June 13, 2016
At last, Andy Murray is about to leave his comfort zone once more.
You know, that cocoon, the private place he enjoyed for the last two or three years, where it appeared that no one gave him a hard time, no one fundamentally challenged his mindset, no one dared to disagree with him too much.
Where you could lose major finals to Novak Djokovic, even from winning positions, and that was OK.
Murray would of course tell us that it hasn’t been like that at all. He’d tell us that Amelie Mauresmo, his previous coach, was a strong person in her own right and quite capable of speaking her mind.
He’d tell us that Jamie Delgado is nobody’s fool either. He would say that he hasn’t just been employing yes-men and yes-women during this period.
He’d point out that you don’t win the Davis Cup and climb back up to world number two, after a long and difficult period of injury, unless you are constantly trying to improve yourself.
Andy might also sing the praises of Djokovic and ask what else he could have done against a super-steely individual who might just prove to be the greatest player the world has ever seen before he finally retires.
In all these arguments, Murray would have a perfectly reasonable point. And yet he knows what has happened.
Murray knows that a coach with a bit of devil in him, a man called Ivan Lendl, took him to his biggest triumphs – the US Open, the Olympics and then Wimbledon.
And without a super-strong coach, Andy knows he wins next to nothing against the very best.
He knows that Lendl will not stand for any histrionics, or indeed the inferiority complex Murray seems to exhibit when faced with Djokovic in a Slam final.
It was interesting that Lendl called members of Murray’s backroom team “to ask about Andy’s motivation” before he accepted the assignment.
In other words, Lendl wanted to know whether Murray thinks it is acceptable to lose to another player almost as a matter of routine, however brilliant that rival might be.
At some point during these discussions he heard the right answer, either from Andy or his team. There must have been a signal that they know it isn’t acceptable and they know something must be done about it – and they believe Lendl can put an end to the trend.
But can it be done at Wimbledon 2016? Or does the biggest Slam of the year come too soon for Lendl to have much impact?
Andy and Ivan were only getting back together for the first time at the Queen’s Club this week. And yet already Murray says that Lendl’s decision to join him has given him a boost.
If you believe that Murray’s shortcomings against Djokovic have been more technical than psychological, then Lendl will be unable to work a miracle in the next few days and weeks.
However, if you believe that Murray’s biggest problem against Djokovic has been psychological, then the Lendl Effect could be immediate.
With Lendl at his side, you sense that Murray feels more of a fighting man, more capable of countering the raw aggression of the superb Serb.
Should they meet in the final at Wimbledon 2016, Novak’s victory will no longer be considered quite so inevitable.
Djokovic will still start favourite. But if Novak’s chances before Lendl’s return to the Murray camp might have been 70-30, now it’s 60-40 or perhaps even 55-45.
Yes, that’s how important Ivan Lendl is to Andy Murray. The Scot’s chances at Wimbledon 2016 may just have increased by up to 15 per cent.
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