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Revisiting Ivan Lendl’s Six Titles at the National Bank Open

by Pete Borkowski

June 29, 2023

The list of National Bank Open champions is full of legendary names: Laver, Borg, McEnroe, Agassi, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic to name a few. But no name appears more than Ivan Lendl.

The Czech powerhouse won six titles in Canada during the 1980s, a record that still stands to this day.

As a new generation begins to take over on the ATP Tour, let’s take a look back at Lendl’s six victories at the National Bank Open.


  • Seeding: 4
  • Final: d. Borg (1) 4-6, 5-4 ret.
  • Seeds beaten: 3
  • Sets Lost: 2
  • Games lost: 48

A stroke of luck was responsible for kicking off the most dominant run in the history of the National Bank Open.

20-year-old Lendl was strong in Toronto in 1980 as he dropped just one set on his way to his first of nine finals in Canada. He seemed to have met his match in the final however when he dropped the opening set against world No. 1 Bjorn Borg.

Borg had beaten Lendl 6-3, 6-1 in the semis in 1979, but a knee injury late in the second set forced the Swedish star to retire, handing Lendl his first win in Canada.


  • Seeding: 4
  • Final: d. Teltscher (6) 6-3, 6-2
  • Seeds beaten: 3
  • Sets Lost: 2
  • Games lost: 34

In 1981, Lendl became the first man to lift the trophy in Montreal as the Canadian Open began its tradition of alternating between two cities.

Read also: Top Five Cinderella Runs in Toronto at the National Bank Open

Despite having to defend his title in a different city, it was a straight-forward run to trophy No. 2 as the draw fell apart around the Czech. He was the only of the Top Four seeds to reach the quarter-finals.

His only real test came in the semis as he rallied from a set down to beat Shlomo Glickstein before beating his lone Top 10 opponent Eliot Teltscher in the final to become the first of five men (along with Andre Agassi, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal) to win Toronto and Montreal in back-to-back years.


  • Seeding: 2
  • Final: d. Jarryd [Q] 6-2, 6-2
  • Seeds beaten: 3
  • Sets Lost: 1
  • Games lost: 22

Vitas Gerulaitis denied Lendl of a three-peat in the 1982 final, beating the Czech in three sets. But Lendl came back with a vengeance a year later, tearing through the draw in his most dominant run in Canada.

Read also: National Bank Open to Offer Equal Prize Money Starting in 2027

In the 11 sets Lendl played that year in Montreal, he lost more than two games just twice. Once was the lone set he lost in a tiebreak in round three against Sandy Mayer (which was sandwiched between sets of 6-0 and 6-1), the other being the second set of a 6-1, 6-3 semifinal beatdown of Jimmy Connors.

Qualifier Anders Jarryd was no match for Lendl in the final as he claimed his third title out of four straight finals.


  • Seeding: 1
  • Final: d. Edberg (2) 6-4, 7-6
  • Seeds beaten: 3
  • Sets Lost: 0
  • Games lost: 34

A shocking opening-round loss to Francisco Gonzalez ended Lendl’s run of finals in 1984, the first time the Czech was the top seed in Canada. He then lost the 1985 final to John McEnroe.

Read also: The Dawn of a New Era on the WTA Tour

He had to wait four years until he got his hands on the trophy again. 1987 was the first time Lendl won the title as the top seed and was also the first time he defeated the No. 2 seed in the final, beating Stefan Edberg in two tight sets.

The victory over another Swede marked Lendl’s first time winning the title without dropping a set.


  • Seeding: 1
  • Final: d. Curren 7-6, 6-2
  • Seeds beaten: 3
  • Sets Lost: 0
  • Games lost: 27

For the second year in a row, Lendl managed to win the title in Canada without dropping a set. He never lost more than eight games in a match, which was what Jimmy Connors and Kevin Curren each managed in the semis and finals respectively.

Read also: Road to the NBO Toronto - Financial Gains for Women’s Tennis

The 1988 title marked his second successful title defence in Canada and his second Toronto-Montreal double.

Connors is one name missing for the champions list in Canada and Lendl is a big reason why. The American lost three times in the semis to his Czech rival, never even winning a set in those matches. 1988 was his third and final crack at Lendl but he was denied again 6-4, 6-4.


  • Seeding: 1
  • Final: d. McEnroe 6-1, 6-3
  • Seeds beaten: 3
  • Sets Lost: 3
  • Games lost: 46

Lendl’s second attempt at a three-peat in Canada was the toughest of all his title runs.

His 22-set winning streak was snapped in the third round by Jimmy Arias and the Czech needed three sets to get through three of his matches, including the quarter-finals against Canadian Grant Connell and future superstar Andre Agassi in the semis.

Read also: Caroline Wozniacki Awarded Wild Card for 2023 National Bank Open Presented by Rogers

Standing between Lendl and a third consecutive title was archrival John McEnroe, who had won their lone previous final in Canada. The 1989 final was their third of an eventual four meetings in Canada. At that time, they had split the previous two.

But despite all their epic clashes of the years, that final ended up being a flop as Lendl blew away his American rival with the loss of just four games, tying it for the most lopsided scoreline in their entire 36-match rivalry.

Lendl would beat McEnroe again in straight sets in the 1992 quarters.

The Czech’s dominance in Canada ended with a thud at the start of the 1990s, as he did not even attempt a four-peat, pulling out of the 1990 event, the first year of what is now known as the Masters 1000 series. He returned in 1991 and stretched his winning streak in Canada to 18 matches before Andrei Chesnokov handed him his first defeat since 1986.

Read also: Road to the NBO Montreal - Green surface, green paper

Lendl reached one more final in Toronto in 1992, losing to Agassi in three sets.

In terms of the Czech’s record six National Bank Open titles standing, Rafael Nadal currently sits one back with five. Novak Djokovic has won four.

The ATP's best return to Toronto this summer for the National Bank Open August 5 to 13 at Sobeys Stadium. Tickets are on sale. Get your tickets today!