retirement
Serena Williams is one of the best athletes in the world. This month, she announced her retirement from the sport.
It’s also the end of an era. Williams is leaving the game she loves after 15 years and a world No. 1 ranking.
Her coach, Ivan Lendl, is now coaching Halep, the German junior sensation, who’s been the world No. 1 for two seasons. Halep’s next match is June 29 against Kiki Bertens, who has won Wimbledon three times.
There was a time when Williams was ready to call it quits, too. In 2013, she was about to begin what she called “the greatest professional tennis run of my life,” when a hip injury forced her to have a three-month break.
Lendl’s first phone call that day was to his 14-year-old daughter, who showed up at the French Open with her coach and mother.
“He was shocked: ‘I never expected it, I didn’t think I’d have a player here,'” Lendl says.
She had two more years of serious tennis, then she took a big step.
“So I sent her to the French Open because it was her time to come back,” says Lendl. “She got there and saw the way they came to the locker room and hugged. I think they might have cried.”
Halep lost in the quarterfinals that year. Lendl was relieved to see the competition getting harder. He thought to himself, “OK, I can do this.”
He made a similar observation with Simona, who’d been a No. 2 the previous two years. He expected to build on the momentum of her 2010 quarterfinal appearance, but she also had the world No. 1 ranking on the line, and she’d been battling hip injuries since she was a child.
She was seeded 13th at Wimbledon. He had never seen her better than