Decade 1980s

The second decade of the Open Era  [1980-1989]
# Bjorn Borg, for the second time in his stellar career wins Roland Garros not dropping a set, the Swede is not forced even once in the fortnight to play at ‘5:5’, wins 4 bagel sets, two years before he won two additional ‘6-0’ sets during his Parisian triumph
# Borg wins his 5th straight Wimbledon after an epic final against John McEnroe, highlighted by a 20-minute (16/18) tie-break of the 4th set
# McEnroe defends his title at the US Open in impressive style, overcoming in the last two matches, Jimmy Connors and Borg after dramatic 5-setters (it breaks Borg’s 13 consecutive fifth set wins (!) – specific record)
# In the fourth quarter of the season, 20-year-old Ivan Lendl arises as the 4th main force in men’s tennis, threatening the three-year-old ‘Borg-Connors-J.McEnroe’ supremacy, Lendl wins in Autumn five tournaments (!) and gets the Davis Cup for Czechoslovakia playing both singles and doubles; in the inter-zonal final of the competition, Jose-Luis Clerc defeats J.McEnroe after the longest 4-set match in history (6 hours 15 minutes)… really?
# Bjorn Borg, at the start of the year, claims ‘Masters ’80’ overcoming McEnroe, Connors and Lendl (!), but is beaten at Wimbledon (by John McEnroe in the final) for the first time after 41 consecutive wins (record) at the All England & Cricket Club
# McEnroe manifests his superiority over Borg also in the US Open final second straight year and that match virtually leads to the end of Borg’s career; the 25-year-old Swede, unquestionably best player at the turn of 70s and 80s, never again enters a Grand Slam tournament, participating in the next three seasons only in one tournament each year!
# Jose-Luis Clerc, during his best winning streak (28… 4 titles on clay within 4 weeks!), survives a 5-setter at US Open despite two consecutive sets lost “0-6”; in this peculiar style, also Stanley Matthews won a 5-set match at Roland Garros ’69
# Stockholm: the first final between brothers (Gene & Sandy Mayer), it’ll be repeated by the Sanchezes & the McEnroes
# The sixth & last edition of “Pepsi Grand Slam” (held in Florida 1976-81 without ATP points, in the first quarter of the season), lucrative event for only 4 players who performed the best at majors a year before; Borg won four editions, he didn’t bother to play the last one… the concept will be resurrected nine years later in Munich, but in a broader field (16 players)
# Johan Kriek wins twice within the same year (January 3rd & December 13th) the same major – Australian Open, outlasting the same opponent in the final (Steve Denton)! It’s the last time when the best players don’t want to flight to Australia (increasing the draw from 64 to 96, the 1982 edition didn’t witness a Top 10 player!)
# Swedish Borg’s replacement in Paris: Mats Wilander emerges at the age of 17, wins his first major, struggling past in the final Guillermo Vilas in four sets – the longest Roland Garros match at the time despite two lopsided sets (1-6 and 6-0)!!!
# The resurgence of 30-year-old Jimmy Connors as he triumphs at Wimbledon and US Open (he did not win a major in his three previous seasons)
# Yannick Noah snaps Ivan Lendl‘s 44-match winning streak (La Quinta) – the third best streak in history at the time, later on Lendl has a 70-1 record!
# John McEnroe overcomes Wilander in a duel of Grand Slam champions after 6 hours 22 minutes in the Davis Cup quarterfinal rubber of a tie between the United States and Sweden! Interestingly, they both will play in the 80s once again more-than-6-hour Davis Cup rubbers, losing in both cases (McEnroe to Boris Becker in 1987, Wilander to Horst Skoff in 1989)… the second of four consecutive seasons as McEnroe is on the top, one may think he’ll be playing the Wimbledon finals the entire decade due to his grass wizardry 
# The first of three ‘Masters’ editions with a 12-draw (rejected ’round robin’ until 1986)
# Mats Wilander, who was labeled as a clay-court specialist, surprisingly triumphs at the Australian Open on grass, the first Aussie Open in many years with a solid draw, becoming the youngest champion of the event at the age of 19 years 3 months (he will defend his title in 1984)
# Formidable Yannick Noah triumphs in Paris becoming the first Grand Slam champion from France in 37 years, and the last one with very offensive attitude on the most important clay-courts!
# Jimmy Connors, second straight year, beats Ivan Lendl in four sets of the US Open final
# The only time in the Open Era a player (Bill Scanlon) takes a set without dropping a single point (Marcos Hocevar is the humiliated loser); so-called “golden set”, it happens at Delray Beach
# 31 y.o. Guillermo Vilas drops out of the Top 10 for the first time in 9 years (at the end of the season), but he’ll remain active to the decade’s end
# John McEnroe snaps Lendl‘s 66-match winning streak indoors (Philadelphia), and switches to a graphite racquet (it’s still “Dunlop” though)
# Ivan Lendl, on his 5th attempt in Grand Slam finals, finally lifts the trophy (Roland Garros), coming back from a 2-sets-to-0 deficit to John McEnroe; the American had the best start of the year in history prior the final, being unbeaten in 42 consecutive matches, it is the 5th best winning streak of the Open Era, he finishes the year with the best win/loss record in a season so far: 82-3 (96.5%)
# Los Angeles: tennis returns to the Olympic Games after 60 years, as an exhibition sport though, only under-20 players are permitted to participate (the best junior of the Open Era, 18-year-old Stefan Edberg gets the “Gold” medal)
# Aaron Krickstein becomes the most impressive prodigy of the Open Era (it lasts 1983-84): reaches the final of a big tournament in Rome, advances to the Top 20 and wins a title (Tel Aviv), he does it everything before turning 17!
# Lendl takes 21 consecutive games (!!!) against Jimmy Connors, counting four different matches, Connors led initially 8-0 in their H2H!
# Introduction of “wild cards”
# Emergence of two light-haired teenagers, different serve & volleyers – powerful Boris Becker and technical Stefan Edberg; the (West) German diving more than anyone in the past, becomes the youngest Wimbledon champion in its last edition with white balls (he’s 17 years 7 months); the untypical, in terms of tennis game-style, Swede (19 years 10 months) triumphs at the Australian Open and clinches the Davis Cup final
# Vital match for the decade: Ivan Lendl outplays John McEnroe in the US Open final, replaces him at the top of the ranking (McEnroe finished four straight years as No. 1) and the disappointed 26-year-old American never plays a major final again (in the following season he experiences a 7-month sabbatical)
# Fourth event with a 128-draw is added to the calendar (96-draw at Australian Open then), it’s Lipton International at Delray Beach (the first two editions: Bo3 in the first four rounds, Bo5 from QFs onwards); Tim Mayotte becomes a sensational champion, not facing a seeded player (he could have faced five of them)!
# The longest tie-break in doubles so far, (26/24) at Wimbledon (Scandinavians Jan Gunnarsson + Michael Mortensen are the winners)
# Australian Open is not held for the first time since 1945 (World War II) because the event is shifted from December ’85 to January ’87
# Ivan Lendl collects two majors within a season for the first time (he will repeat this feat in 1987)
# Boris “Boom-Boom” Becker is able to win three events within three weeks on three different continents (!); capturing the title at Wimbledon, he becomes the first teenager to defend a Grand Slam title (!), he has also defended his ‘Young Masters’ title, actually twice in 1986; the sky is the limit, until Wimbledon ’87 he’s perceived as a potentially most successful player of the 20th Century… his serve is considered as the best one, he covers the net like noone before, his ground-strokes off both wings have a lot of power, he can beat older players & his peers (regardless of their game-styles), surviving dramatic matches 2-1, 3-1 and 3-2… ultimately he will not finish even one season as the No. 1
# After nine seasons (1977-85) ‘Masters’ is moved from January to December, it is the only year in which two Masters editions are played, Lendl out-guns Becker in straight sets in the finals on both occasions; the 1985 edition is featured by 16 players (the only case)
# Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander play against each other 3 out of the 5 most important finals of the season (Roland Garros, US Open, Masters), Lendl prevails every time, in New York he does it after the longest GS 4-setter of the 20th Century… that final causes the ATP/ITF officials decide to shorten the break between points from 30 to 25/20 seconds a few years later
# WimbledonPat Cash becomes the first Australian to win a major since 1976 (the longest Grand Slam title drought for Australia since 1905!)
# Nduka Odizor, at Queens Club, wins the longest deciding third set in terms of games for the next twenty-five years, 22-20; Ken Flach wins the longest, standard fifth set tie-break in history (17/15) at the US Open; Andrey Chesnokov wins the longest Davis Cup set in terms of time (2 hours 57 minutes, 24-22)
# Lipton International (Florida) upgrades, the event which appeared at Delray Beach in 1985 and Boca West one year later, as the fifth in the season with a 128-draw; it moves to Key Biscayne and changes its format (a Bo3/Bo5 combo is entirely replaced by Bo5) – therefore is called “Fifth Grand Slam”, the main difference: 32 seeded players instead of 16… this formula will be kept for three editions
# The year of Mats Wilander. The Swede becomes the first player since 1974 to win three majors within a season, after the US Open he reaches the top. Wilander also conquers Key Biscayne, a tournament called “5th Grand Slam” at the time (in the years 1987-89 there was requirement of winning seven “the best of five” matches)
# 18-year-old Andre Agassi wins 6 titles and plays semifinals in Paris and New York (in both major cases he loses to the best players in the world at the time – Wilander & Lendl after competitive matches); he’s perceived as the ruler of the next decade
# Australian Open recaptures its prestige moving the tournament from December to January (1987) and from grass-courts at Kooyong to hard-courts at Flinders Park (1988) – the first outdoor event with a retractable roof, the draw increases from 96 to 128; the tournament has been regularly visited by the best players since then
# Yahiya Doumbia becomes the first player to win a tournament in his debut at the main level
# 36-year-old Jimmy Connors wins his title no. 106 (he waited four years for it, being unable to lift the trophy in 11 consecutive finals)
# 20-year-old Kent Carlsson finishes the season as No. 6, not playing a match on a different surface than clay (!) where he reached seven finals (Palermo the last one), and it’s basically the end of his career (chronic knee problems)… he was a Top 100 player already after turning 17
# Michael Chang becomes the youngest man to win a major (17 years 3 months) as he triumphs in Paris thanks to unseen persistence
# “The best of the year”: Boris Becker wins Wimbledon, US Open, plays Monte Carlo, ‘Masters’ finals, and leads West Germany to the second straight Davis Cup triumph over Sweden but ends as the No. 2; with points for DC he would’ve finished the season on the top
# Ivan Lendl, for the first time in the 80s, does not play a final at ‘Masters‘ (!), in the semifinals he is beaten by Stefan Edberg; this event foretells the end of Lendl’s hegemony in men’s tennis – ten months before, the Czecho(Slovak) joined Mats Wilander as the second player to win three different majors in the 80s, grabbing the Australian Open title
# Distinctively the oldest player in the elite, Jimmy Connors drops out of Top 10 (at the end of the season) for the first time in 16 years (!!), but wins his last titles, Nos. 108 & 109, no other player has won 100 for another two decades
# Wilander, as the first player of the Open Era, slips outside the Top 10 twelve months after reaching the top of the ATP ranking (the same thing will occur to Lleyton Hewitt 14 years later)
# 20-year-old Alberto Mancini collects two biggest clay-court titles outside Roland Garros (Monte Carlo, Rome); it seems a king of clay for the next decade is born… he won’t win another ATP title
# The first Davis Cup edition with tie-breaks
# Dallas: John McEnroe wins the last edition of the WCT Finals, the circuit finishes its activity at Forest Hills in May

The 1990s