On Sunday night at Wimbledon, as the tennis world was celebrating the triumph of Carlos Alcaraz over Novak Djokovic, Paul McNamee was plotting another success on the grass.
A doubles champion at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1980 and 1982, the Melburnian was in London tasked with coaching the world’s best female doubles player.
Hsieh Su-Wei, an Australian Open quarter-finalist in 2021, is officially ranked 11 in the world in doubles despite missing the best part of the last two years in part-retirement.
The former world No.1 doubles player has only been back on the tour for a couple of months and has already claimed the Roland Garros and Wimbledon doubles crowns.
The 37-year-old partnered another returning star in Barbora Strycova to their second Wimbledon success, and Hsieh’s sixth major title overall, when edging Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens in a terrific final to conclude a fabulous Championships.
McNamee, who partnered Peter McNamara to successes at Wimbledon in 1980 and 1982, has been in the coaching box for both and could not be prouder of the Taiwanese star.
“You kind of get your place in history when you win a grand slam,” he told The First Serve.
“She was kind of going for three in a row because she won in 2019 and then she didn't play in 2020 because there was no Wimbledon.
“Then she played in 2021 and won with Mertens. She didn't play in 2022 because she stopped playing, so for her she was going for three in a row.”
The tour moves fast and this week in Nice the dual-Davis Cup winning Australian will be a guest of honour at the reincarnation of the Hopman Cup, which begins tonight in France.
It is 35 years since McNamee founded the extremely popular mixed teams event with Charlie Fancutt and Pat Cash in Perth, where it was held for three decades.
Alcaraz and fellow top 10 star Holger Rune are among the stars playing at the Nice Lawn Tennis Club in the six nation event being held on clay from Wednesday to Sunday.
Alize Cornet, who became a favourite in Perth when representing France with pride and passion, is a familiar face and will partner veteran Richard Gasquet for the host nation.
It is a shame Australia is not represented given its history in an event featuring Spain, France, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark and Switzerland. But that may change in the future.
The loss of the Hopman Cup from Western Australia after a 30-year tenure still rubs many Australian fans up the wrong way given the fond memories they have for the tournament.
The event held at the start of the Australian summer drew legends of the sport including Roger Federer and Serena Williams and star locals including Lleyton Hewitt and Ash Barty.
Ultimately it made way for the introduction of the ATP Cup in 2020, which has since become the mixed teams United Cup, at the time of significant changes in the tennis landscape.
But McNamee is delighted the Hopman Cup has found a new home after harbouring some concerns about whether it would be resurrected when the pandemic struck in 2020.
“I did, because other events were restarting and it didn't seem to be,” he said.
“There were so many changes happening in tennis, but the International Tennis Federation said all along it was going to come back, and it did, so I was really happy to see that.”
McNamee, who has also worked in senior positions in golf and football, is delighted by the quality of the field, though he said the Australian edition had set a standard for excellence.
“I think it was a high bar. I mean, we set a pretty high bar. And not just the last few years, but to be fair, I think from the beginning,” he said.
“In my era, in my 24 years, we had 24 world No.1s who came to Perth, which wasn't too bad. And then it continued with Tennis Australia. The highest standard continued.
“If it was going to start again, you need to jump out of the pack again, and with Alcaraz and Rune, it does that. That is impressive. It’s back and it is a good thing, because I didn’t want to be involved in something that just died.”
McNamee can understand why some Western Australians might feel aggrieved at the loss of the Hopman Cup, which was initially replaced by an all-male teams competition.
But he believes the introduction of the United Cup, which was played in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney last year, is a step in the right direction.
“What I am happy about is the United Cup, that a mixed team event is alive and well in WA,” he said.
“The thing that troubled me was Perth. That Perth was going to draw the short straw. That has been addressed. It might be even stronger in Perth, with some of the things that we have talked about.
“So I was delighted about that change because I believe Perth is the natural custodian of a mixed teams event (and that) that change in Perth made a big difference to make me feel good about it.”
But McNamee, a former Australian Open semi-finalist in singles and a world No.1 in doubles, is an advocate for a greater change that would see Perth host the United Cup finals.
“Having lived there a long time, WA people want to feel that it's theirs, that it belongs to them, that there's a sense of ownership. And that was the case with the Hopman Cup,” he said.
“It was their event. They felt an affinity with it because it started there. It wasn't transplanted from the east or anything. That was very, very important.
“I've been advocating from the beginning that Perth should get a shot at hosting the finals of the United Cup. I think that is very important. That is where I think it belongs. And that is my opinion and I will stick to it.
“Perth needs to be heavily involved because that will make it easier for the WA public to get involved because they will feel ownership of it.”
There is a feeling of returning to a second home for McNamee in Nice this week given the success he enjoyed in the Cote D’Azur region during his playing days.
A hub for tennis in the south of France that has hosted Davis Cup and ATP and WTA Tour events, it is a tennis region with an extremely rich tradition.
The 68-year-old was a beaten finalist in singles by Emilio Sanchez in 1986 and also reached a doubles final in the city as well in between several successes on the world tour.
“I happened to play really well at that site, at the club in Nice, so I know it really, really well. I have played well in singles and doubles there,” he said.
“I will take my wife Elly to the Monte Carlo Country Club for lunch as well, to see it, because Macca and I won there as well.
“The French Riviera is not a bad place for the Hopman Cup to be resurrected. It is all good.”
McNamee, who now spends half of his year in Bulgaria with Elly, is busy on the court with Su-Wei and also talented young Bulgarian player Yanaki Melev who is progressing well.
He formulated the McNamee Pro Team after the pandemic and is enjoying assisting talents at both ends of the professional spectrum in experience and age.
“It's nice to be able to help a young guy there who has gone from 1100 at the start of the year to 500 so far this year, so he is on his way. He has only just turned 19,” he said.
“If I could help an Aussie, well I've got a bit of doubles knowledge, I think, and I know my way around a clay court, so I am open to whatever.
“It is nice to think you can make a contribution and pass on whatever knowledge you have.
Anyone would like to do that in any profession. I am enjoying passing on some clay court expertise, some doubles expertise, because those are the two things I really focus on.”