Masters Tennis Tournament : Hlasek Wins Ex-Czech Challenge

Times Staff Writer

Just when it seemed as if Ivan Lendl had truly mastered the Masters, a major multinational upset occurs. The Connecticut resident born in Czechoslovakia loses to the Zurich resident born in Czechoslovakia.

Jakob Hlasek, a 24-year-old blond baseliner whose game seems cast from the mold of, well, Lendl, upset the second-ranked tennis player in the world, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, Thursday night in the Nabisco Masters at Madison Square Garden.

Hlasek’s family moved to Switzerland when he was 2, and he said he is “100% Swiss.”

It was easy to understand Hlasek’s reaction after dispatching Lendl, the defending champion. Hlasek hit a ball into the stands, then applauded himself by clapping one hand on his racket strings.


After all, Hlasek had come back from a lot this year, improving his ranking from No. 23 to No. 8.

He came back from a car crash in January in Switzerland when he skidded on some ice. He broke 3 ribs and a bone in his hand and didn’t play for 4 months.

He came back to win two Grand Prix tournaments and finish second in another in the last 3 weeks.

And after staring down a 2-4 deficit in the third set against Lendl, Hlasek came back again. He broke Lendl at 4-5 and served an ace at match point.


Before Thursday, Hlasek had lost to Lendl on every surface except a sheet of ice. This is the tennis equivalent of hitting for the cycle. He lost to Lendl on grass (Wimbledon ’83); on carpet (Rotterdam ’84, Milan ’86); on clay (French Open ’86), and on a hard court (U. S. Open ’88).

Hlasek, pronounced LASS-ECK, ended Lendl’s 14-match Masters winning streak. Lendl had not lost since January 1985 (the 1984 championship), when John McEnroe beat him in the final.

But then Lendl is getting used to losing and he is not liking it. Lendl dropped 4 exhibition matches in the last 3 weeks since returning from arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

“I still feel I should win every match I play,” Lendl said. “The problem is, I don’t. It’s starting to hack me off, to be honest.”


Stefan Edberg defeated Boris Becker, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, in another match. Both players are 1-1 in the round-robin. Mats Wilander defeated Henri Leconte, 6-2, 6-4, in the late match, and they are also 1-1.

Becker had lost only once on carpet all year, to Yannick Noah in February at Milan, but his usually reliable serve deserted him this time.

Becker shouldn’t have let Edberg recover from 5-3 in the first set after a service break. Becker was serving for the set, but Edberg broke back at 15, winning the game point on a backhand passing shot that hit the top of the net and trickled over.

Becker shouted angrily on the court during his time of misfortune, and Edberg took advantage.


In Becker’s view, he lost the match in the first-set tiebreaker. Becker led, 5-4, but Edberg won the last three points. On set point, Edberg sent a backhand service return down the line.

Edberg broke Becker’s serve at 1-1 in the third set and finished with relative ease.

Tennis Notes

In yet another conflict in the world of men’s tennis, a settlement was reached in a 3-year-old lawsuit brought against the Men’s Tennis Council by ProServ, International Management Corporation and Volvo. The lawsuit had charged the MTC with violating antitrust laws by monopolizing tennis and driving the plaintiffs out of the competition. The MTC countersued, but their claims were dismissed by the federal appeals court in New York. Under the settlement, the player agents and the player management companies will not be involved in the ownership of tournaments but retain the right to sell television and sponsorship rights as well as merchandising. The settlement calls for IMG and ProServ to gradually phase out of ownership and management of tournaments over the next 3 years as their contracts expire. However, Volvo, with broad connections in tennis through ProServ, will continue to own and manage tournaments in Washington, Chicago, Orlando, Fla., and Boston.