Mats Wilander is one of the main reasons I began to follow tennis in the 1980s. In fact it was three Swedes – Mats, Stefan Edberg and the legendary Björn Borg that galvanised my attraction for the sport. Mats was a great fighter. He didn’t possess big weapons, but would grind out victories, plus he was an all round good guy.
He won his 4th Grand Slam title at the age of 20 – the youngest in history to achieve that feat and is one of only 5 men (Connors, Agassi, Nadal and Federer) to have won Grand Slam singles titles on grass, hard and clay courts. (Two of his Australian victories were when the tournament was still played on grass). He did collect a Wimbledon title in 1986, partnering Joakim Nyström in the men’s doubles.
1988 was a defining year. He won three out of the four Slams, losing to Miloslav Mecir in the Wimbledon quarter, finishing the year ranked number one. He was booked on Pan Am Flight 103 in December – had he boarded he would have died ranked number one. The plane exploded over Lockerbie from a terrorist bomb, killing all on board. And I would not have been able to meet him last night at London’s Royal Albert Hall after his match at the Statoil Masters’ Tournament. He had to wait for his car, so I was lucky enough to have a brief chat while he signed this sketch and my World Number One’s book.