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Sunday, June 8, 2014
Can Mauresmo help Murray win?

By Matt Wilansky
ESPN.com

Since he was 9 years old, Andy Murray has led a fairly alternative tennis life.

His parents, Judy and Willie, split back when Murray was a burgeoning junior with aspirations of one day becoming a professional. It was that moment when Murray's mother took over full-time coaching responsibilities.

Of course, a parent mentoring her child isn't a revelation in tennis circles -- it's actually quite common. But according to Murray, Judy couldn't "even boil vegetables," never mind try to cobble together a proper dinner. Her mission in life was to make Murray into a champion -- even if that meant he was robbed of some serious nutrition.

But it was Judy's ferocious intensity, something we've seen time and time again in the stands even after she stopped coaching him, that eventually molded Murray into the player he is today.

Andy Murray
Andy Murray hired another coach with a Grand Slam-winning pedigree in Amelie Mauresmo.

A couple of weeks ago, the Scot made some rumblings when he said he'd have no compunction hiring a female coach after splitting with Ivan Lendl back in March. It turns out Murray wasn't saying that in jest. On Sunday, just an hour or so before the men's French Open final commenced, he announced two-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo would be his next coach.

"Andy contacted me a few weeks ago and we started to talk about this possibility to work, to be working together," Mauresmo told the media in a brief news conference. "It's not really something that I was thinking about doing when I stopped being a tennis player

"Then we talked again a little bit more about how to do the things maybe about his game, about different things.

"We came up with the will from both sides to, yeah, to give it a shot."

For his part, Murray has never been wary in hiring a needle-moving coach. Two and a half years ago, he hired Lendl, an eight-time Slam champion, to guide him. Lendl led Murray to the world No. 2 ranking and two major titles, including a Wimbledon crown 11 months ago in front of his Centre Court cauldron -- just months after Murray won an Olympic gold medal on the same All-England Club grass.

Murray's move to hire Lendl started a celebrity coaching wave. Novak Djokovic hired Boris Becker this past December, and then Roger Federer began working with Stefan Edberg, and Kei Nishikori joined forces with former French Open champion Michael Chang. Outside Murray-Lendl, the other combos have yet to win a Grand Slam title, including Djokovic, who lost the French Open final to Rafael Nadal on Sunday.

"First of all, I think [Murray] has the most pressure," Mauresmo said. "That's for sure when you're a player, and I know what it is. You have huge pressure on your shoulders. This will remain this way. Yes, it will change a little bit my life and my retirement, let's say. But I'm passionate. I'm passionate about this sport. I love challenges.

"I don't know, I guess I like to put myself on the line at some point and see what I can do."

Like Murray, Mauresmo was long dubbed the best player in the game without a major title to her name. In 2004, she ascended to the top spot, joining Kim Clijsters as the only Slam-less players to reach the world No. 1. It wasn't until two years later that Mauresmo finally won the Aussie Open and Wimbledon, knocking off Justine Henin in both finals.

Murray didn't reel in a Slam title until his 28th try, at the 2012 US Open. To say it was a cathartic victory is an understatement, as evidenced by his subsequent Wimbledon run.

Given their common backstories, chemistry could work in their favor. But what can Mauresmo offer Murray at this point in his career?

"Well, it's difficult to say, you know, and to give all the details," Mauresmo said. "I'm a player who has good experience. He's interested in that. I have a view on tennis. And also, on many details, daily things, which maybe will help."

Forty-two years after Title IX, sports, and especially in tennis, has progressed significantly. The ATP and WTA play joint events at four Grand Slam events and six Masters 1000/Tier 1 tournaments a year. No dual-gender sport coexists in the same fashion as tennis with players such as Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova garnering the same spotlight as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Prize money, which was once a contentious narrative, is now equal at all four majors. The two tours induct players into the same Hall of Fame and are feted at the same social events around championships.

Murray's egalitarian selection of Mauresmo only underscores that unity.

"I know it's a major event in a way in the world of tennis -- in the world of sports as well," Mauresmo said. But you know what? As I have said before, it's a challenge. It's a professional goal for me. This is what I'm interested in. It's not an easy thing. It's not simple.

"I have to live up to this challenge. I'll dedicate all of my energy and focus on this, and then if we can manage to change the situation, that's a good thing."

Jane McManus contributed to this report