Make it 1 for 1 on the Andy Murray-Ivan Lendl partnership. Andy was very impressive in winning the 2012 Brisbane International men’s singles title, defeating Alexandr Dolgopolov in the final, 6-1 6-3. But the harder questions get asked in the next few weeks as Andy and new coach Lendl try to get the talented British star to the ultimate goal, a Major championship title. I think there are couple of reasons to believe Lendl can push Murray to new heights (and no, 1986 Lendl materializing from the past and playing for Andy isn’t one of them).
The first reason is obvious. He’s Ivan freakin’ Lendl, for crying out loud! Now, I get that great players don’t always make great coaches, but it’s more than Ivan’s record as a player. However, since I mentioned it, here’s a little snapshot of the record of one of the most underrated champions in tennis history in my opinion. 8 Major titles. 11 Major runner-ups. 19 Major finals (a men’s record until broken by Roger Federer). 144 titles. 1071 match victories. Reached at least 1 Major final for 11 consecutive years (a men’s record shared with Pete Sampras). Ranked #1 for 270 weeks (a men’s record until broken by Pete Sampras and Roger Federer). There’s more, but I’ll leave it there.
Still, as I said, it’s not Lendl’s record that helps Andy. He doesn’t get any bonus points in matches for having an all-time great as a coach. What might make a difference is the stat of 19 Majors and 8 titles. As great as Lendl was, there was a time when he was known more for his inability to win a Major than for his consistently high play. In fact, the word choke was frequently thrown around by his critics. Even when he finally shook the bridesmaid tag, coming back from 2 sets to love down in the 1984 Roland Garros (French Open) final and went on to dominate the mid to late 80s, his critics still focus on his failures rather than his accomplishments. Sure, he won 3 straight US Opens…BUT…they say…he reached 8 straight US Open finals, so that means he sandwiched 5 losses around those 3 straight victories.
If there is any player who can speak to Andy as a kindred soul, it’s Lendl. Andy, too, is a prodigiously blessed player with shelves full of trophies, except for the ones that matter most. I don’t think Ivan can really teach Andy much about the technical aspects of his strokes. That’s not Andy’s problem. He needs that voice. He needs that person who can help him handle the moments of doubt. In Lendl, he has a coach who has not only championship pedigree, but had to climb the mountain to overcome his own shortcomings.
And the second reason I think Lendl can help Murray, or be dismissed quickly, is Murray’s reputation for being very difficult with coaches. Ivan will not put up with any nonsense from Andy. If Murray gives too much attitude to Lendl, you can bet the 8-time Grand Slam champion will walk. What I think is more likely is that Murray knows who Ivan is and will know when to draw the line. Andy needs a personality strong enough to get in his face and tell him to stop sulking and getting down on himself. Ivan is just what the doctor ordered.