Wanted: Coach to take Murray to next level. Must have slam on CV
British No 1 faces key decision as he seeks experienced mentor to help him crack majors
Andy Murray already has one of the biggest entourages in tennis but his team may grow again following his decision to part company with Miles Maclagan, his coach since the end of 2007. The 23-year-old Scot is considering a new structure under which a senior coach would take overall charge while a more junior figure would accompany him on the road for much of the year.
While the Murray camp has generally been a happy one ever since Maclagan and a team of specialists came together three years ago, the world No 4 has not had the assistance of either a former Grand Slam champion or a coach who has guided others to such heights. Maclagan's predecessor, Brad Gilbert, who used to coach Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick, fitted that bill, but the outgoing American's relationship with the more introspective Murray broke down.
The appointment of Alex Corretja as a part-time coaching consultant has brought some experience to Team Murray, but Maclagan became uneasy about the former world No 2's growing influence and prompted his own departure by voicing his concerns.
Top-quality coaches can be hard to find. Most are former professionals who spent their playing careers living out of suitcases and do not want to continue with that lifestyle. One of the game's most highly respected coaches, Darren Cahill, who used to work with Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi, had a trial with Roger Federer last year but did not want to take on the job permanently because of the time it would have meant away from home.
However, a less hands-on role could be more attractive. Murray is thinking of taking on an éminence grise who would perhaps work with him at the Grand Slam tournaments and plan his schedule and coaching strategy but would not be on the road with the Scot week-in, week-out throughout the year. The latter role would go to a more junior coach who would take charge of day-to-day arrangements. Such a structure could also help Murray to keep the rest of his entourage in place.
Although he has played in two Grand Slam finals, Murray feels he may need the guidance of an experienced hand who knows what it takes to make the ultimate breakthrough. As he has shown in the past, he was not afraid to take the decision to part with a coach who had become a good friend.
Maclagan, whose laid-back personality always appealed to Murray, was the fourth coach of the current world No 4's five-year professional career. Murray parted company with Pato Alvarez within weeks of making his debut on the ATP tour, sacked Mark Petchey – albeit with a heavy heart – the following year and worked with Gilbert for less than 18 months. At least Maclagan lasted longer than any of his predecessors.
Murray, who plays his first match on the US hard-court circuit against the American qualifier Tim Smyczek in Los Angeles today, is in no rush to appoint a replacement until after the US Open, which starts at the end of next month. Having signed up with Adidas at the end of last year, he could take advantage of the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with two possible successors to Maclagan. Cahill and Sven Groeneveld both work on the Adidas player development programme and are available to coach any of the company's stable.
Nick Bollettieri, who has coached a succession of big-name players at his academy in Florida, yesterday described Cahill as one of the best coaches in the history of the game. "Darren's an exceptional guy and there are very few people like him," he said.
Bollettieri added: "You'd have to be clever to work with Andy Murray. I think you have to let Andy be the captain of his ship, but at the same time you need to make your input count. I think you'd have to be one step ahead of Andy all the time. You'd have to let Andy have his say but be ready to reinforce the point when he hits on what you think are the crucial factors."
Bob Brett, who guided Goran Ivanisevic and now works with Marin Cilic, and Peter Lundgren, the last coach to work full-time with Federer, also have the relevant experience, as do Larry Stefanki, who has worked with Roddick for the last year and a half, Tony Roche and Jose Higueras.
Although he does not see Agassi as a realistic contender, Bollettieri believes that Murray's boyhood idol would bring the best out of the Scot. "Like Andre, Andy is at his most dangerous when he's building points on his backhand," Bollettieri said. "Andy would look up to Andre and listen to him. However, I don't think coaching is what Andre wants to do right now."
Tim Henman is another recent retiree who is highly respected by Murray, although he never reached a Grand Slam final and has minimal coaching experience. At this stage of his career Murray is likely to settle only for someone who has succeeded at the very highest level.
Four contenders to become British No 1's new coach
A highly respected Australian who made his name as a coach with his fellow countryman, the tenacious Lleyton Hewitt. Later worked with Andre Agassi. Recruited last year by Adidas to help on court with the company's player development programme, coaching both seniors and juniors.
Coached Roger Federer on part-time basis for two and a half years before parting company in the spring of 2007 after one of the most successful periods of the former world No 1's career. Also worked with fellow Australians Lleyton Hewitt, Pat Rafter and Jelena Dokic.
Dutchman who has worked with a host of leading players on both the men's and women's tours, including Michael Stich, Greg Rusedski, Mario Ancic, Mary Pierce and Ana Ivanovic. Currently employed as a coach alongside Cahill on the Adidas programme.
Former world No 4 who was known for his big serve, retired six years ago after career that included appearances in Australian and US Open finals. Special advisor to US Tennis Association's high performance programme and until recently worked as coaching consultant to Novak Djokovic.
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