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View Full Version : Mats Wilander: uneven 'recognition'?


Galactus
02-19-2005, 05:01 AM
Of all the 'greats' over the last 30 years, Mats Wilander doesn't seem to get as much recognition as his peers:
Jimmy Connors
(Years played: 26 / Grand Slams: 8 / Titles: 61 / Won-Lost: 953-227)
Bjorn Borg
(Years played: 9 / Grand Slams: 11 / Titles: 28 / Won-Lost: 380-75)
John McEnroe
(Years played: 16 / Grand Slams: 7 / Titles: 64 / Won-Lost: 849-182)
Ivan Lendl
(Years played: 17 / Grand Slams: 8 / Titles: 86 / Won-Lost: 1063-238
Mats Wilander
(years played: 16 / Grand Slams: 7 / Titles: 26 / Won-Lost: 571-222)
Boris Becker
(Years played: 15 / Grand Slams: 6 / Titles: 42 / Won-Lost: 713-214)
Stefan Edberg
(Years played: 14 / Grand Slams: 6 / Titles: 36 / Won-Lost: 806-270)
Pete Sampras
(Years played: 15 / Grand Slams: 14 / Titles: 50 / Won-Lost: 762-222)
Andre Agassi
(Years played: 19 / Grand Slams: 8 / Titles: 51 / Won-Lost: 826-255)

All of the above players seem to be almost instantly-recognizable when talking men's tennis....but I get the impression Wilander is hardly ever mentioned when talking about 'the good old days'....he tends to be the 'Forgotten man'...

My theory is that for all his success, he never really got the better of the guys in that list except Connors and he never really forged any memorable rivalry...

Thoughts, opinions, rants, etc??

Balboa
02-19-2005, 05:06 AM
I recognize him for whatever that's worth. I will always remember him as one of only four players to win at least three slams in the same calendar year. I never he saw him play but I will remember him for that achievement.

wildbill88AA
02-19-2005, 06:15 AM
your're leaving out are the most important stat. year end number ones, and weeks at number one. in that category, mats comes up far short of the other all-time greats. and that titles stat is incorrect.

Most career singles titles: men
Jimmy Connors 109
Ivan Lendl 94
John McEnroe 77
Pete Sampras 64
Bjorn Borg and Guillermo Vilas each 62
mats 33

but, he is recognized as a great player.

Galactus
02-19-2005, 06:28 AM
1 - your're leaving out are the most important stat. year end number ones, and weeks at number one. in that category, mats comes up far short of the other all-time greats...

2 - ...and that titles is incorrect.

3 - ...but, he is recognized as a great player.
1 - Okay, fair enough...but then Becker never hit the top-spot either...but Becker will always be the bigger name than Wilander...
2 - Ummm...his career-title total is 33, isn't it? (I'm not counting doubles)
3 - That's not the point of my thread. Of those listed, Wilander would be most likely be named last (hardcore tennis-fans, general-public....doesn't matter)

wildbill88AA
02-19-2005, 06:42 AM
mats is right at 33 titles, but the other players are wrong. people probably remember becker because he was the big bomber, and a teen sensation. mats is less charasmatic. although, i dont get that impression that becker gets more recognition than mats.

Galactus
02-19-2005, 07:04 AM
mats is right at 33 titles, but the other players are wrong. people probably remember becker because he was the big bomber, and a teen sensation. mats is less charasmatic. although, i dont get that impression that becker gets more recognition than mats.
1 - Yep - my fault on the titles stats!
2 - Becker: probably cos he was so young...and he had that rivalry with Edberg in the late 80s could be one reason?
3 - Like I said, Wilander never really 'owned' anyone on-court - bar maybe Connors...

Aykhan Mammadov
02-19-2005, 09:00 AM
Balboa, we should remember Federer win 3 slams in one calendar year 2004.

Maybe really Wilander's name is not so widely known by peoples in the world as of other 8 players. You are right Galactos. Anyhow his achivements is great, but notice that he and Borg both were more concentrated in grand slams than in other tournaments ( both are Swede).

driger
02-19-2005, 10:36 AM
3 - Like I said, Wilander never really 'owned' anyone on-court - bar maybe Connors...

.......and Connors was ten years past his prime.

Rabbit
02-19-2005, 10:51 AM
I think Wilander's career was set the first time we saw him in America, against McEnroe in Davis Cup in St. Louis. They played a six hour + match. Wilander is the type of player every club player should imitate, but not one that draws much attention. Take Wilander's French Open victory against Leconte. For the match (I think I remember correctly), Wilander didn't miss a 1st serve! But, the match was completely void of any excitement, and I do remember that.

Wilander's epic struggle against Lendl in the 88 finals of the U.S. Open was only exciting because it remained so close throughout the 5 sets. Wilander fought off cramps and Lendl probably fought off sleep :).

In all seriousness, Wilander is/was a great player and a fantastic tactician. He didn't possess any great weapons other than his tactical sense and his footspeed which for a guy his size was remarkable. I never considered Wilander a 6 footer, he moved more like a Chang IMO. But, Wilander's forte was getting every ball back with the same amount of pace/spin and placed in the court where it would be most advantageous to him.

Wilander was quoted one time as saying that he played every match the same. He started off hitting most of the balls down the middle of the court until he got warmed up and then he began to expand his hitting zone either side of the middle. Then, he hit 90% of his balls crosscourt. Not a bad strategy for anyone.

grind
02-20-2005, 05:58 PM
Wilander didn't help his legacy by quitting the game when he was on top. This move gave us fans the impression he didn't really care about his place in history, and as a result, fans don't really care about his place in history. Had Matts fought his way through his time at the top, he would be regarded in a much better light today. He did this to himself. I was a huge Wilander fan, and I still don't forgive him for walking away when he so much more to win.

Rabbit
02-20-2005, 08:49 PM
You know though, kinda like Borg, his 1988 season took so much out of him that I don't think he was ever the same player. He also put down his Rossi's after 88 and took up with Prince which I think hurt him. You're right though, he was sorely missed after retirement.

!Tym
02-20-2005, 11:19 PM
Wilander simply lost his motivation after 88. He said in an old Tennis Magazine feature on him, "Everyone said I couldn't be number one...so when I got there, what was I supposed to do, prove that I could be number one again?" In other words, he said he was the kind of guy who was motivated by the journey, not the prize. And once he got the prize, the #1 ranking, he lost all motivation. What was he gonna do? Start over the next year, and go through the same boring journey again? He just did it. What else is there for him to do? Prove he could do it again? If I sound redundant, it's because I'm making a point. Ever beat a really hard video game? Great, good for you! Now, do you wanna wake up the next morning, and decide, hey, I REALLY want to beat it all over again! The same levels, the same opponents, the same challenge...whoopee!!! ...of course, there is always the possibility that you could find it rather monotnous to relive what was only glorious once. I respect Wilander for that. I actually think tennis ranks rather low on the radar scale of what's important in life. I think it's cool that he had one glorious year, but beyond that? He got to sample what fruits are out there, great, now go sample the rest of life. There are things in life far more noble than sport, like a baby's kiss, like playing in a band, like cocaine, like I don't know anything called LIVING. There are other journeys to pursue in life, even if it is just sitting on a couch watching t.v. and feeling what it's like to not wake up and train, to really taste a potato chip in all its glory for the first time, to see how the other half lives. I would rather die having experienced not just a slice of live, but rather facets of life. Hats off to Nichole Richie and Paris Hilton for exploring the Simple Life...lol, only just ribbing, but you get my drift.

But anyway, I think it's kind of funny, 'cause everything about Wilander's strokes, game, and mentality was decidely neutral looking. Not overspun, not underspun, not hit amazingly fast, not hit amazingly slow, not an amazing volleyer, not a bad volleyer, not radical technique, not Chris Evert technique. He was the most PURE vanilla player I've ever seen, both in appearance, build, and height, and just well...everything.

This vanilla quality made tennis seem boring to some. Yet, it was he who walked away from tennis bored after conquering tennis. Quite simply, he got bored of conquering tennis. Which when you think of it is kind of humorous, ironic and humorous in a subtle Mats Wilanderean sort of way.

Camilio Pascual
02-21-2005, 03:53 AM
His overall match record is not impressive at all for one of the game's greats, Lendl won 492 more matches with only 16 more losses and Pete won 191 more with the same number of losses. Sure, Borg won almost 200 less matches, but look at his ~ 83% winning percent and 11 Majors titles.

The Pusher Terminator
02-21-2005, 04:01 AM
Actually, I don't think Borg gets enough recognition. Look at what he did in only 9 years! Compare it to connors record in 26 years! Do you realize thats almost three times as long as Borg. Has there ever been a player who has won so much in that short of a time? I believe he was only 26 when he retired. Its downright scary.

Camilio Pascual
02-21-2005, 04:08 AM
Borg may have thrown the best candidacy for all-time GOAT out the window by not playing another 3 - 5 years. I'm sure he would have won 1 - 4 more Majors titles. If he only won 1 US Open, I think it would be considered a better resume at 12 (no Oz, but all surfaces) than Pete's 14 (no Roland Garros, no clay) along with a higher career winning % than Pete.

The Pusher Terminator
02-21-2005, 04:38 PM
Borg may have thrown the best candidacy for all-time GOAT out the window by not playing another 3 - 5 years. I'm sure he would have won 1 - 4 more Majors titles. If he only won 1 US Open, I think it would be considered a better resume at 12 (no Oz, but all surfaces) than Pete's 14 (no Roland Garros, no clay) along with a higher career winning % than Pete.

Borg came damn close to winning the US open. How many finals did he make it to? In his final year he made it to the finals to the US open only to lose to Mcenroe.

SonicSpeed
02-22-2005, 12:33 AM
He made the finals of the US Open 8 times I think...on grass, clay (green), and hardcourts too! You would think he'd win the US Open when it was on clay (or grass) but no...

JohnThomas1
02-22-2005, 02:41 AM
Some good points. Camilio has it with the "Won-Lost: 571-222" record. As stated he also didn't really own anyone. Lendl beat Mats everytime he played even close to 100%. Mats was a great player tho, he won many big matches he maybe shouldn't have and gave 100% everytime he walked on the court. He lacked big weapons, but like Borg his weapon was his consistency. One of the biggest things i remember about Mats is that he never beat himself, you had to go out there and beat the man. If anyone favoured over him wasn't playing close to their best game, lookout!

The Pusher Terminator
02-22-2005, 04:05 AM
He made the finals of the US Open 8 times I think...on grass, clay (green), and hardcourts too! You would think he'd win the US Open when it was on clay (or grass) but no...

I think your talking about Borg. Borg's game was really suited for clay. How he won Wimbledon so many times is a mystery. He beat some pretty darn good serve and volleyers there as well such as Mcenroe. Making the finals of the US open 8 times is also unbelieveable for a clay court player who only had a carrer of 9 years.

He really should have won the open on clay...but he was only 18 and was up against a red hot Connors.

Borg may have the best record ever in the hisory of the game when you consider he only played for 9 years. I think he won 5 wimbledons, 6 French opens and he made it 8 Us open finals. WOW! Does anyone have a record that rivals that?

Kevin Patrick
02-22-2005, 11:55 AM
Like Borg, Sampras also won 11 majors by the age of 26. Tennis really is a sport for the young, I'm sure Federer will slow his pace by that age as well. Mentally & physically, it's tough to stay on top for that long.

Borg did not reach the US Final 8 times(that was Lendl, he made the final 8 straight years), he reached it 4 times:
'76 loss to Connors on clay-probably his best chance, a very high quality match.
'78 loss to Connors-Borg injured his wrist the previous match, he really had no chance due to injury
'80 loss to McEnroe-a 5 setter, Mac won the first 2, Borg the next 2, Borg hadn't lost a 5 set match in 5 years, Mac pulled it off.
'81 loss to McEnroe-Mac was clearly on another level, first time Borg ever looked frustrated(also he received a death threat the day of the final)
I agree Camilio, if he won 1 US Open, he might rank higher than Sampras(especially since in those days Wimbledon & the US Open were regarded way more highly than the French & Aussie Opens)

Re Wilander:I agree with some of the other posts-
He had no personality, so he couldn't transcend the sport the way McEnroe or Becker did.
Didn't have the win-loss record of similar demeanored players like Lendl & Sampras.
Didn't have an exciting game like fellow Swede Edberg.
Didn't have the good looks/mysterious aura that Borg had.
So hence, no tennis fans/sports fans really regard Mats Wilander that highly.

driger
02-22-2005, 01:06 PM
connors-borg?

year end #1's connors 5- borg 2
weeks at #1 connors 265 borg 60?
tiltles connors 109 borg 62
consectutive years in top 10--connors-16

i'd say connors held his own with borg. borg won more slam events-but connors skipped the french open for the 5 best years of his career. and wimby is overrated. like how many grass court tournaments are there. the courts are trashed by the finals. connors only played the australian twice, winning once, finalist once. the biggest tournament of the year is the us open. borg never won there. borg probably would have kept playing had he been up to it mentally.

Kevin Patrick
02-22-2005, 01:26 PM
driger,
how long have you been following tennis? Maybe today all the slams are pretty much on equal terms, but not the 70s. Wimbledon was by far the biggest tournament in the world then(& there were plenty of other grasscourt tournaments being played then as well, so it wasn't an irrelevant surface)
Also, don't be misled by that #1 ranking info. The system was heavily cruticized then, most fans & players considered it a joke. The ITF & major tennis publications disagreed with the ATP's choice of Connors many times.
Borg owned Connors head to head & performed better in the events that mattered in the '70s. Comparing the 2 is almost like comparing Sampras to Agassi.

driger
02-22-2005, 01:59 PM
kevin,
in the early 70's(and pre borg) there may have been more grass court tournaments not in the mid to late 70's. in the mid to late 70's, it was pretty much the same as it is now, as far as surfaces are concerned. connors had his run at #1 and owned borg in the process. connors got married, then "the younger" borg had his run at number 1, and dominated connors. each had there run dominating each other. connors played through his down years, and borg quit during his. before borg retired, he played a series of exhibitions against connors,losing to connors regularly. borg then retired fulltime. connors was not happy about borg quitting. and i'll let the record books speak for themselves as far as how history views the two players. and i guess if you dont like someone, you can always question the system.

Kevin Patrick
02-22-2005, 02:36 PM
Actually driger, I like Connors quite a bit(far more than Borg) I still think his run to the '91 US Open semis is the most exciting the sport has been in my lifetime.
It's not like I'm in the minority here, Bud Collins & Steve Flink both rank Borg much higher than Connors. I think it's easy to compare the 2 because they were so close in age. Borg took away some of Connors best years.
I'm not questioning the ranking system, but it sure sounds like every major tennis publication disagreed with Connors finishing #1 in '75,'77(the year of Vilas' 50 match win streak), & '78.
You should read Joel Drucker's book "Jimmy Connors Saved My Life" even a superfan like him believes Borg to be the superior player.
I'll do some research on the late 70s, I'm sure there were many more grasscourt events than there are now.

driger
02-22-2005, 04:25 PM
kevin, the ranking system was computerized in the 70's, so it didn't lie. connors beat bjorn in the finals of the us open in 78. in 75 and 77 he didnt win a slam event but , he was in the finals of wimby, and the open. there was some controversy in 77 not 75. i believe, in 75, connors played his heavy championship of tennis matches in vegas, beating newcombe his closest rival. there was no controversy in 75. and many thought connors was #1 in 82(won both wimby and us open) and 83. so u win some u lose in any ranking system. from about 75 on, wimby was only the major grass court tournament. there was not a grass court season. and, bjorn was 4 years younger than connors. so there prime years didnt exacting coincide. and flink, collins, and drucker? did they even play tennis? connors was a rebel, and i dont think there was much lovelost between connors and those media types. i 've seen other polls that rank connors ahead of bjorn. bjorn winning the french and wimby back to back all those years is one the greatest feats ever, but connors has records that will stand for ever, as well.