16 August 2022

Cédric Nouvel who is a director of HDN Tennis Academy in the south of France talked with us about his personal professional coaching experience on the WTA Tour and his transition to developing a high-performance tennis academy in Nîmes, France.

Stan (tennis-academies.com): I'm here with Cédric Nouvel, the director of HDN Academy in France. Hello, Cédric. Welcome.

Cédric (HDN Academy): Hi. Hello.

Stan: I invited you here, to know a bit more about you. About your tennis career and coaching career. And also about your activities in the academy. So why don't you introduce yourself, a bit, your history in tennis, and what you have done as a player, as a coach. It would be nice to hear from you.

Cédric: Okay. The first part of my tennis career, I was a player. And as we say in France, because of the French ranking, I was a good national player. I've been on the tour and my best ATP ranking was 683. But it was a long time ago. I'm 59, so at that time there were less players than now. But I was a decent player then.

BLG_Cedric_Nouvel_player_675ece8b1d.jpg Cedric's highest ATP ranking as a player was 683. Source: HDN Academy

I started to be a coach when I was around 20, mainly in Nîmes in the south of France and I had a lot of young players getting on the tour. I had some players ranked between 200 and 800 on WTA or ATP and my main player who I coached for 20 years, my main story as a coach, was with Virginie Razzano. I started to work with Virginie when she was seven. She was living in Nîmes. And we worked together for 20 years, so 7 to 27. And I was with her at her best WTA ranking. She was number 15 in the world.

So, I was on the tour with her for many years. Then, I had this academy in the south of France, where we built programs to help young players. We have a tennis club…

Stan: Sorry, That's what I wanted to ask as my next question. How did you go from WTA coaching to having your own academy? What was the idea behind that?

Cédric: For me, it was… the two stories started together. Virginie was a player in the academy so I was on tour with her and working at the academy at the same time.

BLG_Cedric_Nouvel_Cedric_with_Vriginie_Razzano_5afc6b3fb2.jpg Cedric led Virginie Razzano to No. 15 WTA. Source: HDN Academy

But my main objective in life as a coach was to work more in an academy to help young players and to work with the players between 10 to 20 when they want to reach the tour.

So, I really tried to build something in the academy. I had the chance to have a really nice place to do that. A lot of courts, covered courts, fitness area. We have rooms, we have a little school inside the academy. So we have built programs with the school and tennis practice in the same place at the same time. So, we have a lot of results with that, mainly in tennis, but also with the school, which is very important for me.

Stan: And the players coming to HDN Academy, what can they expect, apart from having everything in one place, from the tennis training and also regarding the atmosphere in the academy? Are you like a big academy or rather a smaller to mid-sized family academy?

Cédric: Uh, if we are looking at the size of the place, it's quite a big academy because we have 25 tennis courts. So the place is quite important. But then when somebody asks me and tells me, please, Cédric, can you tell me the difference between you and the other kind of academy, like Mouratoglou or All In Academy in France? And I always say, when the pupils come, they have the same place, high level quality, but also a very family-like atmosphere.

BLG_Cedric_Nouvel_students_f3004d31d8.jpg HDN Academy is like a big tennis family. Source: HDN Academy

A lot of our coaches who have been with us were in the tennis studies programs, became coaches in the academy, and were players before. So, really the coaches and people who work with us have been here for a long time. And so this is why probably there is this family atmosphere around the academy. So we have the two spirits, high level-excellence and a family one.

Stan: Trying to combine both, right?

Cédric: Yeah.

Stan: That's true. What is your main achievement with the academy, not just in terms of ranking or your players' success at tournaments, but in terms of development of the academy?

Cédric: If I'm speaking about the players, when we get players in the academy, the main objective is to help them understand that we are looking to build a life project. Meaning that however you play tennis, you must have something to bring with you when you leave the academy. For some of them, it will be playing on the tour, but not a lot of them because it's very hard. Then, we are also able to find scholarships for young players who want to go to university in the US. We are also working with business schools who specialize in sports business. And we also have some players who want to become coaches, be it fitness coaches or tennis coaches.

BLG_Cedric_Nouvel_HDN_Team_e19062ec87.jpg Some of the past players have become coaches in the academy. Source: HDN Academy

So, we are following all kinds of projects inside the academy, with the young coming first. We have around 40 full time players and we really want to be able to build a bridge between tennis studies - an important part of our young players’ lives - to their life projects in the future.

Stan: And is this kind of program open just for French players, or do you also have international players in your academy?

Cédric: At this time, we have mainly French players. Something like 80, 85% of our players are French. And, as for our school system, the school is inside the academy, with face to face teaching and it is the French system. But we also can build programs with online schools in English for international players.

Stan: Great. And what kind of short and long term programs does your academy offer? You mentioned studies. So can you describe a bit more your short term options and also annual studies and training?

Cédric: Yes, you can have both. I mean, really, you can have two kinds of programs, the short term programs that we see, for example, during the summer , what we call summer camps, which can be between around one week to one month. This is mainly what the players are choosing.

We really try to have programs for every kind of player. But probably the main programs and the one which makes the difference in our academy is the short term programs with both practice and tournaments, because we are building a program where the competitions, the tournaments is very important because we are trying to get the information from the competitions, from the matches to organize and to help the players to improve during the practice. And this is really a very nice program which the young players like and love a lot.

And then we have long term programs that can be for players between 10 to 18 or 19 years old, programs with studying and tennis practice inside the academy. And we also have players who play only tennis. They stopped the school for one year or two and they try to reach the Tour. They are good players. So we are practicing with them, helping them to improve and also helping them to get their first points and to start on the Tour.

Stan: Okay. Sounds interesting. And because I know you are quite a busy man, I would like to thank you for your time. And my last question would be, what is your usual day, if ever there is any kind of usual day for you, or is every day different?

Cédric: Yes, there is not a usual day because we are HDN. :-) I mean, like we tell the players on the courts, you have to react appropriately to what the day offers you. I mean, adaptation. We say adaptation for the players, It's also an adaptation for me.

But what we can say is, I'm a lucky man because my day is not always the same. I'm working with coaches who love tennis. I'm working with players who love tennis. And my work is really made up of a lot of things. I mean, I'm on the court because I'm the coach at that moment. Also, I'm at the office managing the team and trying to find new solutions. So it's very different every day. And this is why this is a very interesting job.

Stan: Okay. Sounds great. Thank you for your time. And yeah, happy to hear from you like this. I hope it will help other players to know a bit more about your academy and how you do things there.

Cédric: You're welcome. Bye bye.

BLG_Cedric_Nouvel_on_court_coaching_6c0bd1676f.jpg Cedric has been always able to combine running the academy and coaching.Source: HDN Academy


Stan is the founder of tennis-academies.com. He has been playing tennis since he was 3 years old and worked in organizing teams at professional tennis events (ATP Tour, Fed Cup, Laver Cup).

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