Ivan gamble… Wimbledon is a huge test for Murray-Lendl axis, says McEnroe
21:30 GMT, 19 June 2012
Making his point: McEnroe poses with Nadal after the Spaniard won his seventh French Open
Long gone are the days when John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl were engaged in their deadly feud at the top of tennis, when they would barely acknowledge each other's presence in the locker room.
The passage of time has seen both men mellow into cordiality, but tennis's sharpest pundit still cannot resist the odd dig at his old rival, who broke his Grand Slam duck against the American with a famous win at the 1984 French Open.
Now McEnroe is more fascinated than anyone about Lendl's coaching relationship with Andy Murray, how it works, and how coach and player are said to feed off each other's sense of humour.
'I was shown an article saying that Ivan has come into the team and brought a sense of humour and that he's a lot more fun than Andy,' recounts a guffawing McEnroe, 'and I'm like: “My God, what has Andy been doing all this time” That I found really humorous.
'But my relationship with Ivan now is fine, we can laugh and talk about it now, we won't look at each other and walk in the other direction. He'll have some comment that he thinks is funny and I won't, and we can agree to disagree.'
Watching brief: The British No 1 is still awaiting his first grand slam
Clearly, though, beyond the banter there are reservations about whether first-time coach Lendl can manage the enormous task of trying to hone Murray's game and temperament to a level where he can overcome the brilliance of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
'I would think Ivan is still learning to be a coach. He's not full-time, that's tricky,' says McEnroe.
'Being part-time makes it very difficult to me personally. Andy seems to be an all-or-nothing guy. It sounds like he will have to do it that way but to some extent it's like he's getting his feet wet.'
McEnroe sees the key to Murray's development is eradicating the British No 1's tendency to fret on court, especially in the controversial area of reacting to injuries.
Reservations: McEnroe isn't sure whether Lendl can guide Murray to Wimbledon glory
'I don't know what's going with these injuries, his back. It's a place where a lot of stress goes. To me it's an area where Lendl potentially could help him. If you have a coach who's not going to take no for an answer, you could have someone who won't let him look for a way out to keep him in there. I don't think Ivan is the kind of guy who likes to take any s***.
'The more I thought about their partnership the more sense it made. There are similarities in their career paths, some definite similarities. Before he beat me in Paris Ivan was 0-4 in finals, Andy is 0-3. There's a lot of credibility he can bring to the table.
I don't think Ivan is the kind of guy who likes to take any s***
'Actually, I think this Wimbledon is the first time you can get a real gauge on how well it's going between them. At first I thought it was crazy, then I thought it was going to work out, now it's wait-and-see, you have to give it some time.'
McEnroe also sees similarities in himself with Lendl, in the way they tried to recreate the buzz of being a champion once their playing days were over, and is unsparing in his assessment.
'He had deluded himself into thinking he was going to be a golfer, like me deciding I wanted to be a rock star – the closer you get the more difficult you realise that it is. I think he was more serious about that than me going out to play some music.
Amicable: But Lendl and McEnroe endured a strained relationship during their playing days
'He spent a lot of time trying to get ready for the seniors golf, but after a certain amount of time maybe there's a reality check. He had got really far away from tennis, so for him this is a nice opportunity.'
They have even played against each other in seniors' tennis, and much to McEnroe's amusement he has found the tables turned, fitness-wise, from the day when Lendl came back from two sets down at Roland Garros to win in five and begin his collection of eight Grand Slam titles.
'When he first came back he thought okay, I'm going to be the old Ivan Lendl and get myself way fitter than everyone else and beat John's ass, but it wasn't that simple. The body doesn't answer the bell so easily as you get older. I never would have believed in my wildest dreams that I would be fitter than him.'
He fears something else might not be that simple in Lendl's new role – the sheer scale of talent ranged against his client Murray at the top. 'Is Andy as good as these other guys' asks McEnroe.
'I mean the others are unbelievably good. Murray is a great player, at least bordering on great. But is he as great as these other guys That's quite a different issue.
'It's difficult to say but it seems like the gap is widening again.'
But his advice for Murray is to look to showbusiness for some inspiration: 'An actor goes to a lot of auditions and doesn't get the part. Jack Nicholson didn't get anything until he was in his 30s. You have to persevere and put yourself in positions and sooner or later you will break through.'
John McEnroe commentates for BBC TV at Wimbledon, live coverage starts on June 25 across TV, radio and online.