Hana Mandlikova, a winner of four Grand Slam singles titles, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994. This spring, during the Miami Open, she was awarded a ring to commemorate that accomplishment. Prior to the ceremony, Mandlikova spoke with ITHF historian-at-large Joel Drucker, reflecting on her three greatest moments in tennis:
ONE: Number One Junior in the World
In 1978, Mandlikova, 16 years old, won the juniors at the Italian Open and French Open and reached the final at Wimbledon, losing a close three-setter to another future Hall of Famer, Tracy Austin. At the end of the year, Mandlikova was ranked the number one junior in the world by the ITF. “That was a first step,” said Mandlikova.
TWO: Grand Slam Number One
Just two years later, Mandlikova tore her way through Melbourne, ousting such veterans 1978 Roland Garros champion Virginia Ruzici and Wendy Turnbull – who’d upset Martina Navratilova in the semis – to win the 1980 Australian Open. “That was my first Grand Slam, so you always remember that,” said Mandlikova. “That’s how you make history, by winning those Grand Slam events.”
THREE: Her Finest Hour
Unquestionably, the finest effort of Mandlikova’s career came when she won the 1985 US Open. Mandlikova had previously lost two US Open finals (’80 and ’82), both to the exceptionally consistent Chris Evert. And after losing the first set of her semi versus Evert, yet another defeat seemed likely. But Mandlikova turned it around and won the next two sets to earn a spot in the finals versus Martina Navratilova. “In the first set everything I touched went in and in 20 minutes I was 5-1 up,” said Mandlikova. But Navratilova rallied to take the set into a tiebreaker – which Mandlikova won. A resolute Navratilova tore her way through the second set, 6-1. In the third, Mandlikova served for it at 5-3, 30-love – only once again to be taken into a tiebreaker. On match point, Mandlikova struck a lunging backhand volley winner. “I was focused on both tiebreakers. . . . People never what to expect from me. I guess my unpredictability was my biggest weapon."
In 1994, Mandlikova's was honored for her remarkable career with induction into the Hall of Fame. At the recent ring ceremony she commented, "I'd like to say thank you to the Hall of Fame for presenting me this ring. Being a Hall of Famer is the greatest honor you can receive and I'm very grateful."