In the 80's there was a player from Czechoslovakia who played in the shadow of his more famous countryman , 8 time Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl, but Miloslav Mecir was a remarkably talented tennis player. Mecir was known as the 'Big Cat' for the way he crept around the court, he was different from most players in the way that his tactics were employed. At times he would 'soft ball' his shots almost to the point of putting his opponents to sleep then in the blink of an eye would pick up the pace and hit a winner . A former pro from Canada Glenn Michibata likened playing Mecir to 'bleeding to death', interesting analogy but one of the more famous tennis quotes from history.
Mecir was one of a rare group of top line players who did not have a coach , that's what made him unique and he had a love of fishing . His casual nature on court was one that was infectious and he never said a word to an umpire or linesman regarding line calls , though one match sticks in my mind that i regard as rather humorous. In 1987 Mecir found himself in the final of the '5th Grand Slam' , the Lipton Championship in Florida up against Lendl. Now Ivan had a strange habit , he hated to see a towel on a tennis court, superstition at it's very strangest and he held up play at one point to get a towel removed from sight. Mecir decided to return the favour.
The 'Big Cat' held up play the very next point to make sure that the ball kids put every towel out of his sight at Lendl's end of the court, this actually infuriated Lendl. Worth a look on You Tube is this moment but in the end Mecir had the last laugh beating Lendl in straight sets. There is one shot that surely will go down as one of the greatest ever as he hits a two handed back hand on the full stretch around the net post then wins the point two shots later.
Mecir made it to the US Open final in 1986 and the Australian Open final in 1989 losing both matches to Lendl in straight sets but won an Olympic Gold medal in 1988. He prevented Mats Wilander from winning the Grand Slam in 1988 also , the only man to defeat Mats (at Wimbledon) in the year the Swede won 3 of the 4 majors. In the Semi finals that year Mecir lead Stefan Edberg two sets to love then found a way to lose the match in 5 after being up a break in the decider. He was what you would call an 'enigma' as he could beat anyone on his day then his mind would seem to be at his other hobby , fishing, as he would lose easily.
Miloslav made it to World number 4 in 1988 and has the distinction of making the semi finals or better at every Grand Slam championship.
From 1994 , a year after the Czech Republic broke away from Slovakia Mecir has worked as the Davis Cup Captain for Slovakia . He also has a novel tie to Novak Djokovic, as he originally worked with Marian Vajda , Novak's long time coach when Vajda was a former tour player. Perhaps Vajda has used some of Mecir's tactics to help Novak become the player that he is and why wouldn't he ?
'The Big Cat' was a real character who retired prematurely at the same age the great Bjorn Borg did , at 26, due to a persistent back injury in 1990. He won just over two and a half million dollars. He also owns the rare distinction of winning a set from the legend John McEnroe 6-0, at the WCT finals in Dallas in 1987 , a match he won in 4 sets. His son Miloslav Mecir junior is currently a professional tennis player ranked 208 in the World . Following in his father's footsteps , a tough act to follow........