REPORT – Near Nice, Patrick Mouratoglou, coach of tennis champions including Serena Williams, founded a French and international school, with a college and a secondary school. Students train with the best players.
On this Monday in June, the sun warms up on the 34 tennis courts that make up the Mouratoglou Academy, in the heart of Sophia-Antipolis (Alpes-Maritimes). While teenagers train hard to switch balls, other youngsters review the bac and patent, at the end of the central court, of course in a building in colored clay. Here students grow up in an idyllic environment. “The weather is the best in France. It’s perfect for tennis.”, says Patrick Mouratoglou, who trained champion Serena Williams for ten years. But strict. “Our students have the same mentality. They want to succeed. They are fulfilled and very sure of themselves. I see them all year round expressing their personality, their love for this place. I get a lot of satisfaction from it.”says the famous coach.
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In 1996, Patrick Mouratoglou embarked on an amazing project: to create a tailor-made school system, with flexible hours, from 6th to 12th grade. “As a child I would have loved to have had such a school. My parents never wanted me to sacrifice my studies for tennis. I wanted young people to be able to reconcile those two., says the 52-year-old coach with clear eyes, tall, slender and of course athletic. The best tennis players in the world, the coach knows them well. He also coached Marcos Baghdatis from the age of 13, as well as Stéfanos Tsitsipas or Grigor Dimitrov. He has been coaching the great Romanian Simona Halep since April.
A French and international university
The Mouratoglou International School is a private, non-contractual institution and offers two different courses. One is taught in French and responds to the program of the Ministry of National Education. The other is modeled after the American program, for international students. “Hello how are you?”, launch the students in the hallways, on the ground floor of the school. And the school results are also exceptional: with the patent the success rate is 100%, with a mention rate of 78%. At the baccalaureate degree, only one candidate has not had it since 2016, reducing the success rate for 73% of the entries to 98%.
For Maxence, 18, in senior year, the Mouratoglou Academy is an opportunity. “I came in 4th grade. I have always felt the need for a balance between study and sport, because I believe it allows you to become aware of your body and develop your mind. Such a rhythm also inculcates values such as surpassing yourself and perseverance., explains the young man, who loves tennis and athletics. Living in such an environment is a dream. In total, 12 hectares make up the Mouratoglou Resort, which surrounds the Mouratoglou Academy, including a hotel with a racket-shaped swimming pool, a restaurant, a reception with a fine sandy beach. A final building at the bottom of the complex is dedicated to the players’ families. “The family of Stéfanos Tsitsipas lives there. But also some parents who have decided to follow their young children at school.explains the Mouratoglou Academy.
A strict program
In total, 200 students of 45 different nationalities are enrolled in the college or secondary school. Three quarters of them attend tennis studies, half the time in lessons and the other half in sports. At the boarding school, which is located above the classrooms, boys (two-thirds of the staff) and girls are separated. A governess directs the organization and the supervisors alternate day and night. A total of 38 teachers are employed. “The vast majority have at least ten years of experience”notes Stéphanie Anfosso, in a small classroom.
“It’s a tough program. You have to really work, have a project, quickly gain autonomy and be serious. It’s not easy for everyone”, specifies the director of the French school. To achieve the best success and provide the most personalized support possible, the school has chosen classes of only 10 to 15 students. A guarantee of success. “You learn faster”notes Maxence.
“In France, sport is not valued enough in higher education. In the United States, young athletes are almost seen as gods.Patrick Mouratoglou
Places are scarce and therefore expensive. A French and Mathematics test is required for the French school. For the international school it is a test of English and Mathematics. All students must pass an oral interview. Parents also have an appointment with the education team. Old bulletins, usually from the last two years, are requested. This all has a price. For a formula including lessons, 3 language reinforcement sessions and 3 sports sessions, the average annual amount is € 17,500. For the formula with all possibilities (intensive training, housing, canteen, lessons, etc.), families have to pay between 40,000 and 50,000 €.
United States goal
The aim is also to support high school students in continuing their studies at a university in the United States in particular. “In France, sport is not valued enough in higher education. It is the cross and banner to obtain arranged schemes. In the United States, young athletes are almost seen as gods.notes Patrick Mouratoglou, before joining Simona Halep to attend her training.
Fanny Fracasi is the director of university placement at the school. Its role is to support students throughout the application and selection process across the Atlantic. “There are 98% of students applying in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom. And 90% of them are accepted in the United States. We start together to put together their application file in 1. I will contact the American coaches, we will then negotiate the college scholarships. Finally, I prepare the admission file and help you find accommodation»describes the tennis player who graduated from the University of Tampa in Florida. “It would allow me to pursue higher education while pursuing my passion, tennis”, shares Mathis, 14, third grade student. San Diego, Princeton, Berkley, Columbia… The largest American institutions are in contact with the Mouratoglou Academy every year. “To confirm their choice and motivation, I take about fifteen students to the United States every year in February, during the holidays, for a week. They discover 4 to 6 universities, train, meet the coaches”concludes Fanny Fracasi, who organized a trip to Florida this year.