Murray saunters through as LTA prepares to break bank for Gilbert

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The Independent Online

Roger Draper, the Lawn Tennis Association's new chief executive, talked yesterday morning about his willingness to help to fund the recruitment of Brad Gilbert as Andy Murray's new coach. By the end of the day he must have been wondering whether the £500,000-a-year investment is necessary as Murray worked out his own way to record a hugely impressive first-round victory here over Nicolas Massu.

Murray beat the Olympic champion and world No 33 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 53 minutes with a typically intelligent display of deft drop shots and wrong-footing groundstrokes. Murray, who next plays Bjorn Phau or Julien Benneteau, called it "definitely the best match I've played on grass".

The 19-year-old Scot, who reached the third round here 12 months ago, was in control from the start. He did not drop a point until the third game, won the first five games in just 17 minutes and had the first set sewn up six minutes later. Murray broke in the third game of both the second and third sets, met momentary resistance when Massu broke back as he served for the match at 5-2, but did not give the Chilean a second chance two games later.

"I probably haven't played as consistently well as that," Murray said. "I couldn't have started any better. I thought I returned really well. I hardly missed a return when I got my racket on it.

"I had so many chances to break him in the second set I was a little disappointed that I had to end up serving it out at 5-4."

Murray's only moments of concern seemed to come when the umpire queried whether his cap contravened the All England Club's predominantly white regulations. "He was asking whether it had been okayed because there was a bit of blue on it," said Murray, who also wore a wristband with a Scottish saltire on it. "I lied and said it had. He still phoned the referee to see if it was OK, but luckily it was."

Murray said he had still to meet Gilbert, who is here working as a commentator for EPSN. The former coach of Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick is understood to have a long-term contract to work 85 days a year for the American broadcaster, which could prove a problem.

Gilbert is one of several options the Murray camp is considering. Draper revealed in a BBC interview that he had met the American recently and was discussing how the LTA might help fund his appointment as a successor to Mark Petchey, who parted company with Murray two months ago.

One way of offsetting the cost would be to offer Gilbert a post that also includes work with other British players and coaches. The LTA might find it hard to justify a major investment in a coach who would be working with only one player, though there must be doubts whether Gilbert would want a wider role.

"To get the very best people in the world you have to pay decent money because they won't come unless they have a good incentive and bonus scheme in place," Draper said. "If that's what it's going to take to actually get the very best coach for Andy, to get the best involved in British tennis, then that's what it's going to take.

It is understood that Gilbert has stressed that he would need major financial guarantees if he were to accept as there is no certainty that he and Murray would see eye-to-eye in the long term.

Murray has only just turned 19 but has already employed two coaches, Petchey and Pato Alvarez, since venturing on to the senior circuit.

Gilbert said he was flattered by the interest but insisted nothing would happen until after Wimbledon. "I have a wife and three kids and these are things I need to think about," he said. "I do enjoying coaching a lot. I haven't watched Andy play a ton. From what I've seen he's got a lot of talent and I think he has the ability to go a long way."

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