Rick Macci Exclusive Interview

Updated: 185 Tennis

Rick Macci shares his thoughts about the sport and the best players on tour in 2023

Rick Macci Exclusive Interview
Steve Madgwick Editor-In-Chief

Editor-In-Chief with 20 years experience covering the betting angles to breaking news stories. Daily slots player, Portsmouth fan and League Snooker Player

We are thrilled to present an exclusive interview with Rick Macci, a celebrated American tennis coach and former player. Holding several noteworthy accolades, Macci is a United States Professional Tennis Association Master Professional and seven-time USPTA national coach of the year. Furthermore, his impressive coaching credits include five number one ranked players: Andy Roddick, Jennifer Capriati, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, and Venus Williams.

On Djokovic…

After the French Open, can we conclude that Novak Djokovic is the greatest male player of all time?

“Absolutely. He was trending in the right direction, even before the win at Roland Garros. 

“23 Grand Slams, 10 Australian Opens, 7 Wimbledon. 3 French Opens and 3 U.S. Opens- this guy is amazing, he’s taken a negative and turned it into a positive. He hit the ball at the kid at the US Open, then there was the vaccine debate and inactivity after the Australian Open controversy. 

“Mentally, he’s one of the strongest athletes the world has ever seen. Wimbledon is just around the corner, and he’s won the last four! He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. The French Open win didn’t surprise me, even though clay is the toughest surface for him to win on.”

If Djokovic wins Wimbledon this year, does that crown him as the best grass player of all time? 

“The key to him is his movement. People often talk about serve, volley and slice on grass, but for Djokovic it's all about how well he moves around the court and his mental strength in the tough moments.

“He absolutely loves the surface, a lot of people like it, and he loves it! He even said in an interview after the French Open just how much he’s looking forward to it. 

“You’ve got to be nimble and keep your feet under you. A lot of players take time to work grass out, so he’s definitely the one they all have to beat once again. 

“You can only beat him if you have a big serve and keep it close, put things on the wire. If he wins at Wimbledon again this year, he’s without a doubt the greatest grass court player of all time.”

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On Alcaraz…

Carlos Alcaraz - is he the next big thing in tennis after Novak, Roger and Rafa? Why? 

“The wildcard with Alcaraz; not only is he changing the way other professionals develop their game, but he’s also changing how people around the world teach it, and that’s all because of one shot; the drop-shot. 

“The process of learning that shot starts from six years old. He isn’t afraid to try the drop shot from anywhere on the court. We probably saw more drop shots from him during the clay season than in the rest of the tennis world, ever! 

“It used to be a bit taboo to play that shot, coaches would be shouting “What are you doing!”, but now, he’s proving it’s possible to play the shot successfully in almost any situation. 

“Barring injury, the sky's the limit for him. We might be talking about him just like we’re talking about Djokovic now, one day. He’s a very special, generational talent.”


From a technical perspective, what makes Alcaraz such a special talent at the age of just 20 and what tennis legend would you compare him to? 

“He’s a combination of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Agassi. He has a little bit of everything. There are no holes in his game and he’s only 20! 

“Nobody is going to win every single time, through failures, he will have more success. 

“There’s never been anyone like this young man, because of his speed. The rest of the world has to lob it or chip it, he can do anything at any moment in a game. 

“There’s such a fine line which determines the result of so many Grand Slam matches. He creates moments for himself, his serve can only get better, biomechanically, there are a few things he could tweak around. 

“Barring injury, this guy is going to return to World no.1 and stay there for a long time.”


Will Alcaraz become the best player of his generation? 

“Alcaraz is a generational talent, he’s something the tennis world has never seen before. He brings something to the table that we’ve never witnessed. 

“His make-up speed is like no other, once he hits that other gear, his speed is unreal. He’s great off the ground, his volleys are textbook, and he can chip it and rip it. 

“He’s a Broadway performer, he was meant to do this, and he doesn’t feel the pressure. He loses a 20-ball rally and smiles at you! Mentally, he is very, very good.”


Can Alcaraz be as good on grass as other surfaces? 

“I think grass will be his most difficult surface. People can hurt him a little more with the serve and win easier points. That being said, his movement is so different to everyone else on tour, it’s violent, but he’s also nimble, and has a different kind of subtle movement to others. 

“He has firepower, he’s effective on the volley, it might take him a little time. Can he be successful on grass? Of course, he can. 

“On a hard court, which is his best surface, in my opinion, his movement is incredible. He will learn how to do it on grass eventually. 

“Anything can happen on grass, tiebreaks can suddenly be taken away from players in a second.”

“He can definitely be one of the top grass-court players given time, he just needs to find his feet because it’s a totally different surface to anything else on the tour.”

On Wimbledon and the British players…

Do you expect Andy Murray to qualify as a seed for Wimbledon and do you still see him as one of the top 10 grass players in the world? 

“He’s amazing. All he’s gone through with his metal hip, he loves competition and handles pressure so well. 

“He loves to compete and play anywhere. He’s very crafty and very clever on grass. People respect him that bit more on grass because they know he can really play on it and has the track record. 

“He’s maybe lost a yard of pace, but anything can happen depending on the draw, it will be interesting to see how he does. He firmly believes he can beat anyone on grass, and that makes him even more dangerous.”


If you were coaching Emma Raducanu, what advice would you give her? 

“I reached out to her agent earlier in the season. 

“It will be interesting to see what happens there, I’ve never talked to her. I’d need to sit down with her and her parents to work out how much she still wants it. 

“People looking from the outside in will always have an opinion on what’s going on. Her life changed in the blink of an eye after the U.S. Open. 

“Then, you get all the endorsements and press attention, it’s not easy to deal with. 

“I’d like to get inside her head- you’d be hoping that she wants to be the number one in the world and genuinely believe she can win slams again. 

“She has the ability, she’s a great athlete, technically sound and has a great serve. 

“You don’t go through qualifying and win the U.S. Open. That was no fluke at all. Mentally, she’s strong and a special young lady. 

“She’s very good mentally, she reminds me of one of my students, Jennifer Capriati. She disappeared off the face of the earth, and came back- not just back, all the way back to number one. Three Grand Slams, an Olympic gold medal and a big contract with Fila. It can be done. 

“I’d need to speak with her and get inside her head. If it’s not all about the competition, and you’re not willing to die for every point, then it’s not going to work. I wouldn’t work with a player unless they were all in. 

“You can lose confidence and get it back. Nobody could help Raducanu better than me.” 

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What are your Wimbledon predictions?

“I’ll take two for the Men’s singles, and go with Jannik Sinner as my wildcard and Novak Djokovic as the most likely winner. 

“Sinner moves extremely well on grass, has a great serve and played really well here 12 months ago. I think he could surprise a lot of people. He didn’t play especially great on clay this year, but his movement suits the grass court much better. 

“On the Women’s side, I like Rybakina, who won this last year. She loves the grass and has a great all-round game. That being said, don’t rule out Muchova. She is technically very good and the best is yet to come from her.”

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On working with Serena and Venus…

You coached perhaps the greatest women's player of all-time, what made Serena Williams different from the rest? 

“They were like my own daughters, and their father Richard was my best friend. I should be in the Hall of Fame for putting up with him for so many years! He was at the academy earlier this week and is still a great friend of mine. 

“For the first hour of watching Venus and Serena in Compton, I didn’t think they were that good! I had Jennifer Capriati, the best junior player ever to pick up a racket. She was breaking records in 1988 which haven’t been broken since. 

“My blueprint for greatness was very different from other coaches. 

“Then, I asked if we could play a few competitive points, Venus was more advanced than Serena, being a little bit older at this stage. 

“As soon as we started to play properly, everything changed. There was a rage inside these two little girls, it was like popcorn with extra butter. I saw something that I haven’t witnessed since. They ran so hard, their noses were almost touching the ground, to get to a ball 20ft away from them. They were obsessed with reaching every single ball.”


Do you have any stories about the Williams’ family, who you worked so closely with during Serena and Venus’ younger years? 

“I started to think early on- these two girls they’re going to be 6ft and 5ft 11in tall. They’re going to seriously develop. 

“I knew I could help to develop the technical aspects. I told Richard Williams, “You’ve got the next female Michael Jordan on your hands”, he put his arm around me and said, “No, I’ve got the next two.” 

“This is what people don’t understand, even though Serena at that time wasn’t quite as developed as the older Venus, she knew where the ball was going before you even hit it to her. She was always going to develop into an amazing athlete- she was strong, fast, nimble and could even do the splits. The Williams’ parents hit the genetic jackpot with Venus and Serena. 

“Even when we first played tag as a warm-up one day, Serena was so competitive. When she was ‘it’, she played with a closed fist! I had to tell her, “No, you’ve got to play with an open hand!”. She was brutal, and when I tell her these stories now that she’s older and a mother herself, she’s just crying with laughter. 

“When Serena lost games, she worked even harder. She had that elite mindset from a young age. She’s the best competitor of all time and one of the greatest female athletes I’ve ever seen.”

On the competitiveness of the Women’s game right now…

Nick Kyrgios recently laughed at a comparison between men's and women's tennis, what is your opinion on the women’s game right now? 

“Women’s tennis is very fluid right now. The game has had to cope with a lot of dominant forces retiring, Serena Williams, Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka have all either retired or taken breaks from the game in recent years. 

“Iga Swiatek is up there, what she’s done in the last few years is amazing, especially on clay and hard courts. She has four slams now, three of them in the French Open. She is the real deal and isn’t going anywhere. 

“I can see Rybakina winning more slams, Sabalenka is also up there with one of the best in the game. 

“Muchova has a fantastic all-round game. She started a while ago but has faced issues with injury. If she stays healthy, I think she can win multiple slams and compete for a long time at the top of the sport. 

“I think Osaka can come back after she gives birth, Raducanu is also a player who can come back to form.

“Swiatek is the one they all have to beat, but I think she could have a tough time on the grass, you don’t have as much time to react. Other players know they can beat her on that surface, and know they can hang around with her for a bit longer.”

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On Nick Kyrgios…

What would be your response if a player like Nick Kyrgios wanted to work with you?

“It comes down to all types of different factors. Whether you’re dealing with someone like Richard Williams or Yuri Sharapov (Maria Sharpova’s father), you learn to handle different personalities, whether it’s from the players or their families. 

“You can’t make it black and white for someone like Nick. He needs to have his opinions validated, you have to compromise and do it his way. If he doesn’t do it his way, you don’t see the creativity and artistry that he has in his game. 

“A lot of people have tried to help him. If you put him in a box and tell him it’s your way or nothing, then quite simply it won’t work or bring the best out of him. 

“I could help any player, but they need to want the help. The best coaches don’t say a lot, they’re full of positivity and make tweaks where they can. You can’t change a personality and style of play with someone like Kyrgios.”

What expectations can Kyrgios have ahead of Wimbledon, following his injury? 

“Nobody wants to play him in the first couple of rounds, that’s for sure! He’s dangerous, but he’s also dangerous to himself! 

“If he gets in a mindset where he reached the final last year, then he can beat anyone, anytime, anywhere. 

“He has good compact strokes and a massive serve. It really is in his own hands, nobody wants to play him on grass. 

“He is a confident individual, he doesn’t need to play every week like some players need to. Anything is possible with him, so expect the unexpected!”

On the next big American hopefuls…

Who will be the next male US Grand Slam winner? 

“On the men’s side, I worked with a kid called Darwin Blanch when he was a little younger. Remember his name.

“His family is full of talented people, Darwin is the youngest of them but he has a nuclear missile of a forehand. His serve, biomechanically, is going to be big time. He’s a leftie, he’s going to be serving at 140-145 mph when he’s a bit older. There are very few flaws in his technique on the serve and forehand. 

“His backhand is a little dicey, but technically overall he is sound. The future is definitely bright for him in the years to come. 

“I see Sebastian Korda as the next potential US slam winner. He has the pedigree given his parents played on the professional tour. His backhand is rock solid, and his forehand is a bit like Federer’s, with lots of spin. 

“He can hit the ball short and bring you in, he has imagination and he can volley. If he serves a little better, I can see him competing for and winning Grand Slams. He could be the next great American men’s player.”

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General tennis topics…

Of all the great players you coached, which of them surprised you the most by making it to the top? 

“So many people come to me saying that their kid is the next big star, it’s so rare that it actually happens. 

“I knew that the Williams’ sisters would be good, it was always obvious that Maria Sharapova would be one of the elite players, even though she had a few athletic things that weren’t as strong as others. 

“One who surprised me would probably be Andy Roddick. When I coached him at 12, he was the best in the US for his age. 

“Did I think he’d be a U.S. Open winner by 19? Not at all. 

“All of a sudden, when he was in his later teen years, he filled out physically. His serve was biomechanically fantastic, an absolute missile. He became 6ft 2in, 180lb, and his forehand was absolutely world-class. 

“He delivered the goods to become world number one. I thought he’d be a top professional, but I didn’t expect to see him winning slams, especially so early in his career. 

“Another one who surprised me was Anastasia Myskina, who won the French Open in 2004. I knew she could be one of the best players in the world, but she surprised me when winning that tournament at such a young age. 

“I always teach people to hit the ball early, run the show and be aggressive. Mary Pierce took a bit longer than a few others to properly dictate rallies, so her early success also surprised me a little bit. 

“Nobody knows exactly what’s inside of them until those really tough moments in the slams. I have a better understanding than most people, but nobody is happier than me in seeing people I’ve worked with go on to become world number 1 or a Grand Slam champion.” 


Carine06, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Coco Gauff is flying the flag for the United States, what could she achieve in her career?

“I would love to work with Coco Gauff. I think I could rewire her entire forehand if she and her team wanted to. I’d teach her the ATP forehand. For me, she’s the best athlete on the tour, she’s an Olympic sprinter with a racket in her hand.” 

“Mentally, she has it. Her backhand is money, and her volley is great. The serve, I would rewire slightly, it’s loose, it’s big, it’s free, but it isn’t quite as good as it could be. 

“She’s still so young, but the muscle memory has been there for so long on the forehand. If she took a bit of time out and modified that, she would have so much ability. 

“I think I’d create a completely new stroke for her, and it would fully change her career. It could go from her weakest shot to her best shot.”

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