News24

Lendl beaten by Wilander

2010-04-11 16:20

Atlantic City - In his first match since retiring 16 years ago, Ivan Lendl looked nearly as fit as the man who dominated tennis in the 1980s, but his game wasn't as sharp.

Lendl committed numerous unforced errors and fell to former rival Mats Wilander, 6-3, in a one-set exhibition match in the Caesars Tennis Classic on Saturday.

"It was fun playing, but a bit frustrating," Lendl said. "I was seeing the shot but couldn't make myself hit it properly."

An eight-time grand slam champion who was ranked No. 1 in the world for 157 straight weeks from 1985-88, Lendl disappeared from the tennis scene after retirement. With his back healthier, Lendl began playing more seriously recently, saying he "put a lot of training" into preparing for Saturday's match.

Asked if his performance was what he expected, the 50-year-old Lendl said, "Pretty much, unfortunately.

"My heart was telling me it's not going to be like this, but my mind was telling me yes it could and most likely would."

Lendl and Wilander came out in typical style with both playing from behind the baseline, just as they did in two marathon U.S. Open finals in 1987 and '88, which they split. Wilander's five-set victory over Lendl in '88 took 4 hours, 55 minutes, setting a record for longest U.S. Open men's singles final.

After a long rally on the game's second point, Lendl jokingly asked the 47-year-old Wilander, "Are you tired yet?"

The laughter subsided midway through the set, and both competitors appeared to turn serious. Wilander took control in the fifth game when Lendl committed four unforced errors, giving Wilander the match's first break and a 3-2 lead.

Wilander held serve for a 4-2 lead and went ahead 5-2 with another break when Lendl netted a forehand on the clinching point. The match ended, fittingly, when Lendl hit a forehand volley into the net.

"It was fun playing," Lendl said. "It was nice to have a good crowd. I wish I could have hit more good shots, but unfortunately that won't come all at once."

While he wouldn't commit to more exhibition matches or a comeback to the Champions Tour, Lendl said his back was feeling better and alluded to playing again competitively.

"I enjoy practicing and I didn't enjoy it before because of my back," he said. "Now I'm fine."

In another match, Marat Safin defeated Pete Sampras 6-4. Andy Roddick also beat Sampras 6-4 before topping Safin 6-4.

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