Jonas Bjorkman must be looking at his contract in a new light this week. His record with Andy Murray is perfect: played nine matches, won nine matches. Entered two tournaments, won two titles. Surely there has to be to be something about a win bonus in that contract if Bjorkman looks hard enough?
Still, Murray is keen to point out that, while Bjorkman is the much-valued, new member of his team, it is the work he has been doing with Amélie Mauresmo, his main coach, over the past eight months that has brought him to the level he is playing at now.
Amélie is such a cool girl. I think we both have a good feeling of being part of a teamJonas Bjorkman
It is her efforts that have allowed him to play the sort of tennis that saw him sweep past Kevin Anderson and on to his fourth Aegon Championship title on Sunday.
But Mauresmo took last week off to rest after the French Open (she is seven- and-a-half-months pregnant) and she also left Bjorkman in charge when Murray won his first clay-court title in Munich last month. The Swede refuses to take personal credit for Murray’s success, but he is still awfully pleased with the way things are going.
“It has been a great start, but it is obviously a great team effort here,” Bjorkman said. “I am very happy to come in and be part of his team with Amélie and Treacs [Matt Little, known as Treacle to his friends] and everyone has done a phenomenal job. Andy is in incredible shape.
“I saw the practice he did in Barcelona – I don’t think there are too many out there who are stronger than him. And with the confidence he gained making the [ATP Tour finals] which was his big goal at the end of last year, with playing almost every week in the end, it also made him get off to a good start this year with a lot of confidence. So it’s the combination of that confidence and being really strong.”
Right from the start of their coaching relationship, Bjorkman has being trying to impress upon Murray the need to be more aggressive.
They began with a clay-court training block in Barcelona in April just days after the Scot got married and then got together again to make the transition from clay to grass in time for the event at Queen’s Club. And, in Bjorkman’s eyes, their work together could not have gone any better.
“He played exceptionally well in the final,” Bjorkman said of Murray’s performance on Sunday. “He is serving really, really well. His movement was excellent and he really took the chances on his break points, especially against Kevin.
“The returning has been excellent, I think. He really has been finding his way of positioning in the returning, especially off the second serves. I think he has a perfect position now. I think he can benefit even more now on the grass because he can really continue to put pressure on his opponents by coming in, not too far in, but find a good balance there.
“I think the returning is really good. And then obviously we are trying then to get him comfortable and confident in moving in when he has the guy under pressure. When you have him out stretching for a slice, maybe to sneak in and have an easy volley. That is obviously something we will try and do as much as we can, and, hopefully, that will come.”
Even though Mauresmo was not at Queen’s Club, she was in constant touch with Bjorkman and Murray. She had seen the Scot play Anderson in Valencia and at Wimbledon last year, so could offer extra little insights by phone, while Bjorkman was in charge of the day-to-day duties. And as they have a mutual friend in Fabrice Santoro, the two coaches knew each other before they started working together. Now they are part of the same team, there is no ego, no rivalry; there is just a common goal.
“I think it’s easy because Amélie is such a cool girl and I think we both have a good feeling of being part of a team,” Bjorkman said.
“Each week is a combination because everyone cannot travel all the time, so we are a pretty big team. We are on the phone every day going through tactics. When I was in Munich, she was coming in with some feedback because you could see something on TV which you can’t see maybe sitting low, just courtside. Same when I was not with them. I could come in maybe with some comments, so it’s been working great. I think we will find it very easy to do the best for Andy.”
Murray is delighted with his progress and he thinks he is playing better than when he won Wimbledon two years ago. But he also knows that Roger Federer won in Halle at the weekend, while Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will have been hard at work on the practice courts to prepare for their opening matches in SW19 on Monday. Murray is playing well, but he is always looking for ways to improve to give himself the best chance at the major tournaments. “I have to say that during the Barcelona days, I really was impressed with the way he practised,” Bjorkman said. “He is very professional in everything he does. I didn’t see that before – I didn’t know. I could assume because being at the top for so long takes a lot.
“Even as a top player like he is, those guys are always going to look to improve certain areas. That is why they are the top players out there and stay there for such a long time. I think he has done that. He is really putting himself in a really good position. He has had a lot of match practice here and, hopefully, we will have a good practice week.”
And if Bjorkman’s record remains unblemished by the end of Wimbledon, it really will be time to start looking at those contract details.