Andy Murray's coach Ivan Lendl convinced they make a formidable team
Twelve months after taking over as Murray's right-hand man, Lendl says the pair's understanding has definitely developed
Ivan Lendl remains as cool as ever ahead of Andy Murray's appearance in the final of the Australian Open against Novak Djokovic on Sunday. The coach, who has been with him since they hooked up here a year ago, was not carried away with statistics or history, especially the curiosity of Murray trying to become the first player in the Open era to follow his first slam title with another one straight away. When reminded that, as a player, he had to wait a good deal longer for his second major, Lendl, who won eight of them, was not impressed.
"I've never thought about it but I told Andy before the tournament: 'Apparently no player has won three Australian Opens in a row in the Open era and no player in the Open era has won his first major and then won his second win in the very next major. So that means Roger has to win here!' That's not going to happen now, so one of those theories goes out of the window. Once again it's a lovely story for you guys, but I pay no attention to that."
He reckoned it would play no part in Murray's performance. But did he not think that, in his own case, he was still developing as a player in the slams immediately after he had won his first title? "Well [John] McEnroe was still ranked No1, and Mats Wilander was still at least the same as me, if not better, on clay at that time."
He accepted his tennis might have still been evolving, like Murray's. "Possibly. I hate to compare like that, but I see what you're trying to say. Possibly."
How has the experience of working with Murray in Melbourne this time compared with last year? "It was less hectic this year because last year was a novelty and everybody wanted to talk. This year you guys have left me alone a lot more and it's a lot easier for me."
With a year's experience together, are they a better team? "No doubt about it. We have learned about each other and understand each other better. I think that would [be the case] in any team, in any relationship, that you would do better after a year."
Is it more enjoyable for that reason? "Yeah, that's one of the reasons. I've got my golf game set up very well too, so that was very enjoyable."
Murray talks of the importance of peaking at right time – how did they go about achieving that as a team? "Well unfortunately you're not in control of your schedule. You're not in full control of when you play. You're not in full control of how long the matches are. So that affects things. And every player is different. Some players need a tough match early, some need a tough match before the final, some don't need a tough match. So you don't go about it, you just have to deal with the cards you have."
Lendl said Djokovic's extra day of rest before the final would not have any effect – "Not at the age both guys are and the fitness they have" – and he has been impressed with Murray's energy levels throughout the tournament, especially in the semi-final against Roger Federer.
"It was great that he didn't dawdle around in the matches when he was in control and finished them, and most likely it can only help. I felt Andy was a little bit ahead in the [semi-final] the entire time. I don't know what the exact number of breaks against Andy and breaks against Roger were, but it would be big in Andy's favour, probably 6-2. [Murray converted six of 16, Federer two of six] And I remember playing a match like that myself.
"It's somewhat frustrating as you haven't been broken. I played the semi-final of Wimbledon against Slobodan Zivojinovic one year, I think it was '86 [it was], it was, like, 6-1, 6-7, 6-2, 6-7, 6-4 [actually 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4]. It's very frustrating, because the guy isn't making any inroads on your serve but you find yourself two sets all and you know you have been the better player. The good point there was that Andy's fitness came through. I think it was apparent that he was fitter in the fifth set than Roger and that's why that set was relatively – using that word loosely – relatively easy."
Lendl, though, was most impressed with the way Murray handled the frustration of blowing the fourth set, when he was serving for the match at 6-5, and distracted by an exchange of words and looks with Federer.
"Yes I'm very proud of him, how he dealt with it. It has to do with preparation, though. If you feel you're strong and you don't feel like you are going to run out of gas, it's a lot easier to deal with that than if you feel I've only got four more games in me or something. If you feel, OK, I can play three more sets I'm fine, it's a lot easier to swallow the bitter pill of losing the fourth set in a tie-breaker."http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2013/jan/26/andy-murray-ivan-lendl-team