ANDY Murray’s surprise split from Ivan Lendl, the coach who helped steer him to multiple grand slam successes, was prompted by the Scot’s famous triumph at Wimbledon, according to a new book.
The parting of ways between the British No 1 and his Czech-born mentor sent shock waves through the sport this spring.
Both men had realised that no matter the victories they might enjoy in the future, they would never again experience such an “emotional high,” a leading tennis writer has suggested.
However, Mark Hodgkinson – a veteran sports journalist who was the first to reveal the two men were to join forces in late 2011 – said Murray was left feeling their union had ended too early after Lendl explained he was unable to fully devote his time to the player.
His analysis of the break-up comes in a new book exploring the transformation in Murray’s game after he linked up with Lendl, thanks to what Hodgkinson describes as their “shared history of failure”.
The book also lays bare Murray’s struggles to cope with the weight of expectation in the years before his Wimbledon victory, with the Dunblane-born player bowing his head in public to avoid chance conversations.
With Murray yet to appoint a successor to Lendl, he is continuing to seek out the 54-year-old’s advice.
Ahead of the French Open, he revealed earlier this week that he and Lendl are still exchanging texts and phone calls as he attempts to win the Roland Garros championship for the first time.
Hodgkinson, who was granted access to those closest to Murray, including his mother Judy, believes the 27-year-old was taken aback by the end of his two-year partnership with Lendl in March.
His coach broke the news over dinner one evening in Miami, leaving Murray with the sense that it was a “premature end”.
Although the announcement came in a joint statement claiming the pair had mutually agreed to terminate their arrangement, Hodgkinson says it appears “it was Lendl who precipitated the end” after making it clear he could not commit to Murray’s calendar.
But Hodgkinson states that if Murray had not won Wimbledon, Lendl would have still been his coach.
Indeed, that famous victory, he says, was the reason for a startling “tennis divorce” that no one, “not even Andy Murray”, had been predicting.
“Officially, Lendl and Murray broke up during a springtime meeting in a Miami restaurant but, looking back, it would appear that the end had really come the previous summer – and an ocean away – on that glorious, near-mythical and sun-buttered July afternoon in London when the Scot defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final,” he writes.
“The reality was that Murray and Lendl were never going to have another emotional high like the one they experienced together in the summer of 2013.
“They could have gone on to win another five Wimbledons together, but every time it wouldn’t have felt as special or as cathartic as that first victory.”
According to Judy Murray, Lendl helped her son summon the mental strength to overcome the tennis elite in key matches. “Andy didn’t need somebody to teach him how to play the game,” she said. “Andy needed someone who could help him prepare better for bigger occasions and those tough situations at the back end of majors.”
That transformation sits in stark contrast to the pressures endured by Murray before his first grand slam success.
Hodgkinson reveals that after losing three grand slam finals, Murray’s self-esteem was so low that he would lower his head while shopping in the supermarket to avoid conversations with members of the public because he “was afraid of what strangers might say to him”.
Hodgkinson also relates one of the many candid conversations Murray had with Lendl, in which he expressed concern that winning a grand slam might “change his life for the worse” by turning him into “public property”.
• Ivan Lendl: The Man Who Made Murray is published tomorrow by Aurum Press, priced £18.99.