In his pomp, Lendl was an arch bully. He did not just want to beat people, he wanted to crush them. Even during practise, he wanted to win every point and, if he could leave his foe a little battered and bruised – literally in some cases – so much the better. Given just half a chance, Lendl would welt the ball straight at his rival and the bigger the bruise, the bigger his smile.
“All he wants to do is hit people he’s practising with,” Murray said. “He’s been trying to get me to do it. He says ‘as soon as this guy comes to the net just try to hit him’. That’s more his sense of humour. That’s what gets him going I guess, weird things like that. If a ball pops up on top of the net, his way is just to absolutely nail them. Almost every player I’ve spoken to has a story about him hitting them in practice.”
There is a serious side to Lendl’s dark sense of humour. The coach believes that, if he instils the same killer mentality into his new charge, he will have a grand slam champion on his hands.
No matter how he felt inside, Lendl always looked controlled and threatening on court and the opposition was afraid of him. Since they have been working together, Murray has learned the art of control and now the boss wants a little more steel.
“You want to make guys feel intimidated by something you do on the court,” Murray explained. “That was something Ivan was very good at, one of the best. His attitude on the court intimidated people. He never looked flustered, he always had the same expression, no one really knew how he was feeling. But I know from speaking to him that he got really, really nervous. Everyone does and he got more nervous than most but he knew how to deal with it.”
From the moment Murray lost in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Lendl has been looking forward to the French Open and planning a path to the final. That positive response to defeat in Melbourne helped the Scot recover quickly from his loss to Novak Djokovic and now Murray is ready for the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, which starts today and is the beginning of the road to Roland Garros.
“Straightaway we were planning for the French Open, what we were going to do, what things we need to work on,” Murray said. “Then I won against Novak in Dubai and that was a good start, having that belief that you can win against him, which is the most important thing.”