After 10 years on tour, traveling with a large team and competing at the top of the sport, Andy Murray somehow found himself this week in Dubai flying solo and having to book his own practices – something he certainly hasn’t done for many years.
The Scot, who is back at world No. 3 this week, came to the UAE without his coach Amelie Mauresmo, who doesn’t travel with him to all his tournaments, and since he parted ways with Dani Vallverdu end of last year, he no longer has a traveling hitting partner or stand-in coach.
Murray has reiterated since the start of 2015 that he is looking to add a coach to his team to support him in the absence of Mauresmo, but he wasn’t able to decide on a candidate in time for his trip to the emirates.
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In the days leading up to his opening round on Tuesday with Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller – a tricky lefty coached by Murray’s good friend Jamie Delgado – Murray has had two different players cancel on him for practice and had to resort to the ATP people on site to help find him someone to hit with.
The two lefties he sought out to prepare for Muller, Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco, had to forgo their practice with Murray on Sunday, the former falling ill and the latter getting held up at the Dubai airport for eight hours.
Murray, who has a 59-18 record against lefties, ended up going through some drills with a Frenchman who coaches here at the Aviation Club.
He’ll be getting some help from Davis Cup captain Leon Smith, who arrived later on Sunday, and is in Dubai keeping an eye on Murray, James Ward and the other Brits in town ahead of next week’s Great Britain-USA tie in Glasgow.
“I’ve spoken to a few people and made some pretty good progress with that (looking for a coach),” said Murray. “Nothing for this week. During Davis Cup we’ll have people around there who can help, that I know very well, and I’ll have Amelie back for Indian Wells.
“In an ideal world it would have been good to have had someone for these last couple of weeks, but that hasn’t been the case.
“Having someone with you, for me anyway, is better.
“If you have a coach around it’s a lot easier to do basket drills or work on specific things. You can get constant feedback with what you’re doing, whereas when you’re on your own if something like that (players canceling on him) happens you have to come up with a training session yourself.
“It’s not perfect and that’s why most players try when they can to travel with a coach.”
Also in action on Tuesday is Novak Djokovic, who begins his quest for a fifth Dubai title against Canadian Vasek Pospisil. The Serb lost his opening doubles match alongside his compatriot, teenager Laslo Djere, to Rohan Bopanna and Daniel Nestor 6-2, 7-5 yesterday.
Djokovic comes to the Dubai tournament as a father for the first time, his wife Jelena giving birth to their son Stefan last October.
“Now as a father it’s a new chapter of my life and a new opportunity to play and perform in front of my son one day, hopefully, that’s one of the motivations I have,” said the world No1, who picked up a fifth Australian Open title last month.
“I constantly try to find new sources of motivation, because it’s a very mental game. I’m aware everybody is practicing hard, trying to improve their game and that makes me keep up with them and try to get my game to the highest possible level.”