i didn't really know where to post this or if it had been posted already:
Back to where it all began
Archie Adams, who coached Mark Philippoussis as a kid, hopes to resurrect the Scud's career, says Linda Pearce.
MARK Philippoussis turned 29 this week, which means he has probably cut more birthday cakes than he has axed coaches, mentors and fitness trainers during his eventful, high-turnover tennis life. Then again, if we do the sums, perhaps not.
Archie Adams, a 43-year-old suburban coach, is both the first entry and the last on the long list that is, and has been, Team Philippoussis. Having worked with Philippoussis between the ages of eight and 15, Adams answered a call for help in August, starting 10 days before the US Open and continuing through Bangkok, Metz and St Petersburg.
It is fair to say that the ongoing new/old partnership has raised eyebrows, even considering the oddly circular pattern that seems to characterise so many things Philippoussian.
The scenario this time: struggling star returning to yet another of his former teachers to revive a career that is being kept afloat only by wildcards. Indeed, there seem hints of desperation (where else to turn now?) and pragmatism (familiarity and technical expertise without the high price tag) in almost equal measure.
Adams has little to lose, and seems genuine when he says he is driven by fondness for his former pupil, a two-time grand slam finalist now languishing at a year-end 171st in the world rankings, down from No. 9 two years ago.
Certainly, he is not motivated by the publicity, declining a photo request on the grounds of shyness.
A former tour player and experienced grassroots coach in Melbourne, Adams insists job security is not a concern. Considering the list of one-time Philippoussis employees that range from Tony Roche and Pat Cash to Boris Becker and John McEnroe, as well as retired SAS commando Markus Heon and former AFL players Todd Viney and Brett Stephens, that is probably just as well.
"Look, a lot of coaches have worked with him, but you know his Dad's always been the coach, Nick's always been the main coach," said Adams, claiming to be unbothered by that fact. "Where do you think the Dad learnt everything?" he continued, cheerily. "So I'm pretty confident.
"Look, Mark's a friend from way back and we've been close ever since, so I can't see a problem. Nick's a good man. He's always looked after his son, and he wants the best for his son, and I know a lot of coaches have been through, but that happens all the time. You look at (Marat) Safin; he changes coaches like he changes socks."
Well, yes, but does the reigning Australian Open champion launder his Holeproofs any more frequently than Philippoussis? "Well, Mark has changed a lot of coaches, hasn't he? Yes. But he's probably never found the right person, has he?"
Even Philippoussis would acknowledge that he needs to find something, quickly. He needs to get and stay fit, so that his large frame does not put intolerable strain on the legs that have caused him so much grief in the past.
He has needed to lose weight — Philippoussis is officially listed at 98 kilograms, but has crept past 105 during times of inactivity — and Adams insists that has already happened during the nine weeks of his own re-involvement, a period that has included a quarter-final in Metz and solid training periods in Miami and San Diego, and will resume in the United States this weekend.
Not that it is easy. Philippoussis is a big man, who has often been sidelined for long periods. Nor has he ever really boasted the type of training zeal that has characterised Lleyton Hewitt or, later in his career, Andre Agassi.
"People always think Mark's lazy," Adams conceded. "But Mark might do one hour's training on the court, and other people might do three or four hours' training on the court, but Mark's one hour, with his heavy body, is equivalent to someone's two hours or three hours training if they're 65 or 70 kilos."
But what of the many former coaches, trainers and peers who swear that the Philippoussis work ethic has never been what it should? "That's their opinion. I've known Mark from a young age and he's always been a good trier and a hard worker, and what I've seen so far, he's putting in, he's sleeping early, he's doing everything right.
"He doesn't party any more, he doesn't go out, he just does the things that you have to do to be a good tennis player. You can't ask more of him, you know?"
Adams is adamant that age is relative to the amount of tournaments played, and he considers Philippoussis young in tennis years. "If you go 10 or 11 years in a row without getting injured, and you're playing so many tournaments, you might go, 'Oh, I've had enough of this, I'm not doing this any more', and then I'd say, 'Yeah, he's pretty much gone'.
"But Mark hasn't got that attitude. His attitude is he loves his tennis and he wants to do it. You can't say this is his last chance and you can't say he's too old. They're pretty harsh things to say to someone."
So they would be, but the clock is ticking, and even Adams is circumspect when asked how high Philippoussis can climb in 2006. "I would say if he has no injuries, the way he's playing at the moment he's capable of making the top 100." And if that seems a rather modest ambition, then so be it. No pressure, just an uninterrupted year, and the ranking will rise.
"I'm pretty optimistic, but it's just really how his body holds up. I've known him since he was eight … so he's like a younger brother, or like a son to me, and I really want to get him back on track. And it would be good for Australian tennis in general if Mark can get himself going; tennis is actually dying here a little bit, I feel."
On Monday, Philippoussis celebrated his 29th birthday in the US, where he will next month marry Floridian heiress Alexis Barbara.
He has already accepted wildcards into events in Adelaide and Auckland in January, and is guaranteed a main draw invitation into the Australian Open. The two-time Davis Cup hero can still pull a crowd.
Archie Adams, fortysomething suburban coach, will be there with him, willing on the still-unfulfilled and now endangered talent he first encountered 21 years ago. As Nick Philippoussis remains the one constant, the supporting cast has changed once more. In every sense, the hope and need this time is for many happy returns.