Ivan Lendl threw up his own Iron Curtain yesterday when reporters asked him about the state of Andy Murray’s mind and game as Britain’s Grand Slam champion switches his focus to the Australian Open.
“I never get into the details of his game with anyone because it not necessary for anyone other than Andy to know,” the Czech-born Lendl said in familiarly taciturn style.
The former world No 1 – now a US citizen – steered the Scot to the US Open crown in September, ending Britain’s wait for a men’s grand slam singles champion which had stretched back to 1936.
Like Murray, Lendl lost the first four grand slam finals he contested but then went on to win eight, failing only at Wimbledon. Now Britain’s barren spell is broken, many expect Murray to emulate his coach and win several more but Lendl cautioned it will be far from easy.
“Well obviously that is the goal,” he said when asked if Murray could win in Melbourne. “But tennis is very difficult at the moment with [Novak] Djokovic, [Roger] Federer, [Rafa] Nadal and Andy all very good so it is going to be difficult to succeed. Yes he does have a chance but I can’t make any predictions.”
A question on whether Murray could now dominate the sport was rifled straight back like a Lendl service return of old.
“I am not going to go there,” he said. “The only way to answer that is to take one match at a time, one tournament at a time and see what happens.”
Lendl, in Hong Kong to promote a global BNP Paribas Tennis Showdown event next March in which he will play old nemesis John McEnroe, said it was impossible to compare eras.
“I think there are many eras in the game and there have been many good players at the same time,” he said. “You can look at the early Eighties with [Jimmy] Connors and McEnroe, [Bjorn] Bjorg and myself, you can go back in to the Sixties and Seventies and there are many good players there. I don’t think we should be comparing one era to another because you just can’t compare them.”
One comparison he did make, though, and the unflattering conclusion he reached was that he would not be able to live with Murray were the two to play now. “Andy would kill me,” he said. “All you have to do is look at the sports against time – swimming, athletics etc – and compare the times from today compared to 30 years ago and you will get the answer.”
The first Showdown event was staged in New York and featured Pete Sampras against Roger Federer. The Hong Kong event will feature Lendl and McEnroe plus women players Li Na and Caroline Wozniacki, and will be part of a series aimed at celebrating the sport and supporting grassroots tennis.
Meanwhile, it has been announced that the Farmers Classic men’s tennis tournament at the University of California in Los Angeles has been discontinued, and its ATP sanction has been sold to a group in Bogota, Colombia. The Southern California Tennis Association made the decision after extensive attempts to find new sponsors.
The tournament began in 1927 at the Los Angeles Tennis Club, with former champions including Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras.