Class of 1994
World No. 3 (1984)
Grand Slam Results
5-time major champion, 7-time finalist
Overall Record: 859-312
Singles Record: 565-194
Doubles Record: 294-118
Member of the Czech Fed Cup Team from 1978-1987
Member of the Czech Championship Fed Cup Team 1983-1985
When you capture your first major title at age 17, win four major singles titles in a career that didn’t last past a 28th birthday, snap the winning streaks of three of the greatest players to carry a racquet and rise to No. 3 in the world, choosing one-defining moment that capsulized Hana Mandlíková’s legacy is a daunting endeavor.
In the 1980s, Tracy Austin, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, Pam Shriver, and Martina Navratilova were the most recognizable names on the women’s tour, and although eminently successful with four major singles championships, Mandlíková wasn’t a household name. The compilation of her achievements, however, would make the vast majority of female players envious. Mandlíková is one of just 13 players in the Open Era to reach the finals of all the majors, and since 1968 is one of only six women to have won a major singles title on hard courts, clay, and grass. Those who join the exceedingly graceful Czech are Evert, Graf, Navratilova, Maria Sharapova, and Serena Williams. Statistics don’t lie, Mandlíková belongs in conversation with all the recognizable names and those who didn’t achieve a tenth of what the Czech star did.
Mandlíková was often stoic on court, but she’d display a fist pump and a scream if she’d won an especially big point, which she did an awful lot in her career. She was labeled by the tennis media, in particular the esteemed Bud Collins, as a “streak breaker.” Collins, who did television commentary on many Mandlíková matches, often referred to her ending Evert’s 72 match streak on clay at the 1981 French Open, Navratilova’s 54 match streak in an Oakland, California tournament and a 56 match streak at the 1987 Australian Open, and Steffi Graf’s more modest 23 match streak at the 1986 French.
Mandlíková ranked in the World Top 10 seven times between 1980 and 1987, reaching No. 3 in 1984 and 1985 behind only Navratilova and Evert, players she defeated to win three of her four major singles titles. She was a finalist in four additional majors. The 5-foot-8 Mandlíková moved around the court with grace and speed and tremendous anticipation. Her vertical and horizontal movements on court were effortless; she didn’t waste a lot of energy in a match. She constantly counter attacked, defensive tennis wasn’t in her repertoire and her mobility made her serve and volley game particularly hard to handle. Mandlíková could hit an approach shot from anywhere on the court and was efficiently at the net before her opponent could form a proper strategic return. Her groundstrokes were smooth, polished and purposeful. She could unleash a forehand winner either crosscourt or down the line with equal aptitude. Her one-handed backhand produced stinging results. She’d whip through it for power or had the wherewithal to hit slices or topspin lobs for winners.
Mandlíková’s arsenal of weapons was considerable, as Evert quickly learned at the 1980 US Open singles final, needing three sets and her collective experience to win 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. At the 1980 Australian Open, Australian Wendy Turnbull played against 17-year-old Mandlíková, a tenacious competitor and was thumped in the final, 0-6, 5-7. At the 1981 French Open, the No. 4 seed Mandlíková sailed through the first four rounds and quarterfinals losing just one set. She knocked off No. 1 seed Evert, 7-5, 6-4 (breaking Evert’s 72 match streak), in the semifinals and found German Sylvia Hanika an easy foe in the finals, 6-2, 6-4. Throughout the next six years, Mandlíková, Evert, and Navratilova took turns defeating one another in major finals. Evert’s patience and unyielding groundstrokes were responsible for defeating Mandlíková in the 1982 US Open final, in straight sets. Mandlíková squared off against Navratilova in her next three major finals, and her performance at the 1985 US Open went a long way toward sealing her enshrinement in Newport. She became the first player to defeat both Evert and Navratilova in the same tournament since Tracy Austin pulled off that rare feat at the Toyota Championships in 1981. Mandlíková knocked off the No. 1 seed Evert in the semifinals (4-6, 6-2, 6-3) and battled No. 2 seed Navratilova in three fierce sets, using a pair of gut-wrenching tiebreakers to claim the championship, 7-6, 1-6, 7-6. The Czech ratcheted up her game in the tiebreakers, going for broke on her shots and hitting clutch winners.
“Beating two champions in one tournament is a treat,” Mandlíková said. “I won the Australian (1980) and the French (1981), but beating Chris and Martina at the US Open makes this more exciting.” Navratilova said, “Give Hana credit. She has matured as a person and that was how she was able to put together back-to-back matches like this.”
In the next two major finals between the two, Navratilova claimed the Wimbledon Ladies Singles Championship in 1986 (7-6, 6-3), but Mandlíková claimed her second Australian Open in 1987, ousting Navratilova in another tight-rope match, 7-5, 7-6. The pair played four tiebreakers in major finals, and in Mandlíková’s victories, she played superbly, winning 7-3, 7-2 at the US Open and 7-1 at the Australian. She played in three women’s doubles major finals (1984 French Open, 1986 Wimbledon and US Open) and finally earned her first title, appropriately with fellow Czech Navratilova, at the 1989 US Open, defeating Mary Joe Fernandez and Shriver, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
In Federation Cup competition she represented Czechoslovakia (1978-1987), winning three consecutive championships in 1983-85, and compiling an impressive 34-6 singles record and a 15-6 doubles mark. From 1984 to 1988, Mandlíková was snake-bitten with injuries that she constantly had to overcome. They ranged from a cracked pinky on her racquet hand, to severely spraining her ankle during an exhibition match prior to the 1986 US Open, to pulling a hamstring during the 1987 European clay court season. She retired from professional tennis in 1990, citing hamstring and back injuries, but also burnout, from her strenuous years playing professional tennis.
In retirement, she coached Jana Novotna for nine years, helping her win the 1998 Wimbledon Ladies Singles Championship and earn a No. 2 world ranking.
Her enshrinement into the International Tennis Hall of Fame meant something to her. “When I grew up, I wanted to know about all the great players of the past – Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Billie Jean King.” Mandlíková said.
Australian Open: W 1980, 1987
French Open: W 1981
Wimbledon: F 1981, 1986
US Open: W 1985
Australian Open: QF 1987
French Open: F 1984
Wimbledon: F 1986
US Open: W 1989