Novak Djokovic has welcomed Ivan Lendl’s return to top-level tennis but downplayed his role in Andy Murray’s latest run to a grand slam semi-final.
Djokovic and British No 1 Murray were meeting in the last four of the Australian Open this morning – the fifth major in a row the Scot has reached this stage – in a repeat of the final in Melbourne 12 months ago which the Serbian won convincingly.
That sobering defeat – and the two in grand slam finals which preceded it – prompted Murray to appoint Lendl as coach at the turn of the year.
The world No 4 views the 51-year-old Czech as a kindred spirit as he reached four finals before landing his maiden grand slam crown at the 1984 French Open. He went on to win seven more.
While Djokovic believes the partnership will prove beneficial for Murray in the long-term, he has yet to see any major changes in his game.
“From my perspective, it’s good to see a legend, one of the greatest players ever to play the game, being around the tour again,” he said.
“But I don’t know how much it has affected Andy.
“They haven’t had that much time to work on things.
“But I guess him winning the title in Brisbane and reaching the semi-finals here says the match is good.”
Murray is bidding to reach his third successive Australian Open final and is regarded as one of the quicker starters at the beginning of an ATP season.
“He’s always been successful in Australia,” added Djokovic.
“He has always been very fit and committed and he proves that over and over again.
“I guess the effect of Lendl being part of his team will be felt in time to come.”
Last year’s final in Melbourne marked the start of an an incredible year for Djokovic – he went on to become world No 1 and win Wimbledon and the US Open. Murray was left to deal with more criticism and questions over his mental fragility.
But the 24-year-old from Dunblane is relishing the chance to put the record straight.
“I’ve always liked playing him and after the year he had, the loss didn’t look so bad six months later,” said Murray.
“But I am happy I have the chance to play him again. It will be a good marker to see how I’ve improved since last year.”
Murray is hoping his record of going deep in the majors will stand him in good stead.
“I definitely have more experience than I did at this point last year,” he added. “I don’t necessarily feel more relaxed but I am more used to being in this position because of my experience.”
Much has been made of Murray’s relatively straightforward passage to the semi-finals with his last two opponents struggling to overcome the exertions of previous rounds but he has spent just eight fewer minutes on court than Djokovic.
That said, Djokovic looked far from comfortable in his quarter-final with David Ferrer as he struggled with a long-standing sinus problem which left him struggling to breathe.
Murray, on the other hand, claims to be in great shape.
He added: “I haven’t played over two hours for the last few matches so I feel fresh.
“Hopefully, that will be to my advantage going into the weekend.
“I will have to play a lot of rallies against the guys that are still left in the tournament so I’ll need my legs to be fresh for the next couple of matches.”
The winner of today’s encounter will face Rafael Nadal, who reached his fourth consecutive grand slam final after overcoming an early onslaught from Roger Federer to again beat his old foe in the first semi-final yesterday.
Federer came out firing but Nadal gradually wore him down to clinch a 6-7 (5/7) 6-2 7-6 (7/5) 6-4 win in three hours and 42 minutes and secure his place in Sunday night’s title decider.