1986 – 1987, Roland Garros

French Open, Paris
May 26, 1986; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $1,125,000; Surface – Clay

During John McEnroe’s sabbatical, Ivan Lendl seemed untouchable; in Paris ’86 he won his seventh tournament of the year, having obtained a final and semifinal in two other appearances. Lendl worked out perfection in keeping concentration through long period of time, and notched amazing 13-, 12- and 9-game-winning streaks respectively, in his last three matches of the event! It was a time of absolute Swedish ascendancy. The Swedish tennis was producing new faces every year in the mid-80s. That year in Paris all four seeded Swedes surprisingly dropped before last 16, but popped out of nowhere two others in the second week: Ulf Stenlund – playing his first main-level tournament advanced easily to the fourth round (!) whilst Mikael Pernfors at his 17th event, stunned four seeds moving through to the final. Two-time Australian Open champion, 28-year-old Johan Kriek participated in his just second French Open, and surprised even himself reaching the semifinals.
All scorelines
First round: (Daily Breeze)

Two French stars had good days: eighth-seeded Henri Leconte beat David De Miguel 6-3, 6-1, 6-3, and struggling Guy Forget nipped Pablo Arraya in a tie-breaker 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(1). In the second round Forget won his match (against Thomas Muster) after very similar scoreline: 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(1). The early French winners set the stage for more local stars later in the tournament’s second day. Paul leconte_rg86McNamee [30], unseeded in the draw, beat Joakim Nystrom 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0, and the Swedish star who has won five tournaments this season said he might be suffering from too much tennis. “I felt tired today,” he said. “Now I have two weeks off, at least.” Nystrom had played tournaments in five consecutive weeks, collecting a 16-3 record. Leconte took less than an hour (amazingly quick match!) to beat De Miguel, despite getting in just 46 percent of his first serves. It was a strong showing for the Frenchman, coming back from illness and injury that sidelined him for much of the spring. “I feel good,” Leconte said. “I am playing regularly at the moment and hope to keep it up.” Forget has been in a slump, losing three matches in a row prior to Roland Garros ’86. In the swirling wind of center court, with clouds of red dust blowing about, Forget blew a triple-match point in the fourth set “when I forgot the most important thing – I forgot to look at the ball.” The resulting volley sailed long. In the tiebreaker, however, Forget held his concentration and won easily. “The wind was not constant. It was turning around and the longer we played, the stronger it got,” he said. “By the end, I had dust in my mouth and eyes.” Top-seeded Ivan Lendl scored straight-set victory yesterday on the first day of the French Open. Lendl, shaking off a lingering knee injury, routed West Germany’s Michael Westphal 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. Westphal is ranked 79th in the world. “I feel I am playing solid, nothing spectacular, but solid,” Lendl said. “I was able to get some practice and treatment in Rome last week. It all went very well.” John Lloyd [44], disgusted after losing an opening-round match Monday at the French Open, announced his retirement from tennis, saying he would continue through the season and quit after the Australian Open (he played his last match at Wimbledon though). Lloyd, a 31-year-old Englishman, lost to Luiz Mattar [126] of Brazil, 5-7, 7-5, 6-1, 6-4. West Germany’s Damir Keretic ousted 16th-seeded Heinz Gunthardt of Switzerland 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(7), 8-6. Yannick Noah, the 1983 champ here, was at the center of a big day for French players yesterday. In the best match of the tournament’s first two days, he beat countryman Tarik Benhabiles 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-7(8), 6-4, turning the crowd at center court into two distinct cheering sections. ‘Yah-neek! Yah-neek!’ half the crowd chanted. ‘Tah-reek! Tah-reek!’ the other half replied.’ Noah almost met his match against the 21-year-old Benhabiles, a native of Algeria who lives in Paris. After breezing through the first two sets, Noah, visibly tiring as the warm sunshine gave way to chilly winds and, at the very end, a light sprinkle, held on to move into the next round. With a rifle-shot for a forehand, Benhabiles captured the third-set tiebreaker, then fought off one match point to win the fourth-set tiebreaker. In that tiebreaker, until the final point, no more than one point separated the two players. “I played too loose, and he started coming back,” Noah said of the third set, when he ran off the first three games. “I had trouble with my long game, and he put pressure on my serve. I went to a different state of mind. I played sloppily. I thought I would win it quickly, and when he came back, I fought it. When I was at match point and he won the point, I just said to myself, ‘Try, try, try again.’ ” After 3 hours, 47 minutes, Noah’s 16th ace ended his afternoon of frustration and noah_rg86Benhabiles’ dreams of an upset. By the fifth set, the crowd was cheering both players and repeatedly had to be quieted. During the final changeover, with Noah leading 5:4 and preparing to serve for the match, the crowd stood and cheered for several minutes. Noah wasted two match points before ending the match with his 16th ace of the day. Jimmy Arias [21] hurt his ankle in an exhibition match last week against Benhabiles. When he was called for his match against Mexico’s Francisco Maciel, Arias withdrew. “It`s disappointing because I was hitting the ball well,” said the 15th- seeded Arias. “But the doctors say if I twisted it again, I might be out for three months.” (Arias came back on tour two months later). Maciel defeated “lucky loser” Florin Segarceanu of Romania 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. Winning among the men’s seeds were No. 2 and defending champion Mats Wilander, 6-0, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, over Riccardo Acuna of Peru; No. 11 Martin Jaite of Argentina, 6-1, 3-6, 0-6, 6-2, 6-4 over Ronald Agenor of Haiti.

Second round: AP

Ivan Lendl, the men’s top seed from Czechoslovakia, notched a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Jakob Hlasek of Switzerland. “Now it’s round three,” Lendl said. “All I really wanted to do today is win.” Guillermo Vilas, the 1977 French Open champ from Argentina, beat Martin Wostenholme of Canada 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. Defending champion Mats Wilander of Sweden beat American Aaron Krickstein 6-1, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 today, escaping a list of upsets among the seeds at the French Open tennis championships. Wilander, seeded No. 2, needed every shot he could muster to turn back Krickstein, unseeded and ranked 36th in the world. “I was very lucky in the fifth set,” Wilander said after edging Krickstein in a four-hour slug-fest on center court. The No. wilander_rg862 seed from Sweden converted his only break point of the decisive set, while Krickstein failed to convert on six break points. “Except for the stretch from 2:2 to 5:2* for me in the 3rd set, he controlled the whole match,” Wilander admitted. Probably the key point came almost unnoticed in the third game of the 4th set. Krickstein, an 18-year-old right-hander from Grosse Point, led 40/15 on return when he pulled Wilander way off the court with a shot. Somehow, Wilander got the ball, but put up a weak lob that landed just over the net, giving Krickstein the entire court to just tap the ball for the vital service break. Instead, Krickstein netted the easy shot. When he hit a backhand wide on the next point, bringing the game to deuce, he threw his racket to the ground in disgust, drawing a Code of Conduct. Two points later, Wilander had held serve. Three games later, the Swede, seeking his third French Open crown, broke Krickstein at 30, then served out to level the match at two sets apiece. “That was important,” Wilander said of Krickstein’s blunder in the third game. “Still, there are so many key points in a match like this.” After Krickstein opened the decisive 5th set with a ‘love’ game, Wilander fought off two break points as the two battled through eight deuces before the Swede held serve. Krickstein, never was at match point. But he had Wilander struggling until the Swede’s final serve kicked up at his feet for a winner at the end of the 4-hour, 12-minute match on the red clay of center court at Roland Garros stadium. For the match, Wilander outscored Krickstein by just one point 165-164. Another Swede, No. 5 Stefan Edberg, was among three seeded players eliminated, pernfors_rg86losing to U.S. collegiate champion Mickael Pernfors 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Pernfors, a Swede, attended the University of Georgia.  Also advancing were No. 3 seeds from West Germany Boris Becker beating Bruno Oresar of Yugoslavia 6-2, 6-0, 6-7(1), 6-3 and No. 4 Yannick Noah, who struggled to overcome Sammy Giammalva, 6-3, 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-4. “I was very tired,” said Noah, who jumped to a 4:1 lead in the first set before Giammalva played him on nearly even terms. “I was also very nervous. It was a hard match. He kept changing the rhythm, and I didn’t know what to do.” No. 7 Anders Jarryd, No. 9 Andres Gomez and No. 13 Johan Kriek also needed four sets before advancing. Kriek, the only seeded American in the men’s field, eliminated 6’8 Milan Srejber, 6-1, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3; Gomez ousted clay-court specialist Nelson Aerts, 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3; and Jarryd stopped Marko Ostoja, 6-2, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. Jean-Philippe Fleurian and Jonathan Canter co-created a match with a bizarre scoreline, Fleurian prevailed 2-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-5, 7-5, the match was suspended by darkness at 2-sets apiece and finished following day.

Third round: (Atlanta Journal)

Top seed Ivan Lendl won his French Open match Friday, but several of highly rated counterparts were upset victims, including fifth-seeded Anders Jarryd [9]. The day was interrupted for about 4,000 spectators when they were evacuated from one area of the Roland Garros stadium during a match when a ticking sound was heard coming from a suitcase under the stands; it was an alarm clock. Lendl recorded straight-set victory, beating Chris Miniussi of Argentina 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. Jarryd was the victim of fellow Swede Ulf Stenlund, who surprised himself with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 victory. Yannick Noah, who in 1983 became the first Frenchman in 37 years to win the title at Roland Garros, had his third consecutive difficult match, downing Fernando Luna of Spain 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-3. “My ankle was hurting,” Noah said. “It was difficult to concentrate. I used a lot of energy to get me through.” Noah said the ankle, which he injured two months ago, then re-injured “two weeks ago at home when I dropped a suitcase on it,” was swollen and “is like a sprained ankle.” The 19-year-old Stenlund [101] did not figure in Sweden’s high hopes when the tournament began with four of the top seven seeds representing the Scandinavian country.stenlund”I just tried to win games, not matches,” Stenlund said after his third consecutive straight-set victory. ”The first match against West Germany’s Andreas Maurer was the key match. After that, I got more confidence.” Stenlund, hadn’t played a main-level tournament prior to Roland Garros ’86, and suddenly moved through to the last 16 not even being forced to play a 5-all set! Jarryd said of his loss, “After the first set I had no guts. I have no explanation of why I don’t have any fight. I want to win, but I don’t do anything to win. “I feel more relaxed when I play a higher-ranked player,” said Stenlund. “I felt if I had a good day and he was down a bit, I had a good chance. I sensed Jarryd was a bit nervous at first and that encouraged me.” The 33-year-old Guillermo Vilas, the 1977 French Open champion who is making his 15th appearance at Roland Garros, downed Sweden’s Jan Gunnarsson 7-6(4), 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in a match that was interrupted by the bomb scare. “I was very calm. I was not scared,” Vilas said of the one-hour delay that came in the second set. chesnokov_wilander_rg86About 4,000 spectators were evacuated during the Vilas-Gunnarsson match when a ticking sound was heard coming from a suitcase under the stands. It turned out to be an alarm clock. Andrei Chesnokov of the Soviet Union surprised Mats Wilander 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, and left Sweden’s hopes, so high when the tournament began, resting with two long shots. Wilander, one of four Swedes seeded among the top seven players was preceded out of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament by No. 5 Stefan Edberg, No. 6 Joakim Nystrom and No. 7 Anders Jarryd. Of the 12 Swedes who began the two-week tournament in the men’s singles, the only two left are Mikael Pernfors, a two-time NCAA champion at Georgia, and Ulf Stenlund, who is playing in his first Grand Prix event. Chesnokov, whose victory over Wilander moved him into the fourth round on the red clay courts of Roland Garros stadium, offered an excuse for his opponent. “He had a tough match against Krickstein, and I think he was tired,” Chesnokov said. “I saw three sets of that match. I figured out how to play against Wilander. Krickstein had the advantage over him so often, but didn’t finish it off, and I knew that would be the key. I had to put Wilander on the defensive.” In men’s play, besides Chesnokov, Martin Jaite downed Spain’s Jose Clavet 6-0, 6-1, 6-3; Emilio Sanchez stopped Jean-Philippe Fleurian of France 6-1, 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-3; Mikael Pernfors defeated American Robert Seguso 7-5, 6-2, 6-0 and  Henri Leconte eliminated Brazil’s Cassio Motta 1-6, 3-6, 7-6(10), 6-0, 6-0. Leconte saved two match points in the 3rd set tie-break and it’s the longest tie-break won by a player who won a match storming back from a 2-sets-to-0 deficit (it will be equalled twice in the future).  Third-seeded Boris Becker completed a 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Eliot Teltscher in a match suspended after three sets because of darkness Saturday.  Andres Gomez defeated Kent Carlsson 7-5, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-3 in was third consecutive year they faced each other at Roland Garros. Gomez grabbed wins every time, in two previous years after straight sets victories. 

Fourth round: AP

Local favorite Yannick Noah, the 1983 champion and No. 4 men’s seed, defaulted because an ankle injury hindered his movement. That allowed Johan Kriek, the lone American left in the men’s draw, to advance to the quarterfinals. Before this year, Kriek never had won a match at Roland Garros vilas_rg86and hadn’t even bothered to play here since 1979. “This is a bizarre tournament,” Kriek said. “I didn’t even know if I’d win a match. I’m surprising myself as much as anyone else.” Ivan Lendl, of Czechoslovakia, defeated West Germany’s Damir Keretic 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Guillermo Vilas, the 33-year-old Argentine who won the French Open nine years ago, fought back from a single point away from elimination to beat Guy Forget 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 in the fourth round. “Any win I like,” he said when asked to compare this with the victories he registered with regularity a decade ago. “You can get sentimental after the match.” In men’s singles, No. 8 Henri Leconte of France and unseeded Andrei Chesnokov of the Soviet advanced to the quarterfinals. Leconte, the lone French player remaining in the tournament, defeated Horacio de la Pena of Argentina 6-1, 6-2, 6-1, and Chesnokov beat Mexico’s Francisco Maciel 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1. “I can play against anyone,” the Soviet said. Leconte took just 90 minutes to conquer De La Pena, a clay court specialist who had been expected to give the left-hander a tougher battle. Andres Gomez of Ecuador spoiled the upset hopes of Sweden’s Ulf Stenlund, who was playing in his first Grand Prix event. Gomez prevailed, 7-5, 7-6(4), 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, to earn a place against Lendl in the quarterfinals. They meet at Roland Garros ’88, and Gomez gets another win in a very similar fashion, 7-6, 6-0, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4! Mikael Pernfors of Sweden, who won two NCAA championships for the University of Georgia, upset No. 11 Martbecker_rg86in Jaite 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(3). Pernfors, who said he would have questioned the sanity of anyone who predicted he’d be the last Swede remaining in the men’s draw, is ranked 27th in the world and Chesnokov is No. 81. Jaite, serving at 5:4 in the fourth set, had four set points to even the match, and he saved three match points in the 12th game before losing the tie-breaker.  West German teen-ager, Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, moved into the men’s quarterfinals yesterday, stopping 14th-seeded Emilio Sanchez of Spain 6-0, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in a fourth-round men’s battle. Becker roared to victory in his opening set, then had to battle for every point through the rest of the match against Sanchez, runner-up in the Italian Open two weeks ago. The center-court match was delayed for 15 minutes by a heavy rain when the two were tied 4:4 in the fourth set. ”During the break I tried to pump myself up,” Becker said. “The court was wet and the rain was steady. I knew it was just a matter of time before the referee stopped play.

Quarterfinals: (Daily Breeze)

Johan Kriek, the only American among the men’s seeds, used a risky tactic to overcome the experience of Guillermo Vilas, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 7-6(3), today and advance to the semifinals of the French Open. “This is like Disneyland all over again,” Kriek said. “It’s like a little fantasy world.” Kriek, a South African-born naturalized citizen living in Naples, has not won a tournament since last season and had been idle for almost two months before Paris. He plays a serve-and-volley game not usually successful on the slow clay of the kriek_rg86French courts, but his risk-taking paid off against Vilas, a more traditional baseliner. “If I hadn’t risked it, I wouldn’t have won,” Kriek said. “If I had stayed back and played his type of game, all I would have done was turn myself into a ball of cramps.” A two-time winner of the Australian Open, Kriek said the victory over Vilas was “the toughest match of my life.” Kriek squandered a 5:3* (40/0) lead in the 4th set, as Vilas, the 33-year-old Argentine who won this championship in 1977, displayed his steadiness. But in the end, Kriek, the 13th seed, used power to help win the final tiebreaker, tying it 3:3 on a service winner and taking the lead 4:3 on a volley launched in full charge to the net. Vilas, seeded 12th, then sent a forehand long and double-faulted. Kriek put the match away with another powerful volley, coming in behind a strong serve. At the end, Kriek, who talked to himself throughout the 3-hour, 49-minute match on the center court clay, dropped to his knees, looked to the sky and smiled. In the 2nd set he miraculously saved a set point serving at 5:6 (30/40); in the tie-break he trailed *1:4 when won a point playing FH around the net post. Vilas had another set points at 6:4* – FH passing-shot & Vilas’ FH error.  The fans stood and cheered. Ivan Lendl rebounded to beat No. 9 Andres Gomez of Equador 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-0, 6-0 (fourth time in the fortnight that one player wins two straight bagel sets). “I was little nervous at the beginning and didn’t want to give him easy points,” Lendl said. “However, in the second set I felt there was a barrier and once I broke through it was easy for me.” The Lendl -Gomez encounter was one of dramatic contrasts. Neither player lost his serve in the first two sets. Gomez didn’t hold his after that. Gomez said that after the second-set tiebreaker, “I was really hoping for rain.” Mikael Pernfors, an unseeded Swede, upset third-seeded Boris Becker of West Germany 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 today to advance to the semifinals of the French Open against the last hope of France, Henri Leconte. The No. 8 seed, Leconte won his quarterfinal match over Andrei Chesnokov of the Soviet Union 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, using an aggressive serve-and-volley game. “I went very often to the net,” Leconte said. “I didn’t stay back. If you stay back, you lose.” A two-time NCAA champion at the University of Georgia, Pernfors used a mixture of baseline shots and charges to the net to beat Becker, the 18-year-old who last summer became the youngest Grand Slam champion when he won Wimbledon. Both players were raised on faster surfaces than clay, and it showed as they battled at the net and went for winners on second serves. Over the final nine games, Becker won just one, and amassed eight double faults for the match. So Pernfors keeps an amazing Swedish success string going. Since 1978, at least one Swede each year has played in the men’s semifinals at the French Open. France has not been so fortunate of late, with no French semifinalists since 1983 and only five between 1963 and 1985. But Leconte kept the home nation’s leconte_rg86_chances alive against Chesnokov. The unseeded Soviet never was able to display the powerful ground-strokes that helped beat defending champion Mats Wilander on Sunday, and Leconte scored point after point coming to the net after chasing Chesnokov deep into the corners. He broke Chesnokov three times in the final set, the last time for the match. Leconte moved to match point with a dropshot. He then won with another drop, this one off a reaching forehand from Chesnokov that was perfectly set up for the way Leconte was playing. Leconte is the lone remaining French player in a tournament that started so hopefully for the home fans. Yannick Noah was seeded fourth and riding a hot streak. Leconte was eighth and playing well, as was Thierry Tulasne at No. 10. And unseeded Guy Forget was back on track after months of sub-par play. But Tulasne fell in the second round, Forget in the fourth round and Noah pulled out before his fourth-round match because of an ankle injury. Leconte remained, and now is the first French player to make the men’s semis since two of them, Noah and Roger-Vasselin, battled in 1983. Noah won the tournament that year.

Semifinals: (Daily Breeze)

Top-seeded Ivan Lendl moved to within one victory of his third Grand Slam tennis championship today, breezing past a listless Johan Kriek, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0 (76 minutes, winning the last twelve games of the match), in a French Open semifinal that the beaten American called a ‘disaster’. “Today is the day I shouldn’t have even woken up,” said Kriek, who was booed at the end of the match played in a chill rain. “I came here with the hope that I could win lendl_rg86__seven matches,” Lendl said. “I’ve won six – I’ve got one more to go.” The weather conditions on center court today were miserable – with windy, spitting rain and unseasonably cold 55-degree temperatures (12 Celsius) when play began. Lendl played the entire match in blue warm-up pants and a short-sleeved sweater. Kriek started in a warm-up jacket, which he later discarded. “I’m freezing,” he shouted at one point. But as bad as the weather was, Kriek’s tennis may have been worse. Lendl broke Kriek in the first and third games of the match and was never in trouble. Out of 84 points Lendl scored, 51 came on unforced errors by Kriek. Kriek had four double faults to one ace, and Lendl won five of the 18 games at love. Kriek served 11 times and was broken on eight of them. He won just 26 points on his serve. Kriek had only one break point in the entire contest, in the eighth game of the first set, and could not capitalize. Lendl, playing well on key points, rallied and won the set when a Kriek backhand went long. Kriek, a surprise semifinalist, spent much of his time talking to himself and never displayed the power game he used in a thrilling quarterfinal victory over Guillermo Vilas Tuesday. By the middle of the second set, the crowd at Roland Garros was whistling derisively at every shot Kriek missed. He dropped that set on his serve, Lendl breaking at love on a Kriek double fault. “It’s a joke,” Kriek shouted to himself at one point, and the fans who half-filled the 16,500 seats couldn’t have agreed more. Mikael Pernfors [27] waited out two rain delays totaling almost three hours, then played superbly to defeat the last French hope, Henri Leconte, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-3 in 2 hours 30 minutes. “I just feel so confident that I don’t think I can miss a tennis ball,” Pernfors said. “The only time I got nervous out there was when I was ahead 4:1 in the fourth. Then I started thinking that if I lose this, I’ll go crazy.” Leconte said: “He just played great. I thought I was playing well, but some of his shots were unbelievable.” In the fourth game of the fourth set, Pernfors chased down a strong forehand and tossed up a leconte_pernfors_rg86lob. Leconte lined it up and crushed it. Somehow Pernfors got back to it and slapped a backhand past Leconte. Stunned, Leconte dove for the ball and rolled in the wet clay as it went past. He lay there as if in shock. Pernfors began walking to the net to see whether Leconte was OK. Leconte weakly shook his finger at Pernfors as if so say, “Now cut that out.” The crowd laughed and clapped. Their semifinal was interrupted by rain twice, the first time as Leconte led 4:3* in the 2nd set (Pernfors improved from 1:4). “It really helped me to get the break just before the delay,” Pernfors said: “While we were waiting, I was thinking that I was back in the match if I could just come out and play a good first game. If I hadn’t broken, I might have gotten down.” When the players came back, Leconte wasn’t the same.  The backhands that had been catching corners began flying wide. “I was playing well before the delay”, Leconte said. “And he started player better after we returned to the court.” Pernfors broke leading 6:5 in the 2nd set with a gorgeous cross-court forehand and it was tied at one set. After they traded service breaks in the second and third games of the third set (Leconte led *2:0), another heavy shower suspended play again. Pernfors broke Leconte’s service in the ninth game, then was serving for the third set when Leconte broke back. They traded service breaks again in the 11th and 12th games, sending the set into a tiebreaker, which the Swede captured. When Pernfors finally ended the match shortly after 8 p.m. with a ball that Leconte netted, the remaining crowd stood to cheer both players. Leconte graciously put his arm around Pernfors and, six hours after they began, the two men headed for hot showers. The Swede advanced to his first final!

Final: (Chronicle News)

Somebody finally figured out how to beat Mikael Pernfors before he ran away with the French Open. Appropriately, it was the world’s No. 1 player, Ivan Lendl, who found the secret: hit hard and deep and don’t make errors. With it, Lendl won his second French singles title 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. The match was tougher and more exciting than the scores indicate (lasted 2 hours 45 minutes – the longest three-set Grand Slam final in history until Wimbledon ’13). The unseeded Swede, Pernfors covered lendl_86champthe court like a sprinter and never stopped fighting. His spectacular recoveries, tactical surprises and gutty third-set comeback kept the crowd of 16,500 almost wholly on his side. Down, 3:0 and break point in the 3rd, after losing nine consecutive games, Pernfors showed flashes of the brilliant shot-making that had carried him past four seeded opponents. He won four consecutive games and nearly a fifth (had a game point in a three-deuces game) before Lendl reasserted himself. Even then it was no easy matter. Pernfors kept going for his shots and making a fair number of them. Nervousness played no part. Lendl’s relentless drive simply wore down Pernfors. For the first time in two weeks of long, grinding matches, the 22-year-old Swede got tired. “He ran me more than anybody has,” Pernfors said. “And I had to play my best tennis to win a point. He is just too good.” For Lendl, the victory seemed more bitter than sweet. Like Chris Evert Lloyd after she won the women’s title Saturday, he noted sarcastically – and inaccurately – how the dopesters had written him off before the tournament. He also made the crowd seem more of an opponent than Pernfors. “They were against me since the warm-up,” he said. Pernfors started the match with a backhand drop shot. That was pure Pernfors, inspired and daring, and it showed Lendl that he was in for a different sort of afternoon. Unfortunately for Pernfors, for two and a half sets his execution did not match his imagination. He could not counter Lendl’s ability to work up an opening with a series of rocketing shots to the corners, and he usually found himself on the losing end of long rallies. When he did take the offensive, he tended to go for too much, out of the understandable concern of hitting less than a good shot. Pernfors also found that he had underestimated Lendl’s backhand. “I wanted to use my forehand a lot more than I did,” he said. lendl_lacoste_pernfors_rg86“But when I hit to his backhand, he kept returning deep topspin shots to mine.” Being unaccustomed to double faults actually produced the service breaks that cost Pernfors, a two-time national collegiate champion at Georgia, the first set. Pernfors broke to start the second, and in an effort to hold that edge, made one of the tactical changes that help distinguish his style. In the fourth game, Pernfors came to net more than he had in the previous 12 put together. But Lendl held his own in those exchanges and then lifted his own play sufficiently to run off the nine consecutive games. Yet even then, he produced some marvelous points. On one, he ran more than the width of the court and unable to hit his customary two-handed backhand, whipped a one-hander past an astonished Lendl. Three games later, he ranged so wide that he slid into a linesman’s chair, then recovered to retrieve the next shot on the other side of the court“Every single one is different,” Lendl said of his three Grand Slam titles (59 overall) – he won the U.S. Open last year. “Two years ago, it was my first. I was down 0-2 in sets. This one is different and very special. I felt since mid-December I have had bad luck with my health and injuries. It means I overcame those things.” Stats of the final


French Open, Paris
May 25, 1987; 128 Draw (16 seeds) – $1,325,000; Surface – Clay

Ivan Lendl triumphs again, and again overcoming a Swede in the final, but the championship of 1987 was much more complicated for him than the previous one: he loses six sets in total (one in ’86), being involved in three more than 3-hour, and two more than 4-hour encounters, including an amazing fourth round match against Joakim Nystrom in which a couple of Grand Slam records were established:
– longest rally (more than 100 strokes)
– longest game (28 minutes)
– most set points saved in a set (11)
All scorelines
First round: (AP)

John McEnroe, his serve-and-volley game in a shambles on the slow clay of Center Court, was eliminated today in the first round of the French Open by Argentina’s Horacio de la Pena 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. It was the second consecutive Grand Slam tennis tournament in which McEnroe was a delapena_rg87first-round loser. He lost to Paul Annacone in the opening round at the U.S. Open last August. “He came up with some great shots, but I beat myself,” McEnroe said. De la Pena, the future coach of Fernando Gonzalez, debuted at majors three years before, losing to McEnroe in the Roland Garros first round… McEnroe, the men’s No. 7 seed, was given a lesson in clay-court tennis by De la Pena, who ran down shots and returned stinging crosscourt groundstrokes throughout the three-hour match. The booming serve and strong net play that made McEnroe No. 1 in the world until late 1985 never was evident. His volleys usually landed in the net or far past the baseline, and the quickness that characterized his championship form also was missing. “Physically, I was not up to it,” said McEnroe, who has complained recently of problems with his calf muscles. “I tried to do something extra to get ready and perhaps I overdid it.” De la Pena had lost to McEnroe 6-2, 6-4, in the second round of the Italian Open two weeks ago. That, too, was on clay, but the surface was about the only similarity between the two matches. McEnroe said he probably will pass up the men’s doubles tournament and has asked his partner, Robert Seguso, to find someone to take his place. Andres Gomez and Miloslav Mecir were among seeds winning first-round matches. Also winning was Stefan Edberg of Sweden, the men’s third seed, who defeated Mike Leach of the United Sates 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander labored for more than three hours against modest but tenacious opponents yesterday before advancing on the first day of play at the $3 million French Open. Lendl, the top seed and defending champion, suffered the rare experience of losing a set ‘6-0’. He struggled past Ronald Agenor of Haiti 7-5, 7-6(5), 0-6, 6-3 on center court at Roland Garros Stadium in 3 hours 27 minutes. Wilander, like Lendl, is seeking a third French Open title. He clawed back on the clay courts after losing the first set and led Simone Colombo 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-3 and advantage when the Italian retired because of leg cramps. ”I expected it to be an easier match than it was,” the Swede said. “I couldn’t really get into the match.” Lendl underwent surgery in March to remove torn knee cartilage. He had not won a tournament this year until capturing the German Open May 3. “It was a very big struggle, I wasn’t playing all that well,” the Czechoslovakian said of his match with Agenor. “I won because he got tired at the end.” Lendl could not remember when he last lost a bagel set and called his match a ”dogfight.” [ He hadn’t lost that kind of set very long time ago, just eight months earlier in the Sydney final to Becker ]. Earlier in the day, French player, Tarik Benhabiles, ousted Mikael Pernfors [14] of Sweden, last year’s runner-up and the 13th seed this time, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0, in the completion of a first-round match halted by rain yesterday. Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors scored straight-set victories in rain-interrupted matches. Becker, the No. 2 men’s seed from West Germany, battled inconsistent play in the third set to beat Diego Perez of Uruguay 6-0, 6-1, 7-5. Connors, the veteran American seeded eighth, had less trouble completing a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Todd Nelson of the United States. Another men’s seed, No. 11 Kent Carlsson of Sweden, also finished with a victory in a match halted by rain yesterday, beating Arnaud Boetsch of France 6-1, 6-0, 6-3. And No. 15 Brad Gilbert of the United States came from a set down to beat Bruno Oersar of Yugoslavia 1-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Becker trailed 2:1 in the third set as play resumed in drizzle and fell behind 5:3 as Perez took advantage of the West German’s erratic serve and ground strokes. Becker started the ninth game with a double fault but held serve becker_rg87with an ace, then broke Perez for 5:5 after holding off five set points. He won the game on a stinging backhand passing shot down the line. Becker held for 6:5 and Perez looked disgusted. The Uruguayan steadied briefly, moving within one point of sending the set to a tiebreaker, then collapsed from 40/15 and Becker broke for the match when Perez sent a backhand long. “In the third set, I struggled a little,” Becker said. “But that’s good for me.” The first-round losers included three of last year’s four men’s semifinalists, the first time that has happened in the 20 years of the tournament’s Open era. Players blame the upsets on injuries, the non-stop schedule, the way seeds are determined and the natural turnover of old for young. “The competition is so tough. We are under unbelievable pressure out there,” said Johan Kriek, the 16th-seeded American who was the first to suffer an opening-round loss to Joakim Nystrom on Monday, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Ricki Osterthun, 124th in the world from West Germany, beat ninth-seeded Henri Leconte of France 6-3, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1 and Jim Pugh, an American ranked 96th among the men, downed 12th-seeded Pat Cash of Australia 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(4). 17-year-old Andre Agassi [67] made his debut at Roland Garros outlasting Pablo Arraya of Peru 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

Second round: (AP)

Miloslav Mecir, the fifth seed from Czechoslovakia, scored straight-set victory of varying difficulty. Mecir struggled before defeating Austrian Horst Skoff 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 on Center Court. Like so often in the past, Mecir’s concentration lapsed at times, such as when he trailed 5:3 in the opening set and 4:2 in the second. But the No.5 seed got tough against the tired Skoff. In the mecir_rg87third set, Mecir’s ability to change pace and use the angles had Skoff on the run and the Austrian could not win a service game. On the court, Mecir rarely smiles, his pale face only occasionally showing signs of enjoyment. He’s seemingly been that way since beginning tennis at age 6, competitive tennis at age 11 and since winning the Czechoslovakian National Junior title at 16. But, he said, he isn’t lacking for enjoyment in this tournament, where he may have his best chance ever for a Grand Slam tournament victory. ”Sometimes you enjoy it more, sometimes less. Here, I feel very good,” he said after his second-round victory. Winning the big points, a quality Mecir has not always shown, was a particular strength against Skoff, who scurried around the court and tried hard to stay with his opponent. ”When I was younger, I used to play the big points better. It was the same today,” Mecir said. With four tournament victories this season, including a tourney in Florida where he beat countryman Ivan Lendl in the final, Mecir has emerged as a favorite in the French Open. Skoff, for one, thinks the often spectacular Mecir can earn his first Grand Slam title on the clay at Roland Garros. ”I was very confident coming into the match and had some chances, but it was very difficult to keep my speed up,” Skoff said. ”But he slows the game down and then suddenly hits the ball very hard. You just never know what’s coming next. He could win it.” Eric Winogradsky, No. 152 in the world rankings and a wild-card entry, stunned third-seeded Stefan Edberg of Sweden 7-6(4), 7-6(5), 7-5 today in the second round of the French Open tennis tournament as an upset trend continued. Two and a half hours had been lost because of rain when Edberg stepped onto the Center Court against Winogradsky, a Frenchman of Russian origin ranked ninth in his homeland. Two and half hours later, Winogradsky, a wild-card entry, had warmed the hearts of a rain-soaked crowd with a victory over the highly ranked Swede. The inexperienced Frenchman, who had never previously met anyone in the top 50, looked like an easy target for Edberg as the winogradsky_rg87Swede opened up a 4:1 lead in the first set. But almost as quickly as the rain ceased, Winogradsky served and volleyed his way back into the match and went on to outplay a troubled Edberg. “I thought I had a little chance if it rained a lot, if the court was heavy and if I played very well,” Winogradsky said, the future coach of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. “There were a lot of ifs.” Brad Gilbert‘s game came apart against Jorge Arrese of Spain, as he lost 7-5, 6-2, 6-1. The 15th-seeded American played tough through the first set, then gave away a chance to break Arrese with three errors at 2:1 in the 2nd set and continued making mistakes. “I can’t stand this,” Gilbert screamed at himself at one point. “I bet I haven’t made this many mistakes in a whole tournament.” Arrese, employing solid backhand, broke at love for 5:2 in the second set and breezed through the final set, breaking Gilbert in the first game. Gilbert was the seventh men’s seed and 13th in all to be eliminated in the first two rounds, and left only one American, No. 8 Jimmy Connors, among the remaining seeds. After a day of upsets by French players over highly ranked foes, the fourth day of the clay court Grand Slam tournament generally was running according to form. The men’s 11th seed, Kent Carlsson of Sweden, scored a second-round victory over Sergio Casal of Spain 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. But a former champion was eliminated: Guillermo Vilas of Argentina, the winner of the men’s singles title in 1977, lost in the second round to Milan Srejber of Czechoslovakia 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. For the third day in a row, rain plagued the tournament. Play continued under drizzle, with a backlog of postponed matches from yesterday. Also yesterday, men’s defending champion and top seed Ivan Lendl of Czechoslovakia struggled for the second consecutive match, but beat Jonathan Canter of the United States 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 to lead the march into the third round. Boris Becker, two-time champion on the grass of Wimbledon but trying to adapt his all-action game to clay, dropped a set before beating little-known American Mark Buckley, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. “When you see No. 2 and 142 in the world, you’d think it would be benhabiles_rgeasy,” Becker said. “But a lot of people can play tennis here.” Jimmy  Connors ground out a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over Michael Westphal on his fourth match point. “The tiebreaker decided the match,” Connors said. “I was down a break and came back to win the tiebreaker. I was a little tired.” Mats Wilander also sputtered against another American, Paul Annacone, before winning, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Yannick Noah recovered from a 5:1 deficit in the 3rd set to gain the third round with a 7-5, 6-7(2), 7-5, 6-1 victory over Christian Bergstrom. Noah’s compatriot, Tarik Benhabiles [41] saved three match points overcoming Anders Jarryd 7-6(4), 0-6, 2-6, 6-3, 9-7. Karel Novacek became the first man since Nikola Spear (1968) to win a triple bagel Grand Slam match as he defeated Eduardo Bengoechea 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. Novacek won four straight sets ‘6-0’ adding his last set of the previous round, it’s really astonishing that counting two sets of his next match, he dropped just four games in eight consecutive sets!

Third round: (AP)

Defending champion Ivan Lendl was in top form Friday and breezed into the fourth round of the French Open tennis championships with quick straight-set victory. Lendl’s almost flawless power tennis won the admiration of a partisan center court crowd as he beat Frenchman Thierry Tulasne 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-2. Tulasne tested the world’s No. 1 player at the start, opening up a 4:2 lead in the first set. But Lendl won the set in a tiebreaker and blitzed through the next two. “Most of the time, the crowds have been against me here. But they appreciate it if someone fights hard and plays well,” said Lendl, who had dropped a set in each of his previous two matches. Miloslav Mecir, among the favorites to win his first Grand Slam title, posted his third successive straight-set victory, blasting fellow Milan Srejber 6-1, 6-2, 6-1. Andres Gomez defeated Jay Berger 5-7, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Martin Jaite won a 24-point tiebreaker on his way to a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(11), 6-0 success over novacek_rg87Thomas Muster. Two conquerors of highly ranked players went out of the championships after their moment of glory. Horacio de le Pena, who beat a listless John McEnroe, the No. 7 seed, in the first round, lost 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to Emilio Sanchez. Eric Winogradsky of France, who upset third-seeded Stefan Edberg in the second round, lost to Karel Novacek of Czechoslovakia, 6-1, 6-0, 2-6, 6-4, with the match held up for five minutes near the end as the fans whistled over a line call. The shot, a forehand that landed on the baseline, gave Novacek deuce on his serve in the 10th game of the 4th set, rather than giving Winogradsky a break point. After the umpire and referee repeatedly asked for quiet, the crowd settled down and Novacek served out the match to move into the fourth round with the loss of only one set so far. “Until that point, the crowd was good,” Novacek said. “But I don’t think they had reason to do it. The ball was clearly in.” Boris Becker, twice a winner at Wimbledon but without a title on clay, mixed powerful winners with impatient errors and reached the fourth round with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Henrik Sundstrom of Sweden. Jimmy Arias outlasted Jorge Arrese 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. He next plays Becker, whom he beat in the second round of last month’s Monte Carlo Open (6-3, 6-3). Arias-Arrese was the longest and, without doubt, the day’s most entertaining match. In 1983, Arias was ranked sixth in the world at 19 and reached the U.S. Open semifinals. Since then, he has been on a long slide, one that ebbed in March when he lost to Hugo Chapacu, the 282nd-ranked player in the world, in the Davis Cup. A victory would have clinched the Davis Cup for the United States. “For two days after that match, I couldn’t go to sleep,” said Arias, whose ranking slipped to 57th before rebounding to 39th, “Every time I closed my eyes I would see easy shots that I had missed or bad calls or whatever. That was the low point for me, no doubt about it. I think I have a chance”. About the meeting with Becker, Arias said: “He doesn’t lose twice in a row to too many people… but he hasn’t been playing too well on clay this year.” Mats Wilander, the best clay court player in the world on current form, beat America’s Aaron Krickstein for the second successive year. The 22-year-old Swede, winner of Monte Carlo and Rome in the last month, stumbled in the middle but otherwise dominated as he won 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-0, 6-2, his 14th victory in a row. Wilander is a two-time French Open champion, winner in his spectacular debut in 1982 and again in 1985. He had reached at least the semifinals from 1983-85, losing in the 1984 final to Yannick Noah, before a stunning third round loss last year to Russian Andrei Chesnokov. It was also last year in the second round that Krickstein had stretched Wilander to the grueling five set limit before coming up short. Only the tone of this match, however, was reminiscent of last year’s match. There were baseline rallies sometimes as long as 20-30 strokes a point. “I think he is playing a lot better than last year and is much more into the tournament mentally,” observed Krickstein, 19. “Last year he seem to be getting upset more.” “He played the same, I played much better than last year,” confirmed Wilander, who relinquished a 4:1* second set lead and then, leading 6:5 in the set, wasted three set points. During Krickstein’s comeback in that set, Wilander’s shots were falling inside the service box, allowing Krickstein to dictate the points with his sledgehammer forehand. Krickstein saved set points with service winners and a strong overhand winner. In the tie-break Krickstein had six winners! “That set made me frustrated, but I knew the reason why he came back and that was because I played too defensively. I had to take more control,” explained Wilander, 22. He promptly did just that for the final two sets. Clay court tennis – unlike the rushed serve-and-volley play of the grass at Wimbledon or hard courts at Flushing Meadow for the U.S. Open – is as much a test of mental strength as it is of tennis strokes. It is here that Wilander is a much changed person from 12 months ago. “Stroke-wise I’m the same,” said Wilander, “But, mentally I’m much stronger. I feel so much different from last year.” “You have to be ready to be out there all day to beat him. He gets a lof of your best shots,” said Krickstein, who does not mind trading ground strokes from carlsson_rg87the baseline with most players, but just can’t match up against Wilander in that department. “He is a tough matchup for lot of the guys,” said Krickstein. Kent Carlsson, 15-3 on clay since coming back from a knee injury, had another straight-sets victory, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 over Francisco Yunis of Argentina. As darkness fell, Tarik Benhabiles became the second Frenchman to win on center court for the day as he downed Andrei Chesnokov of the Soviet Union, a quarter-finalist last year, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3. Jimmy Connors, the lone American remaining among the men’s seeds at No. 8, advanced to Round 4 with 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Franco Davin of Argentina. At 34, Connors is the oldest player left in the men’s field; at 17, Davin had been the youngest. “That was a different match for me, against someone so young who moves so well,” the eighth-seeded American said.

Fourth round: (AP)

lendl_rg87Ivan Lendl roared into the quarterfinals of the French Open tennis championships as he completed a 2-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2 victory over Joakim Nystrom today in 4 hours 5 minutes. The match was suspended by darkness in the chill twilight Sunday. It resumed under warm, sunny skies on Center Court, and Lendl’s play was as changed as the weather. The defending men’s champion was tentative and plagued by errors the evening before, blowing 11 set points (!) in the 3rd set, including nine in one service game. But Lendl was overwhelming when play resumed at 1-2 (*4:0) in sets. Entering the day Lendl held serve and broke to even the match, allowing Nystrom just two points in the two games. Nystrom broke for the opening game of the final set, but Lendl broke right back. The two were exchanging shots at long range. One rally lasted more than 100 strokes, another 95. Lendl broke for a 3:1 lead and held at love with a flying overhead for 4:1. Nystrom managed to hold serve for 4:2 but it was his last gasp. Nystrom was playing solid tennis, but Lendl was playing great tennis. Lendl held for 5:2 on an ace and a forehand crosscourt passing shot, then broke for the match on another forehand crosscourt winner. He skipped to the net in joy. “I dreamed about it last night,” Lendl said of his Sunday play. “When I woke up, I said, ‘Geez, what a nightmare.’ Then I realized the dream was true and it really was a nightmare.” He said the chief differences today were that he court was fast and Nystrom was playing his shots shorter. “He was taking the ball much earlier today and coming in,” Nystrom said. The Swede was unseeded in the tournament but only because players are not graded by court surface. On clay, he is among the best in the world, as he showed in beating Lendl in Rome (two weeks earlier, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3) and underscored in the first set Sunday. The Swede stayed on the baseline and rejected Lendl’s attempts to play points quickly. In the 2nd set, Lendl showed more patience, hitting his strokes deeper and making fewer errors. That pattern continued in the 3rd set, Lendl breaking Nystrom for a 5:3 lead and serving for the set. But every time the champion came to the final point, he either made a mistake or Nystrom came up with a great shot. Winning volleys were followed by mis-hit forehands. Backhands landing in the net were followed by backhand winners, and then into the net again. Neither player was blameless. Lendl squandered nine set points in that game. Nystrom had six break points vanish before Lendl hit a forehand long and let his head drop in dejection. [ It seems that it’s been the longest game of the Open era – lasted 28 minutes, there were 15 deuces. Nine years later Albero Berasategui and Marcelo Filippini also played a 28-minute game, but with five more ‘deuces’ ]  In the 9th game, Lendl had two more set points, but Nystrom held on a smash off a short service return to tie at 5:5. He then broke for 6:5 on four Lendl errors and won the set that so many times looked to be lost when Lendl netted an approach shot. They played 3 hours first three sets! After referee Jacues Dorfmann declined to call the match because of darkness, Lendl came out quickly in the fourth set, using a pair of forehand smashes to break Nystrom in the second and fourth games, as flash cameras sparked in the stands and the sunset turned the western clouds pink. By that time Dorfmann could not see enough and called the match. Also gaining the quarterfinals after rocky connors_rg87starts were Jimmy Connors of the United States and Mats Wilander of Sweden. Connors, the eighth seed and at 34 the oldest men’s player left in the tournament, reached the tournament’s quarterfinals for the seventh time with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-0, 6-3 victory over unseeded Ricki Osterthun of West Germany. Wilander ousted unseeded Tarik Benhabiles of France 5-7, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. “Actually, I think I wore him down some,” said Connors, knowing irony even as it came from his own mouth. “In the beginning, he was moving well, getting to everything. At the end, it wasn’t the same.” Osterthun admitted he felt tired toward the end in the midday heat but credited Connors with turning the match around. “If I had won the second set it might have been different,” he said. “But after that set, he just didn’t miss. In the locker room, players told me if I played well I would have a very good chance to beat him. Well, I played well and he beat me. He’s still a very good player.” Connors trailed 5:4 in the 2nd set and had to save two set points on his serve. But then the veteran took over, winning nine games in a row for the second and third sets, breaking the mistake-prone Osterthun three times in the third and allowing just two points in those games. Osterthun won the 1st game of the 4th set, then started making errors again. Connors broke at love for a 2:1 lead and broke for the match at 15. With the Center Court crowd in his corner, Benhabiles started strongly, breaking twice for a 4:2 lead and again in the 12th game for the 1st set. Wilander, the fourth seed from Sweden who has won this tournament twice, relied on his forehand to even the match in the 2nd set. He began to wear down the Frenchman, who upset last year’s runner-up, Mikael Pernfors, in the first round, and the process continued through the 3rd set as Benhabiles made more and more errors. Staying on the baseline, Wilander broke for a 2:1 lead in the 4th set, gave up a serve in the but broke back at love, with all of his points coming on Benhabiles errors. Benhabiles saved one match point in the 9th game but Wilander broke for the match with a put-away forehand winner down the line, as Benhabiles tried to scramble to his feet after falling down on a volley. In men’s matches Sunday, Karel Novacek of Czechoslovakia ousted 10th-seeded Martin Jaite of Argentina, 7-6(0), 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3. In the quarterfinals, Novacek runs into an old friend, Czechoslovak Miloslav Mecir, the fifth seed and the winner of every set he has played in the tournament. Mecir overwhelmed France’s “wild card” Patrice Kuchna 6-0, 6-1, 6-3. Kuchna, ranked 325th in the world, had not won a Grand Prix match in 1987 or earned any prize money before this tournament. The Frenchman took an advantage of favorable draw to make the biggest result of his career: he beat qualifier Glenn Michibata, teenager Andre Agassi (6-4, 6-3, 6-3) and a specialist of fast surfaces Jim Pugh. Speaking of strange, Novacek hadn’t won a round at a Grand Slam tournament since the 1984 French Open. But Sunday the 22-year-old Czech, who entered the French Open with a 4-9 season’s record, beat Jaite for his fourth victory of the tournament. ”I just wanted to pass a round and then win another one,” said Novacek, who broke into the top 50 with a victory at Washington last summer. He got as high as No. 33. Against Jaite, Novacek missed a match point at 5:4 in the 3rd set and lost the tiebreaker, but he came back strong to close out the match. ”I kept my concentration,” Novacek said. ”I expected a tough match but I’ve been playing my best game.” Novacek, the son of a hockey coach, was a two-sport star until he was 14. ”I chose tennis,” said Novacek, 6 feet 3 and 180 pounds, who played center. ”Hockey is too dangerous. There are a lot of possibilities to get hurt.” Lendl faces 10th-seeded Andres Gomez of Ecuador, who ended a family dream double by coming back from two sets down and a match point to beat Emilio Sanchez, Aranxa’s brother, 5-7, 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-4. Boris Becker, the No. 2 men’s seed and seeking his first clay-court title, rallied to beat unseeded Jimmy Arias, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0, gaining revenge for a defeat by the American in April at Monte Carlo. Becker, impatient in the rallies early on against Arias, got into the match in the 2nd set, selecting his shots with more care. The turning point came midway through the set, when Becker broke for a 4:3 lead with a magnificent lunging forehand volley that was reminiscent of some of his spectacular shots on Wimbledon’s grass. There was no way back for Arias. “I should have tried something different instead of trying to slug it out,” he said. “I got clubbed. There was nothing wrong except my brain and his forehand.” Becker said that although he has won just one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, he still would prefer to win Wimbledon a third time than capture the French, U.S. Open or Australian titles. “To me, tennis noah_rg87means Wimbledon,” he said. “When I was growing up, it was the only big tournament I had heard of.” Yannick Noah kept the French flag flying, gaining a quarterfinal match with Wilander by outlasting another Swede, Kent Carlsson, 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-5. Noah gained a measure of revenge for France when he outlasted Carlsson in 3 hours 34 minutes. Wilander plays conservative tennis. Nystrom plays very conservative tennis. What Carlsson plays defies description. Nystrom is a net-charging madman compared to Carlsson. At least, when the match is over, he knows where the net is. Carlsson’s goal in every match seems to be to hit a million topspin groundstrokes. He usually comes close. “You have to go out there,” Noah said, “thinking it will take forever.” It almost did, Noah beating darkness by saving two set points at 4-5 in the fourth set and finally getting to net for the break he needed to close the match a few minutes later. There was no joy on his face, only relief that the deed was finally done.

Quarterfinals: Jim Sarni

Third Parisian 4-set quarterfinal within four years between the same players and the same outcome every time: Ivan Lendl defeated Andres Gomez 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals Tuesday, following an old script. In the 1984 quarters, Lendl won 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3; in last year’s quarters, he won 6-7, 7-6, 6-0, 6-0. Talk about deja vu. “This was a carbon copy of the other two matches,” said Lendl, the defending champion. “I feel that if I can split the first two sets and it doesn’t rain, I’m going to win, because I’m in better shape.” Gomez, who has lost 15 of 16 matches to Lendl, agreed that his batteries wear down first. “He’s an athlete and I’m not,” Gomez said. “I’m just not in as great shape. He’s the fittest player in the game and he takes advantage of it. The French Open is the most difficult tournament to win because it’s not just tennis. It takes conditioning, too. I just wish I didn’t have to play Lendl in the quarterfinals every time.” Lendl was asked for his predictions on today’s quarterfinals: on Jimmy Connors-Boris Becker: “Jimmy is an underdog, but not by far. If he wins, I won’t be too surprised; if he gets blown out, I won’t be too surprised either. If Jimmy gets into the match, he can be very tough and it will test Boris, who is not that confident on clay.” On Mats Wilander-Yannick Noah: “If they split the first two sets, Mats should win. Noah will not do it in five sets. The longer the match goes on, the better chance Mats has.” Lendl forgets that Noah beat Wilander in five sets at Lipton… Three other quarterfinals were concluded on the following day due to heavy rain. West German teenager Boris Becker overpowered 34-becker_rg87_year-old Jimmy Connors yesterday in a rain-interrupted match to reach the semifinals of the French Open tennis championships. Becker, the 19-year-old second seed, played a controlled, baseline game and used his booming serves and forehand shots to defeat the eighth-seeded Connors, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5. Joining Becker, who has yet to win a tournament on clay, in the semifinals are Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia and Sweden’s Mats Wilander, both of whom also posted straight-set victories yesterday. Mecir used an assortment of unorthodox but fine strokes to beat Karel Novacek, 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-2. Wilander silenced the usually loud French crowd by eliminating the last home favorite, Yannick Noah, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, in a match that took less than two hours. Just like Lendl and Gomez, Wilander and Noah faced each other for the third time in paris in the 80s, previously in the 1983 final (Noah won in three sets) and one year later in quarterfinals where Wilandere avenged in a 5-setter. Connors, the oldest player and last American left in the men’s draw, played well and had the crowd on his side. But he did not have enough firepower to beat Becker, who played with a new-found patience on the baseline to go with his aggressive serve-and-volley game. “I feel I was playing good tennis. He got to a lot of balls today. I was using the whole court, and he was not just standing there,” Connors said. “I didn’t take advantage of my opportunities, but I’m not discouraged by the way I played. He played with a lot of patience and did not make many errors.” Mecir led 4:2 in the 1st set Tuesday night against Novacek when the match was suspended by rain. He looked rusty when play resumed in a light drizzle, and dropped his serve. He was down, 4:1* in the tie-breaker, but rallied to win the set and took charge with an assortment of winning shots.

Semifinals: Jim Sarni

Miloslav Mecir beat someone who resembled Ivan Lendl in Key Biscayne in March. The guy was hitting hard forehands and wearing that zigzag striped shirt. But something was missing. That Lendl wasn’t zigging and zagging like the best player in the world. After he lost the Lipton championships, Lendl had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Lendl met Mecir again Friday at the French Open, and this time there was no mistaking the man with the zigzags. The defending champion ran Mecir out of Roland Garros 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(3) and put himself into Sunday’s final, against Mats Wilander. The Swede, the 1982 and 1985 champion, had humbled Boris Becker 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. “Ivan was everywhere,” said Mecir, of Czechoslovakia, who had not lost a set in the tournament until the semifinals. “I tried to do the same thing I did in Key Biscayne – not miss a ball and attack after good approach shots – but Ivan played very well and moved a lot better than in Key Biscayne.” Lendl said: “Mecir and Connors are the two best counter-punchers in the game. They don’t like to generate pace. My strategy was not to give Mecir any pace. I hit high topspin and low slices. But it’s difficult to do that in a three-of-five-set match because you have to run around so much. You have to be in great shape. We played for three hours, and I did most of the running. I felt like I was doing wind sprints for three hours. I didn’t expect anything at Key Biscayne because I hadn’t been playing much tennis.” Lendl has his priorities in order: “Except for the Australian Open, it doesn’t matter how good a year you’ve had until now.” Lendl has won one tournament (Hamburg) this year, “Win everything and lose here, and it’s forgotten. Lose wilander_rg87everything and win here, and that’s forgotten.” Wilander won his 18th match in a row and gave Becker a lesson in clay-court tennis, as he did two years ago in the second round. In his quest for a clay title, Becker has yet to get past the semifinals in 15 events. Becker led 4:2 in the 1st set, and it looked like he would give the Swede a match, but Wilander won the next nine games and left the West German in the dust. “If I had won the first set, it would have been a different match,” Becker said, “Then he started rolling, rolling, and I had problems with my serve. If I can’t keep my service games, it`s too difficult to beat him.” Wilander said: “I felt that even if I had lost the first set, I would have been able to win. Maybe Boris would have played better if he had won the first set, but he didn’t.”  “I had a pretty good tournament for me,” mentioned Becker, the double Wimbledon champion. “I’m playing better on clay than I did two years ago when Wilander beat me here. He’s a better clay-court player, and that’s clear.” “Boris has improved a lot in two years,” Wilander said. “I don’t think he showed how good he can play on clay today.” Sunday’s final will match the No. 1 and 2 seeds. Wilander said that he expected to reach the final but that getting there was easier than expected: “I don’t know how I will play when it gets close, I haven’t been in any tight spots.” Wilander said it didn’t matter that Lendl eliminated Mecir, the notorious nemesis of Swedes. “If there were one place and one match when I know I could beat Mecir it would be the French Open final,” Wilander said. “It would be hard for him to outplay me here. Playing Lendl, I know what to expect. It’s always good to play the No. 1 player.”

Final: Roger Williams

lendl_rg87triumphThey played what seemed like three matches in one at the French Open today. Mats Wilander dominated briefly, but Ivan Lendl got the better of the play in the early and late stages and captured the men’s singles championship. In gathering gloom and rain that threatened to postpone a finish until Monday, Lendl recovered from a mid-match lapse to take the title in four sets, 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(3) in 4 hours 17 minutes. This victory gave Lendl his third French championship in the last four years (64 titles altogether). In 1985, Wilander beat him in five sets. It is the fifth Grand Slam title for a player who only a few years ago was being characterized as chronically unable to win the big ones. Lendl recalled with relish this evening that coming into this tournament, he was not a favorite. ”They said I was not fit,” he said, ”that I wasn’t mentally tough – Mats was tougher – that I had no confidence because I hadn’t won enough matches this year.” Under those circumstances, Lendl said, ”I’m proud to have pulled through.” It was a tough pull made tougher by the strange rhythms of play. The first five games seemed like an extension of the warm-up, with the players exchanging cautious groundstrokes in rallies that lasted as long as 83 shots (it happened at 3-all, 15-all in the 1st set, Wilander won the point with a winner). The looping strokes and total absence of aggressive play summoned memories of Wilander’s first French final, in 1982, when he defeated Guillermo Vilas. When Lendl suddenly picked up the pace going for winners from back-court and taking the net at every opportunity, Wilander had no answer. A celebrated counter-puncher and much improved attacker, he neither counter-punched nor attacked. He had no real explanation for his malaise, only an after-the-fact appreciation that he should have acted sooner to shake it off. For one thing, Wilander’s tentative play hurt his serve. ”In your mind, if you know you’re going to play from the baseline,” he said, ”you don’t concentrate on your serve. You don’t put as much power in it.” He might have survived a lack of power if his first serve had been going in. But he was missing an unusually high percentage of first balls and Lendl began climbing all over the second one. Standing far over to play every second service return on the forehand, he hit a half-dozen of them for outright winners and as many more that set up easy volleys. As Lendl put it, ”I just took it to him.” Wilander had to do something, and he did. At 2-all in the 3rd set, he began playing serve-and-volley for the first time in the match, and held that service game after several deuces (saved two break points). He won his next one easily, again by attacking, and his aggressiveness seemed to rob Lendl of his own. Lendl stayed back while Wilander came in. What had been slashing winners off Lendl’s racquet became setups that Wilander volleyed away. He broke for 5:3 on a point that saw him race the width of the court to retrieve an approach shot on his forehand, then pass off the ensuing volley on his lendl_rg87championbackhand. Lendl managed to fight off three break points to win the opening game of the 4th set, but when he next served, he was broken at love. Wilander was in control until the next game, when he double-faulted at 30-all and Lendl blasted a weak second serve. Then light sprinkles became real rain, and play was suspended. Play was resumed (after 35 minutes) with rain still falling. The match went on serve to the tiebreaker which was entirely played in a heavy rain”I wouldn’t have complained if the umpire had stopped the match before that,” Lendl said. ”Puddles were forming behind the baselines and it was hard to get any penetration because the wet balls got heavy quickly. I was thinking, what should I do to take advantage of the court? Come in to the net? Hit behind him so maybe he’ll slip?” What Lendl did instead was to play four straight championship points: a deep approach that forced an error, two returns that zoomed past Wilander as he came in behind serve and a service winner that ricocheted off Wilander’s racquet. Lendl was ahead, 4:0. Wilander climbed back to 4:2, but even he knew it was all but hopeless. ”Tie breaks are always dangerous against Lendl,” he said. ”He can come up with great shots and great serves.” Lendl called this victory the toughest he has had in a Grand Slam event, more difficult even than his first French title, which he took from John McEnroe after trailing two sets to none. Asked how it felt to win this tournament after winning only one previously this year, he grinned. ”If you win this one,” Lendl replied, ”All the others are forgotten. This is the one that counts.” Stats of the final

# In the picture below, Jean Borotra & Rene Lacoste 50 years earlier along with two other Musketeers


2 Responses to 1986 – 1987, Roland Garros

  1. Voo de Mar says:
    Swedish specialty – the longest Open era rallies in Paris.

    It seems that Swedes were involved in all those longest rallies:
    Nystrom vs. Lendl ’87, source says one rally over 100, the other one more than 90 strokes
    More than 80-strokes rallies:
    Borg vs. Vilas ’78
    Wilander vs. Vilas ’82
    Wilander vs. Lendl ’87

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