Rex Bellamy

Martina Navratilova won all three titles in the United States championships: the singles, the women's doubles with her familiar partner, Pam Shriver, and the mixed doubles with an unfamiliar partner, Emilio Sanchez...The men's singles final, in which Ivan Lendl beat Mats Wilander 6-7, 6-0, 7-6, 6-4, was, like the women's, a repetition of that in Paris. Lendl had already made himself into a special figure in the history of the tournament by becoming the first man since the 1920's to contest six consecutive singles finals.

From the start of the final, which lasted four hours, 47 minutes - the longest match in U.S. Open history, it seemed that the game, deferred for a day by Sunday's rain, would be of a higher quality than some of its recent predecessors. The players looked sharper and more eager after a day's rest.

It was a sunny but breezy day and, with Lendl needing to crack his first service on target as often as possible one suspected his toss might be a little inhibited by the breeze. He did, in fact, serve a few early double-faults; two in a row to help Wilander on the way to a break in the fifth game.

Briefly Wilander then became more aggressive - and profitably so. He came within two points of a second break to 5-2. In the tie-break Wilander took the set on his second set point (a close call went against Lendl) after Wilander himself had saved a set point with a forehand down the line that was only just in.

Wilander was using one-handed and two-handed backhands, depending on whether he wanted to hit under or over the ball. Again he was the nimble, tenacious counter-puncher who can be wonderfully effective on all but the fastest courts.

That first set lasted an hour and 30 minutes and once it was over Wilander's concentration seemed to need a breather. It certainly took one - at a time when logically he should have been increasing the pressure instead of relaxing it. On the other hand Lendl, perhaps excited by the line decision that had cost him the first set, began to hit with more and more freedom and accuracy.

He played an admirably aggressive and almost flawlessly tidy second set. His serving, in particular, improved a good deal and the rest of his game prospered accordingly. The set lasted only 28 minutes and Lendl also won the first game of the third set to make it seven in a row.

In that third set, though, Wilander was back to his best. He was still not going to the net on Lendl's backhand, but he was giving Lendl an awfully hard time with his sound ground strokes and services and his tactical craft. What a mighty set that was.

At 5-6 down Lendl had two set points against him. Then he produced five consecutive fierce services. The first four of these took him from 5-6, and from 15-40 down into a tiebreak, and the fifth helped him along the way to a lead of 4-0. Wilander held on as best he could but two more big services from Lendl gave him the set, which lasted an hour and 40 minutes. Lendl proceeded to win the fourth set 6-4 and with it the match.

(The Times, 15th September, 1987)