Originally Posted by Mustard
Had the pattern the rivalry changed? Connors might have been a better grass-court player, but Connors couldn't even win a single game against Lendl in Rotterdam and Forest Hills, yet won their major meeting at Wimbledon in 4 sets. Connors lost to McEnroe in the semi finals of the 1984 US Open, and pushed McEnroe to 5 sets. McEnroe crushed Lendl in the final, when both were very tired. A peak McEnroe was beating everyone, but I don't see anyone else above Connors for the year.
As for the Masters, Lendl would beat Connors there anyway, and had done before. It was a peak McEnroe who beat Connors in the majors (French Open, Wimbledon, US Open) that year, as well as the WCT Dallas event.
Connors has very little over Lendl in '84 in the usual criteria for ranking the POY. He has no Slams, to Lendl's one. Only 1 final, to Lendl's 2. Not everyone uses H2H, but we are both using it, and Connors' record against the top players is nearly a bust: 0-6 to McEnroe, 0-3 to Wilander (even with 2 of the matches on Connors' best surface), and 2-3 to Lendl. By contrast, Lendl has big wins over all three rivals, and was the only one to beat McEnroe in a Slam that year. That alone was surely the biggest victory of the year not by McEnroe.
I don't say that the Masters was as big as Wimbledon, but since the Masters is commonly regarded as the fourth biggest event of the year (or at least the fifth for those who keep the traditional four majors), then Connors and Lendl really split their top two matches of the season.
Of course they split in both places back in '82 and '83 as well: Connors won at Flushing and Lendl at the Garden. But the reason '82 and '83 seem so different is because Lendl crushed Connors in those USO tuneups and then was beaten, for mental reasons very much on display, at Flushing. My point about the Wimbledon meeting in '84 is that those mental reasons were not on display, even in Connors' view.
I'm not sure anyone has ever been left so depleted from a Slam win as Lendl was at RG.
Of course, Connors beat Lendl fair and square at Wimbledon. I just don't think the reason was mental, which is why I argue with the phrase "had his number in the big matches" -- if that phrase is meant to imply that Connors beat Lendl in '84 because he still had the mental edge on him
. He had Lendl's number on grass, for sure -- as a lot of players still did (or always would).
The Forest Hills match provides no contrast at all between their small and big matches. I doubt anyone believed that Lendl should beat Connors at Wimbledon just because he double-bageled him on clay two months before.
That's why I say the pattern of '82 and '83 was no longer there. Unlike the USO tuneups from those years, in '84 Forest Hills and Wimbledon were two months apart, with a major tournament intervening (RG) -- an event in which a lot could, and did, happen (at least to Lendl). Plus, Forest Hills and Wimbledon were on polarized surfaces, back when clay and grass really were polarized. And going from one to the other, you're going from Connors' weakest surface to one of his strongest; and from one of Lendl's strongest to his weakest.
To me that's just a ton of differences from the pattern on display in Aug/Sept '82 and '83.
Arthur Ashe said during the Forest Hills final that Lendl had been intimidated by Connors at Flushing but that he believed that he no longer was intimidated. As far as I know Ashe had no reason to say that unless he was observing some real improvement in Lendl's physical and mental game.