Andy Murray has surprised many by appointing former women’s world number one Amélie Mauresmo as his new coach in preparation for his bid to become the first Briton to defend a Wimbledon title.
The Scot has brought Mauresmo, herself a Wimbledon champion in 2006, in for an unspecified time period and will start by working with her for this summer’s grass-court season, which began today with the Aegon Championship at London’s Queen’s Club. Murray has had a strong female influence on his career, having been coached by his mother, Judy, in his formative years.
Murray had been without a coach since March, when he and Ivan Lendl parted amicably following a successful 2 year partnership. As well as an Olympic Gold Medal at London 2012, their partnership delivered two grand slam titles; seeing Murray become the first British male to win a Wimbledon crown for 77 years. Lendl has moved on to pursue other projects having been credited with giving Murray the impetus to reach the top of his game. Mauresmo will work to help the man currently ranked 8th in tennis’ world rankings, to push on and further establish himself after back injuries limited his season’s progress.
Murray is known to be a big thinker on the game, unafraid to try new ideas and in employing Mauresmo, becomes the first “top-line” male player to employ a woman’s coaching input. However, he has been characteristically quick to play down the significance saying:
“For me it doesn’t feel like a very different thing. I think it’s exciting, something a bit new for me, something a bit fresh and hopefully it works well. I have a very strong coaching team already in place, but I think Amélie brings with her experience and tactical expertise and will push us all to improve.”
In an individual sport, having the correct support network is vital; Mauresmo’s ear and experience will be invaluable to Murray and his team. With a fresh pair of eyes and drawing upon similar big match experience, she can help him learn more about his game, suggesting tactical advantages and areas for improvement.
Mental strength is essential in tennis, and Murray has displayed fortitude at high pressure moments in his career. In the final set of last year’s Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic, in gruelling temperatures, with a nation’s expectation weighing on his shoulders; Murray overcame a late wobble and a determined opponent to deliver Britain’s elusive title. After a semi-final French Open defeat to the peerless Rafael Nadal, who has now won 5 Rolland Garros titles in a row and 9 in his career; Murray will look for a boost from a home Wimbledon crowd.
French coach Mauresmo helped compatriot Marion Bartoli to last year’s Wimbledon ladies title and brings strong grass-court credentials to Murray’s camp. She has also worked with Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, helping her to a US Open Final, and has experience of the men’s game from her time as part of Frenchmen Michael Llodra’s coaching team. During her own playing days, Mauresmo was known for a direct and attacking style, something Lendl had encouraged in Murray. The decision to call the arrangement “temporary” is a smart move relieving the pressure on the pair and giving them time to gel before any formal long-term appointment.
Mauresmo is not the only female coach to make strides into professional male sport this year. Portuguese Helena Costa, 36, the new manager of French football club Clermont Foot, became the first female manager to be appointed in the highest two divisions of any professional European league. She says having a female coach in professional football ‘should be a normal thing’ and appealed for the media’s attention to focus on sport and her results.
Pioneers are often required to break down boundaries. A key challenge for both Mauresmo and perhaps more so for Helena Costa; will be establishing credibility and delivering results when their every move will be analysed and scrutinised by the public.
Andy Murray’s ambitions are clear: “I want to win more grand slams.” In placing his trust in Amélie Mauresmo he has given his new coach a massive seal of approval.