Richard Evans

A week of exciting closely-fought tennis reached a resounding climax at the Kunglihallen with the King of Sweden leading the traditional "Rah, rah, rah", for the three champions of the 1983 Stockholm Open - Swedes to a man. It was the first time in the tournament's 15-year history that both the singles and doubles titles had been won by home-grown players, and amidst the celebrations one's only regret was that Hans-Ake Sturen, the kindly and dedicated administrator who had built and nurtured the tournament since its inception, was not there to witness a historic moment for Swedish tennis. Hans-Ake had died the previous January, but the Stockholm Open lives on as a fitting monument to his tireless search for perfection.

Mats Wilander was five when Nikki Pilic won the first Stockholm Open back in 1969, but now he is the champion and a worthy one. No less deserving of the praises of their King were Hans Simonsson and Anders Jarryd, the French Open champions, who added further lustre to their highly successful year by beating Peter Fleming and Johan Kriek in the doubles final 6-3, 6-4.

Wilander had a hard passage to the singles final. In one of several matches in which the loser was beaten back from the brink of victory, Wilander found himself in dire trouble against Switzerland's talented Heinz Gunthardt, who served for their quarter-final match at 5-4 in the second set and reached 40-15. Having looked the more forceful and fluent fast-court player up to that point, Gunthardt suddenly found the net position snatched from him as he failed to come in behind a second serve. Wilander, illustrating the difference between the habitual rather than the occasional winner at this level, dealt with the first match point with a sound volley and then neatly lobbed over the on-rushing Gunthardt's head on the second. When faced with a third match point, Mats again seized the initiative and Heinz, asked to make the pass, hit a hurried backhand that gave the Swede another life-saving volley. After that it was all Wilander, and he took the third set 6-0. The escape worked wonders for Wilander's confidence and he was in fine form in the semi-final against Vitas Gerulaitis, mixing sound baseline play with carefully planned aggression to win 6-3, 6-3.

[Wilander's opponent in the final], Tomas Smid...a battle-hardened competitor who does not panic under pressure...stuck religiously to a pattern of all-out aggression...but although he reached set-point three times in the second set, the 19-year-old Swede was as steady as a certain predecessor who had not managed to win this title until he was 24. Bjorn Borg's problems in Stockholm had been largely due to the ultra-fast tiled surface on which the tournament had been played during its first ten years, and he did not win his home-town title until 1980. Wilander has adapted more quickly to the medium-fast cement that is now laid at the Kunglihallen and looked every inch a champion in beating Smid 6-1, 7-5.

(World of Tennis 1984)