At the end of his career the Hall of Fame champion held the record for the longest period ranked as world #1 at 270 weeks
Winner of eight Grand Slam titles and four times ITF world champion, Ivan Lendl dominated the ATP rankings for much of the 1980s. At the end of his career he was the player ranked number 1 for the highest number of weeks (270), beating the record previously held by Jimmy Connors: a result that would only be surpassed by Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.
His achievements include 94 tournaments won, plus a further 50 singles titles outside the ATP circuit, and 6 doubles titles. In 2001 he was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, celebrated along with the best tennis players of all time.
After over 30 years, Ivan is back at Wimbledon coaching Andy Murray (who is currently ranked as the top player in the world), and to unveil the new Superga Sport Lendl sneakers: the same model he wore to play and win countless matches during his legendary career.
What is the difference between today, when you are coaching a champion, and 30 years ago, when you were the champion?
There are so many things that are different that it is almost impossible to compare the different eras. When I played the racquets were different, the training was different, there were many more tournaments in the US. Today tennis is a global sport, the technology has changed the racquets and, maybe more importantly, the strings, the science behind fitness and nutrition is much more substantial. It is rather fascinating to see the changes.
Have you ever come up with a reason why the grass in Wimbledon did not bring you the same luck?
While I never won Wimbledon as a pro (I won the juniors), I did make the final twice and semifinals five times so my results were better than most people seem to think. However, grass was certainly not my best surface and I had to work harder on it than on other surfaces.
Your mother Olga Jenistova reached 2° place in Czechoslovakia's national ranks. Your father also played professional tennis. Do you think your fate was laid out? Is it a question of genes?
I was fortunate to be able to go the the tennis courts with my parents from an early age and really learned to love tennis. Had my parents not played, I am not sure if I ever would have been introduced to the sport.
Your extensive career was marked by your rivalry with John McEnroe, high-voltage matches that kept spectators glued to their seats. What match will you never forget, and why?
John and I came from such different backgrounds and had very different approaches to the game so that when we played it brought out a lot of things that had little to do with tennis. It made for some really good drama when we played. We played so many times that other than the 1984 French Open, it is hard to pick just a couple but it was a good rivalry and I think it was good for tennis.
In the early 80s you played and won Davis Cup in Superga shoes. Can you tell us how a Czech tennis player came to work with an Italian brand?
I was introduced to Superga by Pierro Ratti and we were able to begin a relationship that seemed to be good for everyone.
How did you get back in contact with Superga?
The new ownership of the Superga brand contacted me to see if I would be interested in working with them. The company had always been good to me and I thought it sounded like a great idea.
In 1994 you retired from tennis. You were just 34. Why?
I had hurt my back and really couldn't play any longer because my back would start to spasm during matches and I wasn't able to finish the match. It just got to a point where it did not make sense to keep playing..
What does Ivan Lendl do at the moment, when he is not coaching the champions of the 3rd millenium?
In addition to working with Andy, I work with the USTA junior development program which I really enjoy. Working with the kids is an interesting challenge to see how we can get them to improve and grow as players and people. We have six kids in our group and I work with them about 10 weeks a year. Off the court, I try to play as much golf as I can.
What are your passions?
In addition to spending time with my family, my greatest passion is golf. I play as often as my schedule will allow and play as many tournaments as I can. I love the opportunity to compete in golf at practically any level. It is a lot of fun for me. I also love ice hockey and cycling, both of which I watch as often as I can.
Who was the best tennis player you ever met on the courts?
I played against a lot of great players during my career… some at the end of their career and some at the beginning… so it is hard to pick one. But I think I played during a great era for men's tennis.
Who is currently your favourite tennis player?
I would say that I don't have a favorite other than Andy who is great to work with. I enjoy watching today's players as the field has become so deep and the talent is at such a high level. The guys have to work hard every match so it makes it fun to watch.
Who is the best tennis player of all time?
I would say Rod Laver and Roger Federer but keeping in mind that it is really hard to compare players from different eras.
How does it feel after over 30 years to wear your Superga shoes again?
Great! I always have had good memories of the years in which I wore Superga and it is a huge honor for me that they are bringing back the shoe and that it will carry my signature. It is very exciting for me.
Have you often worn Superga off the tennis court?
It is the only shoe I wear now!