Hana’s top Five Wimbledon Moments 

 Hana’s top Five Wimbledon Moments By Tripp and Stephane

“I remember sitting in front of the tv as an eight-years-old when Kodes won Wimbledon. And I said : “ I wish I could one day win Wimbledon” which I never did.

Life is funny. You wish something so much and you don’t do it, but then you compensate with other things which makes you verry happy”

Hana Mandlikova, Interview THOF, March 26, 2022

Hana Mandlikova was predestined to win on the grass of Wimbledon, thanks to her attacking tennis, her speed and her taste for this surface.

And despite two finals played on the AELTC courts, this was not to be.

Nevertheless, she wrote some of the most beautiful pages of her career in the temple of tennis, which we will relive in 5 of the most decisive matches she played on these courts.

1980 4th round lost to Evonne Goolagong 7-6 3-6 1-6

Relive her 1980 Wimbledon here (link)

Hana Mandlikova’s Career Takes a Turning Point at Wimbledon

Wimbledon marked a turning point in Hana Mandlikova‘s career. She lost to the eventual winner, Evonne Goolagong, inexplicably despite having the match in hand. It was then that she realized the importance of being supported and chose to start working with Betty Stove as her coach.

The most crucial meeting of the fourth round took place on the Centre Court and again it involved some testing moments for Goolagong. Standing in her way was the rapidly improving Czech Hana Mandlikova who had been getting big leads all Spring against the top players (Navratilova at Amelia, Evert at the Italian and French Opens and most recently Austin at Eastbourne), failing to close the match out each time. Goolagong broke twice in the first set to lead 2-0 and 4-2. Then from 2-5 down, Mandlikova won three in row and always had the edge in the tiebreaker. She took eight of nine games, breaking in the fourth game of the second set to lead 3-1. At this stage Mandlikova was revealing her talent, hitting a full forehand and serving and volleying crisply. When Hana had 40-15 on her own serve for 4-1, Goolagong’s title aspirations looked slim indeed, but two missed Czech forehands allowed the Australian back into the match. Given a second chance, Evonne won 10 games in a row as Mandlikova suffered a similar collapse to Eastbourne (where she led Austin 6-1 3-0 only to lose 12 of the last 14 games).

1981 Quarter Final d. Wendy Turnbull 6-0 6-0

Relive her 1981 Wimbledon here (link)

Mandlikova, top contender at Wimbledon 

Australian star, Wendy Turnbull, had always proven to be a tough opponent for Hana. In fact, throughout the course of her career, Wendy would win four out of ten matches vs the Czech star, and entered this tournament as the sixth seed. On a brilliantly sunny English afternoon Hana and Wendy met on the old Court One.

This match almost didn’t happen as Hana Mandlikova injured her back on the damp clay courts in Germany. Despite winning the French Open, her injury threatened her Wimbledon campaign. She decided to play the tournament at the last minute..

What promised to be a tough match was anything but difficult. An intelligent player, known as “Rabbit” to her peers for her speed, Wendy could quickly analyze her opponents and exploit their weaknesses. But, on this day, Hana was at her magical best. At one point, Wendy forced Hana into a wide sprint and then produced the most beautiful cross court forehand pass that left the Australian shaking her head. It was one of Hana best ever days on a tennis court winning 6-0, 6-0. The whitewashing was an extremely rare feat for even the greatest of players at this stage of a major tournament. Hana was confident and primed for her semifinal opponent, Martina Navratilova.

1981 Semifinal d. Martina Navratilova 7-5 4-6 6-1

Relive her 1981 Wimbledon here (link)

Hana Mandlikova Defeats Navratilova on Her Home Turf to Establish Herself as a Top Contender at Wimbledon

On the eve of the 1981 edition of Wimbledon, a controversy shook the circuit. The all-powerful AELTC, disregarding the WTA rankings, decided to place Mandlikova in the No. 2 spot, knocking Navratilova and Austin one place down the rankings.

Martina Navratilova protested to the media about this decision. The semi-final between the two-time Wimbledon champion and the woman who had been her ball handler during a tournament in Czechoslovakia 6 years earlier, was therefore going to be a tense affair.

Hana outplayed Martina in a 7-5 first set win. But, Martina showed her championship mettle in winning the second set by 6-4. However, Hana was not to be denied. She swept the former champion aside in the decisive third set, 6-1. On match point, Martina had to desperately lunge at one of her opponent’s booming first serves. Hana thrust her arms skyward as she watched Martina’s return float harmlessly over the baseline. Martina graciously patted Hana on the back as they shook hands at the net. An obviously elated Hana smiled broadly as she left the court.

1986 Semifinal d. Chris Evert Lloyd 7-6 7-5

Relive her 1986 Wimbledon here (link)

Hana : “I find Chris more difficult to play than Martina”

She held Martina and her game in such high regard, but it at least allowed Hana to play to her aggressive strengths. However, Evert was the master of exposing her opponents’ weaknesses. Against her, Hana must force the action and take bold risks. Hana’s two most painful losses at Wimbledon had previously come against Chris in the 1981 final and the 1984 semifinal. Most thought the Floridian would find a way to stop the talented Czech again to set up another battle with Martina for the title. But, Hana would have something to say about that. Early on, Hana sprinted wide and had to be caught by an unsuspecting ball boy. The teenager blushed as Hana gave him a hug and the Center Court crowd laughed. However, Chris Evert-Lloyd‘s start to the match was no laughing matter. She broke Hana’s serve and led 5-3. Hana tenaciously hung on and broke serve eventually forcing a tiebreak. Hana blasted a down the line backhand pass to reach set point and then skipped to her chair following a drop volley winner to clinch the set. Again, Chris stormed out to a convincing lead, 5-2. But, that’s when Hana produced one of the most magical streaks of perfection ever seen on Center Court. She won fourteen consecutive points mostly on winners. The British called this streak Hana’s “purple patch”. The Czech would win 14 of 16 points overall and, though she had to fight off a break point to hold serve and close out the match, 7-5. Being respectful of Chris, Hana contained her joy and put her arm around her old foe. Chris was gracious in defeat in congratulating Hana at the night. She then went into her press conference and said Hana played better and deserved to play Martina on the final. As impressive as it was for Hana to defeat Chris in the 1981 French Open Semifinal and Martina in the Wimbledon Semifinal of the same year, this win over Chris has to go down as one of Hana’s best wins of her career

1986 Final, l. to Martina Navratilova 6-7 3-6 Martina

Relive her 1986 Wimbledon here (link)

Hana Mandlikova’s Valiant Effort Falls Short as Navratilova Triumphs in the 1986 Wimbledon Final

Martina must have entered the 1986 final with some trepidation. After all, Hana had beaten her for the 1985 US Open title, and she had lost to Hana in their only previous Wimbledon meeting. That 1981 match also happened to be her last loss at this tournament. For those reasons, as Hana’s semifinal match with Chris was for redemption, perhaps Martina felt the same way against Hana in the final.

Whereas this Wimbledon had been warm and dry throughout, it rained the morning of the final. For a natural surface such as grass, this changed the conditions of the court making the footing slippery and the balls heavier. This was the last thing Hana would’ve wanted especially against Martina. The problems with footing was evident from the start as both players slipped during the course of play. On break point in the second game against Martina’s serve, Hana was wrong footed and slipped as she doubled backed for a miraculous cross court backhand winner. Playing with a break Hana played with the lead. But in her next service game she slipped and fell to the ground while serving. Still, she was able to build a 5-2 first set lead. However, ever the champion, that’s when Martina raised the level of her game. She was able to break Hana’s serve to save the set. Martina wouldn’t miss another first serve until near the end of the second set. Martina grabbed the first set in a tiebreak, and built a 3-1 lead in the second. Hana gamely fought on and eventually earned a break point in the Martina’s last service game. Unfortunately, Martina served an ace and the closed out the match, 6-3. Martina had won her seventh Wimbledon title, and her fifth straight. Hana was warmly received by the crowd for her entertaining efforts and congratulated by the Duchess of Kent. But the only major title she had not won continued to elude her.

Out of these 5 matches, Hana had some other significant moments at Wimbledon… Her 1978 junior final against Tracy Austin brought her name to the All England Club for the first time: although she lost this close final (6-0 3-6 6-4) against a much more established player, Tracy had already been playing on the circuit for a year and a half, Hana was noticed… For her first appearance in the main draw in 1979, Hana reached the last 16, eliminating her compatriot Regina Marsikova, n. 13. She met legend Billie Jean King on the Centre Court, which she played on for the first time, and despite her defeat in 2 sets, the general public discovered her elegant, aerial attacking game… Although she missed out on her first final in 1981 against Chris Evert, paralyzed by the stakes, this match was the culmination of a fantastic series: Hana reached her fourth consecutive Grand Slam final, and won 2 of them (Australian Open, French Open). This lost final is therefore full of promise for the future, and marks the beginning of her collaboration with Betty Stove in the most brilliant way possible.