Andy Murray has always had a reputation for unpredictability and the 24-year-old Scot yesterday sprang the biggest surprise of the tennis off-season by naming Ivan Lendl as his new coach.
Lendl, who won eight Grand Slams, starts working with Murray immediately. The Australian Open begins in 15 days and the world No 4 starts his season at the Brisbane International, where he plays his first match against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin on Tuesday. Murray has been working without a senior coach since parting companywith Alex Corretja early last year. He always said he wanted to strengthen his entourage with an experienced hand who knows what it takes to win at the highest level – few fit the bill better than Lendl.
"It was important to me that the new person joining my team was able to add fresh insight," Murray said yesterday. "Ivan's impact on the game is unquestionable and he brings experience and knowledge that few others have, particularly in major tournaments."
Nevertheless, the appointment is a surprise considering that 51-year-old Lendl has never coached at tour level before. Indeed, until he returned to play on the senior tour two years ago he had largely cut himself off from tennis to concentrate on a new life as a golfer. Lendl has also spent much of his time helping with the golf and equestrian careers of his five daughters. However, he recently set up his own tennis academy in South Carolina and has since taken a renewed interest in the sport.
Born in Ostrava in the Czech Republic, Lendl later became an US citizen. His own career should give Murray encouragement as the Scot attempts to win his first Grand Slam title, having lost in his first three finals.Lendl is the only man in the Open era who went on to win a Grand Slam after losing his first four finals.
Lendl eventually won three French Opens, three US Opens and two Australian Opens. Twice a losing finalist at Wimbledon, he was worldNo 1 for 270 weeks (only Pete Sampras and Roger Federer have topped the rankings for longer) and won a total of 94 singles titles.
"I am really excited to have the opportunity to work with Andy," Lendl said. "He is a unique talent and I look forward to trying to help him reach his goals."