Ivan Lendl lost two consecutive finals at Wimbledon.
His pupil Andy Murray did not.
For Ivan Lendl – Wimbledon was the one that got away.
The former world number one won eight majors over a 15-year playing career, but never got to caress the most beautiful tennis prize of them all.
I just think for him, obviously ideally he would have won it himself, but I think this was the next best thing for him
On Sunday July 7 – let’s hope he gave it a little pat.
Because on Sunday – Murray lay some of his coach’s demons to rest by avoiding another Centre Court defeat - in a way he could never muster – to become the first man to win Wimbledon in 77 years.
Murray smashed Lendl’s pattern of two consecutive Wimbledon defeats to pieces - thrashing Novak Djokovic in hot conditions in front of thousands of doting fans.
Czech-born Lendl has clearly not let the ghost of Wimbledon haunt him out of the All Lawn Tennis Club.
His decision to take on Britain’s Andy Murray – a nation’s best hope at winning the ultimate prize - ensured Lendl and Centre Court would come face to face again. This time Lendl left Wimbledon a winner.
It was a victory that put a smile on the face of a coach who rarely smiles.
“I just think for him, obviously ideally he would have won it himself, but I think this was the next best thing for him,” Murray told the press in his post-match conference.
The press laughed, misreading the Scotsman’s intonation for jest.
“I'm saying it seriously,” said Murray.
This time Murray was being serious, deadly serious.
Whether it was to prove a point against the tournament or his passion for coaching Murray, Lendl was fuelled by an intense desire to conquer Wimbledon.
After Murray held the trophy aloft to British fans, he dedicated it to his coach. This was a joint victory. Not between the crowd and Murray, but between Murray and his master.
“I think he believed in me when a lot of people didn't. He stuck by me through some tough losses the last couple of years. He's been very patient with me. I'm just happy I managed to do it for him.”
Murray will rightly take the plaudits, but it seems Lendl has taught him how to win.
“Last year after the final he told me he was proud of the way I played because I went for it when I had chances. It was the first time I played a match in a Grand Slam final like that.”
“He's got my mentality slightly different going into those sort of matches.”
Murray has blossomed under Lendl – who became his coach at the start of 2012 after a string of disappointing results.
It didn’t take long for Lendl to jumpstart the Scot’s motor.
Just eight months later Murray won an Olympic gold with victory over Roger Federer, and a month after that his first grand slam at the U.S. Open. In eighteen months, Murray has reached four grand slam finals under the tutelage of his new coach.
The Scotsman's success under Lendl may be more than just a meeting of tactics, but a meeting of minds.
“You know, he doesn't smile in public too much, but when he's away from the crowds and the cameras he's a very different character,” said Murray.
An interesting comment since it sounds a lot like Murray himself.
United by failing to win their first four grand slam finals and a clear dedication to their sport - these men have a lot in common, away from the cameras funny and engaging, in front of them disinterested and bored.
Tennis has long been considered an individual sport but Murray and Lendl are making it look a lot more like a team pursuit. Would it be naff to call them the Barcelona of tennis? Yes it would.
But this team is beginning to look unstoppable, and one that Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer should be pretty fearful of. A Wimbledon champion coached by a multi-grand slam winner is a pretty potent combination.
The champagne is likely to have flowed on Sunday – and perhaps whilst taking a sup Lendl gazed at that trophy and saw his Wimbledon ghost float out the door.
Or, more likely, he felt a surge of envy run through his veins.
This is the passion that makes him a force to be reckoned with.
How wise of Murray to have made him his closest ally.
Joanna Tilley is a freelance journalist working with Al Jazeera on the Sport website and reporting from the Wimbledon Championships.
Follow her on Twitter (@joannatilley) or her website, http://mythoughtonsport.blogspot.com
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Source: Al Jazeera