Discover Ivan Lendl’s Latest Passion: Pickleball
When you think of Ivan Lendl, the dominant tennis player of the 1980s, you may envision a focused athlete with an unwavering determination to defeat all opponents. However, today, at the age of 63, Lendl appears thicker, grayer, and less agile. Surprisingly, there’s even room for a smile or two. But don’t be mistaken – Lendl is still a force to be reckoned with.
His newfound athletic passion is pickleball, and he’s fully dedicated to it. “Let me explain,” he begins. “You may not know me well, but rest assured, whatever I do, I give it my all.”
Despite picking up a paddle less than a year ago, Lendl is already making a name for himself in the tournament circuit. Just last Sunday, he participated in the Conviva Pictona Open in Holly Hill, partnering with his instructor, Alex Mabred, to secure third place in the men’s doubles, 40-and-over division.
Yes, you read that correctly. At the age of 63, Lendl competed in the 40-and-over division because his partner, Mabred, is just 41. And as for the 5.0 level, the highest in pickleball – well, it’s simply because he’s Ivan Lendl.
According to Mabred, Lendl’s reflexes are as sharp as ever. These reflexes led Lendl to amass an impressive tennis career, including 94 singles titles, eight major championships, and 270 weeks as the world’s number one player. He competed against formidable opponents like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
So how did he stumble upon pickleball? Lendl first tried it in November of last year after his daughter, Isabelle, invited him to join her regular group. She had plans for them to play tournaments together, which meant Lendl had to practice.
And when it comes to practice, Lendl doesn’t do things halfway. His remarkable tennis career was built on an unmatched training regimen, combined with unwavering dedication to utilizing every physical and mental advantage possible. When chronic back issues forced him to retire from tennis at the age of 34, he turned his attention to golf, another passion of his.
Competing is in Lendl’s blood. Although his dreams of reaching the highest levels in golf didn’t quite materialize, he went from being a good golfer to single-digit handicap and eventually a scratch golfer. To this day, Lendl continues to play both golf and pickleball, though his time on the golf course has been reduced to accommodate his newfound love for pickleball.
Remarkably, pickleball has even had a positive effect on his golf game. Lendl used to play golf six times a week, but now, he finds himself sore after a day of pickleball. However, after loosening up, he can focus on short irons, his short game, and putting so he can be back in tournament-ready form by Tuesday.
When it comes to practicing pickleball, Lendl dedicates part of one day each week to drills with Mabred, his pickleball coach. These drills focus on repetitive “feel” shots such as dinking near the net, an important strategy in pickleball. These drills don’t exert his body too much, but they help Lendl maintain his skills.
Throughout the Pictona tournament, Lendl showcased his consistent dinking ability. However, in pickleball, patience eventually runs out, and opponents start going for winners, leading to intense back-and-forth exchanges. It’s during these moments that the ageless hand-eye coordination of an elite athlete like Lendl shines through.
Unsurprisingly, Lendl still possesses a strong desire to win. He shares a story of playing against his friend Joel Quenneville, a legendary former NHL coach, in a pickleball game. Lendl and his partner were defeated, and Quenneville remarked, “You know, you can’t win them all.” Lendl responded, “Joel, you’re mistaken.”
The following week, Lendl returned and won every game. He told Quenneville, “Now I know why you’re such a good hockey coach. You motivated me by saying I couldn’t win them all.”
Even at 63, Lendl’s mental reflexes are as sharp as ever.
Original Source: The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Jessica Roberts serves up the latest in the world of tennis. With a love for the racket sport, she reports on tennis matches, player rankings, and Grand Slam events, ensuring readers stay informed about the tennis world.