ANDY Murray is the most eligible bachelor in tennis. Just a couple of days ago, John McEnroe was happily telling the world that he would become the next leader of Team Murray if asked, but for the moment, Scotland’s finest remains a single man: coach-free and open to offers.
The current state of affairs cannot go on for ever, but Murray is not one to rush into important decisions. He is sure of what he wants – and, by all accounts, it is a carbon copy of Lendl – but he also knows he has to be make compromises. As one of the world’s best players, he is an attractive prospect for any coach, but the problem arises in trying to find someone who fits the bill and is free and available to commit himself to the Murray cause. And they are thin on the ground.
McEnroe’s sudden appearance on the short-list seems to be just a touch contrived. When asked if he would consider coaching the Scot, he replied “of course”. Then again, what was he supposed to say? Equally, when Murray was asked if he thought McEnroe was a likely contender he adopted the diplomatic approach. “When someone like that shows an interest, you have to take it into consideration,” he said. Again, what else was he supposed to say? Neither man wanted to be drawn into a potential media row with headlines pinging back and forth. Suffice to say that McEnroe and Murray does not sound like a match made in heaven.
After nine years on the professional road and as the veteran of seven grand slam finals (and the winner of two), he has been around long enough to know exactly what he wants from a coach. And, more than anything, he wants commitment to the cause. Apart from the odd short break here and there, Murray’s every day is spent preparing for, playing in and recovering from tournaments. The life can be dull and monotonous, but the sacrifices have to be made to ensure that he can compete for the biggest titles in the sport and beat the best to do so. And if he has to make those sacrifices, his coach has to make them, too.
“It’s about finding the right person,” Murray said. “I would like to have something long-term. That was the plan with Ivan and I guess that was kind of medium-term – it wasn’t necessarily my decision [to split] either. It’s hard as if you go for someone younger, they start a family and then in a couple of years they don’t want to travel as much.
“It’s not just as basic as ‘what do I want?’ – it needs to be the right balance. Whether they were a great player or they were an average tennis player, it doesn’t really matter to me; the communication needs to be there, they need to be willing to dedicate enough time to make a difference. They are two of the most important things and then it just depends on how it works out from there.
“A very important attribute in a coach is the ability to listen. It’s extremely important. I’ve been doing certain things for a long time now and they need to be able to listen to the things I’m saying: the things I’m saying about my body, about my practice, the way that I feel – that’s extremely important. A lot of great players that have left the game or haven’t coached before, I think it’s easy for them to see their way because that’s how they did it. But everyone is different and I think great coaches make adjustments depending on the player they’re working with.”
As the former greats of the game tiptoe back on to the circuit’s treadmill as coaches, a trend started when Murray first employed Lendl in 2012, the locker room is knee-deep in celebrities – Boris Becker is supposed to be guiding Novak Djokovic, Goran Ivanisevic is coaching Marin Cilic and Stefan Edberg gives a few weeks of his time to Roger Federer. But having been down that route, Murray knows that a great grand slam record can be an advantage for a good coach, but it is not the be all and end all.
“Ideally I would have someone that was No 1 in the world, someone that’s won ten slams and someone that would dedicate 25, 30 weeks of the year. Ideally, that’s what I would like, but it’s not going to happen.
“There’s also people that maximised their game, people that got the most out of their game. In some people’s eyes, that’s the definition of a champion: someone that actually maximises their potential. I think that people who have done that will tend to make good coaches because they squeezed every ounce of talent out of their body by working extremely hard, finding different ways to improve, making adjustments, and tactically they will tend to be very good as well. So that’s something that’s very important, too.”
Trying to find a man to fit Murray’s requirements, one who is not already coaching someone else, does not already have a lucrative career in punditry and who does not have many family commitments, is taking time. In a perfect world, the new man would be in place by the French Open or Wimbledon at the latest but it is not a perfect world and, for the moment at least, the tennis world’s most eligible bachelor will have to be patient.