October 18, 1993: The day Ivan Lendl won his last ATP title

Every day Tennis Majors looks back at the biggest moments in tennis history. On this day in 1993, Lendl defeated Todd Martin in straight sets to win the Tokyo Indoor title – the last of his 94 ATP titles

Ivan Lendl

What exactly happened on that day?

On this day, October 18 in1993, former world No 1 Ivan Lendl claimed the last of his 94 singles titles. An eight-time Grand Slam champion, Lendl had just left the top 15 for the first time since 1980, and in 1993, he had not reached the quarter-finals in any major tournament – a first for him since 1979. To clinch his fifth title in Tokyo, the Czech defeated Todd Martin in the final in straight sets (6-4, 6-4). 

The players: Ivan Lendl and Todd Martin

  • Ivan Lendl: the eight-time Grand Slam champion
Ivan Lendl

Born in 1960, Ivan Lendl was ranked No 7 in the world in September 1992. After turning professional in 1978, he was ranked among the top four players in the world from 1980 onwards, along with Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Although he had won dozens of ATP tournaments, including the Grand Prix Masters in 1981 (defeating Vitas Gerulaitis, 6-7, 2-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4), he did not claim a Grand Slam title until 1984. In fact, he had been defeated four times in Grand Slam finals, once in 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).

In 1984, Lendl eventually triumphed at Roland-Garros, defeating John 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 where he was defeated once again by Wilander).

However, at the US Open, a few weeks after becoming world No 1 again, the Czech claimed a second Grand Slam crown, edging McEnroe in the final (7-6, 6-3, 6-4). In the following years, Lendl dominated the game, clinching six Grand Slam titles: Roland-Garros (1986, 1987), the US Open (1986, 1987) and the Australian Open (1989, 1990).

He never managed to triumph at Wimbledon, although he finished runner-up twice, in 1986 (to the young defending champion Boris Becker, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5) and 1987 (defeated by Pat Cash, 7-6, 6-2, 7-5). In the early 1990s, Lendl’s domination was over, but he remained a solid top 10 player until the end of 1992. In 1993, he failed to go past the second round in any Grand Slam tournament, and in October, he was ranked No 18, his lowest ranking since April 1980.

Ivan Lendl had set new standards in the baseline game, with a very powerful topspin forehand that allowed him to play aggressively while staying extremely consistent, engaging his opponents into a very tough physical battle. He also set new standards in work ethic, practicing more than anyone before, paying attention to his fitness and diet in a way which tennis players had never done before.

  • Todd Martin: the top 20 player from America

Todd Martin was born in 1970 in Illinois, United States. He played two years for Northwestern University before deciding to turn pro in 1990. It took him two years to break into the top 100. The following year, in 1993, he claimed his first title in Coral Springs (defeating David Wheaton in the final, 6-3, 6-4), and also finished runner-up in Memphis, Washington and Montreal. Having reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon (defeated by Jim Courier, 6-2, 7-6, 6-3), Martin was now ranked No 16 in the world. 

The place: The Tokyo Indoor Open

The Tokyo Indoor Open was held from 1978 at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, famous for its suspension roof design. The tournament had been a part of the prestigious Grand Prix Circuit in the 1980s, and had been won by several great players such as Borg, Connors, Becker, Edberg and Lendl himself (four times, in 1983, 1985, 1990 and 1992).

The facts: Lendl beats Martin in straight sets

At the 1993 Tokyo Indoor Open, although Lendl was the defending champion, he was far from being the favourite. His 1993 season had been his worst since 1979. Struggling with hip mobility, he had also undergone knee surgery, and for the first time in 13 years, he was out of the world’s top 15. In Tokyo, he was only the ninth seed, in a draw that included great indoor players such as Edberg, Becker and Goran Ivanisevic.

However, great champions like Lendl, who, at the time, held the record of most weeks at world No 1 (270 weeks), should never be counted out. He took care of Becker in the quarter-final, surviving a thriller won 6-3, 1-6, 7-6. In the semi-finals, the three-time US Open champion defeated Paul Haarhuis (who had eliminated Ivanisevic in the third round) in another deciding set tie-break (3-6, 6-4, 7-6). 

In the final, Lendl faced Todd Martin, the newcomer who had reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals a few months earlier. The American had ousted the No 1 seed Edberg in the quarter-finals (6-4, 6-4). Very tall (6ft 6 in), Martin had a great serve, which he often followed to the net, but he could also be consistent from the baseline. 

On finals day,  October 18, Lendl proved that Agassi had been right about him when the American had said in August that “there [were] some days when he still hits the ball like a top four player” and won the final 6-4, 6-4 over Martin.

“I don’t think I belong out of the top 10 yet, but there are reasons why it happened that I couldn’t control,” said Lendl, quoted by The New York Times. “I’m going to have another crack at it, but if I play lousy, there’s a good chance 1994 could be my last year.”

What next? Lendl bids adieu to the game in 1994

Despite a good start to the 1994 season, where he reached the final in Sydney and the fourth round at the Australian Open (each time defeated by the undisputed No 1 Pete Sampras), Lendl’s decline would continue in 1994. His ranking would drop to No 30, and he would play his last match at the US Open, defeated by Bernd Karbacher (6-4, 7-6, 1-0, ret.).

Martin would be named the ATP’s Most Improved Player in 1993. He would achieve his most remarkable results in 1994, entering the top 10 for the first time after finishing runner-up to Pete Sampras at the Australian Open (7-6, 6-4, 6-4) and reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon (lost to Pete Sampras again, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3) and at the US Open (lost to Agassi, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3). In 1999, Martin would reach a second major final, this time in New York, defeated by Agassi in five sets (6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2), a result that would take him to his highest ranking as world No 4.

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