Sebastian Sachs is a solid choice of coach for Emma Raducanu, according to German women’s tennis manager Barbara Rittner, who hopes Sachs will have enough time to apply her talent.
At just 30 years old, Stuttgart’s Sachs is still relatively unknown beyond the immediate circle of players he has worked with, namely Olympic champion Belinda Bencic, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and former German number 1 Julia Georges.
But Rittner has seen many coaches come and go (like, notoriously, Raducanu), and she thinks Sachs has something special.
“I met Basti seven or eight years ago in Stuttgart, and asked him to be a hitting partner for my young girls,” Rittner said. Sports Telegraph. “He turned out to be perfect. He was a very talented junior who never played on the main tour, so if you tell him ‘Okay, play as well as you can’ he wouldn’t stand a chance. But he was able to find the right range for each player so that it was a close game.
“Basti is a really down-to-earth nice guy,” Rittner added. “All the girls liked him a lot. He has a good eye for footwork and technique. And for his young age he already has a lot of experience. He is very demanding to stay focused and I think he is a great choice for Emma. I just hope he gets a bit more time than the other coaches. And because I’m also thinking of Torben Beltz [another German coach who began a five-month stint with Raducanu just over a year ago] did a good job. Emma just needs to focus maybe a bit more on tennis and stick to one coach.
Sachs’ own playing career was not singled out. He peaked at No1,052 in the world rankings and appeared in around 40 entry-level Futures events between 2009 and 2015 without ever making it past the quarter-finals.
But he quickly turned Rittner’s invitation to train with Germany’s top juniors into a fledgling career. The springboard was a Fed Cup tie in Leipzig in February 2016, six months after his last appearance on the Futures Tour.
“I remember that Angie Kerber [the German No 1 and then world No 2] had just won the Australian Open,” recalls Rittner. “I wanted to have a strong hitting partner because we were playing against Switzerland and they had Bencic and Martina Hingis and Timea Bacsinszky. So he was there, and Bencic’s dad called me afterwards to see if I would have a problem asking Basti to be Belinda’s batting coach.
“So that’s actually when he started his coaching career for real: with Hingis’ mother, Mélanie Molitor [who was Bencic’s coach], and Belinda’s father. And then he found his calling – he was very, very keen to gain experience. He spent time in different academies: the Nadal Academy in Mallorca, the Riccardo Piatti Academy in Italy. You can see he has a huge passion for tennis, and Emma is lucky to have that.
Sachs fulfills two roles, as he is such a quality hitter that he can be a sparring partner as well as a coach.
Andrea Petkovic, the former world number 9 who was part of the German team in Leipzig, did not strike with Sachs this weekend as he was booked for Kerber training sessions. But she agrees with Rittner that it’s a wise signing.
“It’s really important to have a coach who can also play with you,” Petkovic said. “First of all, it helps the coach to get a better idea of your game and where you can improve. And then, if you’re lacking in rhythm, it’s good to have someone who is in your team and by your side to strike with you [as opposed to a rival player].
“Also the way he plays is a bit like a woman. I hope he doesn’t read this article, but what I’m trying to say is that he can flatten the ball very well to mimic a woman’s game, compared to other partners in men’s hits that have a lot of topspin in their shots. . They make it harder for women to play with them and get used to the type of tennis women play.
“Finally, what I find great with Basti is that he is a very serious person, very ambitious and very diligent. He is really improving as a coach all the time. You can see that he has won in quality and experience on touring, and I think he really knows what he’s doing. He’s a very friendly guy, so you get along with him very easily. That’s a huge thing that people forget sometimes, but that plays a big role in training and tennis, you spend so much time together and away from home in high pressure situations.
As Petkovic suggests, there’s more to Sachs than a decent forehand. Raducanu’s representatives were reportedly impressed with his methodical approach, as well as his interest in data and analysis.
Raducanu herself likes to have a lot of information at her disposal, considering her brain to be as powerful an asset as her athleticism, and is prone to questioning her coaches closely during post-match debriefs.
She has been strangely reluctant to develop a long-term alliance with a coach, having previously worked with Nigel Sears, Andrew Richardson, Beltz and Dimitry Tursunov over the past 18 months. But if Sachs can live up to his lofty expectations, he has what it takes to become a long-term mentor. If so, this seemingly left-field pick could still turn out to be an inspired pick.