Lendl: Mucha is only artist that interests me

Ivan Lendl, photo: CTK

The exhibition Ivan Lendl: Alfons Mucha has been drawing big crowds since it opened its doors earlier this month. On Monday the Czech-born tennis legend himself visited the Prague show, which comprises his priceless collection of posters by the Art Nouveau master. Lendl also unveiled another valuable object: the Davis Cup.

Ivan Lendl,  photo: CTK
Around 25,000 people have seen Ivan Lendl: Alfons Mucha since it opened at Prague’s Municipal House two and a half weeks ago. On Monday morning there was a long queue at the box office, even though doors were opening a little later than usual.

Inside was Ivan Lendl himself, making his first visit to an exhibition comprising his unique collection of the Art Nouveau painter’s posters. Relaxed looking, and with noticeably accented Czech, the tennis legend explained to reporters how he had first developed an interest in the artist.

“I have to admit that I wasn’t much into art and came to Mucha by chance. But when Jiří Mucha introduced me to his father’s art, especially the posters, I really started getting into it. I’m a sportsman and art doesn’t say much to me, apart from Mucha. The Masters in golf interests me far more. When I started with Andy Murray, I told him whatever happened I wouldn’t work Saturday or Sunday when the Masters is on.”

Ivan Lendl owns 116 of the total 119 posters – often advertising theatre shows or products – known to have been created by Alfons Mucha. That makes his collection the most complete in the world.

“I like the posters a lot, for various reasons. For instance Gismonda, which was the first poster I bought from Jiří Mucha. It was also the first of a series of nine for Sarah Bernhardt and was done quickly by Alfons. Most artists were away from Paris during the holidays and she wasn’t happy with the poster for her premiere, so she got Mucha to do one. So it was his first for Sarah Bernhardt, and also my first.”

As well as discussing the art on display, Ivan Lendl unveiled an unusual treat for exhibition visitors: tennis’s Davis Cup. The Czech Republic took the trophy in Prague last December – a full 32 years after it was won by a Czechoslovak team that featured Lendl. With the Czechs into the semi-finals again this year, what odds would he give them of repeating their success?

Ivan Lendl,  Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda,  photo: CTK
“There’s always a chance. The guys won in Argentina last year and this year they’re playing Argentina at home. Del Potro hopefully won’t play so they’re a bit weaker, and choice of surface is an advantage. A possible final would be away, which is always harder, especially if it’d be against Serbia. I think the pressure defending a title is less than winning it the first time. They’ve already proven they can do it and they have the experience.”

The Davis Cup is on display as part of Ivan Lendl: Alfons Mucha for the next six days. The exhibition itself runs until the end of July.