Learning from a pro coach and former Top ATP professional Christopher Kas
Updated: Aug 5, 2020
I had the great pleasure of meeting Christopher while coaching and playing prize money tournaments in Germany. While working with his player at the time, top WTA pro Mona Barthel, Christopher occasionally needed to give her confidence by beating up on someone and he called me. That beating was a start of our relationship and soon he enjoyed beating up on me himself with his ridiculous angle shots.
During that time, between my lessons on court I was happy to learn many things from Christopher, namely what it is like to bring energy and enthusiasm to every session.
Christopher took the time to answer some of my questions for this weeks blog edition.
What was the transition between the juniors and the pros?
It was a seamless transition really, I played prize money tournaments here in Germany against men when I was young and had some reasonable success winning a few of them ( Germany has a fantastic system of club tennis along with prize money tournaments). I attended regular school and upon graduation I gave myself two years to play professional and it worked out for me.
Christopher reached number 224 in ATP singles rankings and number 17 in ATP doubles winning 5 career titles, reaching semifinals at Wimbledon, quarterfinals in US and Australian Open and finishing 4th at the London Olympics.
What was it like to represent your country at the Olympics?
It was an incredible experience. I am a total sport nerd and I absolutely loved every minute of it. Playing twice for a medal was the most amazing but also the saddest moment in my career as we finished fourth. Opening ceremony is so special and living in the olympic village was a fantastic experience.
One of the things I notice about you is that you are always in such a good mood and so enthusiastic about the day. You make people around you feel special and want to play. How do you do it?
Good question, I give a lot of credit to my parents, they are such positive people and were never too critical of me. My wife and I do the same for our kids, educating them with positive reinforcement. It is the same for our players, at the end of the day it is about having fun, we should all be reminded why we started to play at one point. We love or at least loved the game at some point and I want to remind them of that. Even if you loose on the pro circuit every week you can still have a great career and enjoy the moments. But most of all, the positivity is how I feel inside ,and I love coaching and playing. All i want to do is share that feeling.
What are the best things about coaching on tour and what are the worst?
All the players that I have worked with are better than I was ( Mona Barthel, Peter Gojowczyk, Sabine Lisicki, Kateryna Kozlova) which makes it much easier. I love the travelling part of it actually and sharing the experience with the players. You have to be organized and prepare for all possible scenarios and be there for your player at all times.The bad things are few and are part of the job so I cannot even name them really. Of course, sometimes I miss my family but that is part of the job so I accept it.
How do you approach working with a new player?
You have to ask yourself, how can I contribute in a meaningful way to positively impact the player? Some struggle with motivation, others with technique and many other issues. As a coach, you have to find out whether you can help in the things you identify in the initial stages. However, all of these athletes are world class players so you have to speak with them if they see the situation the same way. In the beginning, it is important not to overcoach. These players have a great understanding of the game and to get to their respective level they had to do things right and perform well. I mostly give positive feedback and sometimes point out areas that I would like to target for improvement. I do not want to give the player too much negative feedback as they might lose confidence, and that confidence is so essential.
Above all, the confidence of the player is the main priority for me. If I give suggestions it can be viewed as criticism, so I have to give suggestions in a way that player decodes the message correctly.
What is your best memories as a coach?
Sabine Lisicki reaching 1/2 final in Indian Wells (2016) and being a set and a break up to make it to the final. The following week she played 1/4 final in Miami eventually playing Serena Williams. This year, with Peter Australian Open was great: qualifying, winning a round and losing a close battle to Carreno Busta. With Mona, winning a title in Prague from qualifying (8 matches in 9 days). There are so many positive memories I share with my students on the road and in training, I really enjoy what i do.