New balls please! Today marks the start of Wimbledon and the beginning of Andy Murray’s title defence. The gritty Scot recently made headlines by appointing former world number one, Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach. Eevee’s newest writer, Gerard Walton discusses why the move could be a good one for the defending champ…
The career arc of Andy Murray has been a fascinating tale of victory over the crushing weight of expectation and self-doubt. The twelve months between that glorious summer of 2012 and 2013 brought un-told riches to the Scot, with Olympic gold, US Open victory, and Wimbledon immortality becoming a reality rather than a pipe dream.
Much of this has been credited to Ivan Lendl, the Czech who helped Murray unlock his inner poise, and to believe that he could go that extra mile to decorate what was already the best British career of modern times. Now, with Murray having proven his ability to snarl his way to the top over a two-week period, he has appointed Amelie Mauresmo to replace Lendl as he attempts to defend his Wimbledon crown.
The appointment should not come as a total shock – the British number one himself voiced the possibility of working with a female coach during his extended courting process – but nonetheless eyebrows have been raised. Mauresmo, as the captain of the French Fed Cup team, is undoubtedly well-qualified for the role. She is also experienced in one thing that Murray is not – holding the world number one spot. Despite having accomplished many of his desires, his current ranking of five is well below his ambitions of becoming top dog. Mauresmo herself spent 34 unbroken weeks at the top of the women’s game in 2006, and will surely have some ideas on how to help Murray achieve the same.
The Dunblane native is no stranger to the feminine touch – mother Judy was the most prominent figure in his development – and while Lendl helped him to man up, this return to his roots may yet help him become a more rounded competitor. Lately, without a coach, he has seemed rather lost on the tennis court. His drop to a low of number eight in the rankings can also be put down to his recovery from a back injury, but his performances were lacking the verve and invincibility of his best days. However, his dogged display in reaching the French Open semi-finals, on his least favoured surface of clay, was a huge step in the right direction, and Mauresmo will be delighted to be taking on a player on the up.
Like any such change in the world of sport, this will be judged on results, but it is hard to argue with the French-woman’s pedigree. Possessing the best one-handed backhand of her time, she is ideal for a player whose most potent shot is the two-handed backhand. Twenty years Lendl’s junior, Mauresmo will likely be the antidote to the father-figure presence of yesteryear, while still possessing the authority needed for such a role.
Wimbledon is not the easiest of trial runs, but the nation will be looking on expectantly as Murray looks for his first title of 2014.