The special relationship that transformed Pe’er’s game

Coach Pablo Giacopelli speaks of his last 18 months with the Tennis star.

Shahar peer 298.88 (photo credit: )
Shahar peer 298.88
(photo credit: )
It doesn’t take a psychic to appreciate the special relationship between Shahar Pe’er and her coach Pablo Giacopelli.
The constant eye contact combined with Giacopelli’s vocal support from the stands leave no doubt regarding the crucial role the coach has played in Pe’er’s recent run of superb form.
Giacopelli began working with Pe’er in November 2008, finally bringing some stability off-court for the Israeli, who had tried several options in the coaching position throughout 2008.
Injuries and some misfortune meant it took a few months until Giacopelli’s work bore fruit.
But since the end of last year Pe’er has gone from strength to strength and has played some of the best tennis of her life in recent months.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Giacopelli explained how much work had to be done to get Pe’er’s game back on track.
“When she came to me she was a player who had been a top player and had been falling very quickly,” he said. “Usually when that happens, the player loses her confidence. There were a lot of technical shortcomings in her game. Her forehand was no where near what it needed to be and her serve was a problem. Because of that she struggled to be aggressive on the court and players found out how to player her.”
Giacopelli continued to list the many failings he had to correct in Pe’er’s game.
“She didn’t really have any tactical plan. She just hit the balls to hit them,” he said. “There were no real patterns of play she could use and she could be good at and comfortable with.
“Everything really was a disaster and the only reason she finished that year ranked at 45-50 was because the year finished. Otherwise I think she would have dropped to 80-90 in the world. We had to start from the bottom and rebuild her completely again.”
Despite the strides taken by Pe’er in the last 18 months, her coach knows there is still plenty more to improve.
“I think the psychological part still needs a lot of work,” he said. “Shahar still has a lot of growing up to do as a tennis player. There are still too many times when her level is not sustained throughout the match. This isn’t just Shahar’s problem, but a problem for all the girls.
But if you are going to continue to move to the top the difference comes when you are able to sustain a level of play at the key moments of the match so that at the key moments you don’t push the ball but are actually going for the ball.”
Giacopelli spoke of the bond he has built with Pe’er.
“We’ve learned to understand each other and to learn to understand what we are both required to do for each other so that we are both happy,” he said.
“My job really is to try and create a situation where she is happy and where she is able to do what she needs to do on the court, which is to win and she’s been doing quite a lot of that this year.
“I have a good friendship with her. I understand Shahar and I’ve taken the time to know her. I understand what upsets her and what makes her happy and I also understand how to get the best out of her.”
Giacopelli believes Pe’er is well placed to continue her surge up therankings, but remains focused on his player’s next match againstBethanie Mattek-sands in the second round at Roland Garros.
“She’s in a very good position because she doesn’t have many points todefend until the US Open. So I think this is a good opportunity if shecontinues to play the way she is playing. The most important thing isnot to focus on the rankings or the results but to focus on the thingsshe is working on.
“We need to focus on the next match. We’ve got Mattek-sands in the nextmatch and we have to beat her before we start thinking about thefollowing round.”