He's halfway to accomplishing what no man has done in 19 years, but Mats Wilander says winning the Grand Slam is "still a dream."
Wilander, showing why many consider him the world's best clay court player, dominated France's Henri Leconte 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 Sunday to capture the French Open for his second Grand Slam title of the year. He won the Australian Open in January.Fellow Swede Bjorn Borg in 1980 was the last man to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam, but the last to win all four tournaments in the same year was Rod Laver in 1969. Next up is Wimbledon starting June 20, followed by the U.S. Open in late August.
"Everybody's always on the way (o the Grand Slam)," Wilander said after winning his third title on the slow red clay of Roland Garros. "But I don't know if anybody will get there . . . It's still possible but it's still a dream."
Also in the running for the Grand Slam this year is Steffi Graf, who won the women's title Saturday by blowing out 17-year-old Natalia Zvereva of the Soviet Union 6-0, 6-0 in the most one-sided final in French Open history. Australia's Margaret Court, in 1970, was the last woman to win the four major tournaments in the same year.
Wilander said winning the French Open enabled him to accomplish one goal.
"What's important to me is that I've won two Grand Slam tournaments in a row," Wilander said. "I've never done that before. Now I have to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open."
The 23-year-old Swede also served notice that he could be ready to challenge Ivan Lendl for the No. 1 ranking. Lendl, who lost to Jonas Svensson in the quarterfinals, has been No. 1 since winning the 1985 U.S. Open.
Wilander was ranked No. 3 coming into Paris, but his victory is expected to push him past countryman Stefan Edberg into the No. 2 spot.
"To me it's always been more important to win the big tournaments," he said. "It's hard for me to concentrate on gaining (omputer) points. It's not my style. I can't say like I feel like I'm No. 1, but I'm one of the top two at least. I feel like I'm really close to Lendl. I've never been this close before."
Leconte said Wilander showed he is the best all-court player in the world but will be tested on the grass of Wimbledon.
"For the moment he's the best player on different surfaces," Leconte said. "Wimbledon is different. We'll see. He has to improve his game on grass. It will be more difficult because there will be serve-and-volley players like John (cEnroe) and Boris (Becker)."
Wilander, who lost in the quarterfinals last year in his best ever showing at Wimbledon, said his chances are better than ever.
"I'm much more confident," he said, but added that, "Wimbledon is much more difficult. To win Wimbledon I will have to have a good draw and play well."
In Sunday's final, Wilander used his counter-punching style to frustrate Leconte in front of 17,500 fans hoping to see him become the first Frenchman since Yannick Noah in 1983 to win the title.
Leconte served for the first set at 5-4, but double-faulted, made two backhand errors and blew a backhand volley to give Wilander the break. The Swede then held serve at love and broke again in the next game, hitting a forehand passing shot into the open court to close out the set.
"The first set was very important," Wilander said. "If he had been able to win it, he would have had the crowd on his side."
Leconte never was in the match the rest of the way. He rushed the net whenever he could, but Wilander was invariably in perfect position to rip a cross-court backhand passing shot.
"This is one of the most important matches in which I didn't make any unforced errors, and my backhand started working," Wilander said. "I passed really well. I think that was the key to the match."
"He was really like a bulldozer," Leconte said. "All the time I was coming to the net he was passing me. I played poorly, but he made me play badly."
Leconte also hurt himself by serving poorly and making numerous unforced errors, mostly on his backhand. In contrast, Wilander connected on 97 percent of his first serves.