Ivan's given his first proper interview since the USO!
Andy Murray can make big progress in the next few months, says coach Ivan Lendl
Ivan Lendl, in his first in-depth interview since Andy Murray's US Open success, tells Chris Jones why 2013 will be even better
Ivan Lendl was a picture of serenity amid the mayhem that surrounded Andy Murray’s historic US Open triumph.
The crowd was going berserk and the rest of Murray’s support team headed by girlfriend Kim Sears could not contain their excitement but at the end of the player’s box sat Lendl, chin on his hand, gazing impassively out onto the court as Novak Djokovic was beaten after nearly five hours.
Throughout a stellar career that brought him eight Grand Slam titles and a remarkable 270 weeks as No1, Lendl was seen as a cold character.
Is he adopting the same persona now that he is Murray’s coach? The answer revolves around his own family, made up of five daughters, who have all created their own sporting lives with three playing golf for leading American colleges — a sport that has become Lendl’s passion since quitting the Tour.
“I am pretty much as calm as I appear,” says the 52-year-old scratch golfer. “I was asked that question by a couple of tennis coaches at my Academy and I told them it is a lot easier watching Andy play tennis in a US Open Final than watching your own children playing golf at a fairly high level.
“I consider Andy part of our family, having spent so much time with him but it really is much more difficult watching your own children, when you know they are not as skilled at their sport yet. Andy is very skilled at what he does and I know he is going to do the right thing and perform well, so I don’t have to worry so much.”
Lendl agreed to become Murray’s coach last December and with their anniversary still some weeks away, the tangible results are there for everyone to see. Murray is an Olympic singles gold medallist (he also took silver in the mixed doubles in London) and the US Open champion, having last month ended Britain’s 76‑year wait for a men’s Grand Slam winner.
Like Lendl it came after suffering four defeats in major finals.
It would be easy to assume the arrival of Lendl was the sole reason for Murray’s elevation to the elite of the sport but his coach is quick to deflect praise.
“It is very flattering that people say I’ve helped Andy to win a first Grand Slam but all the credit goes to him,” he says. “He is the one who has done the work and won the matches. Would he have won the titles this year if I wasn’t there? Maybe, maybe not or he could have won even more. We will never know, however, if I have played any small part in achieving the gold medal and the US Open title then I’m very happy for him.”
Lendl is polite, enthusiastic, passionate about competition and speaks — at times — in a staccato manner because he doesn’t waste words. “You show me a good loser and I will show you a loser,” was a response that neatly sums up his sporting mantra.
However, like Murray, the public perception is different to the truth and laughter is very much a feature of their relationship. Lendl has clear ideas of what it takes to be a champion and he dispels the idea that Murray benefits from a God-given talent.
“Nothing is God given — it’s all about hard work,” he says. “Andy has worked really hard to have good hands around the net and to hit the shots he does.
“Way before my time with Andy, he was hitting tennis balls with his mum on court and that is the same for guys like John McEnroe and Roger Federer. They hit lots at home before ever coming onto the Tour.
“That is why I say that nothing is God given and we should take that out of equation. I am trying to erase it because it’s about the work you put in.
“I don’t see why Andy should not have another big year in 2013. I’ve never been a fan of how many weeks someone is at No1. I’m more interested in winning majors because then No1 comes as a bi-product and it shows consistency. Being No1 was an honour and I take my hat off to Roger for doing 300 weeks at the top.
“It’s a good call by Andy to aim to become No1 in the world and he understands that it’s not only about playing well in the majors, it also takes consistency throughout the year to achieve that. I don’t see any reason why Andy won’t win many more Grand Slam titles.”
Lendl is coming back to London with old sparring partner McEnroe for the Winter Whites Gala at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday December 8. That day, during the Statoil Masters Tennis tournament, the famous venue will be transformed into a Winter Wonderland on behalf of Centrepoint, Prince William’s Patron Charity, which helps homeless young people.
He will also be at the O2 alongside Murray for the Barclays World Tour Finals in November and will then oversee the first sustained period of training with the world No3 in America.
Lendl says: “I am really looking forward to working with Andy in America because I haven’t had a chance to work with him for an extended period of time. We had around 10 days together after the Australian Open and before he played Dubai and that was more about preparing for the tournament.
“The work we do leading into the Australian Open will be very important because we can make really big progress. We are talking about doing specific work on the court which will then help in all areas of his game. In terms of 2013, I still have to discuss the schedule and when I will be with him on the Tour.
“I was convinced from the beginning Andy would win a Grand Slam because I could see how good a player he was. Andy learned very quickly from a couple of losses; against Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open and then against Roger Federer in the Wimbledon Final and became an even better player.
“I don’t compare winning the US Open as a player and being there when Andy did it as a coach. My playing days were so long ago and there has been another big chapter in my life in between those tennis moments. Coming back after helping my daughters with their golf and driving them around to events was a big, enjoyable chapter in my life.
“I have gone from tennis player, then a family man and father to helping Andy achieve his goals. It was a fantastic evening in New York and I could not have been happier for him.”
The Albert Hall will see Lendl back on court in London after a 19-year absence. He might not be up to regular tennis on the seniors circuit but for one week, having been prepared by Murray, he is confident he can still play to a high level.
“I am not a fan of playing back-to-back events because it’s a little too much for my body,” he says. “I can tell you that having faced Andy’s ground strokes in practise, there are not too many on the senior’s tour hitting it like that.”http://www.standard.co.uk/sport/interviews/andy-murray-can-make-big-progress-in-the-next-few-months-says-coach-ivan-lendl-8215922.html