The Ice Man Coacheth: Ivan Lendl, Teacher of the Year
It has been said that behind every great man stands a great woman. It can also be said, in the arena of tennis, that behind every winner stands one—at least one—who champions him. That's certainly the case in the coach-player relationship between Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl in 2012. After so many disappointments, and with one hefty, no-longer-quiet monkey on his back, Murray buried the doubters by reaching the Wimbledon final, plastering Roger Federer to the baseline to win Olympic gold, and seizing his first Grand Slam singles title in New York City over year-end No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
What's aided him to no small effect is the steely Lendl. Everyone knows it. The New York Times' Naila-Jean Meyers writes, in a piece titled, "A Stoicism That Can't Be Cracked," that the Czech's demeanor has calmed as opposed to whelmed Murray: "A single clap. Andy Murray had just broken Novak Djokovic for the second time in the fifth set of the United States Open final, and all he got from his coach, Ivan Lendl, was one measly clap." Much is expected of one to whom much is given, certainly. Lendl wants a lot out of his younger charge, and quietly demands it even in the midst of Murray's many duels.
The reporters and editors of the Times are in the midst of harking back on the year in sports, as everyone is. The sole event in professional tennis that they have pulled out is Murray's "liberation"—or, perhaps better said, Lendl's liberation of Murray, in whom he has instilled scads of strategy, not the least of which has been a newfound desire in 2012 to go after his opponents.
Lendl would know something about that—he literally took shots directly at them. Watch as Lendl does to John McEnroe three decades ago:
Watch that video, regard Lendl's disposition—his calm, icy, even cruel demeanor about the episode—and just try to not see fellow Czech Tomas Berdych's visage written on Lendl's own countenance. Berdych remains one of the most explosive, wildly talented perennial Top 10 ATP stars, but he is considered a bad boy, even a poor sport, on the men's tour. Maybe he will yet rise above that tag in 2013. Maybe he also will be liberated, by himself or by another. As it stands, his compatriot Lendl has already meant salvation for Murray. We have learned once again that all things are possible.
—Jonathan Scott (@jonscott9)