Who was Lendl's biggest rival?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by dangalak, Sep 17, 2012.

  1. Ramon

    Ramon Hall of Fame

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    Heck no! We went over this at length already. We will not get a consensus on anyone, and if we had a survey I don't think Mac would be on top of this list. Mac was a pushover early on, then he figured him out later, but it didn't last long enough because he left the game early for personal reasons and was never the same after that.
     
  2. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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  3. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    I think that Lendl's % on grass was 76.4% (81-25) and Connor's overall % on clay was 78.6% (195-93). I don't have a clue about Connor's red clay/green clay percentages though. At Wimbledon Lendl's winning % was 77.4% (48-14). Connors's % at RG was 75.5% (40-13)

    Lendl and Connors were both versatile, all-court players. Obviously Lendl was not as good a volleyer as McEnroe, Edberg, Becker, Cash etc, but he was still very strong at the net (there were also many matches on clay when he came to the net a lot and had excellent percentages there as well), and his sliced backhand was also very good. His main problem on grass was his return of serve, especially the backhand return which can be a problem for one handers. The backhand return was a crucial reason why guys like Stich and Krajicek were able to win a Wimbledon title (for Stich it was a natural strength, and Krajicek worked hard to improve his). Lendl's return just wasn't quite good enough in a big Wimbledon match against a powerful server.

    In a big game at RG Connors could often get frustrated and lack the patience needed to endure all of those long rallies and points.

    Still I preferred those days when most of the great players still had a major missing link, as opposed to nowadays when it is easier to win them all with more similar surfaces and 32 seeds. Thankfully Djokovic didn't win RG this year as 3 players completing the full set within 3 years would have been ridiculous.
     
  4. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    Peter McNamara beat him in the 1st round in 1979. Lendl sure did suck on grass in those early days, but then again if weren't brought up on the surface it could be a nightmare to play on. At least he soon adapted though.

    Well to me it is clearly McEnroe. Their first 26 matches were all played when Mac was at his prime. Yes he was excellent throughout most of 1985 up to that year's US Open final which he was heavily favoured to win.

    During that period their h2h was 14-12 in Mac's favour overall, 2-1 in Lendl's favour in slam finals, 4-3 in Lendl's favour in overall slam matches, and 8-6 in Lendl's favour in matches at the blue chip events (slams, Masters, WCT finals and Davis Cup). In their 10 biggest matches during that period; their 3 slam finals, 2 slam semi-finals, 3 Masters finals and 2 WCT finals, they both had 5 wins each.

    Basically they played each other a lot on the biggest stage, and split wins very evenly, both in their most important matches, and in all their matches overall.

    Their 1984 RG final is one of the greatest slam finals of all-time in terms of quality of tennis and drama. Mac didn't choke that match away in the slightest, contrary to what he and journalists (who have admitted that they haven't re-watched the match since it was aired) have said.

    The main problem is that because McEnroe hated Lendl so much for so many years and didn't view him as a worthy adversary, he refused to admit that a rivalry between them even existed. However it did and in recent years he has finally started to give Lendl more credit. Mac should have have been proud that he had 3 fantastic rivalries against other great players.
     
  5. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Good post, while Lendl had big rivalries with Becker,Wilander,Connors,Vilas,Clerc,Noah and Cash his rivalry with Mac may have been the greatest in the greatest ever era for rivalries
    Unfortunately his potential big rivalries vs Borg,Edberg,Mecir and Agassi as well as his formet one vs Panatta never developed their full potential even if provided some breathtaking matches
     
  6. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    It's just a shame that their US Open matches weren't more competitive. Their 1980 QF went to 4 sets but all their other 4 matches there were all straight sets wins one way or another.

    Super Saturday definately had a negative effect on the quality of their two US Open finals. In 1984 both semi-finals were all time classic matches, probably two of the greatest grand slam semi-finals of all-time. However Lendl's tough 5 set win over Cash in the day time heat, and then Mac's 5 set victory over Connors in that amazing midnight madness bonanza, left them both spent and exhausted for the final the next day.

    Then in 1985 Mac's 5 set SF win over Wilander in the brutal heat took so much out of him before the final.

    I wish there could have been at least one Mac-Connors US Open final during their careers. That would be have great to watch.
     
  7. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Truth is the only thing of which we can be certain in this existence
     
  8. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    Thanks for the stats; shocking how close the win %s are for them on their least favorite surfaces. An "awful" 75pct ++++.....LOL. Despite some shortcomings on these surfaces, both were winning the overwhelming majority of their matches.

    It's obvious that there were elements of their games that made them much more effective on the flip side of the equation (i.e., connors on grass, Lendl on clay)...and it's seen in their head to heads where they clearly trounced each other on those surfaces.
     
  9. blackfrido

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  10. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    ^ Yes Lendl and Clerc did have a pretty entertaining rivalry.

    1981 was probably the best year of their rivalry, with Clerc winning 3 out of their 5 matches that year. Clerc beat Lendl in their semi-final at Rome, en-route to winning the title. Then in their RG semi 2 weeks later Lendl came from 2 sets to 1 down to win in 5 sets, with Clerc having beaten Connors in 5 sets in the previous round. In the summer Clerc beat Lendl twice on the US green clay, in the semis at North Conway and the final at Indianapolis (probably one of the biggest green clay events on the tour at the time along with Forest Hills). Then in the fall Clerc reached the final at Basel where Lendl destroyed him.

    Clerc also had a very good h2h record against McEnroe (5-6), with them playing each other 4 times in live Davis Cup matches from 1980-1984. Clerc beat Mac in a 6 hour 4 set match in 1980 and in 5 sets in 1983, both on the clay at Buenos Aires. Mac beat Clerc in 5 sets in the 1981 final and in straight sets in 1984, both on carpet in the US.

    With his shotmaking ability and power plus his strong records against such great players, I think he is the most talented player of the open era never to have reached a slam/major final.

    Lendl also had a pretty entertaining rivalry with Vilas on clay, winning 7 out of their 12 matches on the surface. Significantly Lendl travelled to Argentina and beat Vilas twice in big matches in Buenos Aires, in the 1980 Davis Cup semi-final (he also beat Clerc in the decisive 4th rubber), and in the 1981 Buenos Aires final. Lendl also beat Vilas in the 1980 and 1981 Barcelona finals, while a resurgent Vilas beat him in the finals at Madrid and Monte-Carlo in 1982, and the semis of Hamburg in 1980.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2012
  11. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Right and those were the games I thought about plus the 1980 and 1981 Masters were Lendl beat Vilas in 2 close matches
    As for Clerc he was unlucky with injuries and pulled off pretty young but for three years he was at Lendl level on cc and just behind Borg on that turf
    In a very controversial match, Clerc beat Mac at the 80 rr Masters
     
  12. Sharky-San

    Sharky-San New User

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    I believe Lendl's most significant rival was Pat Cash. Cash denied him of the win he wanted most. Lendl was at his best on grass that year, The '87 tournament was wide open, his usual rivals were out, it was his for the taking...
     
  13. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    That would've been his best shot, I think. If not for Cash, he probably would've squared off against Connors. Dangerous on grass, yes, but well past his prime at 35. That would've been an interesting one...particularly since Connors had pushed Becker to the brink a week or two earlier at Queens....edge to Lendl, but maybe not by all that much.
     
  14. Ramon

    Ramon Hall of Fame

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    Lendl won their 1984 US Open semi. That was surely one of the most heartbreaking losses of Cash's career. Lendl's hail mary topspin lob on match point against him was a defining moment that showed he had the champion's edge, kind of like Michael Phelps' win in the 100m Butterfly at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
     
  15. Sharky-San

    Sharky-San New User

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    That was good year for Lendl, the start of his peak years...I remember that match, I left for a while after the first set and came back to watch the last set...that single shot put the topspin lob on the map as an attacking shot! I foolishly left again to miss the rest of super Saturday....

    I think Cash was the last singles slam winner to use a metal racket, that sweet prince Titanium Pro
     
  16. Xavier G

    Xavier G Semi-Pro

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    Mac was Lendl's major rival till 86, after that, Becker was a big rival. I suppose when Ivan looks back at his career, McEnroe overall.
     
  17. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    While Mac and Lendl hated each other, Boris and Ivan couldn´t stand each other.A bit less of fire but....very hot, anyway.
     
  18. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    BTW, rumours had it that Lendl and Mac were extremely close to smack each other in the locker room during an exhibition in the North of Italy back in 1981.They had to be separated by other players, if memory serves well.
     
  19. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    A testimony of Lendl´s greatness is the caliber of foes he had: Borg in his first two years at the top, Connors,Mac,Becker,Wilander.He also had interesting match ups against later Panatta,Noah,Mecir,Cash,Edberg and young Agassi

    If the quality of a man can be measured by the qualitiy of his enemies, as the say goes, then Lendl is an all time great.
     
  20. halbrikj

    halbrikj Rookie

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    it's definitely (damn, that took about 100 tries to spell right) Becker. Lendl beat McEnroe something like their last 15 matches in a row, and Connors something like their last 20 matches in a row. Tell ya' what, if I'm beating some dude at the public park 20 times in a row, I'm not considering him a "rival." Matter fact, I don't even want to waste my time playing the little pest because he poses no challenge. So no, it's Becker. Fairly even head to head, plus they played a lot of big time matches, e.g. Wimbledon, USO, AO, masters, and so forth and what not.
     
  21. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    When Lendl was first making waves in the early 1980s, Connors was his nightmare matchup. Unlike other players who seemed to be intimidated by Lendl's power, Connors thrived on it. And even when Lendl could easily beat Connors later on in some smaller tournaments, and even tournaments as big as the Masters in MSG, Connors would still rise to the biggest occasions better, like in the 1982 and 1983 US Open finals, and the 1984 Wimbledon semi final. Lendl's domination of Connors came when Lendl himself reached his peak while Connors was the wrong side of 32.

    And yes, Becker seemed to have Lendl's number in a load of big matches, despite Lendl leading the overall head-to-head by 11-10.
     
  22. halbrikj

    halbrikj Rookie

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    I don't think Connors age had anything to do with the turnaround. Connors loved pace, and the harder Lendl hit the better Jimmy played. It was when Lendl figured this out when he started his run of something like 40 consecutive sets over Connors. Yes, Connors was older but he was still routinely making quarters and semis of slams, and was still a top ten player.
     
  23. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    we talk majors here, and Lendl didn´t start beating Connors regularly at them till 1985 when Jimmy was going downhill and aged 33

    as late as 1984, with Connors aged 32, Connors won their Wimbledon semifinal.
     
  24. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    can't stop Father time...33yrs and up is not young by any stretch...that plus Ivan changing his tactics against Jimmy AND his improved fitness tipped the tide in the later years. Still, there were some good ones in the mix...Jimmy never really gave up.

    Still, a young Ivan could not quite get the best of a relatively "old" Connors (30'ish) which I could never quite fully understand. I chalked it up mostly to mental barriers....the ability was there. But, Connors was quite ferocious in his late 20's / early 30's.
     
  25. halbrikj

    halbrikj Rookie

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    I don't think it had anything to do with mental barriers. Rather Lendl's ball suited Connors game perfectly, i.e. relatively flat ground strokes hit with tremendous pace. Jimmy was a counter puncher and he thrived off that. Also, whereas Connors was more dominant in 74, I don't think he played his best tennis until 82, i.e. his Wimbledon and USO wins over McEnroe and Lendl were more impressive than his wins over a 39 year old Ken Rosewall.
     
  26. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Connors thrived on Lendl´s pace and that was a different story than playing Mc Enroe or Borg.
     
  27. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    1982 Connors was a wiser man and an older man as well.He shortened points and came in quite often.I think he also improved a tad his first serve.

    I´d say Connors was in his best physichal form from 73 to 81.
     

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