Did Lendl really do that?

AAAA

Hall of Fame
Q&A for Korda from a website:


Q) One of the only former champions not playing on the Delta Champions Tour is Ivan Lendl. What is he doing these days and what was he like to play against?
Jason, Croatia

A) Ivan is living in the United States. His daughters are playing golf extremely well - they are all going to the David Leadbetter Academy. Ivan Is a great guy and he came to help me at a Charity event recently, but I always remember watching Ivan play when I was young.

I remember one particular match he played against Vitas Gerulitas in the final at Madison Square Garden in New York. Ivan was two sets down and it was about three-all in the third when Vitas played a bad volley and Ivan, with his hammer forehand, whacked the ball into Vitas's forehead! The ball flew into the 20th row of the seats behind Ivan! After that Lendl won easily, and I think Vitas only woke up in the locker room!



Did Lendl really do that?
 

ChrisNC

Semi-Pro
I highly doubt it. The distance from the net to 20 rows back is quite a distance for a ricochet off of someone's forehead. If it were to happen, that person would likely be out cold.

EDIT: That's not to say he didn't get hit
 

atatu

Legend
He was known for hitting people as a means of intimidation, and if someone hit him, he'd say something like "is that the hardest you can hit it ?"
 

Rabbit

G.O.A.T.
atatu - I believe that was Billy Scanlon who had that exchange with Lendl. He decided to get his lick in first. This was when Lendl decided that beaning his opponents early in the match would intimidate them.
 

NoBadMojo

G.O.A.T.
lots of guys go right at their opponent at times..its a smart play. they dont go for heads however and neither did lendl, but he seemed to make more a point out of going after someone when he had other putaway options and he hit the ball much harder than anyone for a while..it went along will w. his dour sneering on court demeanor
 

Kaptain Karl

Hall Of Fame
I think I remember this "exchange" between Llendl and Vitas. (And I'm pretty sure Ivan really did clock Vitas in the head.) But the "20th row" and "Vitas being loopy until the locker room" stuff is Korda employing hyperbole....

- KK
 

Kevin Patrick

Hall of Fame
I've heard Gerulitas, & McEnroe often mention how often they (and others) were drilled by Lendl, often calling him a headhunter. From what I've heard, this tactic of Lendl was used more early in his career. I followed the game closely from the mid 80s on, & Lendl didn't hit players that often(& when he did, it was the body, not the head) Also, most of the players that Lendl hit were players he didn't like(i.e. he never hit Edberg)
I have an old SI, in which a reporter asked Lendl why he insisted on this play.
Lendl's answer, "Nobody ask him to come to net"

I did see McEnroe drilled in the head in an early round of the 1990 US Open by a qualifier. In the postmatch interview, he was asked about it: "I was stunned for a second & had ringing in my ears. But mostly I was just angry with myself for getting hit."
I think McEnroe probably has the record for being hit, having more to do with how disliked he was by others players, than his net coverage.
 

Colpo

Professional
Lendl definitely scaled back body-hunting once he assumed the #1 perch - just flat didn't need it. His ability was intimidating enough. Besides, McEnroe was the most fun to try to hit, and he'd gone Malibu by the time Lendl really hit his stride.
 

alfa164164

Professional
Vitas afterwords made the comment (this is paraphrased, I don't have the exact quote) regarding the hit to the head. It didn't hurt, because there is nothing up there to hurt. Lendl may have respected Edberg, but that didn't stop Lendl from going at him either. It was merely a strategic play, when Lendl didn't think he could hit a clean pass, he would hit it as hard and low as possible right at the person, so as not to give the opponent any angle for the volley in case they were actually able to get a racket on it.
 

BreakPoint

Bionic Poster
I remember seeing a clip of Lendl drilling McEnroe at the net with a hard shot to McEnroe's neck. He went down and and was motionless on the ground as if he was dead. That indeed looked pretty scary. I'd bet if you hit someone hard enough in the neck with a tennis ball, you can probably kill them if it breaks a vein.
 

Kaptain Karl

Hall Of Fame
Kevin Patrick said:
I have an old SI, in which a reporter asked Lendl why he insisted on this play.
Lendl's answer, "Nobody ask him to come to net"
I'd forgotten about that interview. Good one, Kevin.

- KK
 

Tenny

Professional
Kevin Patrick said:
Also, most of the players that Lendl hit were players he didn't like(i.e. he never hit Edberg)
Kevin,

I never saw Lendl actully hitting the other players but in one match I saw Becker trying to hide his big body behind his small puma racquet and crouching when he and Ivan were about 2m away and Ivan was about to drill him. It was scary indeed. BTW, I've read Ivan vs. Stephen Edberg's 1992 US open match was 'all smile'. Was it because they had mutual respect for each other? Or something else? Edberg is my favorite player and is a guy hard to hate anyway.
 
I can't happen but a peak Hewitt vs. a peak Lendl would be explosive.

hewitt wasn't around but connors was. at the 1982 us open final lendl directed one of his overheads at connors, and connors had some choice words. connors stood at the net and said something like " you f****in a**hole".
 

Kevin Patrick

Hall of Fame
Tenny,
I think you're referring to the Becker-Lendl '89 US Open Final(great match, highly recommended). The point you describe was a volley that Becker hit that sat up near the sideline. It bounced very close to the net & Becker crouched down with his racquet hovering just above the net. Lendl ran up & hit it into the open court(if he tried to hit Becker, not only would it have a major a--hole move but he would have risked missing the shot as Becker was very close to the net & alley.
There was no love lost between Becker & Lendl though. They barely looked at each other at the handshake at the end of that 4 hour match.

That '92 Edberg-Lendl match is one of my all-time favorite matches, I think their rivalry was very underrated. Don't know about it being "all-smile," though it was a very hard fought match between 2 players that respected each other.
Edberg is one of the most popular players among his peers ever. I can't remember any other player ever having anything remotely negative to say about him, ever. the atp named their sportsmanship award after him.
BTW, I have some Goolagong matches if you're interested.

Yeah, wildbill I remember that. Compared to Connors, Hewitt is very tame indeed. I'm not sure how he became tennis' badboy. Yelling c'mon is that controversial?
 

AAAA

Hall of Fame
wildbill88AA said:
I can't happen but a peak Hewitt vs. a peak Lendl would be explosive.

hewitt wasn't around but connors was. at the 1982 us open final lendl directed one of his overheads at connors, and connors had some choice words. connors stood at the net and said something like " you f****in a**hole".
Can you remember Lendl's reaction?
 
lendl was in the process of getting schooled, and hanging his head a bit. he just turned and walked back to the service line.

the match was tennis's version of ali-foreman. young lendl was tearing the rest of the field, up including j mac, at the time. but lendl's intimidation brought the best out of connors that day. lendl had all tanked a match in a round robin tournament, earlier that year, in order to manipulate the draw. that also drew more choice words from connors.
 
Kevin Patrick said:
I did see McEnroe drilled in the head in an early round of the 1990 US Open by a qualifier. In the postmatch interview, he was asked about it: "I was stunned for a second & had ringing in my ears. But mostly I was just angry with myself for getting hit."
I think McEnroe probably has the record for being hit, having more to do with how disliked he was by others players, than his net coverage.
Yes, I remember that KP. Might have been Laurendeau? Anyways, he hit Mac at close range with a full swing forehand. I remember Mac as being quite gracious afterward at least in the interview. When asked if there was bad blood because of it, Mac said no. That basically he set himself up and he got clocked and that if anything it just woke him up.

I do remember noting that though Lendl stopped trying to intimidate the opponent early with body shots, he did sometimes against Edberg and Mac try to hit the ball VERY VERY hard past them early on. If he got a weaker approach, he'd really destruct the ball on the frist couple pass attempts. Either outright winners or errors, but clearly he wanted to send a message and intimidate. It was actually fun to see what Lendl could do, when he really let himself go, because even though he had as much power as anyone has ever had, he usually played within himself. That's what made Lendl amazing to me, that he could hit as hard as the guys today, but for him it was a controlled 60-80% manner, not wild, swinging for the fences strokes.

I did see Edberg take a headshot that bounced off his head a LONG way. Against Olivier Delaitre at the open. Little delaitre hit a forehand from BEHIND the baseline, but he hit it so hard, that Edberg took it in the head, Edberg then feigned being knocked out flat on the ground. He lay there a bit then sat up and smiled and acknowledge to Delaitre that he was all right.(that's how he got all those sportsmanship awards!) Little Olivier could generate incredible power for his size. I remember Edberg said in the interview that Oliver just hit that ball really hard "like he can does, he can hit the ball harder than most of the guys out there."
 
I remember Lendl taking a shot at McEnroe. I think it was in Montreal. McEnroe had been arguing with the ref about line calls. Lendl was upset with the Mac and the ref for letting Mac stall. At his first opportunity, he drilled Mac--and Mac berated Lendl with more cussing.
 

KFwinds

Professional
I can confirm that the story the original post was referring to (with Vitas) is true;

The head pro at my club played on the tour with these guys during that time (I won't post his name here but e-mail me if you want to know who he is) and has talked about it on a couple of occassions. Not sure about where the ball actually ended up, but the part about Lendl beaning him is true...
 

VictorS.

Professional
Obviously tennis has always been a very gentlemenly game where ethics and sportsmanship is of course paramount. However, now that I think about it....from a pure tactical standpoint...it actually has some merit. For example, if a guy is constantly attacking the net early in the match and all of a sudden gets clocked by a ball...there's a pretty good chance that it will pacify his game. Obviously guys like Rafter and Sampras won't get rattled. But I would say, a lot of players would. And if a player changes the way he's playing the tennis tactically, to me it's a good tactical move(although perhaps unsportsmanlike).
 
VictorS. said:
. However, now that I think about it....from a pure tactical standpoint...it actually has some merit. For example, if a guy is constantly attacking the net early in the match and all of a sudden gets clocked by a ball...there's a pretty good chance that it will pacify his game. .
As far as I'm concerned, in COMPETITIVE tennis, not rec tennis, it has merit anytime it works, provided you're not dealing with an easy sitter. Now 'easy sitter' varies from level to level, but if there is an easy put away and you opt to be bean, it's legal but unsportsmanlike, particularly if he concedes by turning away....if he actually tries to make the play and/or tries to fake or distract you, then he's open game. However, if you're at the baseline or further back, it's not illegal OR unsportsmanlike in my book. If the guy opts to come up there, it's his business to protect himself no matter how hard you hit it, from the backcourt. If you can hit him again and again from back there, then I say do it. An open tournament player should be almost unbeanable from back there unless you're Gonzo.
 

Kaptain Karl

Hall Of Fame
KFwinds said:
I can confirm that the story the original post was referring to (with Vitas) is true;

The head pro at my club played on the tour with these guys during that time (I won't post his name here but e-mail me if you want to know who he is) and has talked about it on a couple of occassions. Not sure about where the ball actually ended up, but the part about Lendl beaning him is true...
KF - Out of curiosity, I just tried to e-mail you. You're not set up for that feature.

- KK
 

35ft6

Legend
I'm pretty sure I read an interview with Lendl where he said the turning point in an important match against, I think, John Mac was when he hit a ball right at his head. After that Mac was less confident at the net, especially when he saw Lendl winding up on a forehand.

He did it on his backhand as well. It's an effective play. It would probably work great against Henman.
 

Ronaldo

Bionic Poster
If you believe a tennis ball will not disable you at net, player at our club took a return of serve to his ribs while poaching, cracking them. And Lendl wasn't returning.
 

Kevin Patrick

Hall of Fame
wildbill & AAAA,
you should check out the book, "Jimmy Connors Saved My Life" Apparently, before the '82 Final, Lendl entered the locker room & Connors' bodyguards were playing cards. Lendl made some comment about how much money they were playing for. Connors' very large bodyguard got right in Lendl's face & said "I bet you 1,000 dollars that Jimmy's gonna kick your a--"
Lendl quietly went away. The mind games that Connors (& apparently his posse) played before big matches are well known, McEnroe & Wilander have mentioned when they were just coming on tour, Connors would ignore them when they tried to introduce themselves.

The ali-foreman analogy is a good one, wildbill. A few weeks before that us open final, lendl beat connors 6-0,6-0. Pretty amazing that Connors was able to turn things around.

Data, you have an amazing memory, I think you're right about Mac's opponent in '90(or '91?) I remember that Delaitre shot, that ball really shot off Edberg's head.
Now that you mention it, I do remember that Lendl would crush sitters just to get his opponents attention. I'd love to see one of today's players do that to Henman or Dent just to get their reaction. I think the concept of net play is so foreign to the majority of today's players that not much thought goes into passing shots.
I remember Becker doing that as well, when he played S&Vs. I remember an exchange with McEnroe once at the Masters. Mac was making some incredible stab volleys. Becker got a sitter & absolutely unloaded one right past him causing the crowd to go nuts.
 

Ronaldo

Bionic Poster
Believe it was the 1983 US Open final that Connors won the final 10 games of the match, just rolling Lendl.
 

Kevin Patrick

Hall of Fame
The 4th set of the '83 final was a tank job. Lendl had chances to win the 3rd & go up 2 sets to one, & just packed in the 4th. The commentators called it disgraceful. Lendl's transformation from a choker/tanker to one of the fiercest competitors in tennis history was a truly remarkable turnaround.
 
you should check out the book, "Jimmy Connors Saved My Life" Apparently, before the '82 Final, Lendl entered the locker room & Connors' bodyguards were playing cards. Lendl made some comment about how much money they were playing for. Connors' very large bodyguard got right in Lendl's face & said "I bet you 1,000 dollars that Jimmy's gonna kick your a--"

the way i heard it(as reported in SI), lendl was playing cards in the locker room. ilie nastase asked lendl how much lendl wanted to bet that jimmy would beat him. lendl made some offer, and jimmy appeared out of a dark shadow, and said, i 'll take some of that bet.
 

AAAA

Hall of Fame
I give much credit to any player that can bean the net guy with a ripping powershot. I mean the head isn't a big target('is it')?, not even Mac's. :-0

Kevin, I already have 3 tennis books and not one has been read cover to cover but thanks anyway for the suggestion.
 

JohnThomas1

Professional
VERY early in his career Lendl used to try to cream Mac often at the net. I actually thought at one stage Lendl dropped Mac with a drive to the forehead. If an opponents volley fell short in the early days Lendl would hammer it right at them. He hit so hard he won these points routinely. Considering he was playing the best players on earth he certainly had no need for apology. I may as well tell a couple of stories while i'm going. In my home town we have a decent tourney once a year called the country carnival. Last year i made friends with an ex world junior number one who trained a fair bit with Ivan, both here and at his estate. I won't name him at this stage. Apparently Ivan had a very weird sense of humour. This guys dad would help out and pick up balls for them. Ivan took great delight in picking a ball out of his pocket and drilling him fair in the ass when he bent it in his direction, HARD. Apparently he was very accurate as one would expect. Another trick was finishing a gruelling practice session late in the day then getting his attack dogs to keep the practice partner imprisoned in the courts while he went up and enjoyed refreshments lol. Not for a short time either. His other big prank was to take this guy on a huge bike ride thru the city, where he of course wasn't used to. At an opportune time he would hammer off and leave this guy totally lost lol. He would have to find his own way back many km's to the estate. While keeping with the topic i also have an old mag with a story of Lendl trying to drill fellow pro and mentor Fibak in the head from close quarters, with a shot of frightening pace. Fibak absolutely did the pills at him.

John
 

Tenny

Professional
Kevin Patrick said:
Tenny,
I think you're referring to the Becker-Lendl '89 US Open Final(great match, highly recommended). The point you describe was a volley that Becker hit that sat up near the sideline. It bounced very close to the net & Becker crouched down with his racquet hovering just above the net. Lendl ran up & hit it into the open court(if he tried to hit Becker, not only would it have a major a--hole move but he would have risked missing the shot as Becker was very close to the net & alley.

BTW, I have some Goolagong matches if you're interested.
Kevin, you have a photographic memory. It was funny that Becker crouching down as if he is trying to make his big body small ^^. I am not sure whether Lendl hit the ball to the open court or through the space where the face of Becker was. Also there was loud screams from crowd. And thanks for the Goolagong offer. I just bought many DVDs so Goolagong willl have to wait for a while! But I'll remember.

T.
 
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