Brit Andy Murray and his coaching consultant of two years, Ivan Lendl, announced Wednesday that they have had an amicable parting of the ways.
Lendl, who was at the Australian Open wearing an abbreviated version of his famous Legionnaire’s hat, has not been much of a presence in 2014 so far.
And perhaps the time off while Murray was recovering from back surgery set him to thinking – oh, so this is what my life was like before Murray! I’ve got a lot going on!
Both said the right things in their official quotes on Murray’s website.
“Working with Andy over the last two years has been a fantastic experience for me. He is a first class guy. Having helped him achieve his goal of winning major titles, I feel like it is time for me to concentrate on some of my own projects moving forward including playing more events around the world which I am really enjoying. I will always be in Andy’s corner and wish him nothing but great success as he too goes into a new phase of his career.”
“I’m eternally grateful to Ivan for all his hard work over the past two years, the most successful of my career so far. As a team, we’ve learned a lot and it will definitely be of benefit in the future. I’ll take some time with the team to consider the next steps and how we progress from here”.
You never got the sense that this was going to be a long-term thing; indeed, it almost seemed as though Lendl, who never really expressed any coaching aspirations prior to this, was almost a reluctant participant in the Andy Murray show even though, obviously, he gave it his all when he was on the job.
Some scenes from the Murray-Lendl partnership
Lendl wasn’t looking for something to do when he and Murray began their partnership. He had a fairly busy life B.A. (before Andy). Lendl has business interests, and a tennis academy that bears his name in South Carolina, five daughters, and he also plays exhibitions. And then, … there is golf.
And that may be the crux of it. “It’s VERY simple – I could not commit enough time to do the job properly,” he wrote in an e-mail to CNN.
The website statement points out that Lendl has NOT been sitting around lately.
“Lendl has recently played exhibitions in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Nashville, Charlotte and London. He has also been giving clinics in the Canary Islands as well as opening new courts in Bluffton, SC at the Ivan Lendl Junior Tennis Academy.”
In the end – and this may prove to be the case with many of the former top players who have hustled into the coaching ranks in the wake of the Murray-Lendl partnership (which led the way on the trend) – it’s awfully difficult for a top player (who didn’t get there without having an ego), to embrace the notion that it’s really no longer about him.
He’s no longer the focus of attention, as he was throughout his career. It’s such a bizarre dynamic. It’s been a notable one in our observation of Boris Becker down in Oz with Novak Djokovic, but more on that in another post. But in Lendl’s case, given his age and his intense dedication to whatever he has done in his life, this probably wasn’t much of a factor.
Together, the pair reached heights for Murray in his career that Murray had always dreamed of. Not only did he get the Grand Slam monkey off his back, he did it twice: two Grand Slams, including the most coveted one, Wimbledon.
Really, Lendl’s work was done.
Perhaps, as well, he tired a little of the Murray negativity. Having sat up close for Murray’s match against Milos Raonic and heard all the invective directed towards his people – and having witnessed the rather disgusted reaction of every single paying spectator sitting around me – it’s hard to imagine Lendl just sitting there and taking it for more years going forward.
It really is thoroughly unpleasant; if you’re a guy who needs that job to pay the bills, you’re going to put up with it. If you’re not that guy, it’s going to get old on you in a hurry.
Lendl certainly wasn’t in the same sort of sunny mood at this Australian Open as he was when the partnership first began in Australia two years ago, as you can see from the above shots.
What kind of move will Murray make next? Well, it depends on what he thinks he needs.
He has a team of people around him all the time, so he doesn’t need a coach to practice with, to book his practice courts, to get everything organized so all he needs to do is hit the ball. He already has people for that.
Does he need that constant emotional support of having the coach around for every match? Only those close to him can answer that.
Is there more he feels he can improve technically (like his second serve), and thus would look for a coach who can work on those areas, especially in the off-season? Maybe.
There’s no rush for him to decide. And when you think about it, there really aren’t that many prime candidates who have the skill set to take on that job. On the Miami Tennis TV broadcast today, shark analyst Robbie Koenig suggested Bob Brett – who is sort of between jobs after having two, as head of the development program at Tennis Canada AND the coach of Marin Cilic and is doing some work for the British LTA – would be a good call. So, apparently, does longtime tennis writer Neil Harman of the Times of London but, of course, Brett’s current relationship with the LTA cannot be dismissed as a factor there.
Here’s a story from Mike Dickson of the Daily Mail that pretty well sums up their association.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. I tend to hope Murray will choose something further – much further – outside the box than one of the same old, same old retread names. It would be hard to argue that Brett did anything substantial for Cilic that any decent coach couldn’t have done. He’s a good player who has pretty much been playing the same way for as long as I can recall, remains rather undriven by the nature of his laidback personality but seems, to me, to have a higher ceiling than the one he’s reached so far if he could address that area.