Unleashing a barrage of stinging ground strokes that obeyed
their master and hugged the lines, Ivan Lendl stood atop the
tennis world in the mid-1980s for 270 weeks, longer than any
other male player since the computer rankings were established
in 1973. But during an era dominated by the color (and
off-color) of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, there was little
room on tennis's stage for a reticent Czech emigre whose game
was mechanical and methodical, and whose demeanor was so wooden
as to make Al Gore look like Jerry Lewis. Even at the height of
his career, Lendl was, as one irreverent magazine proclaimed on
its cover, THE CHAMPION THAT NOBODY CARES ABOUT. Partly because
of those words, Lendl refuses to be interviewed by SI.

Lendl's lack of Q-rating was perhaps what prevented him from
being accorded superstar status. A world-beater whose success
was as much a function of raw determination as raw talent, Lendl
won eight Grand Slam tournaments and 94 titles overall (the
second-highest men's total ever), using consistently deep
strokes and stamina to outlast opponents. Though his most
inspired match may have been the 1984 French Open final, in
which he rallied from two sets down to beat McEnroe on clay,
Lendl was at his best on hard courts, reaching the U.S. Open
final eight straight years. While he fell short in his quest to
win Wimbledon before a bad back forced him to retire in '94, he
spent untold practice sessions on grass, valiantly attempting to
adapt his baseline game to the faster surface. "I think he still
has regrets about not winning Wimbledon," says his former coach
Tony Roche, "but I also think tennis is now very much in the
back of his mind."

Lendl rarely wields his racket these days. Instead, at 37 he has
channeled his competitiveness into golf. Friends say he plays a
round almost every day and has a six handicap. He was even given
a wild-card spot in last year's Czech Open, though he missed the
cut by 15 strokes. He lives in a sprawling mansion on an
800-acre estate in Cornwall, Conn., with his wife, Samantha, and
their four young daughters. Having earned close to $100 million
in prize and endorsement money, Lendl oversees a small empire
that includes a sports-management company and a racket club. He
also sat on the Hartford Whalers' advisory board of directors
until the team announced in May that it was moving to Raleigh,
N.C. "He's as happy as he's ever been," says Roche. "He has a
good life in his own little corner of the world."

--JON WERTHEIM

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN [Ivan Lendl featured on cover of September 15, 1986 Sports Illustrated magazine]
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