Lendl even has reduced to a simmer the most controversial episode of his career: the ATP's recommended $10,000 fine and indefinite suspension from the union two weeks ago because he pulled out of the World Team Cup in D�sseldorf, an ATP-sanctioned event, to play the Tournament of Champions. "I know nothing about it," Lendl kept saying early last week, meaning he hadn't been formally notified of the ATP's prospective penalties. By the time he had, on Friday, by letter, the press had tired of asking him about the matter. What the dispute came down to was money. If Lendl had skipped Forest Hills, he would have had to forfeit his $288,250 bonus. When that was made clear to him, he had little difficulty deciding in which tournament he would compete.
Lendl's only challenge last week came in the semifinals against Jose-Luis Clerc, who last summer won four straight tournaments on clay, beating Lendl in two of them. But since then Lendl has developed the confidence to hit hard whenever the situation warrants. On Saturday, with a 3-2 lead in the first set, Lendl escaped a break point when Clerc hit a careless backhand wide. Lendl followed with an ace. Boom! Then a wicked forehand winner. Bam! Turnaround and a 4-2 lead. The umpire could have called out: "Game, set, match."
As Clerc, the world's No. 5 player, walked away from a 6-2, 7-5 defeat and a second set in which he had rallied to 5-5, to win only two points the rest of the way, he was asked to describe the Lendl method. He grimaced.
"You close your eyes," said Clerc. "You hit the ball so hard, and you win." It sounded simple. No shuck, no jive, just results—and already more than a million in the bank.