Ivan Lendl: Andy Murray and I would like to ruin Novak Djokovic’s plans

Coach Ivan Lendl of Great Britain's Andy Murray during the first round

Ivan Lendl rarely lacks certitude, so when he says he is unsure why he resumed his partnership with Andy Murray – which got off to a flying start at Queen’s this week – a few questions were in order.

“I don’t really know,” he said. “It’s not one thing, it’s a bunch of factors. Start from my health, Andy looking motivated and all that … not one thing.”

Lendl has had a couple of surgeries to correct a hip complaint – as John McEnroe revealed recently – and now feels fit and enthusiastic enough to travel. Tennis is a more congenial environment for rehab than moping about in the sun in Florida apparently.

“I felt younger because I sleep at night. With the hips I wasn’t sleeping at night. It just aches and you can’t sleep well – so I just do feel a lot younger and I’m trying to get fitter again. I enjoy that part of it – and other than that? Not much,” he said.

He was much amused on his arrival this week to read that details of his deal with Murray were in the public domain and said there a still things to work out.

“We will figure it out. I kind of chuckle when I read a piece here and there and it’s 18 to 20 weeks. I learn something every day.”

Reminded that those were Murray’s words, not speculation by journalists, he goes into minor sarcasm mode. “I know he did … if he did. I mean, all these guys, they know everything, why it happened and how many weeks, what the conditions are. I’m learning. I’m willing to learn.”

So, what has Lendl been doing since he left Murray in March 2014? Quite a lot: watching his daughters play golf, playing a little himself and developing his tennis academy. “I’m coaching those kids and I love doing that. It’s a great part [of what I do] and I think they are going to be very helpful [to Murray] if we work long term, for example in the training block. It will be great for the kids and great for Andy.

“He will have access to six players – and there are some guys with big serves, some with big groundstrokes, some with good hands at the net. For whatever drills we need to do, we have exactly what we need and stuff like that. For the kids that will be an opportunity they can’t get anywhere else.”

But now he’s got a second day job and Murray made it clear their efforts will be trained on one player: Novak Djokovic. Lendl is up for that.

“In tennis there is the career grand slam, there is four in a row, there is the calendar year grand slam and the golden slam. He [Djokovic] has a chance to do that this year,” he said.

“Obviously Andy and I would like to ruin those plans if we can. But, if you go back in history, in ’38, when Don Budge won, and Rod Laver won in ’62 and ’69, those were calendar year grand slams. But I don’t believe there was another time when someone held all four [simultaneously].

“So, if you start looking at it that way, it’s phenomenal. You can make the argument that in ’38 and ’62 all the pros didn’t play. But ’69 was incredible and that’s what puts Rod in the conversation of greatest of all time with Roger [Federer]. We will never settle that argument, but it’s a fun one to have anyway – and Novak is holding all four.

“It’s something that hasn’t been done for a long time, almost 50 years, hasn’t been done by anyone else other than two men – so you have to respect that.”

When Murray broke through for his first major he was coming from zero, with a lot of baggage, and pushing at the door. What has changed?

“I think it’s very different the position this time. Until you win one, you never know you have it in you. We know he has it in him now, so the question is: can he do it again? I think that’s an easier question to answer than ‘Can you do it at all?’ So it’s quite a bit different now.”

Murray has changed in other ways: married with a child, most obviously. Had Lendl noticed any outward differences in him?

“Not really. He had a tough match [beating Nicolas Mahut in the first round at Queen’s on Tuesday], which is what we expected. Mahut is a good grasscourt player and I thought it was a high-quality match. We focused on that and we will have a good practice later and chat a bit, things like that. We will figure things out.”

Finally, we wondered, as that impenetrable gaze remained fixed on nothing in particular, was it good to be back?

“I miss home,” Lendl said, “but I always enjoy seeing all the friends out here and former opponents. It’s always nice. I have to say, I had a lot of support from my friends and former friends and people who were in the game and are not anymore. It’s enjoyable.”

Enjoyable is an odd word to associate with Lendl, except when you appreciate the thrill he gets from winning. It drove him as a player, and it is what has tempted him back for at least one more charge at a big title with Murray. He certainly hasn’t come for the weather.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Kevin Mitchell at Queen's, for The Guardian on Wednesday 15th June 2016 22.00 Europe/London

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