Mats Wilander speaks exclusively to GiveMeSport about his nomadic coaching quest, with a visit to Wimbledon on the horizon...
In the 1980s, Mats Wilander was at the pinnacle of his professional tennis career. The Swede won seven Grand Slam singles titles, on three different surfaces, in three different continents as he ascended to world No.1.
But while a number of his contemporaries have joined forces with some of the sport's current stars, Wilander has abandoned the professional game and all of the fame and fortune it entails, to drive around North America in a Winnebago with his partner Cameron Lickle, giving private tennis lessons to those who call.
"We set up 'Wilander on Wheels' (WOW) four and a half years ago. The idea is to take the old tennis fantasy camps, into peoples' back yards, to their own tennis courts," he explains.
"In our sessions, there are only eight people on two courts, four people per court. We do three or four, one and a half hour sessions a day. We then have lunch with everybody, sometimes dinner too and then we throw our stuff into our recreational vehicle and drive to the next place. And yes, we sleep in our vehicle."
Over the last four years, Wilander estimates that WOW has visited thousands of budding tennis players and fans at around 320 tennis clubs.
Wilander's modest living conditions mirror his temperament, and despite all of his success, the Swede has never lost touch with the game he loves, and more importantly, all of the people who share his passion.
"I had been doing the real tennis fantasy camps. I got to stay in the really nice hotels on a exotic island. I would fly in on a aeroplane, stay three or four nights and only see the players participating in the actual tennis camp.
"The expense for the participants is astronomical, with all the airline tickets and hotels and I have seen enough hotels and enough airports in my life. But until now, I have not been able to camp around North America, meet it's people and see it's beautiful landscape.
"The rewards come with meeting new people everyday, playing tennis with players who are really enthusiastic about the game and if we can help them enjoy the game a little more and get a bit of energy into the members of the clubs, it is good for the sport, and it is certainly good for us."
But the dynamic duo are not confining themselves to the US, they have already made appearances at the French and Australian Open. They will return to Roland Garros later this month, before they visit Wimbledon in June for the first time.
"We will be conducting a clinic at Wimbledon," revealed Wilander. We want to reach as many people as possible, to help the game of tennis."
But for those of you unable to attend WOW's Wimbledon, you can gain some of Wilander's invaluable tennis insight by reading one of his books, featured on the WOW website: http://wilanderonwheels.com
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