Andy Murray places trust in Amelie Mauresmo ahead of Australian Open

British number one has parted ways with long-term coach and friend Dani Vallverdu

Andy Murray admits it was not easy to say goodbye to his coach Dani Vallverdu and his conditioner Jez Green. They were, after all, friends as much as employees and such loyalty is rare in tennis or, indeed, anywhere in sport.

A year ago, they were all integral members of the team that gathered in Melbourne to try to restore the fallen Scot’s self-belief after his tumble from Olympic and two-time slam champion to dangerous contender – a process that remains incomplete.

When Vallverdu and Green took a different career perspective to Murray, picking up their final pay cheques after several well-paid years of good times, there were some tears and, inevitably, a few harsh words. Murray will not dwell on the split. Nor, to his relief, will Vallverdu or Green.

On Friday night, meanwhile, former world number one Mats Wilander urged Murray to give his new mentor, Amelie Mauresmo, time.


“When you’re in any kind of coaching relationship,” he said: “It’s hard to say how long it’s going to last. I don’t think results necessarily affect what is going to happen between the coach and the player; it comes down to the personal level.

“Now is the real test because, obviously, the ATP Finals were not great. I don’t think it is make or break. I hope they can stick together for a couple of years because she can really help him.” Those whom she supplanted might see it differently.

Vallverdu, Murray's assistant coach for five years and the closest confidant outside his own family for twice that time, quickly found work after his dismissal, with world number seven Tomas Berdych, who is on the Scot's side of the draw in the Australian Open, which starts on Sunday. Murray and Berdych could meet in the semi-finals but the Czech would have to get past Rafael Nadal to play Murray.

If they do meet, looking up to see Vallverdu in his opponent’s box at such a crucial point in a major would be a curious experience for Murray. He has relied nearly all his career on steadfast support, but he knows it is a two-way street.

Different direction

While Murray and Vallverdu will not want to let their parting adversely affect their personal relationship, the player has made it clear over the past week that he and his best friend in tennis were not “going in the same direction.”

Essentially, that meant Murray’s desire to change his game after the arrival of Mauresmo, shortly before Wimbledon – not to mention her appointment without confiding in anyone but close family – did not fit with Vallverdu’s.

The partnership had to change dramatically or end, and Murray was not going to be the aggrieved party for the second time in 10 months, after the hurt he felt when Ivan Lendl walked out on him.

Vallverdu was not just another hitting partner, however. He knew every twitch and grimace of Murray’s game and was alert to the slightest dip in his energy levels on the practice court, as Lendl acknowledged during the US Open last year. As far as Lendl was concerned, Vallverdu was crucial to Murray’s success.

New team

Nevertheless, having been hit by a divorce that seemed inevitable in retrospect, yet was a total shock to him at the time, Murray decided to go for a new team. Nothing could persuade him otherwise.

Green, his respected conditioner, did not do himself any favours in lending his voice to the dissent Vallverdu expressed during Wimbledon about not being consulted over the hiring of Mauresmo. Those unfortunate arguments are over, and so, it seems, is the psychic residue.

Murray is eerily relaxed. Physically, he is near a peak, having ignored a minor twinge in his shoulder and neck that briefly inconvenienced him over the past fortnight. And, as the temperature in Melbourne edges slowly towards the killing heat of a year ago that so debilitated several players, the world number six looks physically ripped and ready for battle.

Yet the parlour game of trying to predict Murray’s progress through the draw is no more straightforward this January than it was in three previous attempts, in 2010, 2011, and 2013, when he reached the final.

The imponderables are the same as they ever were: is a Murray near his best good enough to beat a resurgent Federer, a physically suspect Nadal and the world number one Djokovic in the same Slam? He could be – and his belief is undoubtedly stronger than it was when he arrived in Melbourne last year.

Then he did not know if the back surgery he had undertaken was going to afford him either temporary relief or a permanent solution. Encouragingly, success at the end of the season gave him a sugar-boost to believe in himself again, just as some sound victories this year perhaps wiped from his memory the humiliating 6-0, 6-1 defeat by Federer in the ATP World Tour Finals in London. Guardian Service