'Ivan made a huge difference but it is time to move on,' says Andy Murray
Scot admits splitting with coach was tough as form raises concerns
Andy Murray has said he would take his time before appointing a new coach but admitted his split with Ivan Lendl had been tough to take. "He's been a big part of my life," Murray said at the Miami Masters, where he begins the defence of his title this weekend. "He made a huge difference to my tennis."
Without explaining why they had agreed to part, Murray said the decision had been taken last Saturday following his arrival in Miami. Murray had been playing at the Indian Wells Masters, while Lendl was competing in a seniors event in North Carolina.
"We went and had dinner," Murray said. "We chatted for an hour about other stuff, and then we chatted about us moving forward. That wasn't something that happened after Indian Wells.
"We planned to sit down when I got to Miami to discuss moving forward. It wasn't going to happen. The best thing to do was just to move on."
Lendl had said the previous day that he felt it was time to concentrate on some of his own projects, including his own playing career. Although Murray said the decision to part had been made only on Saturday, it is understood that the player and coach had been trying to organise a schedule that suited both of them for some time.
Murray said Lendl had played a crucial role in his victories at the 2012 US Open and at Wimbledon last summer, where he became the first British man to win the singles title for 77 years.
"The thing that he was brought in to do was to help me get over the line in the big events, and that's what he did," Murray said. "My game was kind of there. It was the mental side in dealing with pressure situations that he was there to help with. That was the biggest influence he had on my game. He will be a very hard person to replace. You can't replace that sort of experience easily."
After the Miami Masters, which finishes on Sunday week, Murray will head to Naples for Britain's Davis Cup quarter-final against Italy. "I will then sit down and have a think what I want to do with that situation and how I want to move forward with it," Murray said.
The Scot's friend and hitting partner, Dani Vallverdu, is with him in Miami. Vallverdu has worked closely with Lendl for the last two years and has stepped into the breach in the past when Murray has been between coaches.
"Sometimes being a little bit freer on the court can help for a few weeks," Murray said. "I think in the long term it's better to have someone there and to have a structure and a plan as to how you're going to move forward and how you're going to improve."
If the split with Lendl had been on the cards, Murray might feel that a burden has been lifted from his shoulders as he sets about the defence of his Miami title. He often wears his heart on his sleeve and there were times in the tournament at Indian Wells when he played like a man with matters other than the next point on his mind.
A good run in Miami, where he first meets the Australian Matthew Ebden, will be important both for his spirits and his world ranking. As the reigning champion, Murray has 1,000 ranking points to defend, which represents more than a fifth of his total haul for the last 12 months. An early exit could see him fall to No 8 in the world, which would be his lowest position for six years.
Murray has a second home not far from the courts at Crandon Park in Miami, which he knows better than any others given that he uses the city as a training base. Nevertheless, it would take quite a turnaround in form for him to win the title for a third time.
While Murray hardly expected to take the game by storm when he returned at the end of last year following back surgery, his indifferent form in recent weeks has raised concerns.
He lost to Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals in Rotterdam, to Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-finals in Acapulco and to Milos Raonic in the last 16 at Indian Wells.
"I was just really disappointed with how the last 15 minutes of the match went," Murray said as he reflected on his defeat to Raonic. "That was really, really poor. Acapulco was the same. My matches have been a little bit patchy over the past few weeks.
"Australia [the Grand Slam] wasn't really the case, but in the last few weeks that's been a bit of an issue. I will need to try and start matches a little bit better, be a little bit more intense throughout the whole match, and not give up so many free points."
Murray said he had had trouble pinpointing the problem. "It shouldn't really be anything down to not playing enough matches," he said. "I feel like I've played enough. I'm not pulling up stiff or sore or anything like that after matches. I think I'm match-fit, match-tight. Maybe I'm making some bad decisions in those situations."
If Murray beats Ebden he will next play either Jiri Vesely or Feliciano Lopez. The Scot is then seeded to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last 16 and Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, with Roger Federer or David Ferrer possible semi-final opponents. Rafael Nadal is seeded to meet Stanislas Wawrinka in the semi-finals in the other half of the draw.
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