The Greatest in the 80s- McEnroe, Lendl, or Wilander?

AP/Ron Frehm, file

The Greatest in the 80s- McEnroe, Lendl, or Wilander?

There are three men that dominated the majority of the 1980s on the ATP Tour. Those three men are McEnroe, Lendl and Wilander. They won more Grand Slams during the 80s than players like Edberg, Becker, Borg, and Connors. All three had healthy rivalries with each other, disputing major titles throughout the 80s. How do they stack against each other? Who’s the King of the 80s? Let’s look at the numbers.

Mats Wilander: 7 Grand Slams, finished number one in 1988. 7 Grand Prix Super Series tournament wins, and 7 top ten finishes in the 80s.

Ivan Lendl: 7 Grand Slams, finished number one four times; 85, 86, 87, and 89. 22 Grand Prix Super Series tournaments, and 10 top-ten finishes in the 80s. Captured Masters Grand Prix Year-end championships five times.

John McEnroe: 6 Grand Slams, finished number one four times; 81, 82, 83, and 84. 19 Grand Prix Super Series tournaments, and 8 top-ten finishes. Captured Masters Grand Prix Year-end championships four times.

The above stats indicate that Lendl is the clear winner among these three. However, let’s investigate their head-to-head records to see if we see any trends that favor any one player over the other.

Wilander vs. Lendl

They played a total of 22 times, and Lendl holds the overall edge of 15 to 7. However, Mats has an edge over Lendl where it matters. In Grand Slam Finals Mats holds a 3-2 edge over Lendl. Their last encounter in a Grand Slam was the 1988 US Open.

Wilander vs. McEnroe

McEnroe, like Lendl leads the head-to-head 7 to 6. However, much like with Lendl, in Grand Slams he holds an edge of 3-2. It’s important to point out that unlike with Lendl, Wilander did not dispute any Grand Slam finals with McEnroe. That being said, they were important matches in the semifinals or quarterfinals of Grand Slams.

McEnroe vs. Lendl

Lendl holds the 21 to 15 edge in this rivalry, and also the Grand Slam meetings head-to-head. 7-3. It’s clear Lendl held the edge in this rivalry, even though McEnroe had the better of Lendl at the beginning of the decade.

When looking at all the stats above from a surface level, one may be inclined to pick Lendl as the greatest player of the 1980s. Not so fast though, it seems that Wilander had both McEnroe and Lendl’s number where it counted, at Grand Slams. Is Wilander the best of the 80s?

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