And now the really juicy gossip begins: Are they committed? Will they be good for each other? Can they make it through the rough times? And, most important, will their partnership bear fruit?
To make it easier, I’ve started a score sheet on the tennis world’s very own Brangelina. Long live Fedhill!
IT’S A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
1. Darren Cahill’s a catch
Cahill’s a top-notch coach with a stellar résumé: making Lleyton Hewitt the youngest-ever No. 1 in the world in 2001 (at 20) and Andre Agassi the oldest No. 1 ever in 2003 (at 33).
2. Roger Federer’s legendary
At 27 years old, Roger Federer is not yet flirting with the “elder statesman” title that Andre carried so well at the late stages of his career. But Roger is, like Agassi in 2006, the only undisputed “Legend” playing on the tour. Cahill understands the pressures and priorities this kind of player has when he’s trying to secure his place in the history books.
3. Darren feels Fed’s pain
Andre had back problems, Roger has back problems. Cahill knows his chiropractors from his cortisone shots and will be a good nurse.
4. They’ve got friends in common
Cahill was a close friend of Roger Federer’s formative coach, fellow Aussie Peter Carter, who passed away in 2002. Thus, Darren has known Roger’s game from a coach’s perspective since Fed was a junior.
In a 2007 article in Fox Sports, Cahill recounts a visit he paid Carter in Basel, where he observed a 13-year-old Federer at play. He told his friend: “Carts, you could drive a bus through that backhand. Look at that thing. He shanks it half the time, his slice sits up, he takes a huge step when it’s outside the slot, and he’s not stepping to the left on the neutral ball.” His final verdict: “He’s okay.”
I think that this shared history—and the shared love for a good friend—creates a foundation of respect and trust that’s necessary for a successful coach/player partnership.
5. Vegas, baby!
Darren’s still tight with exes Andre Agassi and A.A.’s trainer-guru Gil Reyes, who runs a high-performance training center in Las Vegas. Fernando Verdasco spent some time there before this year’s Australian and came out a superhero.
Reyes’s contract with Adidas probably makes working with Roger a conflict of interest, and Agassi isn’t going into coaching anytime soon, but you gotta think that their formidable influence will trickle down to Roger somehow. Obviously this is speculation, but isn’t the idea pretty intriguing?
BUT NOBODY’S PERFECT
1. Roger’s a “coach-eater”
He ditched Peter Lundgren in 2003, the year he won his first Wimbledon title, he dumped Tony Roche after winning six majors with him, and his latest super-coach, Jose Higueras, barely made it into the players’ box. The only constant confidants in Roger’s camp have been girlfriend Mirka and Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi. These two aren’t going to tell Roger anything he doesn’t want to hear.
If Darren Cahill is going to have any effect, he’s going to have to show Roger Federer why his nickname is “Killer.”
2. The Bennifer effect
The Cahill/Federer partnership has gone through the rumor mill so many times that the reality might not stand up to the hype. If Roger doesn’t dismantle Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon (some hardcore Fedophiles might even expect results at the French), will Roger and Darren face a barrage of criticism not seen since Bennifer starred in Gigli?
3. Roger’s a confirmed bachelor
Does Roger really need a coach cramping his style? He was “this” close to beating Rafa at Wimbledon and the Australian this year, and many say it’s “only” a mental block holding Roger back from victory. Maybe all Rog needs is a little luck and a date with a sports psychologist instead of another ego playing with his mind and his backhand.
4. Is Darren playing hard to get?
Unless Darren’s lost his life savings to Bernie Madoff, why would he want to subject himself to the daily grind of the tour? His family’s in one desert (Las Vegas) and Roger’s in another (Dubai), and Andre Agassi’s already recruited him to help him with his World Team Tennis stint this summer. He has a cushy gig commentating at ESPN, and he’s even said (jokingly) in the past that Federer couldn’t afford him as a coach.
5. What about us? We need Cahill on ESPN!
If Rog and Darren do tie the knot, the rest of us will be deprived of Darren’s insights from the commentary booth. Who’s going to go all “inside tennis” with Brad Gilbert—Chris Fowler?
Overall, I’m thrilled as a spinster aunt at a bridal shower. These two guys are just made for each other. What are you waiting for, fellas—take it down the aisle!