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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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U.S. Open Classic: 1988 Men’s Final 1

Posted on August 16, 2009 by JA Allen

Mats Wilander's classic win over Ivan Lendl was his third major title of the year, but the last of his career.

Mats Wilander's classic win over Ivan Lendl was his third major title of the year, but the last of his career.

The Set Up

1988 was a spectacular year to be a sumptuous Swedish male tennis pro.  They were well on their way to winning a “Swedish” grand slam with Mats Wilander seizing the Australian and French Open crowns while Stefan Edberg captured the Wimbledon championship.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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