The Tennis Space: People of Influence:
Number 18: Ivan Lendl.
Sphere of influence: Entire tennis world and the hopes of a nation.
Lendl was the East’s antidote to the West’s John McEnroe. A steely-eyed machine who would grind down opponents with his power, spin and superior fitness. Born in what was then Czechoslovakia, Lendl came through at the same time as Martina Navratilova and along with hastening the downfall of McEnroe as a real grand slam force, he set new standards for fitness and nutrition within the sport. He topped the rankings for 270 weeks, won 94 singles titles and was only denied a career grand slam by two defeats in the final at Wimbledon.
What he’s doing:
Having been virtually invisible in the tennis world after his retirement in 1994, Lendl burst back into the limelight in late 2011 when he was announced as the new coach of Britain’s Andy Murray, the world number four. It was always going to take a big challenge to bring Lendl back into the fold but what could be a bigger task than helping Britain to have its first male grand slam singles champion since the 1930s? As a coach, Lendl is unproven so far, but his influence on Murray has already been clear to see with Murray more focused and driven than ever before. When Lendl speaks, people listen, but if Murray wins a slam, a nation will be forever grateful.
Did you know?
After quitting tennis, he took up golf, tried to become a professional and came pretty close, playing in a couple of Czech Opens but missing the cut both times. He still plays a lot but also introduced his daughters to the sport, three of whom are on their respective university teams. Having been a right-handed tennis player, Lendl plays golf left-handed. Something to do with ice hockey, apparently.