For the first time since an ill-fated visit to Paris in 2021, former WTA Tour coach of the year Craig Tyzzer will embark on a red dirt pilgrimage this week.
The last time Tyzzer was preparing for a clay court tournament, he suspected the chances of success were effectively shot before his charge had hit a shot.
Ash Barty had returned to Roland Garros for the first time since her stunning success in 2019 but, on the eve of the tournament, she tore her adductor magnus muscle.
The three-time major winner somehow managed to win her first round, but was forced to withdraw midway through her second match at a major she was favoured to win.
Remarkably, Team Barty managed to regroup over the next month to pull off the miracle on grass, with the then world No. 1 winning Wimbledon in famous fashion.
The stakes are lower for Tyzzer on his trip to Canberra for the national junior clay court championships being held this week compared to his visit to Paris for Roland Garros.
But the Melburnian, who will be in the Australian capital with coaching partner Jason Stoltenberg, is looking forward to viewing the nation’s best young players in action.
Since Barty’s retirement, she has teamed up with her former coaches Tyzzer and Stoltenberg to form a coaching academy and the trio have mentored some talented Australian players.
As part of their partnership with Tennis Australia, they will be assessing talent in Canberra with a view to looking at extended training camps for children aged between ten and 14.
“Part of the reason to go to Canberra is to have meetings about getting some of the best young kids together and doing some camps over an extended period,” Tyzzer told The First Serve.
“It will be good to spend some time with them, to help them with the process and what they need to do and where they should be heading.
“That is really positive for us … because it is down the lines of what we want to do.”
It is just over a year since Barty stunned the tennis world when announcing her retirement following a perfect summer at home that culminated in her Australian Open success.
The 26-year-old has remained industrious, mixing ambassadorial duties with some coaching and corporate speaking, along with publishing an autobiography.
She and her husband Garry Kissick are due to become parents in the middle of the year.
The rest of the crew _ Tyzzer, strength and conditioning coach Mark Taylor, physiotherapist Mel Omizzolo, physical performance specialist Matt Hayes, mindset coach Ben Crowe and her agent Nikki Mathias _ are busy in different roles but the team remains in close contact.
“I miss the team and what we achieved but we're all still in contact,” Tyzzer said.
“Even though Tubs (Taylor) is over in the UK, in England now, I still talk to him regularly. We’re still in contact with Mel. We've still got that time for each other.
“But it is just in a different environment. We're not together. We're not living it. We're not breathing it anywhere near as much as what we were before.”
Tyzzer does not miss travelling at all. But there are some elements of touring that he does.
When tuning in to watch Barty’s former peers playing against each other, for example, he finds it difficult not to start breaking down the match from a tactical perspective.
“With what we achieved and the process of how we went about getting the results and getting Ash to where we needed to get her, I miss all that side of it a lot more,” he said.
“I miss a lot of the strategy stuff and analysing players and I still tend to fall back into that when I'm watching some of the matches on TV.
“I just completely analyse players I haven't seen, although I don't have to do it at the same level as what I was doing for Ash.”
The logistics associated with planning a campaign around a player to ensure they are at their peak when on the court is another facet Tyzzer is missing.
“The competition side of it, the strategy, the planning, the team side of it, yeah, I do miss a lot of that. I guess with the performance parts of it, there is the energy that used to come with that,” he said.
“There are just the overall aspects to it. The full planning of the tour and the training lead up (around) what Ash needed to do physically and mentally to be ready.
“The hardest thing was, once she got to number one, was that she wanted to stay there and then every time she walked out onto court, she had to perform.
“It was always that preparation of getting Ash to that level of being ready to play as soon as she stepped on to the court every time.”
One of the players Barty has mentored since her retirement is Olivia Gadecki, who is now coached by Des Tyson.
The Gold Coast right-hander, who hit regularly with the 2022 Australian Open champion before and after her retirement, has posted some encouraging results this year.
Gadecki has risen 50 spots this season to her current ranking of 150 and, as well as claiming an opening round win at the Australian Open, has also reached four ITF Tour finals.
Stoltenberg and Tyzzer also worked with Perth teenager Taylor Preston, who is back on the tour in Egypt, and her coach Brad Dyer leading into the summer.
More recently, they spent a week at the KDV Centre on the Gold Coast with talented 14-year-old Cooper Kose and have also trained with Koharu Nishikawa, who was a member of the Australian 14-and-under team which travelled to Malaysia for an event last month.
“It’s been an interesting time, a good time,” Tyzzer said.
“We are looking at the kids who choose not to go into the NTA (National Tennis Academy) or are not quite ready to go into it. They are the ones we have more of an eye on.
“And we have also worked with a few in the professional space as well, just to help with their progress.
“It has been a slow burn, which is OK, because we didn’t want to make a big announcement and then have everyone say, ‘We want to go with you’.
“We wanted to choose who we wanted to work with and those we think we can have an
Readjusting his expectations and coaching strategy is among the changes Tyzzer has had to make in his life after coaching Barty.
“I was talking to Liv about some of the players and it is funny because I'd analyse players on how Ash could beat them,” he said.
“But it is different for whoever you're working with, on how and what they need to do against different sorts of players.
“I mean, I still identify their strengths and weaknesses. But you've got to also understand the athlete that you're working with and what they can and can't do. So that has been a difference.”
A change in the manner with which Aryna Sabalenka was working through points in the infancy of her charge to the Australian Open title caught Tyzzer’s eye in January.
Barty and the Belarusian enjoyed some tremendous battles in a compelling rivalry where both women claimed four matches each.
The last two matches between the pair went the distance during the clay court season of 2021 and they proved a superb contrast between blazing power and supreme court craft.
The Australian claimed the final of a tournament in Stuttgart while Sabalenka was able to edge the Queenslander in the decider in Madrid in their final tour outing.
Sabalenka defeated Tereza Martincova, Shelby Rogers, Elise Mertens, Belinda Bencic, Donna Vekic and Magda Lnnette in straight sets prior to edging Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open final.
The contrast in the effectiveness of her serve compared to her performances in Australia during Barty’s run to the championship was a talking point from her opening match.
But Tyzzer was impressed with the manner with which the world No. 2 was seeking to use angles and open up the court more rather than simply relying on her phenomenal power.
“Ash and I always said that if Aryna could figure out how to play, that she would be almost unbeatable,” he said.
“It was almost like sometimes she would just see the ball and hit the ball and not really have a plan. Our strategy against her was to keep her out there a lot longer and make her think a lot more about the points in play, which is when she fell down a lot.
“But I felt like at the Aussie Open, she did that way better. I felt her strategy was better. I felt she thought a bit more about where she was hitting the ball and playing rather than just trying to hit big and hit the spots all the time.”
As the circuit swings to the red clay of Europe, Tyzzer said he will be interested to see whether the early season form of Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina, in particular, continues.