It is a little late for a honeymoon period – Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl have known each other on and off for four years – but it would be safe to assume that two grand slam champions have renewed their vows. They are a couple again as of yesterday and all is blissful and happy.
Under Lendl’s watchful gaze, the world No 2 beat Nicolas Mahut 7-6, 7-6 to reach the second round of the Aegon Championships and looked rather good as he did so.
As for Lendl, it was hard to tell. He began the match behind dark glasses – he was clearly optimistic about getting some evening sunshine after a day of rain – and nipped off half way through to get a warmer jacket but other than that, he gave no indication as to whether he was enjoying his return as Murray’s coach or not.
“Ivan doesn’t really give many signs during the match,” Murray said. “He has got quite a straight face when I am playing. Working with Jamie Delgado [his full-time coach] has gone extremely well. Obviously I had some of my best results with Ivan a couple of years ago. It is a strong team and I hope they can help me win more major events.”
Winning this week would mean a lot to Murray – he is hoping to become the first man to win five Queen’s Club titles – but Mahut was always going to be a difficult first- round foe. The Frenchman came to London in something a rush having won a rain-delayed final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch on Monday, his third title at that event, but with a week of successful grass-court tennis behind him, he was sharp and he was ready for anything that Murray could throw at him.
This challenge, then, required patience, experience and a good deal of grass-court nous. It also required Murray to be on top of his game with no hangovers from the clay- court season. And beginning with a couple of aces in the first game, all seemed well. When he dropped serve in the fifth game, there was no cause for panic. He broke back in the next game and on they headed to the tie-break where Murray saved on set point before claiming the set as Mahut stuck a forehand in the net.
But when Mahut took the early lead in the second set, Murray started grumping about the condition of the court. It was playing more like an ice rink than a grass court and twice Mahut ended up in a crumpled heap behind the baseline. Murray did not look happy. A third set beckoned until the Scot suddenly flicked a switchand forgot about his woes and put on the sort of performance that Lendl would have appreciated.
A brilliant return game got Murray back level, sharp serving saw him repel three set points and then he ran away with the tie-break, aided and abetted by Mahut’s second and more painful tumble after three points.
“It was tough playing in the conditions,” Murray said. “We have had a lot of rain and not much play on the courts. It was a bit slippery. It is frustrating. You want to play your best tennis but it is difficult to get in the right positions and play your best tennis. I hope Nic is all right with Wimbledon coming up.”