Lendl link can pay off for Murray
A tanned Ivan Lendl, wearing a huge smile and a patterned blue polo shirt, strides past a snoozing gentleman in a leather armchair and into the members lounge at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club.
The former home of the Australian Open, out to the east of Melbourne city centre along the River Yarra, has an exclusive feel, not dissimilar to Queen's Club in London, and the presence of an eight-time major winner only adds to the prestige.
It was here, in December 1983, Lendl lost a fourth successive major final, to Mats Wilander. (The Australian Open was played on grass at the end of the season in those days). He remembers the feeling. He was still young, only 23, but people were already asking "would he ever win one?"
The questions now, as he settles into a squishy beige sofa, a hundred yards from the scene of that setback almost 30 years ago, are similar as he prepares 24-year-old Andy Murray for the 2012 Australian Open.
Murray has lost his first three major finals but Lendl appears calmly optimistic that the breakthrough isn't far away.
Of course, he doesn't say as much. His wealth of experience with the British press makes him acutely aware of how a loose prediction can run riot. "A player needs to mature" he says tellingly "and I think Andy is getting there".
Murray's new coach Lendl lost two Wimbledon finals in 1986 and 1987. Photo: Reuters
Murray's general thirst for insight and specific tennis knowledge is extracting every last nugget of experience from Lendl's bright-as-ever mind.
In the opening weeks of their relationship, there have been laughs off court and hard work on it. The partnership is based on mutual respect and it was fascinating to hear Lendl reveal that he asked for a few meetings in Florida before Christmas, not just one, to make sure they would get on.
With the quaint ding-a-ling of the Kooyong railway crossing in the background, Lendl sets about countering the criticism Murray has attracted for his final defeats.
I thought he made this really good point: "He was heavily criticised for losing to Djokovic at the start of the year but look what a year Novak had. If that had happened later in the year, nobody would be criticising Andy the way they did."
Murray and Lendl - two dry-disguised-as-dour personalities - is a partnership which already seems to be working; the laughs, the respect, the thirst for knowledge. These are good signs.
John McEnroe wasn't alone thinking it was a bit left-field - "sort of desperate" was Mac's first reaction - but he, like so many others in the game, believes it could be an inspired move.
Murray has Ryan Harrison, the dangerous if inconsistent young American, in round one, with potential second week opponents including Gael Monfils and Jo Wilfried Tsonga before perhaps top seed Djokovic in the semis.
Elsewhere in the draw, while most of the locals have spent the day salivating over the prospect of Bernard Tomic v Fernando Verdasco, I like the look of Heather Watson against Vika Azarenka. The experience of running Maria Sharapova close in New York can be a big boost for the Guernsey teenager going into another centre court special.
Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong both have winnable first matches and, at the time of writing, two other British women remain alive in qualifying.
Predictions? I'm going to follow in-form Canadian Milos Raonic, who I think will take out the winner of Lleyton Hewitt v Andy Roddick before challenging Djokovic in a last 16 humdinger.
But most of all, I'll be watching Mr Murray and Mr Lendl. The dynamics, the subtle switches, the restraint, the wins, the momentum and who knows what else. I've always believed that he's going to get one, and I sense that it's edging closer.