Ivan Lendl, Australian Open 1990

Australian Open 1990: Ivan Lendl last Grand Slam title

Extract from Hard Courts by John Feinstein

Edberg-Wilander and Lendl-Noah figured to be good matchups, especially given Noah‘s defeat of Lendl in Sydney. But this was the real thing now, not a little warm-up tournament. Lendl lost seven games, needing just an hour and forty-six minutes to bludgeon Noah.

“I liked the way he played better in Sydney,” Noah said. “He was much nicer there. He missed and missed. Today he didn’t miss.”

Lendl‘s performance was nothing compared to what Edberg did to Wilander. He needed even less time – an hour and twenty-two minutes – and gave up only four games in one of the most dominant performances anyone could ever remember seeing.

“Oh, that was wonderful,” Ted Tinling cried, coming off court. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more brilliant. It was beautiful to watch.”

Edberg wasn’t the same player in the final that he had been in the semifinals by any means, but there was a good reason: late in the Wilander match, he had pulled a stomach muscle.
Even injured, Edberg managed to win the first set and go up a break at 6-5 in the second. But Lendl, who had seen the trainer come out to treat Edberg and knew something was amiss, hung in. Despite a bad case of nerves, he broke back and won the tiebreak. He was up 5-2 in the third when Edberg, shaking his head, dejectedly walked up to the chair.

“I can’t play,” he said simply. “I have to stop.”

It was not a complete surprise when Edberg retired from the match, but it was a flat, damp ending to a tournament that had seemed jinxed from the beginning.

Edberg, almost doubled over in pain, hobbled off, leaving Lendl alone to accept his award. Lendl is a pragmatist, and winning his eighth Grand Slam title was no small thing. He had been in Australia for a month, working toward his goal. But even he knew this was no way to win a championship.

“I’m sorry the match ended the way it did,” he told the crowd. “I feel badly for Stefan. I hope next year we get a chance to slug it out until the end.”

They handed Lendl the trophy at 5:30pm. It was exactly one week – to the minute – since McEnroe had been defaulted on the same court.

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