You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Sir Andy Murray: I need Ivan Lendl if I am to stay as world No 1

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 15/01/2017

© Rex On the eve of his first major tournament as top seed, Andy Murray has revealed how essential Ivan Lendl is to his plans of consolidating the world No 1 ranking.

Murray – who is aiming to land his first Australian Open after five runner-up finishes – relies heavily on seven-time slam champion Lendl, who returned to his support staff for a second spell last summer.

In this case, Lendl’s own record of staving off the competition for almost three years in the late 1980s is directly relevant to Murray, who is likely to face a renewed challenge now that Novak Djokovic – who has beaten him in four of those final defeats here – is recovering his mojo. The two are scheduled to clash in the final a fortnight tomorrow.

Murray is due to open his campaign against the little-known Ukrainian Illya Marchenko tomorrow. But while a first-round win should be a formality, he knows that he must keep improving if he is to stay ahead of Djokovic and the rest of the chasing pack.

“I do think it is a mindset thing,” said Murray, “because it could be quite easy that once you get to No 1 you think, 'Well, actually, I just need to keep doing what I’m doing’.

“The reality is, in sport, that things keep moving on. I’ll get older, the young guys will continue to improve, and also Novak and Roger [Federer] and Stan [Wawrinka] and Rafa [Nadal] and all the guys at the top are still going to be wanting to get there [to No 1].

“So that’s why having someone like Ivan on my team who has been in that position before and knows what that’s like has been important. I need to continue to improve.

“I don’t think that necessarily means working harder than I have in the past, but just having the mindset that I need to keep getting better. Any weaknesses that are in my game, I’ll try to get rid of them.”

Having endured a horribly stressful fortnight at last year’s Australian Open, Murray sounds contrastingly relaxed and sanguine as he returns to a tournament where he has suffered such crushing disappointment.

What a contrast to 2016, when his wife Kim was only a few weeks away from delivering their first child when he flew out to Melbourne. The stress level then mounted even further when his father-in-law, Nigel Sears – who was coaching Ana Ivanovic at the time – collapsed at courtside and was rushed to hospital.

“There were times where I was thinking, 'I want to go home’,” Murray recalled. “I wanted to be at home for the birth, but then I’m not just going to leave while my father-in-law is in hospital.

“It [leaving Australia early] was something that was talked about a lot, especially the second week of the event. It was tough, and certainly not a position I would want to put myself in again, or my wife, or any of my family really.”

The Murrays’ baby daughter, Sophia, is approaching her first birthday and her presence has had a talismanic effect, not only transforming her father’s personal life but improving his results too.

“If you’d asked me last year, I certainly didn’t expect to be coming back to Melbourne as world No 1,” Murray said. “Becoming a parent, you never know till it happens to you but I did expect it to be pretty big and it has had a big impact on my career.”

Murray will lead a strong British contingent this week that also includes Johanna Konta – who won the Sydney International on Friday – as well as the fast-improving Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans.

Yet his concerns about the wider state of British tennis – and particularly the policies of the Lawn Tennis Association – have not been resolved.

Murray never saw eye to eye with Michael Downey, who announced on Thursday that he was to quit as LTA chief executive and return to his native Canada. “I wasn’t really surprised,” said Murray. “In terms of him moving back to Canada, I don’t think many people expected it to go longer than the term that he was signed up for. It’s disappointing, because it’s just another change for British tennis. Someone new will come in with a different direction for another three, four years, then it will change again.

“Whoever is appointed, I just think they have to have a 100 per cent commitment to British tennis. They [the LTA] need someone that’s going to be in it for the long haul.”

More from The Telegraph

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon