Australian Open 2018: Why Murray ditched Lendl (again)

Different directions - Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl
Different directions - Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl
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Ralph Ellis looks at the reasons for Andy Murray's latest change of coaching set-up and what it means for his Australian Open hopes.

"Murray is [9.8] to win in Melbourne which given his record of reaching five finals in the last eight years ought to be a fantastic bet. But not this time."

When it comes to job security, being Andy Murray's coach is right up there with working for Roman Abramovich. The last trophy means nothing, all that counts is what's coming next.

That in a nutshell is why Murray has chosen to dump Ivan Lendl from his plans for 2018 as he fights to continue his career despite the hip injury that has ruled him out for nearly six months.

Andy, or Sir Andy as we should call him, will be 31 in May and it would be the easiest thing in the world for him to call time on his tennis career. He's made history, he's been world number one, he's taken his talent as far as it could be stretched and then further.

But that's not enough. He still has a couple of boxes he wants to tick, starting with the Australian Open in January which remains the one Grand Slam he hasn't won but which he thinks he could do. (The French Open is also missing from his CV but he knows he's less likely to win on clay).

To get there he has to get his preparation exactly right, find the right mix of work and rest to nurse his hips into life, and listen to his body. He will need to be nursed, and Lendl, whose own spell of 270 weeks at world number one was driven by a brutal work regime, doesn't do nursing.

Murray is [9.8] to win in Melbourne which given his record of reaching five finals in the last eight years ought to be a fantastic bet. But not this time.

Those who watched his charity hit with Roger Federer a couple of weeks ago say he was still moving gingerly. To get from there to competing in the searing heat of Melbourne across the two weeks of a Grand Slam is a huge ask.

Murray has ditched Lendl because he feels he needs people by his side who are totally focused on him, and nobody else.

Lendl doesn't like travelling, does like playing golf every day, wants a seven-figure bonus for when Murray lifts a Grand Slam, and has a huge number of other commitments to various charity and youth tennis projects.

No doubt Murray recalls the last time he tried to come back from serious injury. He'd taken three months off after back surgery in September 2013, and Lendl tried to drive him through his normal gruelling pre-season. The result was he ran out of energy in Australia, and by the Spring the two had parted.

Next came Amelie Mauresmo who gently brought him back to world number two, before Lendl joined the camp again to help achieve the final step.

Now Murray is down to 16 in the world rankings, and could have fallen as low as 30 by the time the Australian Open draw is made. He knows he needs the same sort of close knit team around him.

As Jamie Delgado, who will step up now to be the only main coach, put it this weekend: "The first situation we need to achieve is to get him fully fit."

That could take months not weeks, and while Murray for Wimbledon at [7.0] looks a tempting long-range punt, Australia will come too soon, however many coaches he hires or fires.

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