Murray opts for a Latin influence in his search for a new coach
Murray returns to roots with approach for Perlas
By Neil Harman
The Scot opts for a Latin influence in his search for a new coach
JOSÉ PERLAS has been asked if he would fancy taking over as Andy Murray’s coach. The answer was “no”, but it was well worth the inquiry because Perlas, a Spaniard, has coached two French Open champions in Carlos Moyà and Albert Costa and it is to him that Juan Carlos Ferrero has turned to rejuvenate his career from its relative low of No 26 in the world.
It was a touch odd, during his defeat by Jean-Rene Lisnard here at the Monte Carlo Masters Series event on Tuesday, to see Murray turning to his girlfriend, manager and physical trainer, when they can offer only moral support. The decision to replace Mark Petchey after ten productive months prompted grand debates about why the crunch came — a couple of on-court clashes in Indian Wells last month were the beginning of the end — and it leaves Murray vulnerable at a crucial moment.
The networking has already begun and Perlas would have been a mighty catch. However, Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion, pounced when Perlas split with Guillermo Coria after a year trying to coax the Argentinian to live up to his talents. Antonio Martínez, who has mentored the 26-year-old Ferrero since he was 9, remains in the background for spiritual guidance.
The player just wanted a different voice offering the daily mantra. “I want to show everybody and especially my new coach that I can be the same as before,” Ferrero, who became No 1 in the world after reaching the 2003 US Open final, said yesterday. “I want new words and new motivation.” Nothing there about changing styles, said to be the sole reason behind Petchey’s departure.
So what is a coach other than, as Brad Gilbert, who has tutored Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick, says, someone to blame when his player loses? They do whatever they can to make their charge comfortable, speak when spoken to, give encouragement at the appropriate moment — coaches invariably nod at their players even when they have made a total hash of a shot — make sure the courtesy car arrives when wanted, scout the opposition and pray their man or woman does not wake up one morning and loathe the sight of them.
Perlas lasted a year before Coria, on whom Murray bases much of his game, responded to a fractured 2005 (two defeats in finals by Rafael Nadal and one grand-slam quarter-final) by dropping him like a stone in favour of José Higueras, another Spaniard who inspired Michael Chang and Jim Courier to their French Open successes. But what can a man in the stands do when, as Coria was against Paul-Henri Mathieu yesterday, his charge is 6-1, 5-1 down and serving like Anna Kournikova at her double fault-ridden worst?
Coria kept shooting glances across and what he got back from Higueras was the sense of calm that finally transported itself into his game. He saved four match points and on his own seventh, nailed a forehand pass to win 1-6, 7-6, 6-4 in two hours and 47 minutes. He could almost forget the 20 double faults. “I hired Higueras especially because I want to get to a higher level,” the world No 9 said. “We are in a period where we’re getting to know each other. We will work through Wimbledon and make another decision. He had very good results as both a player and a coach.”
One player is usually enough to be getting on with, but Riccardo Piatti, of Italy, coaches two — Ivan Ljubicic, the world No 5, and Novak Djokovic, the teenage Serb at No 67 coming of age every bit as swiftly as Murray. “I consider Novak to be one of the top players already. He has more talent at his age than Ivan, but he has to learn about the vision of a professional, he needs to understand ‘the way.’ ” Piatti said. “Like Murray, he needs to make mistakes, to go through all the experiences. They have to be able to control themselves through so many problems. Only that way can they learn.”
Bob Brett, who took over Boris Becker’s stellar career in 1987 and remained until 1991, described his role as “managing the product”. Ion Tiriac, Becker’s manager, had preferred to hire someone with a prodigious playing record, but Becker held sway and chose Brett — “because he wanted commitment and passion, which I had brought to the careers of both John Lloyd and Robert Seguso,” Brett said. “And we just clicked.”
Murray requires that clicking sensation and his own product management. The move for Perlas indicates the likelihood of a return to Latin influences. The Scot spent the best part of three years at the Barcelona academy run by Sergio Casal and Emilio Sánchez, two former professionals, learning the basics of point construction, how hard he would have to work for his pay and they, in turn, found him an excellent pupil. Turning that into gold is the next man’s task, whoever it may be.
Last edited by WhataQT; 04-20-2006 at 03:00 PM.