Au Revoir Amelie, the risk which sadly didn't pay off

Andy Murray has always been a man who for some has proven difficult to like.  The mood swings, teenage tantrums and his mother, Judy, watching over him like a Vulture from an early age, are just some of the reasons given for his supposed unlikability.  However, what no one can deny is his bravery when it comes to taking risks and in becoming the first high profile ATP player to hire a female coach two years ago, he broke potentially stigma shifting ground.  However, two years on and failure to add to his grand slam tally suggests that his gamble with Amelie Mauresmo is one which has ultimately failed.  

Murray's gamble should encourage others 

I want to start this article off by bluntly stating that I do not think for one second Mauresmo failed because she is a woman, far from it. Rather, I would argue that in coming into the ATP world with a fresh approach and mindset she has in fact benefitted Murray in several ways, not least his obvious improvement on clay.  A keen clay court player in her day, she brought much needed experience to this aspect of his game.  

In fact, I would encourage more of the ATP elite to hire a female coach and overcome the stigma.  Especially if there is the chance of a fruitful relationship.

Tennis has always been a leading sport in terms of overcoming stigmas and when one sees the succes of female coaches in other sports, namely Corinne Diacre of Ligue 2 side Clermont Foot, there's plenty to suggest that female coaches in male sports works.

Corinne Diacre has been Clermont Foot's head coach since 2014 (source: The Gaurdian)
Corinne Diacre has been Clermont Foot's head coach since 2014 (source: The Gaurdian)

Hiring a female coach, making him only the third player in recent memory to do so after Mikhail Kukushikin, who has been coached by his wife Anastasia since 2009, and Denis Istomin, who is coached by his Mother, Murray bucked a trend which had seen many of the top male players look towards past legends of the ATP game, including Novak Djokovic to Boris Becker and Roger Federer to Stefan Edberg.  

In doing so, he had to deal with the loss of two mainstays to his team when Dani Vallverdu, a lifelong friend, and Jez Green, his fitness trainer, both left on the back of the appointment.  Vallverdu was unhappy that he wasn't spoken to beforehand, and Green seemed to disagree with it altogether.  

Positives throughout, but never anything groundbreaking 

But there has been a measure of success in their two years together to justify the fallouts.  It began with Murray clawing his way back up the rankings following tumbling down them due to a back injury and ended with him having reached a consecutive final in Madrid and back amongst the world's elite.  In their time together, Murray has reached two grand slam finals, five Masters 1000 finals and five other ATP finals, with a success rate of just over 55%.  This has included a wonderful win over Novak Djokovic in last year's Rogers Cup Masters 1000 final and last year's Madrid Open final win over Rafael Nadal.  

Things continue to look even better when one considers the improvement made to Murray's game on clay over the last two years.  Once by far in a way his least comfortable surface, Mauresmo guided Murray to his first clay court title in last year's BMW Open in Munich, before he went on to win Madrid and then reach this year's final.  That's not to mention guiding Great Britain to their first Davis Cup since 1936 after he produced a masterclass in a final played on clay. 

Failure to bring down the Djokovic monopoly  

...with Murray having lost all but one of his finals against Novak Djokovic under her guide...he is now a clear second best...

However, here I would suggest that the progress begins to stifle and instead we have a Murray who is no better a player than he was when Ivan Lendl left.  Under Lendl, Murray was transformed from a promising bridesmaid into twice a bride - thrice if one includes his stunning Olympic final goldmedal victory over Roger Federer.

This is where the greatest failure of the Mauresmo reign lies.  In Lendl's two years, Murray always looked a man capable of beating those nearest to him, namely Djokovic, Federer and Nadal.  This is emphasised by his record against them in finals, where in two years Murray won 40% of these clashes; although it must be said that he never played Nadal in a final during Llend's two years.  But, the successes included his greatest victories to date, his 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon titles.  

Andy Murray became a grand slam champion under Ivan Lendl (Source: The Times)
Andy Murray became a grand slam champion under Ivan Lendl (Source: The Times)

However, the stats read far less favourably in the Frenchwoman's favour, with Murray having lost all but one of his finals against Novak Djokovic under her guidance, with Murray going from a man who looked capable of beating the Serb to a clear second best in less than twenty-four months.  His defeats have included two straight sets losses, not to menton his capitulation in the final set of the 2015 Australian Open final and weeks later in the Miami Open final.  

Naturally, allowances must be made for the upturn of Djokovic in this time, but the record is a sorry affair which pales in comparison to Ivan Lendl's tenure.  

There have been a number of off the court distractions for the two in their time together, namely that they both welcomed their respective first babies into the world.  With Mauresmo's time spent with Murray reduced even more so during during the last twelve months, and suggestions that they have been together for as little as seven weeks since last year's Wimbledon, Murray's desire for a more present coach has finally come to the fore. 

Back to the past for Murray? 

Where Murray goes next is anyone's guess, but he is unlikely to go for such a risky appointment given it may well be his last long-term of his career.  There are strong calls for Murray to do all he can to get Lendl back on side, and given the success, one would struggle to argue against these.  

However, for now, one can look back on the Murray-Mauresmo partnership as one which showed signs of promise, and dragged Murray back amongst the world's elite, but given the dormant grand slam trophy collection, Murray's failure to keep up with Novak Djokovic and his lack of grand slam finals, it is one which ultimately failed to deliver.