Rocker on a roll: Key figure in LTA revolution raring to go

Peter Lundgren helped Roger Federer become No 1 in the world. Now the Swede, whose favourite band is AC/DC, is ready to make a racket as Britain's Davis Cup coach
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Peter Lundgren has spent more than half his life on the international tennis circuit. The former world No 25 competed in all the Grand Slam tournaments and main tour events, winning titles in America, Australia, Germany and Israel. As a coach, the 41-year-old Swede went on the road with Marcelo Rios, Roger Federer and Marat Safin, guiding Federer to his first Wimbledon title in 2003 and Safin to the Australian Open in 2005.

However, Lundgren will break new ground next month. His next tournament will be at the North Wales Regional Tennis Centre in Wrexham, where he will watch players not ranked high enough to play regularly on the main ATP tour compete at a Challenger event for a grand total of £13,000 in prize-money . He says he is "really looking forward to it".

Lundgren, recently appointed British Davis Cup coach under the captain, John Lloyd, is a central figure in the revolution led by Roger Draper, the Lawn Tennis Association's chief executive, who has recruited some of the planet's leading figures in an attempt to end decades of under-achievement. Brad Gilbert, Andy Murray's new coach, was the first high-profile arrival, Lundgren soon followed and by the end of last month the flow of world-class talent had become a stampede.

Paul Hutchins, the former British Davis Cup captain, is the new chief of men's tennis, while his head coach is Paul Annacone, who guided Pete Sampras to the top and now works with Tim Henman. British women's tennis, meanwhile, has been placed in the hands of Carl Maes, the former coach of Kim Clijsters, and Nigel Sears, whose charges have included Daniela Hantuchova.

Lloyd, Hutchins, Annacone and Lundgren met at Queen's Club yesterday to discuss how the talents of the latter two in particular will be used. Lundgren, having been initially contracted to work 15 weeks of the year on Davis Cup duty, will now be available to Hutchins for another 15 weeks, while Annacone will be available to the LTA for 20 weeks.

Hutchins wants Lundgren and Annacone to work with the best British players across a number of age groups, although he is determined to ensure they have enough time to make an impact. "We're not going to parade them around," he said yesterday. "Rather than give them an inch with everybody I'd rather give them a foot with a few."

As Britain's most successful Davis Cup captain of modern times - no subsequent team has come close to matching his achievement of reaching the 1978 final - Hutchins will be well aware of the challenge facing Lloyd and Lundgren. With the 33-year-old Greg Rusedski on the brink of retirement and the 32-year-old Henman yet to commit to a Davis Cup return, a new generation of players is desperately needed to compete alongside Murray.

Most of the likely contenders are not ranked high enough to play on the main circuit, which is why Lundgren will be spending much of his time in the twilight world of Challenger tournaments, a level down from the main ATP tour. You can tell who is in charge of Davis Cup affairs: while Lundgren will head for Wrexham next month, Lloyd will be at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Lundgren sees a parallel between Britain today and Swiss tennis a decade ago. In 1997 the Swiss opened their new performance and administrative centre in Biel and recruited respected overseas coaches such as the Dutchman Sven Groeneveld, the Australian Peter Carter - and Lundgren. Draper has assembled a similarly diverse team as the LTA prepares to open its new £40m national tennis centre at Roehampton in the new year.

"It's good when you bring together a wide range of people like that because they can bring different talents and a respect for each other," Lundgren said. "It's a good feeling to join a team who you feel are going places. I just hope we can have the same success we had in Switzerland." The success of the Swiss adventure was down in no small part to the emergence of one man. Federer was a product of the Biel performance centre and when he went his own way on the senior circuit in 2000 he chose the national trainer as his personal coach.

Federer and Lundgren worked together for the next three and a half years. Within a year Federer had won his first title and reached the world's top 20, although his Grand Slam breakthrough did not come until he won Wimbledon in 2003 at the age of 21. He went on to win the Tennis Masters Cup that year before deciding the relationship with Lundgren had run its course.

The Swede began working with Safin in April 2004. Within nine months the Russian had won the Australian Open, beating Federer in the semi-finals and Lleyton Hewitt in the final. They parted company this summer.

Lundgren believes that representing his country played an important part in Federer's development. "There were so many matches where Roger showed great talent, particularly in the Davis Cup," he said. "Those were the occasions where he showed that he had the ability and the temperament to get him through tough times.

"He proved it against Morocco. We played away to them and we had to win to stay in the World Group. It wasn't easy. Roger played unbelievably. He only lost a few games. I also remember him playing really well against the States the year before."

Lundgren's personal experience of playing in the Davis Cup amounted to just two rubbers, as Stefan Edberg's doubles partner. "I remember being extremely nervous, much more so than in tournaments" he said. "It's not easy playing in the Davis Cup. All of a sudden you're playing for a team rather than for yourself. The experience of playing in the Davis Cup can undoubtedly help you in the future. If you have the chance to play in the Davis Cup I think you should definitely take it."

Lloyd and Lundgren will dovetail their schedules. Lloyd, who is based in Los Angeles, will be going to the main events in America, as well as the Grand Slam tournaments. Lundgren, who is based in Switzerland, will be working principally in Europe. As well as helping British talent, he will scout future opponents. With Britain's April tie at home to the Netherlands in mind he will be going to the indoor tournament in Rotterdam in February to look at the Dutch players.

Most of Lundgren's Davis Cup time will be spent working with the likes of Alex Bogdanovic, Jamie Baker and Josh Goodall, the best of the next generation of British talent. Bogdanovic has already made a good impression, winning the Challenger tournament at Shrewsbury last month on the first occasion that Lundgren saw him.

"I want to build a good long-term relationship with the British players and coaches," Lundgren said. "I'll be going to tournaments and watching them play and I hope that I'll be able to help with their coaching. Four eyes are always better than two.

"I believe we'll get results, but it won't happen overnight. Nothing is easy. It takes time to build a team. I just hope that the press and the public will be patient." Lundgren acknowledges that the team will be heavily reliant on Murray. "I think he's a potential top 10 player for sure," Lundgren said. "He's got a great game. He's a very smart player."

The Swede has known of Henman's talent since he lost in straight sets to him at Queen's Club in 1994, Lundgren's penultimate year on the tour. "I thought I had a good draw, but when I played him I quickly realised that he had the potential to be a really good player," Lundgren recalled.

Like Lloyd, he is hoping that Henman will return to the Davis Cup fold. "I want Great Britain to get back in the World Group and if Tim is back the chances are much higher," Lundgren said. "He's playing as well as he has for a long time. He's got so much still to offer."

Lundgren said Rusedski had been "fantastic" in September's Davis Cup victory in Ukraine, but the former world No 4 has a long-term hip problem and has tumbled so far down the world rankings that he will struggle to win a place in most events on the main tour. While Rusedski would like to play against the Dutch in April, it remains to be seen whether Lloyd and Lundgren will consider him to be in good enough shape to play.

If it is hard to disassociate Henman and Rusedski from the British Davis Cup scene, so it is difficult for some veterans of the international circuit to picture Lundgren, who looks like an ageing rocker with his long hair and goatee beard, without the guitar which he always used to take with him.

These days, however, the Swede's acoustic and electric instruments stay at home and he has to find other ways of indulging his passion for 1970s and 1980s rock (he counts AC/DC as his all-time favourite band). "It got to be a real pain trying to take the guitar through the airports," he said. "I travel with a laptop these days and I have my music on there."

Team player is the right man, says Federer

Roger Federer believes Peter Lundgren's background makes him a good choice as British Davis Cup coach. "He was part of the Swiss Davis Cup team for a couple of years alongside me and everybody else," said the world No 1, who appointed Lundgren as his personal coach in 2000 and worked with him for more than three years (including when he won Wimbledon in 2003. "He's especially good in a team, which is obviously useful for a job like this. He brings great spirit to the team and as a Swede, the Davis Cup is obviously a huge motivation every time. I think he's a good guy to have in the team. I guess for him it's just a matter of getting to know the players."