When it comes to consistency the Swedes in the 80's were at the top of their class, at one stage having 5 players inside the top 20. After the great Bjorn Borg retired at the rather young age of 26, Sweden didn't have to wait too long for another Champion. Mats Wilander at age 17 won the French Open Men's Singles Title, what made his victory even more amazing was the year before he won the Junior Boys Title, this doesn't happen too often.
At The Australian Open in 1983 Wilander and fellow Swede Joakim Nystrom were seen walking onto a practise court with just 1 Tennis ball, it wasn't a gimmick, this was how they trained. If one of them hit the net it was their responsibility to run up, grab the ball and get back to the baseline to start the next rally. Rumour has it that their first rally lasted nearly 40 shots.......
Pat Cash, Australia's Wimbledon winner, trained once with Wilander in Europe and swears that in 20 minutes of drills Mats didn't miss one shot; that's mental and technical brilliance.
In the final of The French Open in 1985 against France's Henri Leconte, Mats missed just one first serve, an all time record that will probably never be repeated.
The Swedish shot repetition drills of the early 80's were the best of their time, it was a system that drilled shots until they were perfect, something that is lacking in most junior programs today.
From the top of my head , no internet results , just a stab in the dark , check it if you like ......
French open 82 , My hero Mats Wilander def Ivan Lendl in the fourth round , 4-6 , 7-5 , 3-6 , 6-4 , 6-2 . The headline read ‘ Lendl bows out to the New Borg , ( Borg was the defending Champ yet retired at 26) . Mats was 17 and had big shoes to fill . Quarter finals he played Vitas Gerulaitis who was ranked top 10 and who later died while playing the seniors circuit in a hotel room of monoxide poisoning , apparently there was a faulty heater in his room , he died while he slept . He beat Vitas 6-3 , 6-3 , 4-6 ,6-4. Semi Finals young Mats who rarely missed a ball and who Pat Cash once practised with and swears Mats didn’t miss a ball in 20 minutes of drills beat Jose Luis Clerc who from memory reached 4 in the world in the early 80;s the score was 7-5 , 6-2 , 1-6 7-5 . At match point ( you can see it on you tube ) Mats over turned the umpire’s decision when Clerc’s forehand was called wide , game set Mats ! Wilander said ‘ I can’t win like that , give him 2 serves , Mats won the next point , taking him to the final against Guilermo Vilas who is only second on the all time list of claycourt victories to Nadal . Vilas was pounding Mats 6-1 and had set point in the second set , Mats saved it , won the set in a tiebreaker and won the third set 6-0 . The fourth went to Mats 6-4 and the title , he was to be over run by Michael Chang some years later as Chang became the youngest ever winner of The French at around 100 days younger than Mats . Interesting though that it was Chang’s only Grand Slam win , Mats won seven , 3 French Opens , 3 Australian’s and a US Open that Borg could never achieve . Mats also won a Wimbledon Doubles crown with fellow swede Joakim Nystrom who nearly prevented Boris Becker from winning his first Wimbledon ( i think at the quarter final stage Becker won 9-7 in the 5th set ) again a record , at age 17 . From memory Wilander and Nystrom defeated Gary Donnely and John Mcenroe’s long time doubles partner Peter Fleming in the final , 7-6 6-2, 6-3 after trailing 5-6 , 0-40 in the first . So technically Mats could lay claim to the Grand Slam if you count doubles , not many top tenners can lay claim to both Grand Slam Singles and Doubles Titles . From memory again i believe the Swedish duo were runner up in the US open in perhaps 87 or 89 , just a guess .
Wilander in the same year of his maiden Grand slam victory lost the deciding singles match in the Quarter Finals of the Davis Cup in Pittsburg USA to Mac by the rediculous scoreline of 9-7. 6-2 , 15-17, 3-6 , 8-6 in from memory 6 hours and 28 minutes .
I met Mats at the Hopman Cup in 90 something , shook his hand and got my photo taken with him , an absolute gentleman and true legend of the game . I wish the game nowdays was played the same as it was when Mats won 3 Grand Slams in 88 , it was error free Tennis . The 88 Us open final went for 4 hours and 52 minutes , a fascinating duel that Mats won 6-4 in the fifth set Mats only made 37 errors , Lendl exactly double at 74 and it was more like a game of chess back then with no real weapons like you see from Nadal and his forehand nowdays . It was simply a war of minds and who would miss first .
To me Mats was an inspiration and still gives me inspiration to play the game like he did all those years ago .......