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.
EXCLUSIVE: Tennys Sandgren On Humility and Music To Get Back To The Top
“Political correctness is everywhere, not just in tennis. But it’s impossible to try to live without offending anyone”. Tennys Sandgren, one of the most outspoken players on the tour, in an exclusive interview with Ubitennis, speaks about his ambitions to work his way back into the top 50, his first music album and his views on “politically correct”
By Marco Lorenzoni
2022 has been tough for Tennys Sandgren, a former world No.41. Just three years ago he had seven match points against Federer and was ever so close to reaching the semifinal at the Australian Open, his first in a Slam. Due to injuries, he missed most of the last season and his ranking has dropped. A few weeks ago he won a Challenger event in Las Vegas and he is still eager to compete and succeed in a comeback to the top.
With 2022 being your first year in a while since you played only challenger events, what are the main differences in the level between the challenger tour and the ATP tour?
I feel that when I was playing the ATP tour the draws were a little bit more unpredictable because you could play guys like Felix (Auger-Aliassime), Holger (Rune), or Shapovalov that out class you, but at the same time you can face players that are not particularly motivated that day because they are not trying to feed their family with that tournament. I feel that the guys that are ranked generally between 40 and 80 are very consistent in their results week after week and they wait until there is a hole in the draw to get in and make a semi-final or a very good result. Challengers are hard, but even if the top guys are not present there are a lot of good players and you have to bring a mental level. If you don’t you are not going to be able to win. Every match is a dog fight.
In the last few years, you’ve played a lot on the ATP tour. You’ve reached two quarterfinals at the Australian Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon. Is it difficult for you to find motivation in these challenger events when there can be five spectators during a match and the prize money is a lot lower?
Sometimes it is hard, but I feel it is more difficult when you are ranked around 100 and you are going back and forth between challengers and ATP events. One week you are playing for $10,000 and 30/40 points per match, while the week after you’re playing for $500 and seven points. For me right now this is where I am and so I have to be hungry, and there is no way around going back to the place I want to be. I have to play well in these types of events and progress and get my ranking back up, otherwise if I am not motivated and not humble enough I should just retire. I can say I had two careers, for years I played futures and challengers and for years I was able to play in the biggest tournaments. Even if I made some good runs in slams I am used to playing in this context and I know that this is part of the sport.
I know that you like to drive from one Challenger to the other when you play in the US, so I wonder if you enjoy the more intimate atmosphere of these smaller events?
When you go to the US Open for example, you have to plan for a lot more time. The strings are over here, practice courts are in a different area and everything is spread out. It is awesome because playing grand slams is one of the best parts of the sport, but it is a different atmosphere to come here. I am able to park right out here, I walk to the practice court, the nice lady is giving me balls and water to go on the court with and it definitely feels more intimate. It is a more personal version of the sport. Actually some challengers can get a decent amount of people, 4-5 hundred, but most get an average of 10-100 people per night. The intimate atmosphere is pretty cool, I am from Tennessee and like to drive to Columbus, Charleston, etc. It reminds me of when I used to play Junior tournaments and you have to drive a lot around the entire country. When you become a professional you drive way less, even if in Europe the distances seem closer. There you drive two hours and here you drive 7 because everything is a lot more spread out here. But at the end it is so easy. You grab a cup of coffee, listen to some nice music and enjoy the scenery.
A few months ago you and Mikael Torpegaard (former ATP 166) released a music album called “dystopian melancholy”. How do two professional tennis players get the idea of making an album and which were your musical inspirations?
He is a really good guitarist and he was part of a death metal band. We were living together for the first six months of the year and travelling a lot. We wrote lyrics inspired by life on the road, for how fun it can be it is also very tough with all the losses and the other difficulties. Normally when we had a little bit of time we would grab a pack of “TRULIS” and then you can really start to write. We put in the album the five or six songs that we usually liked to play and being in Nashville there are so many places where you can record. We both agreed on putting it out, it was a lot of fun. One of the songs that I wrote was “shadow theatre”, it was during the pandemic when people were forcing others to do things without an apparent reason. What stuff the government can make you do, at what point you say no to live in modern society. There were places like in Australia that if you didn’t get vaccinated you would have lost your job. In fact, I wasn’t able to play the Australian Open but luckily where I lived things were more normal. The songs that we wrote were a good outlet to express what we were going through. Right now it is harder to make more music because Mikael is not on the road right now but we are still working on some stuff.
I appreciate that you are a player who is more outspoken about your ideas. Do you think there is too much political correctness in modern-day tennis, especially with the top-ranking players?
It’s not just in tennis but it’s everywhere. If you say the wrong thing or you offend somebody, sponsors don’t want to touch you because they are trying to sell their products. At the end of the day it’s only a small percentage of people that get upset about this political correctness. Everyone else doesn’t really care because they have jobs, families and lives. It’s impossible to try to live without saying anything offensive because someone somehow would always disagree. It’s not a fun way to live, you can’t live controlling every word that you say. At the end of the day, if people spoke their mind more there wouldn’t be so much of this culture. I have heard a top player saying that it would be nice if other top players would speak their mind more. When I heard that I just laughed, it would be nice but it would be tough if a top player couldn’t get sponsors or make money out of their career. Also during a press conference if you misstep people are ready to twist your words. When you talk sometimes you may have something else in your mind, you are trying to formulate your thoughts but nobody is perfect. I don’t blame anyone for not trying to go out of the normal because if you play a tough match and you go to a press conference it’s so easy to just say the normal things because you know what they are. As soon as you start talking about how you feel or controversial stuff you need to be careful. If I had contracts worth millions I don’t know if I would be that outspoken, I was never in that position so I don’t know how I would act.
What are your goals for 2023?
I would really like to play again in the main draw of grand slams, I would love to have that opportunity again. That means that I have to have a good stretch of wins in Challenger events so I can get my ranking back up. After that it would be interesting to see if I can make it again into the top 50. If that should happen I’d be impressed with myself because I know how much it takes to fight every week in these types of small events. I feel that the general level of players is higher.
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