From being paralyzed by shame to coaching Serena Williams

 Aimee Lewis

Patrick Mouratoglou likes stress. He craves it. The man Serena Williams credits for taking her from "great to history" is not one to rest. He can't. Boredom would quickly smother the Frenchman were he to ever take it easy. The 47-year-old's pulse used to quicken when he would watch Williams, one of history's greatest champions, compete. That was pressure. That was adrenaline. He loved it.

But with his pupil on maternity leave, deep into her third trimester, the coach has to now find the buzz, the rush, from elsewhere, though nothing can truly compare to helping Williams rewrite the record books. Even live television interviews do not make the heart race, for the Parisian is as comfortable on screen as the rest of us would be sunbathing on a beach.

"You can check my pulse before and after, I am the same," he says, fresh from a live appearance on a British breakfast television programme. "I find a way to have stress because I need it. I did TV during the French Open and I told the guy 'make me do things I've never done before.'"This summer marks his fifth as Williams' coach and so, naturally, he has become accustomed to the attention that comes with working alongside the world's most recognizable female athlete, a player who has danced in a Beyonce music video and been a tennis superstar for almost two decades.

Once describing being afraid as a "disaster," Mouratoglou also has no fear, which was a useful trait when confronted by Williams' father, Richard, shortly after the 23-time grand slam champion had appointed the Frenchman as her coach.

Never before had the American worked with someone not sanctioned by her family. The father, the engineer behind Serena and sister Venus' success, needed to be swayed. He was quickly converted and Williams' decision to broaden her horizons proved to be a masterstroke. Mouratoglou can list Williams' achievements since their partnership began as easily as someone ordering takeaway from a favorite restaurant: 10 grand slam titles, two Olympic golds and a three-and-a-half year stint at the top of the world rankings.

But both he and Williams, he says, are the same characters they were before their alliance. "I don't think she's changed me or I've changed her," Mouratoglou, who describes himself as a person of extremes, tells CNN. "I have more exposure clearly than before, but it's also deserved because we did so well. "When you're with Serena you have a lot of exposure, people look at you different, probably. I'm not saying that they should, but it's a normal process."

It is just before midday on a glorious London summer's day and Mouratoglou has already been interviewed 15 times in the last 24 hours, a number that will only increase in the hours ahead as he promotes his autobiography "The Coach," which is now available in English. He has had little sleep. His lack of shut-eye, he says, is a combination of boundless media commitments and late-night socializing with friends in England's capital. He gladly accepts a cup of so-so office-made coffee, although outwardly he doesn't appear to need an injection of caffeine. Wearing a jacket, white shirt and a pocket square, he is the personification of exemplary Gallic tailoring.

And though 30 minutes early for the interview, he doesn't use the spare time to pause. Instead, the loquacious Frenchman is happy to talk at length about Williams -- her pregnancy, her return -- and his rise from an anxious, unhappy child to one of tennis' best coaches. This is a strange time for the father-of-four. He is at Wimbledon with no student to teach, but this summer, he says, is just the interval before one of the sport's most successful partnerships resumes next year.

Mouratoglou did not know Williams was pregnant during the Australian Open in January, a tournament she won without dropping a set, but the news did not come as a surprise because the player had, he says, been looking forward to becoming a mother "for quite a long time." Ever since Williams announced in May that she was pregnant, the 35-year-old -- the oldest player to ever be a world No.1, the most relentless accumulator of grand slam titles in nearly 50 years -- has maintained she will play tennis competitively again.

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Domain: Afterhours
Category: Sports
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