Invesco Series: Mats Wilander, More Men’s Stars, Come to Charleston
For the first time in some 20 years, seven-time Grand Slam winner Mats Wilander is playing tennis each and every day. And he couldn’t be loving it more.
“I’m getting a little older, so I wanted to start to cut down on the travel a little bit,” Wilander, 54, said in an interview. “So now I have something to do at home. I’m trying to help people to improve their tennis. I love it.”
“Home” since 2000 has been Hailey, Idaho, near the popular tourist destination of Sun Valley. Last November, Wilander joined forces with a friend to open Gravity Fitness & Tennis, a three-court indoor facility with an attached gym.
The gym’s teaching pro? Wilander himself.
“I’ve never taught tennis at my own club before, so I’m hitting a lot of balls! That’s why I said ‘Yes,’ actually,” Wilander explained. “The reward to me in teaching amateurs is usually they say something when they leave the court like, ‘I can’t believe you told me that! No one has ever told me that before!’ That reward is better in a way than hitting a great shot yourself in some big situation. It’s completely different from having 2,000 people cheering for you.”
Wilander will have plenty of people cheering when he plays for the first time in front of a Lowcountry crowd on Saturday night, as part of the Invesco Series QQQ men’s legends night.
Joining Wilander are fellow Grand Slam winners Jim Courier, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt. Each player in competition on Saturday night is a former
World No. 1 tennis player. Two one-set semifinal matches will be played, with the winners facing off in a one-set final, as well.
“It’s a clash of styles and a clash of generations,” Wilander said of the foursome, which spans 18 years between Wilander and Roddick, who is 36. “Because it’s a one-set match, you can get a bit lucky. I haven’t ever broken Andy’s serve [laughs], but there is a better chance earlier in the match versus later. It’s the great leveler, this shorter-match format. I love playing against the younger guys. The outdoor clay will play into my hands.”
It’s Wilander and Courier who have five French Open titles between them on the slower clay. Roddick and Hewitt? Zero.
Wilander has one piece of advice for all you fans set to watch the “old guys” play Saturday night – and stars of the WTA throughout the week – watch their feet.
“Pay attention to our footwork,” the teaching pro advised. “More than ball-striking, pay attention to how hard and how rhythmic our footwork is. We’re so sound with our feet. Technically, they’re what sets us up for every shot. Preparation for shot and recovery after each shot depends on good footwork. Hitting the ball in is just a bonus rewarded by proper foot movement. There is no luck involved there.”
And unless you’re planning a trip to Idaho this summer for some tennis training, the luckiest you’ll get to seeing Wilander up close on a court is Saturday night in Charleston.