Murray was yesterday handed a tricky draw for the season-opening grand slam in Melbourne, a first-round encounter with American hope Ryan Harrison potentially followed by clashes with unpredictable French duo Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last 16 and quarter-finals respectively before a possible semi against world No 1 Novak Djokovic. And even if he does make it through the top half, Murray is likely to meet either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer in the final.
It is a tough ask for the Scot, but McEnroe believes appointing Lendl as coach could provide Murray with the added nous to go one better than his three grand slam final appearances.
McEnroe, an arch enemy of Lendl when they competed in the 1980s, said: “I think the introduction of Ivan Lendl as coach could work out. It pains me to say that. It’s a very interesting decision Andy has made but I think it’s possibly a good one.
“I remember Ivan all too well at the French Open (in 1984) when he won his first major. He was 24, Andy is 24, Ivan had lost his first four (grand slam finals), Murray has lost his first three. I think he will bring a lot to the table. I think he will help Murray manufacture more intensity on the court and use that energy more positively.”
As for his opener against Harrison, a 19-year-old ranked 84th in the world, McEnroe said: “If you catch Andy you try to catch him early and while Harrison is making real progress it’s a tall order for him to win.”
World No 8 Mardy Fish also backed Murray’s decision to team up with 51-year-old eight-time major winner Lendl.
Speaking after moving into the final of the AAMI Classic at Kooyong, Fish said: “You feel like it was only a matter of time before Andy took that next step and got someone like Ivan in his corner. It’s a great hire. I know Ivan very well – he and my father are very good friends in Florida and I see him a lot there. He’ll help him, there’s no doubt about that. He has been in the situations that Murray’s been in. If Andy thinks he’s had the short end of the stick in finals of grand slams, Ivan’s been there. He lost his first four and then he won eight. So there’s a perfect guy to say, ‘I know what you’re going through’.”
Nadal and Federer, who were paired in the same half of a major for the first time since the 2005 French Open, both start against qualifiers while Djokovic will meet Italian Paolo Lorenzi.
Djokovic has arrived in Melbourne without playing a ranking event in 2012 but he claimed to be in perfect shape as he looks to build on a remarkable year which saw him record a 70-6 win-loss record and win Wimbledon and the US Open in addition to his success in Australia.
“I’ve been here since last Wednesday which is quite early and plenty of time to get ready,” said Djokovic. “The last five or six years I didn’t arrive this early. I played a lot of matches in 2011 and I felt I didn’t really need to perform the first week of the season. I feel comfortable preparing an extra week and I hope it works.”
Djokovic believed winning in Melbourne last year gave him the momentum to go on and claim his place at the top of the rankings. “I’ve been playing the best tennis of my life, especially in the first six months of the (2011) season,” he said. “I guess it probably started here in Australia. I played incredibly in the later rounds and it put the wind on my back.”
Djokovic will be happy with his draw although a possible fourth-round clash against either rising Canadian Milos Raonic or experienced American Andy Roddick could prove testing.
The bottom half provides few obstacles to prevent a last-four clash between Federer and Nadal. The Swiss is slated to meet Fish in the last eight while Nadal could take on Tomas Berdych.