Coaches' Corner: Stine Reflects On Relationship With In-Form Anderson
Brad Stine has coached a variety of players throughout his career, from two stints with former World No. 1 Jim Courier to Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean. He had been working with the USTA for three and a half years last December when he got a call that led to him joining Kevin Anderson's team fresh off the best year of the South African's career. ATPWorldTour.com sat down with Stine earlier in the season to learn what getting to know the Wimbledon semi-finalist has been like, how he approached their relationship and more.
What made you join Kevin’s team this year? How did that come about?
I wasn’t planning on leaving the USTA, but when the opportunity came up, I really thought it was a great opportunity and obviously Kevin making the final of the US Open last year put him in a pretty elite group and it’s not every day that you get an offer to work with a player who is Top 15 in the world.
I was interested and excited by the opportunity to work with him and he wants to play for another five years or so, and that was important to me. I didn’t want to do it if he’d just be playing for another year or something like that.
What’s been the biggest surprise with Kevin?
I wouldn’t say it’s been surprising, but I would say it’s been enjoyable to be with someone like him. Kevin is probably the most focused, intense professional person I’ve been around since Jim Courier.
What he demands from himself and what he expects from his team when he’s at the office, inside the fences and training is very high.I’ve really enjoyed that, that intensity level and demand. It’s great. It makes me really focused on what’s going on, so to me that’s been the best part of everything.
When guys climb up the ATP Rankings or earn a major milestone in their career, you might not expect them to be looking for a new coach. So how did you approach the situation?
Kevin’s very involved with Jay Bosworth in Delray and they’ve had a long-term relationship around the same length Kevin was with Neville [Godwin], and Jay is still involved, so I’m working closely with Jay. Jay has a very good understanding of Kevin as a person and obviously his game and everything.
But I also wanted to come into the situation with a bit of a fresh eye. I know Neville… I certainly could have reached out to Neville to get some information. But I wanted to come into it a little more fresh and have a little bit more of a beginner's mindset. I was beginning with Kevin. I wanted to learn and see what was going on. Jay’s made that happen really, really quickly because Jay knows Kevin so well.
Kevin was arguably playing the best tennis of his life toward the end of last summer. So as a coach, how do you approach working with him knowing he’s competing at such a high level right off the bat?
Jay [Bosworth] gave me some good insights as far as some things that they had consistently been looking to improve. Since I’ve been on board there have been a few little technical things and a few little tactical things that we’ve made adjustments in. I’m certainly not going to come on board with Kevin or anyone else in his situation and try and reorganise their game somehow.
Kevin’s obviously been extremely successful and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some top players in the past and recognise that it’s small adjustments that are the difference between winning and losing when you get deeper into tournaments. Kevin’s been lucky enough to pretty consistently get deeper into tournaments.
So when you get deeper into tournaments and you’re playing better and better and stronger and stronger, the margins between winning and losing become really small.So if we could find some small adjustments that help him execute a little bit better in certain situations or create better opportunities for him and be able to stay in points or be able to take advantage of things that he’s created in points, those could be the difference between winning and losing.
Kevin had a tough loss at the Australian Open in your first major together in the first round losing to Kyle Edmund. But then Edmund went on to reach the semi-finals. So how do you deal with a tough match like that so early in a relationship?
It was obviously disappointing to go to the Australian Open and lose first round. Expectations were pretty high that he could go there and do some damage. The match against Kyle in the first round could have easily been a third-round match or a fourth-round match. And it was a great match regardless of where it happened in the draw. It was disappointing to lose, Kevin was up a break early in the fifth set, it felt like he had a good opportunity.
We had been to two events prior to that and had been on the court for a week of training in Melbourne and a week or so in Delray prior to that so we hadn’t been together for long. I felt like we really clicked quickly. We get along well. The level of communication has been very good between Kevin and I and between Jay, myself and Kevin. We have an open chat between the three of us all the time with the phone. But I was really impressed both in Pune when he lost to Simon in the final and then again when he lost to Kyle in Australia with his level of maturity.
Of course, Kevin is a more mature guy for the Tour, but his level of maturity with how he dealt with those losses and kind of sitting down and analysing the situation [was impressive]. What were the positives? What were the negatives? What were the things we need to take from those things to improve on? We talked about those things and we’ve tried to address some of the things that I saw when he played Kyle in Australia as things that may have presented themselves against that particular opponent as things that I think he can apply in matches day in and day out so it’s an educational process.
Kevin’s got a very good outlook. I’d say he’s very good with his growth mindset of getting better and I have found him to be very open about discussions in relationship to making the adjustments that we’re talking about and applying different things and the willingness to do that and that’s made it really enjoyable so far from where I’m at.
You have a lot of experience with a variety of players, so how do you go into a coaching relationship? How do you balance adapting to the player versus bringing your own ideas to the table?
I think it’s a combination of both. I think at this point in my career, coaching wise, there are certain things and philosophies I’m set with. But I think part of being a good coach is actually being able to look at the strength and weaknesses of each individual player you’re working with and being able to get the most out of them. Working with Kevin is going to be different than working with Sebastien Grosjean or with Jim [Courier]. It’s what Kevin brings to the table and then what I can bring to try to improve where he’s at because that’s the goal.
And again, that’s been one of the refreshing things with Kevin, who at 31 years of age and being ranked where he’s ranked, he still feels that he has definite room to improve and get better and that’s what he’s looking for. He wants to improve. He wants to be ranked higher than where he’s at. He wants to continue to be going deep in big tournaments and giving all kinds of trouble to the guys who are in front of him as well as the guys who are behind him. So it’s been really refreshing from that standpoint. I think what I have to do is make sure that I’m getting my message across with the things that I see and the things that I recognise that are things that I’ve learned over the years from all the guys that I’ve coached and then apply to him, but within the context of what he does also. I think that’s important.