This is part two of a two-part interview with Sam Sumyk. Part One can be found here. The novel virus pandemic has forced tennis players – much like other athletes – and their coaches and training teams to go into hibernation barely months after the new season began.
The matter of coach’s earnings remains in limbo – not unlike the players themselves – but in the midst of this uncertainty, one coach had an unexpected ending to his association with his protégé.
Sam Sumyk and his Russian charge Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova went about their separate ways in the first few weeks of tennis entering into its lockdown phase. When TennisWorld USA asked Sumyk about the end of their partnership, the French coach unhesitant to admit that the news had caught him, and the rest of the fitness team who were working with Pavlyuchenkova, off-guard.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know why. The whole team, we don’t have a clear (idea),” Sumyk clarified. Elaborating on this lack of knowledge, Sumyk said he thought that things had been unproblematic between him and the world no.
30. Then, for the 53-year-old who has overseen the careers of Victoria Azarenka, Eugenie Bouchard, and Garbine Muguruza in recent years, the lack of clarity has been more of a sore point than the player’s decision itself.
Pavlyuchenkova’s results since Sumyk’s joining her team also support Sumyk’s bemusement. In the first tournament, the duo began their partnership, at the 2019 Toray Pan Pacific Open in Osaka, Pavlyuchenkova reached the finals (losing to Naomi Osaka).
It was her first final in a season that had been dotted with early losses. A couple of disappointing performances followed this result but Pavlyuchenkova ended the year on a high with a second final finish (lost to Belinda Bencic) at the Kremlin Cup, Moscow in her native nation, Russia.
In 2020, Pavlyuchenkova started off the year with a second consecutive – and third overall – appearance at the Australian Open quarter-final. En route to her last-eight advancing, Pavlyuchenkova upset second seed Karolina Pliskova in the second round, before taking down former champion, Angelique Kerber in the pre-quarter-finals.
Therefore, it was not jarring to hear Sumyk term the entire proceeding as “strange” in his observations. “From my side and the side of the team, everything was going well, honestly,” Sumyk, reiterated, before adding, “I think she was playing pretty good, fantastic tennis.
We were working well, all together. The team was doing well and Anastasia never really complained so it’s a little bit strange… I still don’t know why we stopped [working]”. Alongside acceptance about this eventuality, Sumyk also is aware that his immediate future plans have changed.
Although, for the moment, his priorities have shifted from tennis to his personal life. “I am trying to be cheerful, healthy and (to) take care about the people that are really close to me and around me,” he said.
And, once the situation improves, Sumyk wants to take up the responsibility of being a coach, again. “(Hopefully), I will be able to coach an athlete and I am open to any suggestions, obviously,” declared Sumyk fervently.
Beyond coaching though, Sumyk is keen on sharing the methods of helping to improve a player’s forte. “I have the desire since recently”, he opened up, “to share and talk about high performance, excellence and all that process that we (coaches) are all trying to achieve”.
Despite his eagerness, musing that he did not know to where this preferred path would lead him, Sumyk closed the conversation by bringing it back around to the topic of coaching, while emphatically stating, “I would love to coach again, absolutely. I love the job”. Photo Credit: WTA