• Queen's

Murray starts new era...on his own

Nick Atkin at Queen's Club
June 9, 2014
Andy Murray will take on Paul-Henri Mathieu on Wednesday © PA Photos

It was the start of a new era for Andy Murray as he stepped out on the practice courts at Queen's Club on Monday morning, but it looked very much like the old one.

His announcement yesterday that he had appointed Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach had caused ripples through the game. However, the woman tasked with helping Murray win a third grand slam and go on to greater glories was nowhere to be seen.

Mauresmo will be in place as Murray gets his Queen's title defence up and running on Wednesday, when he takes on Paul-Henri Mathieu, who saw off Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene on the opening day.

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Novak Djokovic lost his second French Open final © Getty Images
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If Murray started the trend of appointing superstar coaches with his hiring of Ivan Lendl at the end of 2011, he has broken the mould again by hand-picking Mauresmo as the Czech's successor.

Female coaches are a rarity in professional tennis, especially on the men's tour, though Murray has played down the significance of his decision to go with the former women's world No.1 - and it is no doubt familiar territory, given his mother Judy's influence on his early playing days.

"For me, it doesn't feel so different because obviously when I was growing up I had my mum working with me until I was 17 years old," Murray told the BBC.

"I have always had a strong female influence in my career. I found with my mum especially that she listened extremely well.

"That was something that I felt right now that I needed. For me, it didn't feel like a strange thing to do."

Following his win on Monday, Mathieu had said, "I think I'm not the only one who is surprised," with regards to his compatriot's appointment as the Scot's coach.

Mathieu went on to back the move to bring in his compatriot Mauresmo, however, as has Roger Federer, though Murray isn't fussed what people think either way.

"From other players' point of view, I don't really care whether they think it's a good or bad appointment," added Murray. "It's whether it works well for me and my team, and hopefully it will be a good move for my career."

A conversation with Mauresmo before the French Open was enough to convince Murray that she was the right coach for him.

"I spoke to her a couple of times on the phone," he added. "I thought she was extremely calm. She listened very well. I met up with her in Paris before the tournament.

"I chatted to her for about an hour and a half about a number of different things, obviously mainly about tennis and my team and how I like to work and what my goals were.

"We decided to give it a go together over the grass. It's quite a high‑pressure situation in the next few weeks. I can get a good idea if it will work long‑term or not."

For now it was assistant coach Dani Vallverdu who continued to put Murray through his paces in Mauresmo's absence. The Wimbledon champion hit with Nenad Zimonjic - and, briefly, the veteran Serb's five-year-old son - as he began putting Friday's French Open semi-final thrashing at the hands of Rafael Nadal out of his mind.

What better way to do that than to return to the surface that brought him such glory last year.

Since that heartbreaking loss to Roger Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final, Murray - who today returned to the top five in the world rankings - has won 18 consecutive matches on grass, taking his Centre Court revenge on Federer to claim the gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics before, in 2013, becoming only the seventh man to complete the Queen's-Wimbledon double in the same year.

When it comes to active players' win percentages on grass in the Open Era, Murray (.839%) is second only to seven-time Wimbledon champion Federer (.871%).

Murray can extend that winning streak to 23 matches if he triumphs at Queen's Club for a fourth time this week. Standing in his path, should he come through against Mathieu, would be Bernard Tomic or Radek Stepanek in the third round.

Also lurking in the same half of the draw are Ernests Gulbis - who took Novak Djokovic to four sets in the other semi-final at Roland Garros last week - and Tomas Berdych. Former Queen's finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is in the top half of the draw with Stanislas Wawrinka, who, like Murray and the other top eight seeds, gets a bye in the first round.

It is reasonable to imagine Murray will be feeling the pressure this week due to the magnitude of his achievements last summer, when he ended Britain's 76-year wait for a male Wimbledon singles champion.

All eyes will be no doubt be on him - and his new coach - over the next month, however Murray insists the only pressure he will feel will be self-imposed.

"Pressure from the press and media or public perspective? I don't think so," Murray told Sky Sports News.

"But from my own expectations, I will definitely put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well.

"When you're defending a title, you want to do it properly and play good tennis and if you can't do it you want to lose to a great performance by your opponent so I'll put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well and hopefully I can have a good tournament."

Nick Atkin is an assistant editor at ESPN

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