Andy Murray’s audacious move to appoint Amelie Mauresmo as his coach faces its first test of reckoning on Monday when the Scot steps onto the turf of Centre Court as a defending Wimbledon Champion for the first time.
Since the announcement of the Scot hiring the 2006 Ladies’ Singles Champion during last month’s French Open, huge interest has centred on how the trial partnership would pan out.
The Frenchwoman returns as a defending champion of sorts herself. She was called in to Marion Bartoli’s camp and helped guide her countrywoman to an unlikely Wimbledon triumph last year.
And while not renowned as a heavyweight in handling the weight of expectations on home soil, Mauresmo knows what it is like to step onto Wimbledon’s Centre Court as a defending champion.
“I think tomorrow when I sort of go out on the court, I need to enjoy that moment when I walk back on the court. But as soon as I start playing the match, yeah, it's about trying to win,” Murray said. “I'm aware when I walk out on the court tomorrow I'm going to be nervous. I know there's going to be pressure. Yeah, that's why today when I woke up there's butterflies there. You're one day away from starting the tournament.”
Despite his Queen’s Club title defence on the eve of The Championships hitting a snag against veteran Czech Radek Stepanek in his first match on the grass this season, the Murray-Mauresmo camp was not losing sleep over the setback.
Murray was adamant the former women’s No.1 had a better understanding of the psychological elements of the game, in part due to her own struggles. She was, after all, not brought in to fine-tune the technical aspect of his game.
“I think she was someone who struggled with nerves and conquered them later in her career, which I think when you start to coach someone, I think you can help more than someone that hasn't had those issues before,” Murray said. “She understands the psychological part of the game maybe more than some because of that. And in terms of what she's like, her game style, she had quite a creative game style. She used a lot of spins, slices, she came to the net, good variety in her game. That's something that I've always tried to use during my career. So I think she can help with that.
“And then in terms of what she's like as a person, she's a very, very nice person. She's very easy to speak to. She's very easy to communicate with. She listens well. She's firm, as well.”
Murray’s 2014 comeback from back surgery has been steady if not extraordinary. He has not beaten a player in the top 10 this year, with only one top 20 scalp to his name, but will be buoyed in part by a run to the semi-finals at Roland Garros, typically his weakest of the four majors.
Wimbledon is the slam where the world No.5 feels most comfortable. He has reached the semi-finals or better for the past five years and has arguably the most favourable draw of the top four seeds. He opens his defence against David Goffin and has not left his homework on the bus when getting an understanding of the Belgian’s credentials.
“He's played some very good tennis on the big stages before. I think he played Roger [Federer] a few years ago at the French Open and pushed him close in four sets. I think he also played Novak [Djokovic] in one of the slams on the hard courts before and had a tight three-set match with him,” Murray said. “He's a solid player in all parts of the court. It will be a tricky match.”
Murray will receive a welcome unlike any he has experienced on the opening day at Wimbledon on Monday and his teaming with Mauresmo enters new territory. Both arrive having tasted Wimbledon success last year. It is up to Murray whether both will taste that success again.
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