London: Brad Gilbert was hired to turn a fledgling Andy Murray into a physical powerhouse, while the Scot turned to Ivan Lendl for some of the ruthless streak that made the Czech-born American a multiple Grand Slam champion.
At different stages of his career both worked wonders for Murray as he broke into the upper echelons of men’s tennis and then, after some close shaves, delivered two Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold.
While those two appointments appeared self-explanatory, his choice of former Wimbledon singles champion Amelie Mauresmo, as his new coach, is an intriguing one and it dominated the chat on Monday as the grasscourt season moved into full swing.
“She was a great player, a thinker, and I’m sure any path Andy wants to take she can help him along,” former Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander said at Queen’s Club.
Murray, too, is a deep-thinker about his tennis, a player who has never been afraid to do things his own way.
While the carrot and stick approach employed by Gilbert, the man who wrote a book called Winning Ugly, and Lendl’s straight talking helped the 27-year-old Scot take huge strides, it appears he has now reached that stage in his career when he wants a gentler presence in his corner.
Of Mauresmo’s new role, Murray said: “It seemed like a good time to bring in Mauresmo and I think I will get an even better idea than just trying in the off-season, because it’s quite a high-pressure situation in the next few weeks. I can get a good idea if it will work long-term or not.
“I chatted to her for about an hour-and-a-half about a number of different things, obviously mainly about tennis and my team and how I like to work and what my goals were. We decided to give it a go together over the grass.
“Obviously when I was growing up I had my mum working with me until I was 17 years old.
“I have always had a strong female influence in my career. It didn’t feel like, you know, a strange thing to do just because I grew up with a female coach.”
“I have started to listen to my body a lot more because, over the years, you start to pick up some things,” defending Wimbledon champion Murray, who had back surgery last year, said when the questions inevitably turned to his new coach.
“I think it’s important that the people you work with respect and understand and listen, you know, to how you’re feeling, as well, because you can’t just be pushed extremely hard every single day.
“I need to pick my moments during the year where I really go for it in training. That was one of the reasons... For me, it didn’t feel a strange thing to do.”
So few tennis players, male or female, hire female coaches that Murray’s decision was bound to have some scratching their heads. But, he said, he does not care what others think.
“A few people have come up to me and sort of asked if it was serious,” he said.
“But I don’t really care whether they think it’s a good or bad appointment. It’s whether it works well for me and my team, and hopefully it will be a good move for my career.”
Murray’s decision to go with Mauresmo could cause some logistical issues as she will not be allowed in the men’s locker room at Wimbledon, where Murray will defend his title later this month.
“I mean, obviously, you can’t sit down and chat in there, but there’s enough places where you can chat. The players’ lounge is pretty large,” Murray said.