Of all the decade’s Davis Cup finals, Sweden featured in seven, contesting every title clash between 1983 and 1989, and lifting the trophy on three occasions.
Bookended by victories for European nations at the forefront of history, the 1980s produced memorable ties featuring household names and fresh-faced stars of the future.
In the first final of the decade in 1980, Czechoslovakia took on Italy in Prague with the home nation securing a 4-1 win over the Italians, consigning them to a second consecutive runners-up spot.
That final featured a young Ivan Lendl, just 20 years old and two years into his professional career. Lendl’s first singles match of the final was against Corrado Barazzutti, who would later become Italy’s longest-serving Davis Cup captain with a 20-year stint at the helm.
On that occasion, Lendl fought back from a set down to take the match, with Barazzutti the only Italian to score a victory in that tie, beating Tomas Smid in three sets.
This was Czechoslovakia’s only Davis Cup title. The Czech Republic split from Slovakia in 1993, with the Czechs lifting the trophy as an independent nation the following decade in 2012 and 2013.
That 1980 Czech win formed a break in a run of titles for the USA. The Americans had been crowned Davis Cup champions in 1978 and 1979 and returned to form in 1981 and 1982 with victories over Argentina in Cincinnati and then away to France in Grenoble.
A certain John McEnroe, with three US Open and one Wimbledon titles already under his belt, played a crucial role in both ties. He won all three of his matches against the Argentines and then again a year later against the French, including a five-set battle against Yannick Noah and a much swifter victory over Henri Leconte.
That win against France sealed the USA’s 28th Davis Cup victory, cementing their place at the top of the leaderboard as the nation with the most titles.
Then Sweden muscled in on the decade. Having reached the quarter-finals of the competition the two previous years, in 1983, under the leadership of captain Hans Olsson, the Swedes launched a sustained assault on the title that would bring them to the final on seven consecutive occasions.
That year, a young Mats Wilander was just one year on from having become the then youngest Grand Slam singles champion with victory at Roland-Garros at just 17 years and nine months. He took to the court against Australia in Melbourne to take on another future legend of the sport, Pat Cash, who was playing in his first Davis Cup. Despite Wilander’s victory over Cash and then John Fitzgerald, it was the Australians who were crowned champions on that occasion.
The following year, Sweden hosted the USA in Gothenberg. In a treat for fans, the line-up included McEnroe and multiple Grand Slam winner Jimmy Connors, but the two greats were not enough to prevent the Swedes, including a young Stefan Edberg in his debut Davis Cup year, from taking their first title since 1975.
In 1985, following wins over Chile, India and Australia, the Swedes were away to West Germany in Munich. The Germans hadn’t made the final since being runners-up to the USA in 1970.
It was a hard-fought final – Wilander took the first match for Sweden against Michael Westphal. However, in his first singles match Edberg was unable to stop the onslaught from a young Boris Becker, just 18 years old and fresh from his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon – the youngest ever winner there.
With Sweden winning the doubles and then victory for an unstoppable Becker over Wilander, it came down to the fifth and final match: Edberg against Westphal. Despite losing the first set, Edberg fought back to take the match in four sets and secure a second successive Davis Cup victory for Sweden.
The team faced an equally tough final the following year when they travelled to Melbourne to face Australia. Just as they had in 1983, the Aussies prevailed, adding a 25th Davis Cup title to their impressive list.
1987 was notable not only for another Swedish victory, but also as being only the third occasion in which their opponents in the final, India, had featured. Despite an impressive semi-final win over Australia, the Indians were unable to take a single match from the Swedes, remaining the only team in the competition other than Romania to have contested more than one final without being crowned champion.
They say revenge is best served cold and Germany waited three years to repay Sweden for that 1985 defeat. And they repaid it not once but twice, in 1988 and 1989. On each occasion, it was Becker who was the powerhouse of the team, helping the Germans to close out the decade in fitting style; on the eve of reunification, it was the last time West Germany would feature in the Davis Cup..