- 01 Sep 2020
What happened exactly on that day and why it is memorable in tennis history
On this day, September 1, 1987, Ivan Lendl, who had heavily dominated the American summer tour on hard courts, gave Barry Moir a triple bagel in the first round of the US Open. It was only the fourth time in the Open Era’s history that a player managed to win 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in a Grand Slam tournament.
The men involved
Born in 1960, Ivan Lendl was world no.1 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 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 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 John 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). In 1987, his domination peaked : after clinching a third title at the French Open (defeating Mats Wilander in the final, 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6), he finished runner-up again at Wimbledon (defeated by Pat Cash, 7-6, 6-2, 7-5).
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.
Barry Moir, from South Africa, was born in 1963. After he competed for Auburn University, in Alabama, he started traveling on the tour in 1985. He obtained his most remarkable results in Challenger tournaments, never reaching a final on the main tour. He had competed in only three Grand Slam main draws before the 1987 US Open, and his best performance was a third round reached in New York in 1986 (defeated by Dan Goldie, 6-0, 4-6, 6-7, 6-1, 6-2). Soon after, he reached his highest ranking as world No 92.
The US Open (known as the US Nationals before 1968 and the start of the Open Era), was established in 1881, and, although it is the only Grand Slam to have been played every single year without an interruption since its beginning, it moved several times locations throughout the 20th century. First held in August 1881 on grass courts at the Newport Casino, on Rhode Island, the tournament moved to New-York in 1915, where it was held at the West Side Tennis Club, at Forest Hills until 1977 (with the exception of years 1921-1923, when the event was moved to Philadelphia). In the years 1975-1977, the event was played on clay.
In 1978, the US Open left the West Side Tennis Club, who was now too small for such an important event, for the USTA National Tennis Center, located in Flushing Meadows, New-York. At the same time, it was decided to change the surface to hard courts. The Tennis Center was one of the biggest tennis complexes in the world : its center court was the Louis Armstrong Stadium, which had a capacity of 14,000 spectators.
In the summer of 1987, Ivan Lendl’s domination on the tour was at its peak. Since his loss against Pat Cash in the Wimbledon final, the Czech had remained undefeated, clinching the title in Washington (destroying Brad Gilbert in the final, 6-1, 6-0), Stratton Mountain (where John McEnroe retired in the second set of the final) and in Montreal (defeating Stefan Edberg in the last round, 6-4, 7-6). At the US Open, he had participated in every single final since 1982, and he had triumphed twice consecutively in 1985 and 1986.
Needless to say, no one would have placed any bets on his opponent, Barry Moir, world No 122, in the first round of the 1987 US Open. However, even though no one expected Moir to cause any trouble to the undisputed world No 1, no one had anticipated that, without any mercy, Lendl would score a shutout, beating him, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in only seventy-one minutes.
In this one-sided match, Moir served 91% of first serves, but despite this great stat, he only won fifteen points on his serve. Lendl had only three break points to save, one in the first set, and two in the second.
“He just doesn’t have the power,” explained Lendl, quoted by upi.com. “His best shot seems to be a return of serve. He doesn’t hurt me because I don’t come in. He basically plays the same kind of game as I do, but I hit everything harder and I miss a little bit less, and that’s how a result like this comes about.”
It was the third time a triple bagel was given in 1987, after the one scored by Karel Novacek at the French Open against Eduardo Bengoechea, and the one achieved by Stefan Edberg at Wimbledon against Stefan Eriksson. Previously, at the 1968 French Open, Nikola Spear had blanked Daniel Contet, scoring the first triple 6-0 of the Open Era.
Ivan Lendl would confirm his hold on the tour in the summer of 1987 by claiming the US Open crown, not losing a single set before the final, where he defeated Mats Wilander (6-7, 6-0, 7-6, 6-4). It would be the last of his three titles in New York.
In 1993, a triple bagel would be given for a fifth time, at Roland-Garros, where Sergi Bruguera would punish Frenchman Thierry Champion in the second round. It would be the last time that a player would lose 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in a Grand Slam tournament.