Hall Of Fame
Join Date: Dec 2006
Becker, after losing to Wilander in the semis, made a prediction about the final:
“If it is close all the way through, then Mats will win,” Becker said. “Ivan is not as strong mentally as Mats.”
New York Times:
Lendl recalled with relish this evening that coming into this tournament, he was not a favorite. ''They said I was not fit,'' he said, ''that I wasn't mentally tough - Mats was tougher - that I had no confidence because I hadn't won enough matches this year.''
Under those circumstances, Lendl said, ''I'm proud to have pulled through.''
It was a tough pull made tougher by the strange rhythms of play.
The first five games seemed like an extension of the warmup, with the players exchanging cautious groundstrokes in rallies that lasted as long as 80 shots. The looping strokes and total absence of aggressive play summoned memories of Wilander's first French final, in 1982, when he defeated Guillermo Vilas.
When Lendl suddenly picked up the pace going for winners from backcourt and taking the net at every opportunity, Wilander had no answer. A celebrated counterpuncher and much improved attacker, he neither counterpunched nor attacked. He had no real explanation for his malaise, only an after-the-fact appreciation that he should have acted sooner to shake it off.
For one thing, Wilander's tentative play hurt his serve. ''In your mind, if you know you're going to play from the baseline,'' he said, ''you don't concentrate on your serve. You don't put as much power in it.''
'Took It to Him'
He might have survived a lack of power if his first serve had been going in. But he was missing an unusually high percentage of first balls and Lendl began climbing all over the second one. Standing far over to play every second service return on the forehand, he hit a half-dozen of them for outright winners and as many more that set up easy volleys.
As Lendl put it, ''I just took it to him.''
Wilander had to do something, and he did. At 2-all in the third set, he began playing serve-and-volley for the first time in the match, and held that service game after several deuces. He won his next one easily, again by attacking, and his aggressiveness seemed to rob Lendl of his own.
Lendl stayed back while Wilander came in. What had been slashing winners off Lendl's racquet became setups that Wilander volleyed away. He broke for 5-3 on a point that saw him race the width of the court to retrieve an approach shot on his forehand, then pass off the ensuing volley on his backhand.
Lendl managed to fight off three break points to win the opening game of the fourth set, but when he next served, he was broken at love. Wilander was in control until the next game, when he double-faulted at deuce and Lendl blasted a weak second serve.
Then light sprinkles became real rain, and play was suspended. Play was resumed with rain still falling.
Lendl went on serve to the tiebreaker. ''I wouldn't have complained if the umpire had stopped the match before that,'' Lendl said. ''Puddles were forming behind the baselines and it was hard to get any penetration because the wet balls got heavy quickly.
''I was thinking, what should I do to take advantage of the court?'' Lendl said. ''Come in to the net? Hit behind him so maybe he'll slip?''
What Lendl did instead was to play four straight championship points: a deep approach that forced an error, two returns that zoomed past Wilander as he came in behind serve and a service winner that ricocheted off Wilander's racquet. Lendl was ahead, 4-0.
Wilander climbed back to 4-2, but even he knew it was all but hopeless. ''Tie breaks are always dangerous against Lendl,'' he said. ''He can come up with great shots and great serves.''
Lendl called this victory the toughest he has had in a Grand Slam event, more difficult even than his first French title, which he took from John McEnroe after trailing two sets to none. Asked how it felt to win this tournament after winning only one previously this year, he grinned.
Lendl's only title this year had been in Hamburg. He had taken 6 weeks off to have arthroscopic surgery on his knee, right after Miami, where he lost in 3 straight sets to Mecir. Shortly after returning to the tour he beat Mecir in 3 straight sets in the Hamburg final (he also beat Mecir in 3 straight at RG). He lost in Rome to Nystrom but beat him at RG.
Wilander came into the RG final with 17 straight wins, including titles at Monte Carlo and Rome. He had last been beaten by Mecir, twice, and badly both times: 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in Dallas and 6-0, 6-2 in Milan.
Lendl beat 3 "hot" players at RG (Wilander, Mecir, Nystrom), so this was one of his best victories.