LONDON - Wimbledon champion Andy Murray sprang a surprise as he appointed Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach on Sunday. Murray's management team announced in a statement that Mauresmo will initially work with the Scot for his grass-court campaign, which gets under way at Queen's Club this week in the build-up to his defence of the Wimbledon crown.
"I'm excited by the possibilities of the new partnership and Amelie is someone I have always looked up to and admired," Murray wrote on his official website. "She's faced adversity plenty of times in her career, but was an amazing player and won major titles, including Wimbledon." Murray had been searching for a coach since parting ways with Ivan Lendl in March and was linked with a host of big names including legendary American John McEnroe and leading coaches Larry Stefanki, Darren Cahill and Roger Rasheed.
But in the end he has gone for former world number one Mauresmo, who was first mooted as a shock candidate after she watched his match against Andrey Golubev at the French Open. The 27-year-old's decision to hire a woman will be seen by some as a gamble, but Mauresmo, who won Wimbledon in 2006 before retiring in 2009, already has experience of coaching a male player after a spell with compatriot Michael Llodra in 2010.
She retains close links to the sport as coach of the France Fed Cup team, worked as a member of former world number one Victoria Azarenka's coaching staff in 2012 and also coached Marion Bartoli when she ended her long wait to win a Grand Slam at Wimbledon last year. Murray, who was thrashed by Rafael Nadal in the French Open semi-finals, has no doubts about her credentials. "I have a very strong coaching team already in place, but I think Amelie brings with her experience and tactical expertise and will push us all to improve," he said. "Everyone I know talks very highly of Amelie, as a person and coach, and I'm convinced that her joining the team will help us push on. I want to win more grand slams."
After ending Britain's 77-year wait for a male winner of the Wimbledon singles title last year, Murray has struggled to be built on that historic triumph. Hampered by a back injury that required surgery last year, he has failed to reach a single ATP Tour or Grand Slam final since then and his ranking has dipped to eighth in the world. The British number one's French Open challenge came to a humbling end with a crushing straight sets defeat against Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals on Friday.
But having a new coach in his corner ahead of the pressure-packed grass-court season, where Murray will bid to defend the titles at Queen's and Wimbledon -- which begins on June 23, could give him a much-needed boost. Mauresmo, a two-time Grand Slam champion, is convinced she can help Murray get back on track, whether the partnership proves a long or short term venture.
"I'm really excited to be able to work with Andy," the 34-year-old told Murray's website. "He's an amazingly talented tennis player and I feel I have plenty to offer both him and the team around him. I'm looking forward to getting down to work and helping him win more Grand Slams." Mauresmo has big shoes to fill after Lendl helped Murray win the US Open, Wimbledon and the Olympic singles gold medal during their two-year spell together.
The experiment will be watched closely given how few women have coached top male players. American great Jimmy Connors was famously coached by his mother Gloria when he was learning the game as a boy and at the start of his professional career, as was Murray, whose mother Judy guided him through the early days. Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin, the world number 54, is coached by his wife Anastasia and Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin, the world number 49, by his mother Klaudiya.