The Ivan Lendl interview: The tennis ace was mocked and derided but he is smiling now

Paul Kimmage – The Sunday Times

Copyright The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times
May 24, 2009
A sweltering Saturday afternoon at Feather Sound Golf Club in Florida: he unfolds the small plastic chair he paid five bucks for in Walmart and plants himself at the back of the sixth green. “This is the life,” he sighs, “watching your kids play sport.” The clipped Czech accent hasn’t changed but the expression is unrecognisable. Ivan Lendl is beaming.
I have travelled from London to write a feature on Lendl and his five sporting daughters. Two of them, Isabelle, 18, and Daniela, 16, are golf prodigies and were playing this afternoon in a Future Collegians World Tour event at Feather Sound. The arrangement was that I would interview Lendl before the round and then follow him as he watched them play the 18 holes.
The walk was as enjoyable as any I have spent on a golf course but the interview wasn’t quite what we had planned. His girls are witty and lovely and brilliant but how do you spend a day with a tennis legend and ignore the quirks and traits that drove him to the top?
In the perfect world of Ivan Lendl there is no subjectivity. There are no politicians, no newspaper columnists, no grey areas. There are facts, box scores, black and white . . . his vision of a sports daily is something along the lines of France’s L’Equipe.
He merely wants to read that in the second minute of the third period a guy was penalised, the other team scored and it might have turned the hockey game. Please, no opinions. “I’m not interested in a psychological profile of the guy who took the penalty and what motivated him,” he says.” РGreg Garber, The Hartford Courant, 1993.
“So, you didn’t like reading profiles of other athletes,” I suggest.
“No.”
“Why?”
‚ÄúWell, you can call me sarcastic – and probably rightly so – because I know what was written about me and how much of it was wrong, or untrue, so I would read a profile of Jack Nicklaus and sit there, wondering, ‘Why am I reading this? How much of this is true?‚Äô So I grew rather hesitant to take information from that. I want the facts.‚Äù
“Has that changed? Are you interested now in other sportsmen and what drives them?”
“I am very happy to read question and answer. I am very happy to watch question and answer. I am not going to read or watch somebody’s opinion about something.”
“So you are still mistrustful of writers?”
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