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Murray must get more of Lendl's time, says Becker

 

By Tom Allnutt

Boris Becker has suggested Andy Murray could have avoided his dramatic dip in form had his coach Ivan Lendl spent more time with the World No.1.

Lendl was by Murray's side at the Australian Open in January, but it was not until last Sunday that they reunited, with the French Open starting in Paris over the weekend.

The pair's arrangement is such that Lendl tends only to come to the major events, leaving Murray's full-time coach Jamie Delgado to run sessions.

Murray - who is battling to make the French Open after being struck down by yet another illness - ended 2016 as World No.1 after winning five titles in a row, but exited the Australian Open in the last 16 and has failed to go past the third round in four of his six tournaments since.

Becker, whose own highly successful partnership with Novak Djokovic ended in December, has questioned whether Lendl gives enough time to his charge.

"Am I surprised he hasn't been around more? A little bit," Becker said. "When I was first asked to work for Novak, the original idea was the Grand Slams only and I said, 'I don't think that is possible. I have to see you more to know where you are. I have to know the ups and downs and really get to know you in lesser tournaments'.

"So I told him, 'I have to be with you more'. But that is their arrangement. That is what worked last year, that was part of the deal. But I think, if both were honest, the gap between Melbourne and the French was a little long."

Djokovic is hoping to spark a resurgence of his own by joining forces with eight-time Major champion Andre Agassi during the French Open.

Agassi's task will be to rejuvenate the Serbian, who three weeks ago parted ways with his entire coaching team following a hugely disappointing 11 months.

"We're still close, we still talk a lot. I heard the name Agassi for a while and I think it's a good choice," Becker said.

"Andre's tennis expertise are second to none and I think their personalities would fit."

Just as Djokovic failed to maintain his level after completing a career Grand Slam at Roland Garros last year, Murray has admitted to a drop in motivation since climbing to the top of the world rankings.

"It is tough for these guys. They have a week or two to celebrate and then they have to go off to training camp. No other sport has that," Becker said.

"Obviously clay is not his best surface, but I hope he is going to win at least a couple of matches just to be ready for the grass. That is his signature, Queen's and Wimbledon, but it all starts with the first round in Paris."

Rafael Nadal's excellent clay-court season makes him the favourite in France, but Murray cannot be written off.

"Maybe less expectation will help him," Becker said. "I have done a round of interviews two days ago and there was not one question about Andy Murray. I said, 'Come on, you have not asked me about the No.1 player in the world'. That is strange."

Heather Watson, meanwhile, is one match away from qualifying for the French Open after beating Tereza Smitkova in Paris.

The British No.2 trailed 4-1 in the second set and was then broken serving for the match, but recovered to win 6-4 7-6 (7-3).

In the final qualifying round today, Watson will take on fourth seed Richel Hogenkamp.

The Dutchwoman won their only previous meeting last year and is ranked 13 places higher than Watson at 105.

Belfast Telegraph

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