Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home Sport Tennis

Wimbledon: Andy Murray feud is hotting up

By Paul Newman

Published 08/07/2016

Looking up: Andy Murray and coach Ivan Lendl train ahead of the semi-final clash with Tomas Berdych
Looking up: Andy Murray and coach Ivan Lendl train ahead of the semi-final clash with Tomas Berdych

When Andy Murray meets Tomas Berdych in the Wimbledon semi-final today, there could be more storylines to follow than in a whole week of 'EastEnders'. Just try these for starters.

Berdych is from the Czech Republic, which is the home country of Murray's coach, Ivan Lendl.

After Lendl's first spell coaching Murray ended two years ago, Berdych asked the seven-time Grand Slam champion to coach him. Lendl declined, saying he did not want to coach any more. However, when Murray asked Lendl to return to his entourage this summer, he agreed.

Then there is Dani Vallverdu, one of Murray's best and oldest friends, who was a long-term member of the Scot's coaching team. They parted company at the end of 2014, when Murray felt his entourage were not all pulling in the same direction.

Vallverdu had reportedly been disappointed by the Scot's failure to consult him before recruiting Amelie Mauresmo as his coach.

Within weeks Berdych appointed Vallverdu as his coach. Then guess who met in the semi-finals of the next Grand Slam tournament, at last year's Australian Open? Murray beat Berdych, but only after four emotionally-charged sets.

In the first set in particular, Murray kept shouting in the general direction of Berdych's player box, where Vallverdu was sitting.

The Scot also complained to the umpire about something Berdych said as the two men passed at a changeover, though the Czech later insisted that he had only been congratulating himself on winning the first set.

The tensions got to Murray's camp during the match. His wife, Kim Sears, who was then his fiancée, was caught on camera delivering a foul-mouthed rant in Berdych's direction. In the subsequent final she wore a t-shirt bearing the words 'Parental Advisory: Explicit Content'.

Murray now describes that time as "a really uncomfortable period". He explained: "Dani was someone I had known since I was 15. He was one of my best friends and in the press and the build-up to it, stuff was awkward.

"It adds a lot of tension to the situation. A Grand Slam semi-final is tense enough and when you throw that into the equation, it wasn't great.

"Obviously I could have possibly handled myself better in the match. Me and Tomas had always got on well for most of the time and the tension spilled over to my team and to my wife.

"That happens occasionally. I've seen it with other players over the years. I spoke to Tomas the day afterwards and apologised. We've been great since."

Murray added: "To be honest he has always been extremely nice. I've never had any issues with him away from the court. He's great."

Did Murray think his wife would be wearing her 'Explicit Content' t-shirt again for today's semi-final? "I hope not," he said.

Vallverdu, who developed a good relationship with Lendl when working as his assistant, parted company with Berdych two months ago. Was Murray therefore planning to speak to his old friend for some inside information?

"Dani and Ivan speak to each other all the time," Murray said. "I don't normally speak to Dani during tournaments unless we actually see each other when we are there. But Dani and Ivan speak all the time and obviously Tomas has spoken to Ivan a bunch when Tomas was trying to get him to work with him."

Had Murray ever asked Lendl why he turned down Berdych? "No I haven't but I probably will over the next few months," the Scot said.

"I think a number of guys have spoken to Ivan over the last couple of years and he obviously just didn't fancy it. I don't know what the reasons are and there's many things they go into, but Ivan is pretty open-minded.

"He wouldn't have gone into it thinking 'no chance'. He also did a few days' training with (Grigor) Dimitrov."

Did Murray have his own view as to why Lendl said yes to coaching him again after turning down the chance to work with Berdych?

"Maybe it's because we know how it went the last time," he said. "I don't want to say that it's less of a risk in a way, but because it went so well last time, now is just the right time.

"Ivan watched me a bit over the last few months and saw I was playing better. Physically I was doing well. I was in a tough place when we stopped. When I came back from my back surgery it was not an easy time, but he thought he could help and my game is going in the right direction. That's why I think he decided he wanted to do it again."

Berdych was asked what he felt about Lendl turning him down but then accepting Murray's offer.

"I approached Ivan when he stopped with Andy the first time," Berdych said.

"He basically said that he didn't have the time and he didn't want to be involved in tennis. Then he came back to Andy. So that's how it is. He's just another opponent for me. I'm just going to try to focus on my next match."

How about his relationship with Murray in the wake of what had happened in Melbourne? "That's it," Berdych said. "That happened. That's in the past. Otherwise it's absolutely fine."

What is also in the past - or so Murray hopes - is Berdych's hold over the World No.2 on the court. The 30-year-old Czech, who played in his only Grand Slam final when he lost to Rafael Nadal here in 2010, won six of his first 10 meetings with Murray, but has lost their last four encounters.

"When we played at the beginning of our careers he was much stronger physically than me," Murray said.

"He's a big strong guy and I maybe let him bully me a bit. The last few times I have played against him I feel I'm much better against him physically compared with a few years ago. Since the back surgery I have been playing more offensive tennis with variety and making it harder for him."

Berdych said: "Andy's been through some changes and different styles when he's playing. I think at the beginning he was a bit more defensive, just waiting for what the opponent was going to do. It was working pretty well for me. I was able to really dictate the game and play aggressive.

"Now he's become more aggressive, more creative on the court. He's always looking for how to improve, how to be better. I think that's the difference between him at the beginning of his career and now."

Belfast Telegraph

How to Complain

If you have a complaint about the editorial content of the Belfast Telegraph or Sunday Life then contact the Editor here. If you are not satisfied with the response provided then you can contact the Independent Press Standards Organisation here

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph