Mauresmo takes pressure off Murray


At Wimbledon this year, there was always going to be a lot of attention on Andy Murray, the defending champion who snapped a 77-year British drought at the tournament. So what did he do? He grabbed even more attention by selecting a female coach two weeks before the tournament.

The 27-year-old created headlines two weeks ago by announcing he was going to work with two-time Grand Slam champion Amelie Mauresmo and becoming one of the few men ever to be coached by a former WTA player. Mauresmo will be working with Murray on a trial basis during the grass-court season.

It was always going to be hard for Murray to generate the kind of reaction he got from pairing with Ivan Lendl, especially considering he won two Grand Slams with the former Czech No. 1. That's not an easy act to follow, but Murray was clearly up to the challenge. Going with Mauresmo has, if anything, created an even bigger sensation.

Everyone from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to rank-and-file players, as well as male and female legends alike, has been asked to weigh in on the selection.

Mauresmo is well-respected in tennis circles. She has coached ATP player Michael Llodra, has been a consultant to former WTA No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and has worked with Marion Bartoli as French Fed Cup captain during Bartoli's title run at Wimbledon. From Murray's perspective, however, why make such a conspicuous, if progressive, pick?

To some extent, he seems amused by the stir he has caused. Even before the announcement, the world No. 8 had played up the prospect of working with a woman and said he was looking at both male and female candidates. Having grown up coached by his mother, it might be that Murray likes sending a message about the effectiveness of women training men.

"It doesn't feel that different because, obviously, when I was growing up I had my mom working with me until I was about 17 years old," Murray told the BBC in an interview before Queen's. "So I've always had a strong female influence in my career."

For someone who has never minded ribbing his fellow players a bit, raising a few eyebrows in the locker room might be satisfying -- even if his coach cannot get in there to see them.

"From other players' point of view, I don't care if they think it's a good or bad appointment," he said. " It's whether it works well for me and my team."

Despite all the attention the move has received, it has also, in a way, taken some of the attention off Murray himself. Most of the questions he got at the warm-up event at Queen's were about his new coach rather than the defense of his Wimbledon crown.

But if some of the pressure has been taken off Murray, it has been put firmly on Mauresmo's shoulders.

"[He] is the defending champion, so not much pressure," she said jokingly after being announced in the position.

The Frenchwoman also played down the social significance of her selection.

"I know it's a major event in the world of tennis -- in the world of sports as well," she said. "That's not my big concern right now. I want to help Andy. It's the only thing that I have in mind right now."

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