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Wimbledon champion Andy Murray cuts ties with coach Ivan Lendl

By Ravi Ubha, for CNN
updated 2:19 PM EDT, Wed March 19, 2014
With coach Ivan Lendl, left, by his side, Andy Murray ended Britain's 77-year men's singles drought at Wimbledon.
With coach Ivan Lendl, left, by his side, Andy Murray ended Britain's 77-year men's singles drought at Wimbledon.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Andy Murray ends his successful partnership with coach Ivan Lendl
  • Under Lendl, Murray won his lone two grand slam singles titles
  • Murray says he is "eternally grateful" to the eight-time grand slam champion
  • Murray has struggled in 2014 after undergoing back surgery last fall

(CNN) -- With Ivan Lendl by his side, Andy Murray opened his grand slam tennis account, won an Olympic gold and ended Britain's nearly 80-year wait for a men's singles champion at Wimbledon.

When he triumphed at the All England Club last July, Lendl, not Murray's influential mom, Judy, was the first person he hugged as he climbed into the players' box. The knowledge Lendl amassed in winning eight grand slams himself was passed on to Murray and the two -- who share dry sense of humors and like to keep low profiles -- forged a strong bond.

Murray thanked Lendl for pulling no punches when discussing his game, which, as good as it was, had yet to yield a major as he competed with the talented trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

But on Wednesday, Lendl became the latest coach to cut ties with Murray. It's another blow to the Scot, who has struggled to rediscover his best form following back surgery only months after that once-in-a-lifetime occasion at Wimbledon.

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"Working with Andy over the last two years has been a fantastic experience for me," Lendl said in a statement. "He is a first class guy.

"Having helped him achieve his goal of winning major titles, I feel like it is time for me to concentrate on some of my own projects moving forward, including playing more events around the world which I am really enjoying.

"I will always be in Andy's corner and wish him nothing but great success as he, too, goes into a new phase of his career."

Murray, meanwhile, had nothing but praise for Lendl.

"I'm eternally grateful to Ivan for all his hard work over the past two years, the most successful of my career so far," Murray said in the statement. "As a team, we've learned a lot and it will definitely be of benefit in the future.

"I'll take some time with the team to consider the next steps and how we progress from here."

Lendl played senior and exhibition events in the period he was coaching Murray, and runs an academy in South Carolina. He was hired at the end of 2011, following the likes of Mark Petchey, Brad Gilbert and Miles Maclagan, and Murray won singles gold at London 2012 and captured the U.S. Open a month later.

Lendl's arrival paved the way for other retired greats to return as coaches, with Boris Becker now alongside Djokovic and Stefan Edberg teaming up with Federer.

In an email to CNN, Lendl -- a man of little words in public -- said there was no deeper issue to the partnership concluding.

"It's VERY simple -- I could not commit enough time to do the job properly," wrote the father of five girls.

Indeed, according to Murray's former Davis Cup captain, all appeared to be going well.

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"The relationship is very sound, they really enjoy each other's company, Lendl is a fantastic coach and Andy is a world-class tennis player," Jeremy Bates told CNN. "So it's a shame to me that this has happened, but you have to respect Lendl's reasons for doing so.

"He's in demand to do so many different things, and I guess he feels it's time to move on in that regard. Andy has learned so much in the last couple of years and Lendl has to be a bit selfish in a decision like this, but he also has Andy's best interests at heart as well.

"To me they wouldn't split up for another reason, a tennis reason, or a compatibility issue. They would just be spitting up for the time commitment reason."

Nonetheless, the news stunned the tennis world, with Gilbert saying he was "surprised as heck." He described Murray as a "genius but complicated."

It came as Murray prepares to defend his title in Miami, the city he uses as a training base. Lendl is a Florida resident.

"I got up at six, saw a tweet and I was like, 'Wow,'" Gilbert told CNN. "I've been inundated on Twitter and everyone wants to know why it happened. I'm just as surprised as anyone that the partnership has ended.

"It's an unusual time, right before Miami. I didn't hear that anything was coming. It just shows you how fragile the coaching-player partnership can be."

Murray, who has dropped from second in the rankings in July to sixth, has yet to win a title in 2014 and is coming off losses in Acapulco and Indian Wells to lower-ranked opposition after claiming the opening set.

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Bates, though, isn't alarmed.

"He's coming back from a pretty significant surgery to a very delicate part of the body," said Bates, a former top 60 player.

"I've been saying for months now -- and I had a lot of surgery myself -- mentally, you just don't recover from those things instantly.

"It takes you a long time to regain all that confidence in your body and so I'm not surprised that it's taking him a while to get up to speed. We might not see it in the next six months. Who knows when he's going to feel completely comfortable again.

"If (100-meter world-record holder) Usain Bolt pulls a calf muscle, he doesn't all of a sudden run 9.50 seconds in his first race."

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