Australian Open 1984: Mats Wilander defeats Kevin Curren

By Alan Trengove, World of Tennis, 1985

Wilander is a much underestimated grass court player. When he won his first Australian crown in 1983 it was only incidental to his major objective – preparing on grass for the Davis Cup final a few weeks later – and right up to the time he beat first McEnroe and then Lendl he was still doubting whether he could play on the surface. Seeded no. 2 in 1984, he beat [Kevin] Curren, the no. 9 seed, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 in a very good final that nevertheless did not quite reach the height it sometimes promised to do. The lanky and angular Curren had eliminated a slightly injured Lendl, the top seed, in the fourth round. He followed that success with impressive wins over Scott Davis and Ben Testerman, and posed a distinct threat to Wilander when he served for the third set of the final at 5-3 with new balls. But the cool Swede steadied in the crisis, broke back and later dominated the tie-break.

Curren certainly possessed the armoury to capture the crown – a blistering service, a blanketing net attack and aggressive returns of serve – but the big guns misfired too often for him to sustain his assault. His main problem was the steely resolve of his opponent, who again showed his ability to accept reverses philosophically and move up into a higher gear when the situation demands. In the first set, though Wilander‘s returns were sometimes astray, he had a set-point in the 11th game and led by 4 points to 0 in the tie-break. It must have been galling for him to lose that set, but he immediately lifted his game and took the second. Then despite losing control of the third set, in which there were six breaks of service, his passing shots gave him the edge at the finish.

By then Curren was tiring because of the energy he puts into his service and because he was having to dive for so many dipping returns. Wilander was in full command in the fourth set, finishing Curren off with a typically penetrating forehand return. Mats may not be a classical grass-court champion in the mould of a Hoad or a Newcombe, but he is certainly a worthy one. Ask Curren and Kriek.

[Johan] Kriek also left Melbourne with a deepened respect for Wilander, having been given the biggest hiding of his career in a 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 humiliation that lasted only 63 minutes. Just as he did in 1983, Wilander laboured to find form in the early rounds. David Mustard, the New Zealand left-hander, took the first set against him and Dale Houston, a Queenslander playing his first Grand Prix tournament, held two set points against him for a two sets to one lead. Then in the fourth round, his fellow Swede and practice partner, Stefan Simonsson, who can play a strong serve and volley game, thoroughly tested Wilander. He led by two sets to one and Wilander had to work hard to survive. That effort, and the doubles he was playing with Joakim Nystrom, appeared to put him firmly on track for a successful defence of his title. In the quarter-finals he was a little too consistent for his Davis Cup team-mate, Stefan Edberg, winning 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4. Then came the morale-boosting rout of Kriek.

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