Andy Murray is about to do the tango with Jonas Bjorkman.
Once the Swede – a former world No.4 – finishes his duties on a Swedish TV dancing competition (called Let’s Dance), he then joins the British No.1 for a test week, with a view to becoming a full-time coach.
What does this mean for Andy Murray?
Read more from Dominic Bliss
If all goes according to plan, Murray will at last have full-time coaching support.
His contract with Amelie Mauresmo is for just 25 weeks a year. He sacked his secondary coach Dani Vallverdu in November, and presumably Bjorkman will fill the gaps created by Vallverdu’s absence.
“I feel like there are some things I need to work on all the time,” Murray said. “When I don’t have someone there, it’s harder to do that.”
One of Vallverdu’s most crucial roles was as a hitting partner. Although top players prefer to spar with other top players, this isn’t always possible, especially during the weeks in between tournaments.
When he’s back home in Surrey, Murray especially struggles to find sparring partners of a suitably high calibre. Apparently, the week before the ATP tournament in Dubai, he was forced to hit with an amateur player at the All England Club. Hardly ideal.
Bjorkman is nearly 43-years-old, and not the force he once was. Nevertheless, he will be able to step in, the other side of the net, when needed. And he’s a far better sparring partner than Mauresmo.
Bjorkman will fulfill a social role off the court, too. On the often lonely ATP Tour, it’s important that players surround themselves with supportive friends. For Murray, Bjorkman will be more of a kindred spirit around the dinner table than Mauresmo.
There are certain tennis skills Bjorkman could impart, too, most notably his outstanding netplay. The Swede won 54 ATP doubles titles, including nine Grand Slams. He was a force to be reckoned with at the net. Murray could learn a lot from him.
But it’s mental coaching that might end up being Bjorkman’s greatest gift to Murray. Like most Swedes, he was always super-cool under pressure, and totally in control of his temper.
“They have a good mindset, a lot of them are very calm individuals,” Murray says of Swedish players in general. The irascible Scot can learn much from this man.
What it means for Bjorkman
The Swede will join the ranks of the celebrity coaches. It’s a brilliant career move and one that will, hopefully, earn him more money and status than TV tangoes ever could.
In fact, he’s unlikely to have time for the dance-floor now. Although there is one dance move he might revive: his famous victory step. Back in the day, whenever he won a match, Bjorkman used to grab the front of his tennis shoe and slap it onto the surface of the court.
Perhaps he could persuade Murray to cut back on all the fist pumping and indulge in a bit of shoe slapping instead.
What it means for Mauresmo
Mauresmo shouldn’t feel too threatened by Bjorkman’s arrival. Most of the top players have two coaches nowadays – a celebrity coach whose job is to window-dress the player’s box at the major tournaments, and help promote the clothing sponsor; and a secondary coach who does the donkey work
So, Djokovic has Boris Becker window-dressing, and Marian Vajda on donkey duty; Federer has Stefan Edberg and Severin Luthi; Nishikori has Michael Chang and Dante Bottini; Raonic has Ivan Ljubicic and Riccardo Piatti.
Mauresmo can continue with the window-dressing.
Bet on the winner of Indian Wells.