(August 29, 2022) FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York – Former coach of Serena Williams, Rick Macci spoke to Tennis Panorama News at the US Open ahead of Williams’ first round match.
Tennis Panorama News: Can you talk about what this means to you. For Serena this her last US Open, all the time you spent with her, can you reflect on that?
Rick Macci: “At the end of the day, she’s happy and so I’m happy. She’s doing this on her own terms.
“It was an amazing beginning and it’s even more of an amazing ending. People should really savor her. She’s been out there 25 years. She in my opinion is the greatest female tennis player to ever hold a racquet. I think the best female athlete in our last generation. Now that being said, everything kind of has to come to an end, singles is a little tougher, but I think her and VW (Venus Williams), are going to be playing doubles for many more years. That’s some inside scoop there.”
TPN: How did you like the portrayal of you in the King Richard movie?
Rick Macci: “First off, the movie was a masterpiece. It was so spot on the walk, the talk, the nuances the subtleties.
“Will Smith did an incredible job. I said that he was going to get an Oscar, the first time I saw it. Because no one knew Richard Williams, other than maybe Oracene Williams, better than Rick Macci. So, I had a front row seat for four years, 365 days a year.
“So, no one knew Richard any better and then as far as John Bernthal (the actor who player Rick Macci in the King Richard movie), I didn’t know I was that wired up all the time. Back then I must say if my mustache was a little piece of AstroTurf, he had this bushy thing, but no he did a great job because of one thing.
“I think it showed the whole world, especially in tennis that Richard and I were on a mission and Venus and Serena were like my own daughters and how much I cared. And so, I took a big gamble. I took a risk. So, I like the movie, it showed exactly what happened especially when I went to Compton, everything form thereon in, was so spot on, it blew my mind. Even the one-liners and the clothes and everything, like I said it’s a masterpiece. I loved it.”
Tennis Panorama News: “Let’s catch up with what you are up to.”
Rick Macci: “I’m here, I had to do something in the studio. I’m doing a lot of interviews. I still teach 50 hours a week, seven days a week. I change strokes and I change lives. Still do exactly what I did at age 22. I love it just as much today as I did then. I have the academy in Boca Raton, Florida – Rick Macci Tennis Center. We have tournaments every weekend. It’s like Disneyland and Candyland. It’s a very special place, but I got out of my comfort zone.
“I left the nest (to visit the US Open), because this is a once-in-a-lifetime situation. I’ve known Serena since she was 9 years old, even when I saw her the first time, her and VW, there was something different inside. There was a rage. There was a burning desire. The athleticism, speed, quickness, all that stuff was baked in from birth. And then I came in at 9 and funded the project, took a big chance, so I haven’t done it since. Thousands of people wanted me to do that again, but, I haven’t seen anything like Serena, let alone, someone who had two in the family and they shared the same bedroom. That story is never going to be done again.
“I still do the same thing. I teach anybody, anytime, anywhere – age for all the way up to the best players in the world or 80-year-old seniors and people ask me all the time who is your favorite student of all time? They think I’m going to say one of the five Grand Slam champions I have, all of these people who have been No. 1. It’s really who’s on the other side of the net – that hour, that minute, that second. So, if I was teaching you, you’d be my favorite student. So, I think that comes across in the way I’ve always taught and hoe I explain it. People can feel it is from the heart, when you can get people to feel that way, you can attract greatness.”
Tennis Panorama News: What’s your view on the state of American tennis? This US Open we have 44 Americans competing in the draws. Of course, we haven’t had a US men’s major champion or men’s US Open winner since 2003 – Andy Roddick. What are your thoughts?
Rick Macci: “You’re right, since Roddick, who I coached from age 9 to 13. He was No. 1 in the nation in the 12s. I think that the depth on the men’s and women’s is like no other, but the bar is kind of changed. I stead of saying ‘we got all these players in the Top 100,’ which isn’t a bad thing. What about Top 10? What about winning Grand Slams? With all of the resources and all the people that play it should be in my opinion better.
“But, the reason why it’s not, it’s a little bit easier on the women because it’s not quite as physical. But the reason why it’s not, the best athletes just go to other sports. Now, I get it there’s a lot of good athletes – Frances (Tiafoe) is a great athlete, (Taylor) Fritz is a goof athlete. They are very good athletes.
“If I had LeBron James at 10 years old,and put a (Roger) Federer forehand on the guy and a (Novak) Djokovic backhand and a Roddick serve, he’d be No. 1 in the world. These are the type athletes that you get with like a Federer and (Rafael) Nadal, Djokovic and then the wiring inside. How you are brought up and that’s what I saw in Venus and Serena. It was baked in extra crispy from birth. Richard and Oracene hit the genetic jackpot. And then at age 9, this is why I took the chance. Because there was arms , legs and hair flying everywhere and beads coming off their head. It wasn’t on the outside.
“So, the answer to your question, the state of American tennis is good with the depth and I think that’s very healthy and positive, but to win Grand Slams, especially because tennis is so global and they get the best athletes. You know an education is more important in this country than others, so it’s a lot of things. It’s much different than back when you had (Jimmy) Connors, (John) McEnroe, (Pete) Sampras, (Jim) Courier. It’s a lot more physical. It’s like advanced pinball on steroids and movement is a premium. That’s why if you can play offense and defense, you can live another day.
“So, I think it’s good, but you’ve to be great. You’ve got to find the needles in the haystack. You’ve got to get it 6, 7, 8, put them in the hands of people like myself, who can identify talent and that’s in the eye of the beholder. Because there is a big difference between good and great. And a difference between great and Serena Williams. She not only checked every box, but she also created a few more and that’s why in my opinion, she’ll go down as the greatest female tennis player to hold a racquet. I think she’s the best female athlete ever because she’s the total package – speed, quickness, size, she can play through you. The best serve ever but it’s the Compton street fight inside and when the moment got bigger, she held on tighter. And that’s what separates that level. Remember what people are witnessing here, this probably won’t ever be done like Serena. Forget the 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 7 Wimbledons, 6 US Opens, 6 Australian Open, 3 French, the 4 gold medals. Her and VW were 14-0 playing doubles. They probably could have been 30-0. She probably could have won 50 mixed doubles, but she had to eat and sleep. This is the most complete athlete and were just fortunate that she picked up a racquet and then obviously they met me at 9 and went all in with boxing, hitting partners and taekwondo and they say, the rest is history.
Karen Pestaina is covering the 2022 US Open on site for Tennis Panorama News. She’s worked in media in the New York City market since she was 15, from board-op to News Director/anchor/reporter, from print to broadcast in news and sports. Follow her court-hopping on the site’s twitter @TennisNewsTPN.