The third decade of the Open Era [1990-1999]
# The first ATP Tour season!
# Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker play their third consecutive Wimbledon final, Edberg wins for the second time, he becomes a ruler of men’s tennis in the aftermath, he will be dethroned one and a half years later by Jim Courier
# Pete Sampras becomes the youngest US Open champion (19 years, 28 days), advances to the Top 10 for the first time and will stay there over the next 12 years!
# Introduction of prestigious “Mercedes Super 9” series (it will change its name a couple times in the future) and “Grand Slam Cup” in Munich – court without tramlines, deprived of ATP points, the most lucrative tournament so far (6 million dollars the prize money for only 16 players… looks extraordinarily in comparison to the second biggest tournament of the season in terms of prize money, Roland Garros ($2,700,000 for 128 players), Sampras gets the first mind-blowing winner prize (2 million dollars)
# Sweden loses in the first round of Davis Cup (the Swedes played seven consecutive finals in the years 1983-89, winning three editions)
# Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg join an elite group of champions of three different Grand Slam events, Becker in Melbourne, Edberg in New York
# Michael Stich unexpectedly takes the Wimbledon title; he does it in impressive style, beating in the last two matches recent champions: Edberg and Becker. Out-smarting Edberg, Stich became the first winner of a Grand Slam match without breaking the opponent’s serve even once during the match (4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6)… it’s his style, no-one before him was so dependable on tie-breaks
# The longest mixed-doubles match of the Open Era (5 hours 13 minutes) at Wimbledon, Dutch people Michiel Schapers and Brenda Schultz are the lucky winners
# 39-year-old Jimmy Connors becomes the oldest semifinalist of a Grand Slam tournament (US Open) since Ken Rosewall in 1974, who was beaten in the US Open final by… Connors, 22-year-old at the time
# Guy Forget secures France the first Davis Cup in 59 years (!) clinching the final with a 4-set win over Pete Sampras
# The last edition of the ECC Antwerp, the most interesting exhibition tournament of the Open Era held since 1982, in which participated players invited by the officials (invitations based on performances in European events)… unfortunately the final is not played
# The year of Jim Courier, the 22-year-old American overwhelms his opponents with extreme forehand top-spin which was not used before with such an efficiency, he is the best at Australian Open, Roland Garros, and clinches the Davis Cup final
# Courier’s peer, Andre Agassi, celebrates his long-awaited first major title, oddly enough beating a “service-monster” Goran Ivanisevic in the Wimbledon final
# Stefan Edberg wins a major in the most dramatic circumstances (considering the whole second week), being a break down in the 5th set of three consecutive matches against former or future Grand Slam champions (Krajicek, Lendl, Chang); his semifinal vs Michael Chang remains the longest US Open match in history (5 hours 26 minutes)
# Ivan Lendl plays his last matches against arch-rivals John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors; Lendl’s Head to Head’s against two Americans are the most impressive at the time (36 and 35 matches respectively)
# Ivanisevic, as the only Open Era player survives four consecutive five-setters (the Olympics in Barcelona) before he is exhausted in the semifinal against the eventual Gold medalist Marc Rosset; the Croat brings serving aces to another level during the season, serving often more than 20… the Swiss delivers his best tennis also in the Davis Cup and leads Switzerland to the final (the smallest population in the final as far as 20th Century is concerned, 6.8M that year)
# J.McEnroe – as the only man – triumphs in the Davis Cup final in three different decades (this time playing doubles only), after that he retires having won the most titles combined (singles + doubles = 155… 156 counting mixed-doubles too)
# The rivalry of two Americans (of Irish & Greek roots), former doubles partners: Jim Courier and Pete Sampras. Courier plays three major finals (loses two of them) becoming the youngest player to reach all four Grand Slam finals, Sampras wins Wimbledon & US Open, and deprives his one year older compatriot of the No. 1 in the world (they met twice in the season, Sampras won both encounters); the third best American then, Andre Agassi suffers a crisis
# Petr Korda, in back-to-back matches (Munich, Grand Slam Cup), overcomes the two best players in the world at the time, Sampras and Michael Stich, 12-10 & 11-9 respectively in the 5th sets!! Stich, the best indoor player that year, leads Germany to three competition titles (Hopman Cup, World Team Cup, Davis Cup) – the same feat will achieve only Mark Philippoussis six years later
# Bjorn Borg plays in Moscow his definitely final match in pro-career, he did not enjoy a victory during his lingering retirement over 10 years!
# Ivan Lendl drops out of the Top 10 for the first time in 13 years (at the end of the season)!!
# Cedric Pioline becomes the first man to finish the year in the Top 10 not having won a title, the Frenchman played five finals within the season (including US Open); he’s the last player at this level to use an aluminium racquet
# 29-year-old Mats Wilander is active again after a two-year hiatus
# The year of Pete Sampras who wins two majors (Australian Open, Wimbledon), the two biggest at the time “Mercedes Super 9” tournaments (Key Biscayne & Rome) as well as ‘Masters’ (Frankfurt)
# Sergi Bruguera successfully defends his Roland Garros title, his compatriot beaten in the final, Alberto Berasategui, shows that a player can advance to the season-ending ‘Masters’ playing good tennis only on clay (seven titles, second best behind Sampras), apart from beloved surface, the Basque wins only two matches during the season!
# Ivan Lendl retires in his second round match at the US Open and never comes back on court (he is 34 at the time)
# The most spectacular December for a player, for Magnus Larsson – he contributes to the Davis Cup trophy for Sweden in Moscow, the following week he triumphs in Munich (Grand Slam Cup) serving better than ever (within a week he almost equals his career prize money gathered in six seasons!)
# It is the year of three players: Americans Pete Sampras & Andre Agassi, who totally rule on hard courts and Thomas Muster, actually untouchable on clay in the years 1995-96
# The comeback of Agassi after disappointing two previous seasons (1.5 year to be precise, Agassi won the US Open ’94 as the first unseeded player in the Open Era). The American cuts his long hair in January and plays arguably the best tennis of his life during the triumph at the Australian Open in his first appearance in Melbourne
# Muster captures 7 titles (12 in total) being one point away from defeat at different stages of those tournaments!!
# Moscow: Andrei Chesnokov secures Russia a final spot in the Davis Cup final, surviving 9 match points on return (!) in one game against Michael Stich
# Pete Sampras loses his only Wimbledon match in the years 1993-2000, being upset by Richard Krajicek, who takes the Grand Slam title as the first Dutchman; Yevgeny Kafelnikov inscribes himself to the record books as the first Russian to win a major (Roland Garros), he triumphs also in doubles becoming the last man to win the same major in singles and doubles
# Andre Agassi gets the gold Olympic medal – after the first two official Olympics (1988, 1992), the format has been changed since Atlanta ’96 – “the best of three” matches were introduced and a Bronze medal match
# Arnaud Boetsch pushes himself to ‘transcendence’ saving a triple match point in the 5th set against Nicklas Kulti in the decisive Davis Cup rubber
# Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg play the last match against each other (final at Queens Club), it is their 35th meeting (only Lendl and McEnroe played more… 36); Edberg retires in ’96 (also Mats Wilander plays his last match that year), Becker three years later
# Alberto Bersategui wins the longest game (28 minutes, 20 deuces) in a short match, paradoxically – Casablanca
# Halle: Jimmy Connors, at the age of 44, becomes the third oldest notable player to participate in a tournament (behind Pancho Gonzales – 48 in 1976 and Ken Rosewall – 46 in 1980); the American took part in only 11 tournaments given the years 1993-96
# Pete Sampras, for the fourth and last time, captures two majors (Australian Open, Wimbledon) within a season
# Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten‘s first miracle in Paris, the Brazilian becomes a Grand Slam champion although he did not play even an ATP quarterfinal before! En route to the title he overcomes champions of the three previous editions (Muster, Kafelnikov, Bruguera)!
# Another slump of Andre Agassi, this time much more heavier than four years before, the American in the years 1988-2005 only once dropped outside the Top 10 (No. 22 in 1993), in 1997 he drops outside the Top 100!
# Goran Ivanisevic withstands the longest decisive 3rd set tie-break, out-serving (20/18) Greg Rusedski at Queens Club (semifinal)
# Carlos Moya and Alex Corretja play two big finals against each other: Moya wins in Paris, Corretja prevails in Hanover (Masters); Spain begins ruling in men’s tennis, two other Spaniards – Albert Costa & Felix Mantilla finish the season in the Top 20 as well
# Marcelo Rios becomes the first No. 1 in the world from South America (he does it mainly thanks to back-to-back titles at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne), and competes with Pete Sampras to the end of the season, ultimately Sampras maintains his position despite the worst season in six years – claims only one big title (Wimbledon – defeated finalist Goran Ivanisevic suffers his third London final loss)
# Australian Patrick Rafter defends the US Open title, his 9 years younger compatriot Lleyton Hewitt becomes the lowest-ranked (No. 550 triumphing in Adelaide) tournament champion in history
# Nicolas Escude, as the first Open Era man wins three matches in a major, erasing a 2-sets-to-love deficit (Australian Open), he does it 1R, 3R and QF
# Great comeback of Andre Agassi, the American survives a dramatic 5-set match against Andrei Medvedev in the Roland Garros final, it is the fourth different Grand Slam tournament he wins, Agassi does it as the first man since Rod Laver in 1969, the same feat will repeat Roger Federer (2009), Rafael Nadal (2010) and Novak Djokovic (2016); the American notches four consecutive Grand Slam finals (the fourth – Australian Open ’00), no-one achieved this feat since 1969. Agassi finally finishes the season as No. 1 in the world, surpassing his old-time rival Pete Sampras, who kept the leadership at the end of seasons in the years 1993-98; a new record (the previous belonged to Jimmy Connors – No. 1 in years 1974-78)
# Sampras consoles himself after losing the leadership, winning ‘Masters’ (Hanover) for the fifth and last time (Federer & Djokovic will win this tournament more times)
# Greg Rusedski wins the last edition of the Grand Slam Cup (the most lucrative event, symbol of the 90s, was moved from December to September in 1997, doubles tramlines were added two years earlier)