December 7, 1985: Stefan Edberg edges Ivan Lendl in a thriller at Kooyong


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December 7, 1985: Stefan Edberg edges Ivan Lendl in a thriller at Kooyong

The Australian Open 1985 will be remembered as the last edition of this event held in December, with no tournament in 1986 before switching to January from 1987. The famous Kooyong Stadium had hosted the best players in the world for the penultimate time (the tournament switched to hard court at the Melbourne Park from 1988) and it was the Swedish teenager Stefan Edberg that went all the way to lift his first Major title at the age of 19. In the title match, Stefan defeated two-time defending champion Mats Wilander in an all-Swedish final, the first ever at Majors, and with the average of 20 years and seven months this is the third-youngest Open era Grand Slam final.

In addition, when Edberg, Wilander, Ivanisevic and Lendl reached the semis it became obvious that Europe will claim all four Majors during the season for the first time since 1934 (Perry and von Cramm) and this was also the first Australian Open with four European players in the semis.

Wilander and Ivanisevic were not able to finish their semi-final clash on Friday due to rain and the action was shifted to Saturday where Edberg prevailed against Lendl 6-7 7-5 6-1 4-6 9-7 after more than four hours for the place in his first Grand Slam final.

World number 1 Lendl had won 31 matches in a row before this encounter, seeking the place in a Major final on grass and the first big title on the fastest surface, only to suffer another blow after one of the most interesting matches of the season.

The Swede saved two match points earlier against Masur and that gave him a boost and the momentum to survive another tough match, beating the Czech for the second time in four matches. The rain stopped the match again at 4-4 in the fourth set and an hour and 45 minutes later Ivan was the one who returned stronger, earning a break and sending the match into a decider.

Lendl had to receive a treatment on his right knee after the third set but he stayed competitive until the very end and that crucial 16th game of the decider when Stefan earned a crucial break. Both players served well in the opener and it was Lendl who was more focused in the closing stages, winning the tie break 7-3 get his name on the scoreboard first.

Stefan was the better player in the second set and he grabbed a break in the 11th game after a double fault from Ivan, wrapping up the set with a service winner in the following game for a 7-5 and a much better result before the rest of the match.

Carried by this momentum, Edberg broke at the start of the third set with a forehand winner and again in game three following a double fault from the Czech. It was all about Edberg in this part of the match and he clinched the set 6-1 after the third break in game seven when his backhand found an open space, taking the lead and looking good to score the four-set win.

Lendl received a treatment on his right knee in the break and he saved a break point in the second game of the fourth set to end his downfall. That became even more important when he broke in the next game thanks to a double fault from the youngster but Edberg pulled the break back in the eighth game with a return winner, leveling the score at 4-4 before the rain delay.

Still, it was Lendl who had the edge when they returned, scoring another break in game nine and sealing the set on own serve in the next game when Edberg's forehand found the net, sending the match into a decider and prolonging his chances.

He had the drive on his side now and he broke Stefan at the start of the final set after a poor volley from the Swede. Nonetheless, Edberg was back on the positive side of the scoreboard after the very next game, taking advantage of another double fault from Ivan in game two.

They saved the best for last, with 14 good holds that kept them locked up at 7-7. Ivan missed an easy backhand at 30-30 on the return in game 15 and that was one of the key moments of the entire encounter, missing a game point in the game that followed and getting broken after a forehand down the line winner from Stefan who celebrated one of his best wins in a career up to that point, hoping for more of the same against Mats Wilander in the final on Monday.