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Ivan the enigmatic knows exactly what it takes to help Scot hit the heights

By Ian Herbert

Published 11/07/2016

Rare sight: Andy Murray's coach Ivan Lendl isn't fond of showing emotion
Rare sight: Andy Murray's coach Ivan Lendl isn't fond of showing emotion

For the real sense of how the Wimbledon men's singles final was won by a man with ice in his veins, then you needed to train your eyes on the Andy Murray box.

The cameras have been fixated with that spot for years, of course, because of the fist-shaking Judy Murray and the lip reading possibilities presented by Andy's wife Kim - but it was brooding Ivan Lendl who telegraphed the story on yesterday's golden afternoon.

You imagined that the experience of sitting across the stairwell from Lendl must have been uncomfortable for Murray's mother, as he did not once venture to speak to her until it was all over.

She and the rest of the entourage regularly clambered to their feet in momentary euphoria. He remained steadfastly rooted to his seat.

When he did finally stand up, at the end of the second set, it was to leave the court entirely. Murray would have been gratified to see that he did eventually return to his place.

Intermittently, Lendl summoned some applause for his man - once, when Murray prepared to serve at 2-3 in the first set and glanced up for encouragement. Again, on each of the four occasions the cross court back hand weapon which served Murray so very well.

Otherwise, Lendl fiddled with a hair on his wrist, pulled down his cap and stretched out his hands on the commentary box roof in front of him. That would be the same commentary box in which his old adversary John McEnroe - a member of Milos Raonic's coaching team - was calling the game for the American TV audience.

Where the coaching was concerned, it was Murray's man who seemed to be earning his money.

It is the need to be "ruthless" and to cut out the extraneous words and emotions which Murray says Lendl has always taught him about and it sounds like the Czech is little less than a sociopath when the mood takes him.

"Why use 50 words when you can use two?" Lendl tells him. If he wants his rallying partner to move to the backhand position, "other side" is all that's needed by way of command.

It was this spare, uncomplicated approach that Murray needed when the moment arrived because there was a vast and uncomfortable sense of expectation, which drifted into the realms of complacency in SW19.

There were no union flags on Centre Court. No silly hats, beside the one made out of tabloid newspaper pages which got caught on the breeze, landing at Raonic's feet at break point down in the third game of the match.

No 'Come on Tim'. Just the occasional pop of a champagne cork and the sight of David Cameron, glumly tapping messages into his phone in the Royal Box. That Murray (below) would win was not a matter of hope but of expectation, when losing on such occasions had in fact actually become pathological for him.

Only two men in the Open Era have lost more Grand Slam finals than Murray - one of them, very significantly, being Lendl.

To be challenged by the Raonic serve is not ideal when you want to find your measure. There was a moment in the match's third game when Murray, disorientated by the power and kick, just placed out his racket, head pointing skywards, and tried to paddle it back.

On his own serve, the breeze drifting across the court forced him to abandon three ball tosses in the fourth game. Murray's 92mph second serve looked inadequate in that game and Raonic punished it brutally.

But what we then began to see was the uncluttered mind Lendl has engendered in Murray. Not a picture of happiness, perhaps, but something sedate.

Two Grand Slam titles were the outcome the last time they worked together. We are witnessing the same in a second working relationship during which Murray has won 27 out of 29 games now.

There was a scream at the box when he converted the second of two break points, having fluffed the first. But once that first set was put away, the outcome really did not look in any great doubt.

The Canadian drifted towards the net to offer variety and was passed. He stayed deep and was out-hit. We were deep into the third before Murray faced so much as a break point.

The emotional capital attached to this for the Briton was self evident when he had secured his second title.

Murray did not seem far away from tears as he buried his face in his towel, which is how this game gets you when you've been as close and lost as many at this stage as he has.

It was put to Murray that Lendl does not give much away on these occasions. "He's just lucky," Murray joked. They both smiled, knowing that the picture is far more complicated than that.

Belfast Telegraph

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