August 10, 1986: The day Ivan Lendl got his revenge over Boris Becker after a disappointing loss in Wimbledon
Every day, Tennis Majors takes you back in time to relive a tennis event which happened on this specific day. On this day in 1986, Lendl avenged his straight-sets loss to the German in the Wimbledon final one month earlier
What happened exactly on that day?
On this day, August 10, 1986, Ivan Lendl edged Boris Becker in the final of the Stratton Mountain Open (6-4, 7-6). It was more than just another win in Lendl’s career: the Czech took his revenge from the Wimbledon final a month earlier, where the German had beaten him in straight sets (6-4, 6-3, 7-5). This match put an end to a thrilling edition of the Stratton Mountain Open, where the 16-year-old qualifier Andre Agassi had made himself famous by defeating fifth seed Tim Mayotte, and where Becker, en route to the final, had saved match points in both the third round (against Kevin Curren) and the semi-final (in an epic match against John McEnroe). With this tussle between two generations of players, the competition also spilt over to the press conferences where a lot of interesting comments were made by the players.
The players involved: Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker
- Ivan Lendl: the world’s top-ranked player
Born in 1960, Ivan Lendl was ranked No 1 in the world in August 1986. After turning professional in 1978, he stood as one of the four best players in the world since 1980, along with Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Although he had won dozens of ATP titles, including the Grand Prix Masters in 1981 (defeating Vitas Gerulaitis, 6-7, 2-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4), Lendl didn’t win a Grand Slam title before 1984. In fact, he had been defeated four times in Grand Slam finals, once at Roland-Garros (in 1981, defeated by Bjorn Borg), twice at the US Open (beaten by Jimmy Connors in 1982 and 1983), and once at the Australian Open (lost to Mats Wilander in 1983).
Lendl finally got the monkey off his back at the 1984 Roland-Garros, defeating McEnroe in an epic final where he came back from two-sets-to-love down to lift his first Grand Slam trophy. In 1985, he reached the final at the French Open (defeated once again by Wilander), but at the US Open, a few weeks after becoming world No 1 again, he claimed a second Grand Slam crown, edging McEnroe in the final (7-6, 6-3, 6-4). In 1986, he clinched a second Roland-Garros trophy, beating Mikael Pernfors (6-3, 6-2, 6-4), but at Wimbledon, he finished runner-up to the young defending champion Boris Becker (6-4, 6-3, 7-5). Lendl set new standards in the baseline game, with a very powerful topspin forehand that allowed him to play aggressively while staying extremely consistent, pushing his opponents into a very tough physical challenge. He also set new standards in work ethics, practicing more than anyone before, paying attention to his fitness and to his diet in a way which tennis players had not done before.
- Boris Becker: the two-time reigning Wimbledon champion
Boris Becker was born in 1967. In 1985, the German became the youngest-ever Wimbledon champion at the age of 17, edging Kevin Curren in the final (6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4). His powerful serve, which he often followed to the net, earned him the nickname “Boom Boom”. He was famous for his spectacular diving volleys, as well as for his dramatic play and emotional outbursts. After his spectacular triumph at Wimbledon, the German confirmed his status by claiming the title in Cincinnati, beating Mats Wilander in the final (6-4, 6-2). Finishing the year as world No 6, he qualified for the Masters Cup where he reached the final, where Ivan Lendl outplayed him (6-2, 7-6, 6-3).With his great power, Becker successfully defended his Wimbledon crown in 1986, defeating world Lendl in the final (6-4, 6-3, 7-5) and was now the second best player in the world.
The place: Stratton Mountain
The Stratton Mountain Open, played on hard court, was established in 1985. Thanks to its ideal slot in the tennis calendar and to its attractive prize money purse, the best players in the world had attended its two first editions. In 1985, world No 1 McEnroe had edged world No 2 Lendl in the final, and in 1986, the top two ranked players in the world (Lendl and Becker) were in the draw.
The facts: McEnroe exhausts Becker in the semis before Lendl finishes the job
When Lendl and Becker walked onto the Stratton Mountain center court on August 10, they were about to play the final round of what had been an extremely exciting tournament. Besides attracting the top two ranked players in the world (Lendl and Becker), former world No 1 John McEnroe, who had taken a break from tennis in the last six months, had chosen Stratton Mountain as his comeback event. These three stars had all made their way into the semi-finals to the delight of the tournament director. On his way, McEnroe had defeated the young Andre Agassi, only 16 years old, who had made his way through the qualifying draw and defeated world No 12 Tim Mayotte. Although McEnroe edged the Las Vegas Kid in straight sets (6-3, 6-3), the young player made a great impression on the public and on McEnroe himself, who said after the match: “No one ever hit a return that hard at me. I never even saw the ball.”
The highlight of the tournament had been the semi-final between Becker and McEnroe, a match won by the German(3-6, 7-6, 7-6) after he saved four match points in the final-set tiebreak. After a two-and-a-half-hour thriller, where both players tried to intimidate each other, the clash continued in the press conference, according to the New York Times ” He feels everyone is trying to do bad to him, to cheat him. Even though he was off for six months, it is still the same. It’s sad.”, said Becker. ‘It’s always special to beat McEnroe. I’ve always said he is a great player but I haven’t said he is a great human being.” Meanwhile, McEnroe was not impressed by Becker’s attitude: “I told him to respect me. Let him win some tournaments to establish himself. We’ve all won Wimbledon.”
After this epic semi-final, Becker woke up exhausted, on the day of the final : “When I got out of bed this morning, I said, ‘Ooof, I’m still in the tournament.’ I thought it was the final yesterday, so it was very tough to come back today and play it again”. Especially because his opponent of the day, Lendl, had not intention to show any mercy. Becker had deprived him from the Wimbledon crown a few weeks earlier and was now chasing him for the world No 1 spot. After their final in London, Lendl had issued a warning : “He won today – no question about it. But I am still not prepared to give up the title, or whatever you want to call it. Now it depends on the US Open. That will tip the scales.”
When the match started, the Czech dominated the game against a drained Becker. Lendl took the first set 6-4, but in the second set, Becker, relying mostly on his serve, pushed the world no.1 into a tie-break. Lendl did not panic and soon, he was up 6-0, with six consecutive match points. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the German then tried to break his concentration by provocatively talking to him : “Curren had two match points, McEnroe four. You think I can come back from six?’”.
“You’d better hurry back because otherwise you’ll get a penalty point.’’, said Lendl in response. The scheme did not work. The merciless Czech sealed the tie-break 7-0 and became the 1986 Stratton Mountain champion.
What next? Lendl finishes the 1986 as the world No 1
As Lendl had predicted, the world No 1 spot for 1986 would be decided at the US Open, where Becker would be defeated in the semi-final by Miloslav Mecir (4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3), who would then be crushed by the Czech in the final (6-4, 6-2, 6-0). A few months later, at the Masters Cup, Lendl and Becker would face each other in the final, and Lendl would confirm his No 1 status with a straight-set win (6-4, 6-4, 6-4).