As she approached the possibility of a fourth surgery on her ankle, Anna Tatishvili faced the tough decision that many professional athletes must face at one point in their careers: continue to work through rehab and play through pain, or hang it up.
“It was towards the end of 2019, I was rehabbing and trying to get myself back onto the tour,” recalls Tatishvili. “I was planning on playing some tournaments, but my ankle was still bad. I had already had three surgeries, and my doctor said I needed a fourth. It was then I knew I was done. I didn’t want to have a fourth surgery just to try and hang around.”
Tatishvili made the decision to retire from competitive tennis, and began sharpening up her resume. She was living in Boca Raton, Fla. at the time, and knew she wanted to continue working in tennis in some capacity.
After sending her resume out to a number of tennis clubs and academies across the country, Tatishvili interviewed at The Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in the Bronx. Both parties knew it was a fit right away, and Tatishvili was hired as the Associate Director of High Performance and Adult Programming. Tatishvili knew that coaching was something she wanted to do as she wound down her playing career, and is thrilled to still be working in tennis.
“Over the last few years of my career, before I officially retired, I was injured a lot and was having a lot of surgeries,” said Tatishvili. “During that time, I was thinking about what I was going to do next if this didn’t work out. I knew I wanted to stay in tennis, and even when I was hurt, I was still going to the court and helping my coach out with his other students. I got into the mindset then that when I was done, I am going to go into coaching. The transition has been very smooth.” She had a unique connection to the Cary Leeds Center, which is the flagship home the New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL).
Growing up, her mentor was Gene Scott, the famous tennis journalist and one of the founders of NYJTL, whom she met when she was 10-years-old at the Orange Bowl Championships in Florida.
Although Scott passed away more than a decade ago, his wife Polly still sits on the NYJTL board, and upon hearing the news that Tatishvili was hired at the Cary Leeds Center, reached out to connect with her.
“Life is a strange thing,” said Tatishvili. “Who knew that 20 years after meeting Gene, that little girl with big dreams would work for the organization that he helped create...Polly reached out to me and sent me a nice e-mail to welcome me. It was really emotional for me, and it’s just funny how life works out sometimes.”
Tatishvili has been integral in helping to grow the Cary Leeds Center Academy under longtime Director Jay Devashetty, which was launched last year.
“Anna has been a tremendous asset to the programs and players here at the Cary Leeds Center,” said Devashetty. “The players have been lucky to be able to gain from not only her knowledge of the game but also how to deal with the ups and downs of playing high level tennis. Anna is very methodical and nurturing with the way she communicates and works with the players which translates into developing players who are well rounded and have the skill set to maximize their potential.”
As a former Top 50 player in the world who had much success as a professional, Tatishvili has brought a fresh perspective to her coaching, and has been crucial in the development of the Academy’s top players.
“One of the biggest things I bring is my experience. When I’m teaching, I understand what the players are feeling or what are they going through, because I was there,” she said. “When they say to me that they are nervous before a big match, I can relate to that because I experienced the same thing.”
In all, Tatishvili won 11 singles titles and eight doubles titles on the ITF tour, and scored several major victories over the world’s best during her playing days, including a win over current world number one Ash Barty. Her most memorable match came in her WTA Tour debut in Miami, where she knocked off Sania Mirza.
“I got a wild card into Miami, I was only 16-years-old and it was a night match. The stadium was packed,” she recalls. “I was training at the Evert Academy at the time, and all the kids from the academy were there cheering me on. It was an intense match, I won 7-6 in the third and we finished around 1:00 a.m. The kids from the academy were all screaming my name, it was amazing. That match always stands out to me when I look back, and I will always remember that.”
It’s from those moments that Tatishvili derives her coaching strength. Her ability to relate with kids, and convey her experiences to them allows them to connect on a level that leads to proper player development.
“I love coaching, because I can tell my player a minor detail, a minor fix, but if it makes the slightest impact, then it’s a win,” she said. “That’s what really motivates me. It can be something technical, or a mental thing I notice, but it’s about picking up those little details when you are on the court. It’s about helping people get better on a daily basis, and that’s what I enjoy the most.
Now a permanent New Yorker, Tatishvili lives in Midtown Manhattan. Even before taking the job at Cary Leeds Center, she was familiar with the city. She has an aunt that lives in Queens, and as a player, would travel to the U.S. Open on a yearly basis. In addition, during her last rehab stint following ankle surgery, she did her rehab at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, and trained at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens.
“That summer I really fell in love with New York City,” she said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t like it before, but after living here, once they offered me the job at Cary Leeds Center, moving to New York permanently was an easy decision to make.”
Tatishvili is now focused on finishing her college education, in addition to her coaching duties. She is in her senior year and is pursuing a degree in communications, and is set to graduate next May. Learning is something she has always enjoyed, and the goal has always been to get better each day.
“As a player, you need to develop every day, and the same thing goes for being a coach. The game is always evolving, so it’s important you stay on top of that, and so I do a lot of studying. There is something you can learn every day.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org