What changed for Murray After Winning Paris Masters?



We have to go back to New Year's Eve 2011 to understand where it all started to change for the Scot.

I was in Sydney preparing to cover the Australian Open when the surprise news broke. 'Andy Murray appoints Ivan Lendl as coach'.

Murray was yet to start the partnership when I sat down to interview him at the Brisbane International and was he probably unsure as to how things would work out, insisting it would take time to see a change.

He also outlined his target of becoming world No 1 in that same conversation. Little did he know it would take nearly five years for that to be realised.

His doubts were understandable though. The Czech's appointment represented his seventh change in coach in as many years, while the benefits were indeed slow to arrive, with a title drought running from his first event of the year in Brisbane through to August as the No 1 dream slipped away.

However, it felt like this was a partnership Murray was determined to make work. This was a partnership Murray needed to work.

It was a rational fit, with Murray's career replicating much of what Lendl had been through, with the pair both losing their first four major finals. Lendl went on to win eight Grand Slams, Murray wanted just one.

While his withdrawn and curious character hardly seemed suitable for coaching, it was to become clear that it was ideal for Murray, with his emotionless persona from the box proving a calming influence on the irritable Brit.

Ironically under the stone-cold Lendl, who was supposed to be the difference in the key moments, it was Murray's first-set Wimbledon lead over Federer ending in tears which broke down another important barrier.

In his corner he now not only had a man who personified how he could still go on to be a great champion but also the British public. 

If the Scot had warmed the hearts at SW19, he stole them with his triumph at the London Olympics, beating Roger Federer to claim the singles gold and teaming up with Laura Robson to land silver in the mixed doubles.

While the success itself was hugely momentous, the nature of his straight-set wins over Djokovic in the semis and then Federer was hugely significant, with Murray reaping the benefits of an aggressive approach on Centre Court.

This insistence to dominate with the forehand was perhaps the most important factor of Lendl's influence, with his average speed from the stroke increasing from 117kph to 123kph.

Then came the US Open, where he utilised the momentum of the Olympics to end his long, agonising wait for a first major crown. A two-set lead dissolved in the final against Djokovic but he wasn't letting this one go, with a deciding-set triumph prompting tears of a different kind.

The 2013 Wimbledon title muted doubts over the Scot's position in the 'Big Four', but the challenge of reaching the very top of the rankings was to involve further patience.

Djokovic had really announced himself as the new leader of the pack in 2011 with one of the most exceptional campaigns ever seen on tour, but he really pulled clear of the rest after winning the 2014 Wimbledon crown.

Murray, meanwhile, struggled to regain ground after back surgery in 2013, while the end of his partnership with Lendl in 2014 was followed by another drought in major success.

That's not to say his improvements were halted, however, with important progress made on the clay, without which the No 1 dream would never have been realised.

He has racked up 3,160 ranking points on his once-least-favoured surface this year, having collected 2,060 last season and just 1,170 in 2014.

This year's success on the red dirt was made without Lendl, but something was still missing, with a maiden triumph in Rome representing Murray's only 2016 title, allowing Djokovic to pull over 8,000 points clear in the rankings.

Lendl returned to oversee another title at Queen's and a second Wimbledon crown, seeing Murray start to make up ground on Djokovic, but it seemed as if the rankings race was far from his mind when he opted to miss the Cincinnati Masters to focus on the Olympics, which no longer carried ranking-points rewards.

However, amid Djokovic's faltering form, the Scot sensed the chance to make his move, claiming four successive titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris to move into pole position ahead of the World Tour Finals.

But should we really place credit on the shoulders of Lendl for this glory? After all, he was not even present for the autumn winning streak, with Jamie Delgado the full-time coach.

It was interesting to note Murray made a point of thanking his year-round companion after being confirmed as No 1, while he's also recently spoken of his lack of contact with the Czech during his absence.

The immensely-committed and self-sacrificing 29-year-old might even take it as a slight to suggest that the barely-present Lendl has had such an important influence on his success.

It's impossible to ignore the fact that his US Open title, two Wimbledon crowns, two Olympic golds and the world No 1 status have all come during their partnership.

The eight-time Grand Slam winner has given his player an edge in the crucial moments, a belief that regardless of previous failures he has the ability to deliver in the crucial moments.

Murray, Delgado, previous coaches and his support network deserve enormous credit for their work, but the curious Czech will understandably credited for the evolution from underachiever to the very best.

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