Lendl stays cool in glow of triumph

Andy Murray's coach says his charge's US Open win was nine months in the making

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The Independent Online

Even in the wake of victory, the ice man was not going to melt. Shortly after Andy Murray's triumph in the US Open here on Monday night, Ivan Lendl, the coach who has done so much for the Scot this year, was asked what his feelings were. Elation? Happiness? Joy? Satisfaction? "I didn't come here to have a good time," Lendl said. "I came here to help Andy win and he did, so it's job done."

When Murray recruited Lendl, eight times a Grand Slam champion, he saw in him a man who could help him to make his final breakthrough. Like Murray, the 52-year-old Lendl had lost his first four Grand Slam finals. Their first Grand Slam tournament together, at the Australian Open in January, saw Murray lose in marathon semi-final to Novak Djokovic - at four hours and 50 minutes it was just four minutes shorter than Monday's final here - but Lendl liked what he saw.

"To me, one of the most important matches of the year, maybe the most important, was his loss to Novak at the Australian Open," Lendl said. "Because that was just a war, like tonight, and that has given him the belief that he can hang with these guys. And also it has showed him what it takes him to win, so it didn't catch him by surprise today."

He added: "It's very unlikely you're going to roll over an opponent like Novak. It's unlikely in today's tennis that you're going to run through the whole field without having difficult matches. It can happen in the first round, it can happen in the semi- finals, it can happen in finals. It can happen anywhere. These guys are so good. The game is much deeper than it was when I played 30 years ago, or whatever it was, and if you're not on top of your game every single day, someone will take you out."

After Murray enjoyed only a moderate clay court campaign this year, some were doubting the benefits of his new coaching arrangements, but Lendl said: "Both Andy and I were saying: 'Give us six to nine months.' Do the maths. You can help obviously help somebody in a very short period of time, however it takes longer than that to help more than that, for things to set in. You cannot do that in one week, you cannot do that in one month."

Lendl said he thought Monday's final had turned in the fourth set, even though Djokovic won it. "To my mind Andy started looking better than Novak halfway through the fourth set," he said. "I thought there was a chance Andy could come back in the fourth as well. He was a bit unlucky on some big points. Novak played very well on some big points."

There were moments in the final set when even Lendl applauded. "He started hitting better forehands and I tried to show him 'that's the way'," Lendl said. "It's a war and he needs every bit of encouragement at the stage that he can get."

Lendl said he was hopeful that "we're not anywhere near where Andy can get" and added: "It's a fantastic year, I'm very happy for Andy. It's a great achievement for him and let's hope he can continue and rack up many more."

Asked whether he had been surprised by anything about Murray since they started working together, Lendl said: "That his sense of humour, maybe, is as sick as mine." Had that helped their relationship? "I think so. I think you don't have to tiptoe around if you want to tell a bad joke. And neither does he. And nobody gets offended and everybody chuckles and we move on."

Game, set and match: How Murray's marvellous victory unfolded

1. Murray breaks Djokovic's serve in the opening game

The players enter the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium at 4pm local time. A fortnight of hot and humid weather is replaced by a day of bright sunshine but much cooler and fresher conditions. Nevertheless, a stiff breeze swirls around the stadium which forces both men to play with caution. Djokovic looks particularly ill at ease and is broken to love in the opening game.

2. Djokovic shows his frustration... then breaks Murray's serve

Djokovic breaks back immediately but at 2-2 drops serve again, upon which he twice smashes his racket into his chair in frustration. Both men continue to play conservatively and exchange 55 shots in a single rally during the sixth game. When Murray serves at 4-3, Djokovic brings the crowd to their feet by breaking serve with a spectacular smash.

3. Sir Alex Ferguson joins the star-studded Murray entourage

With Murray 4-5 down, Sir Alex Ferguson takes his seat among the Scot's entourage. The Manchester United manager's jacket soon comes off as the battle hots up. Sir Sean Connery, Murray's other Scottish cheerleader, is sitting a few rows away in the president's box. Kevin Spacey completes the celebrity line-up of the Scot's fans.

4. Murray claims first set after marathon tie-break

A marathon first set goes to a marathon tie-break, featuring one rally of 33 strokes. At 5-3 down Murray forces Djokovic into a backhand error and thereafter sets the pace. Djokovic saves five set points, but at 10-10 Murray creates a sixth with a bold attack, converts it with a big serve and lets out a great roar. It has taken an hour and 27 minutes to play the first set.

5. Djokovic pins Murray back but sends three crucial shots wide

Both men might be aware of the fact that in all but the very first of their 14 previous meetings the player who won the first set went on to win the match. Murray turns the screw by racing into a 4-0 lead, only for Djokovic to level at 5-5. At 5-6 and 15-15, however, Djokovic puts a forehand wide at the end of a sensational 31-shot rally and hits a smash wide to give Murray two set points. On the second Djokovic hits another forehand wide.

6. Djokovic goes all out to claim third set as Murray falters

At two sets down, Djokovic goes for broke. Murray drops serve in the third game and fails to convert break points when trailing 3-2. Djokovic breaks again to lead 5-2 and serves out. The comeback is on, but does Djokovic have what it takes to become the first man to win a US Open final from two sets down for 63 years?

7. Djokovic prevails in fourth as both men put on stunning display

Djokovic hits a winning volley on break point in the first game of the fourth set, which features some spectacular rallies. One 30-shot exchange ends with Djokovic on the floor (below) and the crowd on their feet. Another break of serve for Djokovic at 3-5 levels the match. After just over four hours, it is time for a one-set shoot-out.

8. Murray breaks twice to halt Djokovic's momentum

The momentum had been with Djokovic, but Murray seizes it back with a break of serve in the opening game of the decider as the Serb puts a loose backhand in the net. Murray, who breaks again for a 3-0 lead, keeps his nose just ahead despite Djokovic breaking back to 3-2.

9. Murray makes history after Djokovic's gamesmanship fails

With Murray leading 5-2 and about to serve out for victory, Djokovic pulls the oldest trick in the book by sending for the trainer, who massages his legs during a medical time-out. Ferguson, watching from Murray's box, does not hide his anger and the crowd boo Djokovic, who gives them a sarcastic thumbs-up. The ploy is to no avail. On Murray's second match point, Djokovic hits a forehand long and the 76-year wait for a British male Grand Slam singles champion is over.

Paul Newman