LONDON/PARIS Wimbledon champion Andy Murray appointed former women's number one Amelie Mauresmo as his coach on Sunday in a rare move for a top player in the men's game.
Former Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Mauresmo will initially take up the role for the grasscourt season and will join the British number one at the Aegon Championships in London next week, his traditional warm up for Wimbledon.
As well as being an important step for Murray after the end of his successful partnership with Ivan Lendl in March, the new relationship will be closely watched in a sport where few top women, let alone men, have female coaches.
"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," Murray said in a statement on his website. (www.andymurray.com)
Murray was coached for years by his mother Judy, Britain's Fed Cup captain, so having a woman in his camp will be nothing new for him even if it might raise eyebrows on the circuit.
Of the current women's top 20, none have female coaches although Germany's Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki has an informal relationship with former number one Martina Hingis.
Marion Bartoli, who beat Lisicki in the final but has since retired, also worked with French compatriot Mauresmo for a while having been coached throughout her career by father Walter.
On the men's tour, Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin has been coached by his now wife Anastasiia since 2009 and Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin is coached by his mother Klaudiya.
Mauresmo, speaking to reporters in Paris where she is working as a pundit during the French Open, played down the shock value.
"I guess it is a big story to write on and a step forward. But honestly, it's not my big concern right now," she said. "We all know his mother was a big part of his tennis career.
"I think he's maybe looking for something different, about emotions and sensitive things. It's not really interesting for me, this part of the story, to be honest. All I'm interested in is to be able to help him in his goals."
Judy Murray tweeted "Love it" in reaction to the appointment, announced just hours before the men's final in Paris, where Rafa Nadal, who demolished Murray in the semi-finals, was taking on old rival Novak Djokovic.
If Murray is going to have a chance of working his way back up from world number eight after back surgery in September, and chase down the multiple slam successes of the world's top two players, the new partnership will need to click quickly.
Murray won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon under the tutelage of eight-times major winner Lendl, as well as the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
"I have watched him play, yes, many times. Again, we have talked a little bit already about his game. We are definitely going to get more into this very soon," Mauresmo told reporters, adding she may talk to Lendl.
The 34-year-old Mauresmo, who said she may continue as France's Fed Cup captain, has enjoyed a successful coaching career since retiring as a player in 2009.
"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," said Murray, who reached world number two in August 2009.
He did not address the question of Mauresmo being a woman in his statement, but he dismissed any criticism when rumours surfaced earlier in the tournament about their partnership, saying everyone was entitled to their own team.
"I don't really care whether some of the other male players like it or not ... that's not something that really bothers me," he said at the time.
"I was coached by my mum for a long time ... There have been ex-players and stuff that have said, 'Oh, your mum shouldn't be around or she shouldn't come and support you or come to watch'. It's silly."
Eighteen-time grand slam singles winner Martina Navratilova tweeted: "Cool to see a woman coaching a top guy, hope it works out for them."
French grand slam winner Mary Pierce hailed an "amazing" appointment. "He's used to having his mum, a woman on the court telling him what to do. They have not rushed, they have probably looked at all their options," she told BBC radio.
(Reporting By Michael Hann; editing by Sudipto Ganguly/Alan Baldwin)