Lendl Vs McEnroe

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by Indiantwist, Apr 24, 2005.

  1. Indiantwist

    Indiantwist Semi-Pro

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    Most of the discussions seem to put McEnroe in a slightly higher plane than that of Lendl. In their career record Ivand Lendl has a 21-15 lead over McEnroe with Lendl having more titles.

    While i agree in terms of natural game and offcourt tantrums ("You cannot be Serious") McEnroe is more reachable and appealing to fans but in terms of sheer gamesmanship and winning Ivan Lendl is no pushover either if not better.

    My first window to tennis came when i watched French Open final with Ivan Lendl playing Matts Wilander and ever since i got addicted to tennis though never got a chance to play it until last few years. I never kinda felt the same when watching Mcenroe.
     
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  2. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Lendl is undoubtedly the most under-appreciated player of the Open era. I put Lendl firmly ahead of Mac. Lendl pretty much drove Mac out of the game the same way Mac may have contributed to Borg's early retirement. Mac was in his prime years and Lendl was owning him.

    To me and my friends, when we first started playing, Lendl was the man. He was the guy whose name we called out when we tried to hit really hard. He was the steely assassin. We all wanted his Adidas racket.
     
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  3. Jet Rink

    Jet Rink Semi-Pro

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    Did you hear about the time an empty limousine pulled up to the gate at the U.S. Open and Ivan Lendl got out?

    ;)

    Jet
     
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  4. Indiantwist

    Indiantwist Semi-Pro

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    I cannot agree any better. He had everybody's number for a few years. It took someone of Pistol Pete's caliber to beat/match some of Lendl's records. His fitness is amazing.
     
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  5. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    And I think his game wasn't as ugly as some people make it out to be. I think the more commonly used word was "robotic." The problem IMO was that they projected his personality into his whole game, because I actually thought his ground strokes were pretty stylish. Yes, his grass game was labored, and his serve was sort of boring, but his forehand was a whip. His top spin backhand was nice looking, too. His slice was pretty awful, though, I have to admit. More of a chip. Still, very effective, and it helped him get to 2 Wimbledon finals.

    Hurray for Ivan.

    I read he's gotten fat, though.
     
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  6. Brian Purdie

    Brian Purdie Semi-Pro

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    Haven't heard about the fat part, but part of the robotic image was his likeness to the Rocky IV russian character from the movie. Dumb comparison, but still a very accurate one given the american representation of the soviet Union at the time. He might as well have been portrayed by Dolph Lungren on the "CBS movie of the week". Mac didn't help. Mac was more a socialist/communist than lendl ( a republican) ever was, yet Mac was portrayed as the good old american rock and roll (wannabe) type.

    Truth is, mac was a scum bucket distracted by drugs and women and got beat by the better A+ student that did his homework every night. Mac was too proud of himself and his natural talent to bother working hard. It served him right that he went through the last 8 years of his career without so much as a GS title.
     
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  7. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Lendl was Czech, but, yeah, he did get stereotyped as being a kind of commie superman, all brawn, no soul, genetically engineered to destroy democracy.

    He got a lot of crapola for being so wooden, boring, whatever, but it was mostly because he didn't speak very good English. I heard he has quite the wicked sense of humor.
    Great analogy. If you would have said something about Mac being the rich kid and Lendl being the industrious immigrant child, that would have been even more sweetness.
     
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  8. Chadwixx

    Chadwixx Banned

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    mac's strokes were ugly, he looked so tight everytime he hit the ball. lendl on the other hand had long fluent strokes. mac is more for the non tennis fans, kinda like willliams-roddick now adays.
     
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  9. driger

    driger Banned

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    mac had his great year in 1984. that was also his swansong of sorts. lendl pretty much had his way with j mac after that.
     
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  10. JohnThomas1

    JohnThomas1 Professional

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    Just as Lendl put up a serious charge to Mac, Mac folded. Lendl TOTALLY dedicated himself to getting to number one. He found a great left handed coach and worked harder than anyone on his fitness, speed and mental toughness. He improved his handling of laft handed serves and improved his volley substancially as well his backhand. Roche taught him second serve targets etc that made it harder for Mac to come in successfully off his second serve. Lendl owned him after this, as well as beating a fading Connors time after time. Connors had been a dificult opponent for Ivan, with his aggression and in your face attitude. In his early years even i will admit Lendl had a certain fragility over him, especially in the biggest arena's. He was prone to tanking on the odd occasion and had a reputation as a choker and a quiter when the going got too much. He lost a handful of slam finals before finally winning the French then had to wait a bit longer to get the monkey off his back at the US Open. Amazingly he obliterated the choker tag and came to be considered as possibly the toughest competitor out there. In his dominant years he was fierce. He is a case of someone definitely getting the rewards they so richly deserved. Don't ever let anyone say it was all hard work and little talent, no one hit the ball like Ivan.
     
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  11. Roforot

    Roforot Professional

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    Is this an inside joke or a pun? How could the limousine be empty if Ivan Lendl was in it?
     
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  12. Jerry Seinfeld

    Jerry Seinfeld Professional

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    Ivan Lendl was the Grim Reaper of Tennis.
     
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  13. Jet Rink

    Jet Rink Semi-Pro

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    I withhold all comment.

    Jet
     
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  14. driger

    driger Banned

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    Darth Vader maybe.
     
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  15. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

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    Lendl won the last six in a row when McEnroe was basically going through the motions. He didn't know if he wanted to play or retire, so he put in mostly half-hearted efforts. Take those six away, and guess what, they're dead even. Lendl has won one more Grand Slam tournament than McEnroe with the count being Lendl - 2 Australian, 3 French, and 3 U.S. Open. McEnroe has seven total with 3 Wimbledon and 4 U.S. Open. It should be noted however that McEnroe really didn't go down to the Oz until his career was basically over. Had he played on grass Down Under, he'd have probably won at least 2 to 3.

    I reject in hand the argument that McEnroe was owned by Lendl in his prime. McEnroe's best year was 1984, they played 7 times with McEnroe winning 6. There can't be an argument that Lendl had a bad year because he won his first Grand Slam that year. Through the years:

    1980 2 - 0 McEnroe
    1981 3 - 0 Lendl
    1982 4 - 0 Lendl
    1983 3 - 1 McEnroe
    1984 6 - 1 McEnroe
    1985 3 - 2 Lendl
    1986 ***
    1987 Lendl 1 - 0
    1988 Lendl 1 - 0
    1989 Lendl 3 - 1
    1990 Lendl 2 - 0
    1991 Lendl 1 - 0
    1992 Lendl 1 - 0

    *** This was the year that McEnroe took off. His comeback attempt past this point, was IMO and in the opinion of many pundits a half-hearted and on again off again at best. If we look at the numbers prior to 1986, McEnroe leads 13 - 12 matches. I call them bascially even throughout their careers and on the same level in the GOATs lists.

    Past 1986, the most times they played in any one year was 4, in 1989 which further illustrates the half-heartedness of McEnroe's comeback. He never got into the later rounds to face Lendl. There certainly wasn't a lack of talent on McEnroe's part, simply a lack of desire and work ethic. Lendl was his perfect foil, never a lack of work ethic or desire, but a perceived lack of talent because of his style. I think Lendl was very talented, but not in the same vein as McEnroe.
     
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  16. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Huh? Take six losses away and they're dead even? Dude, you can do that with just about anybody. I think Lendl's domination WAS the reason Mac seemed only half into it. He simply couldn't accept that Ivan owned him. Read "You've Gotta Be Kidding Me." McEnroe is egomaniacal when it comes to making excuses for his losses. He would love to read your post, though, because his greatest wish is probably that people think he only lost when he wasn't trying.
    I said "prime years" because I realize Mac may have hit his prime a bit early. But 25 is about right. You're right, he wasn't dominated in his prime years as much as I thought he did before I saw this statistics. I consider a tennis player's prime years to be 25 - 29, so...
    But I think they're putting the cart before the horse? Was it half-hearted because he didn't get the results they thought he should have? Or were they actually monitoring his practices? What I'm getting at is if he did everything the same during the comeback but made it back to number 1, I bet they wouldn't call it half-hearted. From what I vaguely remember about the comeback, he came back all fired up, in better shape than he's ever been, but he couldn't dominate the way he once did, and that really frustrated him.
     
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  17. Jet Rink

    Jet Rink Semi-Pro

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    Here, here!

    Jet
     
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  18. TheNatural

    TheNatural Legend

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    Lendl was good,but he didnt leave me with the impression that he was as talented as Edberg. I used to try to emulate his forehand as well. But I remember Edberg started to beat him most of the time..I just looked up the head to head results and Edberg beat him 8 out of their last 11 matches.
     
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  19. AndrewD

    AndrewD Legend

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    I dont think Lendl was as naturally talented as McEnroe, Becker, Edberg or Sampras but I do think he was a far more talented athlete than any of them, with the possible exception of Pat Cash.

    Regardless, my memories of Lendl come from umpiring at the Aus Open and being lucky enough, on a few occassions to actually meet him. A genuinely nice guy and quite funny although he did have a very dry sense of humour and a bit sarcastic so probably suited us more than the Americans. Seemed a bit self-conscious too, which might explain the sarcasm. I also cut Lendl some slack as, of that generation, he was the one player not born into a middle-class -at least- level of comfort (Connors being the only similarity but a little older). Becker, Cash, Edberg, McEnroe, Wilander and later Sampras all had a lot less baggage to dispose of before they could become top players. Lendl came from a nation invaded and dispossessed by another so if he seemed to have a chip on both shoulders Id say that's where a lot of it originated.
     
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  20. The Pusher Terminator

    The Pusher Terminator Banned

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    All you guys do is look at the numbers.

    Firstly Lendl never won Wimbledon the "world series" of Tennis and therefore Mcenroe will always be considered better.

    Secondly, You need to look at the numbers pre 1984 and post 1984 (or pre & post drug addict Tatum oneill). In 1984 Mcenroe was virtually unbeatable and should have won the French. Tatum helped to ruin his career. he took some time off and when he came back he was no longer the same player.

    Lendl's personality was not the only thing that was boring. His game style was robotic. Mcenroe on the other hand played the game with touch and angles. He was an artist, the likes of which the world has never seen before or after. His service motion was one of a kind. He volleyed standing straight up instead of bending low. he ran closer to the net than anyone I have ever seen. His ground strokes fed off his oppopnents power...he seemed to simply "push" the ball. It was pure art.
     
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  21. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, mathmatically, you're correct, but you missed the point of my post. McEnroe was ready to have a fork stuck in him by the time Lendl won the last 6. It clearly wasn't anything physical or strategic as McEnroe raised himself up at the WCT in 89 to beat Lendl. However, McEnroe says himself that Borg's departure from the game was the beginning of the end for him, he saw less reason to play. Is he lying? I don't know, but I do agree that Tatum helped hasten the end of his career along with the vast amounts of money that he acquired.

    Then we're in agreement, McEnroe was not Lendl's Christie Brinkley hand doll. And, they were, in effect, even.

    I clearly remember McEnroe saying all the right things and not doing any of them. '89 was his best year after he left in '86 and for all intents and purposes, it was his last hurrah. I distinctly remember him asking Jimmy Connors on an NBC Wimbledon telecast if he would coach him. McEnroe ask Connors for help? It was desparation in its purest form. McEnroe went on to such notable efforts as his Australian Open clash with Pernfors where he was defaulted due to behavior. For all intents and purposes, McEnroe did the same thing Nastase did when he saw he couldn't hack it, he went to the mental game. McEnroe's game was never the same after his leaving the game in 1986.

    IMO, McEnroe demonstrates more of the pre '86 attitude now when playing guys 25 years his junior like Ancic. The McEnroe of today is more like the McEnroe that was young, out to prove something to the world. He now wants to prove that he can hack it with the younger generation, and as far as I'm concerned, has demonstrated that fact very well. Could he compete day in and day out? Nope. Connors may well have done him the biggest favor ever by starting the Senior Tour and giving McEnroe something to showcase his game once again.
     
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  22. Dedans Penthouse

    Dedans Penthouse Hall of Fame

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    ROTFLMAO!!!
     
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  23. Colpo

    Colpo Professional

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    Thanks for laying out the year-by-year's, Rabbit. That breakdown makes it clear that Lendl's periods of success over Mac took place during two separate phases. The first phase was the early '80s, when Ivan maintained a sick tournament schedule and basically overpowered a pre-graphite Mac. His tourney win numbers for those years are ridiculous - he faltered only in the majors. During those years, Lendl beat fast-court players indoors, and Latin ballers on red clay (sometimes in consecutive tournaments!). He was scary. The second phase took place after Mac's peak years of '83 and '84, as Ivan entered his mature peak. Yes, Mac was disinterested by then, but Ivan was entering what would prove to be a 3-year prime period that was concluded by Mats's dramatic '88 season. Suffice it to say, Lendl was one of the most skilled, talented and most of all hard-working male pros of the Open era to the present. His baseline power and precision is paradigm for many of today's pros who carry a big serve that they then use to give them good court position for a closer groundstroke. That "Drago" stuff is just total BS.
     
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  24. wildbill88AA

    wildbill88AA Banned

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    "wimbledon" the world series of tennis? not hardly. it may be the oldest, and most prestigious, but the us open is probably closer to be the "world series" of tennis. there are many more hardcourt tournaments than grass. mcenroe's comeback half-hearted? jmac was not know for his training even in his prime. and mentally he was just unstable. jmac took some time off and the game left him behind. jmac's big mouth also made it difficult for him to play. people began to show up just to see jmac go off, or try and set him off. lendl just improved and flat kicked jmacs butt. according to statisitics, lendl had an edge on jmac 9 out 12 years. and they were both the same age. and two of those years were in johnny's prime in 81 and 82. lendl had the better singles career not doubt. won more tournaments at 92, and spent 270 weeks at no.1, both many more than jmac.had they played 10 times a year past 1986 lendl would of won 9 of them.

    and prime years are usually 21-26 years of age, not 25-29.

    and in the "what if" department, suppose the current "code of conducts" rules were in place in 1980. i wonder how many of those 7 slam titles mac won he would have actually won. i can think of at at least three of those titles where would have been disqualified.
     
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  25. gts072

    gts072 Semi-Pro

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    I think Mac was a great gifted player who took his god-given skills for granted. Lendl used good old-fashion hard work to get the job done. In the end Lendl had the last laugh because he got more Slams than Mac.
     
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  26. devila

    devila Banned

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    McEnroe boasted that he had great touch and that Lendl was boring.
    McEnroe was later outclassed by younger players and his volleys became ugly & useless.
     
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  27. fleabitten

    fleabitten Semi-Pro

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    Rabbit, Thanks for the really well thought out post. I'd never seen their records broken down like that and found it very informative.
     
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  28. Brian Purdie

    Brian Purdie Semi-Pro

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    That was 91. I actually have it on tape somewhere. I recall it because mac was interviewed by Connors and Dick Enberg after his loss to stefan edberg. It was significant because 2 days later mac would have a huge fine levied against him for the edberg match video tape of him calling a line judge a F#$@@^ several times. It was also weird because connors would go on to the semi's of the open later that summer
     
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  29. big ted

    big ted Hall of Fame

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    i think lendl had the overall better singles career winning 8 gs tournaments and 94 singles titles, but with mcenroe on the other hand almost as well in those numbers, but also winning the big W wimbeldon as somebody else mentioned 3 times, and last but not least his 75+/- doubles titles won which included gs victories and finally a remarkable davis cup record and most memorable matches i might have to consider giving the nod to mcenroe
     
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  30. theace21

    theace21 Hall of Fame

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    I hated to watch Lendl play. I always enjoyed when he lost, or skipped the Big W to play golf, allergic to grass...I even hated that stupid adidas racket of his...
     
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  31. Gary Britt

    Gary Britt Guest

    On the basis of their total career results I would rate both Lendl and Connors above McEnroe. Both won more slams and both were ranked number one in the world for a much longer period of time. I can't remember if it was Lendl or Connors who, prior to Pete, had the longest number of consecutive year end world #1 rankings. I think it was Connors at 5 times in a row. Later broken by Pete at 6 years in a row. It may be that nobody will catch Connors total number of tournaments won which is far higher than number 2 on that list. Connors beat Mac in '83 Wimbeldon final when Mac was at his peak and Connors was supposed to be too old. Mac did come back and give him a thumping in '84, I believe, which was Mac's peak year.

    Gary Britt
     
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  32. JohnThomas1

    JohnThomas1 Professional

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    A couple of facts on Lendl vs Edberg and Becker. Lendl's prime never coincided with these guy's. At his peak they were both short of their best and at their peak Ivan was fading. I'm pretty sure Ivan beat them in early head to heads most often, then it flattened then they had the edge. All at their primes Lendl beats them every time on clay, they most likely beat him every time on grass, and Ivan for mine pips them elsewhere, just.
     
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  33. Indiantwist

    Indiantwist Semi-Pro

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    Lendl to me was the player to copy. I wish i can copy Federer's game but i dont have that natural ,inbuilt instincts and skills. Lendl's was pure hardwork and was more easier to mimick (it is more like hit a few buckets of balls everyday ). In some ways Sampras and Lendl had similarities. They let their game speak more than their mouth.

    He never won wimbledon but he was 2 best so many times. Atleast better than what Mcenroe has managed on other surfaces.
     
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  34. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

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    One other interesting note. If you look at their win/loss records, they are both very impressive:

    Lendl 1070 - 238
    McEnroe 867 - 192

    Looking at their winning percentages, Lendl has 81.804% and McEnroe has an 81.869% which means that McEnroe's percentage was .065% better than Lendl's. I'd call that roughly even...
     
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  35. federerhoogenbandfan

    federerhoogenbandfan Banned

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    If I was held at gunpoint and forced to choose between these two, I would go with Lendl as the superior player. McEnroe is the more talented player I agree. Lendl though had more wins over McEnroe in his prime than McEnroe did against Lendl in his, so his overall head to head edge is valid. Personaly I think McEnroe's true prime was 80-84, Lendl's 85-90. Keep in mind Lendl would have been 0-5 in slams finals in 81-84 had it not been for McEnroe's choke in that French Open final, so it is hard to think he was in his prime at that point.

    With his one additional slam win, but many more slam finals and semis, and superior longevity near the top I couldnt see putting McEnroe above unless it is based on the pure genius of his game.
     
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  36. Jack the Hack

    Jack the Hack Hall of Fame

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    OK, this was the era that I fell in love with tennis, so I had to jump in...

    First off, McEnroe was a great tennis player who was blessed with outstanding hands and speed. When motivated, he was a fighter that was fun for people to either root for or hate (depending on whether you were a fan), and he put on a very entertaining show. However...

    In my opinion, not only was McEnroe less than Lendl, but he wasn't even in the top 4 players of the late 70s through 80s!

    Here is my ranking of the best players in that generation (with my rationale in parenthesis):

    1. Bjorn Borg (Played in 16 Grand Slam finals, won 11. He ruled the French Open and Wimbledon back to back several times, which is one of the most amazing accomplishments ever... never to be duplicated.)

    2. Ivan Lendl (Played in 19 Grand Slam finals, won 8. He was a finalist in all Slams, and could win on any surface. He changed the way pros looked at fitness, and set the pattern for power baseliners.)

    3. Jimmy Conners (Played in 15 Grand Slam finals, won 8. He is only one of three players to win a Slam on all three surfaces - grass, clay, and hard court.)

    4. Mats Wilander (Played in 11 Grand Slam finals, won 7. Along with Conners and Andre Agassi, he is one of only three players to win a Slam on all three surfaces. Note, the '83 and '84 Australians were on grass... and he also won a Wimbledon doubles title with Joakim Nystrom in '86. He could play on fast courts or rule on clay.)

    5. John McEnroe (Played in 11 Grand Slam finals, won 7. Tremendous artistry with the game, along with fiery outgoing personality made him a star, but he never recovered after his 12 month absence in '86 - other competitors passed him by with increased fitness, power, and desire.)

    6. Stefan Edberg (Played in 11 Grand Slam finals, won 6. Was a finalist at all of the Slams, and could be argued as better than McEnroe. However, he won 1 less Slam in the same amount of finals, so he gets bumped to #6.)

    Earlier, someone mentioned that McEnroe could have won a bunch of Australians if he had taken them seriously earlier in his career. The same could be said of Agassi, Connors, Borg, or any number of other players. Nothing was stopping McEnroe from getting on a plane to compete... but he didn't, and now his record is where it is.

    If we want to argue about coulda', woulda', shoulda'... then lets talk about:

    - How many Slams would Laver had won if they were open to the pros between '63 and '67?

    - How many Slams would Sampras have won if 3 out of the 4 were played on grass, like in Laver's era?

    - How many (more) Slams would Agassi have won if he had taken his career seriously earlier on? (And would he be playing today?)

    By the way, Wilander was my favorite out of the bunch I listed. One of my earliest memories was watching Wilander and McEnroe's epic 6 hour Davis Cup quarterfinal match in '82. Wilander was only 17 years old at the time, but gave McEnroe all he could handle. A couple months later, he won his first French Open, and officially took over as the heir apparent to Borg. I always loved his grace under pressure, and styled my baseline game after Wilander...
     
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  37. Kevin Patrick

    Kevin Patrick Hall of Fame

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    I'm a huge McEnroe fan, but I honestly can't see how anyone could say that he had a better career than Lendl or that they are even.
    Also, disregarding all of Mac's play post 1985 is absurd. He played from '86 to '92, had many great wins & many more bad losses. I watched the Mac-Lendl matches from the '87 US Open & '88 French Open recently. Mac was as fired up as I've ever seen him, he was not "going through the motions." The atmosphere was like a Grand Slam final, Mac played very well, Lendl just played on another level. Yes, Mac beat Lendl at the '89 WCT's, but that was a very close affair, with Lendl getting an undeserved game penalty while Mac got away with much worse in that match.
    Even if we disregard their rivalry post '85, Lendl was 7-0 vs Mac in '81 & '82, years in which Mac ended the year #1.
    Lendl had more longevity than Mac & was consistently ranked in the top 5 for over 10 years. For the last 7 years of his career, Mac could only finish one year ('89) in the top 10.

    Also, Lendl's lack of a Wimbledon title shouldn't be held against him. It's a myth that Lendl couldn't play on grass. He was more capable on grass than Mac was on clay, IMO. Lendl reached 2 wimbledon finals & 5 semifinals. He won Queen's twice. He has grasscourt wins over Edberg, Becker, & McEnroe.
    I think part of the reason Lendl's greatness is forgotten is that he hasn't remained in the spotlight, while Mcenroe has. Most of the posters here are in high school or college & are unfamilar with tennis in the '80s, but they see so much of McEnroe doing commentary, talk shows & clips of his outbursts. When have espn/usa/nbc/cbs showed any clips of Lendl playing?
     
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  38. federerhoogenbandfan

    federerhoogenbandfan Banned

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    Not that I think this should be considered in any way, just interesting to recall that Lendl probably would have won Wimbledon in 1989 had it not been for the rain delay in his semi against Becker. I think most observers agreed at the time he would have won that match without the delay, then he would have been able to play a badly off-form Edberg in the final making it almost a gimme. Also in 1990 he smoked Becker in the final of Queens, after Becker had beaten Edberg in the semis, but could not duplicate that form at Wimbledon, where as Edberg and Becker stepped it up big time for the big W.
     
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  39. big ted

    big ted Hall of Fame

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    mcenroe made the hall of fame first because he has a better davis cup record, more doubles titles (including 10 gs tournaments), and the 2 biggest tournaments of the year at least 3 times each.

    he is one of the greatest singles players in history and arguably the greatest doubles player in history
     
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  40. Gary Britt

    Gary Britt Guest


    A solid post imho. Why did Wilander retire so young. It seemed he quit when he had many more possible wins ahead of him?

    Gary Britt
     
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  41. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Wilander at his best played about the most cerebral tennis I've ever seen. And I'm not talking just "high percentage," because in most ways high percentage tennis is about thinking LESS. Wilander's game took a lot of thought, steadfast commitment, and incredible focus and versatility. Federer probably surpasses him in terms of versatility, but it's such a different situation, because Federer is beating players he's probably better than every day. Wilander was beating players that were arguably "better" than him on sheer strategy.

    I doubt anybody understood patterns better than him.
     
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  42. Jack the Hack

    Jack the Hack Hall of Fame

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    Some say that Wilander retired young because he played a counter-puncher baseline game and was physically burned out by the effort he had put in to win big matches. However, I don't think the physical aspect of his matches was the biggest factor...

    Rather, after 1988, when Wilander won the Australian, French, and US Opens (and just missed the Grand Slam by losing to Mecir in the quaterfinals of Wimbledon), I think he felt that there was nothing left for him to accomplish. Mentally, he was satisfied at reaching the peak of the game and had other things in life to look forward to. He was married in '87, got heavy into music and charity after '88, and then started having children - all of which seems to have given him as much (or more) pleasure than being a top ranked tennis player.

    I think that this is very similar to what happened to McEnroe after '84-'85 (his best years), or what happened to Borg. There is nothing physical that was keeping them from continuing their high level of play - they were all young - but had reached a point where they had become satisfied with their accomplishments. Interestingly, I think they later missed the game and they all tried comebacks but were never able to return to anywhere near their previous level (except for McEnroe).

    I think the key ingredient to being a legendary champion (aside from the talent) is having a burning hunger for success that isn't easily quenched.

    Guys like Lendl and Sampras seemed to have this gnawing edge inside of them that kept driving them to work harder and keep winning, like the trophies were the only thing that kept them alive. I think all of the great players in the past have had this same desire, but everyone either reaches a level where they are finally satisfied/happy (Borg, Wilander, Edberg, Sampras), or they just can't do it anymore physically (Lendl, Rosewall, Laver, Connors).

    It seems that Federer falls into the Sampras/Lendl/(Agassi?) category and won't be happy until he has double-digit numbers of Slam trophies (note the way he coached himself to an historical year last season - tremendous self motivation) or can no longer perform... time will tell as other players rise up to the challenge and the years progress. Contrast him with Safin, who seems to have equal talent, but whenever he gets a big win... he starts partying at the discos and filling his player box with new chicks (I really hope that Lundgren can curb this, but only Safin can muster the desire to keep working hard and want to become a legend).

    By the way, I agree with earlier posts that described how McEnroe did take his comeback very seriously. He did come into '87 with a vengence and was in the best shape of his life. His game was good enough to win another Grand Slam or two, but Lendl, Becker, Wilander, and Edberg had improved to reach near the top of their games and they kept McEnroe from achieving any further greatness.
     
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  43. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    I think you're right. Not just because it SEEMS right, but I think I've read something. But unlike other greats who had similar seasons, I think Wilander really had to work for it. He had to plan, prepare, and try much harder than Borg, Mac or Federer.
    I think it was slightly different with McEnroe. Part of the problem was a new generation of players with lighter and more powerful rackets bashing returns and passing shots at him. I think the evolution of the game really took its toll on his serve and volley, finesse style of play. I think he was pushed off the tour against his will more than the others.

    Wilander would be a great coach for Nalbandian.
     
    #43
  44. Arafel

    Arafel Professional

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    I hated to watch Lendl play. He was a gifted player, no doubt, but I'll never forget when he tanked a match to Connors in I think the 1980 or 81 Masters at the end of the round robin so he wouldn't have to play Borg in the semis. Combine that with giving up in the fourth set of the 1983 Open final to Connors, and I could never respect Lendl. Connors has always been my favorite player, because even when he was down you could never count him out, and he carried that attitude all through his career, including his remarkable run at the 91 Open, when he was down 2 sets to Patrick McEnroe in the first round and came back to win then charged into the semis. After Connors, I like J Mac, because he was so beautiful to watch.
     
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  45. wildbill88AA

    wildbill88AA Banned

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    interesting, but i think you have to give credit to connors for winning 109 singles titles, the most ever, and spending 5 years continuous(except for one week) at the number 1 spot. and lendl as well, for winning 92 tournaments and spending some 270 weeks at number one. mcenroes doubles achievements and four years at #1, would also put him well ahead of mats.
     
    #45
  46. TommyGun

    TommyGun Semi-Pro

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    Okay, none of you guys get it. Mac beats Lendl going away, and loved to watch Ivan play:

    1. Lendl refused to play on grass, mostly because he got his arse handed to him by nobodies early on. If you don't play or at least compete honestly at the Big W, your dance card gets less points.

    2. Mac was competitive on every surface, even clay. Lendl couldn't do it on grass. So, four surfaces versus three...

    3. ALL OF YOU ARE NEGLECTING THE FACT THAT MAC PLAYED SINGLES AND DOUBLES! AND HE WON A TON OF DOUBLES TITLES, ESPECIALLY AT SLAMS. Having played in some pro tournaments in my younger days, it is way harder to play and win when you are playing 6 hours a day versus one match of maybe 2 hours. Lendl could barely play one match.

    So, try this again. Who is better?
     
    #46
  47. Kevin Patrick

    Kevin Patrick Hall of Fame

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    1) Lendl only missed one Wimbledon in his career(1982) because he wasn't comfortable playing it at the time. I'm not sure why so many are preoccupied with that, it's not like he skipped it for 3 straight years like Agassi from '88-'90 because Agassi didn't want to wear white.
    McEnroe skipped the French 6 times. So who's more afraid of playing on their weaker surface?

    2) Lendl wasn't competitive on grass? From '83 to '90, he made 5 Wimbledon semifinals & 2 finals. His only early round loss in that span was to that "nobody" Henri Leconte. He won Queens in '89 & '90. He beat Edberg in the '87 W SF. Edberg had won the Aussie Open on grass earlier in the year & was Lendl's main rival for the #1 ranking in '87.
    Lendl beat McEnroe & Becker(the reigning W champ) to win Queen's in 1990. Lendl is 81-25 on grass for his career,a 76 winning %, I call that very competitive. McEnroe had a 74% winning percentage on clay. Mac only reached one French Open Final & one semi.

    3) Yes, Mac's doubles career is impressive, but irrelevant. Once Lendl dethroned him in '85, Mac virtually gave up doubles for the rest of his career. Having more left physically in the tank for singles certainly didn't help him against the top players for the last 7 years of his career.

    I loved watching Mac, hated watching Lendl, but facts are facts. Lendl had the better career. He won more slams, played better at all 4 slams, won more tournaments, was ranked #1 for more weeks, was a top 5/10 player for a longer period of time & had the clear edge head-to-head.

    Mac was an amazing talent, but his peak was a very short time. I believe longevity is the most important criteria when discussing these 2 greats. Lendl had it, Mac didn't.
     
    #47
  48. Jack the Hack

    Jack the Hack Hall of Fame

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    35ft6,

    Interesting that you mention Nalbandian… he’s the one guy on the current tour that reminds me most of Wilander. I love watching him play, and wish he hadn’t had so many injuries in the past year so we could see his full potential. However, I’m not sure if he has the same drive that Wilander had, and he certianly doesn’t have the same level of strategic prowess or mental toughness. Your right, Wilander could probably coach him well in those areas!

    Wildbill88AA,

    You are absolutely correct that Lendl and Connors put up unbelievable numbers in tournament championships and overall match wins. That’s why they are in my top 3 (on this list) and they certianly stack up better than McEnroe’s record historically. Both of those guys were a level above…

    Regarding Wilander vs McEnroe, I do not want to belittle McEnroe’s doubles achievements or his dominant years from ’79-84. However, consider that Wilander also won a Wimbledon doubles title in ’86 and that he was one of only three people in history to win a Grand Slam singles title on all three surfaces. In addition, winning 3 out of 4 Slams in one year is a rare accomplishment that has only occurred 4 times in the Open era (Laver in ’69, Connors in ’74, Wilander in ’88, and Federer in ’04). This is why I put Wilander ahead of Mac…

    TommyGun,

    I think that Kevin gave a pretty good rebuttal. I would only add a couple things:

    First, Lendl not only made two Wimbledon finals, but he also made it to the 1983 Australian Open final on grass. That’s 3 Slam finals on grass for Lendl to McEnroe’s 1 French final on clay.

    Second, I disagree with Kevin that McEnroe’s doubles career was over after ’85 (he won the’89 US Open and ‘92 Wimbledon doubles titles), but agree that this is irrelevant to whether he was a more accomplished player than Lendl. Since the mid-70s, the top players in the world rarely have played doubles as well as singles, so this shouldn’t be held against Lendl. History is made by singles players… or Pam Shriver and Todd Woodbridge would be on everyone’s best ever list.
     
    #48
  49. Kevin Patrick

    Kevin Patrick Hall of Fame

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    Well saying mac's doubles career "was over" after 1985 may have been a little extreme on my part. But he did stop playing doubles fulltime after '85. That he was able to win those doubles slams while rarely playing doubles speaks volumes about his abilities in that arena.

    I'm surprised that you regard Wilander higher than Mac, though. Wilander had a great, underrated career. But I never felt he was a dominant player at any time in his career like Lendl, Mac, & Connors were. I believe he was ranked #1 for a short time(end of '88 US Open to end of '89 Aussie Open)
     
    #49
  50. Jack the Hack

    Jack the Hack Hall of Fame

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    Kevin,

    I think I may be a little biased with Wilander (with him being my favorite of all time and all...), but I put a lot of stock in his ability to win a Slam on all three surfaces (Connors and Agassi are the only other two to do this) and to win 3 out of 4 Slams in one year. '88 was pure domination (he also won the Lipton - the "5th Slam" that year), but you are right that he did not have an extended run at the #1 ranking.

    Also, I did a little research and McEnroe had a 7-6 head to head advantage, and won 76 career tournaments to Wilander's 33. Based on this, you could definitely argue putting Mac ahead of Wilander... but certainly not above Connors, Lendl, or Borg in this era.

    By the way, when researching the head to heads, I saw that Wilander beat Mac in the semifinals of the Australian in '83... on grass... in the height of Mac's career. What's up with that? Pretty amazing win if you ask me...
     
    #50

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