July 13, 2024

Open Court


Spotted in Ilkley – Babos and … Joyce

Yes, Tennis.Life really does have eyes everywhere.

In the town of Ilkley in West Yorkshire, there’s a new coach and player pairing.

French Open doubles champion Timea Babos and Michael Joyce are working together.

It’s not known if this is a trial, or perhaps a collaboration just for the grass season.

But it’s the first sighting of Joyce on tour since Genie Bouchard broke up the band a month after the Miami Open.

Babos, No. 2 in the doubles rankings after that win in Paris with good friend Kristina Mladenovic, currently is No. 139 in singles.

But she’s been much higher than that.

In the fall of 2016, right after the US Open, the Hungarian reached No. 25. She has three career singles titles and has reached five other finals.

Babos had worked with Nick Horvat for about six months, ending just before Indian Wells. Prior to that, she worked with Frenchman Thomas Drouet for the better part of five years – an eternity in women’s tennis. 

Singles success still in view

Babos and Dabrowski lost the Australian Open junior girls’ doubles final in 2010 – and then Babos won the other three with American Sloane Stephens. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Babos was known as a great doubles player as a junior. She won the last three majors of the 2010 junior season with Sloane Stephens. The only thing missing from her “junior doubles Grand Slam” was the Australian Open. 

She and Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski did reach the final there, losing to Jana Cepelova and Chantal Skamlova of Slovakia.

But she had plenty of outstanding junior singles results as well, peaking at No. 2.

At 26, Babos is hardly at the stage where she needs to “become” a doubles specialist – at least not as long as she maintains her singles ranking within the range required to be able to play most of the same big events at which she’s top-seeded in doubles.

The doubles is obviously her money-maker at the moment. Babos will cross the $700,000 US threshold for the season this week.

Joyce looking for next challenge

Joyce, the longtime coach of Maria Sharapova, has since coached Jessica Pegula, Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta. He landed in Team Bouchard last fall.

It seemed like a good relationship. But after losing in the first round of qualifying in Miami and then going underground for a month, the 2014 Wimbledon finalist parted ways with both Joyce and physical trainer Scott Byrnes, who was on his second tour of duty with Bouchard.

She has not replaced either one, and has played just one match since then – losing in the first round of the French Open to Lesia Tsurenko.

So Joyce is on the market.

We’ll see if the relationship with Babos is permanent, or whether the experienced American emerges to work with another player by the North American summer hard-court circuit.

In the musical chairs that is the coaching scene on the WTA Tour at the moment, anything is possible.

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