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Lendl link can pay off for Murray

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Jonathan Overend | 10:17 UK time, Friday, 13 January 2012

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.

He lost to Roger Federer in the 2008 US Open Final and 2010 Australian Open Final and then to Novak Djokovic last year in Melbourne. No disgrace, is the apparent message from Lendl.

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    It seems like a perfect appointment - someone who lost his first 4 GS finals and went on to win so many, and someone who can help Murray with the mental side of the game. I think the draw's been OK to Murray, but Tsonga in the QF will be extremely tough (if they both get there!)

    My own preview of it is on

  • Comment number 2.

  • Comment number 3.

    on a side note jonathan why has the bbc ditched their already extremely limited coverage since i can remember to a whats the point of following coverage,both finals and 1 mens semi that is pathetic i wouldnt mind if the showed murrays matches and the finals but they cant even do this.shame on the bbc i defended them on the f1 coverage and the spending cuts and i was prepared to pay more but for what when the fund things like handball world championships ,swimming,horse riding,eqestrian,hockey,womens football,golf,bowls,bmx world championships,cycling etc i can go on for a hour naming pointless sports that 1% less of the population watch the bbc cover it.even the darts is disapearing plus the french open is gone wimbledon will be gone after 2014 i put my house on it.i wonder why it is still continuing to operate.the tv programmes are rubbish aswell,repeats christmas tv on the bbc was the worst thing i have ever witnessed,what is the point of the bbc now.

  • Comment number 4.

    I love the fact that Andy Murray is not taking these Grand Slam losses lying down. He is a very good player playing in an era of great players - but won't accept that he cannot join their ranks.

    He is doing everything right - he improved his fitness and strength massively, he has tried a number of coaches. And I am sure he will make the breakthrough that he deserves.

    But it's not going to be easy for him.

  • Comment number 5.

    Nice blog J.O., couldn't agree more with Lendl about Murray's loss to Djokovic - had it happened later on no-one would have batted an eyelid.
    #3 does it count as irony that you've written that on a BBC blog?

  • Comment number 6.

    @bobbinmoore yes but you cant shame them on the say itv website,did i or did i not name the most pathetic "sports" the bbc cover plus those fools on MOTD i could of named more

    on murray i think it is exciting move to team with lendl but we shouldnt judge him on his australian open performence as it is there 1st slam togather,if they are still working togather after new york judge it then or in 2013,it is goinbg to be tough to beat the top 3 in the crunch but he can do it just once he will be dripping with confidence,but he will need luck like nadal in roland garros 05,federer in wimbledon 2003 and nole in australia in 2008 they all faced journeymen/unknowns to win their slams poor murray has to face them.

    monfils is tough as you dont know what you are going to get a stunning performence or a match that gold fish will be embarressed to watch.tsonga is a winnable match as murray has a great record over him and has the ability to get his serves back and exploit tsongas backhand.i think should he get to the semi and nole as well it should be a good match as nmurray might have revenge on his mind and nole has all the pressure to defend a title that isnt a 500 for the 1st time.rafa should beat federer outdoors on these hard courts,both have cupcake draws

  • Comment number 7.

    Looks like its the Joker in the S/F for Murray - that will give an indication of whether Murray has conquered his demons. Tsonga can trip anyone up on a good day but I fancy Murray for the semis.

    If Murray can finally deliver his best performance when it counts he may finally have a chance - all depends if Djojk's injury holds off for the tournament.

    The semi in the opposite half is still my match to watch - Rafa should win on past performances but is there still one GS left for the maestro?

  • Comment number 8.

    @adrenilenepotato I would hazard a guess that many more people cycle in this country than play tennis, but of course ITV and Eurosport have the best coverage of that sport.

    As for Murray, it's nice to see him leaving no stone unturned in his hunt for a win. Hopefully if he can crack one Slam he can go on a Djokovic style run.

  • Comment number 9.

    @phreak79 actually probably right in the uk but the tour de france is the only cycling race/marathon worth talking about the olympics is for case you didnt know tennis after football is the most played sport in the world not bad eh.that is it the bbc have tat for everything.f1 was the only thing they did brilliantly everything else is bit of something here a bit of something there done miserably,evenm wimbledon got complaints about their commentry teams,who would make an effort to complain about something offically,sad little people

  • Comment number 10.

    Recently in-form Milos Raonic had a smooth run at Chennai.
    The young Canadian has the game to take on the best in the fray.
    Wishing Andy Murray and the tennis fraternity an exciting Australian Open.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 11.

    I think it's a pretty tough draw for Murray. Monfils is unpredictable and Tsonga had a great end to 2011 and just won Doha. Then there's still two rounds to go after that potentially against Djokovic and Federer/Nadal. I think the partnership with Lendl seems like a great fit but I agree with previous comments; it's early days and, with this draw, I'm not sure it will be Murray's first Grand Slam.

    Elsewhere, I have doubts about Nadal. Continuing injuries, plans to take a month off after the tournament and the fact he's only made the AO final once before. I think a Djokovic/Federer final is more likely.

    Would love Watson to cause an upset against Azarenka but I think it's an even tougher task than her match against Sharapova at the US. Would also love to see Bally play Clijsters in round two.

  • Comment number 12.

    With seven matches to play to win the title, it's a tough draw for everyone. Let's just see what happens!

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm not saying don't speculate about and discuss results of matches, just that I don't really believe in easy/hard draws.

  • Comment number 14.

    Murray is too old to learn new tricks. The appointment of Lendl comes too late for sure.

  • Comment number 15.

    #14 I don't think that's the case, Annacone has made a massive difference to Federer much later in his career

  • Comment number 16.

    @ 15 It is one thing to ask the greatest tennis player of all time to be more aggressive, but completely different to ask Murray to take the initiative and step into the court. I think it's a shame for the British public that Murray is the nation's sole reperesentative at this level.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm excited at this prospect, feels good to me!

  • Comment number 18.


    I'm one of Federer's army of fans but I would still be excited to see Murray suceed.

    Djokovic sets the precedent - who was more unstable and fragile than Djokovic a few years ago?

    If Lendl can instill that purpose of mind without inhibiting Murray's natural talent he could be up there with the big 3.

    It may be a limited window of opportunity but with the doubts over Nadal, the inconsistency of the maestro, maybe Murray can swing a GS this year if Djokovic trails off as the year goes on. I fancy Murray for the US open this year - if the others run each other into the ground.

  • Comment number 19.

    Of course he will win a grand slam - never hurry A Murray!

  • Comment number 20.

    As I wrote when this was first announced, discipline and concentration is all Lendl needs to teach Murray. He has to find a way to get Andy to play like Ben Hogan did in golf. Hogan shut out everything but what he was doing and this is what Andy has to do. Won't be easy for Lendl though because these two are Andy's only real flaws, yet they alone are what has stopped him reaching his potential so far.

  • Comment number 21.

    I was genuinely chuffed to hear Ivan Lendl was going to take on Andy, always used to be amazed by the Lendl played, and his commitment.

    But, I think that while his comments about losing to Novak in last year's Aussie Open are valid in terms of how Novak played, the big problem in that match for Murray was the foul tempered, bad mood that the player at Andy Murray's side of the net was in.

    Was painful to watch because Andy appeared to be determined to hate every second he was on court, and I don't see how any player can play well in those circumstances. He wasn't his own worst enemy, Novak Djokovic was - but it looked as though Andy was giving Novak a run for his money, in that sense.

    Hopefully Lendl can eliminate that negativity from Andy's game, as that is all he needs. He has the tools and the fitness, now, and it's just his attitude that seems to be - occasionally - holding him back.

    Sorry if that's a bit negative, but I do want Andy to do well - and he did have a fantastic season last year- but to move up he has to get rid of the foul mood.

  • Comment number 22.

    I am so annoyed about the TV coverage. It absolutely SUCKS to be a tennis fan in this country. I can't watch the U.S. Open because I refuse to get Sky. I can't watch the Australian Open (apart from the FINAL) because urr I don't live in a pub, so I don't have Eurosport. And the French Open is weird and boring. SO. The only Slam I can enjoy any decent coverage of is Wimbledon. It's PATHETIC!

    As somebody else has suggested, even be slightly cringey and just show Murray's matches - I wouldn't complain or call you cringey. But really, having to follow this tournament by reading the results in the paper absolutely SUCKS. I don't understand how the BBC can afford so much footballing inanity, not to mention hour-upon-hour of snooker and ...DARTS, and not even pretend to care about providing a semi-decent tennis coverage. Please sort it out. If Murray doesn't get past Novak, I'm not going to get to see him play AT ALL. And I love Andy, but let's face it, the likelihood is this is high.

    In other news, I really, really, really hope Murray can do it. If not him, then I want Rog (for it is he) to win. Vamos, Andy!

  • Comment number 23.

    lendal is a god just like RF,he will help andy game..what a great signing


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