NEW YORK — It says plenty about Ivan Lendl that he keeps a book on every player on the men's tennis tour and carefully charts each match he plays.
That's because Lendl is the nerd of tennis. He's the bookworm who stays home from the prom to study. He's the pockmarked-faced, bucked-toothed kid who has funny signs pinned to his back but never knows it.
It says plenty about those kind of kids that they often grow up to run Fortune 500 companies and hire the former high school quarterback as head of parking lot maintenance. He who laughs last, laughs all the way to the bank.
Ivan Lendl doesn't laugh in public too much, but he was smiling as wide as he could stand Sunday after beating Miloslav Mecir, 6-4, 6-2, 6-0, in the men's singles final of the U.S. Open at the National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadow. He also can giggle some with a $210,00 winner's check.
Mecir was the guy no one could figure out, the player described as dangerous by every seeded player he beat here. The 22-year-old Mecir, seeded 16th, upset No. 2 Mats Wilander, No. 7 Joakim Nystrom and No. 3 Boris Becker to get to No. 1 Lendl in the final.
"With him, you never know what will happen," Becker said, bewildered after his loss to Mecir in the semifinals.
Lendl approached the Mecir match like a science project. He watched and took notes through part of Saturday night's Becker-Mecir semifinal, upset only because there were no videotapes of Mecir's other matches to study.
"I saw the first few games, but I didn't like what I saw," Lendl said of the Becker match.
What he saw was Mecir running Becker around the court, doing the oddest things at all the wrong times and quite simply overpowering the young bully of tennis.
After that, Lendl might have considered going back to the books for a cram session on his countryman from Czechoslovakia. "The only instrument of help I had was my books on each player," Lendl said while munching a bagel in the post match interview. "I have played him two times this year, but I didn't have much written."
When asked what was in his book about Mecir, Lendl said something to the effect that he'll disclose that when either he or Mecir retires. It will be a best seller, at least to Wilander, Nystrom and Becker.
The book, or books, contain everything from what Lendl thinks he did wrong in a match to a complex analysis of his opponent's ground strokes.
How involved are the notes? "It depends on the match," Lendl said. "If I think it was a tough match, or I didn't like something, or I discovered something that really works for me, it's pretty detailed. If the match was 6-1, 6-0, against somebody, there is not much to write about."
Sunday's match wasn't much to write about, either, being yet another in a series of wipeouts that Lendl has perpetrated during this Open. Or during the last one, for that matter.
Lendl, who won here last year, has lost only two sets in two years here. The courts that used to hold only frustration for him have become his home.
You know Lendl is at home when he is close to perfection. He got in 67% of his first serves Sunday with no double faults, lost only one of his service games and made 22 unforced errors to Mecir's 42.
"I missed a couple of my favorite shots," Mecir said. "I lost a little bit of my confidence and I couldn't hit those shots again. I think he was running very well today. He was hitting the ball hard and placing well also."
Mecir's favorite shots include your garden variety public court junk: moonball lobs, dinky drop shots and more moonball lobs. He also has the ability to return shots that other players would need a taxi to get to. It is precisely this unpredictable style that baffles players on the tour.
Lendl has learned how to handle it by playing his own game. He broke Mecir in the first game of the match, effectively waving a page from his book in Mecir's face.
Mecir, not one to ignore a trend, broke Lendl in the next game. But Lendl soothed some shaky nerves to break again in the seventh game and win the first set.
"About the first seven games in the first set were very, very close," Lendl said. "Once I got the break for the second time, I started feeling much better. I served two good games to get the set.
"Once I had the set I loosened up and I started playing so much better."
Once Lendl gets to feeling that way, he closes the door. He slammed it in Mecir's face Sunday. Mecir had almost no chance: Lendl had 13 break point opportunities in the match, Mecir had one.
You don't beat Lendl by hitting 42 unforced errors. With Lendl playing the way he did Sunday, you don't beat him, period.
"I think this is the best tennis I've played in the last two weeks," Lendl said. "Winning is something tremendous. It's impossible to describe. I didn't know how it feels to win the U.S. Open for so long, and then once I felt it, I wanted to do it again. And it feels great again, and I'm going to want to do it next year."
To do that, Lendl will begin studying today.