Monday, November 26, 2007

1985 Australian Open SF: Edberg def. Lendl

Edberg def. Lendl: 6-7, 7-5, 6-1, 4-6, 9-7
Classic: Yes.
Rating: 95

The Plot:
Stefan Edberg won his first Australian Open in 1985, at 19 years of age. In the semifinal he had overcome then-world no. 1 Ivan Lendl who was going for the 3rd Grand Slam title of his career.

The Match: Stefan Edberg is playing superb tennis in the first set and has numerous break-chances against Lendl, who seems slightly agitated. But Lendl is able to save all the break points he face, and the set is decided in a tie-break. In the tie-break, Edberg's level suddenly drops, and Lendl wins the set. The 2nd set is an exact reversal of the first, as it is Lendl who has all the break opportunities against Edberg's serve, without ever converting. Finally, it is Edberg who breaks in the 11th game to take the set.

The 3rd set proves a disaster for Lendl, who seems irritated and edgy. But he gets his game back on track in the 4th and breaks Edberg to take a 2-1 lead. Edberg breaks back to draw even at 4-4 when rain delays the match.

When the match resumes, Lendl has regained his composure and breaks Edberg with some stunning returns. He takes the set 6-4, and then breaks Edberg in the 1st game of the 5th set. But the lead is a brief one as Edberg breaks back in the next game. The players hold serve for the remainder of the match, but it is Edberg who is wearing down Lendl. He has break points when Lendl serves 3-4, three match points at 4-5, and match points again at 6-7. Lendl hangs on, but when serving at 7-8, he goes down 30-40, and Edberg finally wins the match with a passing shot down the line.

The bottom line: This is a highly dramatic, superbly played tennis match. Edberg plays excellent tennis throughout, and so does Lendl except for in the 3rd set. Both men serve and volley (Australian Open was played on grass at that time), and in addition to many fine net-points there are also many great passing shots and lobs. This is without doubt my favourite Edberg match of all time, and it is astonishing to see how brilliant he was even as a 19-year old. The match gets my warmest recommendation.

Bonus info: In the last game of the match, Lendl's smash goes under the net, but the umpire doesn't see it. Luckily, Edberg returns it for a winner, but is clearly surprised that there is no call from the umpire.

No comments: