The 2016 ATP Awards saw the presentation of the inaugural ATP Coach of the Year award. Stan Wawrinka’s coach, Magnus Norman, received the accolade after being chosen by his fellow ATP coach members. Whilst no one would argue that Norman has worked wonders with the Swiss since 2013, there were perhaps some other coaches more deserving of the award.
Moreover, some of these weren’t even included on the shortlist of nominees. This may have been the first time this award was given out, but already its credibility must be questioned.
Firstly, I must stress that Norman has helped guide Wawrinka to a stellar 2016. This included winning a third Grand Slam at the US Open as well as three other ATP titles. He also helped his player regain third place in the ATP Rankings.
That said, it’s easily argued that the coaches of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray could have won the award. After all, the ATP state that the “award goes to the ATP coach who helped guide his players to a higher level of performance during the year .”
That description only strengthens the case for both Murray and Djokovic’s coaching teams to be given recognition.
Wawrinka essentially replicated his 2015 success, where he also won one Grand Slam (French Open) and three ATP Tour titles. If you wanted to be extra critical, you could say that Wawrinka’s return to the number #3 ranking was mostly due to Roger Federer not being able to defend his title and ranking points in Cincinnati.
Again, Wawrinka’s achievements in 2016 can hardly be sniffed at, but when you compare them to the achievements of both Murray and Djokovic, they pale in comparison.
None of Novak Djokovic’s coaching team nominated
It was a shock to see neither Boris Becker nor Marián Vajda nominated for the award. In a list of nominees that included Ivan Lendl (Andy Murray), Gunter Bresnick (Dominic Thiem), Emmanuel Planque (Lucas Pouille), and Mikael Tillstrom (Gael Monfils), you felt at least one of Djokovic’s team deserved a mention. Although let’s be clear, every coach that made the list deserved their nomination.
Sure the second half of 2016 has been one to forget for the Serb. He was knocked out early in both Wimbledon and the Olympics, and also lost the #1 spot to Andy Murray. What can’t be forgotten is his domination at the start of the season.
In what seems a yearly tradition, Djokovic yet again won the Australian Open. He followed that up with titles in Indian Wells, Miami, and Madrid. The Serb also completed the career Grand Slam after capturing that elusive French Open victory he craved. Furthermore, he joined an elite club of players who have held all four Grand Slams at the same time.
The bottom line is this: how can the coaches of a player who achieved this in 2016 not be nominated for the ATP Coach of the Year?
Perhaps because Djokovic won 11 titles in 2015, four more than in 2016, his performance wasn’t considered to be of a “higher level.” Even if that were the case, to not nominate either of his coaches is a slap in the face.
Murray’s team and Jamie Delgado hard done by
It’s no surprise that Ivan Lendl made the list. After all, Andy Murray has enjoyed a whirlwind year. He won a second Wimbledon title and became the first man to win a second consecutive Olympic singles gold medal. The Scot also capped a wonderful season off by capturing the world #1 ranking.
On that basis alone you could say that Lendl was unlucky not to win the award. Conversely, you could argue that Murray’s full-time coach, Jamie Delgado, has even more scope to feel aggrieved. The Brit wasn’t even nominated despite his player’s achievements in 2016. After all, it’s Delgado who has been the constant in Murray’s box this year.
Even before Lendl returned Murray reached the finals of both the Australian and French Open. He also took huge strides on clay by winning the Rome Masters. Similarly Delgado, not Lendl, was there when the Scot put together a run which saw him win titles in Shanghai, Vienna, and Paris. The run of results which ultimately led to him becoming world #1.
You can also argue that rather than the “Lendl Effect,” Murray’s win at Wimbledon was down to him avoiding the rest of the big four in the latter stages. In essence, if Ivan Lendl is nominated then Jamie Delgado has to be too.
The ATP Coach of the Year Award is a Farce
It’s a nice touch from the ATP to acknowledge the work that coaches do in the men’s game. However, the award will only feel credible if the list of nominees appears to be well thought through and thoroughly discussed.