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Masters Tennis Championship : Lendl, Wilander Go at It Again Tonight

December 07, 1987| From Times Wire Services

NEW YORK — Two-time defending champion Ivan Lendl reached the Masters final for the eighth straight time Sunday with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over eighth-seeded Brad Gilbert.

Lendl's opponent in tonight's final will be third-seeded Mats Wilander, who beat countryman Stefan Edberg, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, in the other semifinal at Madison Square Garden, marking the first time since Bjorn Borg in 1981 that a Swede has gained the Masters final.

Lendl, who is seeking a record fifth Masters title, beat Wilander earlier this year in the French and U.S. Open finals and holds a 12-6 edge in their series.

"I hope I can pull it out again," Lendl said. "I think Mats will try to put a lot of pressure on me, but as long as I can serve well and don't make too many errors, I think I have a good chance of winning."

The top-seeded Lendl has a 44-1 record in New York over the past three years, losing only to Yannick Noah at the 1986 Tournament of Champions.

"I like playing in New York because I get to stay at home (in Greenwich, Conn.)," he said. "I get to relax and during the summer I get to play golf. It's nice to stay in familiar surroundings instead of a hotel room."

Lendl needed only 87 minutes to beat Gilbert for the second time in the round-robin tournament and 14th time overall without a defeat. It would have taken even less time if Gilbert hadn't staged a mini-comeback by winning two games in a row after trailing 5-2 in the final set.

"The match was going easier than I anticipated," Lendl said. "I just grew a little bit lazy at the end."

Gilbert beat Jimmy Connors and Boris Becker en route to the semifinals, but never got on track against Lendl.

"There was a stretch there where he didn't make any errors," said the 26-year-old from Piedmont, Calif. "He was blasting his first serves and passing shots right by me, and I got frustrated."

Wilander hasn't had much luck against Lendl, either. He has lost their last five matches and trails their series 12-6.

But the two-time French Open champion doesn't plan to alter his base-line style in the Masters final.

"I can't really change my game against Lendl because he passes so well and I don't cover the net that well," he said.

The second-seeded Edberg had won 15 straight matches going into the semifinals, including a straight-set victory over Wilander in round-robin play Saturday. But he didn't play nearly as well in their semifinal and Wilander played much better.

"The main thing was I returned much better against his serve," said Wilander, who reached the Masters final for the first time. "You have to go for returns against him. Otherwise, his volleys are too good."

Wilander, who won only two points on Edberg's serve in the first set Saturday, returned brilliantly in the opening set Sunday. He broke Edberg's serve three times en route to winning the set in 39 minutes.

"I think it was very important for me to get a good start," said Wilander, who beat Edberg in the U.S. Open semifinals this summer. "When I win the first set, I relax more. For some reason, I'm much more tense in the first set than in the third set."

Edberg, who had 28 unforced errors, broke to take a 3-1 lead in the second set. But Wilander broke back in the next game and they remained on serve until the final game, which went to 30-all before Wilander netted two straight shots to end the set.

Edberg fell behind 4-0 in the third set, losing two service games on double faults, and couldn't dig himself out of the hole. The two-time Australian Open champion broke Wilander to make it 5-3, but Wilander broke back in the next game to win the match.

Edberg, who lost to Wilander for the eighth time in 13 meetings, was unhappy that he had to play him two days in a row under the Masters format.

"Yesterday I played well and beat the guy, then the next day I have to come back and play him again," he said. "Obviously he had a better day and I didn't feel very good out there."

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