June 19, 2016
For John McEnroe, it must have felt like 1984 all over again. Just when he probably thought victory was within his grasp, that daunting Ivan Lendl willpower came into play and poor old Superbrat ended up the loser.
Nowadays they are just coaches, using brainpower to slug it out – unlike during that extraordinary final at Roland Garros all those years ago.
That was when McEnroe saw a two-set lead disintegrate under Lendl’s stubborn firepower. Andy Murray’s current coach won in five back then in Paris, an epic turn-around, never to be forgotten.
At Queen’s club on Sunday, McEnroe’s player, Milos Raonic was a set ahead, having taken the tie-break 7-5. He also led 3-0 in the second, he hadn’t been broken all week, and he needed just three more games for a famous victory.
But the Canadian couldn’t maintain his momentum and Murray’s comeback, which took shape in front of a determimined-looking Lendl, was complete when he claimed an historic fifth Queen’s title 6-7, 6-4, 6-3. For some, McEnroe included, there must have been a sense of deja vu.
A delighted Murray said later: ‘It was great. Obviously coming out here to win for a fifth time, I was really motivated.’
Looking over at a slightly deflated McEnroe, whose own Queen’s titles total had been eclipsed, Murray quipped: ‘Any time you can do something just a little bit better than him, it’s an amazing feeling.’
Not that Lendl had stayed to rub salt into McEnroe’s wounds too. ‘It was nice of him to stick around for the trophy presentation,’ joked Murray slightly sarcastically.
Raonic, with great sportsmanship and sensitivity, made new British friends when he said: ‘Congratulations to Andy for winning this tournament for a fifth time – although I’m sure it’s not nearly as special as your first Father’s Day.’
Murray admitted there was an element of luck behind his victory. ‘I guessed on a few serves to get one of the breaks back and after that I gained confidence.’
But then again there was also the Lendl Effect, giving Andy a boost just when he needed it. And for the time being at least, McEnroe simply couldn’t match the impact his old rival had.
Lendl still has plenty of work to do, of course, as the show moves on to the greatest venue of them all, Wimbledon.
It’s all very well Murray winning the hard way against everyone except Djokovic. But the hard way leads to a gradual draining of energy resources, as we saw at the French Open.
And these slow Murray starts to matches, if they continue, will make Novak’s task easier, should he meet Andy again in the Wimbledon 2016 final. So Murray needs to get more ruthless – and quickly.
Over to you Ivan. As for McEnroe, he’ll have watched carefully as events unfolded at Queen’s, and is likely to spend the next few days coming up with a new masterplan for Raonic. After all, Superbrat never did like losing.
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