John Barrett

For the fifth time in six years there was a Swedish celebration on finals day at the Jack Nicklaus Centre in Cincinnati, when Mats Wilander won the Thriftway ATP Championships from his Davis Cup colleague and the defending champion, Stefan Edberg. The margin of victory was narrow, the 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 decision turning on Wilander's refusal to give up during a 2 hour 32 minute battle that developed into a fierce battle of wills.

In front of a capacity crowd of some 8,800 fans, Wilander quickly found himself 1-4 down against a barrage of deep serves and penetrating volleys from the new Wimbledon champion. It was in the next game that the match was won and lost, for twice Edberg had points for a second break and a 5-1 lead that probably would have been decisive. On the first he missed with his backhand return and on the second Wilander hit a winning serve. Although he went on to lose the opening set, you could see that Wilander now felt involved. He was unruffled when Edberg started fast in the second set and came back from 0-3 (he was two breaks behind) and 4-5 in the tie-break. At this stage Edberg needed only his two service points for victory, but inexplicably he missed two straightforward volleys and then hit his backhand too deep, to give the set to a grateful opponent.

The final set provided a fine spectacle, in which the contrasting style of the two players made the rallies interesting and the outcome difficult to forecast. For 12 games there were no breaks of serve, but as the tie-break began you could sense that Wilander was determined to add to the titles he had won here in 1983, 1984 and 1986. He became altogether more aggressive and quickly built up a lead of 3-1 that soon became 6-2. Here Edberg made a last determined charge. A seventh ace saved the first match point, a forced error on the forehand from Wilander saved the second, and a forehand volley into the net saved the third. But at 5-6 Edberg served a rather short second serve, and Wilander took his chance. The winning backhand return gave him a tenth victory over his younger opponent in their 15 meetings since 1983. So well did Wilander play in adversity that it was hard to believe that this was only his fourth tournament success of the year. However, when you remembered that the other victories had been at the Australian Open, French Open and Lipton's, you began to realise that the world's no.2* player was a master of timing.

(World of Tennis 1989)

*Very soon to become the world no.1. Mats achieved this three weeks later when he won the U.S. Open, another Grand Slam tournament, of course!  -"Spider".