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"If he did not do all those things correctly he would stay out there until he did," Lendl says fiercely. "There can be no loopholes. He must know that when he receives a command from me, he has to do it."
In the eighth year of Lendl's life, a breeze blew across his country. Bold books and newspaper articles were published. Economic reform and personal freedom were on the lips of politicians, street sweepers and cabdrivers. Entertainers muzzled for years by the Communist party gave free performances to the giddy applause of the people.
On the eastern border, the Soviet Union became uneasy. Didn't the Czechs know there were no loopholes? In the summer of 1968, the Czech government was ordered to control its writers and artists, to reconsider its reforms.
The timer was set now, the seconds ticking. The directives sat on the table, growing cold. Should the Czechs assert themselves and be punished or appease the Soviets and give in?
The reformers kept pushing, the breeze blew stronger. During the blackness of early morning on Aug. 21, like cockroaches moving on a dark kitchen, 275,000 Warsaw Pact troops and thousands of tanks crawled across Czechoslovakia. They ringed the houses of the Czech leaders. "You have to do what we command," they said.
Riding a train home from his grandparents' house that day, Ivan saw the tanks. He looked to his mother's face to understand how to feel. Very few feelings were ever written there. He rode home in silent confusion.
Last fall, Ivan Lendl became the dominant player in tennis. By the end of 1986, his ninth year on the circuit, he will exceed $9 million in prize money and probably replace John McEnroe as the greatest moneymaker in the history of men's tennis. He owned the 15,000-square-foot house in Greenwich, Conn., a nearby 45-acre lot, where he would soon build a new estate, a $4.5 million estate and a condominium in Florida, an apartment in Manhattan, two Mercedes and a Porsche. He seemed to have such complete control of his life that he needed one way to risk it, to test its submission, to remind himself how good that control truly felt. Down thrust his right foot, pinning the accelerator to the rug while his eyes flitted from the red needle to the road to the twitches of the person next to him. He has been stopped by police for traveling 130 mph on a 55 mph road.
"Slow down," his passengers beg. "Please."
"What's the matter?" he says with an impish grin. "I only go 120—the car has 40 more miles per hour to go." Chuckle. "Don't worry. I have it under control."
One day two years ago, a squirrel scampered across a country road near Greenwich, a golden retriever dashed after it and a platinum Porsche skidded on the wet leaves. Lendl hadn't expected that. The car smashed into a tree—totaled—and Lendl's head was hurled into the steering wheel. He staggered away with a deep gash on his chin, so shaken he called his agent three times and repeated what had happened.