"My focus is on the academy": A Q&A with Ivan Lendl
26 May 2011
However you look at it, Czech tennis great Ivan Lendl was among the game’s most dominant players in the 1980s and early ’90s. His first No. 1 world ranking came in February 1983, and by the time he retired in 1994, he had held the top spot for 270 weeks throughout his career. After his retirement Lendl picked up professional golf — and won four times on the Celebrity Players Tour — but these days he’s back to tennis, playing on the Champions Tour with old rivals from his pro days. Monthly interviewed Lendl about his career and the announcement of his new Hilton Head Island tennis academy.
Q. What lesson are you most looking to pass along to today’s students?
A. I loved playing tennis and still do. If you love what you’re doing, you’ll probably work harder at itand enjoy it more.
Q. How do you feel about being referred to as the athlete who changed the way tennis was played? Did you set out to play a different game than the other players at the time?
A. I never set out to change anything; I just figured that to challenge the top players I had to train hard and be very disciplined. Other players (always) seem to pattern themselves after top players so I’m not really sure I had any more or less impact than top players at other times. But it’s nice to see that people recognize that I put a lot of work into my tennis.
Q. During your career you had a reputation for being unemotional and very serious. Were those accurate descriptions?
A. Well, I think that was more the impression of the American press, which may not have always understood me since I was from Eastern Europe and the communication was a little different then than it is now. If you ask some of the people that knew me well back then, they would say that I wasn’t always that serious!
Q. Have you spent much time on Hilton Head Island?
A. I like it very much. I’ve played golf and tennis there, and my kids have played in tournaments there as well.
Q. Will you be living on the island on a part-time or full-time basis once the fall session starts?
A. Since I’m playing events all over the world, I won’t be living on Hilton Head full-time. But I will be there often working. It’s important that I see the students’ games regularly and get on the court with them.
Q. How often do you play tennis these days?
A. Four to five days a week.
Q. Have you enjoyed returning to the game on the Champions Tour? Is it more fun now than it was when you were competing to stay at No. 1?
A. I really like playing the events with the guys I used to play the tour with; it gives us a chance to entertain the crowd in ways we couldn’t do when we were playing for major titles. I was just in Ecuador playing with Andres Gomez. We used to have great matches, and playing together in his hometown after all these years was a great experience.
Q. What’s your impression of today’s top pro tennis players?
A. I find the tennis today very interesting. With the new equipment, especially the strings, and modern fitness techniques, these guys can get to a lot of balls and do things with the ball that we couldn’t do.
Q. You certainly had an incredible career. When you look back, do you have any regrets or favorite memories?
A. It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, but it seems like a lifetime ago. I’m not really a guy who lives in the past, so now my focus is on the academy and how to help develop kids, help them follow their dream and maybe have a world champion develop from our program.
Photo / Tom Briglia