In his tennis Hall of Fame prime, many considered Ivan Lendl little than a robotic metronome.
Little did they really know the real phenom from the Czech Republic. Lendl is a constant jokester and story teller as he demonstrated again Monday at the 16th annual Hospital for Special Care Ivan Lendl Golf Classic at Wethersfield Country Club. The event has raised nearly $2 million for the care center in New Britain, whose motto is "We Build Lives" and includes an adaptive sports camp that will be held this year at St. Joseph's College in West Hartford on Aug. 8-12.
Lendl got involved with the fundraiser after meeting Jonathan Slifka of West Hartford, whose mother Janeace started the tournament after her son, who has spinal bifida, had been a March of Dimes poster child for the Hartford Whalers in the mid-1980s and then with Lendl in 1988.
After Slifka and his mother learned there were no wheelchair sports camps in the Northeast, Lendl lended a large helping hand. The first camp started in 1991, and then Lendl helped with a tennis fundraiser. After persistent back problems forced Lendl to retire in 1994 after winning 144 career titles, including eight Grand Slam events, the tournament became a golf fundraiser. Read more >>>
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FEBRUARY 28, 2011: SAMPRAS-AGASSI, MCENROE-LENDL RENEW RIVALRIES
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ATP WORLD TOUR'S "UNCOVERED" FEATURING IVAN LENDL
JANUARY 2, 2011: HAPPY LENDL TAKES MELLOW APPROACH
By Jesper Fjeltstad
THE phone crackles from Florida and it's hard not to crack up as Ivan Lendl, one of the all-time tennis greats, hands down his new perspective on life. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>>
NOVEMBER 19, 2010: MCENROE - LENDL, KINGS OF NEW YORK
Tennis in New York in the late 1970s and well into the 1980s was mainly dominated by two men: Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe. These two legends combined to win seven US Open titles from 1978-87.
Their New York success was not limited to the summer in Queens, however. Those two were stalwarts at the ATP’s year-end championship event, The Masters, at Madison Square Garden from 1977-1989. In that time, Lendl and McEnroe played a total of 65 matches at MSG, and the two claimed the title eight times in the event’s 13-year run.
While the 2010 ATP World Tour Finals will take place in London this month, Lendl and McEnroe have the date of February 28, 2011 circled on their calendars as they’ll revisit their rivalry at MSG in the BNP Paribas Showdown.
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On opening day of the US Open, Madison Square Garden and StarGames presented legendary tennis player, Ivan Lendl with a gift commemorating the 25th anniversary of his first US Open championship. Additionally, Lendl was officially welcomed back to MSG where he will participate in the upcoming BNP Paribas Showdown on February 28, 2011. Lendl is scheduled to face John McEnroe to be followed by Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi.
L-R: Scott O’Neil, President, MSG Sports ; Ivan Lendl; Jerry Solomon, President, StarGames & Joel Fisher, EVP, MSG Sports
Photo Credit: George Kalinsky for Madison Square Garden
"Power of Eight"
When Ivan Lendl arrived on the pro tennis tour, people saw the dark tennis outfits and the hollowed eyes; they heard the heavy Czech accent and, unaware of the sense of humor and intellect that lurked beneath, figured that “dour” was what defined Ivan Lendl. (And besides, no one could pronounce his name. Was it EYE-van or ee-VAHN and do you pronounce the last “L” or do you say “Lend.”) And while everyone was trying to figure him out, Ivan quietly changed the game forever by introducing an approach to his tennis…on and off the court…that had not been seen before.
He became meticulous in his planning, thorough in his preparation and flawless in his execution.
Nowhere was this more evident than at the US Open, where he made eight consecutive finals, winning three.
Ivan’s US Open record stands alone in tennis’ Open Era. His 19 Grand Slam finals, eight major victories, 94 tournament wins and 270 weeks ranked at No. 1 make him one of the undisputed all-time greats.
As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of that first US Open victory, a straight-sets win over John McEnroe, the hollowed eyes now reflect the twinkle we could never discern in his youth. While the accent remains, the sense of humor is heard loud and clear. Fans who couldn’t understand him then recall his power and precision with admiration and respect. And the press has labeled him “the father of the modern game.”
The shots may not always be on target but the day was can't miss. Swinging a different piece of metal, Tennis great Ivan Lendl has made many happy returns to Wethersfield Country Club where his Annual Golf Tournament teed off Monday. The "Ivan Lendl Golf Classic" benefits the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain and their summer sports camp which allows wheelchair bound kids to participate in all sorts of sports. Lendl said, "I like kids, able-bodied or not, to do sports and to get to do the kids who would normally not have a chance to do sports to go out there and really enjoy themselves, its just fantastic." Sheila Hogan, the VP of the Hospital for Special Care Foundation added, "these are challenged athletes, this camp brings them a level playing field to come out and compete just like their peers do for an entire week. We have counselors who fly in from all over the U.S. who are disabled athletes themselves."
The kids play all sorts of wheelchair sports like Tennis, Golf, Soccer and Swimming. The Tournament, now in its 14th year, raised $134,000 for the camp last year and, this year, despite a sub-par economy, Lendl and a slew of generous area sponsors are still finding the green -- literally and monetarily.
"That's what is really nice, people really stick with us and even with the economy they come out and give money to the kids and that's great," Lendl said.
The Hospital for Special Care's "Lendl Sports Camp" for adaptive athletes is the first week in August at St. Joseph's College in West Hartford.
As flags fly over
By Joel Drucker, ESPN
The nation no longer exists, but its tennis heritage is proud, distinctive and revolutionary. Back in the '20s and '30s, Karel Kozeluh was one of the top pros in the world, on a par with fellow Hall of Famers Bill Tilden and Ellsworth Vines. Later in the '70s came "the bouncing Czech," three-time Slam winner Jan Kodes, another Hall of Famer. But
LENDL LETS EVERYONE IN ON THE JOKES
By Bill Dwyre, Los Angeles Times
Arguably the best male tennis player through much of the 1980s, he also had a reputation as being dour and dull. Now fans line up to meet the quick former champion who is full of quips at the U.S.
NEW YORK (August 29, 2007) -- A funny thing has happened to Ivan Lendl. He got funny.
Actually, he always was. It was the rest of us -- the public led astray by the media, led astray by a sense of humor a bit beyond us -- that didn't get it.
In his playing days, Lendl was arguably the best male in the world for much of 1983-88, maybe even into 1990, when he won the last of his eight major titles at the Australian Open. In that span, there were guys named McEnroe and Connors who would argue that best-player point, but then, they would argue all points, which is part of their charm.
One thing even they wouldn't argue: Lendl had the best run of any male player ever at the U.S. Open. He got to the final eight straight years, 1982 to 1989, and won three in a row in the middle, 1985 to 1987.
"The first one was the best. I didn't expect it. John had beaten me twice that summer," he says, referring to McEnroe. "Then I got into the zone. Sometimes, you can get into the sub-zone, but almost never the zone."
It was during this run that Lendl somehow became, in the eyes of a public influenced by the typing fingers of the written press, the dour Czech, the sourpuss champion, the dull guy with the Eastern European accent whose news conferences seemed like give-and-take with a robot. Or worse, David Nalbandian.
"I always had a good sense of humor," Lendl says, laughing. "It was just one that you guys never understood."
Now, that's something worth a chuckle. But at the time, it was hurtful. After he won one U.S. Open, Sports Illustrated put him on the cover, with a headline that said: "The Champion Nobody Cares About."
On Tuesday, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the champion that nobody cared about signed autographs for an hour and needed security guards to break up the waiting line and run interference for him when his time was up. He had a smile for all, sometimes a story. Dour and dull had become quick with a quip.
"I love it when they tell me they watched me play when they were growing up," Lendl says. "One guy tells me that today and I asked him how old he is. He says 54. I'm 47. I wonder how that works."
As a player, he used to keep a watch under his wristband and few knew why. Turns out, he wanted to make sure he wasn't letting the match go so long that he'd miss a tee time.
The only major he didn't win was Wimbledon, and he even skipped it one year, telling the press he was allergic to grass. Then he stayed home and played golf.
He loves golf and golf stories.
"I hear Seve [Ballesteros] talk about a round," Lendl says. "He four-putted. They ask him how he did that. He says, 'I hit a putt. Not in. I hit another putt. Not in. Another. Not in. The fourth one. In.' "
Lendl became an American citizen in 1992, is married to Samantha, lives the summers in Goshen, Conn., and the winters in Bradenton, Fla. He has five daughters.
"Three play golf, one rides a horse and the other is 9," he says.
Lendl, a scratch golfer who has tinkered with playing in pro events, holds the record at the Lake Waramaug, Conn., course with a 64. The women's record is 67, held by Marika Lendl, 17, his oldest.
Other daughters are twins Isabelle and Caroline, 16, and Nikki, the 9-year-old.
And Crash, 14.
"Her real name is Daniela," Lendl says, "but she'd be insulted if you used it."
So why the nickname?
"She was supposed to take the dog for a walk," Lendl says. "So she gets in the golf cart, ties the dog to the cart, takes off and keeps looking back at the dog, instead of the tree. The dog was fine."
Thanks to his longtime agent, Jerry Solomon, Lendl is his own blossoming corporation. He has a regular gig on the Tennis Channel, endorses analgesic creams and wristbands that are supposed to generate positive energy for the wearer, is back making appearances for Adidas and represents some Taylor Made golf equipment. Solomon also is planning a movie for 2009, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Lendl's first Grand Slam title, the 1984 French.
And there are the autograph signings.
"I don't want to say how much he gets paid," Solomon says, "but he does nicely."
That, of course, wouldn't be the case if he weren't an attraction. Solomon says, "He's more popular now than when he was No. 1."
Lendl is past caring about popularity. He's busy talking about the peace and quiet of rural Connecticut and how he rode his bike 24 miles Monday and didn't see more than five cars on his way home.
"But I've got to be careful that Crash never finds out the way I go," he says.
Rim shot, drum roll.
Bill Dwyre can be reached at email@example.com. For previous columns by Dwyre, go to latimes.com/dwyre
Question: How did you approach setting the right objectives for your career over time?
Ivan: When I first started playing junior tennis, my goal was to be better than all other players on the European circuit in my age group. When I turned pro, the top 100 and top 50 were my goals. I turned professional at 19 in 1979, and made the top 20 in my first full year on tour. I was ignorant at first about rankings. All I cared about was playing because I loved playing. By the end of 1981, I was ranked #2 in the world but could not achieve my ultimate goal of becoming #1 for three years. So, I had to change my approach.
The Lesson: There are times in a business’s life cycle that focusing exclusively on improving and executing the product or service proposition is the right approach. With excellent execution, results will follow is the right belief. However, as the business grows, it inevitably faces new, better capitalized, more sophisticated competitors. The go-to-market approach therefore needs to evolve.
Question: What did you do differently to become #1?
Ivan: My progress on the professional tour was so fast that I didn’t think about improving. Then, when I could not get to number one, I sat down and asked myself what I needed to reach my goal. I identified three areas … I needed to learn how to play a slice backhand and return left-handed serves better (Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe were key competitors at the time); and I needed to get quicker. So, I found left-handed college players who would serve to me for hours on end. I needed to work on my skills so I could trust my sliced back-hand against Connors or McEnroe in the fifth set of the U.S. Open, if necessary. It was hours of practice and then hitting that shot in lesser tournaments and early rounds of majors before I knew I could hit that shot under the pressure of a fifth set in a major. To gain quickness, I turned to a track and field coach who had worked with Olympic athletes. He outlined several drills that would be right for my goals and I did the drills day-in and day-out without fail. Here is the issue, you may be able to identify the things you need to do to improve, and a lot of people are able to do that, but you are never sure that you are doing the perfectly right thing. Most people are not able to stick to it. That’s the biggest difference I find. When you work on something new, you have to give it a long time. Don’t give it two weeks and say it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work after six months, then look at things and see if you need to make adjustments. But do not give up too early.
The Lesson: As we have seen from Ivan, even in the face of success – he had become the #2 tennis player in the world – achieving a leadership position requires the willingness and ability to assess your own strengths and weaknesses relative to the competition, the rigor to outline an effective plan of action and the discipline to execute that plan over time. The same is true in business. Whether the business is successful or looking for new sources of growth to improve results, assessment-planning-execution is a critical model. Change can be difficult, so believing in the plan, aligning the organization and relentlessly executing against the plan will enable success. Over time, the plan will change and evolve, but the fundamentals, once put into place, will lead to value creation.
Question: Once you began working on the weaknesses you identified, how long was it before you achieved the desired result?
Ivan: 15 months. I started my work in early summer of 1984 and became #1 after the 1985 U.S. Open, in which I beat McEnroe in straight sets. (Note: Ivan also went on to win the U.S. Open in 1986 and 1987 as well.) The key for me was knowing that I had to make changes to improve. But I also was never quite sure I was going about it in the right way. You can never be 100% sure the changes will work. A lot of guys give up when they don’t get immediate results, they don’t stick to it. You have to be incredibly patient.
The Lesson: Market leaders are leaders for a reason. They consistently differentiate through product innovation, or provide unsurpassed customer service, or drive down operating costs and therefore prices. Overtaking the leader requires focus and discipline … and belief. By building upon the core competencies of the business while adding new, complementary strategies, market share gains and leadership can be achieved.
Question: After you became #1, what were the factors that enabled you to sustain leadership for such a long period
Ivan: It’s attributable to several factors. First, you have to believe that you are that good. You did not just get lucky and win a lucky match or two. You have to believe that you are that good and deserve to be #1 because of achievement, not by default. Second, my goal was always to win majors, and winning majors took care of #1. I have seen guys who have had the goal of being #1 and once they achieved it, they had nowhere to go. Setting the proper goals is critical. The third was to always ask myself “how can I get better?” The reason I wanted to get better was so that I could stay #1 longer because my competitors were constantly asking themselves how they could beat me and they worked to improve. Once you reach #1 you can sit back and do nothing, or you can sit back and analyze again. I realized that my competition was changing and therefore I needed to change my practice routine. This helped me to improve and widen the gap and keep them at bay the longest possible time. So, you know, Eddie, there is a correlation between sports and business. There are two kinds of success. One kind of success is to be the best and be happy with that. The other kind, which I believe in, is to know that I am best the best now but I want to be the best three years from now and I was prepared to do what was necessary to do that.
The Lesson: Many businesses can have a single great year, record sales and profits. Then, suddenly, the results soften. The strategies that yielded such strong results are no longer enabling leadership and growth. It is precisely when business is strong that conducting an assessment of all strategies and tactics can be the most beneficial. Success, oftentimes, prevents a consistent push to improve the product or service and how it is delivered. The competition never stands still, the consumer or customer needs continue to change, markets evolve and new dynamics emerge. Developing and executing plans that enable both immediate-term and long-term goals is critical. The old expression, “there is no long term without the short term” is true. However, the long term always arrives faster than we believe and the business must be ahead of those changes.
Question: One fun question about a subject that’s getting a lot of press these days … Roger Federer or Tiger Woods?
Ivan: Roger is so good, you have no idea. Roger and I have talked on many occasions. Tony Roche is his coach, and Tony was mine as well. What you don’t see is how hard he works when he is away from the tournaments. He works on his game and his physical conditioning like no one else on tour. The same can be said for Tiger. There are times it seems that Roger loses a set just to make matches interesting for himself, to create a challenge. He is that much better than everyone else. Likewise, Tiger is at a different level than all other professional golfers. I enjoy watching them both tremendously.
Eddie: Yes, but who is better?
Ivan: I like them both. You decide
By the way, when Ivan and I have played golf together, I must admit, he has won the money every time. But I do hit it longer than he does. That really bugs him and I love holding that over him. But he never fails to remind me that it’s about who goes home with the money.
I hope you enjoyed this email and have found points that are relevant to your business. As always, I would be happy to talk with you about any of the opportunities and challenges before your company. If you would like information about our capabilities and client work, please visit www.apexgrowth.com.