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Murray goes back to the future with latest appointment

The timing was classic Andy Murray and so was the nature of the appointment.

Amelie Mauresmo, Wimbledon champion in 2006. Picture: PA
Amelie Mauresmo, Wimbledon champion in 2006. Picture: PA

The Scot's decision to hire Amelie Mauresmo as his coach, initially on a short-term basis over the grass-court season but with a view to a long-term agreement, was met with a mixture of surprise and delight in the tennis world.

Murray is the first male grand slam champion since Jimmy Connors 40 years ago to hire a female coach, breaking a virtual taboo among the sport's leading men to steer clear of the norm.

A few men have had women coaches - Mikhail Kukushkin and Denis Istomin are two current examples - but many have been related through blood or marriage.

For a man who grew up with the voice of Judy Murray in his head, hiring a woman is probably a natural extension of Murray's career, following Ivan Lendl, whose shared experience helped him get over the line and claim grand slam glory.

But, as his appointment of former world No.1 Lendl proved, Murray also loves to set the trends and he will have enjoyed the debate, first about who his new coach would be and then about having a woman on board.

Mauresmo, who is also the France Fed Cup captain, said yesterday they had discussed long-term arrangements and that she had told Murray she was free for half of the year - the 25-week commitment Lendl was no longer willing to give.

With Wimbledon around the corner, it is questionable whether Mauresmo knows what she is letting herself in for, but the Frenchwoman is intelligent enough to deal with the media and get on with the important business, helping Murray add to his two grand slam wins.

Of the host of names linked with the job, Mauresmo, in hindsight, gave the game away by watching the whole of Murray's first-round match in Paris, just a few seats along from the rest of the Scot's team.

Like Lendl, who came with a history of his own and an ego to match, the appointment of Mauresmo also has the benefit that it will take pressure off Murray as he tries to defend his Wimbledon title.

But on a more long-term basis it seems that Murray believes Mauresmo is a good communicator and will help him tactically and perhaps emotionally as he goes for more glory. Speaking earlier in the French Open, it was interesting to hear Murray say that a female coach may have an edge when it comes to getting her message across and listening to what Murray says.

"When you get a lot of men in a room, there are often quite a lot of egos involved and communication can sometimes be quite difficult as not everyone listens," he said. "In those situations, women can listen a bit better and take things on board more easily than guys. From a communication point of view, it would probably be pretty good."

Murray and Mauresmo can certainly share a love for football, in particular for Arsenal, but it is doubtful whether Mauresmo will get too far in educating the Scot on her other true love - wine - since he famously says he does not like the taste of alcohol.

It is not the first time Mauresmo has helped a male player, though. In 2010 she worked with Michael Llodra (a fellow wine lover) over the grass-court season.

"She was No.1 and hadn't won any grand slams so the whole press were thinking she was not ready for No.1," Llodra said, at the time.

"She worked with Loic Courteau and they talked about why in the slams it was difficult for her, and she won two slams.

"It's never easy when you want to work mentally with someone. For me it was more a mental thing, to work with Amelie. You have to be aware, to learn. It was perfect."

As a player, Mauresmo found it hard to handle the pressure of expectation in Paris, where she never made it past the quarter-finals, having arrived there as favourite on more than one occasion.

But she found a way to achieve her goals and fulfil her potential, and Murray is someone who likes to hear advice from people who have been through the same thing as him.

"It's very easy to generalise when you talk about men and women but everyone's different and there are some men that will completely panic when something bad is happening in a match, and there will be some women that will panic during matches," Murray said.

"The ones that make the good coaches are the ones that are able to stay calm in those moments and can give sound, clear advice in pressure situations. When you've been there and done it, it's obviously easier to pass on that sort of advice."

Mauresmo will eventually be judged on Murray's results and the new coach said she is looking well beyond Wimbledon.

"We want to do something in the mid-term because miracles don't happen, not overnight," she said.

"Even though you can give him, new dynamics, it will not happen overnight. I want the best for him. So that's good."

Whether it brings success or not, Murray has again pushed the boundaries. That can only be a good thing.

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