Serena Williams did not look like a good tennis player in 2012.
The once-dominant Williams appeared to have lost a step on her game, falling in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament, the French Open, for the first time in her career. It was a downward spiral, the beginning of the end, a brand-new era of women’s tennis. And then, quite suddenly, it wasn’t.
Williams was back. Williams was winning. Williams was, once again, the No. 1 women’s tennis player in the world. So, what changed? Williams got a new coach – Patrick Mouratoglou – and as suddenly as her career was, supposedly, over, it was just as quickly back on track.
Now, as Williams goes for yet another Wimbledon title, her relationship with Mouratoglou has been front and center. Of course when that relationship includes some serious romance rumors, it makes i tall the more interesting. Here’s what you need to know about the pair:
1. Mouratoglou Started Coaching Williams in 2012 After the French Open
Williams first reached out to Mouratoglou after falling in the first round of the French Open in 2012. It was the first time in her expansive career that Williams had been knocked out in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament.
She began training with Mouratoglou after the loss to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano in France and asked him for his opinion on the match. He told her she appeared emotionally uptight and off-balance. It was enough to hit a chord with Williams and the pair’s relationship has only grown from there.
After hiring Mouratoglou as her coach Williams reeled off victories in 19 straight matches, won titles at Wimbledon and the US Open and closed out the year with a 36-1 record. The performance drew comparisons to the most dominant time in her career, a stretch from 2002-03, when Williams won four consecutive majors. She’ll look to take the “Serena Slam” again this year as well with victories at the Australian and French Open already.
2. He Also Owns & Operates the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy
Despite dreams of becoming a professional tennis player when he was younger, Mouratoglou was finally able to break into the athletic world when he opened his eponymous tennis academy in 1996. The Academy is located in Sophia-Antipolis, France on the French Riviera and boast 20 courts, fitness and bodybuilding rooms as well as a on-site hotel and resort.
In addition to working with perspective athletes, the Academy also boasts an on-site school where players can even earn their high school diplomas. Mouratoglou also announced that he was expanding the business earlier this year with another 30-court facility slated to open next year.
3. Williams & Mouratoglou Have Been Rumored to Be in a Relationship For Years
Although they’ve never officially confirmed the reports, rumors that Williams and Mouratoglou’s relationship extends off the court have persisted for years. Maria Sharapova seemed to suggest that the relationship was more than just player-coach in 2013 though, responding to remarks Williams had made, allegedly, about her in a Rolling Stone article.
Sharapova told reporters at Wimbledon that year, “If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids.”
Mouratoglou and his ex-wife Clarisse divorced in 2013 amid rumors that he was in a relationship with Williams. The pair have two children, Charlotte and Juliette. Williams had previously been linked with rapper Common but the two split in May 2010 after two years of dating.
4. Williams Credits Mouratoglou For Her New On-Court Approach
Williams has won seven of her last 12 Grand Slam appearances since teaming up with Mouratoglou in 2012 and while there has never been any question surrounding her on-court talent, the tandem between coach and play has been, unquestionably, a turning point.
Mouratoglou has worked with Williams over the past three years to create a slightly different approach during matches, striving for consistency rather than flat-out power. She told The Guardian:
We talk before the match and we have a good plan. We have that relationship where I can tell him ‘Look, this isn’t great’ and it kind of goes back and forth. I think it’s a pretty good record. We want to get more than seven.
5. Mouratoglou Wrote an Autobiography This Year With an Introduction by Williams
Mouratoglou released an autobiography, detailing his long and expansive career in the world of tennis, called “Le Couch,” earlier this year. The introduction to the book, naturally, is written by Williams.
In the book Mouratoglou details his path from a shy kid to an outspoken coach. He said that he overcame and figured out how to control his anxiety through psychoanalysis and sheer will power. He told The New York Times:
But the motor is not switched off. That’s for sure. I have a problem doing things for a long time when I have the impression that I am in control of the situation. What I like most is to be in a period of discovery and searching for solutions.