Can new coach Amelie get Murray back on track?
It’s unusual that much of the debate over the Men’s Singles at Wimbledon will revolve around a woman!
I have to admit Andy Murray’s decision to appoint Amelie Mauresmo as his coach took me by surprise. But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.
Gender should be irrelevant and a woman coaching a male player is nothing new. Andy himself was coached by his mother, as was Jimmy Connors, and going way back the great triple Wimbledon champion of 1939, Bobby Riggs, he was coached by Eleanor ‘Teach’ Tennant.
I think Mauresmo could be a great signing for the Murray team. She has the credibility of being a two-time Grand Slam winner, has good personality and, at 34, she’s young enough to ‘mesh’ well with Murray.
I feel slightly sorry for Mauresmo in that the arrangement is going to be reviewed after Wimbledon. Given that she joined Andy before Queen’s Club, which he won last year, and then goes into Wimbledon, where he’s the title holder, the chances of Amelie improving Murray’s achievements were zero before she started! What is she supposed to do? Help Andy win Wimbledon with more style, or by losing fewer sets?
However, joking apart, this is a really interesting link-up. Two years ago, Andy set a new trend by appointing a high-profile ex-champion in Ivan Lendl a move copied later by Roger Federer (Stefan Edberg) and Novak Djokovic (Boris Becker).
I don’t think Murray was just trying to be different, or set a fashion, by appointing a woman coach. He doesn’t care what people think! Andy will have examined all the options, and concluded that Amelie was the best one available.
After the departure of Lendl, I found it hard to think of a top coach for Murray who was not already under contract. Mauresmo is a good choice, and I also think former champions like Martina Hingis or Martina Navratilova would make excellent coaches for men or women.
There may also be a ‘hidden’ advantage for the Scot in having a woman in his team. Murray might rein back on the verbal blasts he aims at his box when things are not going well. Lendl helped Andy a lot in that respect. But even so sometimes the language got a bit salty when he let off steam, or went nuts at his team. That kind of thing never helped him on court, and if having Mauresmo courtside persuades Andy to cut it out altogether, that would be great for his game and his image.
What Amelie can bring to the table is a background of overcoming adversity. She had to deal with a lot of baggage before she made the breakthrough. She had developed a reputation as a ‘choker’ in big matches, especially on home ground in France.
Even when she won her first Grand Slam title, in Australia, there was a kind of asterisk alongside her name because of injury to her opponent, Justine Henin. Mauresmo stuck it out, and came through to win Wimbledon on merit. She has something to offer Murray.
It’s surprising how even the best players have periods of doubt, even if they don’t admit it. That’s why Djokovic appointed Becker. Players are looking for every extra little thing to tip the balance.
I don’t believe that great coaches have to have been great players themselves. But it’s a fact that when a player reaches a Grand Slam Final, and is looking for reassurance or advice on what to expect, a coach who has not been there himself can only speculate. Having someone in your team who has been there, and done it, can add something.
Mauresmo has the titles, and the experience. Let’s see how it helps Andy at SW19.