Amelie Mauresmo’s groundbreaking role with Andy Murray will pave the way for a host of women coaching men, according to Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Frenchman Mathieu admitted surprise at Mauresmo’s appointment, ahead of his second-round clash with reigning Wimbledon champion Murray at the Queen’s Club Aegon Championships tomorrow.
The 32-year-old saw off Aljaz Bedene 7-6, 6-4 at Queen’s to set up his showdown with Murray. Strasbourg-born Mathieu praised Mauresmo’s appointment, backing Wimbledon champion Murray for taking the bold step.
“It’s going to be an interesting relationship,” said Mathieu, expecting a stern test against Murray. “I didn’t hear about it in advance, but they must have thought about it, and talked about it together, and I think it can work.
“She has a lot of experience in the game, and she loves tennis, she always played with passion like Andy. Approaching the game and the big event I think she can help him.
“I was surprised, honestly, and I think I’m not the only one. It’s the first time this has happened that a woman will train a man. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, and I think we’ll see it more and more.
“I like the fact Amelie will train Andy because it will bring something new in our sport. She had a great career, she’s very professional and very passionate about tennis, and that’s the most important thing.
His appointment of Mauresmo has dominated front and back page headlines since the weekend, but Murray remains unfazed by the attention the move has attracted.
He said: “A few people have come up to me and sort of asked if it was serious. But I don’t really care whether they think it’s a good or bad appointment. It’s whether it works well for me and my team, and hopefully it will be a good move for my career. I think it’s important that the people you work with respect and understand and listen, you know, to how you’re feeling, as well, because you can’t just be pushed extremely hard every single day.
“I have started to listen to my body a lot more because, over the years, you start to pick up some things,” he added, referring to the back surgery he had last year which has seen him take time to rebuild his form.
“I need to pick my moments during the year where I really go for it in training. That was one of the reasons [for the appointment of Mauresmo]. For me, it didn’t feel a strange thing to do.”
Heather Watson says Mauresmo’s appointment will be a shot in the arm for the future of women’s tennis in Britain.
Watson has replaced the injured Laura Robson as British No 1 after reaching the second round of the French Open after a return to full fitness and form following glandular fever.
The Guernsey-born 22-year-old refuses to separate the men’s and women’s games at world level – and hopes Murray handing Mauresmo a key role will broaden wider horizons.
“I don’t like to separate men and women; I don’t view it as any special thing,” said Watson. “She has vast experience as a player and a coach, whether she is a woman or not. She has grand slam titles, so if she has the information and knowledge that Andy feels he needs then that’s great and I hope it works out for both of them.”
Watson herself has been described by Murray’s mother Judy – the GB Fed Cup captain – as a role model to aspiring young British tennis players.
However, she said: “You never really get used to being viewed as a role model, definitely not.
“But it’s flattering and I would love it if people considered me in that way. For young people to look up to me, that’s just such a huge compliment and hopefully would indicate I’m going about things the right way.”