Andy Murray grew up idolising Andre Agassi.It would be overstating the point to say the feeling is mutual, but the American is a huge admirer of the Scot. "If you gave me his game I would be sick if I didn't win a Slam," Agassi said here yesterday.
Although the two men were born 17 years apart, there are connections. Brad Gilbert coached them both and Murray is now working with Darren Cahill, who guided Agassi through the latter stages of his career. Agassibelieves the Australian is the perfect coach to bring the best out of Murray, although the part-time nature of the relationship – Cahill's time is limited because of TV commitments and his work with other Adidas players – is not ideal. Cahill worked with Murray during the best clay-court season of the Scot's career, culminating in his run to the French Open semi-finals, but was not able to spend time with him during the tournament
Agassi said: "I think Andy should have somebody full-time, but I think he should have the guidance of somebody who has been there and has got the most out of people's games. That's why I chose Darren at the stage of my career that I was at. I saw what he did with Lleyton Hewitt, who never made a bad decision on the court and maximised his offensive game the second he had a chance. He didn't have a lot of firepower, but he maximised it. I see the same issue with Andy Murray."
Agassi, who is here to support the Longines Future Tennis Aces junior tournament, believes Cahill can help Murray to "play with a bit more urgency, not just rely on the great defensive skills that he has. He can snap the ball off both sides. He's one of the best returners the game has ever seen. His movement is at the top of the sport. I feel he just waits a little too long to impose himself – and you don't win these Slams without doing that. But I think what he's done here is to get right back on track, because after Australia and that disappointment [Murray lost the 2011 Australian Open final in straight sets to Novak Djokovic] the wheels came off. You could feel him derail. I think you're going to see a different player at Wimbledon. It's going to have its own emotional and mental dramas because of the pressure that he'll put on himself, that the country will put on his shoulders, but if you gave me his game I would be sick if I didn'twin a Slam. I really would."
Murray, who will team up with Cahill again next week, in the run-up to Wimbledon, said the Australian had been a significant factor in his return to form. "He's got a lot of experience and has worked with many different players," the world No 4 said. "He didn't just steam in and say, 'You need to do this, you need to do that,' and start telling everyone what to do. He spent a few days not really saying much, but he was figuring everyone out. He brought stability, which I needed. He's someone who has been around big events and he's someone who has played at a high level as well, so he knows how to deal with things emotionally, knows how a player feels. He's been great."
Murray reached the semi-finals here for the first time despite suffering a torn ankle tendon in his third-round match. He was taking up to 20 anti-inflammatory pills and pain-killers a day and he is not sure if he will be fit for this week's Aegon Championships at Queen's Club. Murray needs to decide the best course of preparation for Wimbledon, which starts in 15 days' time.
"When I wake up in the morning it's sore, but once I get going and start moving around it starts to feel better," he said. "Once I get a little bit tired I feel it again. It's OK, but you don't want to be playing on an OK ankle. I want it to be perfect for Wimbledon."
Murray said he would ask Chris Kermode, the tournament director at Queen's, for as late a start as possible, possibly on Wednesday. "I've always had a good relationship with Chris – I think he does a great job and they put on a great tournament," Murray said.
"For me, Queen's has always worked well in terms of preparation for Wimbledon. There are other ways to prepare but that's one that's proved good for me. There are so many good players there, so many tough matches.I've never found it that difficult going from the clay to grass, but this is the shortest period I'll have ever had to make the transition. I want to play. I love the tournament."
If Murray is forced to pull out of Queen's he could ask for a wild card at Eastbourne next week, though he prefers not to play a tournament in the week before a Grand Slam event. Another possibility would be to play one or two matches at next week's exhibition competitions, such as the Boodles event at Stoke Park.
"It's a tough one," Murray said. "I think exhibitions are good if you've played a few matches on the surface beforehand, but the adrenalin isn't there, the movement's not the same and you don't wake up the next morning feeling stiff and sore. By playing matches you can tell what you need to work on a lot better. I'd rather play a tournament than just exhibitions."
Novak Djokovic, who said that he needs to rest, has also pulled out of Queen's. Another pre-Wimbledon tournament counting the cost of the clay-court season is this week's Aegon Classic women's event at Edgbaston. The tournament's two highest ranked entries, Maria Sharapova and MarionBartoli, both pulled out after their defeats in the semi-finals here, through illness and injury respectively.