Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Wimbledon: Nasty, brutish and short - Murray wins the Lendl way

Well, that was impressive, the kind of performance that would have benefited from computer graphics to splatter the court in rivers of red. Never mind that Nikolay Davydenko was complicit in the butchery. The blade that cut him to pieces was in savage hands.

Up in the seats behind the scoreboard sat Andy Murray's coach, Ivan Lendl. He was dressed in sympathy with the brutality of the display; the shaven head, shades and bomber jacket conveying with some force the message that neither he nor Murray are mucking about.



It's the first round. Davydenko barely approximates to the top-five competitor he was, which somehow makes Murray's display even more substantial. He sensed weakness and cut him down. Nasty, brutish and short is how Thomas Hobbes characterised the doomsday scenario for man in his political opus Leviathan. Davydenko experienced in miniature the sporting equivalent of living in a state of perpetual war.



Was this not the attribute Lendl was hired to impart? Murray has every shot in the tennis manual and a few more besides. He has faltered not for the lack of a forehand down the line or sliced backhand but because he allows doubt to nobble him when confronted by those he fears most.



Paradoxically Wimbledon was the one anomaly Lendl himself could never crack. But he knew enough about winning elsewhere to offer Murray something that hitherto he has not acquired through experience alone. Scarily good, was how John McEnroe described the slaughter. Ninety minutes was all it took. It is as well that the rain intervened in mid-afternoon, buying half an hour of delay for the organisers who placed the Scot third on Centre Court, the peak television slot for viewers demanding the remote control from the kids on their arrival home.



Had Elena Baltacha taken any longer to get past Karin Knapp on Court 18, Murray's mother Judy, observing in her role as Britain's Fed Cup captain, might have missed the show. In victory, Murray looked skyward and raised two fingers to the sky. A clenched fist as he left the scene augmented the sense of relentless power he is cultivating.



"I've been itching to get going since Queen's [Club tournament]. I'm hitting the ball clean," Murray said in a brief post-match aside. His inquisitor was trying to get the "I can win it" line. Murray was having none of it. "It's a good start" was as much as he would offer.



Murray knows that hysteria is the ugly sister he could do without in the days ahead. Centre Court needs no encouragement to reach for the bunting. The hill behind is just warming up. Lendl shaped a career on emotional minimalism, and has clearly done a fine job on communicating that to Murray.



All the British audience wants to see is that outcomes match potential. They have been told for long enough how good Murray is. Three Grand Slam finals is a fair reflection of his gifts. Last night he hinted at what might be. But then again so have those he has to beat.



Wimbledon in figures

137 Speed in mph of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's fastest serve yesterday.



2002 Elena Baltacha's best run in SW19, reaching the third round.



74 Years since no Australian man reached the second round.



12 Aces by Laura Robson in loss to Francesca Schiavone.

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