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No surprise Scot is the one to break the mould

If WE have learned one thing about Andy Murray over the past few years, it is that he does things his own way.

Amelie Mauresmo is happy to provide the 'something different' she thinks Murray is looking for. Picture: Getty Sport
Amelie Mauresmo is happy to provide the 'something different' she thinks Murray is looking for. Picture: Getty Sport

In keeping with this trademark individuality, the Scot has chosen the Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo as the person to replace Ivan Lendl as his coach, who left Murray's team three months ago.

The appointment of Mauresmo, the 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon champion, is likely to attract much attention but it is not a wholly unexpected decision; the Frenchwoman was one of a plethora of potential candidates whose names had been bandied about in recent weeks. She lurked amongst the list of the usual suspects such as Darren Cahill and Bob Brett, as well as some more left-field options such as John McEnroe and Andre Agassi.

Mauresmo will immediately find herself in the minority on the ATP tour; she is the only woman to coach a high-profile male player and, in fact, the women's tour is also dominated by male coaches with just one player in the WTA's top 20, Sabine Lisicki, being coached by a woman. Currently on the ATP Tour, Mikhail Kukushkin is coached by his wife and Denis Istomin by his mother but both these players are outside the world's top 40.

But if any of the top male players was going to break the mould, it was always likely to be Murray.

The appointment of Lendl in 2011 was something of a risk but that gamble was rewarded in the most fruitful fashion, with two grand slam titles. The appointment of Mauresmo is also a risk, although perhaps less so than that of Lendl.

She has a considerable coaching pedigree, being the current French Fed Cup captain as well as having coached Marion Bartoli to her Wimbledon title last year.

The most intriguing entry on Mauresmo's coaching cv, however, is the summer she spent coaching Michael Llodra in 2010, during which time he won the grass-court event at Eastbourne. So Mauresmo has previous on the ATP Tour.

She knows the differences between men's and women's tennis, has thorough knowledge of the game and, significantly, knows how to win major titles.

Murray has decided that, despite the sizeable group of men who would have bitten his hand off for the opportunity to coach one of the best players in the world, Mauresmo is the best candidate for the job. It is unsurprising that the mindset of the Scot towards women coaches is a divergence from that of his peers.

Murray's entire career has been shaped by his early tennis-playing days in which he was coached by his mother. Judy Murray has two sons, both of whom are Wimbledon champions, and has remained a constant presence in her younger son's life despite having not held any hands-on coaching duties since Murray was a teenager. In contrast to many of the pushy parent horror stories which surface with alarming regularity in women's tennis -nightmare fathers appear to be 10-a-penny on the WTA Tour - his mother has been a steadying influence on Murray's career.

Judy, more than any other individual, has made Murray into the fiercely driven, competitive individual that he is today and the fact that the Scot has had such a positive female influence quite so prominently positioned in his life has evidently left an indelible mark.

While many tennis parents are unbearably pushy, Judy has had a nurturing relationship with her son which is why, despite Murray facing at times heavy criticism of her presence, he has refused to succumb and reduce her input.

During the periods of his career in which Murray has been without an official coach, Judy has taken on an increased supporting role including scouting players and discussing tactics with her son.

That the influence of his most significant of coaches has been feminine and wholly positive has broadened his mind to what exactly women can bring to the table, something to which the majority of male players remain oblivious.

Mauresmo's appointment will have a far wider reach than solely whatever she manages to achieve with Murray, however. The lack of female coaches is widely decried, including by Murray's mother as well as former players such as Billie Jean King who recently called the decision of so few female players to hire women coaches as a "big mistake". A shift in attitude appears to be occurring, though. In the past, there was a tacit belief that women do not have exactly what is required to become an elite coach; whether it is their mentality, temperament or technical ability, the dearth of females in high-profile coaching posts indicates a complete unwillingness to hire them.

Mauresmo's appointment by one of the best and highest profile athletes in the world will help alter these unfavourable attitudes, as will the recent decision by the French men's second division football club, Clermont Foot. They announced last month that they had hired Helena Costa to be their manager and in securing this post, she became the highest profile female manager of a men's football team anywhere in the world.

Yet women coaches remain horrendously outnumbered in elite competition, particularly in the sphere of men's sport. Mauresmo and Costa are helping chip away at the glass ceiling. If they are successful at their respective jobs then it is fathomable that before too long, the appointment of women's coaches will become far more commonplace.

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