WILANDER AND NYSTROM
A rangy 6 foot 2, Nystrom is deceptively quick. "I always saw that he was very talented", Wilander says, recalling when they first became friends on a junior trip to Amsterdam in a Volkswagen bus in 1978. I told everyone that he was going to be as good as me because he's exactly the same player, and he's as strong as me mentally. But when he came on the court, he sometimes didn't believe that he could do things."
Nystrom started believing when he beat McEnroe at the WCT Finals in Dallas in April 1985, stopping McEnroe's 23-match winning streak. He frustrated McEnroe not only with his penetrating passing shots, but also his speed...
Nystrom is a natural athlete who excels at hockey, table tennis, soccer and an indoor field hockey game called bandy. "He's absolutely the best at it", says Wilander, who does regularly beat his friend on the golf course as well as on the tennis court - Nystrom is 0-11 against Wilander as a pro.
His stoic countenance on court notwithstanding, Nystrom is generally considered to be the funniest of the Swedes. When it comes to imitating fellow players, he is a regular Rich Little of the courts. "He can do a lot of players", says Wilander, refusing to name names...
Nystrom and Wilander once tried the Eat to Win diet made famous by Martina Navratilova. "We wrote down everything we ate..." Nystrom says. "We could only stand it for a week. We got so bored, we started eating chocolate".
Nystrom's loyal friendship with Wilander rivals his loyalty to his family. There probably aren't two other players ranked as high who are so close. That's one reason why Nystrom considers a highlight of his career the doubles victory he and Wilander scored against West Germany in last December's Davis Cup final, which was key to Sweden winning the trophy for the second year in a row.
The two have been playing doubles together since the juniors. Wilander admits that "we probably would do better playing with other people because our games are so similar. But we do it for fun." The rewards can be great though, as they found when they won the Wimbledon men's doubles title this year.
They celebrated their victory with a hug - a moving scene that brought to mind a dream they share. Nystrom would love to win a Grand Slam singles title - "Wimbledon or the French", he says - and Wilander shares that ambition for his friend. "I would love to see Jocke win a Grand Slam. It would be like playing my brother. It wouldn't matter if I lost."
(TENNIS, October 1986)