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Andy Murray puts faith in Ivan Lendl

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Jonathan Overend | 20:00 UK time, Saturday, 31 December 2011

Other than deciding where to serve and how to play his first championship point in a Grand Slam final, when that occurs, as I still believe it will do, the hiring of Ivan Lendl as a full-time coach may prove to be the most important decision Andy Murray ever makes.

Lendl, despite no previous experience of coaching on the tour, brings enormous credibility and huge experience of playing at the very top level. He won eight major titles and spent much of the 1980s as world number one.

I'm sure he won't attempt to alter Murray's natural style of play or drastically remodel certain strokes, and of course there is no guarantee his arrival will make any difference whatsoever, but one piece of advice, perhaps a small slice of fresh perspective from an outsider with major-winning credentials, could make all the difference as the quest for a first grand Slam title continues.

Murray will certainly hope so. They team up this week in Australia with the 24-year old, having enjoyed a terrific off-season of physical training in Miami, due to play at the Brisbane International.


Lendl won 94 ATP Tour titles in a career that spanned 16 years. Photo - Getty

Getting a coach in place right at the start of the year is a great move. The Australian Open begins in a fortnight and Murray will still be looking to impress his new coach during the Melbourne fortnight.

For 18 months he has travelled the world with a team of good guys; a coach, a physio, two fitness trainers, a nutritionist. As well as being excellent at their jobs, they have all become good friends and touring companions.

But there has been no definite leader of the group and this is the big change.

Lendl comes in from the periphery. A safe existence from his home in Florida with his golf-playing daughters and his thriving tennis academy.

I very much doubt he has taken this job to win mates, play computer games and hang out with a bunch of 20-somethings. He will get on famously with the team because they are a great bunch, but he has accepted this challenge because he believes he can help Andy Murray win multiple major championships.

He will stand as that figure of respect, a fresh voice, and a leader of the team.

He will not stand for being abused as he sits in the stands. Last year Murray lost his rag at key moments of key matches - ranting and raving at his support team - so if Lendl's presence wipes that out, he will have instant progress. I suspect that can already be taken as read.

Because he firmly believes in his own way of doing things - always has - this is a very brave decision by Murray.

It's effectively an admission that he cannot meet the extraordinary challenge of winning a major all by himself. He has abdicated some of his own power.

He is more than capable of winning a major without a coach - he has reached three finals after all, and in weaker eras would probably have won a couple of majors by now - but regardless of whether the Lendl thing works out, this invitation to someone from the outside is a huge stride forward. There are many others who would dearly love to help him.

Murray turns 25 this year and knows his window of major-winning opportunity is gradually closing year on year. As he strives to maximise his potential, surely any sportsman's key objective, having an eight-time Grand Slam champion in his corner can only help.

After losing his first four major finals, Lendl won eight and became world number one. Murray, who has lost his first three, now needs to learn how the Czech recovered from those early setbacks to achieve a glittering career. And then try to do the same.

Hard, incredibly hard, but not impossible.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I think this is a great move for Murray as at 25 yrs old the clock is ticking. He needs someone like Lendl to come in and take charge and give him that extra couple of % to win a major. Fingers crossed.

  • Comment number 2.

    Looks like a good move. Murray needed to do something to take that extra step, I hope this works out for him. Lendl certainly had that steely edge as a player and rarely buckled. I used to hope he would being a McEnroe fan at the time, but it didn't happen often!

  • Comment number 3.

    Great decision and about time!

  • Comment number 4.

    A good decision by Murray to show a bit more decisiveness. Tim Henman was too loyal to David Felgate and unfortunately Larry Stefanki did not bring enough improvements to his game and Paul Annacone came too late in Henman's career when Federer was at his best


    I hope Murray will listen to Lendl a bit more because he simply did not make use of BRad Gilbert due to conflicting issues when given the chance.

    Murray knows he can't slip up anymore as 2012 probably represents the best chance he has of winning a slam with Nadal not seemingly as invincible and injury prone, Federer no longer at his best but Djokovic will be a different matter

  • Comment number 5.

    Andy Murray needs to start winning the mental points if he is to win a grand slam.
    Ok winning the tennis points in the early rounds but when it comes to business end of grandslams, sacrificing a tennis point in order to gain the mental advanage is the making of grand slam champions. Djorko has learned this lesson, time for Andy to step up.

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm not getting this at all. Does a "single piece of advice", or a "small slice of fresh perspective" have magical properties that can enable a player to win a slam? Does Ivan Lendl possess this magical knowledge? If so why havn't other players sought him out? What happens if Nadal hits his own magical forehand down the line to counter this bit of advice? Will Andy yell at Ivan to say "its not working" (or words to that effect?).

    Whatever happens I'm looking forward to watching this new double act...

  • Comment number 7.

    so glad andy has made this decision, great to see two great players on the same team. hope this works out & andy finally wins a slam of which he is capable of winning. so here's to looking forward to 2012 season.

  • Comment number 8.

    If it gives Andy a little bit more of a mental edge it will be worth it. He definitely has enough talent to win a major.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm already buzzing for the first Slam of the Year, having not seen any tennis in ages.

    It sounds like Lendl will be a stern but helpful figure. Like Jonathan said, he will be adding to the melting pot.

    Maybe Murray wins no Slam this year, but wins the Olympic final?!

  • Comment number 10.

    At this level the difference between No1 and No4 is so small -- nothing to do with talent as Andy has shown by winning against them all.
    Look at Djokovic he was a nearly man until 2011 when he arrived and blew everyone away - same talent as before but just that extra 1% which had been missing.
    Andy can do the same - at least I hope so.

  • Comment number 11.

    Jonathan Overend is spot on with his comments. It seems to me that Lendl is exactly the man Murray needs and he would never have taken the post of he did not believe he could make the critical difference. The key point is surely that Murray is finally prepared to admit he needs top class help if he's to make that extra jump. The mental side will be key and there is no way Murray is going to lose his rag when things go wrong and start screaming at Lendl. If Lendl's presence can keep him calm at moments of crisis, that alone could make the difference between winning and losing. Il-leone is surely right about Henman - sticking with David Felgate undoubtedly harmed his career.

  • Comment number 12.

    What everyone says about Andy perhaps RESPECTING Ivan too much to get annoyed at him while on Court.....I'll see what happens when he ends up facing another member of the top-4 in a GS semi.

    2011 really has broken my faith in Andy. To lose in the earlier stages of a GS to random players is something you can put down to little problems, like he did in some of the 09 and 10 slams, where he still got to semis and his Aussie final against Federer. But this year just gone, he really could have had Djokovic in Australia, and as with his 2010 SF vs Nadal at Wimbledon, the match was so much tighter than the straight sets make it seem. However, that encouraged me, but he then got to the last 4 at each of the other slams, and it was only one man who beat him, each and every time. I hope Lendl breaks this ceiling that I feel has formed over Andy's head, because he has, apart from Federer the classiest play in the top-4.

    I'll acknowledge Andy's other wins though, particularly his recent run in Asia. His play there was brilliant, at each of the 3 tournaments.

    Happy New Year to you all, and also the very best of luck to Jonathan, and in addition, to Andy!!

  • Comment number 13.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 14.

    I think this is a great step forward. However, I think key to the success of this partnership is the involvement of Judy on Andy's team. I have always believed that she is too strong a character on that team and the reason a lot doesn't work out is because of differences with her. Her joining as Fed cup captain is also a good move for Andy. As for Lendl, I think its a perfect choice.

  • Comment number 15.

    Ivan lendl is anatural baseliner.Iam not sure he has an answer to what Andy lacksto win a GS.I think Andy should be more often a metre or more inside the court.the good thing is that he has the shot to destabilise any opponent,be it Rafa ,Djoko or Roger.It is no wonder the 1m73 Santoro(like a bull released for the corrida)could trouble the very top.

  • Comment number 16.

    The main area Murray needs to improve is the mental side of his game. He has shown he can beat the best and in grand slams but when he gets to the big matches he crumbles. In his three finals he's been taken apart, in the US open this could be excused by fatigue but down under, yes his opponents played good but he just hasn't been at the races. Also at the semis at Wimbledon this year, he could have beaten nadal but buckled under the pressure.

    If Lendl can improve this side to his game, and stop the ranting halfway through matches, then he'll be a success.

    @9 that wouldn't be too bad :) Can imagine it happening as well

  • Comment number 17.

    The fact that Murray's game bears little resemblance to Lendl's is no issue. Tony Roche brilliantly coached Hewitt, Rafter, Federer and Lendl himself with very little common ground as a player. Lendl will empathise with Murray's dire record in Slam finals, having been known as a choker himself in the early 80s. Hopefully he can impart some of the character that enabled him to come back stronger and beat far more talented opponents. To win 8 slams and be number one for five years during the McEnroe/Wilander/Becker/Edberg era (all more naturally gifted than him) says everything about Lendl. Now choosing to ask for help from such a hard taskmaster says a lot about Murray. I still think Murray's current ranking of 4 is about right for him and I'm not sure I'd bet on him winning a slam this year, but his chances certainly got better with this appointment.

    Something to consider for Murray fans (including me). Djokovic's phenomenal 2011 was launched by winning the Davis Cup at the end of 2010, giving Serbia their proudest sporting moment. After that he seemed to be riding a wave of national pride that took his game to a new level. It's a pity Murray can't tap into the same source.

  • Comment number 18.

    Murray struggles with inverse sliced backhand mid rally returns from the deuce court when left of umpire on red clayed court during early afternoon sun with minimal cloud cover especially in temperatures above 27, whereas Lendl was a master at this. Hopefully Murray can learn the Czech's secret and snatch a grand slam.

  • Comment number 19.

    #16 "In his three finals he's been taken apart, in the US open this could be excused by fatigue..."

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    Murray was up 6-2,7-5,2-3 when the US Open semi-final was stopped on Saturday due to tropical storm Hanna. On Sunday he finished his match playing a whole 15 games which is hardly a warmup. The final was not scheduled until 5:00 P.M. New York time on Monday, so if fatigue was a factor maybe he should just give up the sport.

  • Comment number 20.

    @19

    Oh yes not sure what tournament I was thinking off. So that makes it 3 choked finals, but hopefully Lendl can help to change this.

  • Comment number 21.

    Best thing Murray could have done and the only sort of move that has a chance of bringing him a major title(s) as mentally he is weak - don't blame your seconds when it is you yourself on court doing the playing.
    Murray needs to give himself a good kick up the backside and man up in the big matches. In a sense he has perhaps started to do this by bringing in Lendl to force him to do exactly that. Let's hope so anyway, he's a fine players in a tough era but winners have that certain something that clearly thus far he has lacked.
    Pay heed young Murray and good luck.

  • Comment number 22.

    I've had my eyes on Murray and I think he could reach the goal that he needs with the right help. He has everything it takes and I am looking forward to something good in 2012.

  • Comment number 23.

    As Murray's problems are predominantly in his head, this could well be a good setup - provided Murray listens and takes constructive criticism.

    Lendl was sound on the court and in his mind and I cannot see him having sympathy with Murray going walk about.

    Hope it works for Murrays sake.

  • Comment number 24.

    Delighted much? .. Im a huge admirer of Ivan since watching him in his prime in the mid 1980's, one of the best players to never win the big one. A consummate pro who Im sure will bring on Andy in leaps and bounds if he can get his head round this coaching malarkey.

  • Comment number 25.

    He is more than capable of winning a major without a coach

    how on earth do you come to that conclusion bearing in mind that he has yet to win a slam.

    he will retire in 6 years time as a non slam winner

  • Comment number 26.

    Andy Murray has the talent to win Grand Slams. With the tenacious Ivan Lendl around, young Murray looks set to do justice to his enormous talent. All the best to Murray in 2012 and beyond.


    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 27.

    Its not just mental with Murray. If it was he would have got closer in the 3 finals he's played. His ground game still needs to become more damaging and this is what Lendl needs to somehow get into his head. In the final v djokovic last year he just didnt punch enough holes in the Serb and its always the same story when he faces Nadal and Federer.

    Getting a lucky draw wont win Murray a slam though thats for sure. In a previous article i read Jonathan say that Djokovic got to face Tsonga in his first slam final and he was lucky. Well the Tsonga he faced in 2008 had just destroyed Nadal in the semi in 3 sets which Murray has never done in a major.

    There is a certain level of tennis you need to reach to win a major and there will always be someone playing at this very high level. If its not Djokovic, itll be Nadal. If its neither of them it will be Federer. If its none of those it will be someone like a Tsonga or Del potro. Murray should stop focussing on the opponents in his matches and focus solely on elevating his attacking game to such a high level that a slam win becomes inevitable. At the moment he's hoping other guys have bad days and that's not enough to win a major.

  • Comment number 28.

    Andy Murray does not have the believe that he is a 'Champion'.
    As already pointed out, he is capable of beating any of the top players on a good day.
    As mentioned, he blames his support team for his downfall. He has to take responsibility and accept it.

    Once Andy starts to believe(too many doubts), then he will become a GS Winner..His mental state will focused.

  • Comment number 29.

    @27 tenniser - got it spot on. Let's hope Murray can up his attacking game in 2012 aided by Lendl's appointment.

  • Comment number 30.

    It is too early to say whether Andy has made the right move but my expectation is that the tussle at the top of the mens game will be titanic in 2012

  • Comment number 31.

    Interesting move by Murray. With no previous coaching experience at this level, Lendl is definitely a risk to take at what is a very important stage in Murray's career. Murray could be one of the best players never to win a Grand Slam at his current rate and it is clearly a mental problem preventing him make take that next step. For Murray fans, Lendl may just help him reach that next level, however I'm doubtful.

  • Comment number 32.

    Great decision for spectators - it will be really interesting to see how this year unfolds for Murray. I do hope that he gets at least some of what he could get out of this partnership. Never warmed to Lendl as a player - but then same is pretty true for Andy so maybe they're a good fit.

    Will also be very interested to see what Federer achieves this year. As @31 - there could be a great tussle for top 4/5 this year.

  • Comment number 33.

    There are a couple of comments above that I believe are inaccurate. Firstly, I have never heard Murray blame his team for anything, however, he has stated that his rants on court are aimed at himself. He looks to his corner because they understand this (if he caught the eye of a spectator they might be rather intimidated). Secondly, I don't believe he goes into a tournament "hoping other guys have bad days". He simply wouldn't be no 4 in the world if that was the case.

    However, he does need to be more aggressive and I think if Lendl can help him with this, the mental issue with his game will disappear.

    I was a big fan of Ivan Lendl and, for me, this is the dream team. Can't wait for Australian Open!

  • Comment number 34.

    Lendle can bring the two key things that Murray has always lacked because they are the two things that eventually took Lendle to the top--discipline and focus.
    If he can eliminate those two faults from Murray's game, then Andy will win a fistful of majors just as Lendle did.
    And, for tennis lovers, it's important that he does, for there is only one player left with the potential to stop Doko's march and that man is Andy Murray. With Federer coming to the end of his career and Nadal being plagued with more and more injuries (as some of us predicted he would) Andy is the only player near enough to Doko in capability

 

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