Tim Henman spoke to Wimbledon.com about the similarity between Andy Murray and his coach Ivan Lendl...
"It's amazing," Tim Henman said this week, "how similar Andy Murray's career has been to Ivan Lendl's, with both of them losing their first four appearances in Grand Slams finals."
Of course, one key area that separates the man from Dunblane and the man from Ostrava is their success or failure at the All England Club; while Lendl would go on to win eight majors, and is universally regarded as one of the greats of the game, he was never the Wimbledon champion. Unlike his employer, who this year became the first Briton for 77 years to win the men's singles title on Centre Court. Still, as everyone reflects on and celebrates Murray's achievement - it would be an almighty shock if he didn't win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award this month - it is worth considering the role played by Lendl, twice a runner-up at the All England Club (and never the winner of a popularity contest in the United Kingdom). Could Murray have won that trophy if he hadn't linked up with Lendl, a man who, in the 1980s and early 1990s, was utterly obsessed with a title that would have completed his collection of majors, and given him a Career Grand Slam.
Some have suggested that, without Lendl in his corner, Murray might have had much more trouble overcoming difficulties earlier in the tournament - such as when he trailed Spain's Fernando Verdasco by two sets in the quarter-finals - or, later on, dealing with the white heat of serving for The Championships against Novak Djokovic. Henman, though, is firmly of the opinion that, "I don't think you can say that Andy won Wimbledon just because of Lendl". "A coach is only as good as a player, and Andy is a phenomenal player," said Henman, who was in the commentary box during this year's final, but who has been out there on the court this week at the Statoil Masters at London's Royal Albert Hall.
In the early days of his own playing career, Henman practised a couple of times with Lendl, whose own career was tailing off. But it has only been recently, mostly through his friendship with Murray, that he has come to know Lendl a little better. So he has seen close up what Lendl has done to help Murray. Since hooking up with Lendl, Murray had won an Olympic gold medal, a US Open title and then this year, Wimbledon. So, as Henman observed, it is plain that Lendl has done much for Murray's game, especially on the mental and psychological side.
"Has Lendl had an impact on Andy? In my opinion, absolutely. Mentally and psychologically, it's been great for Andy to have had someone in his corner who has been through exactly the same things that he's going through now. So Andy has had the confidence that he's working in the right areas and doing the right things. That must be reassuring," Henman said. "Technically, I don't think Lendl has changed much, but he's helped with Andy's game style, and getting the right balance between proactive and reactive, and looking to dictate, and making sure that he stays on his forehand and doesn't spin off his forehand. These are very minor adjustments but at this level, these very small things can make a difference."
We saw that against Djokovic this summer.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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