Wilander won 33 singles titles and seven doubles titles during his career. He was also a driving force behind Sweden's run of seven consecutive Davis Cup finals in the 1980s.
In 2002, Wilander was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Born in Växjö, Sweden, Wilander first came to the tennis world's attention when he won the French Open junior title, the European under-16 and under-18 championships, and the Orange Bowl under-16 event in Miami.
Wilander made his debut on the professional tour at the clay court tournament in Båstad, Sweden in 1980. In September 1981, he lost his only career match against Björn Borg, losing in the first round of the tournament in Geneva 6–1, 6–1.
Wilander surprised the tennis world at the French Open in 1982. As an unseeded player, he upset second seeded Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, fifth seeded Vitas Gerulaitis in the quarterfinals, fourth seeded Jose Luis Clerc in the semifinals, and third seeded Guillermo Vilas in the final 1–6, 7–6, 6–0, 6–4 in 4 hours and 42 minutes. He was the youngest-ever male Grand Slam singles champion at 17 years, 9 months. (This record has since been broken by Boris Becker and Michael Chang.) Wilander then lost in the fourth round at both Wimbledon (to Brian Teacher) and the U.S. Open (to Lendl). Wilander won three additional tournaments in 1982 and finished the year ranked seventh in the world. During that year, Wilander was also the winner of the Svenska Dagbladet Gold Medal.
Wilander returned to the French Open final in 1983, where he lost to Yannick Noah after defeating John McEnroe in a quarterfinal. He lost in the third round at Wimbledon to Roscoe Tanner and in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open to Lendl. Wilander won his second Grand Slam title later that year at the Australian Open, played on grass at Kooyong, where he defeated McEnroe in a semifinal and Lendl in the final. He won nine other tournaments in 1983, including his first hard court title (Cincinnati), and finished the year ranked fourth in the world.
Wilander retained his Australian Open title in 1984, beating Stefan Edberg in the quarterfinals and Kevin Curren in the final. He lost in the semifinals of the French Open to Lendl, the second round at Wimbledon to Pat Cash, and the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open to Cash. He won three tournaments in 1984 and again finished the year ranked fourth in the world.
In 1985, Wilander won the French Open for the second time, beating Lendl in the final, and again reached the Australian Open final, where he lost to Edberg. However, he lost in the first round at Wimbledon to Slobodan Zivojinovic and the semifinals of the U.S. Open to McEnroe. He won three tournaments in 1985 and finished the year ranked third in the world.
Wilander rose to the World No. 2 ranking, behind Lendl, on April 28, 1986. He then lost in the third round of the French Open to Andrei Chesnokov, the fourth round of Wimbledon to Cash, and the fourth round of the U.S. Open to Miloslav Mečíř. His consistency at other tournaments, however, allowed him to again finish the year ranked third in the world. Wilander partnered with countryman Joakim Nyström to win the men's doubles title at Wimbledon in 1986.
Wilander was defeated by Lendl in the final of both the French Open and the U.S. Open in 1987. Cash again proved to be Wilander's nemesis at Wimbledon, winning their quarterfinal match in straight sets. Wilander won five tournaments in 1987 and finished the year ranked third in the world for the third consecutive year.
1988 was the pinnacle of Wilander's career. In January, he won his third Australian Open singles title, this time on Melbourne Park's hardcourts, defeating Edberg in a five-set semifinal and home town favourite Cash in a five-set final. In doing so, he became the only player to win the Australian Open on both grass (twice) and hardcourt. Wilander faced another home crowd favourite, Henri Leconte, in the final of the French Open. Wilander won in straight sets, missing one first serve the entire match. At Wimbledon, Wilander reached the quarterfinals where he lost to Mečíř. At the U.S. Open, he reached his third Grand Slam final of the year. In a repeat match-up of the previous year's final, he defeated Lendl in five sets (in close to 5 hours) and ended Lendl's three-year reign at the top of the world rankings. This was Wilander's seventh Grand Slam singles title and resulted in his receiving the World No. 1 ATP ranking, having won three of the year's Grand Slams, two Mercedes Super 9 titles (Key Biscane and Cincinnati), and one other title (Palermo). He held the No. 1 ranking for a total of 20 weeks until Lendl reclaimed it at the end of January 1989.
His 1988 title at Cincinnati was his fourth there, making him one of only three players since 1899 to win four titles in Cincinnati. The other two are fellow International Hall of Famers Bobby Riggs (who won in 1936, 1937, 1938, and 1940) and George Lott (who won in 1924, 1925, 1927, and 1932).
Wilander's motivation, results, and ranking suffered in 1989. He lost in the second round of the Australian Open to Ramesh Krishnan, the quarterfinals of the French Open to Andrei Chesnokov, the quarterfinals of Wimbledon to John McEnroe (7–6, 3–6, 6–3, 6–4), and the second round of the U.S. Open to Pete Sampras (5–7, 6–3, 1–6, 6–1, 6–4). He did not win a tournament during 1989 and he finished the year ranked twelfth in the ATP ranking.
Wilander briefly moved back into the top 10 rankings on February 12, 1990, but by the end of the year, his ranking had slumped to 41st. He defeated Boris Becker in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, only to lose to Stefan Edberg in straight sets in the semifinals. He skipped the French Open and Wimbledon and lost in the first round of the U.S. Open to Brad Gilbert.
Wilander played only the first half of 1991. He lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open and the second round of the French Open. He finished the year ranked 159th in the world.
Wilander was absent from the tour in 1992. He played seven tournaments in 1993, losing in the first round of five of them. At the U.S. Open, he lost in the third round to Cédric Pioline. He finished the year ranked 330th in the world.
Except for Wimbledon, Wilander played a full schedule in 1994. He lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open to Malivai Washington, the first round of the French Open to Andre Agassi (6–2, 7–5, 6–1), and the first round of the U.S. Open to Guy Forget. His only victory over a top ten player was in the second round of the tournament in Indianapolis against Todd Martin. He finished the year ranked 129th in the world.
Wilander's results improved slightly in 1995 as he finished the year ranked 46th in the world. After losing in the first round of the Australian Open to Jacco Eltingh, he lost in the second round of the French Open to eighth ranked Wayne Ferreira 6–7(5), 7–6(1), 6–3, 6–7(4), 8–6. He then lost in the third round of Wimbledon to Eltingh and the second round of the U.S. Open to Martin. In other tournaments, he had wins against tenth ranked Marc Rosset, eight ranked Ferreira, and sixth ranked Yevgeny Kafelnikov. He also won his final tour match against Edberg, in the second round of the Canadian Open in Montreal.
In 1996, Wilander played only one Grand Slam tournament, losing in the second round of the French Open to Martin. He retired from the tour after losing his final match to Martin Damm in Beijing in October.
During most of his career, Wilander used the Rossignol F-200 tennis racquet, an early graphite model.
He reached his first final with Sweden in 1983, which they lost 3–2 to Australia (despite Wilander winning both his singles rubbers in the final). In 1984, Sweden (with Wilander) won the cup, beating the United States 4–1 in the final. Sweden retained the cup in 1985, with a 3–2 final victory over West Germany. Wilander helped Sweden reach the final again in 1986 but declined to play in the final because he was getting married (Sweden lost 3–2 to Australia). Wilander played in his fourth final in 1987, where Sweden beat India 5–0. Two more finals followed in 1988 and 1989, but Sweden lost both to West Germany. Wilander last played in Davis Cup in the 1995 semifinals, where he lost to Andre Agassi 7–6(5), 6–2, 6–2 and Pete Sampras 2–6, 7–6(4), 6–3.
Wilander compiled a 36–16 record in singles and a 7–2 record in doubles in the Davis Cup for Sweden. However, Wilander's most memorable Davis Cup match came in defeat. In a July 1982 quarterfinal tie against the United States on carpet in St. Louis, Wilander was defeated in the deciding fifth rubber by John McEnroe 9–7, 6–2, 15-17, 3–6, 8–6. At 6 hours and 32 minutes, it remains the longest match in Davis Cup history.
Wilander now spends much of this time living in Hailey, Idaho (part of the Sun Valley ski resort) with his wife Sonja (née Mulholland), a South African-born model. He competes from time-to-time on the senior tour. Since retiring as a player, he has served as captain of the Swedish Davis Cup team and as coach of the Russian player Marat Safin. He also occasionally spends time commentating tennis matches on Eurosport.
Wilander has four children named Emma, Karl, Erik, and Oscar. His son Erik suffers from a comparatively mild form of Epidermolysis Bullosa, and Wilander and his wife have worked to raise funds for research into cures for the disease.
Wilander created a minor controversy during the 2006 French Open when he criticized several top players, including Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters, as lacking the competitive edge to beat their toughest rivals. After Federer's 1–6, 6–1, 6–4, 7–6 loss to Nadal in the final, Wilander said that "Federer, today, unfortunately came out with no balls...you don't find too many champions in any sport in the world without heart or balls. He might have them, but against Nadal they shrink to a very small size and it's not once, it's every time.
In the aftermath of these comments, fans coined the neologism "Wilanders" as a humorous synonym for "balls," denoting a competitive spirit and tenacity to win.
|Year||Championship||Surface||Opponent in Final||Score in Final|
|1982||French Open||Clay||Guillermo Vilas||1–6, 7–6, 6–0, 6–4|
|1983||Australian Open||Grass||Ivan Lendl||6–1, 6–4, 6–4|
|1984||Australian Open (2nd)||Grass||Kevin Curren||6–7, 6–4, 7–6, 6–2|
|1985||French Open (2nd)||Clay||Ivan Lendl||3–6, 6–4, 6–2, 6–2|
|1988||Australian Open (3rd)||Hard||Pat Cash||6–3, 6–7, 3–6, 6–1, 8–6|
|1988||French Open (3rd)||Clay||Henri Leconte||7–5, 6–2, 6–1|
|1988||U.S. Open||Hard||Ivan Lendl||6–4, 4–6, 6–3, 5–7, 6–4|
|Year||Championship||Surface||Opponent in Final||Score in Final|
|1983||French Open||Clay||Yannick Noah||6–2, 7–5, 7–6|
|1985||Australian Open||Grass||Stefan Edberg||6–4, 6–3, 6–3|
|1987||French Open (2nd)||Clay||Ivan Lendl||7–5, 6–2, 3–6, 7–6|
|1987||U.S. Open||Hard||Ivan Lendl||6–7, 6–0, 7–6, 6–4|
|No.||Date||Tournament||Surface||Opponent in the final||Score|
|1.||6 June, 1982||French Open, Paris, France||Clay||Guillermo Vilas||1–6, 7–6, 6–0, 6–4|
|2.||18 July, 1982||Båstad, Sweden||Clay||Henrik Sundström||6–4, 6–4|
|3.||26 September, 1982||Geneva, Switzerland||Clay||Tomáš Šmíd||7–5, 4–6, 6–4|
|4.||10 October, 1982||Barcelona, Spain||Clay||Guillermo Vilas||6–3, 6–4, 6–3|
|5.||28 March, 1983||Monte Carlo, Monaco||Clay||Mel Purcell||6–1, 6–2, 6–3|
|6.||10 April, 1983||Lisbon, Portugal||Clay||Yannick Noah||2–6, 7–6, 6–4|
|7.||11 April, 1983||Aix-en-Provence, France||Clay||Sergio Casal||6–3, 6–2|
|8.||18 July, 1983||Båstad, Sweden||Clay||Anders Järryd||6–1, 6–2|
|9.||21 August, 1983||Cincinnati, U.S.||Hard||John McEnroe||6–4, 6–4|
|10.||25 September, 1983||Geneva, Switzerland||Clay||Henrik Sundström||3–6, 6–1, 6–3|
|11.||9 October, 1983||Barcelona, Spain||Clay||Guillermo Vilas||6–0, 6–3, 6–1|
|12.||6 November, 1983||Stockholm, Sweden||Hard (I)||Tomáš Šmíd||6–1, 7–5|
|13.||19 October, 1983||Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia||Grass||Ivan Lendl||6–1, 6–4, 6–4|
|14.||26 August, 1984||Cincinnati, USA||Hard||Anders Järryd||7–6, 6–3|
|15.||7 October, 1984||Barcelona, Spain||Clay||Joakim Nyström||7–6, 6–4, 6–2|
|16.||9 December, 1984||Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia||Grass||Kevin Curren||6–7, 6–4, 7–6, 6–2|
|17.||9 June, 1985||French Open, Paris, France||Clay||Ivan Lendl||3–6, 6–4, 6–2, 6–2|
|18.||14 July, 1985||Boston, USA||Clay||Martin Jaite||6–2, 6–4|
|19.||21 July 1985||Båstad, Sweden||Clay||Stefan Edberg||6–1, 6–0|
|20.||23 March, 1986||Brussels, Belgium||Carpet (I)||Broderick Dyke||6–2, 6–3|
|21.||24 August, 1986||Cincinnati, USA||Hard||Jimmy Connors||6–4, 6–1|
|22.||29 March, 1987||Brussels, Belgium||Carpet (I)||John McEnroe||6–3 6–4|
|23.||26 April, 1987||Monte Carlo, Monaco||Clay||Jimmy Arias||4–6, 7–5, 6–1, 6–3|
|24.||17 May, 1987||Rome, Italy||Clay||Martin Jaite||6–3, 6–4, 6–4|
|25.||12 July, 1987||Boston, USA||Clay||Kent Carlsson||7–6, 6–1|
|26.||19 July, 1987||Indianapolis, USA||Clay||Kent Carlsson||7–5, 6–3|
|27.||24 January, 1988||Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia||Hard||Pat Cash||6–3, 6–7, 3–6, 6–1, 8–6|
|28.||27 March, 1988||Key Biscayne, USA||Hard||Jimmy Connors||6–4, 4–6, 6–4, 6–4|
|29.||5 June, 1988||French Open, Paris, France||Clay||Henri Leconte||7–5, 6–2, 6–1|
|30.||21 August, 1988||Cincinnati, USA||Hard||Stefan Edberg||3–6, 7–6, 7–6|
|31.||11 September, 1988||U.S. Open, New York, USA||Hard||Ivan Lendl||6–4, 4–6, 6–3, 5–7, 6–4|
|32.||6 March, 1988||Palermo, Italy||Clay||Kent Carlsson||6–1, 3–6, 6–4|
|33.||11 November, 1990||Itaparica, Brazil||Hard||Marcelo Filippini||6–1, 6–2|
|Tournament||1980||1981||1982||1983||1984||1985||1986||1987||1988||1989||1990||1991||1992||1993||1994||1995||1996||Career SR||Career Win-Loss|
|Australian Open||A||1R||A||W||W||F||NH||A||W||2R||SF||4R||A||A||4R||1R||A||3 / 10||36-7|
|French Open||A||A||W||F||SF||W||3R||F||W||QF||A||2R||A||A||1R||2R||2R||3 / 12||47-9|
|Wimbledon||A||3R||4R||3R||2R||1R||4R||QF||QF||QF||A||A||A||A||A||3R||A||0 / 10||25-10|
|U.S. Open||A||A||4R||QF||QF||SF||4R||F||W||2R||1R||A||A||3R||1R||2R||A||1 / 12||36-11|
|Grand Slam Win-Loss||0–0||2–2||13-2||18-3||16-3||17-3||8–3||16-3||25-1||10-4||5–2||4–2||0–0||2–1||3–3||4–4||1–1||N/A||144-37|
|Grand Slam SR||0 / 0||0 / 2||1 / 3||1 / 4||1 / 4||1 / 4||0 / 3||0 / 3||3 / 4||0 / 4||0 / 2||0 / 2||0 / 0||0 / 1||0 / 3||0 / 4||0 / 1||7 / 44||N/A|
NH = tournament not held
A = did not participate in the tournament
SR = the ratio of the number of Grand Slam singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played
|Indian Wells Masters||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||SF||A||A||1R||A||A||A||2R||2R||1R||0 / 5|
|Miami Masters||A||A||A||A||A||4R||F||QF||W||3R||A||A||A||A||1R||QF||1R||1 / 8|
|Monte Carlo Masters||A||A||A||W||F||F||SF||W||2R||SF||A||2R||A||A||A||A||A||2 / 8|
|Rome Masters||A||A||SF||A||2R||SF||SF||W||3R||3R||A||1R||A||A||A||1R||A||1 / 9|
|Canada Masters||A||A||3R||2R||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||SF||A||0 / 3|
|Cincinnati Masters||A||A||A||W||W||F||W||3R||W||SF||2R||A||A||A||1R||1R||A||4 / 10|
|Paris Masters||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||1R||1R||A||A||A||A||A||A||0 / 2|
|Tennis Masters Cup||A||A||1R||SF||SF||SF||SF||F||RR||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||0 / 7|
|SR||0 / 0||0 / 0||0 / 3||2 / 4||1 / 4||0 / 5||1 / 5||2 / 6||2 / 5||0 / 5||0 / 3||0 / 2||0 / 0||0 / 0||0 / 3||0 / 5||0 / 2||8 / 52|
A = did not participate in the tournament
SR = the ratio of the number of Masters Series singles tournaments won to the number of those tournaments played