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Semarang born Dutch American trainer delivers tennis’ aces

Lansdorp coached Sharapova and Davenport

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ROLLING HILLS, California - ‘Trainer of the Stars’. It is a slogan Robert Lansdorp justifiably could adopt to promote his services. Instead, the 65 year old Dutch American keeps the lettering on his favourite T shirt limited to ‘guru,’ although the shirt, and not so subtly, also advertises his website. Lansdorp has been training Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova since 1998.

Lansdorp has been the coach of such tennis players as Pete Sampras and Lindsay Davenport since the 1970s. His current charge is 17 year old Siberian talent Maria Sharapova, the surprise winner of the women’s singles title at this year’s Wimbledon. He also is the coach of Russian Anastasia Myskina, winner of this year’s French Open. Other players in Lansdorp’s stable include Estelle La Porte (15). The tennis wizard website has ranked Lansdorp as the third best coach ever.

Although he had contemplated to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1962, Robert was recruited with a scholarship by Pepperdine University because of his tennis prowess, already evident when he still lived in the Netherlands. Building on his reputation, he became a tennis coach in San Diego in 1967. Three years later he was appointed head pro at the Jack Kramer Club in Rolling Hills Estates, California. There, he took young Tracy Austin under his wings, who went on to win the U.S. Open twice.

An extreme hard taskmaster, Lansdorp is known for his ability to mould young players, with a Dutch saying in the back of his mind: ‘Wie niet horen wil moet voelen.’ Such an experience refers to Lansdorp’s exhaustive training and drill sergeant like repetitive exercises.

Born in Semarang in the Dutch East Indies, Lansdorp, his siblings and his mother escaped internment in Japanese camps likely because his mother confused the Japanese with a fake Danish passport. Lansdorp’s father spent most of the Japanese occupation era in a concentration camp however.

After August 1945, the Lansdorps during the uprising of the nationalists hid for months in a former prison camp. In 1947, they were repatriated to the Netherlands. They briefly tried to re establish themselves in Jakarta again. In 1960, the Lansdorp family immigrated to California.