Tennis Prose



Quick Quiz: Which player said “I had no chance to win at all” and then won the match for his first major?

One of the less celebrated major title conquests of tennis history featured a teenager playing in just his third major main draw against a 29 year old veteran who had won four majors previously. The young player admitted he went into his first major final with zero belief he was going to win the match and lost the first set 6-1. Yet somehow he turned the tables…

“So I go into the final against (blank) and I’m literally only thinking about winning games. I was seventeen, unseeded. Because five sets against him…he was a big, strong, kind of the (blank) of our time. And I obviously had no chance to win at all. So I won a game in the first set (1-6). I was actually happy. At least I won a game. I’m sitting there during the changeovers. I remember seeing him chance his socks. And I’m like, Wow, he must be getting tired. And he started to talk to his coach. And they started to nearly scream at each other. And I’m like, Wow, something is really happening. My strength was to be aware of my surroundings, especially my opponent. And he just went down after that…”

Mystery player won his first major 16 76 60 64.

Moral of the story…never stop believing, never defer to any player. Anything is possible.

Can you name this player?

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  • Vijay · October 26, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    Mats Wilander

  • Vijay · October 26, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    Beat Guillermo Vilas in the French Open Final, 1982.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 26, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    We have a winner. Vijay. That final does not get talked about at all and it’s one of the most miraculous upsets in major final history, maybe even the biggest stunner of all time. Michael Chang is another. So was Gaudio over Coria from two blowout sets down.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 26, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    Vijay did you ever see the documentary film “The French” 1981. It’s on You tube, by William Klein. Best tennis film I ever saw.

  • Vijay · October 26, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    No, I haven’t seen it. Thanks for the recommendation. Wilander was one of my heroes growing up. It’s a shame his career ended sooner than it should have.

    I didn’t see the 1982 Final. Was too young and I don’t think it was on TV in India then. But I think you need to mention the 1988 French and US open finals to appreciate Wilander.

    French [If I recall correctly], he beat Leconte 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. Leconte had talked about jumping on Wilander’s second serve. Wilander’s serve percentages, by set, in the Final were 91, 92, and 94.

    At the US Open, he best Lendl in five. He was serving and volleying in the fifth, and did it on matchpoint, up 40-30. This was a long match, almost 5 hours. I remember this vividly. Saw the last set and a half before I went to school in the morning. 🙂

    Pity he ran into Mecir at Wimbledon that year.

  • catherine · October 27, 2019 at 1:59 am

    I remember the Lendl/Wilander match, I was at the USO that year, and it went on so long I’m ashamed to say I took a break after 4 hrs or so and had a rest in the park but returned in time to see Mats serving and volleying. That’s why he won IMO – he just became impatient and Lendl got knocked off his perch. It wasn’t the most exciting match to watch though.

    (After Mats won the French we had a hard time finding a good picture to put on our magazine cover – he was such a surprise winner.)

    Not sure why Mats stopped playing. Maybe he lost interest. Navratilova snipped at him once for failing in committment to the game but I think that was unfair. He got married and no longer wanted the tour grind probably.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 27, 2019 at 9:43 am

    Catherine, Mats said after he won that 1988 US Open, he deflated, he did not have the same hunger and desire. Tennis was no longer life and death and all about winning. He said if he lost that 1988 US Open final he would not have deflated and it probably would have been better for extending his career and desire.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 27, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Wilander on Mecir: “Miroslav Mecir should have won I think 25 grand slams. He got nervous, tight. He should have won Wimbledon ’88. He should have beat Edberg in the semifinal.”

    Vijay, Wilander said he lost the desire after winning that 1988 US Open, he used the word “deflated.” As he said, when you no longer treat tennis as “life and death” you will not stay at the top.

  • Vijay · October 27, 2019 at 9:04 pm

    It’s hard to blame Wilander. He as a kid at a time when kids weren’t treated very well on tour. Sometimes it’s just difficult to deal with the grind of travel etc. He just seems to be saying he couldn’t find the right work-life balance, and for most of these guys, the tough part is being away from family, on the road, alone, in different hotels, in different countries, for (in the 80s) not a lot of money.

    Mecir was always an enigma. He also couldn’t figure out Lendly, who he lost to in multiple Grand Slams. Daniil Medvedev reminds me of Mecir. They both have exceptional touch and feel, not only in their strokes, but in their game as a whole. Both can do anything they want with a ball.

    Except that Medvedev seems to have bigger groundstrokes, can generate a lot more power, especially on his serve.

    Also, Mecir seemed to have the same issues as Wilander. Didn’t want to spend too much time away from the Czech republic, and wanted to go fishing instead. Medvedev seems to have bigger balls, as Wilander might have put it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 27, 2019 at 10:26 pm

    Mats said Mecir got tight, nervous. Talent does not equal major titles. Gotta scratch, fight, claw for it. Gotta be a ruthless killer.

  • Vijay · October 27, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    That’s probably right. And Mecir never had a weapon that could blast people off the court to take some pressure off.

    Fun fact: medvedev means ‘Bear’ in Russian. Mecir’s nickname was ‘The Bear’.

  • Vijay · October 27, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    Off topic.

    What’s the current wisdom on teaching kids, say 6-8, how to serve and how to volley.

    Coaches round here seem to be teaching kids to volley and serve with a forehand grip, eastern or more extreme. This makes no sense to me, Why would you teach a kid the wrong way to do some things just to correct them later on? I’d rather not have the kid serve at all.

    This is somewhat close to me. My six year old can’t really serve with any grip, but it’s just a matter of strength. But she finds it easier to do it with an Eastern forehand grip than with a continental style backhand/volley grip.

    I don’t understand this idea of teaching kids the wrong way to do something, with the idea of correcting it later. It doesn’t happen in any other sport I know. Doesn’t happen with musical instruments. Not with how we teach mathematics or science. Why in tennis? Do other sports actually do something like this?

  • catherine · October 28, 2019 at 1:34 am

    Mecir was a Slovak. I’m not sure he would have appreciated a Russian nickname. Also he had a chronic back injury, had an operation, or more than one, and I think this is what finally ended his career. He just couldn’t stand the pain any more.

    Finals at US0 (1988 ?) Lendl/Mecir men, Sukova/Navratilova – all from the then Czechoslovakia.

  • catherine · October 28, 2019 at 2:46 am

    My mistake – that final was 1986 and Mecir was exhausted after beating Boris Becker the previous day in a match which included some judicious net rushing from Miroslav.

    He also made history by refusing CBS a post match interview. Of course these days he would have been reprimanded and heavily fined.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 28, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Vijay, Hewitt never had a weapon that could blast people off the court either yet he did.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 28, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Vijay, my guess is it’s too early to force a kid to serve and volley at 6-8, just hit the ball and enjoy that part of it and then later graduate to serve and volley. But if some kid that age can actually execute serve and volley, wow. What an athlete that kid is.

  • Matty · October 29, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    Vijay – correction, Mecir was always known as the “big cat”.



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