Mats Wilander, Roland Garros 1982

By Barry Newcombe, Tennis World, July 1982

The first Sunday in June had become a routine operation for Lennart Bergelin, coach to Bjorn Borg. No-one would rise too early, they would practise for about an hour, and then Bjorn would go off and win the French title at Stade Roland Garros. That happened six times.
Everyone knew it could not happen this year. When the French championships began, Borg was handling the controls of a boat he had rented to sail among the Greek islands rather than a tennis racket, and somehow the 128 contenders left in the hunt for the French title knew that things would not be the same.

There was never really that much speculation about the winner. Ninety percent of the press room would probably have opted for Ivan Lendl to move from the runner-up role he occupied in 1981 into the role of champion. The feeling in the locker room may have been more or less the same.
There were considered to be two other strong contenders – Guillermo Vilas, on the basis that he was a past champion and was playing supremely well, and the top-seeded Jimmy Connors who could perhaps count this year as his last reasonable opportunity of a first win in the French.
But nobody mentioned Mats Wilander of Sweden. He had, after all, been a semi-finalist in Rome on the eve of the French championships and although those of us who had been there knew that his eye was sharp and his game in good order it was stretching credibility to expect him to make the last four in Paris. After all, he was not even seeded.

Yet at the end of two of the hottest weeks I can ever recall at Roland Garros, there was Wilander, 77 days short of his 18th birthday, climbing the stairs at the stadium to receive the trophy from Jean Borotra, now 82 years old, who had done it all 50 years previously.
At his home in Sweden, Bergelin had watched Wilander win the final over Vilas 1-6, 7-6, 6-0, 6-4 on television and could not believe it. “It is fantastic”, he would say. “Bjorn does not play and now we have another Swedish player as champion. It is so good for the game in our country. I would say to Mats “Remember the first title is the best.” Bjorn always said that.”

When any analysis of Wilander’s career is made, it is clear that one of the critical days came in the fourth round of the French championship when he faced Lendl. By the time this match had reached two sets all, Wilander knew he had already set up one new mark in his career. He had never played a five-set match in his life and his reaction to that task was to open up a 5-2 lead against leaden-legged Lendl whose forehand let him down in these crucial stages. “I did my best”, said Lendl. “I was practising hard, trying hard, and I was outplayed.”

After Lendl, Wilander played Vitas Gerulaitis, the most consistent of the American players on European clay, but not good enough to hold off the teenager with a target. Gerulaitis went in four sets and Wilander moved on to a semi-final against José-Luis Clerc, the fourth seed, who had struggled in Florence and Rome and appeared to be playing with more assurance.

But Wilander was beginning to create a sense of insecurity among the seeds. He broke Clerc’s serve in the very first game as he hoisted his victory flag and he was never in serious danger of losing this four-set semi-final until the second match point at 6-5 in the first set (he had missed an easier one, in terms of pressure, at 5-1). On the second, a forehand from Clerc was called out and the umpire called the match and left his chair. But Wilander went to the umpire and told him: “The ball was good, that’s not the way I want to win.” Both players agreed that the ball was correct so the umpire, Jacques Dorfmann, who is also the championship referee, caught the mood of the moment and ordered the point replayed. This time Clerc found the net with a backhand and it was firmly settled.

Vilas, meantime, was cruising. Round by round he was being fined $250 for an illegal headband but he was punishing all comers in a supreme display of his strength and ability. He reached the final without losing a set and having conceded 39 games. Surely this iron man who trained so hard would end the one-man assault on the top ten which Wilander had produced.

Another burning hot day was the setting for the final. After an hour, Vilas had won the first set 6-1 and I believe it was the time rather than the score which was significant at that stage. The rallies were long and arduous with 60-stroke exchanges commonplace.
By the time the two players had reached the tie break at the end of the second set, a further 90 minutes had elapsed and Wilander, having saved a set point with a top spin lob, took the tie-break by eight points to six. It was, of course, the first set Vilas had lost in the championships and he never won another.
Wilander, whose full fitness had been hampered by a heavy cold, did not lose a game in the third set which saw him accelerating mentally away from the left-handed Argentine. In the fourth, with cramp nagging at his racket hand, he broke through for 5-4 and served out in champion style for victory in four hours and 43 minutes. Ice-cool, like Borg, he had become the youngest winner in any of the Grand Slam titles.

It would have been only fitting had Pat Cash won the last Australian Open staged at Kooyong. The year was 1987, and so far it had been good to Cash, who’d won Wimbledon back in July. But there”s something special about winning your hometown championship, and Cash had grown to love the so-called “home of the wildfowl” since his days as a little boy watching his parents being coached there.

On a sunny afternoon, the centre court stands were full of nostalgic success-starved local fans as the Melbourne lad and Sweden’s Stefan Edberg staged a gripping display of serve and volley tennis until Edberg emerged a narrow winner, 6-3 6-4 3-6 5-7 6-3.

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Show Court 3 - Nalbandian v Smeets

– The tournament was held for the first time in 1905 and was contested on grass from 1905 through 1987.

– The tournament was first known as the Australasian Championships, became the Australian Championships in 1927 and the Australian Open in 1969.

– The tournament has been staged twice in New Zealand: in Christchurch in 1906 and Hastings in 1912.

– Five australian cities have hosted the tournament: Melbourne (54 times), Sydney(17), Adelaide(14), Brisbane(7), Perth(3). The 1971 Open was the last time the tournament would be played outside Melbourne.

– Last Aussie players to win the Australian Open are Mark Edmondson in 1976 and Chris O’Neil in 1978.

– In 1982, for the first time in tennis history, a player wins two Grand Slam titles in the same calendar year, at the same tournament and against the same opponent: on December 13, 1982 Johan Kriek repeats as Australian Open champion, defeating number 2 seed Steve Denton 6-3 6-3 6-2. The two players played in the 1981 Australian Open final that is played on January 3, 1982, Kriek winning 6-2 7-6 6-7 6-4.

– In 1988, the tournament moved from Kooyong to Flinders Park (now Melbourne Park) and became a hard court event. The move to Flinders Park was an immediate success, with a 90 percent increase in attendance in 1988 (266 436) on the previous year at Kooyong (140 000).
Mats Wilander is the only male player to have won the Australian Open on both grass (1983 and 1984) and hard courts (1988).

– On January 21, 1990, at the Australian Open, John McEnroe becomes the first player since 1963 to be disqualified from a Grand Slam tournament for misconduct. Leading Mikael Pernfors 6-1 4-6 7-5 2-4, McEnroe is disqualified by chair umpire Gerry Armstrong after breaking a racquet and insulting the supervisor.
The last player to be disqualified from a Grand Slam for misconduct had been Willie Alvarez of Spain, in the 1963 French Open, 17 years earlier.

– The Extreme Heat Policy was introduced in 1998 after consultation with players. It comes into play when daytime temperatures hit 35 degrees and the heat stress level reaches 28.
Officials considered closing the roof for the final in 1993 due to a temperature of 104 degrees (40 °C), but Jim Courier threatened to boycott the match unless the roof remained open.

– Prior to the 2000 tournament, the Centre Court was named Rod Laver Arena to honour tennis legend Rod Laver, the only player in tennis history to have captured two Grand Slams (in 1962 and 1969).
Besides tennis, Rod Laver Arena hosts motorbike super cross, conferences, concerts and ballets.

– In the first round of the Australian Open 2000, Marat Safin became the first player ever fined for lack of effort at a Grand Slam. Under the Grand Slam “best effort” rule, the 19-year-old Muscovite was fined $2,000 for failing to make an appropriate effort in his 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-1 loss to South African qualifier Grant Stafford.

– In 2003, the Show Court One was renamed Margaret Court Arena to honour Australian great Margaret Court.
With a capacity of 6 000 seats, it is the largest capacity fully outdoor court used at the Australian Open. Future improvements to the Arena include a capacity expansion of 1500 seats, to total 7500, as well as the installation of an retractable roof for the 2015 Australian Open.

– The highest ever day/night attendance in Grand Slam history was recorded during the first week of Oz Open 2010, with 77 043 fans attending on Saturday 23th January.

– The women’s singles winner is presented with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. The men’s singles winner is presented with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

Second part of my Optima Open recap. First part here.

Optima Open

Optima Open

Optima Open

Henri Leconte vs Carlos Moya

Henri Leconte

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I’ve had the chance to win 2 entry tickets for the Optima Open, the belgian stop of the ATP Champions Tour, so I spent a nice day last Friday in Knokke-Heist, Belgium.

Situated in the heart of the country’s Flemish-speaking Flanders region, Knokke-Heist is considered to be one of Belgium’s most exclusive and affluent seaside resorts.

Knokke-Heist

Knokke-Heist

Knokke-Heist
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