Tennis: In all honesty, Ivan Lendl wants more

Andy Murray and his coach Ivan Lendl attend a practice session at the Australian Open. Picture: Reuters
Andy Murray and his coach Ivan Lendl attend a practice session at the Australian Open. Picture: Reuters
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IT IS Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl’s first anniversary and you can bet your life that Andy forgot to send a card (that’s boys for you).

Lendl, though, does not forget. Nothing of import escapes his beady eye and it is recorded, logged and stored for future use.

So, as he prepares his charge for the first grand slam event of the new season, Lendl is trawling back through his notes for tips and pointers. It was 12 months ago that one missed backhand cost the Scot the opportunity to grab the advantage in the fifth set of his semi-final against Novak Djokovic. Had he taken it, he would have been in his first major final under Lendl’s guidance. As it turned out, it was an exhausted, disappointed Murray who trudged away from Melbourne Park while Lendl went back to the drawing board.

That performance, all four hours and 50 minutes of it, told the stone-faced coach all he needed to know. Murray had all the necessary weapons, both mental and physical, to win a major title. All he needed was the trophy. That came nine months later at the US Open and now, back in Australia, Lendl has done his homework so that, should the world No.3 face Djokovic again, the result will be different.

“I watched the second and fifth set of last year’s semi-final against Novak here,” Lendl said. “It was interesting. I picked up things but I’m not going to tell you what they are.”

Lendl would no more share his secrets with the media than he would tell John McEnroe he loved him but, when it comes to a statement of fact, he is happy to speak. And what is clear and plain is that Lendl and Murray get on together, they work well together and they do not have arguments.

“I didn’t expect to have one,” Lendl said. “I didn’t have one in ten years with Rochie [Tony Roche, Lendl’s former coach] so why would I have one with Andy? A couple of things have pleased me about working with Andy. He kept working hard throughout the year, we knew he was a hard worker. Maybe even more, the honesty I came in with, I can keep and he takes it well. Because, at times, it could be difficult. However, you can get through things much quicker if you are honest with each other and I like to operate that way and Andy has been doing it as well.”

There are clear plans for the future, too. The first year together has been good – better than good – but now Lendl wants more. He wants Murray to be tougher, more consistent and even more successful.

“Ideally, I would like to see him lose fewer matches,” Lendl said.

“Zero would be a great number, although we all know that is unlikely to happen. Winning and winning obviously breeds confidence and confidence breeds more winning and that is why I was very pleased with last week in Brisbane [where Murray defended his title]. Even though it is a relatively small event, it is always good to win and it helps.”

And if that “small” win in Brisbane can provide the launch pad for a run to the final here in Melbourne, another two-week run of “zero losses”, then in Lendl’s eyes, it might just make up for the lack of an anniversary card.