May 27, 2020

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Sumyk and Pavlyuchenkova split after six months

There hasn’t been much news about coaching changes during the tennis shutdown.

Or much tennis news of note, really (we’re not counting live workout sessions on Instagram).

And according to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the WTA suits have something to do with that.

The 28-year-old Russian told the Russian website Kommersant that she split with her coach of six months, Sam Sumyk, after returning to Russia from Indian Wells following the cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open.

But Pavlyuchenkova, who sits on the Player Council, says she was told by the WTA that “now is not the time to talk about a break with the coach.”

So Sumyk, who has worked with many of the best players in the world during a long and accomplished coaching career, got out ahead of it. He confirmed to a couple of French media that he’s open for a new gig,

Pavlyuchenkova not feeling it

Pavlyuchenkova told Kommersant she wanted to clarify that he likely wasn’t expecting her to end the collaboration. (In other words, that it was her call, not his). And that she now “has wings behind me.”

Pavlyuchenkova told Kommersant that after going through a tough period in her career, she thought an authoritarian-type coach like Sumyk would be a good thing, to build up her training base.

His resumé is certainly wide-ranging and impressive. But it became clear to her that it wasn’t a good fit.

Sumyk and Azarenka worked together for more than five years. It was a highly successful partnership. The split had barely been announced before Sumyk began working with Canadian Genie Bouchard. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

“I felt something was wrong there, at the Australian Open. I did not like the atmosphere in the team, I could not open up on the court or beyond. Yes, in Australia I showed a good result, but do not forget – a tennis player plays on the court, not a coach,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “It is important for me to maximize relations with the coach, with the team – this is the key to success, without which progress is impossible.”

Hip injury a contributing factor

Pavlyuchenkova has put in a lot of matches from a young age as she dominated the juniors. But she has proven to be a resilient competitor through 15 years. She played her first matches at the pro level when she was just 14.

Sumyk went directly from Victoria Azarenka to Genie Bouchard early in 2015. It was a challenging time as the Canadian had a lot to live up to after her stupendous 2014 season. But the collaboration lasted less than six months. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

But other than her shoulder, she said, she has been injury-free. She told Kommersant that the hip injury she suffered after the Australian Open might have in part been due to Sumyk and her physical trainer. She said “the training process and schedule of participation in tournaments” was incorrectly planned. 

There’s a whole lot more in this very interesting interview, including some insight into what’s going on at the WTA Player Council level during the shutdown. 

Sumyk worked with Garbiñe Muguruza for four years, also with great success even though their public chemistry appeared often a little contentious; Conchita Martinez, who shared duties with Sumyk for a time, returned this year as a solo act. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

There’s also a pretty strong opinion about coaches and their egos – although she doesn’t seem to call out Sumyk specifically.

You can read the whole thing through Google Translate and get the gist.