Tennis: Lendl's poor end to season

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The Independent Online
THE day after Bjorn Borg announced that he had finally retired from top-level tennis, his old rival Ivan Lendl gave another indication that his time on the ATP Tour could be drawing to a close, writes Rob McLean.

Yesterday in Antwerp, the Czech- born American fell at the first hurdle of a tournament for the 11th time this year when he was beaten by New Zealand's Brett Steven in the European Community Championship. The defeat means that the former world No 1 may drop below 20th in the end-of-the-year rankings for the first time since 1978.

Lendl, seeded eighth and at 33 the oldest player in the draw, was beaten 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 and then decided afterwards that it was his final appearance of the year.

Lendl won the EC tournament a record five times when it was still an exhibition event. He took home a diamond-studded gold racket, valued at dollars 1m ( pounds 690,000), after his first three wins in Antwerp.

Lendl, who has won two tournaments this year, was also given a code violation for racket abuse when he slammed his racket to the ground before snapping it in half after a shot went wide during the final set.

Borg, 37, who won his last Grand Slam title in 1981 when he beat Lendl to win the French Open for the sixth time, will now only play on the seniors circuit.

His last appearance on the tour ended in his 12th defeat since his comeback in 1991 but on this occasion he found some of his old style, holding a match point in a third set tie-break before losing 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 to Alexander Volkov, ranked No 17 in the world, in the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.

The Russian, 11 years Borg's junior, was critical of his own performance, admitting that he had dreaded being drawn against Borg, who is ranked outside the top 1,000.

'It's very hard to play a man whose name has echoed around the world and whose picture my trainer showed me when I was still a small boy,' he said.

Thomas Muster, the Austrian who is ranked No 9 in the world, has been awarded dollars 2.5m for lost earnings and damages stemming from a serious knee injury he suffered in a car accident following his semi-final match in the 1989 Lipton International tournament in Miami. Muster, 26, had sought dollars 20m in damages to cover losses he suffered by missing more than 50 tournaments as well as a decline in endorsements and appearance fees. The Austrian tore knee ligaments when he was injured while shopping by a drunk driver.