SO NOW we can add the name of Fabrice Santoro to the list of potential candidates applying for the job as Andy Murray’s new coach.
The diminutive Frenchman, who was one of Murray’s favourite players to watch, offered his services yesterday as he interviewed the Scot on court.
Murray had just spent more than two-and-a-half hours huffing and puffing his way past Andrey Golubev 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the second round of the French Open. At times Murray was good, at times he was scrappy but he got the job done which, on a cold a windy day, was all that really mattered. And once it was over, up popped a suited and booted Santoro with his microphone to do his bit for the tournament and conduct the post-match chat.
“I just saw your brother in the locker room and he has a question for you,” Santoro said as Murray looked increasingly wary. “He asks, do you have a coach yet?” It is a question Murray must be sick of answering – and the answer, for the moment, is still “no” – but he took it in his stride. “I’m trying but not that many people want to work with me,” Murray shrugged. Santoro disagreed and claimed he had a long list of possible and willing replacements for Ivan Lendl. “Are you on it?” Murray asked hopefully. “Do you want my card?” came the reply as Murray took Santoro’s business card, kissed it and put it in his pocket.
Santoro, who played his last match in 2010, is an unlikely candidate but, then again, so are many of the other names that have been mentioned in the weeks since Lendl handed in his notice. Equally unlikely is that the Frenchman could have made any difference to Murray’s erratic performance yesterday. It was a difficult day in Roland Garros – cold, blustery and heavy, a day when the best course of action was simply to get the job done as quickly as possible and then head for home.
For a set, Murray seemed to be doing just that. He was focused, he was playing well enough and he was keeping the aggressive if inconsistent Golubev at bay. But it was not to last and, as the Scot’s error count rose in the second and third sets, so his patience and concentration grew ever thinner, not helped by the presence of “Spidercam”, the flying TV camera that whizzes around the court on strings and pulleys and kept distracting Murray as he went to serve.
Fortunately, he was able to regroup in the fourth set by which time the Russian-born Kazakh was firing the occasional impressive winner but far too many toe-curling errors. In all, he racked up 59 unforced errors and, against Murray, that was never going to work.
Murray knew full well that he was a much better player than his rival; he knew how to construct points and create opportunities – all he had to do was grit his teeth and concentrate, something he managed to do again in the fourth set to put the Kazakh away.
“It was tough conditions,” Murray said. “It was obviously windy, especially at the beginning of the match, and very heavy conditions, cold and slow. He also goes for his shots a lot, there wasn’t too much rhythm. It was a tricky match. It wasn’t easy to play great tennis. So you just had to just play a sort of solid, high percentage game. That was enough today.
“I won the match. I did enough, third set on the serve particularly well. For the rest of the match I did okay. I did what I had to do and I have got myself into the tournament now.”
He will be back at work again tomorrow against Marinko “Mad Dog” Matosevic. The Australian won his first main draw match at a grand slam event yesterday, beating Dustin Brown 7-6, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 and afterwards celebrated as if he had just won the tournament. Rolling in the red clay and roaring at the heavens, he had finally broken his grand slam duck after 12 previous failures and he was delighted. Matosevic is not known as Mad Dog for nothing, not that Murray was willing to reveal exactly what he gets up to on tour, not in mixed company at any rate. That said, he likes the world No 66 and knows to expect the unexpected tomorrow.
“From the time I have spent with him, I’d say that Mad Dog is a good name for him,” Murray said with a smile. “I get on very well with Marinko.
“He’s a funny guy. He’s an interesting character, that’s for sure. He’s a good guy and just good fun, good fun around the locker room, always makes everyone smile, makes everyone laugh. That’s nice.
“He’s a good ball striker. He’s had some good wins on the tour as a result of maybe being a bit up and down. But he can play good tennis. He’s a strong guy. It will be tough.”
It was not that tough the last time they met, though, as Murray whistled past the Australian for the loss of just four games at Queen’s Club last year. With that sort of experience to bolster his confidence, perhaps he will not have to use Santoro’s business card this week after all.