Did it come as a surprise when Andy Murray signed up Amelie Mauresmo as his coach? The hints were getting clearer and more obvious when the two-time major winner keenly monitored the Scot’s progress at Roland Garros, attending his matches, even though the man himself firmly refuted all questions.
The trend of teaming up with unconventional coaches is something that has become a norm these days. And Murray is, in his own way is a pioneer of this trend after his successful partnership with Ivan Lendl.
Doubts that assailed many about Murray’s rationale of hiring Lendl as his coach were dispelled pretty much in the initial few months of their partnership. It became clear that the core area of focus of Lendl as far as his charge was concerned, was going to be on making sure that he didn’t lose his way mentally during tougher matches. He also made sure that his game didn’t get overly defensive.
The reticence that Lendl was known for – all throughout his playing days, reflected in his protégé as well. From being a player who invariably performed well in the first six rounds of a major and then choke in the final, Murray has two Grand Slams under his belt and is looking good for a few more.
The french woman’s role and responsibility gets trickier and tougher. Lendl has set the bar quite high and it will be upto Mauresmo to exceed them in order for Murray to win more slams.
It is in this aspect that Mauresmo fits the bill perfectly. Not only does she have the experience of going through a similar phase of professional upheavals with self-doubts and uncertainties clouding her potential, she’s also an extremely good mentor. Her stint in the French Fed Cup team has been quite productive as she focussed on individual performances.
She has also mentored Alize Cornet and Marion Bartoli in recent years. Bartoli credited Mauresmo to be the most important contributing factor in her win at Wimbledon in 2013, her first major title, despite showing promise earlier.
Bartoli was a player who would retreat into herself, mentally fragile and vulnerable to the slightest offence mounted by her opponent, across the net. Her solid show at Wimbledon thus turned out to be quite a contrary performance, completely shredding existing notions about how she would succumb to the pressure.
Despite Murray living up to his potential, the recurring back ailment has done enough damage. It is also casting doubts over his title defence at Wimbledon.
Seven time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer endorsed Mauresmo’s appointment.
The decision has also favourably hedged bets on women becoming strong contenders to take on significant coaching roles for men, in spite of Mauresmo’s short stinted – and seemingly muted – association with Michael Llorda a few years ago. It has also laid the methodical start of upending the subtle-yet-unhidden glass ceiling that prevails in the sport; in the mindsets of several male players, that women ought to not to take the sport seriously in spite of pay-wise equality being promoted.
In this regard too, the British No. 1 has set a pivotal precedent. One that promises ‘Greater Good’, not only for him on a one-to-one basis, but also for the sport as a whole.