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This Female Coach For Male Player Is Not The First Arrangement






The world of tennis awaits with huge interest to see the results of Andy Murray’s appointment of Amelie Mauresmo for the defense of his Wimbledon title.

But, one of the United States’ foremost names from a couple of decades ago is skeptical about the relationship from it’s very outset and believes his own experiences in a similar position could be repeated.

Seeking new direction and motivation Tim Mayotte, the former top ten player and Olympic silver medalist who won the inaugural Lipton International Players Championships (now known as Miami’s Sony Open) appealed to the female tennis legend Billie Jean King to become his coach in early 1991. Yet within just a matter of weeks Mayotte realized the liaison was doomed to failure.

Nobody would have dared call Mayotte a sexist; indeed he was nicknamed ‘Gentleman Tim’ by his peers. But he remains firmly of the opinion that women coaches, are more specifically former players versed in the playing styles of the WTA, are not equipped with the right knowledge to advise on the ATP World Tour.

“It would be far too simplistic and wrong to say that a woman cannot coach a top men’s player simply because she is a woman, but there are massive difficulties and from my experience, it didn’t take very long to appreciate they can become pretty insurmountable,” said Mayotte who hooked up with King immediately after she had been coaching Martina Navratilova.

According to Mayotte, switching her focus onto the vagaries of the men’s game was a problem too far for King . As he told Britain’s Sunday Times: “Billie Jean had been working with Martina and had become so wrapped up in her game, which of course took women’s tennis to new levels at the time. It was something very special but I realized quite quickly that Billie Jean could not see the difference between the quality and pace of shot in the men’s game compared to the women’s.

“Shot selection is one of the most important facets of the game. For instance she was telling me to approach the net and attack on shots that frankly should have kept me on the defensive. In total I spent about six months working with Billie Jean and it took me maybe ten weeks tops to appreciate she didn’t really have the technical expertise to make the adjustment between the women’s game and the men’s.”

Mayotte, formerly a coach with the United States Tennis Association and currently responsible for his own academy in collaboration with Englishman Lee Hurst close to the site of the US Open in New York, isn’t of the opinion a good coach must have played the same at the highest level. Indeed he was seriously at odds with the likes of Patrick McEnroe and Jay Berger at the USTA on major issues.

But he worries about Mauresmo being able to influence Murray in the same way her predecessor Ivan Lendl did. “There are not many top coaches, male or female, who graduate from the men’s game into the women’s and vice versa,” he said. “There are two specific areas of expertise.”

When Mayotte linked up with King, the American new wave of Jim Courier, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were coming to the fore, trying to usurp the European dominance of Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker and Wimbledon champion Michael Stich. It was the time when power and pace began to dominate over exquisite touch and feel for the ball.

“That was then and this is now, and when you look at the way Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic currently play the game, utilizing racket and string technology, you will see how the men’s game has advanced much further,” continued Mayotte. “I am a great admirer of Andy Murray, I don’t think any player has won a Grand Slam title with the immense pressure heaped upon him than he did at Wimbledon last year. I cannot imagine playing under those circumstances

“I thought Lendl’s understanding of the situation was crucial, and I found their relationship extremely impressive. So I'm afraid my recollections of my own situation left me more than a little pessimistic when I heard the news that Andy had chosen Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach.  

“She was an excellent and attractive player who approached the game in the manner I like to watch. But I wonder whether she has sufficient perception of the differences between men’s and women’s tennis and the very high level of understanding of the specific requirements.  The quality of the balls flying across the net is so different.”

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