Ivan Lendl: deserves more credit?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by War Safin!, May 13, 2007.

  1. War Safin!

    War Safin! Professional

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    Also, contention for 'The G.O.A.T'?
    I mean his record looks awesome:
    * Australian Open x 2 wins / 2 runner-ups
    * French Open x 3 wins / 2 runner-ups
    * US Open x 3 wins / 5 runner-ups
    * Wimbledon x 2 runner-ups
    * The Masters x 5 / 4 runner-ups
    * 100-odd singles titles
    * Career win-loss of 1072-238
    * #1 for 3 years running.
    :D

    The only blemish is he never won Wimbledon....
     
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  2. Gilgamesh

    Gilgamesh Semi-Pro

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    Another blemish is that he lost what 11 GS finals or somewhere near there?

    Lendl is an all-time great though and has been villainized by tennis fans for his cold approach. Honestly if Lendl was American the US fans would be more forgiving I think. But yeah can the GOAT have a 42.1% winning percentage in GS finals?
     
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  3. CEvertFan

    CEvertFan Hall of Fame

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    I'm American and although I might be in the minority regarding Lendl, I always liked him as a player because I always enjoyed the way he played and even if he didn't win Wimbledon at least he tried his best to do so. He was a no nonsense kind of guy and that's how he approached tennis.
     
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  4. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Maybe not. But one thing that Lendl has going for him is that he lost the first 4 finals of his career, before he turned himself into a champion. Starting with the 1984 French, his first title, he was 8-7 in finals. Starting around 1985, he showed no more traces of whatever it was that had been holding him back before.

    So what I'd like to ask is, how much should overall percentage count if the inferior competitive qualities which brought down the percentage actually disappeared? If the player actually overcame them, then they're literally just history; they're not a true reflection on Lendl the champion, however much they might say about Lendl before he was a champion.

    I don't think he the GOAT, but he does deserve more credit.
     
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  5. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    I agree he deserves more credit. Most under-appreciated player of open era IMO.
     
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  6. andreh

    andreh Professional

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    I agree. He's one of the best ever. And losing 11 GS finals could easily be contrued as merit, rather than the opposite. One has to win 6 matches to reach the final. That's gotta count for something. He also faced some fierce competition. Borg, Connors, McEnroe, then Wilander, Edberg and Becker. All of them are also among the greatest ever.
     
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  7. calvero

    calvero New User

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    and starting with the '85 us open he was 7-5 in slam finals. beating mac at the us open was a bigger turning point for lendl than beating mac at the french.
     
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  8. latinking

    latinking Professional

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    Totally agree, he was awsome. I find it amazing that nobody brings him up in the GOAT conversation.
     
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  9. FiveO

    FiveO Hall of Fame

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    Lendl v. some notables:

    Connors 22-13

    McEnroe 21-13

    Vilas 10-5

    Cash 5-3

    Borg 2-5

    Becker 11-10

    Wilander 15-7

    Agassi 6-2

    Courier 4-0

    Edberg 13-14

    Sampras 3-5



    Yeah consideration, for GOAT or GOAT 1a. Just not quite there. A lot of people tend to throw McEnroe in there over Lendl which is kind of odd to me. It's got to be a Mc fan based bias thing in that the h2h comparison is fairly lopsided in Lendl's favor:

    21-13 overall
    7-3 at the Majors
    2-1 in Major finals
    4-4 in Masters/WTC End of Year Championships
    8-7 Major Singles Titles in favor of Lendl
    110 or 94 career singles titles for Lendl (higher # if including invitational tourneys)
    84 or 76 career singles for McEnroe (higher # if including invitational tourneys)
    Performance on worst Major surfaces:
    Lendl/Wimbledon 2 Finals, 3 Semis
    McEnroe/RG 1 Final, 1 Semi

    Additionally Lendl reached:

    8 US Open Finals in a row, winning 3
    9 "The Masters" Finals in a row, winning 5

    In the Open Era I think Lendl ranks ahead of everyone else not named Laver, Borg, Sampras, and Federer.

    I think his lack of popularity with the public and the press, as well as some "American home cooking" have alot to do with Lendl not being mentioned as much as Agassi, Connors, McEnroe, etc. I also think that Lendl's 8-11 record in Major finals keeps him just out of the very top echelon.

    Lendl deserves alot more credit than he gets.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2007
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  10. OrangeOne

    OrangeOne Legend

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    I've said numerous times I think his grasscourt play is completely underrated.

    Two Wimbledon finals, Losing to Cash & Becker, followed by three consecutive Wimbledon Semi-Finals, losing to Becker & Edberg - that's some Wimbledon record if you ask me, a completely amazing 5 year period!

    Also beat Becker in the Final of Queens in straight sets one year iirc....
     
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  11. NoBadMojo

    NoBadMojo G.O.A.T.

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    Lendl did lose a lot in the finals early on and had a reputation as a gagger early in his career..he sure turned that around. remember the loss to Chang at the FO? biggest forehand in the game for a while and his record speaks for itself. I may be mistaken, but didnt Lendl refuse to play Wimbledon for some while? Also, back then, you really had to play serve volley to have a chance to win W, and that wasnt something lendl ever got good at...didnt he even have Roche working with him?..now? well you dont have much of a chance of winning W by playing serve/volley
    I also think that lendl doesnt get more recognition because of his personality..dour and not very welcoming. Sampras was better, but if Pete was more flamboyant and controversial rather just letting his racquet do the talking, i think he would have been considered even greater than he was...i suspect this same idea is why many people consider crazy Mac as better than lendl..those who make the most noise and demand the most attention to themselves..well..they get the most attention..oh, the American press wasnt exactly kind to Lendl either...they seemed to apply his stern personality to his nationality, and in some ways, i dontt hink he was ever given a fair chance
     
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  12. El Diablo

    El Diablo Hall of Fame

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    Personality does figure in the equation, as does committment to the game. Lendl had particular notoriety, deserved or not, as one who would tank a less consequential match if there was a plane to catch, who would find excuses to not play Wimbledon if he could help it, and who didn't let the door hit him in the rear as he got as far away from the game as he could after retiring. People don't want a GOAT to be someone who seemed to have only pragmatic interest in the game.
     
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  13. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Lendl also beat McEnroe in their only Davis Cup meeting, in 1981. However if you bring in Davis Cup, which I think should be considered, then McEnroe goes up in any evaluation because his Davis Cup record is one of the greatest ever. If Mac gets placed ahead of Lendl in the GOAT discussion, his Davis Cup record is probably an element.

    And McEnroe has that great doubles career.

    But sticking to singles, I'd still say that Lendl is a greater player. Now, who would win on their best day? Who is the best, as distinct from the greatest?

    Mac on grass, Lendl on clay. For hard courts and indoor carpet, there are still a few matches I'd like to see to form an opinion, but it would be close.
     
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  14. 357sig

    357sig New User

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    Ivan is an American has been for a long time
     
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  15. Deuce

    Deuce Banned

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    On paper only.

    He speaks better Czech than English, and very likely always will.

    His formative years were spent in Czechoslovakia, and his roots will always be Czech.

    And that is perfectly fine.
     
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  16. noeledmonds

    noeledmonds Professional

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    The reason Lendl did not get the credit his numbers deserve is that he was not an inspiring player to watch. He was not a character who inspired people to watch tennis.

    Wilander also has the same problem. Wilander of course won as many grand slams titles as McEnroe and won the small slam in 1988. However his retirieving style of play really made him a pusher, so he did not popularise tennis.

    Also the Wilander-Lendl rivalry is great in terms of numbers but also fails to get recognition. With 5 grand slam finals and many more slam encounters and tournament finals this was a rivalry that extended to everywhere except Wimbledon.
     
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  17. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    If you extend this stat to grass generally, then you can given Lendl one more final and two more semis, at the Australian before it converted to Ace Rebound.
     
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  18. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Also 1 final and 2 semis on Australian Open grass.

    He has some very good wins on grass. Probably the best was over Edberg at the 87 W, but he also defeated Zivojinovic, Mayotte, Leconte, Kriek, Tanner and Cash at Wimbledon. He defeated Cash at the Australian Open in 1983 and lost a very close semifinal to Cash in 1987.

    He was up two sets to one on the eventual champions at the both the 1985 Australian (that was Edberg, who beat him 9-7 in the fifth) and the 1989 Wimbledon (Becker, who benefited from a rain delay).

    Then again, it raises the question: Why didn't he come through and win a major on grass? Was it all just bad luck running into great grass-court players?
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2007
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  19. edmondsm

    edmondsm Legend

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    This has already been said, but how can you talk about a guy being the greatest ever when he choked as much as he did. In the end, he's only got as many slams as Agassi and he never won Wimbledon. It's a no-brainer to me.
     
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  20. Craig Sheppard

    Craig Sheppard Hall of Fame

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    Same here, I'm American and I loved Lendl. I always thought he was the Terminator out on court. Talk about intimidation... he just walked out there with his >|-[ look and just pounded it. I don't know why more people don't like him or think of him as a great....when I first got onto tennis in the '80s, he was the dominator.
     
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  21. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    Ivan deserves a ton of respect for his accomplishments and hard work across all surfaces. He is definitely a top 10, if not top 5, all time player.

    I don't think there is any problem not including him in GOAT discussions, and it's not because he didn't win Wimbledon (though that certainly doesn't help). Sampras (clay), Federer (clay, so far),and Borg (hard courts) also have surface deficiencies when it comes to their slams.

    It's simply numbers. 8 Slams, even with all of those other finals, just isn't enough to pass Sampras (14), Federer (10 so far), Borg (11), and Laver (11 even though he didn't play for several years) in GOAT discussions.

    His "Masters" wins certainly help his case, but he still falls short
     
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  22. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Lendl could play on grass, as his Wimbledon junior title indicates. On grass, however, he had imo one severe technical problem, his backhand volley of a cross return. Becker exploited that. In his 86 final. Lendl broke Becker early in the first set, but after wipping his first few backhands cross court over the net, Becker blinked to the German president Weiz├Ącker, who was sitting in the Royal box, and immediatly broke back and won the match effectively.
     
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  23. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    When Lendl thrashed Becker 6-3 6-2 in the final at Queen's in 1990, the legendary British commentator, Dan Maskell, said that it was the finest display of grasscourt tennis that he had ever seen. However it must be said that the courts at Queen's were truer and firmer than those at Wimbledon, with a higher bounce. However 2 finals and 5 semi-finals at Wimbledon, plus 2 queen's titles are outstanding results considering grass was his weakest surface. I really wish that Tony Roche hadn't persuaded him to serve and volley at Wimbledon. Adapting this style meant that he stopped playing to his strengths, which cost him from winning Wimbledon. I personally think that had he stayed back at the baseline, he would have won Wimbledon, but I was a huge fan of the guy so maybe I'm being biased.
     
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  24. CEvertFan

    CEvertFan Hall of Fame

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    Couldn't have said it better myself. Lendl thought that to win Wimbledon, you had to serve/volley every point. Agassi proved that wrong. If Lendl had stayed more with his strengths, instead of playing out of his comfort zone, he might have won one Wimbledon title.
     
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  25. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    I also agree. He still should have looked to come in off of his big forehand or his underrated chip backhand and occasionally served and volleyed, but he should have stayed back more.
     
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  26. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I was not a huge fan of his, quite the opposite; but I had the same opinion about his being better off if he'd stayed back more.

    I can't remember exactly when he hired Roche and changed his tactics on grass. He hired Roche, a left-hander, to help him overcome McEnroe, so it must have been before the 1985 U.S. Open.

    When I look through his grass-court results, he seems to have three periods.

    One included the 83 W, 83 A, and 84 W: two semis and a final; and he had some impressive wins in this period.

    Then he lost early at the 84 A and 85 W (second stage).

    The third stage began when he reached the semis at the 85 A and nearly beat Edberg; at the next Wimbledon he started making the final and we all know the rest.

    Was the middle period of mediocre results the time when he was switching over to a new style and trying to implement Roche's advice?

    Anyone remember specifically when he started playing differently?
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2007
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  27. CEvertFan

    CEvertFan Hall of Fame

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    When he no longer thought that grass was for cows.
     
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  28. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    Good points on Lendl's different strategies to win Wimbledon. What's funny is that Ivan listened to too many of his critics and went away from his game. He got to the semis at Wimbledon in 1983 and 1984 playing his way. Considering the big improvement in his game over the next 3 years, he should've stuck with what he did best. Still, he did give Becker a great match in both 1988 and 1989.

    Overall, I think you have to admire Lendl because of his work ethic. I think he is somewhat underated. But as far as public affection goes, Lendl wasn't very popular anywhere until later in his career. Let's face it, he gave people a lot of reasons not to like him through the years with the way he treated some of his opponents, tour officials, and even charity tournament organizers. But I do not think that personal reasons should give us an excuse to low rate him.

    One person I've always been surprised at Pete Sampras not acknowledging in the development of his game is Ivan. He invited Pete to play with him in Connecticut many times. That's where Pete learned what it would take to get to the top. Yet I don't think I've ever heard Pete utter a word about those days with Lendl. Or maybe I'm overestimating his influence?
     
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  29. andreh

    andreh Professional

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    Just wondering, how should doubles merit count in GOAT discussions. Generally only singles merits are taken into account?
     
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  30. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    sampras has said that lendl was a great influence many times. and lendl has said a lot of nice things about sampras as well.

    I saw the '83 AO Final & '86 Wimbledon Final recently, he hardly S&Ved in the AO match, but S&Ved 1st & 2nd serve in the '86 W Final. He also S&Ved a lot in the '85 AO SF. I may buy the '83 & '84 W SF's, will let you know if I do.

    I think its a stretch to use only 2 tournaments('84 AO & '85 W) to say he was mediocre, he lost to Leconte & Curren those 2 events, they were pretty dangerous opponents on grass for anyone.
     
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  31. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    That's great; I'm also thinking of buying the 83 semifinal, mostly for McEnroe's performance. I once read that he won 23 straight points on serve in that match, and I have not heard of anyone with a higher stat since, though I wouldn't be surprised if Sampras or someone else has since broken it. (This might be worth it's own thread).

    Mediocre is too strong a word, and those were dangerous opponents.
     
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  32. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I mentioned doubles as a factor in what other people might take into account in GOAT discussions. Myself, I tend to mean greatest of all time in singles when I talk about the GOAT, but a broader impact on the game would have to include doubles.
     
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  33. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    You know, I've heard some crazy things about that match, like Lendl made only 5 errors(& still lost in straights!)

    Mac was amazing on grass, sounds like this should be mentioned with the '84 W Final as his best match ever.
     
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  34. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I used to have the stats on that match and I also read something like that. It's one reason I'm interested in watching McEnroe's performance.

    I think Lendl had some notable serving stats, too, in his win over Tanner earlier in the tournament.
     
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  35. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    One other thing: there's a point where you can't separate singles from doubles, namely in Davis Cup. Mac's reputation in GOAT discussions includes his great Davis Cup record, but he earned that record partly by winning a lot of doubles rubbers.

    Just a guess (I have not checked the records), but in some ties, the U.S. won just by 3-2 and might have lost if McEnroe had not been present in the doubles.
     
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  36. andreh

    andreh Professional

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    Yeah, just thinking that including doubles would improve McEnroe's position on the GOAT-list. Edberg's as well.
     
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  37. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    This is from the New York Times, and it shows how good Lendl could be on grass even before he switched to his serve-and-volley game.

    It's a report from Wimbledon in 1983. Lendl had just defeated Pat Cash in the fourth round. Cash came into their match having dropped his serve only once during the tournament, but Lendl swept him, 6-4, 7-6, 6-1. Lendl then faced Roscoe Tanner.

    So then Lendl serves nearly as well in his semifinal against McEnroe. He serves at 73% and is broken only twice, but loses in straight sets, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. He puts in 30 of 37 first serves in the first set (that's 81%) but narrowly loses the tiebreak 7-5. McEnroe serves at 62%, hitting 16 aces and winning 57 of 67 points on his own first serve, including 23 in a row.

    Sounds like great tennis from all the players, with each successive round bringing out a higher level.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2007
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  38. Pete Semper

    Pete Semper Rookie

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    I was Lendl's fan in my younger days for the same reasons...His attitude of a dominator impressed a lot !!!
     
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  39. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    krosero, thanks for posting that! does the nytimes have a searchable database? is it free? surprising that tanner could hang in there when lendl wasn't missing many 1st serves, since tanner didn't have a great return.

    do you know the unforced errors stats on that '83 Mac-Lendl match?
     
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  40. krosero

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    They do have a searchable database. The lead paragraph of an article can always be read for free, but the full articles have to be purchased, either individually for a few bucks each or with a subscription to Times Select, which gives you up to 100 archived articles a month. I couldn't pull up that section of the Times right now (it's down), but it comes up when you run an archive search from the home page and you try to pull up any article.

    The articles only had those service stats, so no unforced errors. But if I buy the match I'll let you know.
     
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  41. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    Glad to hear that I was wrong about that.

    On the McEnroe vs. Lendl match at Wimbledon in 1983, I have that match and I thought that it was good quality tennis. Mac was more natural on the surface, more confident, and played the big points better. But I do think it is a good example of how well Lendl could play his game on the surface.
     
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  42. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I'm pretty sure Cash didn't lose a point on serve in the 2nd set of the '87 W Final vs Lendl. He also had a long streak in the semi vs Connors.
     
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  43. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I had forgotten that; I saw that match live and will have to buy it too. I would love to see it again.

    I use to keep records on this stuff, and I remember that Cash's streak against Lendl did not equal McEnroe's. Don't remember the number, maybe 20 straight.
     
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  44. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    You were right, it was 20 straight. Ended on a double fault.
     
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  45. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I generally think most fans/media know how good Lendl was & then I see this in Wertheim's mailbag:

    "Who would you rank as the top five clay-court players of all time? My ranking: 1) Borg; 2) Vilas; 3) Nadal; 4) Wilander; 5) Muster.
    -- Peter Fleming, Atlanta

    I think that's pretty good, assuming we're limiting this to the Open era. I'm inclined to put Kuerten ahead of Muster. Also, I still say let's put an asterisk next to Nadal. At the rate things are going, Nadal isn't far from unseating Borg."

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/jon_wertheim/05/30/baguette/index.html

    Lendl was far better on clay than Vilas or Muster(who cleaned up at the smaller clay events) & probably more than Wilander as well.

    Amazed at how little Wertheim knows about the sport sometimes.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2007
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  46. CEvertFan

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    I agree. I would never put Muster and Vilas, or Wilander for that matter, ahead of Lendl on clay. Muster only has one FO and the only reason he won a lot of clay tournaments is because they were the mostly the smaller ones where he was the only marquee player in the field.

    I would say that if Nadal keeps up his stellar clay court record that he will pass Borg, but not yet. IMO Nadal still has a lot of work to do in order to be put over Borg as best on clay.
     
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  47. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    I would definitely rank Lendl higher than anyone on that list except Borg. Wilander may have an argument, but my gut tells me to stick with Lendl.

    Maybe Nadal will surpass Ivan. But it's way too soon to suggest otherwise. And, hey, I LOVE Vilas. But how could someone remember to rank Vilas and not remember to rank Lendl in their top 5 clay courters?
     
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  48. Gizo

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    Lendl is definately one of the top 3 claycourters of all-time in my opinion. At the minute, I personally would put in him in 2nd place behind Borg, though if Nadal wins the French Open title next Sunday (meaning that he'll have completed the Monte-Carlo-Barcelona-Rome-French Open quadruple 3 years in a row), then he'll definately have a very strong case to overtake Lendl and move into 2nd place.
    The 4 biggest claycourt tournaments outside the French Open are Monte-Carlo, Rome, Barcelona and Hamburg, and Lendl won each of these events twice. Anyone with half a brain is aware of the fact that Lendl is streets ahead of Vilas and Muster. It is very close between him and Wilander. They both won the French Open 3 times and were losing finalists twice. However Lendl led their clay h2h 6-4, and away from the French Open he won 8 other big claycourt tournaments, compared to 6 for Wilander.
     
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  49. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I think Lendl brought his best tennis to the court more consistently. At the French their head-to-head is 2-2, and 1-1 in finals. So it's very close, as you say.
     
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  50. Moose Malloy

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    It looks like Lendl is the only player to win each of those events even once in their career. And the only player to win Monte Carlo, Rome, Hamburg twice.

    I though this was interesting-in 1992 Lendl(age 32) beat both Muster & Bruguera in straight sets on clay!
    And both those players had already won masters series events on clay, so they weren't newcomers to the tour or something.

    Amazing that a player who played on clay in the wood racquet era could hold his own on clay against some very different types of claycourters.
     
    #50

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