HAT-TRICK FOR LENDL DESPITE GRUELLING WILANDER CHALLENGE
Ivan Lendl survived a tremendous challenge from Mats Wilander to win the U.S. Open title for the third consecutive year last night in the event's longest final.
After four hours and 47 minutes of gruelling tennis the world champion hit the backhand service return which not only brought him victory once more but carried his career prize money earnings beyond $11 million.
His 6-7, 6-0, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Wilander, whom he also beat in the French Open final in June, may not have been the most exciting contest but it was certainly one full of courage and both mental and physical stamina.
The exhausting, punishing nature of the match was established in the one hour 30-minute opening set, full of long, probing rallies as both players were reluctant to risk sorties to the net against an opponent with such fine passing shots.
Lendl, despite retrieving the first break of his own serve in the fifth game when Wilander provided a rare dash of early excitement by racing in to play a cross-court winner off a drop shot, was eventually forced to yield his first set of the tournament in a 9-7 tiebreak.
Having raced through the second set, however, for the loss of only five points, it was the serve that became Lendl's greatest ally and weapon.
There were two aces to pull him out of trouble at 4-5 in the third set, another when he was set point down at 15-40 two games later and then he saved the second with a lashed cross-court forehand.
In the third set tiebreak Wilander made two terrible volleying blunders to lose it 7-4 and then, as this extraordinary match moved into its fourth hour, breaking all sorts of records for this stadium and tournament, both players took a quick toilet break at 2-1 to Lendl in the fourth set.
Wilander achieved much fantastic retrieving in the fourth set but then, as fatigue clearly began to set in, he double-faulted to go match point down.
Still the Swede - the first U.S. Open finalist from his country since Bjorn Borg in 1981 - managed to find the energy for another service winner. Four points later, after a short lob had been put away by the champion, he conceded. There was no response to Lendl's backhand, winning service return.
(Daily Telegraph, 15th September 1987)