Andy Murray chose Amélie Mauresmo as his coach 'because she is good, not because she is a woman
Scot explains his choice after 6-4, 6-4 victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu at the Aegon Championships
In his first press conference since appointing Amélie Mauresmo as his coach, Andy Murray wanted to make one thing clear. On being asked, by a reporter from one of Britain's more traditional newspapers, about "the excitement of having a lady in your corner rather than a chap", the Scot responded: "Lady and chap? Man and woman. Let's stick with that."
The exchange, following Murray's 6-4, 6-4 victory over France's Paul-Henri Mathieu, produced plenty of guffaws in the interview room here at the Aegon Championships, but beneath the laughter there was a serious point. What should please anyone other than the most rabid of male chauvinists is the fact that Murray clearly considers Mauresmo's gender to be irrelevant.
"It's not something that I'm thinking about," Murray said. "I think it's more about the qualities that she can bring that will help me and my tennis, and my team as well. I hope it works out long-term because I like her. She's a good person."
Asked whether there were any advantages in having a female coach, Murray said: "Not every woman is the same. Not every man is the same, either. Every person has individual qualities."
He added: "It's about the total package that she can offer. She obviously achieved a lot in her career. She's a strong character as well. Away from the court it's really the communication and the relationship that you can build up with that person that is going to decide whether it's going to work long-term."
Andy Murray diving to make a shot on his way to a straight-sets victory over the Frenchman, Paul-Henri Mathieu (PA)
Murray and Mauresmo are working on a trial basis during the grass-court season, though both parties hope it will become a permanent arrangement. Murray said they had not agreed exactly how often she would travel with him but added it would be more than he had worked with Ivan Lendl, his previous coach, who did not attend many tournaments outside the Grand Slam events.
Anyone looking for outward signs of how the Murray-Mauresmo relationship might work would have been disappointed by their first public appearances. In their opening practice session this morning, Mauresmo stood watching beside the court but took no part. For the match itself she sat impassively alongside Dani Vallverdu, Murray's long-term friend and coaching assistant. They hardly exchanged a word and left the court together immediately after the end of the match.
"We spoke a bit about the match and the tactics and then chatted a little bit afterwards," Murray said. "There aren't going to be any big changes in my game this week and I wouldn't expect any before Wimbledon, but we'll definitely work on some things after the tournament is finished here.
"We will chat about the stuff that I will be working on over the next few days. Then when I get the chance to after the tournament is finished here I'll get four or five days of practice where I can work on some things."
The Scot was asked why he had chosen Mauresmo. "After I spoke to her the first time I just really liked her," he said. "She was calm. She asked a lot of questions. She listened. She listened a lot. I liked chatting to her, so then I decided to sit down and speak to her and had a good chat with her about tennis. I spoke to her a bit about my team and things I wanted to work on. I enjoyed speaking to her. She was very easy, very easy to talk to, easy to communicate with."
Although it has been warm and sunny this week, the courts here still have plenty of moisture in them. Murray and Mathieu were both initially cautious with their movement and their match quickly developed into a typical grass-court contest. Serves dominated, lengthy rallies were rare and there were only two breaks, both by Murray.
When the world No 5 broke serve in the opening game he might have expected a relatively quick contest, but Mathieu held firm and forced him to serve out for the first set. Mathieu was under pressure in most of his service games and at 3-3 in the second set Murray made what proved to be his decisive move, the Frenchman hitting a backhand long on break point.
Murray, playing his first grass-court match of the year, served his way out of trouble when 15-40 down in the next game. Mathieu then saved a first match point at 3-5 by forcing Murray into a forehand error and a second in the following game with a backhand winner down the line, only for the Scot to hit the same shot on the next point to complete his victory.
Asked about the transition from clay courts to grass, Murray said: "The hardest part is actually getting used to the movement. Your body gets used to sliding into shots and that starts to become natural. You have to stop yourself from doing it because it's a really bad habit to get into on the grass."
Radek Stepanek will be Murray's third-round opponent this afternoon. It will be their first meeting on grass since Murray's debut year at Wimbledon in 2005, when the then 18-year-old bridged a gap of 299 places in the world rankings to beat the Czech in straight sets.
Stanislas Wawrinka, the top seed, took just 16 minutes to book his place in the last 16 as Marcos Baghdatis retired with an injury after only five games. Ernests Gulbis, who was playing in the semi-finals of the French Open six days ago, was brought down to earth when he was beaten 7-6, 7-5 by the big-serving Frenchman Kenny de Schepper.
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