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Queen's victory has Andy Murray feeling just grand again

By Paul Newman

Jonas Bjorkman must be thinking there is nothing much to this coaching lark. Barely two months into his first spell working with a top player, the 43-year-old Swede's record stands at nine victories, no defeats and two titles. It just helps, of course, that the player in question is Andy Murray.

Bjorkman joined Murray's entourage in April. With Amélie Mauresmo, the Scot's coach, missing his first tournament of the clay-court season in Munich and his first outing on grass at last week's Aegon Championships at Queen's Club, Bjorkman took charge of the World No 3's preparations for both events.

Two trophies later, he could not be happier with his first taste of coaching at the highest level.

"It has been a great start but it is obviously a great team effort," the former World No 4 said in the wake of Murray's victory over Kevin Anderson in the final at Queen's. "Each week is a combination. Everyone cannot travel all the time, so we are a pretty big team."

Bjorkman has quickly become a key figure in the Scot's entourage.

Initially recruited as a replacement for Dani Vallverdu, who was Ivan Lendl's assistant, Bjorkman will find himself in sole charge of the Scot's coaching in the latter half of this year.

Mauresmo, who is expecting her first baby in August, will take a break from her coaching duties after Wimbledon, which starts on Monday, and is not expected to return before the end of the season. The early evidence of the team dynamics indicate that Bjorkman has quickly settled into his new role.

After the tensions of last year, which ended with the departures of Vallverdu and Jez Green, the Murray camp is clearly a settled one.

"From the first day I came in, it's been a lot of fun," Bjorkman said. "All the guys are doing a great job. For me and Amélie it was easy as well, once I was approached and had the first phone call from Andy.

"Then I spoke to Amélie quite a lot. She was one of the few girls that I knew out there because there weren't so many combined events (in my day), but one of her best friends was Fabrice Santoro, also one of my closer friends.

"I think that's why I felt very confident and comfortable coming into this situation to be part of a team - and I think she is feeling the same."

The relationship between Bjorkman and Mauresmo in particular is working well.

"I think it's easy because Amélie is such a cool girl and I think we both have a good feeling of being part of a team," Bjorkman said.

"We are on the phone every day going through tactics. When I was in Munich she was coming in with some feedback because you can sometimes see something on TV which you can't see courtside."

As a player Bjorkman won 54 of his 60 titles in doubles, in which the return of serve is even more crucial than in singles. Murray has long been regarded as one of the sport's best returners, but Bjorkman has encouraged him to be more aggressive.

The Swede has also worked on Murray's volleying.

"I think Andy's returning has been excellent," Bjorkman said. "He really has been finding his way of positioning on the returns, especially off the second serves.

"I think he has a perfect position now. He was already doing that on the clay. I think he can benefit even more now on the grass because he can really continue to put pressure on his opponents by coming in."

Unlike some of his fellow Swedish coaches, Bjorkman can be very animated on the sidelines. "I think I was different as well when I played because I always used to show a lot of feelings," he said.

"It's always nice to get that energy. Sometimes you need to get going a little bit extra.

"We've gone through the tactics and done everything to get into that match. The only thing we can do after that is to help out with some energy."

Bjorkman sees a number of similarities between himself and Murray. "He is a perfectionist," Bjorkman said. "He can hit 15 great shots, miss the 16th and be frustrated about that. I was exactly the same.

"I was probably the one who criticised myself the hardest in my team. During my career I learned to be more relaxed.

"I have to say that in Barcelona I was impressed with the way Andy practised. He is very professional in everything he does. He is in incredible shape. I don't think there are too many stronger than him."

Murray himself is clearly happy with Bjorkman's contribution, but the Scot stressed: "Obviously I'm not going to stay undefeated with him forever and I also have to give a lot of credit to Amélie, because a lot of the work I have done with her is paying off.

"Using my variety, for example, is something I have spoken about a lot in the past. There are things I have been working on with her for quite a while. Hopefully a combination of the two will give me more success. It's been a good start."

Belfast Telegraph


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