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5 Tennis Legends Who Owe Their Careers to Rick Macci

Published 12/07/2023, 3:22 AM EST

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Behind a legendary player, there is usually a legendary coach. Without a coach who suits the needs of the players, they would be left scrambling. We have seen many coaches who either kickstarted the career of a player or helped them rise to the height of the greats. Rick Macci is one such individual. The 68-year-old began his coaching journey in the 1970s.

His efforts to become a better coach paid off in all aspects, as he managed to train five players who were ranked 1 in tennis. Since then, he has been solidified as one of the greatest coaches in the sport, and he made his claim to fame with Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

Serena Williams

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The story of how Rick Macci came to work with the Williams sisters was turned into a movie. Richard Williams discovered the coach and called him to convince him to come down to Compton, California, where Richard had taught Serena Williams since she was four and Venus Williams since she was five. Macci decided to give them a chance, and when he saw the two play, he realized he had found two diamonds in the rough.

via Reuters

When Serena turned 9, she, along with her family, moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, so she and her sister could attend the academy of Rick Macci. The rest is history as it turned into a glorious career for Serena, who is dubbed the Queen of the Court, with 23 grand slams to her name. When Serena turned 10, Richard did not want them to play on the junior tour.

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He wanted his daughters to be girls and focus a bit on schoolwork. Even though they didn’t play in tournaments, their rigorous coaching continued under the guidance of Rick Macci.

Venus Williams

Venus followed a similar track to the sport as her younger sister. She was 5 when she started learning tennis and 10 when she moved to West Palm Beach to be trained at the Rick Macci Academy. She flourished under the guidance of Macci, like her sister, but her primary coach was still her father. Macci has stated that he and Richard disagreed on several topics, but he always respected his decision.

via Imago

Watching them develop, Macci decided to pull out all the stops and bought a $92,000 motor home for the two. His own car cost less than the vehicle for the girls, but he had confidence in them and banked in on their success. His efforts did not go to waste, as the two would go on to become great champions.

Richard eventually pulled the two sisters out of Macci’s academy when they received a sponsorship offer from Reebok for Venus when she turned 15. Although they split, they are still on good terms and remember their time together fondly.

Jennifer Capriati

Capriati and Macci first joined hands in 1986. When the player turned 10, she became his protege at the age of 10, and from the get-go, Macci knew that Capriati was destined to be a great player in the future. Macci confidently made the declaration in his mind because he saw that her form and understanding of the basics were quite a few notches above the rest. 

via Imago

Capriati would continue to train under Macci and, under his tutelage, turned pro when she was 13. In just one year on the WTA Tour, she would end up entering the top 10 in the world. Continuing her tennis journey with the American coach, Capriati also won the gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. However, in 1994, the player had to take a step back from the spot due to several personal issues.

She would return in her capacity as a professional in 1996 and had to wait for a while before she could rise up to her prior level and win three slams. However, she did not train under Macci during this period. But the coach had left a deep impact on her. 

Andy Roddick

Roddick came to Macci when he was in his teenage years. He developed his foundation of tennis at the Rick Macci Academy when his family moved from Texas to Florida. They initially moved in the interest of his brother’s tennis career, which Macci dubbed as “One of the best juniors in the world”. The time Roddick and Macci spent together would be short-lived, but A-Rod left a great impression on the 68-year-old coach.

via Getty

Macci often talks about the talent Roddick portrayed when he was involved with him. He has often said that Roddick had the ‘ATP forehand’ right off the bat and helped him learn a bit. Macci also said that Roddick yearned for competition and would often ask Macci if he could play against the player who beat him again. He would allow it but said that he had to earn it.

The American player would go on to win his one and only slam when he turned 21 and became the last American ATP player to win a slam since. 

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova became a legend of the sport and became a prime rival of Serena Williams during her time. She began learning tennis in the USSR when she was only three years old. When she turned seven, she flew to the US to be coached at the IMG Academy in Florida. She was recommended to be tutored by Nick Bollettieri but learned under Rick Macci for a while.

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via Getty

Macci has given us tidbits about what he felt when coaching Sharapova. He said that while she was limited athletically, she had the mental ability needed to make a star, which was even absent in her main rival at that age. The time Macci spent with Sharapova was not long, but he often talks big of the Russian star and her ability in the sport.

Macci has become the coach of several tennis legends and continues to train players today. He still has a rigorous schedule for himself, and he might just have the next best player brewing in his academy.

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To know more about Rick Macci’s inspiring coaching journey, tune in to the ESFanCast, LIVE this Friday at 02:00 PM ET. We sit with the tennis veteran who has trained some of the greats of the game.

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Written by:

Ripunjay Gaba

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Edited by:

Ananya Giri