It's Scotland's top coach v Scotland's top player...
A coach who has the future of Scottish tennis in his hands will today aim to plot the downfall of the country's greatest player. Marcel du Coudray, who is head coach of the Scottish Tennis Academy in Edinburgh, has been helping Nikolay Davydenko for the last six years and will be in the Russian's corner for his first-round match this afternoon against Andy Murray.
Du Coudray, a South African, has assisted Davydenko on an ad hoc basis ever since they met at a tournament in Poland in 2006. "I did a training block with him in December, but more often it's just about meeting him on tour and talking through technical issues," Du Coudray said. "He's a very good athlete and moves incredibly well. He has an undimmed desire to be a better player and has a great work ethic."
Davydenko, a former world No 3 who won the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals when the event was first staged at London's O2 Arena three years ago, has struggled with his fitness in recent years and is now No 47 in the world rankings. However, the 31-year-old Russian, who is quick around the court and makes up for his lack of power by striking the ball exceptionally early, has beaten Murray (pictured) four times in their nine career meetings.
"These guys play each other so much that the process is not about coming up with an innovative strategy, it's about reinforcing what Nikolay does well and minimising his failings," Du Coudray said. "If Nikolay plays well then Andy will have to worry about him. If Andy plays well, then it's Nikolay who will have to worry."
Du Coudray said that Murray's example was an inspiration for the young Scots he coaches. "Andy has simply and effectively provided a lot of motivation," he said. "There are a lot of promising young tennis players in Scotland. I believe there are Scots who will make tennis their professional career, and then there is another generation coming through on the back of it."
Murray, who has reached the semi-finals here for the last three years, could face some major tests in subsequent rounds against big servers, but said he would be "stupid" to look beyond Davydenko. "I won't be making that mistake," he said. "He was in the top four or five players for a number years. He's won some big events. He's won the Tour Finals. He's won Masters Series. It's going to be a tough match. He hasn't played so well this year, but he has a lot of experience."
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