A Q&A with LTA Doubles Coach – Louis Cayer
By Ros Satar
(July 29, 2013) The culmination of the grass court season has now finally subsided, save for a few die-hard forum fans reminding folks that Andy Murray really won it.
But just prior to that glorious two-week stint at SW19, Ros Satar was on duty for Tennis Panorama News at the Eastbourne tournament, and there she caught up with Louis Cayer, the driving force behind another aspect of Britain’s tennis successes – the men’s doubles teams.
Britain now has seven players in the top 100, and they continue to register successes all over the world.
At Roland Garros, earlier this year, despite the absence of Andy Murray and early exits for the British women, it was the doubles players who carried the flag with Dominic Inglot (and his Philippine partner Treat Huey) eventually falling in the third round.
They repeated their progress at Wimbledon, as well as a third round for Colin Fleming and defending champion Jonny Marray.
It is easy to focus on the singles, but behind the scenes, the LTA has seen significant success with doubles coach and High Performance coach Louis Cayer at the helm, and he was very generous with his time to talk to Tennis Panorama News.
Ros Satar for Tennis Panorama: How long have you been with LTA
Louis Cayer: I started in 2007 and when I arrived in the UK there was zero players in the top 100, the best being James Auckland at 130.
I started to help Jamie Murray, and he moved from 270 to 27 in one year, and the summer after he won Wimbledon (Mixed Doubles title, partnering Jelena Jankovic).
RS: What was their thinking, then regarding doubles?
LC: Roger Draper wanted to bring in coaches that had worked with number one players and I had the reputation as a doubles expert.
[Draper] had three singles specialists (Brad Gilbert, Sven Lundgren and Paul Annacone) so suggested I work with the doubles players and bring four into the top 100.
They had thought about [recently] reducing [the funding] but then Jonny Marray won Wimbledon so they [kept] the support there.
RS: How do you go about developing players in the doubles?
LC: Of course, we develop a different type [of player].
They may have good serves, but less good with returns and volleys, but they can learn.
RS: Elena Baltacha also credits you with making her realise that she has skills she’d never utilised – tell us a little more about your other role.
LC: I am also in charge of the High Performance coaching.
I always have that philosophy – we first asses the performer, then the tennis player.
The performer is the attitude, the values the beliefs.
For Baltacha – it is to make her aware of her strength – the performer level, and then after that I go to the tennis level, make her understand more her game style and how to construct the point.
So I have the philosophy of coaching people tennis, and not tennis people.
There are players that are skilful but they don’t necessarily compete well, so they don’t play within themselves, or they take too many risks, or they play safe.
RS: With the doubles – what do you see more of – the performer or the player?
LC: If you are not the performer, then it’s sudden death every time – the dreaded super-tiebreaks.
Again look at the attitude and the energy and discipline.
You play high percentage tennis
I also work on how to get the partnerships stronger, responding with positive energy.
At the time of the interview, Jamie Murray and John Peers had lost their semi-final to the eventual winners and No. 1 seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares.
Within 30 minutes of the match I will ask them: “What do you learn from that?”
Right now they were feeling more pumped up to back out and practice, and that’s what coaching brings in a team.
Clarity of vision, perspective, direction and objectives – they always go on court with a purpose.
When I talk about changing the belief – it’s not about us winning every point, it’s about us making them lose the point.
If you take that position, if you move a lot, if you create uncertainty, you will make them try low percentage shots – pressure through consistency, and forcing the other team to play out of their comfort zone, and then more mistakes happen.
I try to make [the players] more aware of percentage tennis, and that adds to the maturity of the players.
RS: The strength in depth gives Britain a lot more options, for example at Davis Cup?
LC: There is a system of play – any Brit can play with any Brit.
They won’t have many adjustments besides the human energy factor (playing with a different partner), but they don’t have any tennis adjustments.
They know what to expect, they know their territory, they know their role and they know their responsibility.
RS: For all this success and the popularity with die-hard fans watching intense matches on outside courts, doubles still does not get the air time it deserves?
LC: When I arrived we had zero players in the top 100, and a few years after (including Andy Murray) we had eight players in the top 100 and we were second-best country in the world.
For me, it’s a sense of satisfaction. For a player, it’s easy for him to know if he has success – he just has to win a tournament.
A coach also wants to feel successful, we want to feel what we do makes a difference, so I was very pleased when we had that many doubles players, and now we’re respected as a country for doubles players.
Our guys came into the doubles with rankings that were 300 or better, and worked hard at mastering doubles, and are very professional.
They master their craft, they’ve won many tournaments – yeah they are winners!
RS: Looking ahead – how does the LTA build on these successes to bring through the next winners?
LC: I am coaching coaches with a more progressive approach.
They learn a little bit of technique every time, a little bit of tactics and then they can go practice, before coming back for a little more each time.
We coach the coaches, you should form people, not just inform people.
It’s a pilot course, but already the feedback is quite positive.
Another good thing for having the doubles players playing at the highest level (Masters, Grand Slams, winning tour titles) – at the end of the career, many will go into coaching.
They will be believable when they talk about serving for a Wimbledon title, playing on Wimbledon Centre Court – credibility.
You cannot be the best in the world, without being a high performer.
Therefore their values, beliefs – they have learned by playing at the high end of the same – it will be valuable.
RS: In talking to the guys (Colin Fleming, Jonny Marray, John Peers, Jamie Murray) they all credited you with why Great Britain was enjoying such strength in depth.
Marray: “We’re fortunate to get quite a lot of support from the LTA.
“In a lot of other countries, the doubles players don’t get anything, the kind of help we’ve been fortunate enough to get.”
Murray: “I don’t think any of it would have been possible without having Louis Cayer as our coach or certainly working with the doubles guys.
“He improved our levels tenfold and he had a lot of good results with many teams before that in Canada, he coached Ram/Erlich.
“He knows his stuff and he’s helped us a lot.”
Peers: Just being able to tell each one of us what to do whenever we need it.
“It’s actually good to have somebody in the know, whether we like it or not he’s right on the money, every time.”
Fleming: “We’re just fortunate to be playing in the big events, which is where we want to be and playing doubles, you still get a big buzz out of it.
“You’ll never catch us complaining”
LC: The LTA give a chance for them to have a career, to become great at something, to become winners, and it’s good.
For me, my secret as a coach – there is no secret. I work damn hard, I tape every match, at night I do clips, I invest a lot of time [and] the players know that.
They say the best way to teach a value is to have it.
They know I work hard and if I ask them to work hard, they pay attention to details.
For high performance, you have to do more than forehand, backhand, technique and tactics, you have to be able to work at the performer level – the person.
That’s what I work very hard at, and they appreciate that.
Ros Satar is a British Journalist- an IT journalist by day, and a sports journalist in all the gaps in between. Follow her personal twitter at @rfsatar.