Andy Murray’s growing pains

Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl at the U.S. Open in 2012, a sight we will see no more as the two have parted ways.

Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl at the U.S. Open in 2012, a sight we will see no more as the two have parted ways.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in – to borrow from Michael Corleone.

Just when I thought I could take a night off from blogging about men’s tennis, there’s big news:

Andy and Ivan the Terrible are splitsville.

Yes, Andy Murray and his coach, Ivan Lendl, have announced an amicable breakup. It says a lot about tennis – a sport in which “love” means nothing – that players and coaches announce their breakups as if they were married. No Lendl fan here – you can’t be a McEnroe fan and root for the dour, robotic Ivan – but give the guy credit. He was the Annie Sullivan to Andy’s Helen Keller. And by that I mean he did what great teachers/coaches do. He helped Andy unlock himself and cross the threshold. The proof is in Andy’s Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles along with his Olympic gold medal in singles at the London Games – huge considering the monkey that was on his back as a British citizen to bring home Wimbledon and Olympic victories. It was large enough to give him ulcers.

How many of Andy’s accomplishments were his own and how many were Ivan’s? They were Murray’s to be sure, but you gotta figure that Lendl gave him the single-mindedness he was famous for. Now Andy’s struggling. Don’t underestimate the role his recent back surgery has played in all of this. Back problems have stalled Rafa’s momentum. On the other hand, an end to back trouble has helped revive Feddy. Maybe Andy figured that while he’s playing his way back into shape, he should clean house as well, so to speak. But it does seem odd that he would break with the man who helped him break through.

It’s easy, of course, to judge from the outside, particularly where Andy is concerned. There’s the crying, the complaining, the getting down on himself, the face that’s a landscape of anguish. Yet against Novak Djokovic at Madison Square Garden on World Tennis Day, I saw a sweet young man – more shy than grouchy – who was happy to follow Nole’s lead, returned brilliantly and looked fetching in his teal outfit. I wish him well as he takes his game to the next plateau.