WIMBLEDON: Will she wear the T-shirt? That was the question circulating around the All England Club yesterday, as Andy Murray prepared for a reprise of his stormy meeting with Tomas Berdych in Melbourne 18 months ago.
The Australian Open might reach a far smaller British audience than Wimbledon, but that did not stop Murray's impeccably presented wife (then fiancee) Kim from causing a nationwide sensation with her sledging. "Have that, you flash Czech f---," was the lip-readers' best guess at her response to an early break of serve. In a smart comeback, Kim then showed up for Murray's final against Novak Djokovic in a T-shirt that said "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content".
Berdych - who was the runner-up here in 2010 - had sown the seeds of that Melbourne discord by his choice of coach, Dani Vallverdu, who had spent the previous five years in Murray's camp.
Since then, the two players have buried the racket - or at least that is how Murray sees it. Vallverdu has also parted company with Berdych, after he suffered an embarrassing 6-0, 6-0 defeat by David Goffin in Rome. But it still feels as if a significant psychological blow was scored in Australia. Since Murray steered his emotional course through that semi-final, which also saw words exchanged on the court, he and Berdych have crossed swords three more times. And Berdych has not so much as won a set.
"When we played at the beginning of our careers he was much physically stronger than me," said Murray of Berdych, a 6ft 5in Czech with such gigantic thighs that he seems to belong in a comic strip. "Big guy, strong and I maybe let him bully me a bit on the court.
"In the last few times I have played against him I feel I'm much better against him physically to what I was even a few years ago. Since the back surgery I have been playing more offensive tennis with a lot of variety, and making it harder for him to play his game."
Might Murray even speak to Vall-verdu, who was last spotted in the player's box of former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, about the best way to neutralise Berdych's ferocious groundstrokes? He laughed. "Dani and Ivan [Lendl] speak to each other all the time. I don't normally speak to Dani during tournaments unless we actually see each other when we are there. But I have played him [Tomas] well the last few times and I don't want to overcomplicate it too much. I know what works well against him and try to stick to that.
"It was a really uncomfortable period [in Australia]," Murray added. "Dani was someone I had known since I was 15. He was one of my best friends, and in the press and the build-up to it, stuff was awkward. It adds a lot of tension to the situation. A grand slam semi-final is tense enough and when you throw that into the equation, it wasn't great.
"Obviously I could have possibly handled myself better in the match. Me and Tomas had always got on well, and the tension spilled over to my team and to my wife. That happens occasionally and I've seen it with other players. I spoke to Tomas the day after and apologised. We've been great since. To be honest he's always been extremely nice. I've never had any issues with him away from the court."
One of the underlying reasons why Berdych was so keen to recruit Vallverdu early in 2015 was that he hoped it might encourage Lendl to join his camp. Born in 1985, Berdych was too young fully to appreciate his fellow Czech's period of world dominance in the late 1980s, but he still wanted to harness his expertise. And he knew that Vallverdu had the great man's ear, after the two years they had spent working together on Murray's behalf. Yet despite an extended courtship, Lendl never took the bait.
"I haven't asked Ivan why he didn't work with Tomas," said Murray, "but I probably will over the next few months. I think a number of guys have spoken to Ivan over the last couple of years and he obviously just didn't fancy it. Ivan is pretty open-minded. He wouldn't have gone into it thinking 'No chance'. [Grigor] Dimitrov as well, he did a few days' training with him."
So why has Lendl come back now? "It's maybe because we know how it went the last time. Ivan watched me a bit over the last few months and saw I was playing better. I was in a tough place when we stopped the last time, when I came back from my back surgery. But he clearly thought he could help, and my game is going in the right direction." If all goes well today, that direction will lead to a third Wimbledon final on Sunday.