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Benhur
03-23-2008, 02:05 PM
This is probably the best section of these forums. I am impressed by the level of historical erudition shown by some of you. In comparison, the board on match results is mostly full of histrionics and wild trolling.

Now that I seldom play the game I am getting back into tennis from an analytical perspective, and I think I would like to deepen my knowledge of Lendl's career, since I followed it fairly closely until the late 80s, but unfortunately there don't seem to be any books about that.

Yesterday I watched the 85 USO final and I will make a few comments about that. I wonder if there are some statistics on that match, especially in comparison with the 84 final, mainly to see whether the difference was due to a better Lendl or a worse McEnroe (to the extent this could be inferred from statistics).

The CBS commentators, Trabert and Newcombe, did not provide very helpful analysis. They were rather lame and full of cliches. The first 7 games of the first set it looked for all the world like it was going to be easy work for McEnroe. He was outplaying Lendl in every department. Mac broke him at 15 on the second game of the match, and Lendl lost 4 straight games at love on Mac's serve.

Serving at 2-5 in the first set, Lendl faced a set point. It looked extremely dismal for him.

Sometimes you can zoom in on history and pinpoint a specific moment (not just a month or a tournament or a match, but a specific point in a match, where history turns a corner. This was it. Already down a break, but unable to react until then, it's as if this set point he was facing woke Lendl up and put him in a different zone. Facing set point and already down a break, Lendl misses the first serve. Mac comes in on Lendl's second serve and Lendl hits a clean forehand passing shot crosscourt. Deuce. In the next point, after a short rally Lendl comes in on a short ball to his forehand, approaching down the line, and hits a winning crosscourt forehand volley. In the next point, Lendl comes to net again after a few exchanges and Mac misses a lob. 5-3 McEnroe.

By the next game, Lendl was a different person returning serve. McEnroe, now serving for the set, had not lost a point on serve yet. Lendl moved a few feet back to return serve and started blasting every return, with Mac unable to handle the pace and missing every volley. Lendl breaks at love. 5-4.

From then on, Lendl never looked back. In the tiebreak he outrallied, outvolleyed and passed Mac every time, to win it 7-1.

The match moved fairly quickly after that. Lendl stayed in his special zone and kept hitting passing shots out of McEnroe's reach at key moments. He also came to the net on his serve many times and was very solid on the volley. The most clear aspect of the dominance were the few rallies they had. Practically every single baseline rally ended with an overwhelmed McEnroe unable to handle Lendl's pace and placement.

Amazingly, in the third set, when Newcombe asked Trabert what he thought McEnroe should change to try and turn things around, Trabert answered that he should try to rally a little bit more!!!. I thought that may have been a joke. Rally??. He has hardly won a rally all day long! I thought. But no, Trabert said it very seriously. What incredible nonsense these guys say sometimes!!

Still, if there are any stats somewhere comparing these two finals (84/85) to try and extract some conclusions as to what changed most. I think on the one hand Mac may have been a bit tired (he had a tough semifinal with Wilander that went 5 sets), but then again, in 84, he had an even longer semifinal match with Connors the day before, if I recall correctly, so am not sure.

Benhur
03-23-2008, 02:21 PM
Serving at 2-5 in the first set, Lendl faced a set point. It looked extremely dismal for him.

Sometimes you can zoom in on history and pinpoint a specific moment (not just a month or a tournament or a match, but a specific point in a match, where history turns a corner. This was it. Already down a break, but unable to react until then, it's as if this set point he was facing woke Lendl up and put him in a different zone. Facing set point and already down a break, Lendl misses the first serve. Mac comes in on Lendl's second serve and Lendl hits a clean forehand passing shot crosscourt. Deuce.

I should have added: standing there to receive that second serve, enjoying a set point, McEnroe does not know yet, and will not know for many years, that this very instant is the highest point of his career, and that he will never win another major, nor ever be number one again. His time was over, and it was over right at that second.

big ted
03-23-2008, 09:32 PM
u are right i remember watching the 84 usopen final with mcenroe dominating lendl and then waving the no1 sign with his finger to the cbs camera, who would have thought that would be his last gs tourny win. he seemed to be just starting a reign over tennis. and in 85 usopen i dont think macwas playing his best tennis i think he almost lost to shlomo glickstein in 5th set tiebreaker in the 1st round, which back then was almost UNHEARD OF for a top seed to lose in the first round unlike today. in lendls book he said in the final he was down 2-5 but he wasnt discouraged becuz he said he felt he was hitting the ball well and he was only down 1 break, so.. he said one of the main reasons he started beating mcenroe was he improved his return of serve that mcenroe hits wide in the deuce court that always used to give him trouble, and also a angled short crosscourt chip backhand he put in his repetoire

also if u compare the years 84 to 85, lendl is much fitter and quicker and looks more alert than the year before, i think he said he lost about 15 lbs of fat with the haas diet, and is striking the ball very hard , u can see some utube videos of each final for those years

msunderland71
03-24-2008, 02:12 AM
Interesting how a top international athlete could be carrying 15 lb of fat - or 8.5% of his total weight of 175 lb. But he definitely looked thinner by 86/87.


u are right i remember watching the 84 usopen final with mcenroe dominating lendl and then waving the no1 sign with his finger to the cbs camera, who would have thought that would be his last gs tourny win. he seemed to be just starting a reign over tennis. and in 85 usopen i dont think macwas playing his best tennis i think he almost lost to shlomo glickstein in 5th set tiebreaker in the 1st round, which back then was almost UNHEARD OF for a top seed to lose in the first round unlike today. in lendls book he said in the final he was down 2-5 but he wasnt discouraged becuz he said he felt he was hitting the ball well and he was only down 1 break, so.. he said one of the main reasons he started beating mcenroe was he improved his return of serve that mcenroe hits wide in the deuce court that always used to give him trouble, and also a angled short crosscourt chip backhand he put in his repetoire

also if u compare the years 84 to 85, lendl is much fitter and quicker and looks more alert than the year before, i think he said he lost about 15 lbs of fat with the haas diet, and is striking the ball very hard , u can see some utube videos of each final for those years

SgtJohn
03-24-2008, 02:15 AM
Nice point, I like this concept of turning point in a career.

Many distressed fans already fear that Federer's 2008 could be a re-make of Mac's 1985...So, was this game when Roger served for the first set at the AO such a turning point?
I know that only the future will give the answer, just wondered what you thought...

Jonathan

AndrewD
03-24-2008, 03:41 AM
Amazingly, in the third set, when Newcombe asked Trabert what he thought McEnroe should change to try and turn things around, Trabert answered that he should try to rally a little bit more!!!. I thought that may have been a joke. Rally??. He has hardly won a rally all day long! I thought. But no, Trabert said it very seriously. What incredible nonsense these guys say sometimes!!

Not nonsense at all and the fact it came from Trabert should be indication enough. What he meant was that McEnroe hadn't been trying to engage Lendl in any rallies (having a rally is vastly different to engaging someone in one). Instead, in his very predictable efforts to get to net, McEnroe was picking the wrong shot to approach on and not putting enough stick on the ball when he did come to net. As a result he couldn't force Lendl into any kind of error. You don't stick with a losing game so you do anything that might take your opponent out of his groove.

Colpo
03-24-2008, 09:47 AM
Lendl was terrific in that match. His play against Mac was a return to his earlier domination of Mac in 1982, a domination that had receded somewhat beginning in mid-1983 after Mac's rejuventating racquet switch. For all intents, Lendl didn't become the peak Lendl of the late 1980s until the '85 Open, given that Mac blew the '84 French more than anything.

Benhur
03-24-2008, 11:21 AM
Not nonsense at all and the fact it came from Trabert should be indication enough. What he meant was that McEnroe hadn't been trying to engage Lendl in any rallies (having a rally is vastly different to engaging someone in one). Instead, in his very predictable efforts to get to net, McEnroe was picking the wrong shot to approach on and not putting enough stick on the ball when he did come to net. As a result he couldn't force Lendl into any kind of error. You don't stick with a losing game so you do anything that might take your opponent out of his groove.

Or: sometimes the choice is between sticking to a losing game or changing to a faster-losing one. McEnroe was losing virtually every exchange they had from the backcourt, either hitting long or being overpowered by Lendl's pace. No wonder he was not interested in waiting too long for a chance to hit the "right shot", especially when such hypothetical chance kept quickly dwindling to zero during every exchage, after only four or five shots. (Though I confess I don't quite understand your distinction between rallying and engaging your opponent in a rally)

AndrewD
03-24-2008, 02:51 PM
(Though I confess I don't quite understand your distinction between rallying and engaging your opponent in a rally)

If you engage your opponent in a rally (same as if YOU engage them in anything) you're the one in control of the point (it's up to them to wrest control of you). You've made the decision to rally, not had had it forced on you so you can plan the way you want the point to unfold (again, up to your opponent to disrupt the plan). If you're just in a rally and there's no design on your part then either you've allowed your opponent to dictate the issue (it's their choice to rally: the onus is on you to find a way out of it and break the tempo - enter the moon ball approach) or you're being incredibly passive and not trying to do anything with the point except, perhaps, wait for your opponent to take the initiative.

Benhur
03-24-2008, 05:50 PM
If you engage your opponent in a rally (same as if YOU engage them in anything) you're the one in control of the point (it's up to them to wrest control of you). You've made the decision to rally, not had had it forced on you so you can plan the way you want the point to unfold (again, up to your opponent to disrupt the plan). If you're just in a rally and there's no design on your part then either you've allowed your opponent to dictate the issue (it's their choice to rally: the onus is on you to find a way out of it and break the tempo - enter the moon ball approach) or you're being incredibly passive and not trying to do anything with the point except, perhaps, wait for your opponent to take the initiative.

I see what you are trying to say, but as usual the gap is between theory and execution. So there is a wide gap between wanting to get control of the point, and actually gaining that control, by executing the right shot -- especially if your opponent is trying to achieve the same thing. McEnroe hit a good number of balls long in those rallies - didn't execute. And when he didn't hit them long, he most often lost control of the rally fairly quickly anyway. Simply making the "decision to rally," will not in itself allow you to get control of the point, though it would be extremely nice if it did. I think all I have said is just a long-winded version of "easier said than done," but that's what it boils down to when it comes to bridging the gap between a theory and its execution, or between what you know you need to do and what you are actually able to do.

big ted
03-24-2008, 11:14 PM
i dont remember the match well but i think trabert was just saying, "well macs not winning coming to net, he should do something different and stay back/rally more..."

AndrewD
03-25-2008, 12:09 AM
I think all I have said is just a long-winded version of "easier said than done," .

And all Trabert did was give the 'short-winded' version of 'he's got to do something different'.

Moose Malloy
03-25-2008, 12:11 PM
I believe krosero has stats on both the '84 & '85 USO, I think there wasn't much of a difference in Mac's serve %. Can't seem to find what thread he posted this info into.

I think Mac was pretty worn out by his 5 setter the day before vs Wilander(it was played under brutal conditions, around 100 degrees) it was certainly a factor in this match. He needs to be really hitting his spots well to beat Lendl.

Lendl had the shorter turnaround, but his semi was played at night (ending at 11 pm, with the final at 4 pm the next day)

He beat an injured Connors rather easily in that semi(Connors sprained his ankle in practice earlier that day - just watched this match recently. What a fighter, many wouldn't even play, or retire when they realized they had no chance to win. There are so many stories that are forgotten behind the scores that are fascinating to me. Didn't need to know about this match to respect Connors, but it still made me shake my head when I saw that it happened)

krosero
03-25-2008, 03:35 PM
Yes, last year I took down some stats from CBS, to compare these matches.

Each paragraph below starts with the 1985 stats.

At 4-all in the third, each man was serving at 57%. If you compare that to their service percentages after two sets in the 1984 final, there was no difference for McEnroe. However, Lendl was down 9 points as compared to 1984. (And he stayed there; the Harvard Crimson reports that he served at 57% for the whole match in 1985).

Lendl made 4 aces and 4 doubles, McEnroe 1 double. In 1984, Lendl made 3 aces and 1 double, McEnroe 8 aces and 6 doubles.

In the first 7 games of the second set, Lendl won 6 of 7 net approaches, McEnroe only 7 of 21. Compare that to the first 21 games of the 1984 final, in which Lendl won 14 of 23 and McEnroe 31 of 46. Lendl apparently approached no more frequently in 1985 (as far as we can tell from 7 games), but his winning percentage was much better. McEnroe approached far more in 1985 (again, at least in that second set), and his winning percentage was not only lower, but far below where it should be.

After 15 games, Lendl had hit 17 winners, McEnroe 9. Compare that with the first 22 games of the 1984 final, in which Lendl hit 20 and McEnroe 26. Lendl had a better rate in 1985, but McEnroe’s rate was way down.

Per the Harvard Crimson, Lendl had 42 winners, 18 unforced errors, and 4 double-faults for the whole 1985 match.

Whether these winners – including the ones by CBS – include service is uncertain. The only way to know for sure what a stat in the print media or television coverage includes is to count the winners yourself. I've done that in a few U.S. Open matches covered by CBS earlier in the 80s, but none in which CBS gave a count of winners. I do know that NBC was already including aces in their winner totals in 1984. CBS gave a series of midmatch totals for Lendl's winners in a 1988 USO semifinal against Agassi, and included none of his 9 aces and numerous service winners; the network counted exactly as many non-service winners as I did for both men. Yet in the final that year, my counts fall well short of the midmatch CBS counts unless I count Lendl’s 9 aces (and Wilander’s 2).

Might be nice to have confirmed counts of the winners in these two finals, though I don't have plans to do that right now. My guess, just looking at the winners given by CBS, is that they're not high enough to include service.

Moose Malloy
03-25-2008, 04:35 PM
Kevin, do you know what thread you put this in before? was searching through the threads you started, just wondered where I saw your posts on these matches before.

krosero
03-25-2008, 04:55 PM
Kevin, do you know what thread you put this in before? was searching through the threads you started, just wondered where I saw your posts on these matches before.Drawing a total blank on where that was. But I don't think it was a thread I started. I just offered some of my notes, the same ones that are here.

heathcliff
07-07-2008, 11:13 AM
does anyone know how long this match lasted?