The Irish Mail on Sunday
Murray goes back to Lendl for advice
Andy turns to ex-coach ahead of the French Open after Rome near miss
ANDY MURRAY this week heads into his first Grand Slam in two-and-a-half years without Ivan Lendl in his corner — but his former Czech mentor will still cast a considerable shadow.
The Wimbledon champion, whose French Open first-round match against Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev will take place either tomorrow or Tuesday, has revealed he is seeking Lendl’s advice about how to approach the clay-court Grand Slam.
Murray has stuttered this season, but was buoyed by his performance in Rome a week last Friday, when he almost beat the king of clay himself, Rafael Nadal, in the quarter-final.
Lendl’s decision to walk out on him in March blindsided the 27-year-old Scot, but it was done on amicable enough terms for the two of them to stay in contact.
‘I’ve messaged him a little bit and he actually called me the day after my match with Rafa in Rome,’ said Murray.
‘He spoke to Dani [Vallverdu, Murray’s assistant coach] and then fired some messages my way. I might call him today just to have a little chat.’ Lendl, who this weekend is playing a veterans’ event in Germany, was happy to give his appraisal of what happened against Nadal, who Murray led 4-2 in the deciding set before being reined in.
‘He messaged Dani before the match and then afterwards,’ said Murray. ‘He was saying the first set for me was obviously great tennis. That it was very close and I should be encouraged by that coming into this event. It is just the details I’ve not spoken to him about.’
Murray says he is close to appointing a coach, although he has sent out so many contradictory signals about the matter that you suspect he might be enjoying the speculation.
What he is clear about is that the candidate — or candidates, depending on which interview he has given — do not include the recommendations Lendl originally gave.
‘The people he suggested are people I respect and they are very good coaches as well, but I don’t think it will be one of them,’ said Murray. ‘I spoke to Ivan about it when we orig- inally split up, just before Miami. I obviously listened but ultimately it needs to come from me.’
For now Murray is content working with the rest of his team and if he needs a sounding board he turns to Darren Cahill, who used to coach Andre Agassi. Cahill is available to help anyone sponsored by adidas, and he is trusted by the Scot.
‘When I haven’t had a coach he’s come to a load of my practices,’ said Murray. ‘Also, when Ivan was around he’d just come along and watch. I have a good relationship with him and I enjoyed working with him.
‘In the times I’ve been in this situation before, the person I spent time talking to and being around was Darren, and I would rather stick with something I know.
‘But not coming with a main coach, maybe there is a little bit more pressure. But I feel like even when I’ve not been playing so well, when there has been pressure on me it’s helped me raise my game, it’s helped me get nervous and excited to get going. So I hope that’s the case here. When I go to the gym, and if I’m struggling in a session or anything, it’s always these events that make me want to keep going, to push through the hard training sessions and put in the hours. So each time I arrive at one of these events I feel very motivated, especially this time after missing last year.’
Murray has a history of lifting his game for Grand Slams regardless of previous form and he anticipates his main rivals will do the same after a clay-court season that has not been predictable due to the relative struggles of Nadal.
Asked about his rivals’ prospects ,Murray replied: ‘I don’t really care. I would expect Rafa and Novak [Djokovic] to play great tennis here, I’d also expect Roger [Federer] to play very well. There’s nothing to suggest all of a sudden they’re going to stop performing well in the Grand Slams. Who wins depends on who plays best at the end of the event.’
There is a good chance for Murray to make the second week, but for the first time in eight years Nadal is not the favourite, with Djokovic narrowly more fancied.
This is the tournament that the Serb wants to win more than any other, and he must feel that there is no better time to lift the trophy.