As we all know, athletes—particularly tennis players—just don't say things like that about their fellows, even when asked. These were unsolicited remarks by two of the more pleasant competitors in the game. Remarkably, Wilander, 20, commands even more respect and popularity two years later, now that he has added a couple of Australian Opens on grass and another French Open on clay, has been a contributing member of the ATP board of directors and has demonstrated a wondrous dexterity for mimicking his peers—from their service-return preparations to the way they walk. Never maliciously, of course. "I've played whole tournaments hitting the Vilas forehand," says Wilander. Observers say his Ramesh Krishnan is the hoot of the lot.
Has there ever been a question of all work and no play making Mats a dull boy? Certainly not. On the changeover in a recent doubles match, Wilander handed Fitzgerald a poem about the Aussie's feet that he and Nystrom had composed. It ran six stanzas, all in English verse and unsuitable for a family publication. "Fitzy was laughing so hard he couldn't hit a ball," says his partner, Paul McNamee.
Wilander will dance on a table with a lampshade over his head until 4 a.m. most any time. According to Matt Doyle of the U.S., Wilander's performance at one nocturnal bacchanal in Sydney, coupled with his bleary-eyed annihilation of Johan Kriek the next day, was beyond human understanding. And who can forget Wilander's on-and-off girl friend, the spectacular Anette Olsen, who went from a job in a pizzeria to fashion modeling?
Wilander has taken up the guitar. He travels the circuit with his golf clubs, playing lefthanded to a 12 handicap. Now, if he could only break down and throw away his venerable torn-up jeans, as his mother urges. "The circuit is in these," Wilander says of the denims that he'd worn in grade school in the industrial center of Vaxjo.
Surely the press would vote the Boss Swede accommodator of the year in any garb, so familiar is his good-humored cooperation. As the young Czech sensation, Miloslav Mecir, was in the process of wiping out Nystrom, Wilander and Sundstrom in Hamburg, Wilander confronted the man who would write this story. "Swedish tennis, eh?" he said. "You better hop a train to Bratislava."
The Swedish press gave Borg a wide berth before he moved from Sweden to the Riviera, before the revelations of his commercial interests and marital problems. Then the newsmen wasted Borg, after which he stopped speaking to them in Swedish. Soon he stopped speaking altogether. "It is quite astonishing for two champions, Borg and Wilander, to be so different," says one journalist. "Borg was selfish and greedy, a terrible man. He sold his wedding story to the highest bidder. He's probably sold his divorce as well. He'd sell his mother if possible. This guy, Mats, goes out of his way to help us and be pleasant."
Because Borg was the first to move away from the country's crippling tax structure and to demand a Davis Cup salary, he suffered severe public abuse that hasn't touched the current Swedes, all of whom have done the same thing. However, should they encounter criticism, they're likely to be prepared. Whether they've just won a Grand Slam championship or suffered a first-round defeat, the Swedes heed that old Swedish warning: "Upp som en sol, ner som en pannkaka" (Up like the sun, down like the pancake). Or as Sjogren, the balding, avuncular coach who set out to rule the tennis world by converting this most individual of games into a team sport, says, "Win some, lose some, but always stay the same guy."
Surely, the Swedes have remained true to that credo.