Murray's coach sued over 'breach of contract'

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The Independent Online

Unseasonal weather delayed the start of the US Open here in New York yesterday just as a storm cloud was breaking over the Lawn Tennis Association's appointment of Brad Gilbert as Andy Murray's coach. A management company claiming to represent the 45-year-old American is suing him for alleged breach of contract, with the majority of the claim relating to the deal Gilbert has signed with the British governing body.

A claim was served on Gilbert on Friday by lawyers representing Creative Sports and Entertainment and its president, David Bagliebter. The claim says that Bagliebter has been Gilbert's "friend, manager and representative" for 20 years and has "protected and represented his interests, both personal and financial".

Robert Miller, an attorney representing Creative, said yesterday that Gilbert was being sued for at least $788,000 (£415,000). The majority of the figure, $682,500, represents 15 per cent of what Gilbert's deal with the LTA is alleged to be worth. With most of the claim relating to money that Gilbert has yet to earn, it seems certain that he will fight the case.

Creative says it has an agreement under which Gilbert pays the company 15 per cent of any of his commercial deals. It claims Gilbert owes Creative $105,500 for a three-year agreement it negotiated with ESPN, the American broadcaster, for the coach to work as a TV analyst. Gilbert left ESPN to begin working with the LTA and Murray last month.

Bagliebter claims that, in May, Gilbert asked him to negotiate with the LTA following the dismissal of David Felgate as its performance director. Bagliebter said he hoped to secure Gilbert a contract worth $8m over five years, but that the coach told him the following month that he was unlikely to reach agreement because the LTA would require him to be in England " for a substantial amount of time".

Bagliebter then says he learnt that Gilbert was continuing to talk to the LTA. He claims that Gilbert told him his deal with the LTA was worth $1.3m a year plus bonuses; until now it has been thought the LTA was paying Gilbert £500,000 a year.

Gilbert, who has 20 days to respond, declined to comment, saying that the matter was in the hands of his lawyers. Roger Draper, chief executive of the LTA, said he was "not unduly concerned" about the matter.

One of Gilbert's former charges, Andy Roddick, was among the early winners after the skies cleared. The No 9 seed, whose results have improved markedly since Jimmy Connors took over as his coach last month, beat France's Florent Serra 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.

A miserable first half of the year ended with Roddick, the 2003 champion here, being thoroughly outplayed by Murray at Wimbledon as the American dropped out of the top 10 for the first time since October 2002. However, Roddick has since lost only once in 14 matches, and reached the final in Indianapolis and won the Cincinnati Masters. He hit his stride quickly against Serra, hitting 10 aces and serving at up to 148mph.

The same could not be said of No 3 seed Ivan Ljubicic, who was the tournament's first major casualty, losing in straight sets 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to Spain's Feliciano Lopez. Mardy Fish, meanwhile, was the first player in a Grand Slam event to challenge a line call following the introduction of instant replay technology.

Svetlana Kuznetsova was taken to three sets by Germany's Sandra Kloesel, but other leading women made swift progress. Justine Henin-Hardenne dropped only three games against Elena Camerin, Elena Dementieva beat Laura Granville 6-1, 6-4 and Lindsay Davenport beat Klara Zakopalova by the same margin. Anna-Lena Groenefeld (15) became the first women's seed to lose, beaten in three sets by the 19-year-old Aravane Rezai.