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What the papers say

Andy Murray and coach Amelie Mauresmo in practice
by Clive White
Saturday 5 July 2014

The Saturday papers were full of reports – for the most part speculation rather than fact – of rifts between players and within camps, all of it involving British players.

Ever since the defending champion Andy Murray went lamely out of these Championships in the quarter-finals, scribes have been desperately searching for reasons for his exit other than the obvious one: that he simply didn’t play very well against Grigor Dimitrov.

First it was the mystery behind the alleged outburst aimed at his players’ box during the third set of his match against Dimitrov and then it was “whispers” of discontent within the camp about the way that Amelie Mauresmo’s appointment as coach, initially for the grass court season, was announced without prior consultation within the team on the last day of the French Open.

According to various papers, Dani Vallverdu, Murray’s long-time assistant coach, and Jez Green, his fitness trainer, are considering their positions or, worse still, on the point of leaving. Under the fairly conclusive headline ‘Mutiny in Murray’s team over Mauresmo’, Simon Briggs wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “The confusion surrounding Andy Murray’s coaching set-up grew deeper yesterday as whispers began to leak out about how much discontent Amelie Mauresmo’s appointment had caused the rest of his team”.

He continued: “The remarkable thing is that neither Murray’s long-serving assistant coach Dani Vallverdu nor any other members of his backroom staff – which also includes fitness trainers Jez Green and Matt Little as well as physio Mark Bender – had been informed of the decision in advance.”

Neil Harman, of The Times, thought that the importance of Vallverdu to the “stability of Murray is immense, especially at a time when the player requires a period of reassurance and invigoration”.

To be fair, Eugenie Bouchard invited the speculation about the rift between herself and her one-time friend Laura Robson when she replied to a question about whether they were still friends: “No, I don’t think so.” And when asked to explain why they weren’t she added: “I’m sure you guys can figure out that one. I’ll leave it at that.” And so, of course, the media did try.

“Where does this animosity stem from?” asks Briggs in the Telegraph. “One factor is the role of Nick Saviano, who runs what is arguably Florida’s second most famous tennis academy after Nick Bollettieri’s, and has supervised Bouchard’s career from the age of 12. Some sources have suggested that the two women were effectively competing for Saviano’s services like teenagers fighting over a new boyfriend.”

Daniela Sheridan in The Times writes: “Nick Saviano has been coaching both women but earlier this year he started working more closely with Bouchard. The 57-year-old coach, who is a former player, now accompanies her to the major tournaments, leaving Robson to rely on the advice of his junior assistant Jesse Witten, 31.”

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Oliver Brown, in the Daily Telegraph, says that there was so much “slip, skate and slither” throughout the Novak Djokovic v Grigor Dimitrov semi-final that “it might as well have been rechristened Tennis on Ice”.He adds: “How Boris Becker, Djokovic’s coach and a man who made full-length dives across the Centre Court lawn his stock-in-trade, would have loved it”. He quoted Djokovic as saying: “I was playing against the future star. He deserves credit for his fighting, because he has improved immensely over the past eight months.”

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Although the old guard prevailed in the men’s semi-finals, Simon Briggs, of the Daily Telegraph, thought that “the new generation have come one step closer to fomenting a revolution this fortnight, with [Milos] Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov both showing real quality on their way to the last four. Yesterday, though, the ancient regime stood firm. Over the last six or seven years, “Big Four” players like [Roger] Federer and Novak Djokovic have helped to reinforce each other’s armoury.”

He quotes Raonic as saying: “I think the young guys have the level within themselves. I think it’s more just an understanding of how to deal with the situation. It was about knowing what kind of opportunity lies ahead, beyond this round and beyond that, and what I really wanted to go for and chase. Maybe I just put that on myself a little too much. But I know that I can do much better.”

Nick Bollettieri, the American coach, in his column in The Independent, believes that in the final Djokovic “will look to keep it to a baseline battle because he knows he will win that. Federer needs to take it to an all-court match if he is going to win Wimbledon again. I have been impressed by the changes made to Federer’s game, and Stefan Edberg [his coach] has had a positive impact. He has to get to the net as much as he can and then he will have a chance in what the makings of a classic.”

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In an interview with Marion Bartoli, the recently retired Wimbledon champion, Hannah Betts, in the Daily Telegraph, says the Frenchwoman “became a heroine of a different sort when John Inverdale , the BBC commentator who out-Partridges Alan Partridge, pre-empted her Wimbledon victory by denigrating her as someone who was “never going to be a looker”. Bartoli tells her: “I felt the best way of reacting to it was ignoring it. It was my moment and I didn’t want anything, or anyone, to get in the way of that. I worked so hard for it. And, I mean, Hugh Jackman tweeting you, saying: ‘What an inspirational story and a lovely person’ – that is beating by a million times what Inverdale said.”

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The mystery surrounding Serena Williams’s on-court withdrawal because of illness from the ladies’ doubles this week deepened when Simon Cambers, in The Guardian, reported that she had reconfirmed her entry for the Swedish Open – for which she is the defending champion – in Bastad, which starts on Monday. Cambers writes: “It had been thought that she would return to the United States to rest and begin preparing for the North American hard court season. But tournament directors at the Swedish Open told the Guardian via email yesterday that the Williams camp had reconfirmed Serena’s entry and she would be back on court, on clay, in Bastad.”

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