MELBOURNE, Australia — Andy Murray may have spent much of his career trying to chase down Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on the court, but now he has more insight than them in one aspect of the game: what it’s like to have a tennis legend as your coach.
The tennis community is still trying to process Djokovic’s decision to hire Boris Becker as his new coach as well as Federer’s recent announcement that Stefan Edberg would be joining his team. Murray of course has already been there. The trend of former champions joining the coaching ranks (Michael Chang has joined Kei Nishikori’s team as well) can all be traced back to his decision to hire Ivan Lendl at the start of the 2012 season. Since then Murray has won Olympic gold and two Slams, including last year’s historic triumph at Wimbledon.
From Murray’s perspective, turning to a former champion for advice is all about the mental game. “I don’t think winning a major means that you have any idea how to coach technique,” he told reporters at his pre-tournament press conference at the Australian Open. “That’s something very different and a very different skill. Guys that have won majors know how to win tennis matches. They’ll understand tactics, pressure situations. They’ll understand the mentality you need to have going into major matches. And they’ll have a better understanding of sometimes why you’ll make certain decisions on the court because of that pressure, whereas if the person hasn’t played, it’s difficult to understand that. I don’t think winning a major necessarily makes you a great technical coach, but I think it will definitely help tactically and mentally.”
Murray said the early months of the coaching relationship can be awkward, humorously comparing it to a dating relationship. “If it’s with a woman, I would try to impress my girlfriend a lot more the first few months I was with her than I do now, I guess,” he said to a roomful of laughter. “I guess that’s natural.”
“But, yeah, it’s the same with Ivan. The first few months when I was working with him you’re kind of nervous going into practice sessions and stuff. That’s a good thing. It shows that you care and want to impress him. But then over time, you get used to having him around.”
Murray was quick to point out that an all-star coach in your box can’t be seen as a cure-all. “The player needs to be willing to put the work in in the gym, on the practice court and stuff. It doesn’t matter how good the coach is, you can have a great coach, but if you don’t put the work in, you’re not going to get results. We’ll have to see who puts the work in.”