How tennis player Nerd gave Serena and Venus Williams a new lease on the game

Wimbledon, England – Eric Hechtman, who already coached one of the icons of American tennis, added another: collecting extra tubes and extra watches to help Venus and Serena Williams get the most out of the many games or seasons they have left.

“If they’re both good at it, I’m absolutely good at it,” Hechtman said in an interview with Wimbledon last week. “They are a family. They are very close to each other. It has been wonderful so far. ”

Hechtman, a 38-year-old club professional and father of three from Miami, jokes that he is “old” but he is younger than both of his star students.

Venus is 42 years old. Serena is 40 years old. But no one is ready to retire even if Venus has not played on tour for almost a year and Serena has not played on singles on tour since last year’s Wimbledon.

Both and returned to London, though Serena will face a French woman on the central court in the first round on Tuesday who is not seeded. Venus, who trained on the grass at the All England Club over the weekend, does not play in singles or in women’s doubles tournaments, but could still enter the wild card in mixed doubles.

The sisters love to keep their plans a secret for as long as possible, but it is doubtful that Venus traveled across the Atlantic just to attend a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert on Sunday with her sister, Isha Price, and Hechtman.

“A lot of fun,” said Hechtman, who did not confirm Venus Williams’ Wimbledon plans but confirmed he was not ready to call it a career.

“I do not want to talk about their plans, but they are not really ready to retire,” said Hechtman. “Look, they both love to play. Both are champions. They both love hard work and hard work. So as long as you have this, who would say that you can set settings on items, right? ”

The Williams were raised to ignore the usual boundaries of tennis: playing junior tennis very little before they became professionals and encouraging their parents, Richard and Orasen, to actively pursue outside interests. They used to be skeptical, as they are now skeptical, because both and 40-year-olds have become part-time players at best, but there is no arguing about their achievements or strength. And while Serena clearly has the highest job, with 23 Grand Slam singles titles compared to Venus seven, Wimbledon is the place where their resumes are closest.

Venus has won five singles titles; Serena Seven; And they joined forces to win six doubles titles, 6-0 in the final (they are 17-0 in the Grand Slam final and the Olympic doubles together). “The game was played,” Hechtman said. “They overcame tennis from the perspective of power and continue to do so at their age. And I do not think so. They are only in themselves and whatever they want to do, and here you go. For me, the more I can learn from these types of people, the better. ”

Hechtman, the self-proclaimed “tennis backgammon”, was a successful junior who continued to play at the University of Miami.

Evan Zeder, a longtime friend and former junior rival, has known Hechtman since he was 8 years old.

“He has always been fiercely sincere, for better or worse, and I think it should be encouraging for people like Venus and Serena, who are two legends, to have a man who can be fiercely sincere without an agenda,” said Zeder, now head. Global Sports Marketing for New Balance.

Zeder remembers Hechtman wearing basketball shorts and a legionnaire hat on the court. “Such was Ivan Landley,” Zeder said. “And he was just hitting his own drum.”

He also had a trick. Zeder remembers that Hechtman got severe seizures in one of their decisive sets at the age of 18 and refused to give up, getting massive wounds on the ball that was going to go to the winners because he could no longer run. Zeder said Hechtman was looking over the net and smiling.

“He was trying to get into my head and that worked,” Zeder said.

“After Eric did that, he ended up with a full body convulsion and was taken to the hospital, where he spent the whole night with IV,” Zeder said. “He came out and barely walked and smoked in the final. I was new to chamomile and had to play for third place.”

Hechtmann said he had offers from other Division I programs but chose to stay home to support his mother Branda, who had cancer and died in her second year.

He tried to play a pro tour for about six months after college. “To be honest, I did not give myself a fair blow,” Hechtman said.

He went to law school but also started working as a teacher and eventually accepted an offer to become a tennis director at the Royal Palm Tennis Club, a private club in Miami, with a strong junior program.

“I had no passion for law,” he said. “My passion is really tennis and when that opportunity arose, it was not a difficult choice.”

He has spent much of the last 15 years developing junior players and said more than 50 of his students have continued to play in college. But he also worked as a casual partner for professional players. He said he met Venus Williams in 2008 and met Serena and eventually hit her, but both sisters had their long-term coaches: Venus worked with American David Witt and Serena worked with Frenchman Patrick Mouratoglou.

But after Venus divorced Wit, he hired Hechtman in 2019, and after Serena divorced Muratoglu earlier this year, he hired Hechtman with Venus’ consent.

Still the director of Royal Palm Tennis, Hechtman said he would get up before dawn, a two-hour drive north to the home of Venus, to Jupiter Island, train with each sister in separate sessions, and then a two-hour drive home. Work in a club.

He and his wife, Alexandra, have three children, sons Noah, 7 and Chase, 5, and daughter Madison, 3.

This is a multitasking that the Williams sisters can relate to in their outdoor business and in the case of Serena, her daughter Olympia, 4, with her husband Alexis Ohanyan.

Serena has not yet spoken publicly in detail about the new coach, but on Saturday she was asked what it was like to return to Wimbledon without Muratoglou, which helped her win 10 Grand Slam titles in 10 years.

“Oh my,” he said. “I did not even think about it. I do not know. აIt feels good. I have a wonderful time here. “

Hechtman said he respects the previous works of Witt and Muratoglu. “I’m not a guy who’s going to steal someone ‘s job,” he said. “I have my business ethics, but when I have such an opportunity, I will not really give up.”

Hechtman said he periodically shares the court with Richard Williams, who although reduced due to stroke but still attends to some of his daughters’ practices.

“Sometimes he throws coaches and obviously he has a unique eye on the game,” Hechtman said. He left his mark on the history of the sport. It belongs to the Hall of Fame. He trained them from scratch and became the two best ever. ”

Hechtmann also wants to one day take a player from the beginning to the top of a professional game, but now his task is much shorter: to help the two champions succeed beyond the usual finish line of a tennis career.

“You can just see it in their eyes, the passion for it,” Hechtman said. “I have been on the court with any type of person you can imagine, from children who do not want to be there, to motivated children to adult recreational tennis players. This is the best experience so far and you can take what they have achieved from the equation. It concerns their attitudes and how the practice goes. If you are a fan of tennis, this is just as good.

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