Lendl has to start new job

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The Independent Online
Ivan Lendl, twice Wimbledon runner-up and a man who won more than pounds 13.5m in prize-money in his professional tennis career, competes in the Chemapol Czech Open in Marianske Lazne today, and says it could be the most embarrassing moment of his sporting life.

Czech-born Lendl, who has lived in Connecticut for several years and is now a United States citizen, has never played in such a big golf event before, though he has been playing on the North American Mini-Tour since retiring from tennis two years ago. Known as "Old Stoneface" on the tennis courts because he rarely showed emotion, whatever the score, Lendl, 36, says: "You must not make too much out of my game. I'm a keen golfer and I enjoy competitions but I am not Nick Faldo. I practise occasionally at the Leadbetter Golf Academy in Florida, and I have met Nick Faldo and tried to learn by watching him practise."

The winner of eight Grand Slam tennis tournaments is now a professional but became one in unusual fashion. "I signed a tennis contract with Mizuno, who stipulated that when I played golf I had to play with their clubs. This, in effect, made me a professional but it did not matter to me one way or another.

"Now I play in quite a few celebrity events, as well as small professional tournaments, along with other sports stars like Pete Sampras and Michael Jordan."

Lendl was asked to play in the Czech tournament by Chemapol, the sponsors, in February but took three months to accept, and said he did so "with a very heavy heart". He will play the first two rounds with two Englishmen, Andrew Collison from King's Lynn and John Bickerton from Worcester. "My biggest golfing ambition is to be able to play a round without looking for a ball," said Lendl, who shot 69, two under par, and 73 in two practice rounds.