Andy Murray insists that Ivan Lendl, his new coach, is "a good fun guy" but there is clearly a time and a place for levity. In his victory speech on court in Brisbane 10 days ago Murray thanked "Mr Lendl", who was watching stone-faced in the stands. "That was just a one-off," Murray admitted here yesterday. "I don't think he liked it, to be honest."
Lendl wore his down-to-business face again here yesterday as he saw his new charge get off to a winning start in the Australian Open, beating the 19-year-old Ryan Harrison 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in Hisense Arena, the second show court. Harrison, the best prospect in American tennis, came out shooting from the hip, but Murray had the most consistent firepower.
With Lendl wanting his man to focus his energies on the match, the world No 4 was on his best behaviour. There was still plenty of grimacing – at different times Murray appeared to have problems with a knee, ankle, hamstring and shoulder – but the Scot did not spend time sounding off in the general direction of his entourage.
Team Murray are usually animated spectators, but Lendl set a different tone. "He is more poker-faced and he didn't really say too much during the match, but the coach has to trust the player and the player has to trust the coach," Murray said. "I had to make some changes and adjustments on the court. He didn't look like he was panicking at any stage, which was a good sign because it was obviously a big match for both of us."
Murray said Lendl had been "very happy" with his play. "He understands how you might be feeling at the start of a Grand Slam, what it's like to play against someone that you haven't played against, what it's like playing in different conditions," Murray said.
"It's just good to have someone there that understands all of those things. Someone maybe without the experience might walk in and be, like, 'What the hell were you doing in the first set? What were you playing [in] the first six or seven games?' He understands the feelings that you go through."
With the temperature climbing into the thirties, Murray took time to adjust to the conditions. "Today was a bit of a shock to the system and it was good to get used to playing in that heat again because I might have to, a bit further down the line," he said.
"It was incredibly hot today. The balls were bouncing up very high, whereas it's been cool. This court particularly reacts a lot with the temperature. It took me a little while to adjust to that. Also, I've never played or hit against him before, so it always takes a bit of time to get used to the guy you're playing. But once I did, I started to play better."
Harrison, a fiery type who was fined five times at Grand Slam tournaments last year, played some sparkling tennis in the first set but faded in the face of the Scot's consistent excellence.
Murray said that Lendl had stressed the importance of keeping up the pressure on an opponent. "Even when I was 5-2 and 5-3 down in the first set, I made him play a couple of long points to take his legs away," Murray said. "I managed to get a break at the start of the second because of that. No freebies. I did a good job of that today."
Asked about being the last Briton left in singles competition, Murray said: "There are other people in charge that should be disappointed about it, not me. I'd rather there were more Brits winning, obviously, but it's not for me to be disappointed."