Coaching changes set to inspire

 - Alex Sharp

Stephens, Osaka among top women to re-work entourages since last Slam.

Sloane Stephens and coach Sven Groeneveld during practice© Julien Crosnier / FFT

The margins between lifting silverware or falling at the first hurdle keep minimising on the WTA. The competition for titles, meanwhile, keeps intensifying as the key contenders are joined by a plethora of young prodigies at the top.

This could explain why several WTA players have changed coaches in the months since the Australian Open, eager to conjure a game plan to rule at Roland-Garros 2019.

Sloane Stephens

It’s fair to say the 2017 US Open champion has endured a turbulent start to the season. Without a permanent coach this year the world No.7 posted a 6-6 match record on Tour until appointing Sven Groeneveld ahead of her clay-court campaign.

"I've known him for a really long time. He recruited me as a junior for Adidas. I think he's a good guy, a good coach,” the American told reporters ahead of their first tournament together in Madrid. “He's very structured and that's what I need."

The structure for Sloane worked, with a semi-final showing in Madrid offering up promising signs for their partnership. 

Groeneveld certainly knows how to mastermind success in Paris, having helped Ana Ivanovic (2008) and Maria Sharapova (2014) hold the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen aloft.

Remember, Stephens reached the Roland-Garros final last summer and is perfectly primed for another deep run with Groeneveld involved.

Naomi Osaka

Although the world No.1 currently holds the US Open and Australian Open, in February her work with Sascha Bajin came to a halt.

Osaka turned to former American college tennis champion Jermaine Jenkins, who served as a hitting partner to Venus Williams for four year from 2015.

From working with Venus, Jenkins is accustomed to dealing with the on-court weapons Osaka holds.

How about on the clay? “I would describe my clay season as 'rocky'," Osaka said in Rome, having endured hand and abdominal injuries during her Roland-Garros build-up.

Last year, the 21-year-old equalled her best French Open result with a third-round finish. A ticket into the second week would represent progress for Osaka-Jenkins in Paris.

Kristina Mladenovic

Two years ago the French charge achieved a career-high ranking of world No.10. Since then the search for sustained form and a head coach has been a duel conundrum.

Yet Mladenovic might have found her answer with Bajin joining the ranks in mid-April after his partnership with Osaka came to an end.

From there the Roland-Garros 2017 quarter-finalist has impressed with 10 victories in her past 13 matches. That run has included wins over the likes of Ash Barty, Belinda Bencic and Carolina Garcia.

“I don't start working with players unless I truly believe they can beat anybody they play,” said Bajin.

“I told her look, when we go to tournaments I want you to understand I go there and we pre-book our flights for Sunday. We go there to win, we take it one round at a time and we respect our opponents, but at the same time I do believe that there is nobody she needs to fear."

Madison Keys

Rewind to 2014 and Keys won her first Premier-level title on the luscious grass at Eastbourne. The teenage talent was working with Argentine Juan Todero - and now they are reunited.

Keys, a semi-finalist at Roland-Garros 2018, instantly hit the ground running with Todero, scooping her first ever clay trophy in Charleston last month.

A first bit of silverware in two years is credit to the instant impact of the coach, who is adamant Keys must play with the correct mindset on court.

“100 percent. He drilled that into my head,” the American told WTA Insider. “Honestly, if I miss a ball or I lose a point but I did everything with the right intention and I just didn't execute, he has no problem. 

"If I win a point and I had the wrong mentality and the wrong intention, he is not happy. So he's been really great at making me play how I want to play.”

Elise Mertens

A few coaching collaborations have come and gone for the Belgian, but now the world No.20 has returned working with boyfriend Robbe Ceyssens.

That partnership sent Mertens into the Australian Open 2018 semi-finals and the 23-year-old is keen to harness that belief to improve on a fourth-round result at last year’s Roland-Garros.

Mertens usually trains at Kim Clijsters’ academy in her homeland, gaining regular input from the four-time Grand Slam champion, but Ceyssens is also set to offer another familiar voice.

“Everyone has their own advice,” said Mertens. “Tennis is a very individual sport, so it’s good to have different opinions.”

Daria Gavrilova

This Australian combination should serve ‘Dasha’ well.

Esteemed coach Taylor was in compatriot Sam Stosur’s corner for the 2011 US Open triumph and now he hopes to recharge the game of Gavrilova.

“When we decided to start, she’s been very good in communication already. She’s set out goals, she wants to get a lot more defined in her playing style; looking for forehands, using her movement in an offensive way, not just a defensive way,” Taylor told “She wants clear patterns of play to build her game around.”

Gavrilova's best result at Roland-Garros was a trip to the third round last year.