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MELBOURNE – Canadian Rob Steckley was a very good junior player who struggled in the pro ranks, peaking at No. 464 in the singles rankings through about a decade of slogging it out on the minor-league circuit.
He was known to be a pretty good hitting partner a few years back. And it turns out that he's a pretty good coach, as well.
Steckley, 34, has done good work with Czech lefty Lucie Safarova the last couple of years and although her singles effort was a disappointment (the No. 16 seed lost, 8-6 in the third set, to Yaroslava Shvedova in the first round), Safarova and American Bethanie Mattek-Sands capped off their Australian Open by taking the women's double title Friday.
Unseeded, they defeated No. 14 seeds Yung-Jan Chan of Taipei and Zheng Jie of China 6-4, 7-6 (5). It was the first time they had even played together; Steckley and Mattek-Sands's husband, Justin, are good friends and it started from there.
Steckley's coaching career began with Aleksandra Wozniak back in 2009. As it happened, she had her best moments during that period, winning her first and so far only WTA Tour title in Stanford, and reaching her career high ranking of No. 21.
Later, he worked with India's Sania Mirza for several years. Before that, he had the Frank Dancevic experience.
During the summer of 2012 in Montreal, with a baby on the way in January, Steckley wasn't looking for a travelling coaching gig. But he and Safarova worked together during the U.S. summer circuit, including the Rogers Cup in Montreal, as her coach at the time, Biljana Veselinovic, attended to other matters.
He said then he was the perfect choice because he wasn't a threat to a current coach, given he was happy just to fill in temporarily.
The two hit it off, no doubt about it.
Towards the end of the 2013 season, when Safarova was in the market for a full-time coach, they teamed up.
Their on-court coaching consults can, at times, be comedy gold.
Steckley is a pretty loose individual (to say the least) and Safarova is wound pretty tightly, something that hurts her at times. She's a big talent. Perhaps that's why it works well.