© Ella Ling

Ivan Lendl has said he wants to take some of the pressure off Andy Murray

Ivan Lendl the unlikely philanthropist

   

In the five and a half months that Andy Murray has been working with Ivan Lendl, one of the recurring themes has been how the two men have found something of a kindred spirit in each other, at least in terms of their sense of humour. Murray would doubtless have enjoyed Lendl’s suggestion that Wimbledon might try painting the grass-courts pink, to outshine Madrid’s blue clay. And Lendl would have surely allowed himself a smile if he read Murray’s tongue-in-cheek Tweet saying he had arrived in Rome and the red clay there was “horrible”.

Their sense of humour is not exactly alike – Lendl can be more personal and cutting – but sarcasm is certainly something they share and that’s clearly a good thing as they try to build on a partnership that has begun well. It is still a work in progress but both men are committed to the end goal – making the world No 4 into a grand slam champion.

Lendl professionalism, fitness and attention to detail as a player were well known. His eight grand slam titles were the result of immense hard work, something Murray admires, and no one turned over more stones than Lendl as he outgunned players who, as he would be the first to admit, possessed more natural talent.

But it seems that Lendl is far from just a worker. In conversation this week with Greg Rusedski, the former British No 1, The Tennis Space learned that far from being the solitary, cold performer that many liked to portray him as, Lendl was actually more than generous with his time for up and coming players. As philanthropists go, Lendl might be towards the more unlikely end of the scale, but actions, in this case, speak louder than words.

“I played a few exhibitions with Ivan and Ivan actually helped me out a few times playing doubles when I was coming up, when I was 17,” Rusedski said.  “Ivan’s always been a good guy, he had (Pete) Sampras at his house to train, (Mark) Philippoussis at his house to train.

“I always had a good relationship with him because I was that much younger. I was never competition with Ivan because I was just a young 17-year-old coming up and he was getting nearer the end of his career. I wasn’t what you’d describe as a threat to his dominance.

“He worked very hard and he’d give you tips. He was very professional, from his racket to his nutrition to his training, whatever you’d do with Ivan, everything would have to be spot on, nothing would be left to chance. It’s nice of him that he would give back to the younger players. (Britain’s) Oliver Golding last year trained with Ivan at his academy the week before he won the US Open juniors. Ivan’s always been good like that. That’s not a side of him you’d see.”

Lendl was not a natural doubles player but a look back through his records will show that he played with an young Pete Sampras in 1991 and Todd Woodbridge in the same year (as well as Rusedski later on).

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Finally, just a belated word of congratulations to Melanie Oudin, the American who reached the quarter-finals of the US Open a few years ago only to seemingly fall off the face of the planet. Having slipped down the rankings (she is now at 270), Oudin made the bold decision to leave her long-time coach Brian De Villiers in October and is now working at the United States Tennis Association. A couple of good wins in low-level events suggested all is not lost and the 20-year-old has earned a wildcard into the French Open as part of the reciprocal agreement between the French and US Federations. Good to hear.