Is Lendl that much better than Wilander on clay?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by egn, Jun 13, 2009.

  1. egn

    egn Hall of Fame

    Dec 15, 2008
    There head to head is 4-3 favoring Lendl (however there last match came way past their primes when Lendl was in his last season and Wilander was coming back from a long break from tennis a year Lendl would finish 54 and Wilander would finish 127)
    Both have 3 French Open Titles and 2 French Open Runner ups and are 1-1 in finals there against each other.
    Lendl has 28 clay titles to Wilander 20 clay titles (not sure of the presitge of the titles as there was no master series and stuff but both have a handful of big name ones)
    Lendl however played 16 full years Wilander 12...13 if you count 1991 when he was burnt out.
    Lendl has the better clay record but Wilander hurt his with an attempted comeback to the tour after nearly missing 2 years of tennis Lendl is 81% Wilander is 77%
    Lendl has an 81.5% at France while Wilander has an 83.9% at France
    Wilander won his 1st French Open he entered
    Both had 40+ win seasons on clay Lendls best was 44-5 and Wilander's best was 42-2 and in both of those years with their best records they did not win the French Open..though I am not sure of the exact results of all their years with clay records but over their best years I have Lendl edging the percentage by about 1 at 87 to 86 over their best years.

    So although the edge is clearly there for Lendl it seems to be a small edge and if it is to go on French Opens it is obvious Wilander should be held as better he has the better results and the better record but overall Lendl has some tiny little edges but there are numerous factors. Wilander after wrecking Lendl in 88 lost motivation and hit a spiral and was off the tour within a matter of a year and a half. So my question is does Wilander not get that much credit if you take away his burnout years 91 on he has about the same winning percentage as Lendl on clay. Just in their primes the two seem pretty dead even on clay and I don't understand how one is so easily chosen over the other and no questions is asked. Lendl soley seems to get the edge because he played more than Wilander is that fair?

    I guess this is all started as when we mention clay court GOATs of the open era you hear Nadal, Kureten and Lendl constantly yet there is not any love for Wilander..
  2. Winners or Errors

    Winners or Errors Hall of Fame

    Jul 16, 2008
    Lendl = Wilander on clay. Where I think Lendl is better doesn't show up in the head to head. Because of his power, Lendl had an easier time with the rest of the field and could perform well against a broader range of players. That's true not only on clay, but on all surfaces IMHO. This is a slight advantage, not a great one...
  3. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Aug 12, 2007
    I regard them as essentially equal, but with a major difference: Lendl was a power-hitter, and Wilander was a tactician.
  4. flying24

    flying24 Banned

    Apr 23, 2006
    I consider them at the same level on clay. I think Wilander is underrated by some since many feel Lendl underperformed vs him and the discrepancy in titles and head to head should have been more. I look at it that achievements and performance matter most, it is not Wilander's fault if Lendl underperformed in big matches vs him, and Wilander probably isnt credited enough with his tactically excellent performances to beat Lendl too.
  5. egn

    egn Hall of Fame

    Dec 15, 2008
    Yea its nice to know other people feel they are equal just I think as you said Wilander gets discredited for Lendl's "underperformance"

    I think the fact that Lendl performs better on all surfaces is a reason so many easily bump him up over Wilander. Though oddly enough Wilander is the one with a slam on all three surfaces.
  6. Gaucho Behrend

    Gaucho Behrend New User

    Apr 29, 2008
    On clay they are equal, their matches on clay were fun to watch. Wilander always raised his game for the majors, whereas Lendl was just consistent all year round.
  7. David_86

    David_86 Rookie

    Jun 18, 2009
    I think clay was Wilander's best surface.

    I think Lendl's game was more suited to hardcourts and indoors.

    Still, the 2 best players on clay post-Borg.
  8. Borgforever

    Borgforever Hall of Fame

    Oct 20, 2008
    Kuerten and Rafa must be added...
  9. David_86

    David_86 Rookie

    Jun 18, 2009
    Sorry. I didn't mean they were the two best clay court players since Borg, just that they were the best of that sort of post-Borg 80s era.

    Still, the clay court game seems to be very different nowadays
  10. NadalandFedererfan

    NadalandFedererfan Banned

    Jul 16, 2007
    I think they were very equal on clay. I consider Lendl clearly superior on fast hard courts and fast grass of Wimbledon. However on clay, the slower grass of Australia, and the slower hard courts of Australia, I consider them pretty equal. The big difference between them is their quality at Wimbledon and the U.S Open, despite that Wilander had that one amazing win over Lendl in the U.S Open final in his career year.
  11. tennis85

    tennis85 New User

    Jul 2, 2009

    Wilander preference surface was indoors and have won many indoors events as a result, but since he is a topspin baseliner, clay is better suited for his game, like most topspin baseliners. However, Lendl's is underrated as a clay court specialist as his footwork is one of the best on clay.
  12. Cosmic Charlie

    Cosmic Charlie New User

    Feb 13, 2006
    I'd give the slight edge to Lendl.

    Wilander was a clay court specialist who modified his game to win on faster surfaces. He had loopy stokes and patience to outlast the tour without Borg.

    Lendl too adapted his game to suit outdoor (lowering his toss height) non-hard court surfaces. He tried to approach the net and volley on grass (always looked awkward). His power game, so successful on hard courts and carpet, was good enough to challenge the best clay courters of the time. He played a more patient strain of his hard court game. He did not get frustrated when he got into those 85 ball rallies with Wilander. The '87 FO Final could have lasted 6 hours had it gone to a fifth set. Neither of them was willing to take the initiative to shorten points.

    Lendl was a contender for the FO from '81 to '91, while Wilander's clay years were '82 (as a surprise winner) to '88.

    What is not factored into those numbers quoted by the OP is that Lendl chose to miss the '90 and '91 French Opens in order to prepare for Wimbledon. He would have been a top contender in both those years. In fact, Gomez participated for his swan song only once he realized Lendl was out of the way. Wilander's motivation was too low to get him back to contend for big titles after he became #1 in '88.
  13. David_86

    David_86 Rookie

    Jun 18, 2009
    In the period 1982-88 their achievements at the French Open are probably as equal as anything in tennis can be.

    82 Wilander beats Lendl and goes on to win title
    83 Noah beats both Lendl and Wilander
    84 Lendl beats Wilander and goes on to win title
    85 Wilander beats Lendl in final
    86 Wilander loses early and Lendl wins title
    87 Lendl beat Wilander in final
    88 Lendl loses in QF and Wilander wins title

    I think Lendl probably went into the tournament as favourite more times. Here's my reading of the favourites based on stats.

    82 Lendl
    83 Wilander
    84 McEnroe
    85 Lendl
    86 Lendl
    87 Lendl/Wilander
    88 Lendl
  14. Sampras90s

    Sampras90s New User

    Jul 10, 2009
    Yes, Lendl and Wilander are too close to call as clay players. Same number of French titles, and achieved during essentially the same time span.

    I was a bit thrown by the title of the thread, since it seemed to imply that some actually think Lendl was *clearly* better on clay than Wilander, which strikes me as untenable (just as claiming Wilander was clearly better on clay than Lendl would be).
  15. Zimbo

    Zimbo Semi-Pro

    Sep 29, 2006

    Good post.

    I think many believed that Wilander was the favorite coming into the '88 FO.
  16. msunderland71

    msunderland71 New User

    Apr 19, 2006
    I've heard Lendl was held back by injury in 1988. Can anyone tell me the nature of this injury? The only odd result in grand slams that year was him losing in the QF of French Open to Jonas Svensson. And he did only play in 10 events according to the ATP website.
  17. David_86

    David_86 Rookie

    Jun 18, 2009
    I have a highlight video from Wimbledon 1988 and a commentator mentions that he had a shoulder injury that bothered him at the French Open. In the Wimbledon SF vs Becker he also had one leg heavily strapped.

    I also have the entire 1988 US Open final on DVD and none of the American commentators mention him carrying an injury into that particular match.

    My advice would be to look up some articles in the Google News Achive as they have a lot of old match reports.

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