Andy Murray hit the courts at Queen's Club in London for his first public practice session with his new coach Amelie Mauresmo on Wednesday before defeating Paul-Henri Mattieu 6-4, 6-4 in his opening match at the Aegon Championships.
Murray, who is back into the top five after making the semifinals of the French Open, announced the hire on Sunday. He had been without a coach since the Spring after parting ways with Ivan Lendl, under whom he won his two major titles, including Wimbledon last year.
Mauresmo's appointment has, for better and worse, raised quite a few eyebrows. The two-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1 is the first ex-WTA player to hold such a high-profile coaching position on the ATP tour. But Murray has never gone the traditional route with his coaches. He broke the mold two years ago by naming Lendl his coach, paving the way for recent hires of former ATP champions Stefan Edberg (Roger Federer), Boris Becker (Novak Djokovic) and Michael Chang (Kei Nishikori).
But the conversation around Mauresmo has focused not on her credentials or her coaching ability, but her gender. Social media erupted at the news of the hire, mocking and chastising Murray for daring to hire a female coach, and several tennis figures weighed in with their two cents.
Speaking to BBC, Pat Cash wondered how the men would react to having a woman in the locker room. Never mind the fact that this doesn't seem to be a concern on the WTA Tour, where male coaches far outnumber female coaches, but men are not allowed in the women's locker room and vice versa, regardless of the coaching arrangement. So no, Mauresmo won't be wandering into the ATP showers anytime soon.
Current ATP player Marinko Matosevic of Australia stated that he'd never appoint a female coach. "For me, I couldn't do it since I don't think that highly of the women's game," he said.
French Open semifinalist Ernests Gulbis joked he was deciding between Maria Sharapova or Ana Ivanovic as his new coach but couldn't decide which.
But the bottom line is that it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks. To Murray's credit, he's not only dismissed all the concerns about Mauresmo's gender, but he's gone out of his way to emphasize and embrace the critical role women have played in his career. Murray's mother Judy, the British Fed Cup captain, coached him to his junior U.S. Open title.
He's also emphasized that he's a fan of women's tennis. He marveled at Taylor Townsend's game during the French Open, and did the same for France's Caroline Garcia a few years ago. He says he loves watching Agnieszka Radwanska's shotmaking, and one time tweeted he was watching a stream of a tiny WTA tournament in Uzbekistan. He's a rare member of the men's tour that never speaks dismissively of the women's game.
He even got the Billie Jean King stamp of approval during the French Open:
Great win @andy_murray. Don't think your positive attitude towards women during @rolandgarros has gone unnoticed. @judmoo raised you right!
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) June 4, 2014
Here's what Murray told BBC about the hire.
He was actually looking for a female coach: Murray reached out to ESPN commentator and Adidas coach Darren Cahill, who floated Mauresmo's name. "I didn't know a lot of the females that were playing around the last 10 years or so, and he thought Amelie would be a good fit," Murray said. "We also came up with a few other names, and after I spoke to her I just had a good feeling about it."
He doesn't think it's that big a deal: "For me it doesn't feel so different because obviously when I was growing up I had my mom working with me until I was about 17 years old. She came to a few tournaments with me when I didn't ahve a coach when I was 16 , 17, futures tournaments, U.S. Open juniors. So I've always had a strong female influence in my career."
He wanted someone who will listen: "I've found, with my mum especially, that she listened extremely well and that was something that I felt right now that I needed," he said. "I've started to listen to my body a lot more and I think it's important that the people you work with respect that and understand and listen to how you are feeling. You can't just be pushed extremely hard every single day. I need to pick my moments during the year when I really go for it in training."
He doesn't care what anyone else thinks: "From other players point of view I don't really care whether they think it's a good appointment or a bad appointment. It's just whether it works well for me and my team."
It's not a big deal that she can't come into the men's locker room: "Obviously you can't sit down and chat in there but there's enough places where you can chat... Normally I speak about tactics, sometimes I do it the night before my matches, sometimes I do it 20 or 30 minutes before I go on court when I'm normally in the gym anyways. So I don't see any problems in that respect.
She knows what it's like to play under the pressure of a home Slam: "I think she was quite open that she struggled with the pressure. I think that can also help, someone who's been through those experiences themselves maybe would have handled things differently. I'm not sure. but it's good to have someone to talk to about those things and those feelings. Obviously she's won Wimbledon before so it'll be interesting."
More photos of the new team affectionally referred to as "Murresmo" below:
Photos by ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images, Matthew Stockman/Getty Images, Jan Kruger/Getty Images and Press Association via AP Images.