Re: What's Ivan Lendl up to?
Here is the latest on Lendl.
20 Years Later: Ivan Lendl Remembershttp://www.tcpalm.com/tcp/tennis/article/0,1651,TCP_1064_2930787,00.html
Ray McNulty: The victory that changed perceptions
Until he defeated John McEnroe in the French Open final for his first Grand Slam victory 20 years ago, Ivan Lendl -- now a part-time Treasure Coast resident -- was viewed as incapable of winning the big one.
By Ray McNulty sports columnist
June 2, 2004
Ivan Lendl doesn't plan to dust off the tape and stick it in the VCR.
He isn't watching this year's French Open and letting his mind nostalgically drift to 1984, to an unforgettable five-set final against John McEnroe, to an triumphant twist of fate that changed his tennis life.
Truth is, he doesn't think much about it.
"It's not as if I see the French Open and replay the match in my mind," Lendl said in a matter-of-fact tone. "It was a very big match for me. It was my first Grand Slam title. But it was a long time ago.
"The only time I talk about it is when somebody asks."
Especially this week.
It was 20 years ago that Lendl -- then the hardest-working man in tennis, now 44 and retired and an avid golfer who lives half the year in Connecticut and the other half in Vero Beach -- finally broke through to win a major championship.
And he did so in a most dramatic and improbable way ... against a seemingly unbeatable opponent.
Lendl lost the first two sets and trailed 2-4 in the fourth before rallying to defeat McEnroe 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 on a surreal, Sunday afternoon at Roland Garros.
Not only did Lendl ruin McEnroe's best chance of winning at Roland Garros -- the loss gnawed at McEnroe for years -- but he also proved to a legion of critics that he wasn't a gutless choker, that he was good enough to win the big one, that he possessed the indomitable heart of a champion.
"I knew what people were saying, but I knew it wasn't true," Lendl said. "It's true that I lost my first four Grand Slam finals, but you have to look at who I played against and where I was in my career. Just getting to those finals was almost an over-achievement. I wasn't that good yet."
Those championship-bout losses came against three of the game's all-time greatest players: Bjorn Borg (1981 French Open), Mats Wilander (1983 Australian Open) and Jimmy Connors (1982 and '83 U.S. Open).
And when McEnroe, then the world's best player, swept through the first two sets of the 1984 French final, there was no reason to believe Lendl was ready to be anything more than a good opponent.
Even after Lendl won the third set, McEnroe appeared to take control of the match with a service break in the fourth.
"Down 2-4 in the fourth, things weren't looking good," Lendl said.
But Lendl fought back, breaking McEnroe's serve twice to get even.
And when Lendl took the match to a fifth set, McEnroe began to wilt.
"Winning the third set got me back into the match," Lendl said. "After the fourth set, it was anybody's match. Fatigue came into play, and I knew I was in better shape than he was.
"I just had to keep trying, keep working, take advantage of my opportunities. You do that, and maybe something goes (your) way. So that's what I did. And, eventually, it was my match to win."
On match point, a tired McEnroe pushed a can't-miss volley wide.
Lendl was no longer a punch line.
He was a French Open champion.
"It was my time," Lendl said. "I was good enough to win. And knowing I was good enough to win a Grand Slam title -- knowing I had done it -- gave me the confidence I needed to win more."
Lendl would win two more French championships, two Australian titles and three U.S. Open trophies. In fact, he played in eight consecutive Flushing Meadows finals from 1982-89.
But he never won a Wimbledon crown.
He tried. Oh, how he tried. A hard-hitting baseliner, he transformed himself into a championship-caliber, grass-court player in the mid-1990s. And he served and volleyed his way into back-to-back Wimbledon finals.
But he wasn't good enough.
"It doesn't haunt me at all," Lendl said. "I know what I did at Wimbledon, and I know how hard I worked to get as far as I did. But serve-and-volley was not my best game."
It was the hard courts at the U.S. Open that best-suited Lendl's game. In many ways, he set the tone for the tennis we see today.
Lendl, the world's top-ranked player for 270 weeks, won with big serves, powerful and penetrating groundstrokes, a commitment to fitness and intense preparation.
Ironically, he doesn't like much of what he sees from this era of tennis.
"The game is very powerful, almost too powerful," Lendl said. "I think it would benefit from a few more rallies. They could do something with the rackets, or the courts, or even the balls. But you can't really blame the players. They're doing what they're allowed to do."
This week, they're doing it on the red clay of Paris. And Lendl has been watching ... at least occasionally.
"If I'm doing something else and there's a TV in the room," Lendl said, "I'll turn it on."
But not because he wants to re-live past glory.
Not because he still thinks about what happened in 1984 on that memorable Sunday at the French Open.
"If we played that match 10 times, maybe I'd win only once," Lendl said. "But I won it. And it was a very interesting, very exciting match. And winning it helped my career. But that was a long time ago.
"Until you mentioned it, I didn't even know it had been 20 years."