Travelling across tennis, relationships and life with John Lloyd
Ubaldo Scanagatta spoke to John Lloyd about a series of topics on his professional and personal life.
In an exclusive talk with Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta, John Lloyd, former British No.1 and Davis Cup Captain provides insights on tennis, a changing world and his personal history
Edited by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
Wimbledon and the recent publication of “Dear John”, John Lloyd’s autobiography, set up the occasion for Ubitennis to meet up with John Lloyd and have a long talk which embraced four decades of tennis and personal anecdotes.
“Friend” is the word which most often recurs in John’s tales and unveils his unique empathy in his relating to people, to life. Always eager to embrace new experiences, yet loyal to his past.
Indeed, John Lloyds’ best run in a major was halted by a friend. In 1977, in fact, he reached the final at the Australian Open, which he lost in five sets to Vitas Gerulatis:
“The Slam in Australia wasn’t like it is now. It was still a big tournament, but some of the big players didn’t come over because it was over Christmas. I got to the final. I should have won that match. I lost in five sets to my friend Vitas, which was a big disappointment although if I was going to lose with someone, he’s the guy because, you know, he was a great guy. It was one of the saddest days when he passed away at 40 years old with that tragedy with the carbon dioxide poisoning.“
John is not a person who allows rear-view perspective to indulge in regrets, yet in terms of tennis he admits he regrets never managing to make a breakthrough at Wimbledon, where he says he always suffered from a self-inflicted pressure:
“For some reason at Wimbledon I never played my best tennis. I won two mixed doubles, which was great [in 1983 and in 1984 with Wendy Turnbull] but in singles I was always very disappointed with my performances. I had a couple of big wins. I beat my friend Roscoe Tanner when he was seeded number 3 and a lot of people thought he was going to win the title that year. I beat him on court number 1 but it was typical of my Wimbledon performances that I lost the next day to a German player called Karl Meiler who I should have beaten [after comfortably winning the first two sets he ended up losing in 9 7 in the fifth]. I let myself down after having one of the best wins of my career. And that was my Wimbledon story.“
“Dear John” was written with Phil Jones, BBC journalist, while the foreword is by a tennis great, and friend, Bjorn Borg:
“Bjorn is a good friend of mine. We’ve had many good times together when we played and also when we played on the senior tour. Bjorn is a lovely man and I called him up and asked him and he said no problem, I’d love to do it. We’ve had so many good stories. I’ve always thought he is one of the greatest champions of all time. I beat him once in Monte Carlo on clay [1975, 60 57 64, in the quarterfinals]. It was probably my best ever win although there are rumours he was out until four in the morning with some ladies…but that’s not my fault!“
When we mention how there was a moment when he became very popular also outside the world of tennis, owing to his romance with Chris Evert, John opens up about the difficulties in getting married so young and to a worldwide tennis star:
“We had some good times. We were married for 8 years but we were too young, both 24, on the tennis circuit, going to different places. If we had been married 10 years later we could have had a chance. We had some good times and some bad times, but we are still friends. I married into someone who was a huge legend. It was fortunate I was well known in Britain so I was used to having press around and that kind of stuff, but it was nothing like until I got married with Chris. It opened a lot of doors to me, to be honest. I met people I wouldn’t have met before. We went to wonderful places, met amazing people.“
As well as broadcasting for BBC, John Lloyd’s working life spans from selling real estate for Sotheby’s in Western Palm Beach, where he is currently living, to some coaching, and some tennis lessons in Mar-a-Lago club run by Donald Trump, former US president and a man who built a financial empire with real estate. Mr Trump’s knack for business is well proved by a story John recalls:
“I’ve known Mr Trump for 40 years. I saw him about three months ago at the golf club and had a chat with him. He said “John, how about you doing some celebrity lessons at Mar-a-Lago?” I said “Mr President, that could be good”. He said “This is what we will do: I’ll tell the director of the club and you’ll charge 500 $ an hour. So that’s good and I’ll take half.” “That’s a good deal” I said. So that was the president. He knows how to do business. There was no negotiation. It was like I’ll take 250, but 250 is not bad so I’ll do that.“
Donald Trump is only one of the celebrities John Lloyd met in his journeying around the world and that he writes about:
“I do a lot of name dropping. I’m very good at that. I’ve been around with a lot of celebrities. I’ve had some funny stories about celebrities that people would like to hear, I hope. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve met presidents, the queen, the royal family, I’ve met billionaires, amazing businessmen.
“I’m a boy from a place called Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, a small town. From a family below middle class. And I’ve seen every country in the world I’ve wanted to be. I’ve been very very fortunate.“
We can infer that John Lloyd’s autobiography is not just an album of tennis memories:
“I think that the word “great” in tennis is a very overused word. I think great players are players that have won slams in singles. I was a good player and a good player cannot write a book on just what he did on the court. But I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I’ve lived in four decades of professional tennis. I came in at the end of the Rod Laver era, and then came in with my era which was Borg, Connors and McEnroe. Then I went into the next era where I was Davis Cup captain with Henman, Rusedski, and Agassi, Sampras. Then the TV puts me into another one. So this book is really stories more than anything and I’m proud of it. But there’s also some serious stuff. I do a chapter about when six years ago I had prostate cancer and I’m very honest about that.
“I also talk about my family and my son, who I’m very proud of. He had an addictive problem and he’s been clean now for thirteen years. When I wrote the book he asked me if I was going to mention it and I said no. And he said I want you to, because maybe it will help someone. So that was a very emotional and difficult chapter to write, about that period in my life which was without doubt the worst period, but then it became the most wonderful period to see my son turn out to be this amazing person.
Venturing back to tennis, since John has just spoken about players who were and still are good friends of his, we ask him if there were players he actually didn’t get along with. We learn that the toughest times came as a Davis Cup Captain:
“I struggled a little bit with Andy Murray at times. I put in the book how much I admire him as a player, but I struggled a bit with his behaviour with coaches, the way he would say things to them. To be honest, it was one of my fears when I took the Davis Cup job that he was going to be on the court with me. I always thought to myself that if someone behaved like that and I was coaching them, I would just walk out, no matter how much they paid me. But as a Davis Cup captain, you can’t do that. I got really nervous about it. Then I came up with a good idea. At the time when I was captain he was being coached by Brad Gilbert. So I asked Brad to give me some instructions when Andy was playing, and he agreed to. And when Andy was coming up to me and I could see he was mad, I told Andy, for instance, “Andy you need to come in to the net on the forehand more.” And he was about to say something, and I said, pointing at Brad, “He told me to tell you! It was him!” So Brad got all the shouting and I just gave him [Andy] the towel.
“I struggled with Greg Rusedski a little bit too. He was fine on my team but, after he left, he was then trying to get my job and made a few remarks about me on TV, that I was picking the wrong players, the wrong chords, that kind of stuff that I wouldn’t do, sure.“
This is the prompt that leads up to a comparison between tennis of different eras and John has a few prickly ideas.
“Most players were good in my era. There were some guys that I struggled with a little bit, but, you know, we didn’t have entourages around us the way they do now. We had a group and we’d play matches, we’d be in the locker room and the guy who lost, it was like “Let’s go out tonight.” Now they’ve got managers and physiotherapists and parents, they are in all these groups… I always say to people I’m envious of how much money the players of today make, of course I would love that, but they don’t have as good a time as we had. I have friends that I still see. And I’m lucky I wasn’t in the era with cell phones and Ipads. I would probably have got locked up about twenty times for the things I did, but nobody could catch me.“
As John has sailed through so many tennis eras and is well docked in the current harbours, we ask him if he expected players to be able to win twenty and more slams, and three players to win 62 [63, after Wimbledon 2022]. We also cannot but be curious to hear his say on the GOAT debate:
“It’s a remarkable feat that these three players have done. I also wrote a chapter on this, called records. I like all those players but one of the things I like about Djokovic is that he is not scared to tell you that he wants to win the most titles, that’s his goal. Rafa and Roger come up with all this rubbish where they say “Oh no, that’s not my concern.” That’s just lies, of course it is. It’s in your DNA. Records are records, that’s what you live for if you are a player. And for them to say that is nonsense.
“Who is the greatest of all time? It’s a fun conversation. I thought for sure that Novak was going to win more and then Nadal does what he does. I still think Novak is going to win more in the end, but for me when I talk about the greatest and all this, I switch it a little bit to say that what Rafa has done at the French Open, the 14 there, is the greatest sports achievement in any sport in history. So for me, whether he finishes second or third in terms of slams is not important. It’s a miracle he played 16 French Opens and won 14. It’s impossible what he did. That to me is the greatest achievement anyone has ever done.“
EXCLUSIVE: Why Carlos Martinez Is No Longer Coaching Daria Kasatkina
After four years of working together, the former mentor of the world No.8 speaks exclusively to Ubitennis about why their partnership came to a sudden end.
It is pretty standard for a player to announce in some form of a statement that they have decided to change their coach but Daria Kasatkina didn’t do that. Instead, her girlfriend, Natalia Zabiiako, broke the news in a vlog posted on her YouTube channel.
The revelation caught many off guard. Whilst the WTA Tour is known for its frequent coaching changes, the French Open semi-finalist had been working with Carlos Martinez since June 2019 and enjoyed some of the biggest success of her career under his guidance. Four out of her six WTA titles were won during this period and last year was the first time she reached the last four of a major.
So what was the reason for this change? Kasatkina has had a roller-coaster start to the season. In Adelaide, she reached the final before losing to Belinda Bencic. However, in her five other tournaments played this year the Russian has failed to win back-to-back matches.
“There are some reasons (why we have stopped working together). It is not about tennis but it is about other priorities that I have and I have some principles that I want to follow,” Martinez tells Ubitennis.
“We have a different points of view about things and it is better that we do it like this.”
Martinez’s initial comment only sparked more curiosity about what was it that went wrong. The Spaniard has previously worked with the likes of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Marc Lopez, Kateryna Kozlova and Feliciano Lopez. He is also the head of his own tennis academy called CMC Competition which is located roughly 20km outside of Barcelona.
As Kasatkina begins a trial with Italian coach Flavio Cupolla, Martinez spoke at length with Ubitennis about his time working with the tennis star, why they have separated and his plans for the future.
UBITENNIS: Was Daria’s decision to stop working with you unexpected?
MARTINEZ: It was an expected decision from my side. It was not a big surprise. I was very sad because I loved working with Dasha. She is a great girl and a great player. I think our connection on the court was really good but in the end, there were things about what she was doing, in my opinion, off the court. In my opinion, these were not the best for her career. That’s why she has decided to stop because our last conversation was the same way. Then I think she was a bit tired and not agreeing with my point of view of how she has to do things off the court.
UBITENNIS: You said the decision to stop working together was not about tennis but principles. What do you mean by this?
MARTINEZ: As a coach, I want to do things in a way. I think if you want to be a top player you have to do better and better every single year because if you want to be at the top of the rankings you have to be more precise with how you do it. Especially off the court. That’s why I think we had different points of view on the things that one professional tennis player has to do.
UBITENNIS: What were the different points of view between you and Daria?
MARTINEZ: I am not saying what she was doing was wrong because she is a very good professional. But I feel that on some days she has to take care if she wants to be there. There is a lot of pressure, she has to work on very specific things and I think that she has to manage her time off the court a bit better.
Our points of view are a bit different. I like to just focus on tennis and try to do my best. To invest more time to get better every day and that’s why I was thinking a bit differently. I respect Dasha because in the end, it’s her career and her decision. She is an adult and she has to make her decisions. It’s not a problem for me.
UBITENNIS: Daria is sometimes inconsistent on the Tour with her results. Do you think this is due to the technical side of her game or is it more to do with her mentality?
MARTINEZ: Of course, Dasha is a very good player. She is not the kind of player who can win a point with one or two shots. She has to work and that’s why it’s more mental for her. She has to be more technical than others but she has the ability to do this. She is a super-talented player. The technical part, of course, is important but it is more about how she manages her emotions to get success.
UBITENNIS: You have worked together for four years. What would you say was your greatest achievement with Daria?
MARTINEZ: It was a very intense four years. I enjoyed it a lot with Dasha because she is a very good player and is easy to work with because she can do everything. She is a talented player.
The best achievement with Dasha was making her a consistent player and getting her to play all kinds of games. In the end, she was this player who could play with (big) hitters, stable players etc. She had the weapons to beat them.
She has won good tournaments such as the WTA 500s. She has played in the semi-finals of big events such as Roland Garros which was a very good result. She was a consistent player and last year I think that after three years of working very hard together, she got what she deserved.
So our biggest achievement is Dasha becoming more consistent and understanding the game much better. I can’t focus on one result but the fact she reached the WTA Finals last year was a good signal that she was doing things well.
UBITENNIS: I understand the separation has just happened but have you thought about what you want to do next? Are you still interested in working with a WTA/ATP player or do you want to spend more time working at your academy?
MARTINEZ: I don’t know what I’m going to do. The truth is that I do have some offers to work with WTA players which for me is good. I like working on the women’s circuit. But at the moment I don’t want to move from my academy. I want to stay here and work with those at the academy who trust the way that I work. Also, I want to enjoy time with my family.
But you never know in this world. It is full of opportunities and if something interesting comes up… I am going to study (the opportunity) and see if it’s good.
I will wait and see. I will not change anything from the way I teach tennis.
UBITENNIS: Following up on my previous question – are there any players you would like to work with if you had the opportunity to do so?
MARTINEZ: If my mind I have some players that I would like (to work with). Of course, it’s better and easier if you feel that the player can follow your way.
I feel that I have a lot of passion and power to help players who want to keep improving and working hard. Tennis is my passion and nothing is going to stop it. Even this situation with Dasha which is very sad. I’m ready to help whoever wants to achieve something good.
(EXCLUSIVE) Fernando Verdasco: “If I still played At The Level Of 2009, I Could Win A Major”
“When I was No. 7 in the world, the top four players were winning every tournament. It was impossible to get an important title under your belt,” says 39-year-old Fernando Verdasco. “Now everybody stands a fair chance.”
By Marco Lorenzoni
Earlier this week Ubitennis conducted an exclusive interview with Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco after his loss to Mackenzie MacDonald in the first round of the Dallas Open. Despite his 39 years of age and several physical issues, Nando (Verdasco’s nickname) continues to look to the future with optimism.
UBITENNIS: Fernando, you got to your first round match after playing two tough qualification matches. How did you feel from a physical point of view?
VERDASCO: The toughest match was definitely the first qualifying round against Zhu which I won 7-6 in the third set. I felt more tired after that match than yesterday (Monday), but last night I felt a slight pain in my forearm and elbow which I had to undergo surgery on in the last two years. Even after the Australian Open, I faced some lesser physical problems that did not allow me to play the two Challengers before this tournament. Obviously, when you play three straight matches you have very little time to recover and a sore elbow makes everything more complicated. I wasn’t able to serve at the same level (in the first round) as in the previous two matches. That made it hard against a player like McDonald who is playing great and is at a higher level than those I played against in the qualifying matches. However, I was leading 3-2 in the first set and also in the second there were many close games which unfortunately I didn’t manage to win. Tennis is like that, you can win a match 6-1 6-1 but every game goes to deuces and you are just lucky that day to win the decisive points. From this point of view was a bad day for me, but I’m still happy I played three matches in the same tournament and I hope it will help me and give me more confidence over the next weeks.
UBITENNIS: In recent seasons we have seen several players winning Masters 1000 or achieving excellent results in the Majors. You reached your best ranking, No. 7, in 2009. D do you think the general level today is comparable to when you were at the peak of your career?
VERDASCO: I think it’s very different today. When I reached the seventh position of the ranking, the top four players were basically winning every single tournament they participated in. It was practically impossible for other players to imagine winning a Major or a top event. Only Cilic, Del Potro and Wawrinka managed to win a slam in that period. During almost 20 years and in 80 slams it just happened on three or four occasions. Now there is certainly more space for everyone, from a certain point of view it is fairer … If you ask me if I would prefer to occupy the seventh position today or in 2009, my answer is today. Roger has just retired, Murray is no longer at the same level he was ten years ago and Rafa unfortunately is constantly struggling with injuries. I have the feeling that the seventh seed in a big tournament stands a real chance of winning. In my time it wasn’t possible.
UBITENNIS: What are your plans for the coming weeks? Have you already decided with your family and team which tournaments you are going to play?
VERDASCO: Fortunately I’ve been given two wild cards, for Delray Beach next week and Doha the week after. I hope I’ll not have any issues with my elbow so at least I can participate in these two events. As for the month of March, I still have no idea if I’ll play in Dubai and rest in the week of Indian Wells to return to Miami. I could also skip Dubai and play the Sunshine Double. It will all depend on my physical condition and how my body responds in the next two weeks.
EXCLUSIVE: ‘A Bit Worried’ – Daria Kasatkina’s Coach On Her Australian Open Exit
Carlos Martinez reveals what exactly happened to Kasatkina’s form during her shock first round exit at Melbourne Park.
The mentor of Daria Kasatkina admits that he is ‘a bit worried’ about her most recent performances on the Tour but is maintaining a positive outlook for the weeks ahead.
Kasatkina, who was seeded eight at the Australian Open, suffered one of the heaviest defeats of her career in the first round where she lost 6-1, 6-1, to Varvara Gracheva who is ranked almost 90 places lower than her. The world No.8 only managed to win two points behind her second serve and hit a costly 23 unforced errors against three winners. Overall, she was on the court for less than an hour.
The performance was not easy viewing for Kasatkina’s coach Carlos Martinez. A Spanish-based former player who has also previously worked with Svetlana Kuznetsova, Marc Lopez, Kateryna Kozlova and Feliciano Lopez. Speaking to Ubitennis shortly after arriving back in his home country, Martinez provided some insight into what went wrong at Melbourne Park.
“It was not the best. The truth is she was managing very badly because we expected to play on Tuesday. Then at the end, she played on Wednesday evening,” he said.
“We spent Tuesday waiting a lot of hours at the club. The first day was ok but the second day for her was tough. It’s not an excuse, this is what it was.”
Kasatkina’s match was among those affected by mother nature. Earlier this week, there was a three-hour delay to play due to the blistering heat. Then showers disrupted matches on the outside courts multiple times.
Although the encounter against Gracheva wasn’t the only disappointing result the Russian has experienced this year. At the Adelaide International 2, she looked to be in top form after reaching the final before losing 6-0, 6-2, to Belinda Bencic. In an unfortunate coincidence, last year Kasatkina also reached a tournament final (winning a title) a week before the US Open and then lost in the first round of the Grand Slam.
“There was zero energy, it was windy and the court was very fast. She didn’t do so well, she played not good. This is the truth because to lose 6-1, 6-1…..in her position now it’s very tough,” Martinez admits.
“Especially after the last week when she was doing well (In Adelaide) against Barbora Krejčíková and Petra Kvitova where she played two very good matches. The final against Bencic wasn’t good. So that’s why I’m a bit worried because the last two matches were very easy scores (against Kasatkina).”
In the eyes of her coach, Kasatkina’s biggest problem during matches doesn’t involve the upper part of her body. It is another part of her body which is biggest factor.
“Physically when she doesn’t have this energy in her legs it is more difficult for her because she doesn’t have as impressive strokes and depends a lot more on her legs.” He commented.
Although there is still no reason to panic just yet given the credentials of the 25-year-old. So far in her career, she has won six Tour titles and reached the semi-finals of the French Open last year. She has also recorded 19 wins over top 10 players with six of those victories occurring during 2022.
“I am not worried because I know that it is just the beginning of the season and we have to keep working,” Martinez states. “We will adjust a few things but not change her preparation a lot because in my opinion every day we are working one hundred percent.’
“I’m expecting better results when we are in Abu Dhabi. There are three super tough tournaments (coming) but we are going to prepare well to get ready to compete and to try to win matches. We will see how it goes.”
Kasatkina is the only top 10 player to not win a match at this year’s Australian Open.
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