Andy Murray believes he has made great strides since joining forces with Ivan Lendl but admits there was one aspect of his coach's game that he would not be copying.
"All he wants to do is hit people he's practising with," Murray said last week. "He's been trying to get me to do it. He's like: 'As soon as this guy comes to the net, just try and hit him.' That's more his sense of humour. If he gets hit with the ball his reaction is not: 'Ow, that's sore.' It's to laugh. That's what gets him going, I guess, weird things like that."
Murray added: "I've hit a few guys, but not like the way he hits them. If I was at the back of the court and they were at the net, I'd just be hitting hard at them. I've always done that. But if a ball pops up on top of the net [his aim] is just to absolutely nail them. I'm sure you've seen the videos of him hitting [Vitas] Gerulaitis on the forehead in matches. That's what he loved doing. Almost every player I've spoken to has a story about him hitting them in practice. It's what he did."
If drilling balls directly at opponents was one way Lendl tried to dictate every point, Murray uses a different tactic to intimidate rivals. "Mine would be for guys to feel like there's no space to hit winners into, making the court feel smaller by getting to every single ball and making them have to go for too much. That's more my style," he said.
"It's just different. You want to make guys feel intimidated by something you do on the court, whether it's hitting the ball hard, or your movement, or for someone like [John] Isner it will be their serve.
"That was something he [Lendl] was very good at, one of the best at. I think his attitude on the court intimidated people. He never looked flustered. He always had the same expression. No one really knew how he was feeling. But I know from speaking to him that he got really, really nervous. Everyone gets nervous – and he got more nervous than most people. But he knew how to deal with it."
Murray, who was speaking at Queen's Club in London after committing to play at the Aegon Championships in June for the next five years, will make his season's first appearance on clay at this week's Monte Carlo Masters in a field headed by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Although clay is his most challenging surface, Murray and his coach believe the world No 4 can win the French Open. Planning for Roland Garros began immediately after Murray lost to Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January.
"We spoke the following day about what I didn't do well in the match and what I did do well and, if I want to beat Novak, what I need to do well," Murray said. "Straightaway we were planning for the French Open, what we were going to do, what things we need to work on."
He said both he and Lendl wanted a long-term partnership. "He's already talking about planning for the Australian Open next year and which tournaments I'm going to play next year," Murray said. "I think just having him around is a calming influence on me. When I look to the box and see him there I feel much calmer.
He added: "He's a pleasure to work with because he wants to be the best at what he does. He wants to work hard and he wants to enjoy himself, so it's a great combination. Sorry to swear, but there's no bullshitting. He just wants to work hard, be the best.
"That's what I want to do and that's why I've enjoyed working with him. I think he respects that. I respect him for everything he's achieved in the game and also for what he's been like as a person to all of the guys I've worked with."
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