Cincinnati Flashback: Stefan Edberg destroys Brad Gilbert and becomes No. 1

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Cincinnati Flashback: Stefan Edberg destroys Brad Gilbert and becomes No. 1

Cincinnati became a part of the Open era in 1970, with rich tennis history and tradition. Some of the biggest names in tennis had lifted the crown there before 1990, including Ken Rosewall, Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker.

Stefan Edberg had conquered Cincinnati in 1987 and reached four consecutive finals up to 1990, losing to Wilander in 1988 and Brad Gilbert in 1989. Edberg and Gilbert were the players to beat in the first edition of the Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati 1990, passing all the obstacles to set the title clash that was utterly different from the one 12 months ago.

Edberg scored a 6-1, 6-1 triumph in 51 minutes to lift the second Masters 1000 crown after Indian Wells in March. It was their 12th meeting in the last six seasons and the ninth win for the Swede in one of the most one-sided Cincinnati finals since 1947!

More importantly, Stefan became world no. 1 after this title, receiving the best award for the consistent run in the season's first seven and a half months and overcoming Ivan Lendl, who held the men's tennis throne for 80 weeks.

Edberg had to retire against Lendl in the Australian Open final but won titles in Indian Wells and Tokyo, with another big final in Miami. As usual, clay was not the fertile ground for him, forgetting it quickly after going all the way at Wimbledon and Los Angeles before Cincinnati.

The Swede produced another great run in Ohio to write the history books as only the eighth world no. 1 since the start of the ATP ranking in 1973. Stefan did not put a foot wrong in the final match, overpowering Gilbert in every department to earn a commanding triumph in just over 50 minutes.

The Swede won 52 out of 79 points and dropped only 12 in seven service games, never facing a break point and sending all the pressure to the other side of the net.

In 1990, Stefan Edberg lost just two games against Brad Gilbert in Cincinnati.

The defending champion never found the desired rhythm, ending the encounter with 17 winners and 23 errors, not that bad ratio but certainly not enough to challenge Edberg on a more serious level.

Stefan dictated the pace with a picture-perfect serve & volley game, staying in the attacking mode all the time and spraying just eight errors overall to leave Brad without any answer or a plan on how to impose his shots.

The Swede had a 12-7 advantage in service winners and 16-10 in the winners from the field, hitting ten alone with his spectacular volley that could reach almost every ball, forcing Gilbert to seek lines and those small pieces of the court that stayed uncovered.

Brad had nine unforced errors while Stefan stayed on five, and the most striking distance came in the forced errors department, where the American counted to 14 and drew just three from Edberg. As was expected, the short rallies up to four strokes were the dominant ones on fast hard court, with Stefan forging a clear 38-20 advantage after finishing the job with his serve, volley or Gilbert's swift forced error.

The mid-range exchanges with five to eight shots gave Edberg a 9-6 lead, and he stood 5-1 up in those rare exchanges that hit the nine-shot mark to complete his victory in style. After Gilbert's three errors, Stefan grabbed a break of serve in the first game and held in the next to move 2-0 in front.

The Swede was in the zone and scored another break in game three with a forehand lob winner and another at the net, staying focused in the fourth game after a double fault to bring it home with three winners and increase the lead to 4-0.

Brad finally got his name on the scoreboard with three service winners but still had nothing to show on the return, allowing Edberg to move 5-1 in front with unreturned serves. The set was over when Gilbert sprayed four errors in the next one, having to work a lot harder in set number two if he wanted to at least be competitive.

Stefan remained on the winning path, taking time off from Brad's shots and keeping the points on his racquet. Two return winners gave him the advantage in game two, gaining a break after Gilbert's double fault. Three service winners pushed Edberg 3-0 in front, and no one believed the match would last for too long now.

The American finally produced better tennis in game four, blasting four winners to reduce the deficit but taking nothing from the Swede's game, as Stefan added three winners to his tally in game five to move 4-1 ahead.

The Swede did not have to do much in the sixth game either, taking advantage of Gilbert's four errors and serving for the crown. Edberg won three points in a row from 30-15 down to cross the finish line and claim the fifth title of the season, becoming world no. 1 on the following day.