• What the Deuce

Funloving Murray finds a kindred spirit in Lendl

Jo Carter March 27, 2012
Andy Murray is fiercely competitive both on and off the tennis court © Getty Images

Few who have seen Andy Murray in action would argue he lacks the desire to win. But that hunger extends beyond the tennis court - table tennis, football, video games - you name it, Murray is fiercely competitive.

With his team of Jez Green, Matt Little and physio Andy Ireland, Murray is famed for his antics - spicing up training with challenges and forfeits, whether being forced to kiss the rest of the team's feet or wear women's clothing to dinner after losing a game of "football tennis".

In the past, Murray has been forced to take an ice bath without wearing shorts and has also been spotted wearing a cricket helmet on the practice court.

"Before the start of each game we decide what the forfeit's going to be," Murray previously explained. "When we play for small forfeits I lose the games more, because I don't concentrate as much.

"It doesn't bother me like when we play for push-ups and you have to kiss the other guy's toes. But if it's stuff like walking around all day with a cricket bat or if I have to get lunch for everyone, I concentrate a bit harder."

Murray admits he no longer plays football tennis as often as he used to, but revealed this week that he was lining up a challenge for new coach Ivan Lendl.

The Scot has arranged for him and Lendl to play British pair Ross Hutchins and Colin Fleming in a doubles match on clay, and although the punishment for the losers is yet to be agreed, Murray admitted making Lendl rollerblade into Wimbledon wearing white lycra was a possibility.

Prone to losing his temper on court, and perhaps due to a wariness of the media, Murray is often portrayed as sullen and dour, but as Murray has got used to life in the spotlight, his dry sense of humour and funloving character has begun to shine through.

Murray has developed a strong rapport with coach Ivan Lendl © Getty Images

The comparisons with Lendl are obvious - the Czech-born player fell in four grand slam finals before tasting major glory (Murray has lost three grand slam finals). Like Murray, Lendl was often accused of lacking charisma - his hunger to win concealed his personality.

But in Murray's recent revelations, it appears the Scot has found a kindred spirit in Lendl. Having spent the best part of 18 months without a full-time coach - Green, Little and Ireland forming Team Murray alongside best friend and hitting partner Dani Vallverdu, it was always going to be interesting to see how Murray dealt with the change in personnel.

The arrival of such a big name, and strong personality, as Lendl was always going to affect the team dynamic, but it appears very little has changed.

Ultimately, the success of Murray, and Lendl, will depend on results at the grand slams. But there is no doubting the work ethic in the camp - shortly after finding out that opponent Milos Raonic had withdrawn with an ankle injury, Murray was straight back out on the practice court.

They say genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. But it can't all be hard work, and it is clear to see when players have fallen out of love with tennis.

We've seen it with Rafael Nadal, with Serena Williams - if you are not enjoying the sport it shows. Spending so much time on the practice court, repeating the same drills and exercises week-in, week-out, can get repetitive. Each player is different, but keeping things fresh is surely one of the most important things for a coach.

Some may say that larking around in training is distracting, but injecting a sense of fun surely can't harm. That is, of course, as long as winning challenges remains secondary to winning on the tennis court.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk