Originally Posted by Mustard
I've explained this above. The fact that it's a semi final instead of a final, and that Lendl is now the defending champion instead of being majorless, changes the whole scenario, the whole mentality surrounding the match. Lendl never had issues with major semi finals.
Even in 1982, he could beat 3-time defending champion, McEnroe, in straight sets in the semi finals of the US Open. The fact that Roland Garros is a much better natural venue for Lendl than Connors on top of all the other factors, only increases the likelihood of a Lendl victory, which is what happened.
I'm sorry, but I haven't questioned Lendl's winning of the 1984 French Open. The suggestion about Connors was purely hypothetical, not actual reality.
But what Connors had showed, and several times recently, was that he would beat Lendl in the biggest matches, especially when Lendl had not won a major and the media were criticising him. The big match occasion is what favours Connors, even though the surface playing conditions taken on their own favoured Lendl.
Connors won more titles, was constantly thwarted by McEnroe in the biggest events, and still had the big match edge against Lendl. That is why I favour Connors for second in 1984.
Wilander won less titles and had losses to Cash at Wimbledon and the US Open, with the Wimbledon loss being in the second round.
Anyway, that's my say
Let's start with your argument that Lendl never had trouble with major semifinals. This erodes your own position about the Wimbledon semifinal that he lost to Connors in '84. If Lendl never had trouble with major semis, as you say, then what explains the fact that he lost that semi to Connors? It can't be that he was frightened merely of the big stage, if your position is that major semifinals in themselves were no trouble for him.
You named a number of reasons for Lendl having no trouble with Connors at their RG meeting in '85. Nearly all of the same factors apply as well for the Wimbledon meeting in '84, except in reverse, against your own argument.
- You say that the RG meeting was a semi, and that Lendl never had trouble with semis. Well, since the Wimbledon meeting was a semi, that eliminates your contention that Lendl lost to Connors at Wimbledon because Connors had the mental edge in big settings. It sounds very much like you're saying that Lendl never had trouble with major semis and only had trouble with major finals. But since the Wimbledon meeting was not a final, something else, apart from mental factors, will have to explain Lendl's loss there.
- You say that by the time of the RG meeting Lendl was no longer majorless. That was also true at the time of the Wimbledon meeting. Yet Connors lost that meeting. You see what I'm getting at? If Lendl drew mental strength from having won a major, then he drew it at Wimbledon in '84 as well as at RG in '85. And that just continues to cut away at your argument that Lendl lost the Wimbledon meeting for mental reasons.
- You say that RG being a more favorable venue to Lendl was also a factor in the way he easily defeated Connors there in '85. Ok, well if venue and surface are a factor helping Lendl at RG, and hindering Connors, then venue and surface are a factor helping Connors in the Wimbledon meeting, and hindering Lendl. Grass was Lendl's weakest surface, and one of Connors' strongest. Red clay was one of Lendl's strongest surfaces, and Connors' weakest.
Basically what I'm saying is that the factors you've used to explain why Lendl handled Connors with ease at RG in '85 are also factors at Wimbledon in '84, except in each case they work against your argument that Lendl lost the Wimbledon meeting because he couldn't handle the big stage.
What remains are physical explanations for Lendl's loss to Connors: that is, he lost because he was a lesser grasscourt player than Connors; and because he was utterly depleted after what he did at RG.
And all of that, again, is confirmed by Connors himself: he said that Lendl's collapse at Wimbledon, in his opinion, was more physical than mental. He had no reason to say that if he didn't believe it. He never said anything like that about the USO finals; in fact his comments about Lendl's performances in those matches were always more critical.
Your emphasis on the fact that Lendl lost to Connors at Wimbledon despite bageling him in earlier matches continues to strike me as superficial in the extreme. It is not like Lendl plastered Connors at Queens Club and then lost to him two weeks later at Wimbledon. He bageled Connors on clay, then underwent a grueling test at RG in the intervening two months, while Connors underwent nothing particularly taxing at RG; and then they met on a brutally hot day at Wimbledon, making the physical explanation all the more appropriate.
And now that you have yourself brought in venue and surface as an important argument for the '85 RG meeting, why do you set aside venue and surface completely when it comes to Forest Hills? The only time you mention the double bagel at Forest Hills is when you talk about mental factors. But come on, if you regard surface as an important factor in the RG meeting, then obviously you need to concede that it was an important factor at the Forest Hills meeting. But I've never heard you say that: you only describe it as a "small" meeting in a broad narrative about how Connors wins "the big ones."
Okay, you've said that you give Lendl full credit for his RG victory
. In that case the hypotheticals, as interesting as they are to debate, have to be set aside. As you say above, your argument about Connors winning RG is hypothetical, and not having to do with reality.
So Lendl stands with 1 Slam in '84, to Connors' none. Connors' 5-3 edge in total tournament titles is far too thin to overcome something as large as a Slam victory. You argue that Connors has an edge when you look at direct meetings between them, ie, in the H2H. That's ironic because Connors has a losing 2-3 record against Lendl in '84. The only possible edge Connors could have in the H2H is if he won he won the biggest matches. But as I said above, even that edge is very modest: you named the Tokyo Indoor as one of Connors' big victories over Lendl; that is matched by Lendl's win at Wembley. Connors' victory at Wimbledon is bigger than Lendl's at the Masters, but please, that is no decisive edge. A victory at the Masters was the biggest possible victory that you could have over an opponent, outside of the Slams.
And your emphasis on H2H leaves us still with the Wilander issue. Wilander had Connors' number completely, with no ambiguity whatsoever. He beat him in big and small matches, and on Connors' best and worst surfaces. Having someone's number is your central argument here, so Wilander, by that argument, has to be leapfrogged over Connors.
You mention that Connors won more titles than Wilander (5 to 3), and that he made 3 GS semis while Wilander lost to Cash in an early round at Wimbledon and in the quarters at the USO. But you completely passed over the fact that Wilander won the AO.
You have consistently championed the right of the AO champions of the 70s and 80s to get full credit for their victories, even if they won over weak fields. So I assume that in your view, Wilander won a full GS title in '84, just like Lendl did. And in that case, Connors' 5-3 lead in total titles is once again far too thin to overcome something as big as a Slam victory.
In this case it is even worse for Connors, because at least Jimmy got some big victories over Lendl. By contrast, he was entirely owned by Wilander in '84. So how can Connors' 5-3 edge in tournaments possibly overcome that, on top of Wilander's 1-0 edge in Slam titles, and Wilander's leading Sweden to the Davis Cup title?
I'm pressing the Wilander issue for a lot of reasons, but it shows, I think, how absurd things can become when H2H between two opponents, who play as part of a full tour of players, is emphasized too strongly. H2H between two players can be emphasized to the max if nobody but those two players are facing off. When hundreds of players are facing each other in a worldwide tour, an emphasis on H2H between two players can definitely produce absurd results.
In this case it would mean that Wilander has to be leapfrogged over Connors. But if Connors is kept ahead of Lendl, that means that Wilander is placed at #2 for the year, with Lendl at #4. Nobody thinks that is correct: yet that is the necessary result if H2H between individuals (as distinct from H2H against the entire field of players) is made the central argument.