- Chris Wilkinson
Lendl will sharpen Murray's mental edgeChris Wilkinson January 4, 2012
Andy Murray has added a valuable weapon to his armoury as he bids to break his grand slam duck in 2012. Ivan Lendl could be just what Murray needs to help him crack his grand slam conundrum.
Lendl may have won eight majors and spent 270 weeks at world No. 1, but he failed at his first four attempts in grand slam finals. Murray has lost his first three.
I have to admit the news of Lendl's appointment came as a bit of a surprise. He was obviously linked with Lendl back in March, but nothing came of it, so I presumed one or both parties had dismissed the idea.
The fact that Lendl hasn't had any coaching experience and hasn't spent time on the tour as a trainer could be problematic, but I am confident this new partnership will be a success. Murray is too good a player not to make it work. He can't expect Lendl to have an immediate impact, but we should start to see the fruits within a few months.
Technically there is very little Murray can do to improve his game - it is the mental side of things that Lendl can really help him with. Murray has struggled to win the big points when it matters most. Lendl has already talked about it being Groundhog Day for him - and hopefully he can help Murray break out of the cycle to snare his first slam, just as he did back in 1984.
When things are not going his way, Murray can get stroppy with himself on court and lose focus, and that's really where Lendl can help him - teaching him to exploit his opponents' weaknesses and maintain his focus at the crucial moments.
I never played Lendl but he was playing on the tour when I first started out. The man was a machine. He was a pioneer in the sense that he was one of the first guys who made the game physical. The likes of John McEnroe and Vitas Gerulaitis were very reliant on their natural talent and they could get away with it before Lendl came on the scene. Lendl worked hard and was very physical and he changed the way everybody approached the game.
His approach to the sport should fit in well with Murray; both are driven and highly motivated. That said, they are both wilful characters and Lendl will not shy away from saying what he thinks. I said a few months back that Murray needed to shed his "mates syndrome", and in that sense he couldn't have picked a better character.
Some coaches might tell Murray what he wanted to hear in order to hang onto their jobs, but Lendl will tell him things straight. It might be a bit alien for Murray for the first few weeks having been without a full-time coach since July 2010, but as the relationship grows it could turn out to be a successful match-up. Crucially, Lendl is a big enough character to tell Murray his opinion and Murray will respect him for that.
Murray clashed with former trainer Brad Gilbert, another big personality, but I think it was too early in his career to have a coach like Brad. But Murray is at that stage in his career now that he needs someone to clash with, someone to talk to about his game. They have already met a few times in Florida, so he knows what he is getting himself into. Murray clearly hasn't rushed into this decision and that is why I think it will work.
If Lendl can get that extra 10 percent out of Murray, that could be the difference between grand slam glory and failure. What better way to welcome in the New Year than with a new coach, fresh start, and maybe even a shiny trophy in Melbourne?
Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1