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Andy articles from the Times


Andy Murray may well have to beat off the challenge of a French battalion and the attentions of Novak Djokovic, the champion and world No 1, in the semi-finals if he is to end his grand-slam tournament hoodoo over the next fortnight in the Australian Open.
The draw has pitted Murray, the world No 4, with Ryan Harrison, the 19-year-old American from Louisiana and world No 84, in the opening round, after which there is a steady list of French players who may be blocking his route, from Édouard Roger Vasselin, through Gaël Monfils and a juicy prospective quarter-final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Murray, astoundingly, has a 36-1 career record against French players.
It is the first time that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been drawn in the same half of a grand-slam event since the 2005 French Open, so Murray finally avoided, pre-final, the Spaniard. Neale Fraser, the 1960 Wimbledon champion, drew his coin out of the trophy first, so that he was planted in the half along with Djokovic, who is seeking to win his third grand-slam title in succession at Melbourne Park. The Serb plays Paolo Lorenzi, of Italy, in the opening round.
Murray, in the company of Ivan Lendl, his new coach, was competing in his final warm-up match for the Open last night against David Nalbandian, of Argentina, in the AAMI Classic at Kooyong, coming after last week’s title success in Brisbane.
Heather Watson, the British No 3 who was drawn to face Maria Sharapova in the first round of last year’s US Open, meets Victoria Azarenka, the world No 3 from Belarus. Azarenka has started the year in outstanding form and was meeting Li Na, of China, in the final of the Apia International in Sydney last night.
As if to maintain the Anglo-French flavour of the draw, Elena Baltacha, the British No 1, meets Stéphanie Foretz-Gacon in the first round and has the enticing prospect of a second-round meeting with Kim Clijsters, the defending champion from Belgium.
Thanks for all that info.  Ryan Harrison won't be a pushover, and they've never met before.  Not too worried about the French contingent, but Djokovic a possibility in the SF doesn't fill me with optimism if Djoko maintains last year's form unless, of course, Lendl somehow works some magic.
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All we can ask is for Andy to do his best, and if he does that then I'm convinced he can do it. If it was a final then I would share your pessimism on his chances however.
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I mean the whole Djokovic superman thing has got to come to an end eventually.
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It has.  Andy did come close to ending his run last year, so I suppose anything is possible - but first both have to get to the SF.  So as usual, one match at a time!
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Sod's Law - I was fairly confident that Andy would have Rafa's measure in an Aussie semi and lay the ghost of all those defeats.  Then, of course, he draws Novak - had to be didn't it!
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We are in the members’ lounge at Kooyong, the quaint club in the Melbourne suburbs that until a quarter of a century ago hosted the Australian Open. I am reminded of Ivan Lendl’s five forlorn attempts to win this title on grass, in which time he reached the final once, losing in straight sets to Mats Wilander in 1983. The man himself walks through the door.
There is no doubt that the opening grand-slam tournament of 2012 will be memorable in many ways but the conversation at Kooyong and Melbourne Park, the venue to which the event was switched from grass to hard courts of varying texture to move with the times, has centred on a huge decision taken three weeks ago over a plate of pasta in an Italian restaurant in Florida.
When Andy met Ivan and, more to the point, when he decided to employ Ivan, the fabric of both their lives underwent a fundamental change. Hopefully, we will all find out why in the next 15 days. Lendl chose to meet the British press in as informal surroundings as possible yesterday. He knew only two of us from his playing days, so there were introductions and pretty guarded answers.
He does not want to go down certain well-travelled paths. He will not reveal any tactical ploys he might want Murray to work on, he will not say what he might say to the British No 1 about his tendency to on-court meltdown, he plays a Trevor Bailey-like straight bat to a question about whether he will try to imbed his playing philosophy into Murray’s mind.
It is a riveting half an hour’s discourse. His first quote is one of the best: “I admire Andy’s guts for hiring me because he had to know it would create a lot of interest and that it’s not going to go unnoticed and be a quiet thing. It ups the ante a little bit and that just shows me that he wants it. It would have been very easy just to hire someone, just another coach, and not get a high-profile person.”
So would you have done this with another player? “Unlikely,” Lendl says. “I knew I would be asked [that question] so I tried to count. I’ve had between seven and ten inquiries over the last 18 months. Some more serious than others but none was considered by me.”
So, why Murray? “I see a guy who wants to win, a guy who wants to work hard,” Lendl says. “He has been a pleasure to be with and work with. Obviously I see the parallels between his career and my career, and I want his career to end up like mine.
“I have been watching a lot of matches. I’m very familiar with the top three guys, of course, and obviously there are guys I have never seen play but I have probably seen about ten matches of the top three in the last year and more so since Andy and I started talking. I’m not worried about [a lack of coaching experience] at all because if that was the requirement for the job, I’m sure there were better candidates than me.
“The way I look at it, we work hard, we prepare the best we can and that is success itself. You have to focus on the process, you can’t be glued to results. We may practise and look really good over here and not win, and we may not look good before the French or another tournament and win. You can never guarantee wins but you can guarantee you give it 100 per cent and that way you can always look back and feel comfortable as a player and a coach.”
Lendl will keep his counsel on the self-defeating tendency of Murray to fly off the handle on the court if things are not going his way. “I’m sorry, I’m not going to get into technical stuff, anything we work on, anything about the other players,” he says. “I don’t mean to be evasive. There is a relationship between player and coach, and if that’s violated, it’s wrong. It’s almost like the doctor-patient privilege. Whatever is said between Andy and I will never come from me any time, even after Andy has retired.”
Lendl won eight of these grand-slam treasures, a man who outwardly did not take much notice of what was written about him, until it became hurtful. Murray’s skin is not so tough that he has not been affected by some of the press that he has received. In the past, he has preferred that his coaches did not speak to journalists. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to help Andy, if it’s talking to you guys every day, whatever it is, to take pressure off him and help him,” Lendl says. “Every match is a tough match, even for the top players. If they don’t play their best, they could lose, whereas in our era if you didn’t play your best, maybe you lost a set in the first or second round and it was a huge surprise already. The strategy of the game has changed. You cannot wait for your opponents’ errors any more. You have to take advantage of it yourself if there is the ball to take advantage of. And people will not give you the matches. You have to go and grab them.
“In general I do have a philosophy about how the game should be played. However, that does not necessarily mean that Andy has to play that way. I think I also have a view about how Andy should play — and those two don’t have to match. You can look at golfers and you could take [Severiano] Ballesteros and you were never going to make him a straight driver ever in your life. And you’re not going to make David Toms a long driver.
“Everybody plays the game a little differently. There are certain principles in both games that you cannot fool around with. However, you have to put your own stamp on it and so the philosophy in general may or may not be different in how Andy can play. You can’t ask people to do things they can’t do and take away their strength.”
“Team Murray” may have had a different captain over the years but the crew has remained constant. Here in Australia, Dani Vallverdu is the confidant and hitting partner; Jez Green the physical trainer, Andy Ireland the physiotherapist. They are all for one; one for all. “They are better even than I was told they were,” Lendl says. “Jez’s job is the fitness, Andy’s is making sure Andy stays healthy, Dani prepares everything and hits with Andy, and my job is to help with the tennis and talk to Andy when he has questions, and how it feels to be going for the finals on Sunday evening and so on. I don’t think it’s giving orders. We poke fun at each other, which is great. Nobody is sacred.”
And then there’s Mum. “I met Judy the other day, she was very pleasant,” he says. “You’re not named Fed Cup coach and you don’t bring up two boys to the world level without knowing what you’re doing. So she must be knowledgeable. Every parent can have a positive impact on their children. Every parent brings the children to the sport and her being a coach must have been helping a lot because as you know, Andy’s a very smart player on the court. That starts already at home when you can discuss different matches you have seen on television or played, with your parents in the home background, so to me, Judy has been and probably still is a very important figure in Andy’s life.”
Just not the most important right now.
Who do you think will win the Australian Open and why?
Novak Djokovic. The stand-out story of 2011 has that sense of destiny about him once more. Although he has not played a match in the truest sense this year — I don’t really count exhibitions — there is a glint in his eye and a purpose in his stride that cannot be overlooked. I cannot imagine that he has lost the taste for, or the desire to keep winning, grand-slam titles. The rest fear him.
Will Rafael Nadal last the season?
I don’t see why not. Last year was a very difficult one for him to endure. Although he reached three grand-slam finals, the return of only one victory on his beloved clay meant that he was never able to respond with enough depth and wicked shot-making to dismantle Djokovic’s staggering defences. Nadal may well profit from no one expecting great things from him.
Is Roger Federer over the hill?
Surely you cannot be serious? Yes, he has not won a grand-slam title for two years and imagine the stick Andy Murray would be getting about hiring Ivan Lendl if he were similarly thwarted until 2014 and yet the Federer partnership with Paul Annacone that has not brought home a “major” carries on serenely. Roger has looked terrific in practice, he does not seem to age. I suspect he will win a grand-slam title in 2012
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Great Nadal interview

RAFAEL Nadal lives not in fear of next week, next month or next year.

At 25, Nadal's dread does not exist in the short term, but of what might eventually become his gladiator frame.

The baseline colossus is the nearest thing to a tennis Hercules. At 85kg and 1.85m, he is the sport's most powerful warrior.

Yet the world No.2 wrestles with the ultimate tennis dilemma - how far he is prepared to push into the pain barrier on knees battered by a decade of explosive, quick-silver turning, lurching and springing in search of achievement.

Desperate to excel again on the Australian Open's blue Plexicushion, Nadal is frightened of the pulverising effects of the sport's unyielding hardcourts.

"I'm a little bit scared about how my body gonna feel when I retire because the hardcourts like here, like the US Open, like Indian Wells, Miami are very aggressive on the body," he said in an exclusive interview.

Citing the careworn state of Lleyton Hewitt's body, Nadal wants tennis authorities to consider a reduction in hardcourt tournaments.

As the sport's pre-eminent claycourter, and winner of six French Open titles, Nadal is sensitive to accusations of self-interest.

"I feel I can say these things now because I won here and the US Open on hardcourt," he said.

"Before, I could not.

"The only negative thing about tennis, if I have to say one, is that the competition is too much.

"The calendar makes the sport too hard.

"The hardcourts are too aggressive on the body.

"I really believe that can change. Without health, (performance) is impossible.

"I am not saying that we don't have to play in this type of courts, but thinking about health, I don't see footballers on the hard like this.

"I don't see the basketballers playing on the hard like this.

"All the sports that have aggressive movements are playing on softer surfaces.

"This surface, in my opinion, is very bad for the lower back, for the knees, for all of this.

"It makes me scared for my body for the future."

Nadal has played enough golf with Hewitt to have an inkling of what the physically deteriorating Australian has endured.

"Lleyton, he's a great champion," Nadal said.

"What he did is very difficult, being two years No.1 and winning two grand slams, winning two Masters Cup.

"Everything is really difficult.

"He's a top player but he's unlucky at the same time with the injury.

"The style of game of Lleyton was a little bit different - hard, strong, he fight a lot, run a lot for every ball.

"Maybe, he's unlucky today.

"He has injury, both hips, the knees, everything - that's very difficult to be at the right rhythm when this happens to you.

"It's sad. All of these things are not easy.

"With all of these things, he's had an unbelievable tennis career."

The mentally stressful obligation of competing on hardcourt aside, Nadal has more pressing issues in the shape of Novak Djokovic.

Nadal contested 10 finals in 2011, losing six of them, including Wimbledon and the US Open, to the Serb.

A shoulder injury has added to the complexity of Nadal's Melbourne Park preparation. That problem has now been rectified.

But Djokovic looms larger than ever.

Nadal knows better than anybody that the only constant in the tennis jungle is change. So, too, do Hewitt and Roger Federer.

"Roger is not going to be there forever," Nadal said.

"I won't be there forever. Novak won't be there forever. Tennis changes, the sport changes.

"It's good to have players in the top for a long time because that's good for the fans.

"But at the same time, it's good to have new people coming in.

"Not that Novak is anything new. He was No 3 for several years, and he deserved to be there."

Nadal has nothing but praise for Djokovic's 10-title, 70-6 tour de force in 2011.

"The year of Djokovic was really amazing, one of the best in the history of tennis," Nadal said.

"So you have to congratulate him and wish him all the best for this year.

"Every year is different but his level is fantastic."

But there is a clear indication Nadal has no plans to allow the Serb to profit a moment longer than necessary.

His ambition is undimmed.

"My goal is every day," he said.

"The easiest thing is to say (that he wants) to be in the top position in the ranking, to win the grand slam.

"The true is to be a better player every day. If you do that, the rest of the things are gonna come.

"The important thing is to keep improving. There's a few things I need to do better and keep on improving for this year.

"It's the work of not only these two weeks, but the work of all the time, almost every day."

Nadal bristles at the notion that Djokovic - or any other player - is unstoppable.

The same things were once said about the Majorcan.

Now he is being asked to weather backhanded barbs over his future based on a year in which he finished at No. 2, won a major, two other titles and shared in a fifth Davis Cup triumph.

"In general, it was a very positive year," he smiled.

"In a year where you play in the finals of three grand slams, you win Roland Garros and win the final of Davis Cup and play 10 finals in total - the year is good.

"Sure, I lost a lot of finals, but to say that year is not good is gonna be too arrogant and I am not that arrogant to think it's a bad year.

"I don't consider myself that good. I consider myself less good."

Nadal knows all too well how quickly things can go awry.

When he flew out of Doha a year ago, he felt he was "playing perfect to compete for the title".

A leg strain in the quarter-finals against Dave Ferrer wrecked those plans.

By season's end, Nadal wearily gave the impression he desperately needed an extended break.

"I was happy," he said.

"I wasn't perfect, but I was playing really good, not perfect.

"Against Djokovic last year, I had to be perfect and I wasn't.

"I was lacking things that I had always had, such as explosiveness and the impetus that has bothered my rivals."

One of those "things" was consistency. Unrelenting aggression was another. And then there was the shoulder problem.

"He had shoulder problems," Nadal's uncle and coach Toni Nadal said.

"This translated into a little less velocity, and without that power, its difficult to compete on this surface."

Nadal scuttles suggestions he no longer is motivated. He allows that his signature passion might have abated in 2011, but insists he is now as hungry as ever.

"I know I am working well, with a much more positive attitude than I had during the second half of last season, especially in the final stretch," Nadal said.

"I am happy with the level of my game, but I need to keep working every day to become a better player.

"When a new season starts, everything is different. At least you have to do everything in your reach to make it so.

"I am hoping to do my best at the Australian Open. That is the only thing I can do. Go to the courts every day and do my best.

"Then we will see.
"All the sports that have aggressive movements are playing on softer surfaces
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The article from The Times was in today's Guardian too. The more I read about Mr Lendl, the more I like thumb up
All very well Rafa moaning about the schedule, but he does play more matches than he needs to Shrug
[ Last edit by blueberryhill January 14, 2012, 01:39 PM ] IP Logged

A fascinating article.
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The Guardian report from the same press conference does have a few other quotes from Lendl, including "I love the team. I think all the guys are great". Sweet!
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Lendl says Murray must show more “control” on the court ­during his matches.

“It’s something you have to practice like everybody else,” said Lendl. “I was very pleased with the way Andy handled the final in Brisbane last week.

“He did not look at the box and shout at the box, he did not give up on any point, he played every point as hard as he could. I think that’s the way forward for him.”

Read more:
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Sunday times

After a constant barrage of questions, lasting weeks rather than days or even hours, Andy Murray felt obliged to point out one irrefutable fact regarding his coaching liaison with Ivan Lendl.

Murray is delighted the eight-times Grand Slam champion is at his side as the beginning of the 2012 Australian Open gets ever closer, he is ever more confident the partnership can take him that extra level required to win a long overdue first major title and each practice session is an education into facets of a true winner’s mindset.

But Murray had a very important point to make; one which some people have been rather overlooking since Lendl was revealed as his coach on New Year’s Eve.

“Regardless of everything that is happening at the moment, it will be me and not Ivan playing the shots out there on court,” said the Scot in a firm manner that suggested it was time to point out exactly who holds the controlling share of the partnership. “If I win this title, it will be me playing the final.”

It will also be Murray with the racket in his hand on Tuesday, attempting to dictate play when he begins the seventh Australian Open campaign of his career against the teenage American Ryan Harrison. Hopefully it will be the same nearly a fortnight later when some fortunate male player hoists the Sir Norman Brookes Trophy and walks away with the Australian dollar equivalent of £1.5 million.

When Murray was coached by Brad Gilbert several years ago, he got distinctly perturbed that the American would answer as many questions, if not more, than the man actually playing the matches. Others who have filled the coaching seat in the Team Murray players’ box, such as the normally verbose Mark Petchey and Miles Maclagan, have preferred to say nothing at all.

Lendl himself does not intend to let out too many trade secrets for public consumption. The 52-year-old has always employed strict demarcation lines since his playing days and there is no compunction to change now, just so he can satisfy his ego.

“I’ve always said the most important thing you can do is work hard and do your best,” he said. “Win or lose, you can look in the mirror and feel good about it. I think that is the key to success.”

Never will Lendl take the role of practice partner. He always intends somebody else to be on the other side of the net to Murray, hitting back the balls. A watching, commenting, cajoling, sometimes critical and regularly applauding role is the Lendl intention.

“Obviously Andy thinks I can help him,” said the man who most definitely will not divulge the financial details of the liaison. “I do too, otherwise I wouldn't have taken the job. However, from my taste, there is too much said and way too much written about it. I really would like to be able to work with Andy in peace but I know that is not going to happen.”

However, Lendl is prepared to show the same degree of patience that Tony Roche showed to him almost 30 years ago when the Australian became a wise and wily coach. “Whatever he feels he struggles with, if he mentions it to me we will try to improve it, because many times you see things from the outside and they may not appear that way," said Lendl.

Ivan Lendl learnt much of his coaching philosophy from Australian Tony Roche (Adam Butler) When the time comes for Lendl to lecture, there will be large chunks of the philosophy Lendl gleaned from Roche during their years together. But there will also be some novel thought and that is what Murray wants to hear. Common perception has it that Lendl’s long exile from tennis meant he was disinterested in the game but the truth could not be more different.

“Just because I wasn’t seen at the tournaments doesn’t mean I was away,” said Lendl. “I have watched plenty of matches involving all the top guys at the moment. You’re looking at some of the best players in the history of the game playing in this era, and that’s why Andy’s job is so difficult.”

Each conversation with the world No 4 seems to suggest that he has come to the realisation that finally it is time to buy into the concept of actually listening to advice and learning from the process. Never will Murray be a character who follows a designated route, instead he decides his own path but wisdom comes from an open mind.

“To be honest, I’m really interested in talking to Ivan about the matches he played and the rivals he had,” said Murray. “It was pretty well known that he, Connors and McEnroe weren’t the best of friends, and that is a lot different to nowadays where a lot of the guys get on well with each other. But obviously you have to put that to one side when it time for a match.

“I’m also interested in asking him about the training, what sort of stuff they did because, obviously, back then it was a bit different. They spent a lot of hours on the court. Finally, it’s also interesting finding out what he thinks about the other players as well, and of course I will pick up on what he sees in my game.”

“People think ‘Oh, Lendl, he’s not been in tennis for a long time’ but it’s not like he doesn’t watch. He’s seen all the guys play and has views on them all.”

Murray insists he had no nerves before making the telephone call in which he asked the question as to whether Lendl would be prepared to act as his coach. “I had questions that I wanted to ask him and he obviously had questions that he wanted to ask me,” said the Scot. “It went pretty smoothly.”

Hopefully the next few years will go the same but if they do it will be down to two reasons; things are working and Andy Murray is prepared to listen.
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Interesting article on Confidence / Winning attitude / Bullying
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Thanks Phillip, interesting reading.
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On the hottest day of 2012 in Melbourne, Andy Murray looked agitated at times, which is his wont. He ended the day in the second round of the Australian Open which it what it is all about. A 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over the teenage American Ryan Harrison was hard graft but he prevailed, as he should.
In the player’s box for the first time at a grand slam tournament was Ivan Lendl, who had to run the gamut of Murray on days like these - initial nerves, a steadying of the ship, staggering defence and occasional flashes of attacking gusto. Also, there were tweaks, twinges, verbal indiscretions and complaints. Welcome to the Murray world Mr Lendl.
Tomorrow, he will play the Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin, who took a very different route to this stage, when Xavier Malisse, his Belgian opponent, withdrew after one tie-break set with pains in his serving arm.
After the defeats of five British players without so much as a set between them on the opening day of the tournament, there were a few raised eyebrows when Murray forfeited the first to Harrison, the world No 77. To be fair, the 19-year-old from Louisiana was quicker to every ball, sharper in movement and taking the ball on the rise. Murray played a really sloppy service game at 2-2, with a couple of double faults and a backhand scoop that landed long which gave Harrison a look-in. He lost his next service game too to compound the troubles.
Some of the rallies were hugely punishing; a 41-stroke marathon in the tenth game went to Harrison when Murray’s backhand slice landed long. Those are the moments when the better player usually prevails but the American was on song.
In his opening seven service games, Murray did not win the first point, which is asking for trouble. He knew he could not afford to slip in the early stages of the second set, not in 35 degree heat on the Hisense Arena where there is so little protection from the sun’s rays. In the fourth game, he produced his finest running backhand pass of the match and the scene was set for the break that he so desperately wanted.
But Harrison was not going away. He was more often than not Murray’s equal from the back of the court, he showed great delicacy at the net and was desperately keen to see if he could push his opponent all the way. An early break in the third set ought to have soothed everyone’s nerves but there was the occasional twist and twinge and the cold-eyed stare at his box. It did seem, though, that he was counting to ten, keeping his thoughts more to himself, and exuding more self-control than might have been the case before Lendl came on the scene.
He might have become very agitated had Harrison been able to make more of a break point in the second game of the fourth set when he was just wide with a crosscourt forehand after another probing, dynamic back court rally. Losing that was a crushing blow and Murray was not unduly troubled to see out his victory.
“I know what it was like to be in his shoes,” he said of Harrison. “You are young, you go for your shots, there is no pressure. I was nervous at the start but played well enough to win.
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