Kasatkina : A coaching example

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Tennis is an individual sport. However sometimes a match is not only just won by the player : the coach can play a key role. He can allow their player to focus more and to give the momentum and the necessary boost when things are not working in the player’s favour.

A set and a break down, in a best of 3 sets match, exiting the tournament is imminent. Daria Kasatkina was in this complicated situation during her 2nd round match of the Dubai Open in February.

As the defeat gets closer, the state of mind, even that of a Champion can fall apart. Clear feelings give way to negative feelings. It is therefore the right time for Philippe Dahaes, the Belgian coach of the player to start talking.


1/ Listening

What is the first thing a player in distress needs? They need to empty their mind, to allow the frustration to escape. Here, we hear Daria explain that she cannot understand why she can’t break, and that makes her nervous. Losing her cool, she keeps on thinking about missed opportunities, which leads to a negative spiral: "It's not my day, it's not possible. I will never be able to get through this!"

The coach must then listen to his player, understand them to be able to give appropriate advice.

"You don’t have to say that. Everything can still rock "answers Philippe Dahaes.

The weather is beautiful, it's full of people. Let's stay for two more hours
Philippe Dehaes
Professional Coach

2/ Focusing on the positive

"You are so close, so close! » Dahaes continues. The experienced coach has seen it before: if the match will change, it will be due to Daria’s state of mind. If she is frustrated and missing opportunities, the match is already over.

The coach must refresh the player’s mind. To bring positive momentum.

"You need to stay calm to be ready when a new opportunity comes up"

"When" and not "if". The message passed is clear: it will surely have other opportunities, and nothing s lost yet!


3/ Repeating game patterns

With a refreshed state of mind, there is more room for tactics. How can you finally convert those break points?

When even the small opportunity arises, the player must capitalize on this and think of one thing: to win.

The option chosen by Dahaes was simple and effective: to push Daria to take more risks and to play her own game. 

"With each break point, you were standing far back. Next time, you step into the court and you try something different, just to change things. If it doesn’t work, you try again at the next opportunity, and we see how things go from there. The only way to finish is to keep on doing this excellent job. »


Daria Kasatkina player tennis doubts


4/ (Re)Creating the link

How do you know if Daria understood what was being said? Did she react?

The best way is to involve the player emotionally, so that the speech by the coach is understood well by the player.

What Dahaes does is to ask the player questions: "Do you want this match? Do you want to carry on fighting? Aren’t we feeling good here ? "

Daria agrees and ends up smiling. No doubt this time, the speech has been taken in by the player.

The coach then takes advantage of this opening to remind her of the key values of tennis: patience, fighting and trust. With a strong message she does not fight alone on court. All the team is with her, for her.

"The weather is beautiful, it's full of people. Let's stay for two more hours "


5/ Motivating

Dahaes knows it will not be easy to win. But he can count on one thing: the pride of the player and her state of mind. So, to conclude his speech, he chooses to focus on it, with simple and sincere words, in order to awaken her ego:

"If you believe in yourself, you know you can do it. Go champion! "


The result? Daria Kasatkina went on to win the match 4/6 7/6 6/2.

She will then advance to the semifinals where she will save 3 match points against the World Number 3, before finally losing in the final.

And to say that everything could have finished in 2 straight sets in the 2nd round ...

Thank you, Mr. Dahaes, and congratulations Daria!


Daria Kasatkina player tennis victory