Have racket, will travel.
That is former ATP Tour No. 1 Mats Wilander’s life for about three months a year. Wilander, 47, and tennis partner Cameron Lickle, a former Naval Academy player, travel the United States and Canada in a Winnebago, stopping for clinics.
After a stop in Cincinnati, Wilander on Wheels made a one-day visit to Woodstock Club on Tuesday, giving three 11/2-hour clinics. Club members paid $300 and non-members $350 for the clinic and dinner with Wilander.
The visits give the Sweden native a chance to show a side of himself he didn’t when he was all business during his playing days in 1980s and ’90s.
“You’re very selfish when you’re a pro. You have to be,” Wilander said. “You’re playing sports; you’re trying to be a winner. But now you have a chance to show really who you are.”
Stuart Buttrick, a 37-year-old Carmel resident who played tennis at DePauw, described that opportunity to rub tennis elbows as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Mats was my idol as a kid,” he said. “I’ve been looking forward to this since last year when Mats was kind enough to agree to come out here. I’m pooped but I learned lots of stuff and am the better player for it.
“You’d never know Mats is a seven-time Grand Slam (singles) winner, he’s as personable as your next-door neighbor.”
Wilander came up with the concept after taking part in several fantasy camps at resort locations.
“It’s expensive for people with hotels and air fares, and I don’t want to be in a hotel more than I have to,” he said. “I’ve done it my whole life and I still do it when I’m commentating (on TV). (The clinic participants) have an experience (playing) someone they remember watching, someone they may have liked or didn’t like.”
Wilander still plays in a limited number of senior events.
“So for me, this (teaching) is a great way to stay in shape,” Wilander said. “Occasionally we’ll play some exhibitions and I’ll play the best 18-year-old they have at their club. It’s fun.”
Wilander won the final U.S. Open Clay Court title in Indianapolis in 1987. He returned once to Indianapolis on hardcourts, losing in the third round in 1994.
Wilander will take a break from the clinics to head to the Olympics on Friday, where he will work as a journalist for several media outlets. Wilander is never afraid to speak his mind. He said Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the three best of their era, but “I wouldn’t say they’re the three best of all time,” Wilander said.
Wilander said it is hard to top his era for depth among top players.
“The ’80s were a special time in tennis, there were a lot of great champions, (John) McEnroe, (Jimmy) Connors, (Bjorn) Borg, (Ivan) Lendl, (Boris) Becker, (Stefan) Edberg,” he said. “We all won five or more majors. All of us thought we were going to win it every time.”R Soft Web Hosting