Andy Murray's delight at coach Jonas Bjorkman's impact as Scottish ace aims for US Open glory
Andy Murray feels his relationship with coach Jonas Bjorkman has reached another level in recent weeks as the pair get set to go it alone for the first time at the US Open.
Bjorkman joined Amelie Mauresmo on Murray's coaching team in April, with a remit to help the British number one improve his net-play and instil a more attacking strategy.
Mauresmo, however, is currently on maternity leave, meaning Murray will be without his main coach in New York for the first grand slam in over a year, and leaving Bjorkman to step into the role of principal confidante.
Initially brought in for a trial period, the Swede's energy and enthusiasm proved an instant hit in Murray's set-up, but the Scot admits it has taken time for deeper connections to develop.
"He's a very positive guy. He's very calm. He came into the team with no ego at all," Murray said.
"He wanted to learn and understand how we worked. He has asked a lot of questions so he could get to understand me better.
"I feel the last few weeks have been really, really positive because it takes time to develop a working relationship. It takes time for me to open up and tell someone how I am feeling.
"He's just been very positive. He's a hard worker. When he played, his game style was very based on net play, returning - so he's able to help me with a lot of things."
As well as honing Murray's more creative talents, Bjorkman is often the Scot's sparring partner in practice, reviving his former competitive instincts as he tries to push his pupil in points.
"Is he as competitive as me? I'd say so. He's a pretty competitive guy," Murray said.
"He's got a pretty bad temper as well. I'd say my temper is not as bad in practice as it in matches - but he's got a worse temper than me on the tennis court away from camera I'd say."
Murray has been handed a tough opening round against Nick Kyrgios on Tuesday but success at Flushing Meadows will likely mean overcoming Novak Djokovic, the stand-out player in the world this season and against whom two of the Briton's three major tournaments have ended this year.
A miserable run of eight straight defeats against the Serb finally came to an end in Montreal last month, when Murray ousted the world number one in three close sets.
"It was a big win for me for a bunch of reasons," Murray said.
"After Washington (where Murray lost in the second round), to come back and win the tournament there was big and also against Novak, coming back and being very strong in the third set.
"A couple of times this year, the final sets of matches have got away from me. That could have happened again in Montreal but I stayed strong and got a big win there.
"It's important for me to get that confidence ahead of the US Open."
Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova's chances of stopping Serena Williams - who faces Vitalia Diatchenko in this evening's late slot - win a fourth grand slam this year are in doubt after the Russian admitted she was still short of fitness a day before the start of the US Open.
Sharapova is struggling with a muscle strain in her right leg and has not played a competitive match since losing to Williams in the Wimbledon semi-finals just over seven weeks ago.
The five-time major champion was forced to withdraw from the Rogers Cup in Montreal earlier this month and has only been able to do limited training in the build-up to the year's last major tournament.
"You have to be realistic and limit your expectations but it's not easy," Sharapova said.
"As a competitor, when you get on the court you want to do the best you can. I'm feeling better, it's just a time thing, dealing with these niggling issues. It's just a process."