Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl both will leave Paris tonight. Wilander will return home to Sweden to spend a week relaxing on the golf course. Lendl is going to England to practice.
That has been the pattern with these two men throughout their careers. Lendl practices a lot, Wilander doesn't. Wilander raises his game in Grand Slam events, and Lendl does not. Practice, it seems, doesn't make perfect.
Today, in strangely quiet Stade Roland Garros, Wilander won his second French Open championship in four years with a decisive, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Lendl. It was his fourth Grand Slam title at the tender age of 20. Lendl, 25, still has only one Grand Slam championship (last year's French) and a record of 1-6 in Grand Slam finals.
"It's very upsetting to me," Lendl said of his Grand Slam record. "There's no question about that."
There was no question who the better player was today. Wilander's game has improved throughout the tournament, peaking in Friday's straight-set semifinal victory over John McEnroe and today's match. He is a different player than he was when he won here at 17, a player who attacks even on clay.
Today, his new style paid off. "Mats surprised me with how well he hit the volleys at the net," Lendl said. "He came in at the right times and hit good shots."
Wilander had planned to come in, knowing that to stand on the base line and slug it out with Lendl would mean defeat. "I felt like I would be in the match because I would control the points by coming in," he said. "I've been working very hard on my volleying and today it paid off."
Early today, it looked as if the two players might have to spend another night in Paris. It rained all morning and as the 3:15 p.m. start approached, the sun and rain took turns poking their way through the clouds.
It still was drizzling when the match began, but as time went on, the wetness burned off and the final two sets were played in bright sunshine.
Perhaps the weather change was an omen for Wilander. He played a dingy first set, breaking Lendl in the second game and then watching helplessly as Lendl picked up his game, winning six of the next seven games. Since Lendl had reached the final without losing a set, it seemed he might run through the tournament without losing one.
Wilander had other ideas. "I felt like I had to keep attacking, especially on his serve. The first set, even when I broke him, I wasn't very comfortable. By the second, I felt better."
Wilander's play was up a notch at the start of the second set. He broke in the first game, but Lendl broke back. He had three chances to break in the third game and then broke at love in the fifth game with an overhead.
Frustrated, Lendl slammed a ball against the fence in disgust. Wilander served out the set, surviving a reak point at 5-4 when Lendl netted an easy backhand.
"That set really hurt me," Lendl said. "I had lots of chances to break him back. When you miss the kind of chances I had in that set and lose the set, you probably deserve to be punished for it."
His punishment came swiftly. Having seen that Lendl was vulnerable, Wilander began attacking more and more. And, as Lendl began to make mistakes, the normally stoic Wilander became more and more intense. Uncharacteristically, he was pumping his fists, shaking himself after good points, doing little hop-skip-jumps after hitting winners.
"I could feel he was nervous," Wilander said. "He seemed to be feeling pressure. I don't know if it was from me or from playing in a big final. He started to hit short and to miss. He just wasn't playing so well.
"When I saw that, I wanted to keep myself pumped up because I knew it was good for my game to feel that way, to feel strong and confident. I could see that he was fading away and I didn't want anything to change." Nothing changed. In the last two sets, Wilander broke Lendl six times. Lendl's ground strokes, so perfect and consistent against Jimmy Connors Friday, began to spray. His frustration showed as he swatted balls away in anger after lost points.
"It seemed as if when I tried to be steady with him he would wait and then come in and volley very well," Lendl said. "If I tried to be aggressive I was missing. I was looking for the easy ball but none were easy enough."
Sensing that Lendl was weakening, Wilander kept attacking. He broke in the third set for 2-1 when Lendl pushed a forehand passing shot wide. He broke again for 4-1 when Lendl netted a forehand and, after Lendl briefly revived to break back, broke again with a gorgeous backhand.
By now, the crowd had roused somewhat. When Wilander closed out the third set with a crunched backhand volley, the crowd actually came alive. Wilander was pumping, the fans were standing and Lendl was fading.
Quickly, Wilander jumped on Lendl in the fourth set. He broke him with a wonderful forehand lob that dusted the tape as Lendl chased it down in vain. Lendl's first serve was invisible as he got one serve out of six in during that game.
Wilander was on a roll. He held serve at love, gave Lendl one last game and then made quick work of the rest of the set. He held at 15, then broke at 15 -- Lendl again getting only one first serve in -- then served out the match.
The ending was appropriate: Wilander twisted in a serve and Lendl cracked a forehand into the bottom of the net. Wilander rejoiced as Lendl tossed his racket in the air, caught it and then walked to the net to offer congratulations.
"This feels very good because I wasn't expected to win here," Wilander said. "But I played quite okay. I didn't feel any pressure because I didn't even expect to win since I haven't won since the Australian Open. But I won, and I feel very glad about it."
And Lendl? "I'll just have to work even harder."
Perhaps he should try some golf.