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Claire Black: Murray-Mauresmo winner|Spad|Mulberry

Andy Murray with coach Amelie Mauresmo at the Queens Club in London. Picture: Reuters

Andy Murray with coach Amelie Mauresmo at the Queens Club in London. Picture: Reuters

  • by CLAIRE BLACK
 

SAY what you want about Andy Murray, but I like him, writes Claire Black

The main reason I like him is not because he’s a magnificent tennis player, impressive though that is. No, I like him for the way he behaves with his mum, Judy. I like it that in the still male dominated world of professional sport, Murray clearly values and respects his mum and he has no problem at all in showing that.

There are things I don’t like about Murray. I don’t like it when he starts looking stupendously bored at crucial points in matches, as though he’d rather be scraping wallpaper or regrouting the bathroom. And I don’t like it when he gets all shouty at himself. But I do like it when he gets emotional during post-match speeches and, truth be told, I quite like it when he’s caught in slo-mo swearing extravaganzas. Murray, despite that monotone delivery, is full of passion. I like that. And even more appealing is that it’s plain he doesn’t give a monkeys what anyone – the media, the fans, the opportunistic politicians – think of him. I like that, too.

And I like him even more for appointing Amelie Mauresmo as his coach.

From the outpouring of open-gobbed shock that met the announcement, to the posturing about “what does it matter if she’s a woman anyway” that replaced it once the commentators could once again form words, it matters a lot. By appointing a woman (she’s a lesbian too for good measure) as his coach, Murray has taken his carbon fibre racquet to the lazy, sexist assumptions that still linger in professional sport.

What can a woman possibly teach a man? How can she coach him if she can’t get into the men’s locker room? How will he be able to suppress his manliness long enough to listen to any of her feminine advice? This was the kind of bilge that filled the sports pages and the airwaves. And even the more enlightened commentary suggested that somehow Mauresmo, simply by virtue of that extra X chromosome of hers, would bring gentle support in contrast to former coach, Ivan Lendl’s surly masculine backing. What tosh.

Mauresmo was a majestic grass court player. She was brilliantly creative, tactically smart and fantastically elegant. She also had major trouble with nerves and sometimes looked like she would rather be grouting the bathroom, too. So it’s likely that she’s got everything that she needs to be a brilliant mentor for Murray. His mum certainly thinks so.

Murray having just been knocked out of the Queen’s Club tournament where he was defending champion, Mauresmo is likely to get immediate pelters but the fact of the matter is the first grass court tournament after the clay court season is always tricksy. Nadal lost his first match, too. Only Djokovic had the more sensible idea of ditching tennis and heading to Ibiza with his mates instead.

I hope it works out for Mauresmo. And Murray. I hope so for the sake of his tennis, but also because of what Mauresmo’s appointment symbolises in the world of professional sport.

“I like her,” Murray said of his new coach last week. Yes, Andy, and I like you.

If you want my advice …

I THINK when someone rumbles me out of my current employment (it’s only a matter of time, right?) I might become a Spad. A special adviser. Why not? How hard can it be? From the evidence, you need simply to have absolutely no sense of propriety or decency. And, if you get bored of spreading rumours you can always persuade your boss to pose for a photograph while holding aloft a newspaper and pulling off a facial expression that can only be described as somewhere between constipation and trapped wind.

With a bit of luck, the grimly contrived image, which looks so uncomfortably weird several people will suggest it is a ransom note with the paper serving to prove said boss is alive on a certain date, will prove to be so divisive and will cause such outrage that within a matter of hours your boss will have to make an official apology, making him look as though not only is he the most unphotogenic man in the world, he is also despite his self-proclaimed intellectualism a total numpty.

Seriously, this Spad malarkey, I don’t think I’m tooting my horn too hard by saying I think I can really make something of myself amongst people of such calibre.

Mulberry bushed

SCHADENFREUDE isn’t appealing, I know, but I couldn’t help but smile at news that Mulberry has suffered a profit dive. It’s not that I necessarily hope that bad things befall the purveyor of grossly overpriced handbags – not least because half of its bags are made in the UK in two factories in Somerset and I don’t wish any ill to those workers – it’s more that I can’t help but see a bright side to the fact that fewer people are willing to spend more than a grand on a tote. That a “midi bag” – one classed as moderately expensive – costs between £350 and £500 tells you how far wrong we’ve gone. Where’s our perspective? «

 

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