DARREN Cahill, who guided the careers of Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi, was long considered by many to be the ideal coach for Andy Murray, but the Australian gave his full backing to the world No 4's choice of Ivan Lendl.
Cahill helped Murray last year in his role as one of the adidas team of coaches, but his broadcast commitments as an analyst for ESPN mean he is unavailable to assist during grand-slam tournaments. However, he believes that Murray has made an excellent appointment in Lendl, who has never coached a leading player and spent 15 years out of the game following his retirement.
"I really encouraged Andy to consider Ivan," Cahill said as he looked ahead to the Australian Open, which starts here on Monday. "It's not easy, when players look at these former champions, to get their heads around the fact that they are going to fully commit to the coaching job because, to be quite frank, a lot of these guys can go off and in two or three days make the type of money that they can make from a full year of coaching.
"So it is unusual that a Lendl, a Connors or a McEnroe or any of these legends of the game would actually commit to somebody else's career. We felt like Ivan ticked a lot of boxes in what Andy was looking for."
Cahill added: "I do think it is going to be a great association. He [Lendl] has been incredibly fastidious with everything he has done with Andy and I think a lot of that is going to wear off on Andy. He looks like he is taking this coaching job the very same way he took his playing career - and that is to turn over every stone to be as good as he can. He was probably the most professional player back in his era and I am assuming he is going to take that very same attitude into his coaching career."
Murray has lost his first three Grand Slam finals, while Lendl lost four before going on to win eight. Cahill believes the Scot can learn from the former world No 1's experience. "There are no guarantees of success but I am pretty sure that by the end of it, whenever that is, Andy will be a better player because of it," he said. "There are a lot of similarities between the two. Andy can relate to Ivan and I think that makes a big difference."
Cahill will still be available to help Murray, through their adidas connection. "If Andy wants to phone me up at any time and talk tennis, then I'm happy to do that," he said. "But I think it's going to be very much their team and certainly for the next couple of months they will be spending a lot of time together and getting to know each other, which I think is important."
Murray, who won his first tournament in Brisbane last weekend in front of his new coach, has been practising here and was due to play his final warm-up match today against David Nalbandian at the exhibition event at Kooyong.
The temperature is expected to climb into the 30s by the start of the year's opening grand-slam tournament, but it has been cool and wet this week, disrupting the qualifying competition.
Nevertheless, three Britons came through the first round of qualifying yesterday. Laura Robson beat Melanie Oudin 6-3, 6-4, while Naomi Broady also progressed at the expense of an American, beating Ashley Weinhold 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.
James Ward had lost the first set against Inigo Cervantes-Huegun when play was stopped on Wednesday but the Briton recovered yesterday to win 6-7, 7-6, 6-1. Ireland's Conor Niland was beaten 6-3, 6-2 by Switzerland's Stephane Bohli.
Although the season is less than a fortnight old, several players are nursing injuries. Rafael Nadal said yesterday that his sore left shoulder was "good" and hoped it would not hamper him next week, but it remains to be seen whether Caroline Wozniacki, the world No 1, will make it to the start line. The Dane, who injured her left wrist in losing to Agnieszka Radwanska in Sydney on Wednesday, had a scan yesterday. No serious injury was revealed but she was due to see a specialist here today. At least Wozniacki knows she will be at the top of the world rankings for at least another two weeks. Petra Kvitova would have overtaken her if she had won the title in Sydney, but the Wimbledon champion was beaten 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 in yesterday's semi- finals by Li Na. Victoria Azarenka won the other semi-final, beating Radwanska 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Venus Williams and Andrea Petkovic have already pulled out of next week's tournament, while Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams both suffered injuries in Brisbane last week. Clijsters has a problem with a hip muscle and the younger of the Williams sisters twisted her ankle. "I'm taking it a day at a time," Serena said. "It's not 100 per cent, but it's better than it was last week and that's always a step forward."
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