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Murray not trying to cause a stir, says mother Judy

Mark Hodgkinson
June 10, 2014
Judy Murray was barred from the male locker room while travelling with son Andy - so too will new coach Amelie Mauresmo © PA Photos

Oestrogen levels have never been higher on the men's tennis scene. But don't imagine for one moment that Andy Murray's decision to hire Amelie Mauresmo for the grass-court swing, and perhaps beyond, was motivated by a desire to be the first leading male player to appoint a female coach. As Murray's mother and first female coach, Judy, disclosed in an exclusive interview with ESPN: "This had nothing to do with gender."

And everything to do with the Wimbledon champion's wish to work with someone - and there are very few who have such a tennis brain - who understands his complex, multi-speed game. Whether that coach has the Y chromosome or not didn't come into Andy Murray's thinking.

"Andy is used to having a female coach around - he did so for most of his junior career," said Judy. "The way that Andy plays and thinks about the game, and the variety he has in his game, he was looking for a coach who could help him make best use of that variety. And there aren't that many coaches around who understand that way of playing.

"This was about what a coach could offer, and whether they were male or female didn't matter."

Still, as Judy acknowledged, female coaches operate differently to their male counterparts. "They certainly have softer skills than male coaches," Judy told me. "They are probably better listeners and there is less ego with women than men."

We need role models to give younger female coaches inspiration and belief

Asked whether the previous lack of female coaches at the top of the men's game - and the small number on the women's circuit, too - spoke of sexism in the sport, Judy replied: "I think it's more a case of this [players hiring men] just being the way it's always been done."

Perhaps Andy employing Mauresmo - a former world No.1 and Wimbledon champion - will facilitate change (though of course that wasn't the reason for the Scot making this move). As Judy suggested, her son turning to a woman for advice at one of the most important stages of his career - it's less than fortnight before he returns to the All England Club - could be a key development.

"What this shows is that there is no barrier," she added. "There's no reason why a female coach who knows what she is doing, and who has the necessary experience, can't work at the top of men's tennis as well as in the women's game. And we need role models to give younger female coaches inspiration and belief.

"We also have to create a pathway from entry-level all the way through to the top of the game. There mustn't be barriers for female coaches."

For now, female coaches are hugely under-represented in professional tennis. "I think it's really important that there are more female coaches in tennis," said Judy Murray, who this weekend will be part of the 'Rally for Bally' event at the Edgbaston Priory Club, with the money raised going to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and to the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis. There will also be exhibition matches at Queen's Club and Devonshire Park.

"At entry-level in tennis, female coaches are probably outnumbered around four to one. As you move further up the game and reach national level, female coaches are outnumbered around 12 to one. When you go on the women's tour, almost all of the coaches are male, and then on the men's tour there are one or two examples of women coaching men, but they're mothers and wives. But I don't see a reason why a woman can't coach a man at any level of the game."

One potential difficulty for Mauresmo at this week's Aegon Championships at Queen's Club, and then at the All England Club, is that she won't have access to the men's locker-room before matches or during any rain delays.

"One thing to consider - and I experienced this when I was travelling a bit on the tour with Andy during his younger days - is that female coaches can't go in the men's locker room. And there will be occasions when you will really want to spend time with your player in the locker room, talking to them about their game. But you have to remember that there are the same restrictions for male coaches working with female players."

Andy Murray will be looking to win the title at Queen's for a fourth time © PA Photos

Mark Hodgkinson is the author of Lendl: The Man Who Made Murray

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