Ivan Lendl is a retired tennis player from Czech Republic who later went on to become an American citizen. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he redefined the game with his power baseline style.
Lendl won 8 Grand Slam singles titles, and was the most dominant player in the second half of the 1980s. He was part of many memorable rivalries against the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg.
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams:
Australian Open: 2-time Champion (1989, 1990)
French Open: 3-time (1984, 1986, 1987)
Wimbledon: Runner-up (1986, 1987)
US Open: 3-time Champion (1985, 1986, 1987)
Highest Ranking: No. 1
No. of weeks at No. 1: 270
Style of play, strengths and weaknesses
Lendl was the forerunner of the aggressive baseliner style of play that is so prevalent in today's times. He spent most of his time at the back of the court, but constantly looked to dictate play - especially with his forehand.
Lendl was one of the first players to combine extreme topspin with raw muscle power, making the ball bounce high off the court with pace. He had an especially dangerous running forehand, and he could winners off that wing from virtually any part of the court.
Lendl's backhand was more conventional, and in the initial part of his career he resorted to slicing it most of the time. But as his career progressed he added an effective topspin backhand to his repertoire, which paid rich dividends on clay and other slow courts.
Lendl had a fairly quick first serve, but often had a low first serve percentage which limited the number of free points he won off it. He also struggled to finish points at the net, and his relatively sub-par net game was considered the main reason why he never won Wimbledon.
Lendl was a very efficient mover at the baseline, and was equally proficient at offense and defense. He also returned serve very well, frequently getting the advantage in a rally with just one stroke.
Significant Ivan Lendl records
Lendl was a winning machine at his peak, and created several landmark records which are listed below:
- Most consecutive finals reached at a single Grand Slam: 8 (1982 US Open to 1989 US Open)
- Most Grand Slam runner-up finishes: 11
- Longest indoor winning streak: 66 matches
- One of only two players (along with Pete Sampras) to reach a Grand Slam final for at least 11 consecutive years
- Most consecutive tour-level finals reached: 18
Lendl was born in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), and comes from an avid tennis-playing family. His mother Olga Lendlova and father Jiri Lendl were both professional tennis players in their youth, with the latter even going on to become the president of the Czechoslovak Tennis Federation.
Lendl moved to the USA at the age of 24, and became an American citizen at 32, in the year 1992. He married his wife Samantha Frankel in September 1989, and the couple have five daughters together.
After retiring from tennis, Lendl took up golf and registered quite a few notable wins on the Celebrity Tour.
Lendl was never the most likable champion, as his fierce will to win and tunnel-vision behavior on the court alienated him from the masses as well as his peers. But that never bothered him in the slightest, and he went on to become the perfect example of how to block out the distractions and become a nearly infallible champion.
For much of the 80s, he was far and away the best player in the world. His unique style of hammering topspin groundstrokes from the baseline had no match in the men's game, and it went on to become the preferred style for a majority of future players.
Lendl's commitment to fitness and off-court preparation was also exemplary, and became a source of inspiration for countless players in the years to come. His painstaking effort to win Wimbledon never bore fruit, but it became a lesson in perseverance for everyone who witnessed it.
Lendl's fixation on discipline and training also yielded enormous success when he turned to coaching after his retirement. He helped Andy Murray win three Grand Slams by teaching him to go after his forehand and impose his game on his opponents.
Lendl's impact on tennis is perhaps more pervasive and long-lasting than that of most other greats, and it is likely that his name will be etched in the history books till eternity.