Lendl lured back to tennis by Murray project

Ivan Lendl rejected up to 10 offers in the 18 months before he

was finally lured back to the tennis scene by the prospect of

turning Andy Murray into a Grand Slam winner.

The eight-time major champion agreed in December to start

coaching Murray, the 24-year-old Scot who has lost in three Grand

Slam finals.

Since retiring in 1994, Lendl has spent much of his time on the

golf course, and didn’t play another tennis match in public until a

2010 exhibition. He told the British media it was ”unlikely” he

would have returned to tennis for any player other than Murray.

”I’ve had between seven and 10 enquiries over the last 18

months, some more serious than others, but none was considered by

me,” the 51-year-old Lendl said. ”I see a guy who wants to win, a

guy who wants to work hard.

”Obviously I see the parallels between his career and my career

and I want his career to end up like mine.”

Murray hasn’t won a set in his three Grand Slam finals,

including the last two title matches at the Australian Open, which

begins Monday. In his first major tournament since appointing

Lendl, the fourth-seeded Murray will open against American teenager

Ryan Harrison.

Lendl lost in four Grand Slam finals before winning the 1984

French Open at the age of 24, the same age as Murray is now. He won

seven more Grand Slam titles in a career spanning 16 years,

although he never won Wimbledon despite twice reaching the

final.

Once Murray determined that part-time coach Darren Cahill

wouldn’t be able to devote enough time to him in 2012, he said it

took hardly any time to turn to Lendl.

”(I) spoke to a few people and Ivan was one of them,” Murray

said. ”After speaking with him, meeting him a couple times, spent

a day on the court with him, it was pretty obvious that was the guy

I wanted to work with, and that was it.”

After only a week together, Murray said it would be too soon to

see any change in his game at the Australian Open.

”I’m not going to get the benefits from having Ivan this

week,” he said. ”I’m going to see it in six months, 12 months

time, when all the things we work on start falling into

place.”

As a player, Lendl was renowned for his near obsessive

dedication to improving his game and his fitness, and he said he

saw something of that side of him in Murray.

”We have been through similar things, things I went through, he

likes to work hard I like to work hard,” he said. ”I also admire

his guts for hiring me because he had to know it would create a lot

of interest.

”It would have been very easy just to hire someone, just

another coach, and not get a high-profile person.”

Beyond the dedication to hard work, Lendl, often portrayed as a

dour character during his playing career, said he and Murray had

something else in common.

”Obviously I really enjoy Andy’s sense of humor. Hopefully he

enjoys mine,” said Lendl, who joined Murray for the first time

last weekend at the Brisbane International. ”We’ve had good

laughs. I think it’s important that it’s not only work but fun as

well.”

Murray said he had enjoyed having Lendl around and hearing

stories from his playing heyday – although once training is over,

his new coach ”leaves, does his own thing.”

John McEnroe, one of Lendl’s fiercest rivals in the 1980s, sees

the new partnership as one that could pay off.

”I hate to give credit but I think it’s due and I think the

introduction of Ivan Lendl as coach could work out. It pains me to

say that,” McEnroe joked.

”I think he will help Murray manufacture more intensity on the

court and use that energy more positively which he will have to do

to beat two of the three top guys and win a major.”

Lendl said he was not underestimating the size of Murray’s task

in winning a Grand Slam title during a particularly strong era for

men’s tennis.

”Between Roger Federer with 16, Rafa Nadal with 10 and Djokovic

with four, it’s very difficult to win majors,” he said. ”It makes

it a much more difficult task for Andy.”