Mur­ray praises ‘calm­ing’ Bjorkman as he pon­ders rise of Swedish coaches


ANDY MUR­RAY has al­ways been ahead of the curve when it comes to his coach­ing choices. If the World No 3 could be said to have ush­ered in the era of the su­per­star men­tor when he ap­pointed Ivan Lendl and got the mas­cu­line ten­nis world more in touch with its fem­i­nine side when he en­listed Amelie Mau­resmo, he is in trend yet again with the hir­ing of Jonas Bjorkman. As wit­nessed by the ef­forts of Mag­nus Nor­man with Stan Wawrinka at Roland Gar­ros a month ago, hav­ing some cool, me­thod­i­cal Scan­di­na­vian think­ing in your cor­ner has never been more in vogue than it is right now.

There may be no Swedes cur­rently in the world’s top 100 but three of the world’s top four play­ers are at least coached by them – Bjorkman, Nor­man and Ste­fan Ed­berg with Roger Fed­erer. You might call it the new Swedish coach­ing mafia. “A lot of Swedes turn out to be good coaches,” Mur­ray said re­cently. “They’ve got a good mind­set, they’re very calm in­di­vid­u­als and ex­tremely hard work­ers.”

Bjorkman has only been in situ for a mat­ter of weeks but al­ready he is lend­ing a dif­fer­ent dy­namic to Team Mur­ray. While this 43-year-old from Alvesta, Swe­den had the mis­for­tune to be on the wrong side of the net when one Mur­ray sib­ling won a Wim­ble­don ti­tle – he and part­ner Alicia Mo­lik were de­feated in three sets by Jamie Mur­ray and Je­lena Jankovic in the 2007 mixed dou­bles fi­nal – SW19 was gen­er­ally a happy hunt­ing ground for Bjorkman and he would dearly love to celebrate fur­ther suc­cess this fort­night.

The for­mer World No 4 in sin­gles and No 1 in dou­bles claimed three men’s dou­bles ti­tles here dur­ing the noughties with Aus­tralia’s Todd Wood­bridge in tow, lost in one fur­ther fi­nal with Max Mirnyi, and even reached a sur­prise sin­gles semi-fi­nal in 2006, iron­i­cally just as Amelie Mau­resmo was record­ing her only Wim­ble­don sin­gles crown. Given her con­di­tion, Mur­ray could never have taken the chance of just hav­ing the heav­ily-preg­nant French­woman with him for the fort­night.

So far he has only agreed to take charge for 20 weeks, be­fore the sit­u­a­tion is re­assessed af­ter the US Open. But judg­ing by the smiles em­a­nat­ing from the Ao­rangi Park prac­tice courts this week, the Swede’s ar­rival only seems to have added to the har­mony and chem­istry in the camp.

Mur­ray and Bjorkman have hit the ground run­ning with a ti­tle at Queen’s Club but they also go way back. Along with Tim Hen­man, the Scot re­cently pin­pointed the Swede as one of the vet­eran play­ers who was al­ways kind to the teenage Mur­ray in the locker room when he was mak­ing his way in the sport.

Bjorkman is an ex­u­ber­ant char­ac­ter who likes a laugh or two. Fa­mously, of course, he made it to the semi-fi­nals of the Swedish ver­sion of Danc­ing with the Stars with part­ner Veera Kin­nunen, but there are also sto­ries of him play­ing a dead rub­ber on duty with Swe­den’s suc­cess­ful Davis Cup team still ever so slightly drunk from the night be­fore.

Ev­ery­thing is pos­i­tive, en­er­getic, and there is no short­age of am­bi­tion. “It will be a tough chal­lenge for me,” the Swede said re­cently. “I want to add more pos­i­tive energy. Some­times he has cer­tain pe­ri­ods where he gets down on him­self a bit too much. Age-wise he’s at his ab­so­lute peak. I think he has ev­ery chance to win sev­eral Grand Slams and could threaten Novak for the num­ber one spot.”

The tac­ti­cal syn­ergy is fairly ob­vi­ous. “It is a good match, be­cause I un­der­stand that Andy wants to add some­thing more to his game, par­tic­u­larly the volley game and his move­ment at the net,” says Thomas Jo­hans­son, Bjorkman’s con­tem­po­rary and coach­ing pal from the Peak Ten­nis Academy. Bjorkman may have ex­celled on grass, but Mur­ray be­lieves this is a part­ner­ship for all sea­sons and all sur­faces. While it re­mains to be seen whether Mau­resmo will have the ap­petite to con­tinue trav­el­ling once her child ar­rives, al­ready it seems un­likely that the Swede will be a mere sub­sti­tute.

“Only re­ally once be­fore have I em­ployed some­one based on their ex­pe­ri­ence on one sur­face, and that was when I started work­ing with Alex Cor­retja to help me with my clay court game,” said Mur­ray. “When I ap­proached Jonas, I knew him ex­tremely well. Some of the things I wanted to work on I felt like he could help me with be­cause of his ex­pe­ri­ence. He was ex­tremely good at that. That was the rea­son to start work­ing with him.”

When I ap­proached Jonas I knew him very well. Some of the things I wanted to work on, I felt like he could help me with be­cause of his ex­pe­ri­ence

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