John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl were among the most promising youngsters in the late 70s and early 80s and they had built a great rivalry starting from Milan 1980. By the spring of 1983, they had played ten times and Lendl won seven of those matches, with another clash coming at Dallas WCT where they were the top seeds.
It was one of the biggest tournaments during the 80s and the players from the top had to win three best-of-five matches to conquer the title on super fast indoor carpet court, with John lifting the trophy there in 1979 and 1981 and Ivan who celebrated in 1982.
The 1983 edition saw McEnroe and Lendl in the final in Reunion Arena on May 1 and the American claimed the third time, prevailing 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-0(0) in four hours and 35 minutes, taking the record from that famous 1972 final between Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver, the one that still stands as one of the greatest in tennis history.
Lendl missed a chance to become the first back-to-back Dallas champion since Rosewall in 1971-72 (McEnroe would do that after defending the title in 1984), reaching three deuces on the return at 5-5 in the deciding set and fading in the tie break that he lost 7-0.
Playing the first tournament with a graphite racquet, McEnroe was off to a great start, taking a 4-1 lead and clinching the set in game eight after a double fault from Ivan. The Czech was 3-0 40-0 up in set number two, finding his serve and return to impose the lead before McEnroe got one break back in game four and chased the rival until the tenth game when Lendl fought off three break points to secure the set 6-4.
He was the man on the mission now, opening a 3-0 lead in the third set after a double fault from McEnroe who took charge in the rest of the set, rattling off six games in a row to steal it 6-3 and move closer to the finish line, mounting the pressure on Lendl in set number four.
Ivan was 4-2 ahead when a double fault cost him serve in the following game, with Jon who saved two break points in game eight to stay in contention and level the score at 4-4. Four good service games later, the set went into a tie break, a must win one for Lendl if he wanted to stay in the title chase.
At 5-5, John hit a double fault and Ivan brought it home with a service winner, sending the match to do the distance. As we already said, Lendl wasted his opportunity in the 11th game of the final set and had nothing more left in the tank in the tie break, failing to win a point and handing the win to his rival.
The match point would become one of the most memorable moments of the Openera, with McEnroe hitting a ball outside the post to claim his third Dallas crown. Lendl protested although the umpire wouldn't have changed the call and John could have started a big celebration and the second straight win over Lendl on an indoor court.