Why did Mats Wilander's career go awry after 1988 - Place in ATG lists.

J

JRAJ1988

Guest
Was it completely down to lack of motivation? I mean if he kept it up in 1989 and 1990, even further he could have won more French Open's. I look at his game and it seemed to be more suited to the Clay. Nobody seems to talk about him as a tennis player of high quality it seems yet he won 7 slams, is he an all time great? Where would you rank him? Could he have achieved more?

He retired in 1996, he had a decent 1995 barring a failed drugs test.
He's an excerpt from his Wikipedia page:

"1989–1996
Wilander's motivation, results, and ranking suffered in 1989. He lost in the second round of the Australian Open to Ramesh Krishnan, the quarterfinals of the French Open to Andrei Chesnokov, the quarterfinals of Wimbledon to John McEnroe (7–6, 3–6, 6–3, 6–4), and the second round of the US Open to Pete Sampras (5–7, 6–3, 1–6, 6–1, 6–4). He did not win a tournament during 1989 and he finished the year ranked World No. 12.

Wilander briefly moved back into the top 10 rankings on 12 February 1990, but by the end of the year, his ranking had slumped to World No. 41. He defeated Boris Becker in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, only to lose to Stefan Edberg in straight sets in the semifinals. He skipped the French Open and Wimbledon and lost in the first round of the US Open to Brad Gilbert.

Wilander played only the first half of 1991. He lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open and the second round of the French Open. He finished the year ranked World No. 159.

Wilander was absent from the tour in 1992. He played seven tournaments in 1993, losing in the first round of five of them. At the US Open, he lost in the third round to Cédric Pioline. He finished the year ranked World No. 330.

Except for Wimbledon, Wilander played a full schedule in 1994. He lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open to MaliVai Washington, the first round of the French Open to Andre Agassi (6–2, 7–5, 6–1), and the first round of the US Open to Guy Forget. His only victory over a top ten player was in the second round of the tournament in Indianapolis against Todd Martin. He finished the year ranked World No. 129.

Wilander's results improved slightly in 1995 as he finished the year ranked World No. 46. After losing in the first round of the Australian Open to Jacco Eltingh, he lost in the second round of the French Open to eighth ranked Wayne Ferreira 6–7, 7–6, 6–3, 6–7, 8–6. He then lost in the third round of Wimbledon to Eltingh and the second round of the US Open to Martin. In other tournaments, he had wins against tenth ranked Marc Rosset, eight ranked Ferreira, and sixth ranked Yevgeny Kafelnikov. He also won his final tour match against Edberg, in the second round of the Canadian Open in Montreal.

In 1996, Wilander played only one Grand Slam tournament, losing in the second round of the French Open to Martin. He retired from the tour after losing his final match to Martin Damm in Beijing in October."
 
Yes, he very visibly had a crisis of motivation at the start of 1989. Even before he did lose to Krishnan in the second round of the Australian Open, he almost lost to Tobias Svantesson in the first round. Svantesson was a nobody but took him to five sets. Krishnan was a moderate top-level player but he defeated Wilander in straight sets and the first two were 6-3 6-2. While Wilander did make the quarter-finals of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, he didn't really beat anyone particularly significant to do so. (By contrast, in 1988, his win over Zijojinovic in round 4 of Wimbledon was a good accomplishment: Zivojinovic had made the semis in 1986 and the quarters in 1987). Surprisingly, he probably looked best at Wimbledon, where he at least pushed McEnroe in the quarter-finals. If I recall correctly, Wilander didn't get any top 10 wins in 1989. That may be wrong. But it's not just his results: he just had an aura of lacking interest. And his game relied heavily on his tactical intelligence. For example, he won the 1985 Roland Garros final - pretty easily after a tough start - in part because he adapted to the conditions better than Lendl. Wilander was also someone who had struggled for motivation before. He won the Australian Open in late 1984 and Roland Garros in 1985, so two Slams in a row, but no tournaments at all in between. And he'd had a pretty poor year in 1986 and for much of 1984.

Unless he was concentrating very hard, Wilander wasn't as effective. So slight loss of motivation was a big problem for him.
 

deacsyoga

Banned
Yes, he very visibly had a crisis of motivation at the start of 1989. Even before he did lose to Krishnan in the second round of the Australian Open, he almost lost to Tobias Svantesson in the first round. Svantesson was a nobody but took him to five sets. Krishnan was a moderate top-level player but he defeated Wilander in straight sets and the first two were 6-3 6-2. While Wilander did make the quarter-finals of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, he didn't really beat anyone particularly significant to do so. (By contrast, in 1988, his win over Zijojinovic in round 4 of Wimbledon was a good accomplishment: Zivojinovic had made the semis in 1986 and the quarters in 1987). Surprisingly, he probably looked best at Wimbledon, where he at least pushed McEnroe in the quarter-finals. If I recall correctly, Wilander didn't get any top 10 wins in 1989. That may be wrong. But it's not just his results: he just had an aura of lacking interest. And his game relied heavily on his tactical intelligence. For example, he won the 1985 Roland Garros final - pretty easily after a tough start - in part because he adapted to the conditions better than Lendl. Wilander was also someone who had struggled for motivation before. He won the Australian Open in late 1984 and Roland Garros in 1985, so two Slams in a row, but no tournaments at all in between. And he'd had a pretty poor year in 1986 and for much of 1984.

Unless he was concentrating very hard, Wilander wasn't as effective. So slight loss of motivation was a big problem for him.
I thought he was looking back on track in the early rounds of the Australian Open 1990. He looked really good and better than he had all of 1989. Then he got a massive beatdown from an on fire Edberg in the semis (who would have almost certainly maybe not crushed, but straight setted Lendl in the final had he not gotten hurt) and that seemed to set his confidence backwards once again. He never recovered from there.

I really did enjoy his comeback in 1995. His run to the Canadian Open semis was particularly fun to watch.

As for his place in the greats list: he was the only person in between Connors in 1974 and Federer in 2004 to win three Slams in a row. I think that and his seven Slams at least gets him a seat at the table.
I rate him just directly behind both Becker and Edberg. I know he has 1 more major and a better best year, and of course multiple majors on each surface, but I think those 2 guys were just overall a bit more impactful and left a better legacy on the game. Still he is on a level with both Becker and Edberg, and you could argue any order between the trio really.

I think he gets underrated today in part since he largely played old school tennis at a time the power game was starting to come into vogue, and in part since he is such an awful commentator, really the worst commentator ever. And it is hard to not harbor some negative feelings towards him based on that, even if unfair.
 

Gizo

Hall of Fame
His body of work was fantastic and he obviously ranks as a great player, with his 7 majors (winning 3 on clay, 2 on hard and 2 on grass which was pretty cool), dominating 1988 with his 3 majors (and title at Miami which had a 128 player draw and best of 5 set matches in every round), time as world no. 1 and his 3 Davis Cup titles in 4 years.

The person who underrates Wilander the most is actually himself. if you hear the way that he talks about his game and career, he has often implied that he wasn't in the same league talentwise as the likes of Edberg or Lendl.

His tactical brain was amazing and his ability to adapt his game to the circumstances or his opponents strengths and weaknesses was amazing, as showcased by his RG final victories in 1985 (when he attacked the net at the perfect opportunity) and 1988 (with his 97% 1st serve percentage). In 1988 his serve had clearly improved allowing him to come to the net, serve volley with purpose and shorten the points in the 1988 US Open final. He learned his lesson from his 2 major final defeats to Lendl in 1987 when he engaged in countless long gruelling baselines rallies but was clearly second best. And how many players with two handed backhands have had a better one handed slice than him? Not many that's for sure.

It was a shame that by the end of 1988 at the age of just 24 he was so happy with his career achievements, that he lost his hunger and motivation, or 'eye of the tiger' in Rocky 3 terminology. Plus he came far more vulnerable to sheer powe. My lasting memory of his 1989 season was his 0-3 record against Mancini that year, suffering defeats on hard courts in Miami, clay in Monte-Carlo and carpet in Paris. I was a Mancini fan so I enjoyed those victories, but his power at the time was scary (imagine what it would have been like with modern day racket technology and poly strings) and Mats was just helpless against it. Plus he lost to a young Sampras at the USO (only his second ever defeat in 5 set grand slam match) and received a heavy beating by Becker in the Davis Cup final, but then again so did Edberg, so no shame there.

What hurts him in comparison to other greats was clearly his failure to reach a single semi-final at Wimbledon, and he only won 1 set in his 3 quarter-final appearances there. Out of all the greats that began their careers in the open era, he has the worst record out of any of them at any of the individual majors.
 
My lasting memory of his 1989 season was his 0-3 record against Mancini that year, suffering defeats on hard courts in Miami, clay in Monte-Carlo and carpet in Paris. I was a Mancini fan so I enjoyed those victories, but his power at the time was scary (imagine what it would have been like with modern day racket technology and poly strings) and Mats was just helpless against it.
Mancini was a force in 1989 indeed. Becker was playing outstanding tennis in Montecarlo -he manhandled Skoff in the semis effortlessly, as if Horst were a featherweight in clay-, and Alberto defeated him in a very contested final. He went on to defeat Agassi in the final of Rome in 5 (if memory serves me well). I was shocked when i read back the outcome of his match vs Edberg in RG; Stefan demolished him, i thought Alberto had serious chances to win the whole thing.

Great fighter, and had a gret one handed backhand.
 
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fezer

Rookie
As for his place in the greats list: he was the only person in between Connors in 1974 and Federer in 2004 to win three Slams in a row. I think that and his seven Slams at least gets him a seat at the table.
Wilander never won three grand-slam-tournaments in a row. he reached the final of the uso87, then he won auso88 and fo88, edberg won wim88 and wilander won uso88.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
What hurts him in comparison to other greats was clearly his failure to reach a single semi-final at Wimbledon, and he only won 1 set in his 3 quarter-final appearances there. Out of all the greats that began their careers in the open era, he has the worst record out of any of them at any of the individual majors.
I agree that's mostly why he's not respected as highly as other ATGs - Wimbledon was a Greatness maker/breaker at the time

Personally, it's not too important to me - the guy proved he was a solid grass courter in other ways (Australian Open) - that's the bigger picture of the issue in my view

Selected weak records for ATGs @ Specific Slams

Wilander @ Wimby - 3 QFs, 25-10 @ 71.4%
McEnroe @ French - 1 F, 1 SF, 2 QF, 25-10 @ 71.4%
Edberg @ French - 1 F, 3 QF, 30-13 @ 69.8%
Sampras @ French - 1 SF, 3 QF @ 64.9%

(I'm pleased to see Boris Becker boasts a significantly better French record than the other great serve-volleyers

3 SF, 1 QF, 26-9 @ 74.3%

'Pleased' because it seems hard on the guy to uniquely have 0 clay titles)

So yeah, a few poor ones there, arguably as bad as Mats @ Wimby

His excuse for it was a bit rich. Said he felt uncomfortable there because it was Bjorn Borg's turf:rolleyes:... so was the French, didn't seem to bother Mats on clay

I see his biggest problem being his carpet record

On carpet, his win-loss record is 65-50 @ 56.5% :oops:... that is almost embarrassing (and odd given his success on quick hard courts (Cincy was one of his very best tournaments - 4 titles and a runner-up) and his very good (and underrated) volleying
 

Phoenix1983

G.O.A.T.
I read somewhere that he'd been scheduled to be on the Lockerbie flight in late 1988, and that due to his near miss in that tragedy, he began to reflect more on life outside the confines of the tennis court.
 

hawk eye

Hall of Fame
I read somewhere that he'd been scheduled to be on the Lockerbie flight in late 1988, and that due to his near miss in that tragedy, he began to reflect more on life outside the confines of the tennis court.
Yeah, this and the fact that no weapons. Wouldn't have helped anyway on the Lockerbie flight..
 
Win percentage doesn't tell much of the story, though, because it treats each round as equally important, whereas I would argue that, because each round is more important than the last, someone who reached one third round and lost one first round has a better record than someone who lost two second rounds. McEnroe with his one final, one semi, and two quarters is therefore in my view streets ahead of Wilander with his three quarters. And Edberg's win percentage is lower because he kept playing longer than did Wilander, and so suffered a bunch of early round defeats later on in his career. Through his first ten Roland Garroses, he was 26-10 and so ahead of Wilander for win percentage, not behind him. It's a similar story for Sampras, I think, but I haven't checked the record.

I agree that's mostly why he's not respected as highly as other ATGs - Wimbledon was a Greatness maker/breaker at the time

Personally, it's not too important to me - the guy proved he was a solid grass courter in other ways (Australian Open) - that's the bigger picture of the issue in my view

Selected weak records for ATGs @ Specific Slams

Wilander @ Wimby - 3 QFs, 25-10 @ 71.4%
McEnroe @ French - 1 F, 1 SF, 2 QF, 25-10 @ 71.4%
Edberg @ French - 1 F, 3 QF, 30-13 @ 69.8%
Sampras @ French - 1 SF, 3 QF @ 64.9%

(I'm pleased to see Boris Becker boasts a significantly better French record than the other great serve-volleyers

3 SF, 1 QF, 26-9 @ 74.3%

'Pleased' because it seems hard on the guy to uniquely have 0 clay titles)

So yeah, a few poor ones there, arguably as bad as Mats @ Wimby

His excuse for it was a bit rich. Said he felt uncomfortable there because it was Bjorn Borg's turf:rolleyes:... so was the French, didn't seem to bother Mats on clay

I see his biggest problem being his carpet record

On carpet, his win-loss record is 65-50 @ 56.5% :oops:... that is almost embarrassing (and odd given his success on quick hard courts (Cincy was one of his very best tournaments - 4 titles and a runner-up) and his very good (and underrated) volleying
 

fezer

Rookie
Rating Wilander is a very difficult task!
Of course he is an ATG! And i never ever want to downgrade his achievements!
But sometimes i think he is a little, let#s say, hyped too much!
In the following i try to put his best year 1988 into another perspective:
Wilander won 5 big titles 3 of them were grand slam tournaments, but i never sensed that he was a dominant player in the way Lendl was 86/87. Wilander himself admitted, that his tennis was better in 87, but his results were better in 88.
at the australian open (first time at flinders park) he won his semi- and final in spectacular 5-set-matches vs Edberg and Cash. in both matches Wilander was by no means dominant, both matches could have gone either way.
but he won them (which is certrainly an evidence for his qualities) and that gave him an enormous boost in confidence and he won Key Biscane convincingly - but vs players like Noah and Connors, which suited him.
On the European clay court swing his results were poor at MC and Rome - no signs of dominance whatsoever.
At RG he narrowly escaped an 3rd rd exit vs Zivojinovic, had serious problems in his qf vs Sanchez (losing the first winning 2nd set in a tiebreaker) and wore Agassi down in a gruelling 5setter - dominance is something else. of course he won the final easily, because Leconte was his favorite opponent and Henri was crumbling und the expectations of his homecrowd.
At Wimbledon (the most important tennis tournament in the world) Wilander lost to Mecir 361636 - dominant???
The uso were certainly the absolute masterpiece of his carreer - no doubt about it, and his win over Lendl was superb tennis, but he never dominated the way that he was outplaying Lendl easily. And even during the tournament Curren took him to a deciding 5th set and the Sanchez match again could have gone either way.
For the rest of the year Wilander was no factor. 2626vs Edberg, 1646vs Dan Goldie? where is the dominance? and in the DC final (which was very prestigious at the time) Wilander wasn't able to beat #74 Carl-Uwe Steeb in front of his swedish homecrowd.
53-11 and 6 titles 0 finals. Lendl was 41-8 3 titles 2 finals (Masters, Uso) , 2 SF (Wimb, AO) that year.
 

Thetouch

Professional
I don't know what caused Mats' decline after 1988 but if you look at other players it happened to them as well at the age between 23-25 (Becker, Mac, Stich, Edberg, Agassi, Hewitt, Safin and even Connors) but they never fell as hard as Mats did and either came back strong later or still went on to make an impact here and there. Maybe it would have happened to Borg as well if he hadn't retired at 25. I guess players reached their peak in their early/mid 20s back in the 80s and 90s with the exceptions of Lendl and Sampras unless they forced themselves to work harder. Nowadays it seems like the players peak in their late 20s or maybe even early 30s due to better physical conditions.
 

BGod

Legend
Wilander also suffered from survivor's guilt from Flight 103. People say he was already in decline but a closer look shows he went from slump to digging a ditch.
 

BGod

Legend
I put him just below OE Top 10 for.

Fed, Borg, Pete, Lendl, Rafa, Novak, Agassi, Connors, Becker, Edberg are my T10.

I put him ahead of Mac at 11th. That's an interesting matchup I'll consider here:

Both at 7 Slams.
Mac's spread 3-4 with 1 French Final
Mat's is 3-3-1 with 3 Wimby quarters

Mac had 3 WTFs to 0 and a lot more weeks at #1. However I consider Wilander facing tougher competition.

Mats had 5 seasons of multiple Slam Finals and his 88 season is pretty special. Mac had 7 straight seasons of a Final.

Their H2H is very interesting. Wilander leads 6-5.

Wilander beat Mac on hard, carpet, grass and clay. Mac beat him on hard, carpet and grass.

Wilander 2-0 at French
Wilander 1-0 at AO
Mac 1-0 at Wimbledon
Mac 1-0 at USO

Mats got him in a 3 set and two 4 sets. Johnny got him in 5 at USO and 4 at Wimbledon. Of their non-Slam meetings Johnny got him in straights on carpet at WTF while Mats got him in Cincinnati and Rome.

Opponents lean in Mats favor. He had Mac, Connors, Lendl, Edberg and Becker to deal with. Boris would beat him on carpet so that really explains lack of WTF. Really Mac only had Connors and Borg at USO and took over grass between Borg & Becker.
 

Mainad

Bionic Poster
His body of work was fantastic and he obviously ranks as a great player, with his 7 majors (winning 3 on clay, 2 on hard and 2 on grass which was pretty cool), dominating 1988 with his 3 majors (and title at Miami which had a 128 player draw and best of 5 set matches in every round), time as world no. 1 and his 3 Davis Cup titles in 4 years.

The person who underrates Wilander the most is actually himself. if you hear the way that he talks about his game and career, he has often implied that he wasn't in the same league talentwise as the likes of Edberg or Lendl.

His tactical brain was amazing and his ability to adapt his game to the circumstances or his opponents strengths and weaknesses was amazing, as showcased by his RG final victories in 1985 (when he attacked the net at the perfect opportunity) and 1988 (with his 97% 1st serve percentage). In 1988 his serve had clearly improved allowing him to come to the net, serve volley with purpose and shorten the points in the 1988 US Open final. He learned his lesson from his 2 major final defeats to Lendl in 1987 when he engaged in countless long gruelling baselines rallies but was clearly second best. And how many players with two handed backhands have had a better one handed slice than him? Not many that's for sure.

It was a shame that by the end of 1988 at the age of just 24 he was so happy with his career achievements, that he lost his hunger and motivation, or 'eye of the tiger' in Rocky 3 terminology. Plus he came far more vulnerable to sheer powe. My lasting memory of his 1989 season was his 0-3 record against Mancini that year, suffering defeats on hard courts in Miami, clay in Monte-Carlo and carpet in Paris. I was a Mancini fan so I enjoyed those victories, but his power at the time was scary (imagine what it would have been like with modern day racket technology and poly strings) and Mats was just helpless against it. Plus he lost to a young Sampras at the USO (only his second ever defeat in 5 set grand slam match) and received a heavy beating by Becker in the Davis Cup final, but then again so did Edberg, so no shame there.

What hurts him in comparison to other greats was clearly his failure to reach a single semi-final at Wimbledon, and he only won 1 set in his 3 quarter-final appearances there. Out of all the greats that began their careers in the open era, he has the worst record out of any of them at any of the individual majors.
As I've said elsewhere, his failure to crack Wimbledon out of all the 4 Slams is a major puzzle to me. Couldn't even manage a single semi-final there! It's not even as if he was a poor grasscourt player since he made 3 finals on grass at the AO and won 2 of them. Okay, the Aussie grass played a bit differently to Wimbledon but even so. His failure to make any kind of impression at Wimbledon is a major factor, I think, why he didn't excite as much interest in the British media of the time compared to his fellow greats!
 

BTURNER

Legend
Rating Wilander is a very difficult task!
Of course he is an ATG! And i never ever want to downgrade his achievements!
But sometimes i think he is a little, let#s say, hyped too much!
In the following i try to put his best year 1988 into another perspective:
Wilander won 5 big titles 3 of them were grand slam tournaments, but i never sensed that he was a dominant player in the way Lendl was 86/87. Wilander himself admitted, that his tennis was better in 87, but his results were better in 88.
at the australian open (first time at flinders park) he won his semi- and final in spectacular 5-set-matches vs Edberg and Cash. in both matches Wilander was by no means dominant, both matches could have gone either way.
but he won them (which is certrainly an evidence for his qualities) and that gave him an enormous boost in confidence and he won Key Biscane convincingly - but vs players like Noah and Connors, which suited him.
On the European clay court swing his results were poor at MC and Rome - no signs of dominance whatsoever.
At RG he narrowly escaped an 3rd rd exit vs Zivojinovic, had serious problems in his qf vs Sanchez (losing the first winning 2nd set in a tiebreaker) and wore Agassi down in a gruelling 5setter - dominance is something else. of course he won the final easily, because Leconte was his favorite opponent and Henri was crumbling und the expectations of his homecrowd.
At Wimbledon (the most important tennis tournament in the world) Wilander lost to Mecir 361636 - dominant???
The uso were certainly the absolute masterpiece of his carreer - no doubt about it, and his win over Lendl was superb tennis, but he never dominated the way that he was outplaying Lendl easily. And even during the tournament Curren took him to a deciding 5th set and the Sanchez match again could have gone either way.
For the rest of the year Wilander was no factor. 2626vs Edberg, 1646vs Dan Goldie? where is the dominance? and in the DC final (which was very prestigious at the time) Wilander wasn't able to beat #74 Carl-Uwe Steeb in front of his swedish homecrowd.
53-11 and 6 titles 0 finals. Lendl was 41-8 3 titles 2 finals (Masters, Uso) , 2 SF (Wimb, AO) that year.
the thing about Wilander is that he was NEVER a dominator. He had to win every point the hard way and it showed, so if anyone is looking for a lot of 6-0. 6-2, 6-2 scores from a top player, this guy will not satisfy your need. His weapons were subtle and nuanced and they could be overcome with sheer power so that the point one remembers in a Wilander match, the points for the highlight reel will be Beckers, or Lendls, or Mac, or Edberg. Nothing about this guy suggests the dramatic, from his movement ( superb footwork and excellent balance, but the great gets never left him in someones lap or diving a la Becker for anything), to his strokes ( early preparation, and efficient production, to his personality ( vanilla Ice cream, no cherry, no whip topping)

I am a great admirer whenever I am forced to really search for the keys to a success story. He is the anti-flash, the anti-flair champion.
 
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BTURNER

Legend
As I've said elsewhere, his failure to crack Wimbledon out of all the 4 Slams is a major puzzle to me. Couldn't even manage a single semi-final there! It's not even as if he was a poor grasscourt player since he made 3 finals on grass at the AO and won 2 of them. Okay, the Aussie grass played a bit differently to Wimbledon but even so. His failure to make any kind of impression at Wimbledon is a major factor, I think, why he didn't excite as much interest in the British media of the time compared to his fellow greats!
It not just a little different down under, its a lot different. The grass is different, the bounce is higher, the weather warmer and dryer,and the competition less deep in an Aussie. And then you have a guy who routinely was in the final rounds of all those clay tournaments a month before. The great claycourters are TIRED before the first grass warm-up. Borg was unusual because he rarely played the warm-up grass events. I still don't know how he ran away with those Wimbledons a month after RG, but he was the wierdo, not Wilander.
 

big ted

Hall of Fame
in an interview wilander said whenever he played his goal was not to miss or make a single error whatsoever.. that must wear you down after a while
 

fezer

Rookie
the thing about Wilander is that he was NEVER a dominator. He had to win every point the hard way and it showed, so if anyone is looking for a lot of 6-0. 6-2, 6-2 scores from a top player, this guy will not satisfy your need. His weapons were subtle and nuanced and they could be overcome with sheer power so that the point one remembers in a Wilander match, the points for the highlight reel will be Beckers, or Lendls, or Mac, or Edberg. Nothing about this guy suggests the dramatic, from his movement ( superb footwork and excellent balance, but the great gets never left him in someones lap or diving a la Becker for anything), to his strokes ( early preparation, and efficient production, to his personality ( vanilla Ice cream, no cherry, no whip topping)

I am a great admirer whenever I am forced to really search for the keys to a success story. He is the anti-flash, the anti-flair champion.
got your point.
but it is often said that Wilander was the dominant player in 1988 and i never had that feeling during that year. and in my eyes he wasnt dominant. he was the most successful player without a doubt.
btw i would choose wilander points for a highlight reel. i really liked the 1985 rg final vs Lendl when Ivan shouted: "it's so disgusting!" ;)
 

suwanee4712

Professional
I really think that there are times when players come to a point to where they say, "that's the best I can do." I do not doubt that Wilander would have remained a favorite at least at the French until about 1990 or so. But tennis was changing, and as big of an effort as it took for Wilander to get his game and his ranking to where he did, I don't think there was enough left in the tank for a new challenge in a transition era. This happened to other top players in the 80's that didn't make the transition.
 

thrust

Hall of Fame
His body of work was fantastic and he obviously ranks as a great player, with his 7 majors (winning 3 on clay, 2 on hard and 2 on grass which was pretty cool), dominating 1988 with his 3 majors (and title at Miami which had a 128 player draw and best of 5 set matches in every round), time as world no. 1 and his 3 Davis Cup titles in 4 years.

The person who underrates Wilander the most is actually himself. if you hear the way that he talks about his game and career, he has often implied that he wasn't in the same league talentwise as the likes of Edberg or Lendl.

His tactical brain was amazing and his ability to adapt his game to the circumstances or his opponents strengths and weaknesses was amazing, as showcased by his RG final victories in 1985 (when he attacked the net at the perfect opportunity) and 1988 (with his 97% 1st serve percentage). In 1988 his serve had clearly improved allowing him to come to the net, serve volley with purpose and shorten the points in the 1988 US Open final. He learned his lesson from his 2 major final defeats to Lendl in 1987 when he engaged in countless long gruelling baselines rallies but was clearly second best. And how many players with two handed backhands have had a better one handed slice than him? Not many that's for sure.

It was a shame that by the end of 1988 at the age of just 24 he was so happy with his career achievements, that he lost his hunger and motivation, or 'eye of the tiger' in Rocky 3 terminology. Plus he came far more vulnerable to sheer powe. My lasting memory of his 1989 season was his 0-3 record against Mancini that year, suffering defeats on hard courts in Miami, clay in Monte-Carlo and carpet in Paris. I was a Mancini fan so I enjoyed those victories, but his power at the time was scary (imagine what it would have been like with modern day racket technology and poly strings) and Mats was just helpless against it. Plus he lost to a young Sampras at the USO (only his second ever defeat in 5 set grand slam match) and received a heavy beating by Becker in the Davis Cup final, but then again so did Edberg, so no shame there.

What hurts him in comparison to other greats was clearly his failure to reach a single semi-final at Wimbledon, and he only won 1 set in his 3 quarter-final appearances there. Out of all the greats that began their careers in the open era, he has the worst record out of any of them at any of the individual majors.
So he never reached a Wimbledon final, so what? He did win 2 AO slams on grass and other slams on clay and hard. Becker and Edberg never won the French, or much else on clay, so that makes their slam record superior to Matts? IMO, of course Not!
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
the thing about Wilander is that he was NEVER a dominator. He had to win every point the hard way and it showed, so if anyone is looking for a lot of 6-0. 6-2, 6-2 scores from a top player, this guy will not satisfy your need. His weapons were subtle and nuanced and they could be overcome with sheer power so that the point one remembers in a Wilander match, the points for the highlight reel will be Beckers, or Lendls, or Mac, or Edberg. Nothing about this guy suggests the dramatic, from his movement ( superb footwork and excellent balance, but the great gets never left him in someones lap or diving a la Becker for anything), to his strokes ( early preparation, and efficient production, to his personality ( vanilla Ice cream, no cherry, no whip topping)

I am a great admirer whenever I am forced to really search for the keys to a success story. He is the anti-flash, the anti-flair champion.
Well stated. I agree.

(Wilander's greatest weapon was his brain.)
 

BTURNER

Legend
The only player who gave me the same impression, after watching one of his matches, that Mats gave me, was Ken Rosewall. In so many superficial ways, they were very different but my gut told me there was LOT more to what Rosewall was doing out there, than pounding winners or making glorious gets. I wasn't seeing that many. [ I have not watched much Rosewall at all, so those who know the Rosewall game better than I, should feel free to correct me] Showy and gaudy stuff a la Laver, was not what was winning him games. So I had to look closer. And that's when one notices the perfect balance, the flawless technique every time on footwork and stroke production, the superb shot selection, the uncanny sense of where to defend, and when to attack, and the capacity to compartmentalize each point.

its the same stuff with Wilander.
 
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flanker2000fr

Professional
As I've said elsewhere, his failure to crack Wimbledon out of all the 4 Slams is a major puzzle to me. Couldn't even manage a single semi-final there! It's not even as if he was a poor grasscourt player since he made 3 finals on grass at the AO and won 2 of them. Okay, the Aussie grass played a bit differently to Wimbledon but even so. His failure to make any kind of impression at Wimbledon is a major factor, I think, why he didn't excite as much interest in the British media of the time compared to his fellow greats!
Yes, because the British media are, of course, the golden standard of sports journalism: the Daily Mail, the Express, the Sun, the Mirror, etc. All high quality papers.

Wimbledon record or not, a guy who wins his first slam at 18, racks 7 slams (on 3 different surfaces), 3 Davis Cup, get to number 1 in the world in an incredibly competitive era (Lendl, Becker, Edberg, Mac) deserves a mention as an ATG. True, his game was not spectacular and lacked power, but physically the guy could have run a marathon, never gave a free point and tactically was one of the most astute players in his generation.
 

Mainad

Bionic Poster
Yes, because the British media are, of course, the golden standard of sports journalism: the Daily Mail, the Express, the Sun, the Mirror, etc. All high quality papers.
Never said they were. Just offered an opinion why he was a little under the radar in the UK compared to some of his fellow ATGs.

Wimbledon record or not, a guy who wins his first slam at 18, racks 7 slams (on 3 different surfaces), 3 Davis Cup, get to number 1 in the world in an incredibly competitive era (Lendl, Becker, Edberg, Mac) deserves a mention as an ATG. True, his game was not spectacular and lacked power, but physically the guy could have run a marathon, never gave a free point and tactically was one of the most astute players in his generation.
Exactly. All of which surprises me that he could not even make a semi-final at Wimbledon given that he had already won 2 Slams on grass.
 

flanker2000fr

Professional
Exactly. All of which surprises me that he could not even make a semi-final at Wimbledon given that he had already won 2 Slams on grass.
Various reasons, I think:

- grass was slower / less slippery in the Australian summer than it would have been in Wimbledon (which was notoriously fast, and then you always have some showers in that season the Brits call their summer)

- when he won it, the AO was still not as well attended as the other slams. Connors wasn't playing it. Mac didn't play it in 84. These were two of the best grass players in the world. It wasn't until the late 80's and the change to Rebound Ace that all the top players started to attend consistently.
 

Purplemonster

Hall of Fame
Winning 7 majors in any era is one hell of a feat. When you consider he didn't possess the power game of the likes of Lendl and Becker he did extremely well. I remember reading Pat Cash's autobiography in which he talks about how talented a player Wilander was and not to be fooled by his lack of physical stature.
 

Drob

Professional
Wilander also suffered from survivor's guilt from Flight 103. People say he was already in decline but a closer look shows he went from slump to digging a ditch.

Didn't his friend Stefan Edberg steal his girlfriend or fiancee right at this time (and eventually married her)? Maybe that shouldn't affect your tennis. Maybe it didn't. He also got involved in a rock band, I think.
 

TheAverageFedererFan

Professional
A bunch of things happened that ruined him overtime. If he kept up the consistency he could have collected another AO and some more RG's. Probably ending with 10 majors.
 

King No1e

G.O.A.T.
the thing about Wilander is that he was NEVER a dominator. He had to win every point the hard way and it showed, so if anyone is looking for a lot of 6-0. 6-2, 6-2 scores from a top player, this guy will not satisfy your need. His weapons were subtle and nuanced and they could be overcome with sheer power so that the point one remembers in a Wilander match, the points for the highlight reel will be Beckers, or Lendls, or Mac, or Edberg. Nothing about this guy suggests the dramatic, from his movement ( superb footwork and excellent balance, but the great gets never left him in someones lap or diving a la Becker for anything), to his strokes ( early preparation, and efficient production, to his personality ( vanilla Ice cream, no cherry, no whip topping)

I am a great admirer whenever I am forced to really search for the keys to a success story. He is the anti-flash, the anti-flair champion.
Reminiscent of Andy Murray, too. He didn't have the flair of the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic triumvirate, but he worked his way to the top with what he had, and broke through in 2016.
 

NicoMK

Professional
Rating Mats Wilander is very easy : figures speak for themselves : 7 GS, 3 DC, finishing a year as number 1, 3 GS in a year, very few can accomplish half that he did.

What *REALLY* happened after 1988, the loss of his father, the fact that, "being a number one, he could't do better", the Lockerbie plane bombing etc., only him really knows.

For sure an ATG, a great player, a great champion and a great man whom I still admire after all these years (y)
 
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