- Associated Press - Friday, January 13, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - Ivan Lendl rejected up to 10 offers in the 18 months before he was finally lured back to the tennis scene by the prospect of turning Andy Murray into a Grand Slam winner.

The eight-time major champion agreed in December to start coaching Murray, the 24-year-old Scot who has lost in three Grand Slam finals.

Since retiring in 1994, Lendl has spent much of his time on the golf course, and didn’t play another tennis match in public until a 2010 exhibition. He told the British media it was “unlikely” he would have returned to tennis for any player other than Murray.

“I’ve had between seven and 10 inquiries over the last 18 months, some more serious than others, but none was considered by me,” the 51-year-old Lendl said. “I see a guy who wants to win, a guy who wants to work hard.

“Obviously, I see the parallels between his career and my career and I want his career to end up like mine.”

Murray hasn’t won a set in his three Grand Slam finals, including the last two title matches at the Australian Open, which begins Monday. In his first major tournament since appointing Lendl, the fourth-seeded Murray will open against American teenager Ryan Harrison.

Lendl lost in four Grand Slam finals before winning the 1984 French Open at the age of 24, the same age as Murray is now. Lendl won seven more Grand Slam titles in a career spanning 16 years, although he never won Wimbledon despite twice reaching the final.

He was renowned for his near obsessive dedication to improving his game and his fitness, and said he saw something of that side of him in Murray.

“We have been through similar things, things I went through, he likes to work hard I like to work hard,” Lendl said. “I also admire his guts for hiring me because he had to know it would create a lot of interest.

“It would have been very easy just to hire someone, just another coach, and not get a high-profile person.”

Beyond the dedication to hard work, Lendl, often portrayed as a dour character during his playing career, said he and Murray had something else in common.

“Obviously, I really enjoy Andy’s sense of humor. Hopefully he enjoys mine,” said Lendl, who joined Murray for the first time last weekend at the Brisbane International. “We’ve had good laughs. I think it’s important that it’s not only work but fun as well.”

But Lendl said he was not underestimating the size of Murray’s task in winning a Grand Slam title during a particularly strong era for men’s tennis.

“Between Roger Federer with 16, Rafa Nadal with 10 and Djokovic with four, it’s very difficult to win majors,” Lendl said. “It makes it a much more difficult task for Andy.”