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Great Tennis Memories: Mats Wilander “In The Zone” 1

Posted on October 04, 2009 by JA Allen

Mats Wilander was in the "zone" in 1988 as he won three Grand Slam titles.

Mats Wilander was in the "zone" in 1988 as he won three Grand Slam titles.

“In the flow, in a groove, on a roll, in the zone—whatever you call it, it’s all defining one thing. It’s that special feeling of thinking you can do no wrong and everything goes your way. You are so involved in what you are doing that nothing else seems to matter because you are so connected to your task.

When former Boston Celtic star Bill Russell characterizes being in the zone, he says it is a moment when everything goes so perfectly that you slip into a gear that you didn’t even know was there…”

Karelene Sugarman, M.A.


In tennis, being in the “zone” can last for a game, a set, or a match—sometimes it can last for a whole tournament. Few players, however, can claim to being in the “zone” for an entire year.

Certainly, John McEnroe could plant a flag on 1984, when he lost only three matches the entire year, and Roger Federer could lay claim to 2005, when he lost a mere four times.

Mats Wilander came close when he discovered that 1988 was the stuff of “zone” magic. He won three out of the four majors and seized the No. 1 ranking from Ivan Lendl at the conclusion of the 1988 U.S. Open.

But his true “zone” match occurred during the 1988 French Open final as Wilander faced Frenchman Henri Leconte before a crowd definitely favoring one of their own. For Leconte, of course, Paris was home town territory.

Truth be told, it was Wilander’s fifth French Open final. He had won his first at the age of 17 in 1982, defeating Guillermo Vilas in the final and his second in 1985 when he overcame Ivan Lendl.

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