Was the “Lendl effect” really behind Andy Murray’s Wimbledon 2016 win?

lendl
Photo Credit: The Sun

Let’s set the record straight. There’s no doubt that Ivan Lendl has played a significant part in the success of Andy Murray’s career. The stony-faced Czech helped the Scot to his first Grand Slam, an Olympic gold medal, and of course his historic 2013 Wimbledon victory. However, was it really the “Lendl effect [1]” which led to the world number two claiming his third Grand Slam title at the All England Club this year, or was it merely a coincidence?

Before being reacquainted with Lendl, Murray had enjoyed, by nearly anyone’s standards, a successful 2016. In the Australian Open, the Scot played great tennis, but again came up short against Novak Djokovic in the final.

Murray went on to have undoubtedly his best ever clay court season. Never before had the British number one looked so confident on the red dirt and his results proved this. Murray avenged a Madrid Open final defeat to Djokovic when he emerged victorious against the Serb in Rome.

The Scot further displayed his clay court credentials at Roland Garros, defeating the likes of Richard Gasquet and Stan Wawrinka before pushing Djokovic close in the final. Therefore it is clear Murray was a player in form before Lendl re-joined his team.

The other important factor to consider here is that, for what seems like the first time ever, Murray was given a favorable draw in a Grand Slam. Murray instantly became the favorite for the title at SW19 following Djokovic’s shock third round defeat. Add to that the absence of Nadal, Wawkrinka’s early exit, and Federer’s semifinal defeat, and it’s clear to see that Murray was the favorite to win his second Wimbledon crown no matter who was sitting in his player’s box.

Put simply, if you were to say Andy Murray could win a Grand Slam title by defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, and then Milos Raonic you would fancy him to do so every day of the week. Therefore surely it’s fair to say Murray’s victory at SW19 was mostly down to coincidence rather than the “Lendl effect.”

That’s not to say the Czech had no impact on Murray at all. There’s no denying the pair work well together and the World #2 finds it beneficial to have Lendl as part of his team.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Obviously I had the best years of my career with him. I obviously wanted to work with Ivan again to try to help me win these events. That’s the goal,” said Murray [2].

“It’s beneficial having Ivan there, for sure, because I trust him, have a lot of confidence in him. He can help when I am on the court a little bit, just his presence. It might be a small amount but every little bit helps. The pre-match stuff, the work that you do in preparation for the matches, is where you get the big benefit [3].”

Evidently Lendl has made a difference in Murray’s mind. So what impact has he had on the Scot’s game and was that the reason for his success at SW19?

The first would be that Lendl has a significant effect on improving the mental side of Murray’s game. It’s no secret that Murray is an explosive on-court character and has been guilty of losing focus as a result. Some would argue that Lendl’s presence means Murray is less likely to become frustrated during a match. They would perhaps point to the plethora of break points he passed up against Raonic in the Wimbledon final. Some would argue that without Lendl the Scot would have become exasperated at those missed chances and risked losing focus.

That said, Murray’s mental strength is one of his biggest assets and something he’s had to rely on throughout his career. Moreover, there were still plenty of occasions during this year’s Wimbledon where Murray lost his temper during matches. Would Murray have been less likely to win his matches were Mauresmo sitting in his box? It seems unlikely.

The second area of Murray’s game which benefits from Lendl is his forehand. When the two worked together between 2012 and 2014, Murray’s forehand had an average speed of 127km/h. That figure had dipped in years following Lendl’s departure to around 121km/h. It’s not just the speed, but the aggressiveness and the belief Murray has in his forehand side as a result.

There’s no arguing that the world number two’s forehand was in fine fettle at Wimbledon. Consequently he was able to neutralise the forehand of Raonic which had caused Federer so many problems in the semi-finals. Conversely, it can be argued that Murray’s game would have been too strong for the Canadian no matter what.

Time will tell what impact Lendl will have

In essence, of course Lendl has had an effect on Murray’s performances since their reunion. However, to say the Czech is the difference between a second Murray Wimbledon title and a ninth grand slam final defeat may be overselling it.

Murray played incredible tennis throughout the tournament. He would have been difficult to defeat no matter who was standing on the other side of the net. Whereas Lendl might not have been a driving factor behind Murray’s second Wimbledon triumph, he’ll certainly play a big part in the Scotsman’s future success. We’re much more likely to see the full “Lendl effect” by the time the US Open rolls around. One thing’s for sure, Murray is a more dangerous on-court prospect when he has Lendl on his team for a prolonged period of time.

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