Saturday, 28 May 2016


In 1984 at the French Open in Paris there was a gentleman by the name of Hans Gildemeister from Chile who owned a rather interesting style of playing, he hit with two hands off both sides. Hans went into Roland Garos un seeded in '84 as his ranking had dipped quite dramatically from his career high of 12 in 1980. He in fact sat outside the top 100 for his shot at the title in Paris in '84.
Gildemeister was not just a singles player however as he reached World number 5 in doubles in 1987, the year he actually retired. He won 23 doubles titles in his career, 17 of those were with 1990 French Open Mens Singles Champion Andres Gomez of Ecuador. Hans was a remarkably talented tennis player as he had to be to survive in the Borg era of the 70's and early 80's. 
He in fact played Borg in the quarter finals at Roland Garos in 1979 losing in straight sets though the final set was 7-5. Anyone who knows tennis will realise that if you managed to get to five games all against Borg on clay you were a gifted tennis player, to say the least. So back to the draw of 1984 and Gildemeister started his campaign with a straight sets win over the '79 finalist Victor Pecci and then won even more convincingly against Brad Gilbert in round two.
In the third round Hans was drawn to meet Swedish Davis Cup hero Henrik Sundstrom, the number 9 seed, a tough assignment on clay as the Swede was known for the brutal amount of spin he put on the ball. On clay that is tough to deal with. It is unclear just how Gildemeister actually did it as footage of this match is not available yet he lead Sundstrom by a score that would have any tennis die hard searching for the video for tactical ideas.
It is set in concrete that Hans Gildemeister of Chile lead Henrik Sundstrom of Sweden in the 1984 French Open, round three by the score of 6-2, 6-0, 5-1, 30-0. He then lost. Yep he LOST from there. How did that happen ??! It is uncertain what on earth went on in that match from that point that seemingly had the Chilean cruising to an easy straight sets upset victory against one of the fancies for the title in '84.
At 5-1 up in the third set Hans Gildemeister was receiving Sundstrom's serve and won the first two points then after that his whole game fell apart. There were no fewer than 12 unforced errors in a row from Gildemeister from that point on which later Sundstrom would in fact describe as a 'choke'. Not quite sure about the etiquette of players back then however can you imagine that being said now days of an opponent ? Would go down about as well as a fish milkshake.....
For history's sake the final score in that particular match was 2-6, 0-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to Sundstrom and he would go on to win his next match in straight sets before the great Jimmy Connors found a way to hit through the topspin with his flatter style of play and beat him in straight sets.
I would give anything to watch what transpired from the 5-1, 30-0 moment in this match as it may in fact be the all time greatest comeback and 'choke' in the history of tennis.
There have in fact been more high profile matches such as the Davis Cup final of 1996 where Boetsch defeated Kulti after trailing 6-7, 0-40 in the final set in the fifth and deciding match but that particular match was tight throughout. The Gildemeister/ Sundstrom match was ridiculously one sided for the first three sets yet it went the way of the player who needed an alarm clock inside his head to wake him up before posting an outrageous comeback victory.
Sometimes in tennis a player can almost pace himself to a win even when victory it seems is not even on his agenda but we as spectators are non the wiser as to what is going on in their thought process. Did Faldo's win against Norman at the Masters in Augusta in 1996 have the same type of feel to it do you think ? After all the scoring was similar if you compare them.
Norman lead by six shots going into the final round yet shot a 78 whereas Faldo shot 67, there's an eleven shot discrepancy not unlike the twelve shot 'discrepancy' from the Gildemeister/ Sundstrom match.
The match in Paris in '84 will without a doubt go down as one of the all time greatest tennis comebacks from a seemingly impossible position yet the match was not a high profile one that people still talk about as they do the Norman/ Faldo result. Coming back from those types of losses is however where the mind comes into play.
Can you imagine the devastation ? It would be a tough thing to recover from.
For history's sake again, Gildemeister recovered, he won another nine doubles tournaments. Norman won three more including a million bucks in one particular event which required a birdie on the final hole for victory. The Swede Niclas Kulti went on to win the pivotal doubles with Bjorkman in the Davis Cup finals of '97 and '98 which set Sweden up for their two titles of those years.
A tough thing is professional sport. We as spectators simply look at it and offer our thoughts, "he choked, he's got no heart" or  "he's in the zone, he's a freak show".
A professional sportsman is a genius whether he wins a match or loses because he owns a mind to compete against the World's best and that requires something special.......

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