Andy Murray has earned the right to play when he wants to play, according to his former coach Ivan Lendl.
Speaking on a special edition of the Tennis Legends vodcast alongside Eurosport experts Alex Corretja - who also used to coach Murray - and Mats Wilander, Lendl gave a wholehearted defence of the Brit's entitlement to play when he wants to play given all he has achieved in the game.
The three-time Grand Slam champion suffered early exits at the US Open and at Roland Garros after recovering from hip surgery and Wilander suggested after his first-round loss in Paris that perhaps he should not be taking wild cards any longer.
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But Lendl, and now Wilander, agreed that the 33-year-old should still be afforded the respect of competing on the biggest stages in the sport given everything he has given to tennis.
"I know you [Mats] got criticised a lot for saying that, and they should not be taking wild cards and leave it to the young players, and I disagree," Lendl said on the podcast.
"I disagree. I think players like Andy Murray or Pete Sampras, before he won his last US Open, everybody was asking me, 'shouldn't Pete Sampras retire?', and I said, 'Pete Sampras has earned the right to retire when he wants to retire'.
To me, Andy Murray has earned the right to play when he wants to play, as long as he has passion for it. I do believe that Andy has the passion.
"Let's go back a little bit into the history of wild cards. The wild cards, in general, were given to the sponsors to get attractive players for the tournament.
"It kind of turned somewhat towards young players, which is fine as well. But it's not written anywhere that it needs to be a young player and not somebody older.
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"What happened at the French I think was not normal. Something else happened and I don't know what it was, but I think Andy has the passion.
"I think Andy is trying to prove that he can come back after a serious hip surgery, and all I can say is we should all be pulling for him and wishing him the best."
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Wilander agreed: "I'm pulling for him 100 per cent. I'm with you, Ivan. He has deserved it.
I think the interesting question is passion. Does Andy have the passion? And I think he does. I am 100 per cent sure he does.
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