ANDY Murray is hoping that Jonas Bjorkman will fit into Team Murray; Mats Wilander is absolutely certain that his fellow Swede will be an excellent addition to Murray’s gang of advisors and helpmates. Now all the Scot has to do is convince Amelie Mauresmo and the rest of his crew that Bjorkman is the vital, last cog in a well-oiled machine that will carry him to more grand slam success.
The news on Wednesday that Bjorkman, nine times a grand slam doubles champion and twice a grand slam singles semi-finalist, is going to join Murray for a week’s trial as assistant coach appeared, at first, to be another of the Scot’s leftfield career choices. He stunned everyone by hiring Ivan Lendl at the start of 2012 and he shocked those same people by employing Mauresmo last summer. But after reaching the Australian Open final last month and praising Mauresmo to the hilt as he did so, his employing another coach seemed unthinkable. Then again, it is best never to second guess the world No 4.
“Amelie does 25 weeks of the year so there’s a lot more time in the year when I need someone to help, basically,” Murray explained as he prepared for the start of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
“I’m not sure exactly which weeks Jonas would do and which weeks Amelie would do, but clearly there is a void there which I’m hoping that he would be able to fill but then, also, to spend weeks together – the three of us. Whether that’s training weeks or the occasional tournament as well, it’s important. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, he can come to Miami to actually spend time with me and Amelie to see how it works out. See if they get on. And then we’ll see after that.”
Murray has been hinting for weeks that he might take on someone to fill in the gaps when Mauresmo is otherwise engaged with her duties as France’s Fed Cup captain but employing Bjorkman sounds very serious and very permanent. The trial week will have to wait until Bjorkman ends his stint on Let’s Dance (Sweden’s version of Strictly Come Dancing), but once the sequins have been abandoned, it will be strictly business for the Swede. And Wilander cannot wait to see the results – the two come from the same town in southern Sweden and Wilander has known Bjorkman for half a lifetime.
“I think that Jonas can bring a lot to the team because I would say that he is one of the smartest players ever to play the game,” Wilander said. “With limited physical power – in terms of his game, not his body – he had to do a lot of things with his mind which, to me, is exactly what Murray is like. Jonas plays a little more aggressively, tactically, than Murray but in terms of being players: great backhand, not such a good forehand, sort of builds his whole game around his backhand.
“I’m not saying that’s what Andy does all the time but it’s certainly what I think he needs to do and I’m assuming it’s what Bjorkman will be pushing for – to take more risks. Literally, Bjorkman stems from my way of playing, and he’s from my home town. So he grew up watching me. We have a thing in my club called the Vaxjo forehand. Vaxjo is the town where I come from and everyone has a bad forehand. I had a bad forehand. The guys that were coaching us had bad forehands so there’s a thing about bad forehands – I’m not saying that Andy has a bad forehand but it certainly is the one [shot] that is prone to let him down a little bit more than the backhand side.
“It’s the one he doesn’t feel as comfortable with. It the one that Lendl got him to hit harder and I think Bjorkman would be the one, I think, to get him playing a little more into your strengths but around your weakness so that you don’t have to worry about your weakness as much, using it in a better way. And I think Bjorkman will be excellent at that.”
Murray got on with Bjorkman from the moment he started out on the professional tour – he enjoyed the older man’s company and his sense of humour – and he has maintained that friendship since the Swede retired and moved to the legends’ events and a life as a TV pundit. Moving that relationship onto a more formal footing of player and coach, then, did not seem so strange.
“He was someone that, personality-wise, I would imagine we would get on,” Murray said. “I don’t think he has a massive ego – which helps – and I believe he’ll work well in a team environment. He obviously did it as a doubles player – he was a great, great doubles player. He knows how to work well with people and that’s very important.
“When I chatted to him [about it], we spoke for about two hours and had a really good conversation. We spoke a lot about the game, the psychological side of the game, the tactical side, and the things that I feel like he could help me with as well, and that was it. And just from there, I thought it would just be great to try a trial week with him. Hopefully when he’s done with the dancing thing, it will happen soon.”
When Murray brought Mauresmo into the team, it caused problems. By the end of last year, the Scot knew things had to change so his friend and assistant coach, Dani Vallverdu, and his fitness coach, Jez Green, were given their P45s. That made for a much happier working environment for the remaining members of the team but now with Bjorkman possibly coming on board, Murray needs to be sure that everyone – particularly Mauresmo – is of one mind.
“I think there needs to be a general direction and they’ve spoken to each other a number of times on the phone,” Murray said of his current coach and her potential deputy. “There needs to be a general direction of the things that I’m working on. Obviously, they are different people so they might have different ways of explaining things or approaching things but the general direction would, I would hope, be exactly the same. That’s very important if it’s going to work and Amelie is fully aware that I needed another person to come in and help out and she was very supportive.”
Wilander sees few problems on the horizon: he knows Bjorkman to be a laid back team player and also a very driven individual. In that, he is very similar to both Murray and Mauresmo.
“Jonas has a very good team spirit,” Wilander said. “His dad played ice hockey with my oldest brother and he – Bjorkman – played ice hockey so the whole team concept is huge for him. At the same time, he’s also very driven as an individual. And in terms of working hard physically and off the court and in terms of working hard in a match and trying to figure things out and play the way that maybe he doesn’t want to play but the way that needs to be done, he’s very willing and working very hard at that part. So he would be the ultimate professional in terms of that. But I think it’s a great fit for Andy. I really do.”
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