Ivan Lendl joins Team Zverev (photos)

NEW YORK – There some hints about this, notably when photos surfaced of Ivan Lendl working with Alexander Zverev for a week down at his Florida home last month.

But even last week in Cincinnati Zverev, while complimentary towards Lendl and his wealth of knowledge, said he wasn’t planning any changes to his team. At least not “right now”, but possibly down the road, he said.

It seems the future for Zverev is … right now.

The new collaboration with Lendl became official Tuesday when Zverev posted it on Instagram.

The two-time coach of Andy Murray has joined Zverev’s team, complementing his regular coach, father Alexander Sr.

Nothing from Lendl directly. But his business associate Jerry Solomon passed this along.

The former champion had said “no” to fellow Czech Tomas Berdych, when Berdych solicited his help a couple of years ago.

Perhaps with Zverev, still just 21, he felt he could have more of an impact.

Or the money was right. Or both.

Lendl sits his way through practice

It doesn’t appear as though Lendl, who is 58, is starting this new collaboration in the best of health.

Throughout Zverev’s hit with Evgeny Donskoy of Russia in the brand-new Louis Armstrong Stadium, he sat – literally, about 99 per cent of the time.

Best guess, from the way he was carefully sitting down: his back was acting up on him (back woes were what essentially ended his career).

Here’s what it looked like.

(Zverev may well have been the first player to officially hit a ball out of the new stadium. He wasn’t in a particularly cheery mood. And Donskoy – who has a wise old sage as a coach in Boris Sobkin – was playing very well).

Lendl wasn’t shy about getting right in Zverev’s face. But it doesn’t seem as though the kid is quite invested in this yet. Or perhaps he’s still a little intimidated. He rarely made eye contact with his new mentor.

Zverev Sr. and Lendl are very close in age – Lendl is actually six weeks younger. Both were born in 1960. They never met on the tennis court, though.

Their official weights when they were players are still listed on their ATP Tour bios. Lendl is at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds; Zverev Sr. at 6-foot-1 and 177 pounds. But there have been a few good meals since then. 🙂

Lendl

Can Lendl help Zverev get over the “hump” that’s been created by the weight of expectations, and make a big-time move at a Slam with Lendl by his side?

It worked for Murray. Although the Scott is a completely different human being.

Zverev tried a similar sort of thing with another former No. 1, Juan Carlos Ferrero, a year ago. That one didn’t last very long and ended with Ferrero levying some pointed criticism Zverev’s way.

Perhaps Lendl has the gravitas and stature (and being from the exact same generation as his father can’t hurt) to get his messages across clearly.

Divorce is final for Murray and Lendl

They broke up once before. They couldn’t quit each other.

But this time, it seems permanent.

After a season during which Andy Murray struggled with a hip injury, he and mentor Ivan Lendl have called it a day – again.

“I’m thankful to Ivan for all his help and guidance over the years, we’ve had great success and learned a lot as a team. My focus now is on getting ready for Australia with the team I have in place and getting back to competing,” Murray said in a statement Friday.

The pair had first hooked up in December 2011, and they lasted until the spring of 2014 – just before the Miami event – through Murray’s rehab from back surgery late in 2013.

Murray was the innovator in the “former top player as mentor to add that little one or two per cent” coaching system. Many players, including Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic, followed in his path.

Murray and Lendl on the practice court at the Australian Open, during their first go-round. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

And it seemed to work. With Lendl by his side, Murray won his first major at the 2012 US Open. He also won an Olympic gold medal in London, and finally broke the British men’s curse at Wimbledon with his title in 2013.

Another breakup, another rehab

At the time, Murray wanted more weeks than the busy Lendl was ready to commit to. And in the last six months of their relationship, the focus was more on Murray getting back to 100 per cent after the back surgery than anything else.

There are some similarities to Murray’s current situation. 

Full Team Murray during a practice session on Court Suzanne Lenglen before the start of this year’s French Open. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

He hasn’t played since Wimbledon. And again, the focus over the last few months – and the months to come – will be on getting his chronically-ailing hip back to where he can play his best tennis again.

As well, Murray is now 30, a father of two and an experienced competitor who has those majors and the No. 1 ranking on his resumé. With coach Jamie Delgado on board on a daily basis, he has a good-enough team around him for the foreseeable future.

Truth: there’s not a whole lot Lendl can even do for him, at the moment.

Murray plans to return to the tour in early January at the Brisbane event, leading up to the Australian Open.