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Panel Probe - Is coach Ivan Lendl making progress with Murray?

It isn’t often a coach attracts as much attention as his charge, but that was certainly the case when Andy Murray embarked upon a new partnership with Ivan Lendl earlier this year. Lendl, a former world No. 1, failed to win a Grand Slam in his first four finals but ended his career with an impressive eight Slam titles to his name. Murray’s team and legions of fans hope the Czech will pass on important wisdom to Murray and help him hoist his first Slam trophy. Tennis View Magazine asked an expert panel to explain the Murray-Lendl relationship thus far.

Question: What impact can a new coach have on a player and what signs do you see that Lendl is making progress?

Katrina Adams:

A new voice will excite, motivate and invigorate the player. Lendl will instill dedication and hard work intoMurray. Andy is already a hard worker, but Lendl will hit a nerve. Lendl was never known for having the most charismatic personality, but he’s direct and always gets the job done. He failed over and over again in Grand Slam finals but prevailed in the end. Lendl will teach Andy how he won a Slam.

Maybe Lendl will encourage Andy to go for the finishing shot sooner instead of playing long rallies. Mentally, Lendl has already made an impact on Murray, where there aren’t many outbursts – outbursts won’t get you anywhere.  I don’t see much more changing to his physical game – he’s got a big serve, he sets up points well, is a great returner and his speed has proven to be among the quickest. The problem is more mental.

Jimmy Arias:

Their short-term coaching arrangement has already been successful. Andy behaves better; he doesn’t show so many negative emotions. I think one of Murray’s biggest problems is with his second serve. He hits too many of them.  Lendl will make sure Murrayis more consistent with the first serve.

Lendl lost his first four Grand Slam finals and was known back then as a choker, so he and Murray have things in common. Lendl told me that he used to study all the videos of his main rival John McEnroe to understand his patterns. He analyzed everything. Lendl is very disciplined like that. He’ll bring these things to Murray’s game and help his mental game. And Lendl won’t put up with Murray’s shenanigans – he’ll keep him in line when he starts getting negative. We’ll see how long the coaching arrangement might last; I’m actually surprised Lendl wanted the job.  

Brad Gilbert:

Ivan was an amazingly great player, intelligent, a worker on his craft. Ivan was the first player to start switching racquets on ball changes, and now most players do that. He was big into nutrition and fitness and took them to a new level in the 80s.  I think Ivan will have a great impact on Andy, but a coach can only do so much. The player still needs to win the match; the coach can’t do that. When Ivan was 24 years old, he brought Tony Roach into his team in order to win a Grand Slam, and it was successful. Now he’s doing the same for Andy, and in doing so, I think Ivan is coming full circle. I think he’ll do a great job, and I’m already impressed. Ivan will give 100 percent to coaching Andy Murray – once he commits, he commits. He’s doing it for the right reasons; he wants Andy to be the best player.

Pam Shriver:

Murraywas brave to hire Lendl because he hadn’t been coaching. I’ve had my best tennis results following a coaching change, and I thinkMurraywill too. He’s a better warrior with Lendl, and raises his level of play. Lendl won’t over-coach in the beginning; nothing drastic will change. He’ll talk to Murray about his feelings, the mental and emotional side of tennis. Lendl will continue to emphasize physical discipline; he was known as one of the greatest athletes in terms of fitness.

Murrayhas chased after Nadal, Federer and Djokovic and must feel exhausted mentally. Lendl will bring new life – and humor – to  Murray’s team – laughter is important inMurray’s life. Wimbledon brings Murray added attention and pressure, but it helps that he’s Scottish and not English; he’s not getting anywhere near the pressure Tim Henman did.  If Murray can overcome the pressure, I think he has a chance in London.

This article is from the July / August 2012 issue

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