Who is Mats Wilander?
Mats Wilander is a former World No. 1 tennis player. Born in Sweden, he turned professional in 1980 and during 16 years as a professional won 33 titles - including seven Grand Slam singles titles and one Grand Slam men’s doubles title.
Mats was the youngest player to ever win a Grand Slam when he won the French Open in 1982 (17 years and nine months) and had won four Grand Slam titles by the age of 20 (no one in history has managed to repeat such a feat). Always renowned for his understanding of the game, he is still heavily involved in tennis. Whether it be commentating, playing or coaching, Mats is never far from the court.
What can you learn from an ex-professional tennis player?
Sixteen years as a professional tennis player and winning numerous trophies means Mats has vast amounts of experience and knows exactly what it’s like to be on the court.
Ranging from advanced knowledge of players’ form, the impact tournament conditions will have on performance and insight into the psychological impact of competing in major events, Mats will always give an honest and upfront opinion on what’s going on in the world of tennis.
We had a brief chat with Mats to welcome him to Pinnacle, here’s what he had to say:
Hi Mats, it’s great to have you join Pinnacle as a brand ambassador! Are you ready for the Australian Open?
Hey guys, I’m really excited to be part of the Pinnacle team. I’ve just touched down in Australia and will be watching the last three days of practice for all the players. It can’t wait to see how they’re all looking ahead of the tournament. I’ll be standing on the other side of the fence and can hear guys like Roger Federer discuss their final preparations with the coaches on the practice courts.
So, what do you think are the main factors that could influence the result of a tennis match?
I think head-to-head form is incredibly important when trying to pick the winner of a match. Looking at a player’s form gives you an idea of how they are playing but matching that up to their form against a particular opponent can give you a real advantage.
If a player has a poor record against an opponent (say they’ve won six and lost 14), the most recent matches can be key. If four of their six wins have come in the last five matches then they might have found a way to win against a style they previously struggled against.
How important is preparation ahead of a tournament? What are the signs of good and bad preparation?
People often pay too much attention to technique and fitness when trying to assess how well a player has prepared for a tournament. Instead, shot selection could be the key - someone who is happy to rally and keep the ball in longer is someone that is confident in themselves and their preparation.
The big shots might catch the eye but going for winners early on is often a sign of desperation. If a player hasn’t prepared well for a tournament, they will try to end the rally when they can and hope it wins them the point.
Most people will know court surface is important in tennis, but what’s it like when you’re playing?
It’s not actually as important as it used to be. The change in playing style in the modern era means the impact a court has on performance isn’t so big. You don’t get so many great net players nowadays and that’s when court speed really matters - the majority of players focus on their groundstrokes now and so the height of the bounce is probably the most important thing.
What are the important things to consider when trying to pick the winner of a Grand Slam?
Although the longer format makes a Grand Slam more of a challenge physically, it’s actually easier psychologically for the men. There’s obviously more pressure because it’s a slam but players benefit from more sets to find their rhythm and get into the game.
If the first hour of the match doesn’t go your way in the men’s game, there’s still plenty of time to make up for it - even if you lose the first set you know you’ve got time to recover and win the match.
It’s much harder for the women though. In addition to the added pressure that comes with playing in one of the four biggest events in the tennis calendar, you know that you have to be on your game from the very start - a slow start is hard to turn around in just three sets.