Can former stars win as coaches?


DOHA, Qatar -- At last week's Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, the hot topic of conversation was that Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg were joining Ivan Lendl in the coaches' corner.

The resounding opinion around Doha was that this new wave of former No. 1s turning up as coaches will enhance excitement on the tour. And while the tennis produced today is about as fine as any sport can hope for, the belief is that the return of past greats will add a fresh dimension to the game.

Andy Murray, who started the trend by hiring Lendl a couple of years ago, is in favor of Lendl's contemporaries coming out for the ride: "I think it's good for tennis. It's good for the players. I think it gives the sport a boost. I mean, when those guys played they played in great eras. They were all great players."

While world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who is loyal to the core to his uncle Toni Nadal -- he's been there since Nadal was a boy and there's no indication Toni won't be there when his nephew hits his last competitive ball as a pro -- isn't bringing back an old-time favorite, he supports others doing so.

"Talking about the tour, is true it's much better if you have big stars, past stars involved in our sport like Lendl, like Becker, like Edberg, that they will be around the tour much more often today because of their new status that they have," Nadal said. "That will be great news for our tour, our sport. So [I'm] happy to hear this news, because in the end, what makes the sports big is the combination of history and new events."

While many around the game are wondering how the voices like those of Becker and Edberg can change the games of their new charges, others think it's a tad silly to be focusing on that aspect of these new relationships. After all, how much tinkering does a top player and multiple-Grand Slam champion need to do?

What's actually more intriguing to contemplate is the dynamics of these new relationships. How do their personalities mesh?

Ivan Lendl and Andy Murray

The Lendl-Murray partnership is a proven success. They've been together since just prior to the start of the 2012 season, and since their union Murray's become a legitimate superstar, winning the 2012 U.S. Open title, the 2012 Olympic gold medal and the 2013 Wimbledon trophy.

Lendl and Murray actually have similar dry senses of humor and their brand of funny can often come at the expense of someone else. What Lendl brought to the equation was what Murray sorely needed: a no-nonsense, grown-up guy whose advice he couldn't just dismiss.

Prior to Lendl, Murray was a whiner, a guy in his 20s who complained and berated his mother from the court, which made many observers wince. Murray was stubborn to the core and confident he knew his game better than anyone else possibly could. When Lendl arrived on the scene, Murray started to toe the line.

Instead of whimpering to his friends' box, he focused his energy in a positive direction by thinking about how to turn a losing situation into a winning moment. No doubt the presence of the stern taskmaster Lendl sitting stone-faced at courtside was enough to keep Murray from throwing a tantrum.

Lendl's been a motivator and Murray's been capable of listening, which turns out to be a winning combination.

Boris Becker and Novak Djokovic

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