Ivan Lendl: The Man Who Made Andy Murray
Originally published on 09/07/14
Not his mum Judy, who has been with him since day one and has played an integral part throughout his career, nor the rest of his long-serving coaching team, but the man who he first met in a ‘rubbish’ Italian restaurant on Interstate 95 only a year and a half before.
Few would have predicted at the time that it would be a match made in heaven, but that’s exactly what it turned out to be. Perhaps a huge part of it, as Mark Hodgkinson explains in Ivan Lendl: The Man That Made Murray, is that Murray and Lendl had a lot in common.
As coach Darren Cahill, who first recommended Lendl to Murray, told Hodgkinson: “Ivan recognised that what he went through was eerily similar to what Andy went through, and so he wanted to help.” The story of the following 18 months and how Lendl didn’t just ‘make’ Murray a Grand Slam champion, but transform him into one, is a fascinating one. From the instant changing of Murray’s body language due to the respect Lendl commanded, to the Czech’s wicked sense of humour, Hodgkinson, with access to those closest to Murray as well as former players including Mats Wilander, Michael Chang and Pat Cash, gives an amazing insight into their relationship.
Equally as fascinating as the 18 months leading up to Murray’s Wimbledon victory is Lendl’s life story both on and off the court. Much of the book is devoted to telling Lendl’s tale and his life growing up behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia. Hodgkinson looks at why Lendl was a ‘monitored person’ by the StB – Czechoslovakia’s equivalent of the Soviet KGB – and how his mother, Olga Lendlova, a determined woman much like Judy Murray, would shape his approach to tennis and to life. Although he would not go on to win Wimbledon himself, the Czech would spend 220 weeks as world No.1, win eight Grand Slams and 22 Championship Series titles.
He would also be credited for being the first player to deliberately hit the ball at his opponent – ‘he would be looking to leave psychic bruises as well as raspberry-coloured welts’. When Murray took great delight from hitting Lendl at a charity match at Queen’s in 2013, Hodgkinson says the Brit was then ‘fully Lendl-ised’. A few weeks later the pair would be embracing on Centre Court as Murray ended Britain’s 77-year wait for a men’s champion at SW19. And although Lendl would play down his role in the stunning success – ‘it’s about Andy, not me’ – there is little doubt that he had a huge part in making Murray a Wimbledon champion.