Originally Posted by timnz
But doesn't your point here establish Wilander as number 1? Because as you said, he beat McEnroe at the French Open and the Australian - both tournaments that are more important than the Masters. Hence, Wilander won at the big events over McEnroe.
It's a good question. But in the Slams and the Masters, McEnroe trails Wilander 1-2 in the H2H, which is not normally enough of a margin to establish dominance; it leaves a lot of questions open. The French and Australian meetings were great wins for Wilander, but as far as I know they didn't carry with them the weight of deciding who would be #1. The Australian meeting may have carried some pressure for Mac who wanted to seal his place as #1, but Wilander was not in the race for #1 until he went on to win the AO; only then did he have a Slam win to set against McEnroe's Wimbledon. Only then, in essence, was there a tie to be broken. And the Masters match was then seen by a lot of observers as a tiebreaker (not to mention the Masters championship as a whole; in those days it was very much up there with an AO victory). That's the only match that both men played with the pressure of #1 on them (and McEnroe won it decisively, partly because Wilander had always been weak on indoor courts -- a definite knock against a POY candidate).
That's what I really meant by breaking a tie: what matches in the H2H were regarded as breaking a tie? If you just look at the H2H as another stat, and made it the decisive factor, the year would technically go to Mats, but I didn't want to make it a decisive factor in that way. I wanted to emphasize something about how the year played out in real time, and the perceptions of each match back then (some intangibles in there, to be sure, but I prefer to look at the H2H as an unfolding story rather than just a raw stat).