Andy Murray is delighted to see Andre Agassi’s return to tennis but there was a time when it was the Scot who would have been considered the most likely player to be coached by the eight-times Grand Slam champion.
Agassi, who instead is working with Novak Djokovic here at the French Open in his first coaching role, was always one of Murray’s favourite players. The current world No 1 said that Agassi had been one of the people he had considered when he was looking for a new coach following his split with Ivan Lendl three years ago. Murray, who eventually recruited Amelie Mauresmo, was working at the time with Dani Vallverdu, who had been assisting Lendl.
Asked if he had ever thought of approaching Agassi, Murray said: “I spoke briefly to Dani about it after I stopped working with Ivan the first time. I chatted to Darren Cahill [one of Agassi’s former coaches] about it. For what I needed at the time, I just didn’t think he would be able to give enough time for what I needed.”
Agassi has an agreement to work with Djokovic on a trial basis only until the end of this week. “They obviously want to see how it goes and how they enjoy spending time together first,” Murray said.
Murray, who plays his second-round match against Martin Klizan here on Thursday, spent some time with Agassi when he was working with Brad Gilbert, who coached both men. “I don’t think I got a word in edgeways,” Murray said as he recalled going out for dinner with the two men.
Agassi also practised with Murray at that time. “He was always really, really nice to me, which is great, because when it’s someone you have looked up to, if they weren’t, that would be a bit of a let-down,” he said.
Murray recalled going for dinner with Agassi in Las Vegas and being bemused when the American got down on his knees to open a door which had a handle running from top to bottom.
“I was like: ‘What are you doing’?” Murray said with a smile. “He said: ‘No one touches the door down there.’ He’s a bit of a germaphobe. That was pretty strange.”
Murray added: “I think it’s great that he’s back in the game. When any of the past champions are involved I think it’s great for the media. I think it’s great for the other players to see them around. It creates a bit of a buzz around tennis. He’s obviously got a lot of fans around the world as well.
“I’m sure he’ll help Novak. I’m not sure exactly what their deal is or what the situation is, but having someone with that much experience around can only help.”
Lendl, who began his second spell as Murray’s coach last summer, will probably be advising his charge about the need to stay focused when he takes on Klizan in Thursday’s second match on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Klizan’s last opponent, the Frenchman Laurent Lokoli, refused to shake hands at the end of a tempestuous match. Klizan has been suffering with a calf problem this month, but Lokoli effectively accused him of play-acting during the fourth set, which the 27-year-old Slovakian lost 6-0.
“He was fighting like hell and then, all of a sudden, you play a drop shot and he doesn’t run, doesn’t do anything,” Lokoli said. “That’s why I won the fourth set 6-0.”
Murray said he did not know Klizan well and had no idea whether the world No 50 had been faking injury but added that “tanking sets is not good for the fans or anyone watching”.
Asked how difficult it could be to stay focused when opponents are play-acting, Murray said: “I think I’ve played well over 800 matches on the tour, so I’ve seen pretty much everything. There wouldn’t be too much that would surprise me or shock me when I’m out there now. If he’s tanking sets against me, I’m happy with that. Maybe he doesn’t.
“I’ve seen him play. He’s an unorthodox player. He’ll go through patches in the match where he’s playing some unbelievable stuff and then he drops off a little bit and plays some strange shots which may appear like he’s not interested, but that’s how he plays the game. That’s what’s been successful for him.”
Murray, nevertheless, might recall an occasion when, crucially, he seemed to be distracted by his opponent’s physical issues on the other side of the net. In the Australian Open final of 2015 Djokovic appeared to be a spent force physically at the start of both the second and third sets but on both occasions appeared to regain his strength almost as quickly as he had lost it.
"The third set was frustrating because I got a bit distracted when he fell on the ground after a couple of shots,” Murray said at the time. “It appeared that he was cramping, and then I let that distract me a little bit.”