Tennis guru Robert Lansdorp has always been the guy in the background. He’s the guy who pulled many a junior player up out of the bowels of the ship and put them on the Lido deck. Fresh from his Sharapova dumping, surgery for cancer, a divorce, and subsequent forced relocation, he’s not having what you would call a “great year.”
Last week a small website publication in Hermosa Beach, CA, where Lansdorp is currently residing, published a multi-part feature on the man responsible for the careers of such big names as Tracy Austin, Pete Sampras, Maria Sharapova, and Linsday Davenport, to name only a few.
Unnecessarily, this man is a legend, and two years ago he was flush: Hot off wins by (former client) Anastasia Myskina at the French Open, and (then current client) Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon. But as we all know, pro tennis is a fickle beast, and those in the player camps can be even more so. Rumors swirled that he was cut out of Sharapova’s internal team put together by her father/coach Yuri after Maria won Wimbledon in 2004. Rumors of Lansdorp’s impending retirement have floated since around the same time when his contract with the South Bay Tennis Center went, well, south too. He’s keeping a lower profile than ever now. He never got rich like his clients, but he’s got his memories and some great stories:
“Pete was always a happy boy. I can’t recall him ever complaining,” he said. “I called him Smiley.”
And he admitted that, unlike with Austin, he didn’t take an immediate interest in Davenport.
“Lindsay walked up to my court when she was 10, without her parents, came on the court and asked if she could take lessons from me,” he said. “I told her, ‘Look kid, I’m just too busy.’”
Davenport, he says, began crying. His hard shell soon melted.
“I said don’t cry, let me see what can I do, so I put her on my schedule,” he said. “She could really hit the ball, and she’s very competitive — and she always knew how to hide her competitiveness.”
By the time Yuri Sharapov — on Austin’s recommendation — called about his 10-year-old phenom daughter Maria in 1997, Lansdorp was working alone at private courts.
“They sent her out here from Florida and I worked with her for two hours,” he recalled. “After that Yuri asked what I thought of his daughter. I told him she hits the ball pretty well but her concentration sucks. So they stayed for two weeks.”
It’s a nice series, covering Lansdorp’s whole career, and includes interviews with Eliot Teltscher and Tracy Austin. Definitely worth a read. I will forewarn you, however, that with the small town website comes some poor navigation. So allow me to help you out: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V. Let’s hope we don’t crash their web server.
You Might Like:
Play Tennis Florida — Feb./March Digital Issue Online
Tennis: The Womens Game — Lessons For Us Too