John McEnroe no longer holds any of the four Grand Slam singles titles. The last of them was taken away from him yesterday when Ivan Lendl rounded off a thrilling weekend for Czechoslovak tennis by beating McEnroe 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 26 minutes in the final of the United States championships. Lendl is the first non-American to win this title since 1977 and the first European to do since 1975.
McEnroe made the more confident start and did not lose a point in his first four service games. An important turning point came when Lendl was serving at 2-5 and McEnroe had a break point. Lendl frustrated him with a forehand cross-court passing shot, the finest ground shot Lendl had hit. With that, Lendl was ‘rolling’, as they say in the trade. For the rest of the match he hit with irresistibly punishing power without loss of precision – whether serving, volleying, or subjecting McEnroe to the scorching ferocity of full-blooded driving shots.
McEnroe was rocked back on his heels in more than one sense. He valiantly concentrated on staying in the match if he could, by winning his own service games and hoping that Lendl would weaken just long enough for the American to get back in the match. But after the eighth game of the first set McEnroe never had a break point. It may be some slight excuse for McEnroe that he was back on court little more than twenty four hours after a hot and humid semi-final that lasted three hours and fifty minutes.
In the semi-finals McEnroe beat Mats Wilander 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in three hours’ and 50mins and Lendl beat Jimmy Connors 6-2, 6-3, 7-5. McEnroe was impressed by Wilanders serving and volleying and Wilender was impressed by McEnroe’s baseline game.
McEnroe’s tennis was hot and cold in turn but in the fourth and fifth sets he recovered from 0-2 down. What a fighter he can be. This was the first time he had beaten Wilander outdoors and the temperature on court was more than 110 degree, the other match seldom looked more than a formality. Connors had twisted an ankle in practice, he was less exuberant than usual and never had a genuine chance.
Hana Mandlikova, aged 23, won the women’s singles championship by beating Martina Navratilova 7-6, 1-6, 7-6 in two hours and 13 minutes on Saturday. This meant that in consecutive matches Miss Mandlikova had beaten the champions of Australia (Helena Sukova), France (Chris Lloyd) and Wimbledon and the US (Miss Navratilova). Since Tracy Austin won the US title in 1981, 15 grand slam singles championships in a row had been won by either Mrs. Lloyd or Miss Navratilova. Here Miss Mandlikova beat both.
Miss Mandlikova is the first non-American winner since Margaret Court in 1973 and the first European winner since Virginia Wade in 1968, though Miss Navratilova, who became a US citizen in 1981, was originally a Czechoslovak – like Miss Mandlikova. The new champion practiced here with a former British Davis Cup player, Richard Lewis, thus preparing herself for left-handed opposition in the final.
Miss Mandlikova was Australian champion in 1980, French champion in 1981, but at that time she was too immature as a woman and too inconsistent as a player to consolidate her advance. Even so, in the absence of Miss Austin and Andrea Jaeger, she remained the most obvious threat to Mrs. Lloyd and Miss Navratilova. It was just a question of if and when Miss Mandlikova would put the years of brilliantly erratic artistry behind her and fulfil her talent as an athlete. She credits better nutrition for her consistency this year.
Miss Mandlikova has worked hard on her physical condition and has also made her forehand a safer shot.
Miss Mandlikova was 15-40 down in the first game but soon led 5-0. She was hitting winners almost at will, many of them with service returns. When the score went up on the TV screen the commentator explained: ‘We have not made a mistake. That score is correct’.
Order was restored. Miss Navratilova took charge. She saved three set points, and had eight break points for a 6-5 lead. That was a key game. So was the tie-break. So was the ultimate tie-break, in which Miss Mandlikova won the first six points. Miss Mandlikova is not the player she used to be. She is rather pleased about that.