June 5, 2019 / 12:12 PM / 19 days ago

Wilander recalls 'hellish' foe

PARIS - Mats Wilander doesn’t need to pause for thought. He knows the greatest player never to have won a Grand Slam and names him with no hesitation.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 6, 2018 Former tennis player Mats Wilander REUTERS/Charles Platiau

“Miloslav Mecir,” the Swede smiles.

“Best anticipation of any player in our generation for sure. The most flexible... and then crazy good hands. He is the best player in the world to not have won a slam, for sure. No question in my mind. He should have won three or four.”

Wilander, a seven-times Grand Slam champion, is in Paris as lead pundit for Eurosport, and spoke to Reuters during a break in play.

The former world number one stressed the need for a simple game plan at Roland Garros, and admitted he never really managed to find one against the enigmatic Slovak.

Mecir beat Wilander in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 1988 – Wilander’s only Grand Slam defeat that year – and the Swede winces at the memory.

“It was hell,” he said, of playing Mecir. “For me it was hell because I couldn’t make him looked stressed out or rushed, right?

“And then you have Henri Leconte who beat him all the time and I asked him ‘so what do you do?’ and he says, ‘I hit the ball where he is not.’

“I’m like no, no, no... But it makes sense, Mecir’s over there, you hit the ball over there. So if you have a simple game plan against these quality players that’s the way to play them.”

Mecir reached two Grand Slam finals the U.S. Open in 1986 and the Australian Open in 1989, and lost to Ivan Lendl in both. The Czech certainly deployed a simple game plan in Melbourne, pumping the ball up the centre of the court to deprive Mecir angles.

Throughout 1989 and 1990 Mecir struggled with a worsening back injury and retired aged 26.

“What does he do now? Fishing,” Wilander smiled. “I’m sure he’s fishing.”

Reporting by Ossian Shine; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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