Lendl reunion proves a masterstroke for new number one Murray


"To Novak, this is his day," reflected a defeated Andy Murray as he could only stand and offer praise to Novak Djokovic, who had once again showcased his remarkable powers of recovery to come from a set down to win the French Open and complete a career Grand Slam.

Murray, having parted company with coach Amelie Mauresmo, had survived a succession of early scares and willed himself to the Roland Garros showpiece but, on that Sunday in south-west Paris, it looked again like being Djokovic's year.

The Briton's solution to solving the issue of how to derail Djokovic was to go back to what last worked, when he defeated the Serbian in grand slam finals at the US Open and Wimbledon, and link up once more with Ivan Lendl.

Now, with Murray standing at the top of the tennis world, having unseated an increasingly fallible Djokovic to become world number one following Milos Raonic' withdrawal from the semi-finals of the Paris Masters, it is a decision that appears a masterstroke.

There has not been much evidence of a change in approach from Murray, but what the Scot finally seems to have acquired is the ruthless streak that defined a career in which Lendl won eight grand slams despite being regularly pitted against greats such as Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander and Boris Becker.

Murray has lost just three matches since Lendl reassumed his position as part of the coaching team, winning Wimbledon for a second time and adding a second Olympic gold medal courtesy of a marathon victory over a resurgent Juan Martin del Potro in Rio.

Defeating Murray was already a daunting challenge but in recent times it has required epic efforts from Kei Nishikori and Del Potro, the duo having overcome him in five sets in the US Open and Davis Cup respectively, to complete the feat.

Marin Cilic - Djokovic's conqueror at the Paris Masters - is the only man to beat Murray in straight sets since Lendl's return and, for the most part, those who have dared to challenge him by winning a set or - in the case of Tomas Berdych - daring to take a seemingly comfortable lead in a tie-break, have received a devastating riposte.

His reactions to losses has been similarly impressive. Murray is unbeaten since Del Potro prevailed in a five-hour classic in September and has dropped just three sets in an outstanding run.

The vociferous self-criticism remains a prominent feature of Murray's game, along with the occasionally baffling shot selection and the odd dismal service game.

However, these deficiencies are minimised by Murray's laser-like focus and force of will, which perfectly complement an all-round game that is proving equal to Djokovic.

Where Djokovic has previously held the edge in his rivalry with Murray has been between the ears. The evidence suggests that is no longer the case, although Murray has not faced his long-time nemesis since his defeat at Roland Garros.

Djokovic's recent struggles have led him to enlist the services of a spiritual guru who specialises in long hugs, but that unconventional step has yielded little in terms of results, with Cilic following Roberto Bautista Agut in seeing him off in straights.

A mere glance at the 12-time grand slam champion's career suggests it will not be a prolonged slump and, though Murray will now likely head into the ATP World Tour Finals as the favourite, it would be no shock to see a reinvigorated Djokovic come the Australian Open.

The opening slam of the year is the one where Murray has consistently been unable to get over the line - falling in the final five times, with Djokovic the victor on four of those occasions.

But, after being officially confirmed as the best player in the world in the same city in which Djokovic enjoyed "his day" in June, and with the mindset that made Lendl such a formidable player instilled in him, Murray looks to finally be in position to get the Melbourne monkey off his back and move a step closer to a career Slam of his own.