Andy Murray is to marry his long-term girlfriend, Kim Sears, but the news of their engagement broke on a day when the Scot announced the ending of two of his longest and strongest partnerships in tennis. Dani Vallverdu, one of Murray’s best friends and a key part of his coaching team, and Jez Green, one of his two fitness trainers, have both parted company with the World No 6.
Murray popped the question to Sears, his girlfriend of nine years, last Wednesday, which was presumably around the time he was also in talks with Vallverdu and Green. The departure of the two stalwarts underlines Murray’s faith in Amélie Mauresmo, who became his coach in the summer. John McEnroe said earlier this month that the Frenchwoman could hardly be called “a roaring success”, but Murray has always insisted that any coaching arrangement needs time.
Although his season picked up with his qualification for the year-end championships in London, Murray suffered his heaviest defeat for seven years when he won only one game against Roger Federer at the O2 Arena.
Vallverdu and Green were said in the summer to have been unhappy about Murray’s failure to consult them before he appointed Mauresmo. Although they stayed in the team and were believed to have patched up any differences, Mauresmo’s arrival has changed the dynamics within his entourage.
Murray has always had a ruthless streak with regard to his personnel, even when it means dispensing with individuals who are close friends. Alex Corretja, Miles Maclagan and Mark Petchey all discovered that friendship with Murray is not a continuing guarantee of employment.
Vallverdu, nevertheless, had appeared to be in a different category. He has been close friends with Murray since their teenage years together at the Sanchez Casal Academy in Barcelona. Vallverdu has played Davis Cup tennis for Venezuela and partnered Murray in the doubles at Queen’s Club in 2008, but when he joined the Scot’s entourage five years ago he was principally a hitting partner.
When Murray worked with Lendl, however, Vallverdu assumed greater responsibilities. Lendl did not attend all of Murray’s tournaments by any means and would liaise by telephone with Vallverdu, whom he rated highly.
However, with Mauresmo agreeing to travel with Murray for 25 weeks next year, which is considerably more than Lendl did, Vallverdu had been set to play a less prominent role.
Nevertheless, when Murray was asked about his coaching situation in recent weeks he had repeatedly stressed that Mauresmo was not his only coach. Vallverdu, 28, is unlikely to be out of work for long given the wealth of experience he has had working with Murray.
While the Scot is already looking for a replacement for Vallverdu, he may not replace Green, whose departure is perhaps a sign of a change of strategy as Murray enters a new phase of his career. Green has been given much of the credit for Murray’s durability and strength, but the last 18 months have been challenging for the whole team after the Scot underwent back surgery in September last year.
Although Murray appears to have regained his former fitness, he was concerned by the severe cramping he suffered at the US Open at the end of the summer.
He has put great emphasis on his training blocks and lengthy periods of practice in recent years, but is considering playing more tournaments in the future, which could require changes in his physical preparation. After the US Open this autumn he played six weeks in a row, winning three titles in the process.
A statement issued by Murray’s management company insisted that the departures of Vallverdu and Green had been by mutual agreement. Murray said: “We sat down at the end of the season and decided that a change would be best for all of us. My off-season training and Australian Open preparations have already begun and I am very excited for the new year. I thank Jez and Dani for all their hard work over the years and wish them the best for the future.”
Murray is currently in the Philippines to play in the International Premier Tennis League, which begins tomorrow. He will fly to Miami next week for his winter training block, where he will work with Mauresmo, his fitness coach, Matt Little, and his physiotherapist, Mark Bender.
Murray starts the 2015 season at an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, where he kicks off against Gaël Monfils on New Year’s Day.
Team Murray: How the line-up has changed
Dani Vallverdu (assistant coach) Long-time friend and hitting partner who took on more coaching responsibilities during Ivan Lendl’s time with Murray
Jez Green (strength and conditioning coach) Was part of Team Murray for seven years, joining after the Scot’s split with Brad Gilbert
Who’s still in
Amélie Mauresmo (tennis coach) Appointed in June in succession to Lendl. Will travel 25 weeks with Murray next year
Matt Little (strength and conditioning coach) Has been with Murray for seven years, sharing tournament duties until now with Green
Mark Bender (physiotherapist) Joined Team Murray last year as replacement for his long-term physio, Andy Ireland
Shane Annun (physiotherapist) Has worked with the team part-time since October
Matt Gentry (agent) Started working with Murray when the Scot joined Simon Fuller’s XIX company. Now MD of 77, a sports-management business set up by Murray with backing from Fuller last year
Ugo Colombini (consultant) Experienced Italian who negotiates appearance fees at tournaments and liaises with exhibition events
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