Murray confident Lendl's steel will bring Slam success

Hard-nosed former world No 1 hailed as an excellent choice to help Scot make the final breakthrough

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The British public rarely saw the best of Ivan Lendl. The Czech-born player reached two Wimbledon finals and made the semi-finals on five other occasions, but grass never brought the best out of him. Given that he was also a hard-nosed professional who rarely smiled at work, it was probably no surprise that the Wimbledon crowd never warmed to him.

Andy Murray, nevertheless, is well aware of Lendl's remarkable achievements elsewhere and clearly believes that the 51-year-old naturalised American can teach him a thing or two. Murray revealed on Saturday that Lendl is to be his new coach and will start working with him in the build-up to the Australian Open, which begins in a fortnight's time.

Lendl will not be with the Scot at this week's Brisbane International – he plays his first match against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin tomorrow – but will travel with him to all the Grand Slam tournaments and most of the Masters Series events. For a man who said last year that he was "not really that interested in travelling the tour with a player" it shows how much Lendl believes they can make a successful team.

Murray, who has not had a permanent coach for 18 months, will be the first player Lendl has coached at senior level. After winning 94 singles titles, including eight at Grand Slam level, and topping the world rankings for 270 weeks, Lendl spent 15 years away from tennis, concentrating instead on his passion for golf and the sporting careers of his five daughters.

However, he returned to play on the senior tour two years ago, has opened a junior academy in South Carolina and is relishing the chance to work with Murray.

A key point Lendl will undoubtedly drive home is the need not to let disappointments get the better of you. Murray has lost his first three Grand Slam finals; Lendl lost his first four before going on to win the French Open three times, the US Open three times and the Australian Open twice.

The appointment is evidence of Murray's absolute determination to go as far as he can. Since parting with Brad Gilbert four years ago, the Scot has surrounded himself with an entourage dominated by friendly faces with easy-going natures. Lendl will bring not only the experience of someone who has succeeded at the highest level but also a calculating and steely-eyed approach.

Lendl was always meticulous in his preparations. No player worked harder on his fitness and on court he was the ultimate competitor. It was no surprise that he said in a recent interview that Rafael Nadal was a player he particularly liked watching.

Although a more relaxed and approachable character off the court, Lendl is likely to be a hard task-master. His appointment is a bold choice by Murray. It would be no surprise if their relationship went in one of two directions: rapid success, or ending in tears before long. Indeed, both scenarios could happen.

"When he played he was a very hard worker," Murray told the Association of Tennis Professionals' official website yesterday. "He is also one of the most successful tennis players ever, so he obviously has a lot of knowledge and information that he can pass on to me. And he was just a very honest guy as well, which is very important because not everybody is like that.

"A lot of people are maybe too nice sometimes. They just don't want to upset you or say the wrong thing. But he was very honest, very open."

Murray said he had talked to Lendl at length about how to beat the top players. He added: "I liked what he said and how he felt about my game. He has obviously got a lot of experience. I also think he has been through a lot of the same things that I have been through, so I am sure he can help me mentally with certain things."

When asked about Lendl's inexperience as a coach, Murray said: "The best coaches don't always make the best players and the best players don't make the best coaches. So I think that is something that I am sure will be a challenge for Ivan and he seemed quite excited by that as well. He has never coached before and he was saying that he was willing to learn."

Tony Roche, who coached Lendl for eight years, believes Murray has made an excellent choice. "Anyone who knows Ivan will tell you how much he's going to bring to the table for Andy," the veteran Australian player said yesterday. "Few people in our sport have ever trained as hard as Ivan or been as professional."

Roche added: "Ivan was always looking for the edge, even in the smallest ways, and now he'll be doing it on Andy's behalf. Whether it was the way he trained, tinkering with his equipment or getting his diet right. Ivan and Martina Navratilova were the two players in the 1980s who took the game to another level in terms of professionalism. He's always been one of the great students of the game."

Coach list: Andy's men

Pato Alvarez (2005): Veteran Colombian who was based at Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona

Mark Petchey (2005-2006): Helped Murray climb more than 300 places into world's top 50

Brad Gilbert (2006-07): Former coach of Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi was recruited with help of Lawn Tennis Association

Miles Maclagan (2007-10): Former British Davis Cup player took Murray to first Grand Slam final

Alex Corretja (2008-2011): Worked on part-time basis, initially alongside Maclagan as consultant on clay-court tennis

Dani Vallverdu (since 2008): Murray's best friend from days at Sanchez Casal academy and has played increasingly important role

Darren Cahill (2011): Worked with Murray on occasional basis last year as part of Adidas team of coaches