Mats Wilander, registering his first-ever victory over John McEnroe on an indoor court, retained his Belgian Super Series title at the Brussels Exhibition Centre with a workmanlike victory that suggested tennis was, once again, amongst his list of priorities following a relatively lacklustre year in 1986. McEnroe, who lost 3-6, 4-6 in the final...never came to terms with the fact that he could not find the timing on his backhand and kept trying to play through the problem. As a result, errors flowed from his racket on the backhand flank and the ever-consistent Wilander feasted off them. The Swede, who had been so distracted by love and marriage, was obviously delighted to have retained his title. (Richard Evans, World of Tennis 1988)

It wasn't always enough to entice the √©lite of Monaco from their sumptuous lunches, but Wilander's play was impeccable throughout the first real test of the European clay-court season. His methodical, rhythmic march under blessed blue skies and warming sunshine was a foretaste of his summer of plenty. The only set he dropped in the tournament was the first in the final against Jimmy Arias, the shock of which indiscretion jolted the Swede into a performance of total authority, and a 4-6, 7-5,    6-1, 6-3 victory. "I feel comfortable here, and this was a very good week for me", said Wilander. (Neil Harman, World of Tennis 1988)

In Dallas, Mats Wilander, who is usually a model of good behaviour, if not always of dress on occasions which demand more formality, deliberately missed what by tradition is a major publicity launch on the first day of the WCT finals, because he was more concerned about moving furniture into his new home near New York. (Tennis World, July 1987)

Ending a nine-year drought for the Swedes in Rome, Mats Wilander claimed his second clay-court title of Europe's spring season when he defeated the 11th-seeded Argentinian, Martin Jaite 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in a predictably one-sided final...Although there is much similarity in style between the two men, the Swede is simply one class better than the Argentinian. Wilander, in fact, was looking a class better than just about everyone for most of the week. The Swede's win in Monte Carlo had fine-tuned his game to what, for his opponents, had become an exasperatingly high level of efficiency. So there was never a great deal of doubt that Wilander would end this strange run of failure for his countrymen at the Foro Italico. Not many Super Series events on the Grand Prix tour have escaped the clutches of this new generation of Swedes, but one had to go back to Bjorn Borg in 1978 to find another Swedish winner in Rome. Nor had Sweden provided a finalist in the intervening years. In fact, Wilander was joining a very exclusive club, because prior to Borg Jan Erik Lundquist in 1964 was the only other Swede to win the Italian title. (Richard Evans, World of Tennis 1988)

Wilander v. Jaite, Italian Open final, 1987: The Swede, a winner in Monte Carlo, never looked like losing. "He is so consistent", moaned Jaite. And so he was: a model of patience and expertise. "I'm enjoying my tennis," he said. "So many things have changed in my life - I took a long break from the game and I got married". (Peter Blackman, Tennis World, July 1987)

Wilander v. Noah, French Open quarter-final 1987: Wilander is playing beautiful tennis: sneaking to net, playing passing shots with exquisite accuracy. When he takes the racket back for his backhand you can see him choose which - topspin, flat or slice - to hit, as calmly as a shopper choosing fruit in a market. Each set is quicker than the last, despite the efforts of the hugely partisan crowd, which starts cheering Wilander's errors in the hope that it might help. It doesn't, and Mats wins 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in a touch less than two hours...Yannick insists that Mats played better, and agrees that, yes, he is the best choice for the title. "I didn't take more risks than usual today", he says. Mats just made it look as though he did, and made him look slow - which is the pointer to someone at the peak of his game. (Tennis (GB), June 1987)

"Boris is the master of the grass courts."  (Mats Wilander, after beating Becker brilliantly in straight sets (6-4, 6-1, 6-2) in the semi-final of the 1987 French Open (on clay, of course))

Mats Wilander: great on clay but vulnerable on grass. But he still chases the dream of success at Wimbledon even though he should be happy with four Grand Slam titles before his 21st birthday. Unflappable (like most Swedes) and rated the most likeable player on the tour. (Assessment, Tennis Times, 1987)

I do not agree with [your reader] who claims that top players allow money and fame to ruin their temperament. Not all top players behave badly. In fact, most of the world's top ten, the Swedes in particular, are well-behaved on court. Not all top players behave as spoilt superstars either. I would like to point out that Mats Wilander and other well-known players play in Dublin every year for GOAL, an Irish Third World charity. They play free of charge and provide us with exciting tennis, as well as showing us the good-humoured side of their personalities. I have nothing but admiration for these players who, despite tight schedules, still find the time to help those less fortunate than themselves. (Letter from fan, Tennis World, July 1987)

Certainly there is a negative feeling generally in Britain towards the slow court game. Those who win on clay by using tactical control and patience are often dismissed as "boring", or "hackers". In other European countries longer rallies and the sight of finesse overcoming power is accepted and appreciated....Clay is a demanding surface and is not for spoilt players. It requires mental discipline, physical fitness, sound stroke technique and a willingness to literally bite the red dust. (Extract from article entitled "British Feet of Clay", by Shirley Brasher, Observer, 2nd August 1987)

Your article struck a responsive chord in me because my impression is that this negative attitude in Britain to clay and to baseline rallies is very prevalent indeed. So much so that "negative" is often the actual word used to describe winning by baseline play, in contrast to net-rushing serve-and-volley tennis which is described as "positive" and "courageous". While I realise that the latter game is more effective for Wimbledon grass courts, my personal preference has always been for long rallies on slow courts, whether they end by going to the net or whether they don't. I find the build-ups generated by such rallies exciting because they create tension and suspense, and often involve a greater variety of shot. I enjoy the way long rallies keep on moving the players about the court, and I love watching them swing their rackets in a way they don't have time to do on grass. I also greatly admire the patience, consistency and mental discipline necessary to win on a clay court. There are different kinds of courage, and it requires just as much of this quality to be prepared to take your time and not rush things as it does to charge flamboyantly to the net. There is also just as much risk involved in baseline tennis in the sense that the longer a rally goes on the greater the chance of the point going either way. After all this you will not be surprised to hear that my own hero is Mats Wilander, who I think often takes a lot of totally undeserved flak for allegedly being "boring" and "negative". I don't think he is! He suffers from being on the receiving end of this very attitude that you describe in your article. For me Mats displays all the qualities I have said above that I like about clay court tennis in general, plus his own very special qualities of exceptional quickness about the court and an exceptional tactical brain. He is also unusual in having, as well as a two-handed backhand, a most elegant one-handed one. He uses this shot very effectively to suddenly take the pace off the ball and have it bounce low after a spate of hard-hitting exchanges during which he has used two-handed topspin backhands that bounce high. He can also volley perfectly well and picks his moments to do so, and of course he frequently does marvellous topspin lobs from anywhere on the court. In short, he mixes his shots very well indeed, and I feel that what he does on the baseline is much more sophisticated than just "waiting for the other man to make a mistake", as some people have accused him of doing. (Letter in reply to above article, 11th August, 1987)

[In the U.S. Clay Court Championships 1987] the action reached its climax on a traditionally humid Indianapolis afternoon, when Mats Wilander joined the élite list of title holders with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Kent Carlsson in the final. The two Swedes were contesting a final for the second time in as many weeks, with the result the same: Wilander winning a long straight-sets match. Wilander had marched through the tournament without losing a set, and against Carlsson he simply played at a higher level throughout the two hour five minute match. The 22-year-old Wilander attacked behind his ever-improving slice backhand when the opportunity arose, but when Carlsson began hitting those heavy topspin balls, Wilander wore him down at his own game. The semi-finals were similar to the final, in that it was hot and the rallies were long. Wilander eliminated his friend and doubles partner, Joakim Nystrom, 6-4, 7-5, for his eleventh consecutive win in their meetings. Commented Nystrom: "I know I am going to beat him some day, but it may not be until the over-35's." (Josh Young, World of Tennis 1988)

The Senior Editor [of TENNIS], Norman Zeitchick, collaborated with the world's no. 3 ranked player, Mats Wilander, and Instruction Editor Dennis Van der Meer on this month's cover story about Wilander's one-handed slice backhand...Norman and Staff Photographer Steve Szurlej...did their work with the Swede in the middle of the U.S. Open. It is highly unusual for a player ranked so high to grant that kind of access during a major championship, but Wilander was extremely cooperative. It didn't seem to hurt his Open performance, either, because he reached the final at Flushing Meadow... Wilander, Norman reports, "was a pleasure to work with. He wants to put something back into the game, to get something across to the average player. He's not as isolated as the other top players." (TENNIS, December 1987)

"I don't know if I have ever seen anyone covering the court and retrieving as well as Wilander is doing, because in the last set  and a half Lendl has really been punishing the ball and hitting the lines - and Wilander has somehow been hooking them back and making Lendl play to his utmost capacity."  (Dan Maskell, BBC commentary on the U.S. Open final, 1987)

"It's good that Sonya has her own career. We have a rule that we won't be apart for longer than two weeks. If you have a marriage I don't think you should be apart for much longer."  (Mats Wilander, 1987)

[For] Sweden against India in the Davis Cup final...Sweden can whistle up for the occasion Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander, ranked second and third in the world, and even should this duo encounter unexpected misfortune en route to the arena in Gothenburg next week, there are seven more Swedes lodged in the top 40 of professional tennis and aching for a call...[Says Vijay Amritraj]: "The biggest problem with playing the Swedes is that they are such nice guys. You can't even dislike them. So I just hope we play well." (Ronald Atkin, Observer, 6th December, 1987)

For three days we can forget about the unpleasant nonsense associated with professional sport in general and tennis in particular - the tantrums, the bungling bureaucracy, the money, the rankings and the widespread discontent. Sweden are playing India in the final of the world team championship for the Davis Cup. The players of both nations are exemplary sportsmen. Consequently, this climax of the tennis year should be a genuine sporting occasion. But the Swedes are the strongest team in the world and are playing at home on the surface they prefer - clay. There is no reason why Sweden should lose any of the five matches, but every reason to expect the teams to enjoy each other's company - and their tennis, too. The public should respond to all that. Yesterday's draw was attended by about 300 people.  (Rex Bellamy, The Times, 18th December 1987)

It was pleasing to see the overflow of good spirit at the 1987 Davis Cup final between Sweden and India, played in Gothenburg, Sweden, just before Christmas. Sweden won 5-0, dropping only one set, for its third Davis Cup championship in four years. But did the Swedes gloat in their victory, and did the Indians whine in defeat? Hardly. The Swedes gleefully sang a song for the crowd after completing their win, the Indians danced, and Indian captain Vijay Amritraj spoke gracefully of the experience of playing in his first Cup final at age 34...He had nothing but compliments about the behavior and competitive-ness of his team's conquerors: "We all know the Swedes are great sportsmen, but niceness off the court shouldn't be confused with lack of killer instinct on court. They are cool but deadly. You can be nice and win."  (TENNIS, early 1988)

Hans Olsson, who has been in charge of the Swedish team since 1982, said the 1987 Davis Cup final was one of the easiest wins but pointed out that this year's triumph included difficult away ties in Italy, France and Spain. The Swedes were playing in their fifth consecutive final, and won the competition for the fourth time since 1975. They were also presented with a special trophy by Juan Antonio Samaranch, the president of the IOC, as a tribute to their "sportsmanship and fair play". (Independent, 21st December 1987)