When Mats Wilander won the French Open aged 17 in 1982, a Swedish journalist lept up in the press box at Roland Garros and cried âThere is life after Borgâ.
The 6ft Swede reached world number one at the age of 24 in 1988 and won seven Grand Slams titles, Wimbledon being the only one of the four that eluded him. His career spanned just ten years, when a knee injury cut short his career at the age of 27.
Armed with his famous baseline style and strength of mind, Wilander approached each game like a chess match and was always thinking three or four shots ahead of his opponent which was one of the reasons for his immense success.
Mats is one of only a few players to capture a Grand Slam as their first title. After this first one in 1982, Wilander added a Grand Slam title to his growing list each year until 1986. By 1985 he had reached number 3 in the world rankings â a position which he held for three years.
In the following two years, Wilander concentrated on rising to the number one spot which he achieved in September 1988 after winning three of the four Grand Slams - Australian, French and US Opens - missing out on the Grand Slam by going out in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Wilander reflects on that period of his life saying âThe adrenaline kick of being able to do exactly what you want, of being in complete control, of thinking âthere is no way I can lose this matchâ â itâs an incredible feeling.â
Having achieved his lifeâs ambition there was no longer the motivation to sustain this level play and his period of domination in the game came to an abrupt end, with a slump to number 12 in the rankings in 1989 â his lowest since 1981. A knee injury in 1991 needed surgery and Wilander eventually left the tour in 1992. âGetting to number one was much more enjoyable than being there. I look at my trophies at home and I can hardly remember which one came from where. The finished product for me is basically irrelevant.â Despite a brief comeback in the mid 90s, Wilander never regained his previous dominance of the game.
During his time away from the circuit Wilander, like many other tennis players, concentrated on golf, becoming an extremely accomplished player. He also made time for his love of music and can often be seen playing the guitar and singing with the other pros on the Champions Tour after matches are over.
Mats is married to Sonya Mullholland, a model from Durban, South Africa. Together they have four children â Emma, Karl, Erik and Oskar. Erik suffers from a mild form of the rare blistering skin disease, Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) and both Mats and Sonja have devoted themselves to raising money and awareness to help conquer this disease. Mats has also entered into a beer-brewing venture with fellow Swede Joakim NystrÃ¶m and into a hat venture with Mikael Pernfors. In between all this, he still manages to find time to ski, play golf and tennis and has recently made a successful debut in the commentary booth.
Film: Spirit - Walt Disney Chronicles
Book: Bob Dylan
Song: Waiting on a Friend - The Rolling Stones
Meal: Grilled shrimp and fried rice - cooked by my wife
Luxury Item: Beer on tap at home
My Ideal Dinner Guests
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