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Interview: Darren Cahill . . . just a phone call away for Andy Murray

ANDY Murray may not find a full-time coach in Darren Cahill but he will always have an admirer and friend in the 45-year-old Australian.

Cahill, who guided such as Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi to major success, has not the time or inclination to return to touring the ATP circuit. However, he will always be available to Murray.

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“I love the guy,” says Cahill, who has already started preparations for the 2011 season by training some of his clients, including Fernando Verdasco, in Las Vegas. “He is one of the best characters on the ATP tour,” he says of the 23-year-old Scot, “and he is a great player.”

The barrier to a closer relationship with the world No.4 is Cahill’s already crowded schedule. He has confirmed his standing as an outstanding tennis commentator with ESPN and he works as an ambassador for adidas, for whom he runs training sessions. He has no stomach, at the moment, to return to the grind of travelling the world with just one client. But he added: “Andy knows where I am if he wants a chat or a bit of advice. I would be delighted to help him.”

Cahill, however, believes Murray can benefit from a period without a coach. The Scot parted company with Miles Maclagan in the summer after rising to the top of world tennis with coaching associations with Leon Smith, Mark Petchey and Brad Gilbert. “He is the sort of player who can figure things out for himself. It will do Andy no harm to have a period on his own. He is a clever player and one who has all the shots. He thinks deeply about tennis and this could be a period of growth for him. It offers him more personal responsibility to solve problems.”

Cahill’s best performance at a grand slam event as a player came at the 1988 US Open, knocking out Boris Becker on the way to reaching the semi-finals where he lost to eventual champion Mats Wilander.

But he has coached grand slam winners and has watched closely as others have achieved success. “Andy Murray will win a major, and soon,” he says simply. “I am so sure of that. And once he breaks though in a grand slam he will become a multiple winner. I have so much admiration for his game but I also respect the pressure he has to carry on his shoulders. The whole of Britain wants a grand slam winner and it has been so long since Fred Perry [in 1936]. But Andy carries that with a lot of class and he will get his rewards.”

Cahill accepts Murray is operating in a golden age. “We are so lucky to have such a strong top four,” he says of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Murray. “Federer and Nadal are truly exceptional in the way they have dominated grand slam titles,” he adds. Only Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro have broken this domination in recent years but Cahill believes Murray can do it, too.

“He is getting stronger and he is the sort of player who improves with age,” he says. “He is starting to become more aggressive, too. The problem with Andy is that his counter-punching style is good enough for him to beat 98% of opponents almost 100% of the time. But he has a decent record against Nadal and Federer and he just needs to step it up in grand slams.

“These guys will not give it to you. You have to take it away from them. To get the job done, he has to be that bit more aggressive. It is just a matter of stepping up and being more positive on maybe six or seven points. That’s all it can come down to.”

Murray seems to have accepted this advice already. He stayed on the front foot against Nadal in the semi-finals of the Barclays Tour ATP Masters finals in London last month, even going for an aggressive forehand on match point. That missed the line by millimetres but the Scot said he was happy he had tried it.

“Yes, that has to be the strategy,” agrees Cahill. “Andy has the ability to make these shots and it is just a matter of having the confidence in yourself to go for them in the big moments.”

Cahill also believes there is no immediate threat to the dominance of the Big Four. “Roger will go on for a couple of years as a grand- slam contender,” he says of Federer. “His appointment of Paul Annacone as his coach shows he is far from ready to wind down. He is a smart player, too. He has become more aggressive but conserves his energy outside of grand slams.”

He says Grigor Dimitrov, the 19-year-old Bulgarian, and Bernard Tomic, the 18-year-old Australian, have chances to make the top level but concedes they are a long way off the top players. Why is no youngster pushing his way to the top of the ATP rankings?

“The men’s game is extremely strong at the moment,” says Cahill. “String technology has also meant that you need strength and a big, confident swing to make it. The guys who are winning tournaments are exceptional. For example, Murray has every shot but he is strong and have you seen how fast he is across court. You need the whole package to have a chance.” He is convinced the Scot has more than a chance for a major. “He will do it,” he says again. “And if he ever needs a word of advice he just needs to call.”

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