Andy Murray may go into the defence of his Wimbledon title this summer without a permanent coach following the surprise announcement that he had parted company with Ivan Lendl. The 26-year-old Scot will not be rushed into an appointment and may well be prepared to work through his busiest period of the year without replacing the man who guided him to two Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal.
Lendl, whose wish to pursue other interests was apparently behind the ending of his two-year partnership with Murray, did not attend every tournament during their association and often ceded coaching duties to Dani Vallverdu, the Scot’s long-term friend from their teenage years together in Barcelona. Vallverdu has become a permanent member of the world No 6’s coaching entourage and Murray may well be happy to hand him extra responsibility.
Murray has been prepared to work without a permanent coach for lengthy periods in the past. After his split in 2011 with Alex Corretja, who was by no means a full-time coach, the Scot did not make a long-term appointment until he linked up with Lendl nine months later. Vallverdu, who has worked closely with Lendl for the past two years, has been at Murray’s side through all his recent changes of coaching personnel and the Scot values his input highly.
The next four months will be the most intense period of Murray’s year and he may not wish to spend too much time on seeking a new coach. The Scot is due to begin the defence of his Miami Masters title at the end of this week and then travels to Naples for Britain’s Davis Cup quarter-final against Italy on the first weekend of April. After a training block he is next expected to play in Madrid, Rome and then the French Open, which starts on 25 May. Wimbledon begins four weeks later.
If Murray is to look for a coach beyond his present entourage, Leon Smith would be an obvious contender. Smith coached his fellow Scot when he was a junior and has since made great strides in the game. He is currently head of men’s tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association and has worked closely with Murray as Britain’s Davis Cup captain.
Smith’s coaching credentials have been reinforced by his Davis Cup record – Britain are through to the World Group quarter-finals for the first time in 28 years – and by his work at the US Open last summer with Dan Evans, who reached the third round.
There would be no shortage of top coaches keen to work with Murray. Paul Annacone, who parted company with Roger Federer at the end of last year, and Larry Stefanki, who most recently coached Andy Roddick, are among those who could be available, while Murray has always had a good relationship with Javier Piles, who was David Ferrer’s coach for 15 years until their split three months ago.
Might Murray be tempted to approach Marian Vajda, who has worked with Novak Djokovic for several years? Vajda is still part of the Serb’s entourage but was pushed sideways at the end of last year with Boris Becker’s arrival as head coach. Vajda is now travelling only occasionally with Djokovic. His first assignment of 2014 was to work with Djokovic in Indian Wells, where the world No 2 won his first title of the year on Sunday.
If Murray wants to maintain the trend of recruiting former top players – he started the fashion with his appointment of Lendl – his ideal choice could be Andre Agassi, who was one of his childhood heroes. Although Agassi has many other interests and is unlikely to want to make any commitment to go on the road for long periods, he recently expressed an interest in coaching.
John McEnroe has been mentioned as a possible coach in the past but probably has too many commitments in broadcasting and at his New York academy to consider such a role.
Murray is due to play his first match in Miami at the end of this week and is expected to talk more about the split with Lendl at a press conference this afternoon. In a statement released by his management company he said he would be “eternally grateful” to Lendl. Murray added: “I’ll take some time with the team to consider the next steps and how we progress from here.”
Lendl described working with Murray as “a fantastic experience” and added: “Having helped him achieve his goal of winning major titles, I feel like it is time for me to concentrate on some of my own projects moving forward, including playing more events around the world, which I am really enjoying. I will always be in Andy’s corner and wish him nothing but great success as he too goes into a new phase of his career.”
Having not played tennis for 14 years because of back trouble following his retirement, 54-year-old Lendl has been making an increasing number of appearances on the seniors tour and at exhibition events.
He has recently conducted coaching clinics in the Canary Islands and has also opened new courts in South Carolina at his own junior tennis academy.
Making Murray: Andy’s coaching history
2005: Pato Alvarez
Veteran Colombian who was based at Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona
2005-06: Mark Petchey
Helped Murray climb more than 300 places into world’s top 50
2006-07: Brad Gilbert
Former coach of Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi recruited with help of Lawn Tennis Association
2007-10: Miles Maclagan
Former British Davis Cup player took Murray to first Slam final
2008-11: Alex Corretja
Worked on part-time basis, initially alongside Maclagan as consultant on clay-court tennis. Also aided by Dani Vallverdu.
2011-14: Ivan Lendl
Czech helped Murray to his debut Slam win at the US Open in 2012 and also inspired Wimbledon triumph last year as well Olympic gold in 2012.