DCSIMG

Andy Murray makes winning start for Mauresmo

Andy Murray during the AEGON Championships at The Queen's Club, London. Picture: PA

Andy Murray during the AEGON Championships at The Queen's Club, London. Picture: PA

  • by ALIX RAMSAY
 

So far, so good. On day one of his new coaching relationship with Amélie Mauresmo, Andy Murray won his first match on grass in almost a year.

He made the transition from the slow, red clay to the slicker, green stuff with no major physical problems – bar a minor tumble yesterday – and Ms Mauresmo is still happy to work with him. It was not a bad day’s work.

Murray extended his unbeaten run on grass courts to 19 matches with his 86-minute, 6-4, 6-4 dismissal of Paul-Henri Mathieu at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club. He has not been beaten on grass since that tearful loss to Roger Federer in 2012, an emotional defeat that proved to be the launching pad for the most successful two years of his career.

When Murray first stared working with Ivan Lendl more than two years ago, he described his first training sessions and matches with his new coach as like being on a first date. He was eager to impress and keen to please. His new arrangement with Mauresmo seems to be going to down the same route and the defending champion is not quite sure how the first date has gone. He did his best – he was solid when he had to be, aggressive when he had to be and he was “quite disciplined in his movement”. He was very pleased about that. That would make a good impression on the new boss.

“When your body gets used to sliding into shots, that starts to become natural,” he said of playing on clay, “but it’s a really bad habit to get into on the grass.

“It’s not particularly efficient on the grass. You can hurt yourself, as well. I thought I was quite disciplined with my movement today. I moved pretty well. I wasn’t sliding about too much. Yeah, it was a good start.”

But was it enough to get Mauresmo’s approval? That he will learn in a few weeks. The grass court season will be their trial period together and only when Wimbledon is over will the two will sit down and discuss the future.

And, while Murray sounds like he is keen for them both to settle down together, he is still not sure that Mauresmo will feel the same. That is the way of first dates.

“It’s not just me that makes the decision,” he said with a wry smile. “If Amélie hates working with me and finds it very difficult being around me, then she won’t want to do it either. We’ll sit down after Wimbledon.”

When the announcement of Mauresmo’s appointment was made on Sunday, she made it clear that she did not want to travel for more than half of the year. But Lendl’s commitment to the Murray cause shrank from 25 weeks in their first year to having only 15 weeks pencilled in for this year. When Murray asked for more time together, Lendl handed in his notice. So far, the exact details of the new coaching arrangement have not been thrashed out but Murray did say that he had asked for more time than he had with Lendl, which suggests that Mauresmo will be working with the Scot for around 25 weeks a year.

It is very clear that, not only does Murray have a huge amount of respect for Mauresmo and her achievements – two grand slam titles and a world No 1 ranking – but that he also likes her immensely as person. As he has explained time and again, working with a female coach is nothing new. His mother, Judy, coached him when he was a boy and again when he was in his mid-teens. And he has always turned to Judy for advice when he has needed it.

The reaction of most of the players in the locker room has been positive and it does seem that most of the fuss made about the decision has come from the predominantly male sports media. When one poor hack made reference to Mauresmo being a lady and Lendl being a chap, Murray just laughed.

“Lady and chap?” he said, looking puzzled. “Man and woman. Let’s stick with that.

“After I spoke to her the first time I just really liked her for a number of reasons. She was calm. She asked a lot of questions. She listened. She listened a lot. I liked chatting to her, so then I decided to sit down and speak to her and had a good chat with her about tennis. I spoke to her a bit about my team and things I wanted to work on. I enjoyed speaking to her. She was very easy, very easy to talk to, easy to communicate with.

“It’s about the total package that she can offer. In terms of what she achieved on the court, she obviously achieved a lot in her career. I think she’s a strong character, as well. And then, away from the court, it’s really the communication and the relationship that you can build up with that person is going to decide whether it’s going to work long-term, because, in terms of what she achieved on the court, then obviously she knows how to win.

“It’s just off the court and when we’re having discussions about tennis, whether it clicks or not. We won’t know just yet. I like her. She’s a good person. I hope it works out well.”

The second date will take place this afternoon when Murray takes on Radek Stepanek for a place in the quarter-finals. He has beaten the Czech five times in six meetings but Murray knows that, even at the age of 35 and with a world ranking of No 42, Stepanek can be a handful. And Murray has Amélie to impress.

 

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