The Midas touch: Murray's bold move to bring in Lendl as coach has proved a masterstroke
21:30 GMT, 11 September 2012
To the non-surprise of anyone who knows him, Ivan Lendl was not among those in Andy Murray's camp scarcely containing their glee and drinking champagne from plastic cups in the Arthur Ashe Stadium's entry hall here late on Monday night.
About as starry as it got for old stoneface was a quick hug from Sir Sean Connery.
While Lendl was happily flinging around a few of his verbal custard pies there was no obvious emotion in him as he lingered on the edge of the festivities.
Mentor: Ivan Lendl (left) has helped Andy Murray (right) become one of the world's best tennis players
Make it public: Andy Murray has made a number of appearances since winning the US Open, including with Matthew Perry (right) on the NBC Today Show
'Smiling, it's overrated,' he said,
only half in jest. 'I like jokes, but I don't like smiling too much. I
didn't come here to have a good time, I came here to help Andy win and
he did, so it's job done.'
Never a man to dwell long on success,
rather like Sir Alex Ferguson, who had been seated two rows behind him,
it partly looked like he could not wait to get back to his family, his
dogs and his golf.
Indeed, Lendl did not even attend the
late night celebrations in a Manhattan Japanese restaurant because he
had a 7am tee time the next morning.
But he is a man of considerable depth
and will doubtless reflect on the remarkable symmetry that now exists
between his playing career and that of his charge.
Murray has also won a Grand Slam
final at his fifth attempt, but even in the joyous wake of it the
52-year-old Czech had a stern warning.
Winning mentality: Under Lendl, Murray has taken Olympic gold and the US Open crown
'What I don't want to happen now is
what happened to me,' he said. 'Remember I went on to 1-6 in Slam finals
after that before I started winning a lot. Andy is now 1-4 in finals,
and I don't want him going 1-6 like me.'
The effect he has had means that
there is ample cause for self-congratulation, but so much credit should
go to Murray for hiring him in the first place: it was always bold and
has turned out to be a masterstroke.
Lendl thought back to the early
January afternoon at Melbourne's August Kooyong Tennis Club and talked
of how he admired the Scot's decision to bring him in because it 'ups
the ante' and would bring a pressure of its own.
'I admired him just for that and I
quickly knew that it was going to work out,' said Lendl. 'You can't do
it in one week or one month and Andy and I were saying let's give it six
to nine months before we really start to see results. Now you do the
The Scot has reached new heights in his abilities since taking Lendl on
Watchful eyes: Lendl (left) has seen Murray move from a contender to a champion
Two weeks af ter Kooyong hi s client
nearly defeated Novak Djokovic in a semi-final epic similar to their
final at Flushing Meadows.
'That Australian Open match was the
most important because, like tonight, it was a war and it gave him the
belief that he could hang in with these top few guys. It showed him what
it takes to beat them, so when the situation arose this time it didn't
take him by surprise.'
Even at that early stage these two
unlikely bedfellows were getting on better than many expected in the
intense player-coach relationship.
What had surprised Lendl about the
young man who had gingerly rung him up in December to see if he was
interested in coming back to big-time tennis
'That his sense of humour is maybe as sick as mine,' said Lendl, again only half in jest.
'It helps because you don't have to tiptoe around. If you tell a bad joke nobody gets offended and you move on.'
Until the Olympics, more discerning
judges were sceptical about talk of tennis' Big Four, assessing it more
as the Big 3.5. Not now.
It is a proper quartet and a strong finish to the year could even see Murray end it as world No 1. Lendl felt the significance of the Games might be underestimated.
'If he had lost that final against
Federer people would say he was 0-5 in big finals without saying he won a
major when he actually won it.
'For me the most important thing was
that in his career he is realistically going to get only two shots at
winning the Olympics and he got it first time.
'Andy has been maturing very nicely
as a player, as a competitor and as a person. As you mature you become
more comfortable in situations like tonight.'
Flaunting it: Murray showed the cup off with girlfriend Kim Sears (right)
Beaten man: Novak Djokovic lost to Murray in an epic US Open final at Flushing Meadows
Lendl is aware reactions to events
like Murray's triumph can be extreme: 'When I won my first (by beating
John McEnroe from two sets down at the 1984 French Open) I went from the
guy who could never come back to the guy who never gives up, but I knew
I didn't deserve either of those descriptions.'
Murray is four months past his 25th birthday, which leads Lendl to think 'hopefully he is nowhere near what he can get to'.
Having waited this long to win his first Grand Slam, the British No 1 cannot afford to waste time.
Realistically, there is probably a
four to five-year window – about 20 Slams and one Olympics – in which he
will be at his peak.
One Slam a year in that time would
amount to an incredible career. Murray's next event is in Asia, where
last year he reeled off wins in Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai.
This year he is restricting himself
to Tokyo at the end of the month, followed by China, before returning to
Europe for the Paris Masters and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at
the O2 Arena that conclude the season.
Expect also to see him show more of
the warm and humorous personality that only those familiar with him
hitherto will have seen. Liberation through victory comes in many forms.
Perry v Murray