ATP Finals Flashback: Ivan Lendl tops Boris Becker for Masters Cup crown



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ATP Finals Flashback: Ivan Lendl tops Boris Becker for Masters Cup crown

Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker were the dominant figures in men's tennis in 1986, winning 16 titles overall and ten out of the season's 14 most notable tournaments! It was a unique season, with no Australian Open and not one but two Masters Cup events in New York, one in January linked with the 1985 season and a regular December edition with the best players from 1986, both won by Lendl, who defeated Becker in the finals.

The Czech claimed ten titles in 1986 if we include that 1985 Masters Cup, adding trophies at Roland Garros and the US Open to repeat his dominant run from 1985. Ivan won 78 out of 84 matches and spent the entire season at the top to extend his run that started after the 1985 US Open.

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

It was the seventh appearance for Lendl at this event 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 the Masters Cup, making sure to be back 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 opponents in straight sets to top the standings and reach the semis with Edberg, who saved a match point against Noah.

In Don Budge Group, Boris Becker extended his winning streak to 20 after victories over Mats Wilander, Joakim Nystrom and Henri Leconte, losing the opening set 6-0 against the Frenchman before staging a great comeback to remain undefeated.

In 1986, Ivan Lendl defeated Boris Becker in straight sets to defend the Masters Cup.

Rod Laver was there to draw the semi-final matches, and it was Lendl who faced Wilander while Becker had to compete against his old rival Edberg.

Ivan needed only 84 minutes to dismiss Mats 6-4, 6-2, dropping 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's Masters Cup title match, Lendl overpowered Becker 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 20 minutes for his fourth crown at this level and the best possible finish of another impressive year.

Becker defeated the Czech in their previous match in Sydney but stood no chance this time around, taking just 12 points in 15 return games and never creating a break chance! On the other hand, Ivan earned 11 opportunities to break the youngster and claimed one break in each set to wrap up the win and lift the 62nd ATP crown at 26.

Becker had more service winners (36 to 26) and the net advantage, but that wasn't enough for a more favorable 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 service winners deficit 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 nicely, staying on less than 20 unforced errors while Becker counted to 40, never finding his rhythm or the way to impose his strokes and move the opponent from the comfort zone. Lendl had a clear advantage in the mid-range and longer rallies to bring the encounter 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 while playing against five break chances. He fired four winners in the most critical points and fended them off 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 momentum ahead of the rest of the clash. Becker repelled a break chance in the second set's third game with a service winner and survived two deuces the next time he served to stay in front.

Rattling off one good service game after another, Lendl kept the pressure on the other side of the net and earned a break at 3-3 after a backhand return winner. The Czech moved 5-3 up after deuce in the next game and clinching the set with three winners at 5-4 to move closer to the finish line.

Boris had to work hard in the third set's third game, erasing a break point with a volley winner before getting broken at 3-3 after a return winner from Lendl, who put one hand on the trophy with that stroke. The Czech confirmed the break with a hold at love and sealed the deal with a backhand down the line winner at 5-4 to celebrate another notable title and secure the year-end no. 1 position for the second straight year.