Former No. 1 Ivan Lendl showed plenty of rust but the same trademark bludgeoning forehand as he made his debut on the ATP Champions Tour on Friday, losing 6-4, 6-3 to fellow former No. 1 Mats Wilander at the Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere in Paris.
Lendl was forced to retire early during his ATP Tour days due to a bad back, but the issue has healed to the point where he is ready to compete with his fellow legends.
“I was pretty pleased with the way I played…I’m not disappointed. It’s just a process,” Lendl said. “You cannnot not play and then all of a sudden play great. I think the crowd enjoyed the match — Mats hit a lot of good shots and I think they had a good time. I’m going to rest tomorrow to make sure I’m fit for Sunday and hopefully I’ll play a bit better then.”
On Sunday Lendl will face his old nemesis John McEnroe. For Wilander, who was dominated by Lendl during their ATP days, the win was sweet revenge.
“He’s beaten me so badly…It’s nice to see him suffer, to see him tire, but unfortunately he was smiling,” Wilander joked. “I wanted to see him crying! But no, seriously, it’s great to have him back. He was playing good today and he’s going to get better. It’s great that he has the urge to play again, and I hope he keeps at it.”
Wilander said the senior tour has been missing one of the all-time greats.
“I think we’ve missed him,” said the Swede. “He’s the epitome of a professional athlete. He’s the guy that showed the way for people to become really fit. He changed his psychology in the game by becoming strong physically, and then mentally. He’s an unbelievable example. Everyone who plays now has him to thank for what they are doing, probably more than anyone else.”
Wilander and Lendl will now face McEnroe on Saturday and Sunday respectively in the remaining Group A matches, with the top player in the group reaching the final.
In Group B on Friday, Tournament Director Guy Forget defeated Cedric Pioline 7-5, 6-3.
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