ATP Finals 1986: Ivan Lendl down Boris Becker to finish season in style


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ATP Finals 1986: Ivan Lendl down Boris Becker to finish season in style

Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker were the dominant figures in men's tennis in 1986, winning 16 titles overall and 10 out of 14 biggest tournaments of the year! It was a rather unique season with no Australian Open up for grabs and also with two ATP Finals events in New York, one in January linked with 1985 season and the regular December edition with the best players from 1986, both won by Lendl who defeated Becker in the title matches.

The Czech claimed 10 titles including that 1985 ATP Finals and he lifted the trophy at Roland Garros and US Open to repeat his dominant run from 1985, winning 78 out of 84 matches and spending the entire season at the top to extend his run that started after winning the US Open in 1985.

On the other hand, Becker managed to defend his Wimbledon crown and to conquer Sydney, Tokyo and Paris in back-to-back weeks on three different continents, proving his greatness once again at such a young age and challenging Lendl for that season finale crown in New York at Madison Square Garden.

This was the seventh appearance for Lendl at the ATP Finals and the seventh title match, standing as the favorite and proving that on the court against the strongest rivals on the Tour. Struggling with tendinitis in his left hip, Ivan played only two tournaments between the US Open and Masters but he was ready to play at his best in New York The event took place between December 3-8 and the players were drawn in two groups named after Fred Perry and Don Budge.

In Fred Perry Group, Lendl proved to be too strong for Yannick Noah, Andres Gomez and Stefan Edberg, beating all three rivals in straight sets to top the standings and reach the semis together with Edberg who saved a match point against Noah.

In Don Budge Group, Boris Becker had extended his winning streak to 20 after wins over Mats Wilander, Joakim Nystrom and Henri Leconte, losing a set at love against the Frenchman before staging a great comeback to stay undefeated.

Rod Laver was there to draw the semi-final matches and it was Lendl who faced Wilander and Becker his old rival Edberg. Ivan needed only 84 minutes to dismiss Wilander 6-4 6-2, losing eight points on serve and dominating from start to finish to set the ninth meeting with the German who toppled Edberg 6-4 6-4.

In the repeat of January ATP Finals title match, Lendl overpowered Becker 6-4 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 20 minutes for his fourth ATP Finals crown and the best possible finish of the year. Becker defeated the Czech in their previous match in Sydney but he stood no chance this time around, winning just 12 points in 15 return games and never creating a break point! On the other hand, Ivan earned 11 opportunities to break the youngster and he claimed one break in each set to wrap up the win and lift his 62nd ATP crown.

Becker had more service winners (36 to 26) and the advantage at the net but that wasn't enough for a more positive result, losing the edge from the baseline and barely hitting any winner with his groundstrokes. The Czech won almost 30 points more than his rival, erasing that deficit in service winners with a rock solid performance with his first groundstroke that gave him the upper hand in the shortest points up to four strokes.

He also tamed his shots in a beautiful way, staying on less than 20 unforced errors while Becker counted to 40, never finding his rhythm or the way to impose his shots. Lendl had a clear advantage in the mid-range and longer rallies to bring the match home in style, facing only one deuce in his games and keeping the pressure on the other side of the net all the time.

After two solid opening service games from both, Becker faced an ultimate challenge already in game three when he had to play against five break points. He fired four winners in the most important points and fends them off all to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard until 4-4 when he hit a double fault to lose serve and send Lendl 5-4 up.

Serving for the opener, Ivan fired a service winner to grab the first set 6-4 and gain the momentum before the rest of the match that was completely in his control so far. Becker saved a break point in the third game of the second set with a service winner and he survived two deuces in the following service game to stay in front.

Lendl was rattling off one good service game after another and he earned a break in the seventh game after a backhand return winner, moving 5-3 up after a deuce in the following game and clinching the set with three winners in game 10 to move closer to the finish line.

Boris had to work hard in the third game of the third set, saving a break point with a volley winner but suffering a break at 3-3 after a return winner from Lendl who had one hand on the trophy at that moment. The Czech confirmed the break with a hold at love in the following game and he sealed the deal with a backhand down the line winner in game 10 to celebrate another big title and cement his status of the best player in the world for the second year in a row.