US Open 2014: Andy Murray’s ‘potential classic’ against Novak Djokovic puts the spotlight on rival coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Boris Becker
The television cameras here at the US Open love the celebrities among the spectators and the player entourages, so expect plenty of shots of two faces in the crowd in particular as Andy Murray takes on Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
As if there was not enough interest in a showdown between players who have been rivals since they first met as juniors 13 years ago, there will also be plenty of focus on their coaches. Boris Becker, the main man in Djokovic’s corner, has been the most high-profile of the “legends” who have turned to coaching recently, while Amélie Mauresmo, who has been with Murray for three months, is the first woman other than a family member to coach a Grand Slam champion.
Both relish their roles. “I love tennis,” Becker said here. “It’s my first love. To be back in the locker rooms and at tournaments feels very comfortable.”
If Mauresmo was less forthcoming – “So far it’s good,” the Frenchwoman said – that might be because, like Becker, she shows little emotion on court. The 2006 Wimbledon champion is usually a picture of calm, even when Murray shouts in the general direction of his entourage.
“I stay calm, I observe,” Mauresmo said. “I look at him a lot, see how he reacts to different moments in the match, to different things that are happening on the court, how he then reacts after he is getting vocal or whatever.”
Becker takes a similarly laid-back approach to coaching. “I pick my spots when I can speak to my player,” he said. “Novak is a very emotional guy. There are moments when you should step away from him because he’s too much in the moment. I’m 20 years older than him. I have a 21-year-old son, so I feel I can deal with people of that generation very well. I’m a very calm coach. I don’t raise my voice.”
Both Murray and Djokovic came into the tournament with doubts over their form. Murray has not won a title for 14 months, while Djokovic had played poorly in two tournaments after winning Wimbledon.
Nevertheless, both have impressed here. The Serb has yet to drop a set, while Murray gave one of his best performances of the year when he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in the fourth round. Djokovic edges their head-to-head record, but Murray won both his Grand Slam titles by beating him in the final.
Mauresmo had not been concerned by Murray’s slow start here, the Scot having struggled with cramp during his first-round victory over Robin Haase. “These tournaments are long,” she said. “You don’t have to start at your best from the first round to think that you can win this kind of tournament. I definitely think that these two weeks can give you time to really get better as the tournament goes on.”
With Murray having spent considerably more time on court than Djokovic, did Becker think his man might have more left in the tank? “If you’d asked me last week after Andy’s first-round match and how he felt on Tuesday I would have said yes,” Becker said. “But that’s a week and a half ago and I think he has fully recovered by the performance he did against Tsonga. I think he’s fully fit and if anything I think he’s growing in confidence.”
Becker, speaking courtesy of Sky Sports, described the match, which should start around 9pm (2am BST), as “a potential classic”. He explained: “They are very similar, classical counter-punchers who can move very quickly from the baseline. Both have very good first serves and they are like chess players on a tennis court. They are masters of that and maybe that’s why they have such long marathon matches and the quality is unbelievable.
“There is not much difference between them. It is all about who is better on the day, who has more confidence. It’s up to them to show who is the best. It is always a battle, always has the potential to be an epic. It goes all the way back to when they were juniors together. The top guys are never really close, but they got as close as possible. There is a lot of respect for each other.”
Asked about his own relationship with Djokovic, Becker said: “On a professional level I think we’re very happy with where we are at the moment. On a personal level I was very honoured to be invited to his wedding. There weren’t that many people there. Novak hadn’t invited celebrities. It speaks of the trust and regard between us.”
Grigor Dimitrov, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon, lost 7-5, 7-6, 7-5 to Gaël Monfils in the fourth round of the men’s singles. The Frenchman, who has yet to drop a set, will next play the winner of the match between Roger Federer and Roberto Bautista Agut.
Sky Sports have an unrivalled schedule of sport this Autumn including US Open tennis, Barclays Premier League, The Ryder Cup, Uefa Champions League, Euro 2016 qualifiers, autumn internationals and Formula One
Murray v Djokovic: Previous Grand Slam encounters
2011 Australian Open final Djokovic won 6-4, 6-2, 6-3
Murray’s worst performance in a Grand Slam final. Djokovic was in top form, combining stonewall defence with exhilarating attack, while Murray made too many mistakes, served poorly and was not aggressive enough.
2012 Australian Open semi-final Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-7, 6-1, 7-5
A contest full of great rallies ended with Murray fighting back from 5-2 down in the decider to level at 5-5. He went within five points of victory but Djokovic won through in nearly five hours.
2012 US Open final Murray 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2
Murray finally ended Britain’s 76-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion. Djokovic levelled from two sets down but Murray took control of the decider, breaking twice to lead 3-0 and going on to take the match.
2013 Australian Open final Djokovic 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2
The match was tight throughout, with the first break of serve coming after nearly three hours. Djokovic’s recovery when serving at 0-40 down in the second game of the second set was crucial.
2013 Wimbledon final Murray 6-4, 7-5, 6-4
Second seed Murray, playing superbly throughout, beat an edgy top-seeded Djokovic to become Britain’s first Wimbledon men’s singles champion for 77 years and the first Scot since Harold Mahony in 1896.
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