Paul Dale has been one of the best tennis coaches in Asia, based mostly in Thailand and guiding the likes of Paradorn Srichaphan and Danai Udomchoke over the years.
A professional coach from the Peter Burwash International in New Zealand, Dale had assisted Indian tennis as far back as in 1991-92, at the Britannia Amritraj Tennis (BAT) Centre in Chennai, guiding the likes of Anirban Baruah, Sharad Kohli and Vikrant Chadha in their junior days.
The BAT may have closed some time back, but Dale’s association with Indian tennis continues. He has been coaching the 18-year-old Karunuday Singh for about a year and half. He has been travelling with him to the tournaments in the United States and has visited Delhi, after a two-tournament stint in Thailand.
Watching Karunuday qualify for the main draw and then seeing him capitalising on a lucky turn in the form of a lucky-loser opponent instead of the top-seeded Vishnu Vardhan, made the coach make some valid observations about tennis in general.
In fact, Paul Dale has been planning a television programme, a reality show, in collaboration with ESPN, which would be a source of education for the players in the region. Srichaphan is expected to play a significant role as a guide in the serial, and the shooting is planned to be done at his centre.
“You have to analyse properly and get to the root of the problem, whether it is physical, technical or mental,” says the New Zealander.
“The human brain is very complicated. You can correct a lot of things, but the players have to grow up mentally. It is a hard thing to teach,” he says.
A coach who has been the captain of the Thailand Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams over the years, and has ample experience of guiding the national teams in SEA Games, Asian Games etc., Dale has been responsible in taking Srichaphan from 520 in the world to No. 80. Thereafter, it was Srichaphan’s father who doubled up as his coach to see the brilliant lad become one of Asia’s best ever, with a career high ranking of No. 9.
“Everybody wants to have an edge, and we are trying to guide players get the edge with good analysis,” he says. Karunuday had beaten Yuki Bhambri in a junior event some years back at the national level, and has been working hard to be an attacking all-round player, looking at long term growth rather than short term results.
Thanks to the guidance of Dale, Karunuday has been able to hit with the Asian Games champion Udomchoke a few times during his training stints in Thailand, at the world class national tennis centre.
“Some players don’t have the desire to excel, while some players struggle to cope with the level of expectations. You have got to figure it out and tackle it well,” says Dale.
Tennis has become a mental game, and coaches like Dale are sincerely trying to provide the edge, with their sound understanding of player psychology, as much as the mechanics of the game.