On this day: John McEnroe prevails over Ivan Lendl after unusual match point



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On this day: John McEnroe prevails over Ivan Lendl after unusual match point

John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl were among the most promising youngsters in the late 70s and early 80s, building a notable rivalry that started in Milan 1980. By the spring of 1983, they had played ten times and Lendl won seven of those encounters, 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 clinch the title on super fast indoor carpet court, with the American taking all the glory after a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-0(0) triumph in 4 hours and 35 minutes at Reunion Arena, taking the record from that famous 1972 final between Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver who played one of the greatest matches of all time.

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 where he failed to win a point.

McEnroe played his first tournament with a graphite racquet and was off to a great start in the opening set, taking a 4-1 lead and securing it when Lendl hit a double fault at 2-5. The Czech was 3-0, 40-0 up in set number two, finding the rhythm on both serve and return to impose the advantage before McEnroe pulled one break back in game four, chasing the rival and creating three break chances at 4-5.

Lendl repelled those to bring the game and the set home, building momentum and becoming the man on a mission after opening a 3-0 lead in set number three. McEnroe took charge in the rest of the set, though, rattling off six straight games for a 6-3, moving closer to the finish line and sending all the pressure to the other side of the net ahead of set number four.

There, Ivan was 4-2 ahead when he lost serve with a double fault, allowing McEnroe to level the score at 4-4 after fending off two break chances in game eight. Four good service games led them 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 the Czech closed the set with a service winner, sending the clash into the fifth set. As we already said, Lendl wasted his opportunity at 5-5 and had nothing more left in the tank in the tie break, staying without a point to hand the triumph to his opponent.

The match point would become one of the most memorable moments of all big Open era tournaments, with McEnroe hitting a ball outside the post to claim his third Dallas crown despite all the objections from Lendl.