Andy Murray confirms appointment of Amélie Mauresmo following split with Ivan Lendl
Murray confirms that the partnership is a short-term one that will cover the grass court season
Andy Murray set a trend when he recruited Ivan Lendl as his coach two and a half years ago, making legendary former champions almost a must-have fashion item in the top players’ entourages, so perhaps we should now expect a flood of female appointments by the leading men. The rest of the sport will look on with fascination as Amélie Mauresmo takes up her post at this week’s Aegon Championships as the Scot’s coach.
Murray has always been prepared to think outside the box and for a Grand Slam champion to appoint a woman as his coach at the peak of his career is unparalleled in the history of men’s tennis. Women have coached men in the past, but they have nearly always been either family members, such as Jimmy Connors’ mother Gloria, or coaches who have worked with their players from an early age.
Having appointed Lendl because he correctly thought he could help him over the final hurdle at Grand Slam tournaments, Murray now believes that Mauresmo can bring the best out of him in the next stage of his career. The 27-year-old Scot knows how to win Grand Slam titles. What he needs now is someone who can keep him at the top of the game. A fresh voice and a new approach could be just what he needs.
That Murray is the first top player to appoint a woman coach should perhaps be no surprise. There are people in the men’s game who look down on women’s tennis, but Murray has never been one of them.
Mauresmo worked with 2013 women's Wimbledon champions Marion Bartoli
Here at the French Open the Scot talked glowingly about Taylor Townsend, a hugely talented 18-year-old American. While some wanted to emphasise Townsend’s physical appearance, Murray talked about her tennis. Billie Jean King told Murray on Twitter recently that his positive comments about female players had not gone unnoticed.
Judy Murray, the Scot’s mother, coached him in his early years and still plays a huge role in his tennis life. It would be a safe assumption that she was closely consulted over Mauresmo’s appointment.
For both Murray and Mauresmo, the fact that she is a woman is of no great relevance. “I obviously worked with my mum for a long time and then even for periods when I was 16 or 17 years old,” Murray said. “For me it doesn’t feel like a very different thing. Obviously I wasn’t paying my mum so it’ll be a little bit different this time around because I’ll be employing Amélie.”
Mauresmo said she was not interested in the fact that she would be a woman coaching a male player. “All I’m interested in is being able to help him in his goals,” she said. “I think he’s maybe looking for something different, about emotions and sensitive things.”
She added: “The whole point is for him to win more Grand Slams. Of course he’s going to defend his title at Wimbledon. That’s his No 1 priority. It’s not going to be something easy. I’ll help him as best I can.”
Murray made the first approach to Mauresmo some weeks ago. “I spoke to her a few times on the phone and when I was in Paris I met her before the [French Open],” he said. “We chatted a little bit about it, whether she’d be up for doing it. There was a will from both sides to give it a go and see how it works out. We’ll try during the grass-court tournaments and, hopefully, we’ll both enjoy it.”
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, his parents Judy and Will and his girlfriend Kim Sears pose at Buckingham Palace
Mauresmo said that coaching was not necessarily the path she had wanted to follow when she retired. Asked by a French journalist why she would not be coaching a French player, she said no one had asked her.
The former world No 1 was asked about the pressure that would be on her. “I think he has the most pressure,” she said. “That’s for sure when you’re a player, and I know what it is. You have huge pressure on your shoulders. This will remain this way. Yes, it will change my life a little bit but I’m passionate about this sport. I love challenges. I guess I like to put myself on the line at some point and see what I can do.”
Murray stressed the importance of good communication. Mauresmo, a kind and warm person who is respected throughout tennis, is the sort of character to whom Murray responds well.
“Amélie is someone I have always looked up to and admired,” Murray said. “She’s faced adversity plenty of times in her career, but was an amazing player and won major titles, including Wimbledon.
“I have a very strong coaching team already in place, but I think Amélie brings with her experience and tactical expertise and will push us all to improve. Everyone I know talks very highly of Amélie, as a person and coach, and I’m convinced that her joining the team will help us push on. I want to win more Grand Slams.” Former French tennis player Amelie Mauresmo gives a press conference during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris
Mauresmo, who won two Grand Slam titles, described Murray as “an amazingly talented tennis player” and added: “I feel I have plenty to offer both him and the team around him.”
Like Murray, Mauresmo enjoyed her greatest success later in her career, winning her first Grand Slam at the 2006 Australian Open, when she was 26. She was significantly smaller than many of her rivals, but had a great variety of shots and strategies. Unlike most modern players, she was happy to venture forward and volley, which she demonstrated in her finest moment when beating Justine Henin to win Wimbledon in 2006.
In her early years Mauresmo had to contend with barbed comments after she acknowledged, at the age of just 19 when she was playing at the Australian Open, that she was gay. Lindsay Davenport, having lost to her, said it was like “playing a guy”, while Martina Hingis, said the Frenchwoman was “half a man”.
For a while Mauresmo struggled to cope with the attention around her, but the French public always loved her for her intelligence, wit and independent nature. She is knowledgeable about tennis but is just as comfortable discussing football, wine or politics. When playing in the US she happily explained her disapproval of the war in Iraq. How long before she is asked her first question about Scottish independence?
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