Tramlines

Lendl appointment turned Murray into world-beater

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Andy Murray was destined to be the nearly-man of tennis until he made arguably the best decision of his career by appointing Ivan Lendl.

Murray had lost three Grand Slam finals when Czech-born American Lendl was appointed as his coach following months of speculation.

The Scot’s next chance ended in defeat at Wimbledon 2012 to Roger Federer, but he had proven his ability to mix it with the world’s best and seemed on the brink of his breakthrough.

That came sooner than expected, at the Olympics in London two months later, with Federer dismissed in straight sets as Murray showed he was a top-four player by rights.

The elusive first Major quickly followed in New York and, having lost the Australian Open on what is effectively home turf for Novak Djokovic, Murray should have been installed as favourite to triumph on a grass surface he has shown greater accomplishment upon than the Serb.

Murray paid tribute to the impact of Lendl, who himself lost his first four Grand Slam finals in a career that went on to yield eight Majors.

"He told me he was proud of me, which coming from him means a lot," Murray said of his steely-eyed coach.

"He doesn't smile too much in public but away from the cameras and crowds he is a very different character.

"He'd have loved to win here but this was the next best thing for him, he's stuck by me through some tough losses, he's been very patient and I'm happy I managed to do it for him.

"Ivan has made me learn more from my losses. He is extremely honest with me, if I work hard then he is happy. If I don't, he's disappointed and will tell me.

"He's got my mentality slightly different heading into these big matches."

That shift in mentality has been hugely important for Murray, whose natural competitiveness made him prone to emotional outbursts on court, resulting in a tendency to lose focus and concentration under pressure.

In addition, there have been tweaks to his game. Murray’s natural defensiveness has been used to generate an intense counter-attacking style, while his second serve – the weakest element of his otherwise complete game – has improved greatly, although there is still work to be done.

The Scot’s stamina has also improved, putting him alongside Djokovic and David Ferrer as the fittest top players on the Tour, although Rafael Nadal could well regain the physical heights of old.

While conditioning is not Lendl’s remit, that mental focus he has instilled will have no doubt impacted on Murray’s ability to sweat the extra hours in a gym he was previously uncomfortable with.

And with Murray now favourite to defend his US title and surely a challenger Down Under this winter, Lendl’s career haul of eight Grand Slams suddenly looks achievable.

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