Ivan Lendl makes an unlikely superhero but next Sunday he will don his cape and mask and sweep into Europe in a bid to salvage Andy Murray’s clay court season.
The world No 1 is struggling to find any recognisable form as he makes his way to Roland Garros via the Italian Open. He has played seven matches on the red dirt this year – and lost three of them.
If he is to repeat his achievements of last year – winning the title in Rome and reaching the French Open final – something needs to click into place and soon. Cue the arrival of Lendl.
Lendl was always due to join up with Murray at this point in the season but it has been more than three months since they have worked side by side.
He speaks to his charge every week and is in daily contact with the team, but now Murray hopes that with Lendl and Jamie Delgado standing shoulder to shoulder beside him, he may find the spark he needs to get his season going.
“Ivan is coming over on the Sunday of Rome [next week] and then we tend to spend more time together during the grass,” Murray said. “That’s a period of the year, even the last time we worked together, we spent a lot of time the week before the French, Queens, Wimbledon – seven or eight weeks out of ten weeks we would spend together.”
If Murray does well at Roland Garros, Lendl may well stay at his side and forgo a trip home to the United States for a few days off before the grass court season. But Delgado is as important to the Scot as his more famous co-coach and it was Delgado, flying solo, who took Murray to five of his nine titles last year. Murray’s current problems are not due to the absence of Lendl nor are they a reflection of Delgado’s coaching skills.
“That’s not an excuse or a reason why I’ve been playing like I have, or maybe not in the best shape earlier in the year,” Murray said. “Collectively as a team we need to work out why that is. There’s no blame on anyone, it’s down to me.
“Obviously I work with Ivan because I think he can help me, it’s beneficial and has made a difference to my game most of the time when we’ve been working together but this time last year was predominantly with Jamie, nobody else, and things went very well over the clay, so that’s no reason why things may not be going well right now.”