10 July, 2011

"Hana’s Five Greatest Wimbledon Wins" - by Tripp from Georgia

As we celebrate another tournament at Wimbledon, it’s hard to forget some great victories by Hana Mandlikova during those championships. To most people Wimbledon represents tennis’ greatest prize. Though Hana did not win it, the lone grand slam to elude her, she did make her presence felt there and belongs amongst its storied tennis history.

The odd thing about Hana not winning Wimbledon is that it was played on a surface tailor made for her game. She won on clayat the French, cement at the U.S. Open, and on Australian grass twice. One of Wimbledon’s all time great champions, Billie Jean King, once had this to say about Hana at Wimbledon: “Hana is a good conditions player.” That meant that when the weather was warm and sunny and the courts were dry so that the balls were lighter and flew through the air, Hana was a real threat. But as happens all too often (for some) at the All England Club, conditions are quite often damp, soggy, and heavy. King’s theory seems to be correct when you consider that Hana’s greatest runs at Wimbledon in 1981, 1984, and 1986 were all accomplished during some of the best weather conditions experienced there. Constrastly, her earliest exits came in 1982, 1983, and 1985 which were some of Wimbledon’s worst as far as rain is concerned.

As we watch the Championships unfold, here are what I consider to be Hana’s five greatest wins at Wimbledon……….

1)  1979 3rd Round defeated Regina Marsikova (13) 6-3, 6-2

At this point in time, Marsikova was the Czech’s top ranked player and had just reached the French Open semifinal. Seeded 13th Marsikova was expected to beat Hana who was playing in her first Wimbledon. But Hana proved to be the better player on the day on her way to a 4th round matchup with none other than six time Wimbledon champ, Billie Jean King. In Hana’s first Center Court clash, she pushed King enough to leave the champion impressed and wary of her younger Czech opponent. Hana would win two matches against King during her career and lose two including this one.

A Press Photo of Regina Marsikova in 1976

2) 1981 QF defeated Wendy Turnbull (6) 6-0, 6-0

With devastating power and accuracy, Hana as reigning French Open champ, crushed the world’s sixth best player and three time grand slam finalist, Turnbull in barely over half an hour. Wendy always proved to be a difficult opponent for Hana with her speed and great court strategy. But on this day Wendy was left powerless as Hana blasted winners from all points of the court while making only two errors. The match was played on old Court One and was over before some in the crowd had settled into their seats. Wendy went on to become Hana’s best and most consistent doubles partner from 1985 through 1987. Together they won numerous titles and reached the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Opens in 1986. That year, they also won the Virginia Slims Championships together defeating Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver along the way.

3) 1981 SF defeated Martina Navratilova (4) 7-5, 4-6, 6-1

Before this tournament began there was a seeding controversy. Wimbledon decided to seed Hana second since she had won two consecutive grand slam events behind Chris Evert. Martina, a two time Wimbledon champ, was seeded all the way down at 4th. Martina took exception to this and said so publicly. So there was a lot of anticipation in the build up to this meeting between Czechs. Hana won going away in the third set as Martina’s confidence dwindled. It proved to be the last loss suffered by Martina at Wimbledon until the 1988 final as she went on to win six consecutive titles, including a finals win over Hana in 1986. But this day was Hana’s day to reign surpreme.

4) 1984 QF defeated Jo Durie 6-1, 6-4

As Hana entered Wimbledon 1984, she was still the only player to defeat Martina that year and had just taken the defending champion to three sets in Paris. Everyone from Bud Collins on down expected that if anyone was going to defeat Martina in the Wimbledon final, it was going to be Hana. But Hana’s path was a difficult one to negotiate. She defeated a future semifinalist in Lindqvist, perennial grand slam challenger, Sukova, and Great Britain’s top female player, Jo Durie. Durie had already reached both the French and U.S. Open semifinals. Hana, usually very popular at Wimbledon, had to play against both Durie and the crowd in this quarterfinal match. Sensing this could be a tough one, Hana sprang to an early lead and closed out the first set handily, 6-1. In the second, she withstood a charge fromDurie and broke at 4-4 in the second set before serving out the match in style. Though Hana lost in the SF to Chris Evert, Hana had re-established herself as a threat to win this most coveted title.

5) 1986 SF defeated Chris Evert (2) 7-6, 7-5

In defeating long time nemesis, Evert, Hana achieved one of the greatest victories of her career. And considering that Chris had just won her seventh French title, this might be her greatest win at Wimbledon overall. Neither set started out well for Hana as she fell behind 5-2 in each of them. But she wasn’t missing by much and Hana’s shots soon started finding the court. During the first set tiebreak Chris had a look on her face that indicated that she knew she might be in trouble. With a thunderous backhand passing shot and with some acrobatic volleying Hana closed out the first set tiebreak seven points to five. During the middle of Hana’s second set comeback, she won an astonishing FOURTEEN consecutive points against the consistent and steady Evert. All were won on either outright winners or errors forced by Hana. The streak of tennis was so spectacular that the British called that momentous fourteen point streak “the purple patch.” Afterwards, Chris conceded that Hana should play Martina in the finals because she played better. Despite Hana’s brilliant start against Martina in the finals she succumbed to the great champion in two tight sets. But this win will always rank as my personal favorite win for Hana on famed Center Court.


Thank you so much for this beautiful contribution, Tripp.
I appreciate it.

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