By Erik Gudris
(November 10, 2012) ATLANTA – Mats Wilander is literally getting back into the swing of things when it comes to competitive tennis. The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion made his second appearance on the PowerShares Series at the Champions Shootout in Atlanta, Georgia. Wilander joined Michael Chang, Jim Courier, and John McEnroe on the eighth stop of the 12 city tour.
“I’m getting into the swing of trying to channel my focus and concentration into two hours which you get really good at playing professional tennis,” said Wilander during a pre-match media meet with reporters. “You have to be able to switch on and off and when you are not used to the competitive element when the match is on the line you forget how to do that. It would be nice to do this 10 nights in a row because its not that easy. But it gets easier. I was better today in practice than I was yesterday. It’s more getting used to the pace that these guys play at.”
When asked about his Major titles that include three Australian Opens, three French Opens and one U.S. Open and which one was the most special to him, Wilander said, “There are all so different. I mean what’s better? A sunny day on the beach in Caribbean or a sitting near a fireplace on a snowy, cold day in Sun Valley, Idaho? It’s a matter of the big picture and how happy you are with your effort. And then on top of that you get pretty good results that make you wonder to yourself. “How the hell did that happen? Wow amazing.” I hope my best day is tomorrow.”
Wilander, who took part in a pre-match clinic with amateur players, splits half of his time teaching tennis across the U.S. with his “Wilander On Wheels” experience and the rest serving a tennis commentator for Eurosport including hosting his own “Mats Point” show. The former No. 1 is known for speaking his mind about current players and the pro tour and he didn’t hold back when it came to this week’s ATP World Tour finals in London. Though Wilander had high praise for the current “big four”, he also felt it was disappointing that someone else hasn’t shaken up the recent status quo of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal dominating the biggest events.
“It’s great to have the big four playing right now at this time. They’re unbelievable. Don’t get me wrong, they’re amazing. But sometimes you wonder why (the other players) are running around applauding Federer’s shot when they hit to him. ‘Ah great shot Roger’. Why would you do that? He’s kicking your ass. You should be angry and not just happy you are playing the greatest player of all time.”
Wilander took exception to recent statements from players like Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga that beating the ATP’s top four is nearly impossible despite the fact that they have done so in their careers. But Wilander would like to see that happen more often and from more players as he thinks it would help the sport.
“Are they not human,” Wilander says about the ‘Big Four’ so to get his point across. “We have these great players in every generation. But Sampras lost. Agassi lost. They all lost because the other guys thought that they could win. But you don’t get the feeling that the guys now don’t think they are going to win sometimes. It’s hard to be the best player in the world but its not impossible and the other guys think that it is. I think you can say that the top four that we have right now are the best top four we’ve ever had. And the next 96 out of the top 100, in relative terms, might be the worse we’ve ever had because they don’t beat the best guys and that didn’t use to happen. Obviously they (the big four) are much better and the competition is much harder, but in relative terms its very rare that they upset the big four so it’s worrying I think.”
Juan Martin Del Potro, who has now beaten Federer in their last two meetings, still could improve even more according to Wilander, but he may have more of an edge in making the leap into the ATP’s top four since he has already won a Major.
“Obviously he’s done it to Federer, I mean it’s amazing once you beat a guy in a big final you believe you have that in you. That’s it’s going to happen. So Del Potro I think has the biggest heart and he’s got a big game and loves competing and that’s why he sometimes is doing it and has won a Major.”
The ATP World Tour Finals will be played on a Monday but though that event won’t have to worry about weather and schedule delays due to being played indoors at the 02 Arena, Wilander himself is not a fan of Monday finals or even using roofs at events like Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.
“It makes sense (at Wimbledon) but I don’t think it should be used ever until the semis and the finals. I think we should stay away from Monday finals especially at the U.S. Open because I think its little unfair for the game I think. For the players and the crowd? Maybe. But I think for the sport it should be played on the day when its supposed to be played. Beginning of the tournament? I think they should wait and try and play outdoors when they can. I’m not for it but when it comes down to the end its too important for the sport to be played at the right time.”
Erik Gudris is a freelance tennis writer and frequent contributor to Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on Twitter at @ATNtennis