Australian Open 2013: Ivan Lendl Revels in Working With Andy Murray

According to Ivan Lendl, the Andy Murray project is going pretty much to plan, but he not only expects more, he demands it.

That is the sort of pressure Murray loves, the spur he needs to win a second major here over the next two weeks, and the partnership he has struck up with Lendl would seem to be as near to perfect as he could have imagined when they teamed up a year ago. Certainly, Lendl is happy with it.

"I've said before how I gave it a lot of thought when we got together," Lendl said on Friday, "and, since I thought it all through, I actually estimated pretty well how everything would feel. Of course there are a few things which could be better or worse but, in general, it has been how I expected."

An Olympic gold medal secured with victory over Roger Federer, his conqueror in the Wimbledon final, and a grand slam title by outlasting the toughest customer in tennis, Novak Djokovic: those are expectations of the highest order.

And delivering on them is why Murray has sealed his mentor's faith in him. There are few certainties in sport and the Scot has shed enough trainers in the past to fill a teenager's wardrobe, but this one looks like lasting. Murray said during his winter training camp in Florida he expected to be with Lendl for another five years. Lendl says: "As long as it works for both of us, it's pretty simple. Providing we both want to do it, that's how long I see it continuing."

It is the lack of sentiment that gives the relationship steel. They are both demanding characters, single-minded and hungry for success. Murray was quick to point out after winning the US Open last year that it was the beginning not the culmination of his achievements.

"It's hard to notice things in people when you are with someone for so many weeks a year and almost every day," Lendl says. "It's easier for someone who doesn't see him often to say if he's changed. I didn't feel different after I won my first slam. I just enjoyed it and wanted to win more."

What Lendl has proved particularly good at is putting tennis in perspective, win or lose. "My belief is as long as you prepare the best way and give all you have, you can always walk with your head held high. If you do your best in preparation and the matches I don't see one reason, not even a small one, why you shouldn't be proud of yourself and hold your head up high.

"It may change people's perception of someone by winning, but I will quote my golfing hero Ben Hogan who said: 'Life is too short to be walking around explaining yourself to people.' Therefore it is really important how you feel about yourself.

"And once again, if you give your best in preparation and matches you should feel good about yourself.

"An example was the semi-final here last year [when Murray lost in five exhausting sets to Djokovic]. There was no reason for Andy to have his head down after that. Zero. And I told him that. It was the same after Wimbledon this year [when he lost to Federer]. There was no reason to hang his head. And because he didn't, he won the Olympics. If his head was down he wouldn't have won."

As for Murray's first-round opponent, the Dutchman Robin Haase, and his likely semi-final roadblock, Federer, Lendl, as ever, would not engage in speculation – at least not for public consumption. "It's unprofessional to talk about the other guys; it's guesswork and not beneficial to talk about them because it's counterproductive. I enjoy it, though. We understand each other very well, we have good chuckles and laughs when no one else really gets what we are doing."

As for the worth of Murray coming into the first major of the season as a slam champion, Lendl says: "I think it's overrated. It may be worth a point here or there with lesser players but I promise you it makes no difference with the top guys. That's what it was like for me. It helps you because of you – but not because of what they are going to do. They have won a lot, they have been there, seen it and done it. When you win the first one you know how it feels in certain situations, what it takes – so you have gained that experience. But they have more of it. Roger and Novak have more of those experiences than Andy does at this stage."

He does concede: "Of course it can work both ways. Now, beating Andy Murray is a little bit more than before the Olympics and the US Open, so you can make a good argument for both sides."

Plus, he has an OBE. "OK," he agrees, before bursting into a full-blown belly laugh.

Sometimes it is not clear what exactly Lendl is laughing about – or at. But then again, people often say that about Murray. They are a good fit.

Powered by article was written by Kevin Mitchell in Melbourne, for The Guardian on Friday 11th January 2013 23.01 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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