Tennis

Published: Sunday June 22, 2014 MYT 1:47:01 AM
Updated: Sunday June 22, 2014 MYT 1:48:08 AM

Leading players back Mauresmo's return as Murray's coach

LONDON - Serena Williams could not care less, Maria Sharapova thinks it's great and Novak Djokovic admitted his surprise as Wimbledon's title contenders were asked their views on Andy Murray choosing Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach.

Defending men's champion Murray went against convention when deciding to work with Frenchwoman Mauresmo, following his split with Ivan Lendl under whom he won two grand slam titles.

Former Wimbledon champion Mauresmo will return to the AllEngland Club on Monday as the only female coach working with one of the men's singles seeds - and a high profile one at that.

Initially Mauresmo, who also won the Australian Open and topped the world rankings, is working with Murray on a trial basis and the next couple of weeks may decide whether the partnership becomes long-term.

The unusual liaison was still a hot topic on Saturday as the players practised in glorious sunshine.

"I think it's great," fifth seed Maria Sharapova, who won the women's title 10 years ago, told reporters.

"I had my fair amount of trouble playing against her. I think she's a very knowledgeable player and knowledgeable person.

"Ever since she's retired, she's been around the game for so many years from a men's and women's perspective. It's great to see her be his coach."

On the men's tour only Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin, who has been coached by his now wife Anastasia since 2009, and Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin, coached by his mother Klaudiya, are comparable to Murray who himself was coached by his mother during the early part of his career.

Even on the women's tour female coaches are a rarity, with none of the current top 20 on the WTA rankings employing one, although Germany's Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki has an informal relationship with former number one Martina Hingis.

Marion Bartoli, who beat Lisicki in last year's final but has since retired, also worked with compatriot Mauresmo for a while having been coached throughout her career by dad Walter.

French Open champion Sharapova says she would welcome the chance to work with a female coach but said many former women players choose a family life after retirement.

"I think women get to a certain point in their career where family becomes maybe a bit of a priority and they're not able to travel as much when they have children," the Russian said.

Not everyone has been positive about Murray's choice.

Australian world no.59 Marinko Matosevic, has said he would never employ a female coach because he did not think highly of the women's game.

However, men's top seed Novak Djokovic, while admitting he was surprised, said Mauresmo has much to offer.

"Honestly, (I was) a bit surprised," the French Open runner-up told reporters. "It hasn't been the case (to hire a femalecoach) in men's tennis for many years, I think.

BIG STAGE

"Talking about Amelie, she has also been a number one, a grand slam champion, somebody that knows how it feels to play on a big stage and how to kind of cope with the pressure.

"I think most of all she's very professional. It's definitely an interesting decision, and we'll see howit goes in this tournament."

Women's top seed Serena Williams, whose sullen mood did not match her vibrant pink shirt, could not really understand what all the fuss was about.

"It doesn't bother me one way or the other," the women's top seed shrugged. "I think Andy Murray can make any decision he chooses.

"I think Amelie Mauresmo was a former Wimbledon champion, a former No. 1, and I know she's won more than one grand slam, so that's his choice."

Asked whether she would choose to coach one day, she offered a similarly muted response.

"I can't say no because I do think that one should never say never," the five-times Wimbledon champion said.

"I don't see why not. My mom still helps me out a lot."

All eyes will be on Murray and his new coach when he takes on Belgium's David Goffin on Monday.

(Editing by Martyn Herman)

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