Saturday, 4 October 2014


The year of 1988 was without a doubt my favourite year of tennis, as a spectator. My idol Mats Wilander won 3 of the 4 Grand Slams and made the quarter finals of the only one that he didn't win, Wimbledon. He also became World number 1 , he was just 24 years of age.
 In the final of the French Open against Henri Leconte of France a total of just two first serves were missed by Wilander. I believe that it worked out to be 97 per cent of first serves in or around 71 of 73 . The Swede won the match in straight sets.
If you look at this statistic it tells you that here was a player who did not have a great serve , so he didn't expend any more energy than he had to on the delivery. That to me is the sign of a smart player.
Wilander was a genius, a master tactician who not unlike Borg had no real weapons except the ability to not miss  and a mind that was willing to stay on court as long as necessary to win.
The fitness of Wilander was rather extraordinary as the Australian Open of '88 proved just how strong he was. He spent three hours and 19 minutes on court over 5 sets against Edberg in the semi's then three hours and 55 minutes in a 5 set win over Cash in the final.
 If you know anything about tennis you will realize that against a serve and volleyer your play has to be precise, Cash and Edberg were two of the best ever. Hitting pin point returns and passing shots against players like these  requires a radar that is second to none.
The US Open Final against Lendl was a completely different match however as Wilander had to nullify the big hitting of the Czech. Mats' tactics in the final were clever to say the least, he gave Lendl a mix of everything. 
With a variation of long baseline exchanges to serve and volleying plus many net approaches from his slice backhand in particular he gave Lendl no rhythm. From memory I believe it was around 37 to 74 in favour of Mats as far as unforced errors were concerned in his epic 5 set victory.
As far as a form guide in the lead up to the US Open it seemed that the Swede was destined to win the one major tournament that his famous countryman Borg couldn't. Wilander beat a strong field including top seed Stefan Edberg 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 in the final of Cincinnati two weeks prior to the Open in New York.
In '88 Wilander also won what was then considered the 'Fifth Grand Slam' in Key Biscane, Florida at the Lipton International Players Championships. The 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Jimmy Connors in the final was a classic match where the stats will tell you Connors went to the net over 100 times. Perhaps useless information however it tells you that as good as Connors was he obviously felt he could not win staying on the baseline.
The Lipton Championships were held in such high regard that the entire tournament was played over 5 sets, not just the final, hence the 'Fifth Grand Slam' tag. Perhaps the prize money for this tournament also proved that it was a major check in point for the World's best. The winners prize of $110,000 US was in fact more than the Australian Open winner's prize of that year which was just under $105,000 US.
Wilander's good friend and countryman Stefan Edberg in fact won Wimbledon in the same year giving Sweden the complete Grand Slam of Men's Singles titles.
1988, the year of the Swede......

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