Courtesy of The New Yorker
When Cahill began coaching Halep, in 2016, she was a classic counterpuncher. She settled behind the baseline, retrieving shots. This usually worked; she could frustrate opponents, baiting them to go for too much, and she could use their power to produce her own. But the style was physically punishing for her, too, and she was vulnerable to getting hit off the court. The fix, to many observers, seemed obvious: she needed to step inside the baseline and play more aggressively. But she’d never been comfortable playing that way.
Cahill, who previously coached Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, understood that he wasn’t going to change Halep’s nature. Rather than fight her instinct to hang back, Cahill worked on introducing variation to her game, to “open up the court a little more,” he told me, to “zig-zag behind the baseline instead of standing six feet back.” They worked on her transitions to the net, so that she would have the tools to play that game, even if the forecourt would never feel like home. During practice, he had Halep hit drop shots ad nauseum. They analyzed her matches together on YouTube, to study what she could improve. Before, Halep had believed she played best instinctively. Now they came into each match with a plan.
Darren took me to the pinnacle of my sport when most thoughtit was not possible. Through his leadership and friendship we achieved many great feats, and his ability to maximise the true potential within people was again demonstrated. A great leader, motivator, teacher, and friend
Andre Agassi | 8 x Grand Slam Champion