So Pistol Pete Sampras as my last chapter suggested had a way to win the big matches, he proved that at his favorite tournament Wimbledon, with a perfect score of seven from seven. Sampras only tasted defeat in the final of a Slam on three occasions, that's not bad , 14 from 17. Now spare a thought for Ivan Lendl.
The big Czech tasted defeat on no fewer than 11 occasions at the final hurdle of a major, that's just plain ridiculous. In fact Lendl could have pushed towards the record of Sampras had he found a way earlier in his career to stem the nerves in the big matches.
My first memory of Lendl was when he pushed the great Bjorn Borg to 5 sets in the 1981 French Open Men's Singles Final. The score of 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 told the story of a huge struggle for the Swede before he took Lendl apart in the final set.
Lendl finished runner up in the US Open in 1982 and 1983, both in 4 sets to American Jimmy Connors then in 1984 he was destroyed by John McEnroe in straight sets. In 1983 Lendl also lost in the final of the Australian Open to Sweden's heir apparent to Borg, Mats Wilander, again in straight sets.
Lendl somehow found a way to win from a near hopeless position in the final of the 1984 French Open against Mac when trailing 3-6, 2-6 and a break of serve. He was also down 2-4 in the fourth but came back to win in just over 4 hours, the final three sets 6-4, 7-5, 7-5. By all reports the match still haunts McEnroe as a major that he had the winner's speech already written after the second set.
Whilst Lendl lost the final of the US Open for three straight years he then went on a winning spree and held the trophy up in New York in '85, '86 and '87 before losing the final in '88 and '89 to Wilander and Becker. So if you do the sums on what the big Czech achieved in New York it was one of the greatest consecutive runs of making the final in the history of any major Championship. Eight straight but for just three wins.
Wimbledon was not kind to Lendl either where he lost consecutive finals in '86 and '87 to Becker and Cash, the latter being the Australian's one and only Grand Slam Title. So all in all it looked something like this for Ivan Lendl; Australian Open - Two Championships, two Runner Up performances
French Open - Three Championships, two Runner ups
Wimbledon - two finals, two losses
US Open - Three Championships, five Runner Ups
That gives Ivan eight Grand Slam Championships with eleven runner up performances however Lendl did find a way to win the elite eight man field Masters in New York on five occasions.
The big Czech Ivan Lendl will go down in history as one of the best ever but he will forever look back on his career as one that could have produced so much more.......