July 28, 1985 : The day Lendl brings mayhem at Indianapolis

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Every day, Tennis Majors takes you back in time to relive a tennis event which happened on this specific day. On this day, July 28, 1985, provoked the public at Indianapolis.

Provocations : what happened exactly on that day

On this day, the 28th of July 1985, Ivan Lendl defeated Andres Gomez (6-1 6-3) in the final of the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Indianapolis. The Czech, who had already spent the entire week making crude remarks about the tournament, provoked the public as well the organisation in his final speech and press conference. With the attitude he displayed that week,  Ivan Lendl certainly did not make himself more appreciated by the general public, who already considered him as an austere player. 

The guys involved

Ivan Lendl : one of the best

Born in 1960, Ivan Lendl was no.2 in the world in July 1985, behind John McEnroe. 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 tournaments, including the Grand Prix Masters in 1981 (defeating Vitas Gerulaitis, 6-7 2-6 7-6 6-2 6-4), he didn’t claim a Grand Slam title before 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 the 1984 Roland-Garros, defeating John McEnroe in an epic final where he came back from two sets down to lift his first Grand Slam trophy. In 1985, he reached the final at the Australian Open (defeated once again by Wilander) and, in July, Lendl was ranked world no.2.  Ivan 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 were not used to. 

Andres Gomez : number 7

Andres Gomez, from Ecuador, was born in 1960 and was one of the many clay court specialists from South America, but he could also be dangerous on fast surfaces thanks to his good serve. In 1985, the lefty had already claimed nine titles, seven of them on clay, and the most important being the Italian Open, which he won twice, in 1982 (defeating Eliot Teltscher in the final, 6-2 6-3 6-2) and 1984 (edging Aaron Krickstein, 2-6 6-1 6-1 6-2). In 1984, Gomez achieved his best Grand Slam results by reaching the quarterfinals three times consecutively, at Roland-Garros (beaten by Ivan Lendl, 6-3 6-7 6-4 6-3), Wimbledon (eliminated by Pat Cash, 6-4 6-4 6-7 7-6) and the US Open (lost to Lendl again, 6-4 6-4 6-1). In July 1985, Andres Gomez held the 7th rank on the ATP charts.

The place : US Men’s Clay Court, the other Indianapolis

The US Men’s Clay Court Championships was an annual men’s tennis tournament held in Indianapolis in July. In 1985, the event was still played on clay, attracting specialists of the surface like Andres Gomez, who had won the tournament in 1984. Amongst former champions, there were other clay court specialists like Jose Higueras (1982) or José Luis Clerc (1980, 1981).

The facts : “Thanks for coming even though you didn’t like me”

For a tournament like the US Men’s Clay Court Championships, having a player like Ivan Lendl, world no.2, attending the event, should have been a great experience. However, not only did the big attraction of the tournament turned out to be the recent Wimbledon champion,  young Boris Becker, 17 years old, but the Czech had shown very little enthusiasm since his arrival in Indianapolis.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Lendl started his crude remarks by stating that he was only there because he was ordered to appear by the Men`s International Professional Tennis Council. The Czech was then his usual self, sharing little emotion with the public, and then, in the semi-final, he defeated the crowd’s favourite, Boris Becker, after a tough battle (5-7 6-2 6-2). Although he didn’t show it much at the time, Lendl did not appreciate the open support that the German received from the American public.

The next day, the 1984 Roland-Garros champion faced Andres Gomez in the final. After losing the first game, Lendl annihilated his opponent, winning the next seven games and triumphing 6-1 6-3. While given the microphone at the trophy ceremony, Lendl aimed a shot at the Indianapolis crowd : “Thanks for coming even though you didn’t like me. Maybe next time your Boris will win.” 

In the press conference that followed, the champion still felt the need to vent, rating the Clay Courts in the bottom third of tournaments available to pros. He also declared that he would have rather stayed home with his new German Shepherd, Victor :

I am going to try and make up with my dog for leaving, he said. It was very hard getting him used to me, and to be the master, you have to be there all the time.

Lendl, who had nevertheless earned 51 000$ in prize money (which was big at the time), finished on a more positive note :

I’m generally pleased with the way I played Lendl said. I think I played better overall than I expected to, being on clay.

What next

Ivan Lendl would confirm his great shape in 1985 by triumphing for the first time at the US Open (defeating John McEnroe in the final, 7-6 6-3 6-4). He would become world no.1 again in August the same year. He would claim three titles in Roland-Garros by the end of his career (1984, 1986, 1987), but also three consecutive titles at the US Open (1985-1987), where he would appear in the final eight years in a row between 1982 and 1989. Lendl would then succeed at the Australian Open, which he would win twice after it switched from grass to hard court (in 1989 and 1990).

The Czech would never manage to win at Wimbledon where his game was not as effective, although he would still reach the final there in 1986 (defeated by Boris Becker, 6/4 6/3 7/5) and 1987 (lost to Pat Cash, 7/6 6/2 7/5). In 1992, after a five-year procedure, he would obtain US citizenship.  At the end of his career, in 1994, the now American would have been no.1 for 270 weeks (topping Connors’ record of 268) and hold 94 ATP titles.

Andres Gomez would reach world no.1 in doubles in 1986, but in singles, he would achieve his greatest feat in his late career, with an unexpected triumph at Roland-Garros in 1990, at the age of thirty, defeating the young American star Andre Agassi (6-3 2-6 6-4 6-4). He would then reach his highest ranking as world no.4 before slowly decline in the following years, until his retirement, in 1995. 

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