Maria Sharapova has hired eight-time Slam champion Jimmy Connors to replace Thomas Hogstedt as her new coach.
“I am happy to announce that Jimmy Connors will be my new coach,” Sharapova wrote on her official website. “I have known Jimmy for many years and we briefly worked together in 2008 just before the Australian Open. I am really excited about our new partnership and looking forward to the upcoming tournaments.”
It’s an outside-the-box hire for Sharapova, a four-time major champion, who announced her split from Hogstedt after nearly three years on Thursday. Sharapova can no doubt match Connors’ trademark intensity and focus and his game-style, built on a foundation of flat, power hitting was not dissimilar to Sharapova’s, though Connors was much more willing to finish points at the net. Now 60-years old, Connors’ only significant coaching experience prior to this appointment was a 19-month stint with Andy Roddick from 2006 to 2008. Under his tutelage, Roddick made the final of the 2006 U.S. Open and won five ATP titles.
Aside from any tactical advice, one area in which Connors can help Sharapova is in her mental preparation when approaching her fiercest on-court rivalry against Serena Williams. Currently ranked No. 2 behind Williams, Sharapova hasn’t beaten her since 2004, going 0-13 over the last nine years. Her inability to solve her “Serena Problem” has cost her dearly on court. Five of their last six meetings have been in a tournament final, with Williams’ most recent win coming in Paris at the French Open, where Sharapova was defending champion. Connors’ ability to deal with his most intense rivalries with John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, and Ilie Nastase will surely be a dinner topic at some point.
Here’s Andy Roddick talking about his decision to partner with Connors back in 2007: