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View Full Version : Just how quick was Vitas Gerulaitis?


Frankc
02-29-2012, 06:24 PM
Just realized how I never saw Vitas play, in person. I could have, but never caught him when I was spectating and he was on court. I have heard that quickness was his weapon. For those who had the pleasure, how quick was he - Borg quick, Nastase quick?
Thanks - I did enjoy his tennis...

Rabbit
02-29-2012, 07:15 PM
Yes, he was as quick as either. A great match to watch, and TW sells it, is his semifinal in 1977 against Borg at Wimbledon. It is amazing.

Limpinhitter
02-29-2012, 07:55 PM
Not that quick!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=vLRx2TACIKA&NR=1

jrepac
02-29-2012, 09:53 PM
he was very fast; I really enjoyed watching his game....nice stuff..very unique

borg number one
02-29-2012, 10:19 PM
Extremely quick and fast. He had great footwork and very "happy feet". Borg, Connors, and Gerulaitis had amazing footwork. He was also known to have great fitness. He would fall short so often though against the likes of the "big three". He was tough on all surfaces too. He and Borg would have very tough workouts, and Borg says that they helped each other a lot with those intense practices.

Doug_Hartley_2012
03-01-2012, 01:22 AM
Vitas was very quick. Great court coverage and it was a serious weapon. Roy Emerson was also famous for his speed on court as well as his fitness training. Rosewall also, seemingly always in the right place and well balanced to hit the next shot. A young Lleyton Hewitt also springs to mind. These guys were the greyhounds of the tennis court.

struggle
03-01-2012, 02:51 AM
saw him in 84/5 or so in an exo vs. borg. greensboro, nc.

still quick.

hoosierbr
03-01-2012, 03:44 AM
Faster than a speeding bullet. Plus, given that Vitas was perhaps more famous for his partying (it was the 70's) the fact that he could still get up in the morning and play some great tennis is even more impressive!

He partied at Studio 54, snorted a little coke, dated models and won a Grand Slam. The man is my hero.

Oh and he should be in the Hall of Fame (as all the great players of that era have said).

Paul Murphy
03-01-2012, 03:49 AM
Extremely fast. Sometimes I was amazed at some of the balls he got to.
Also had the uncanny knack of doing something with a lot of them.

kiki
03-01-2012, 04:02 AM
Faster than a speeding bullet. Plus, given that Vitas was perhaps more famous for his partying (it was the 70's) the fact that he could still get up in the morning and play some great tennis is even more impressive!

He partied at Studio 54, snorted a little coke, dated models and won a Grand Slam. The man is my hero.

Oh and he should be in the Hall of Fame (as all the great players of that era have said).

..he is mine, too:)

Vitas had a big big thing and it was the he was the only american player able to adapt well and play as well on fast grass and on slow clay courts, as a matter of fact, a big portion of his sucess came on the european slow clay, wher ehe was able to beat a Lendl or a VIlas ( which Connors,Mc Enroe and Tanner were never able to do)

That ability to play well and over 5 sets on any kind of court was something not many players had.

Now, how quick? .Easy, before you could spell his name, he´d have gotten to the ball and put it into play ( or volley it down)

Frankc
03-01-2012, 04:47 AM
Yes, never saw him in person, but the videos certainly tell a tale. Last evening, I marveled how he used his speed to "cat & mouse" with Connors' power at the French.

I remember something in print somewhere that seems so interesting to me. Photographers caught on to Vitas as his powers declined. One photographer used find delight & joy in catching those acrobatic volley shots of Vitas that we all have seen. Well, the photographer would always set up his camera for a certain spot expecting a Vitas volleying position there after the serve. This worked for years (many wonderful shots were enjoyed) and then the camera setting was a hair off here and there - then with more time, Vitas was not getting to that spot exactly enough. That was when the photorapher went to the author of the piece and very sadly related the decline of Vitas' great art & gifts...

hoodjem
03-01-2012, 06:51 AM
Not that quick!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=vLRx2TACIKA&NR=1Lendl liked to do that to intimidate net-rushers. He did not even try to pass Vitas--just went straight at him.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-8lPjgW2YY&feature=related

Limpinhitter
03-01-2012, 07:07 AM
Vitas was very quick. Great court coverage and it was a serious weapon. Roy Emerson was also famous for his speed on court as well as his fitness training. Rosewall also, seemingly always in the right place and well balanced to hit the next shot. A young Lleyton Hewitt also springs to mind. These guys were the greyhounds of the tennis court.

Rosewall was ridiculous. He didn't seem to move that fast, but, he would run down one impossible ball after another and, at the last moment, do the impossible with it.

dParis
03-01-2012, 07:25 AM
Vitas had a big big thing...
Yeah, that's what Chrissy said...

robow7
03-01-2012, 08:30 AM
I often heard Vitas say his game plan was to get into the net on EVERY point. He was coming in after his first serve, his second serve, or chip and charge on his opponent's serve if the surface would allow it. Anything resembling a short ball and he was coming, and he was resigned to the fact that you would have to pass him 50 points a match to beat him. Of course that's what Borg could do. Saw him live a few times and he was both a fan and player's favorite. One of the best TV commentators in my opinion. Really enjoyed him when he was doing the US Open, sad that he passed so early.

Frankc
03-01-2012, 08:48 AM
Yes,agreed, the US Open years and Vitas' commentary are just so, so special. For all the right reasons - great commentator, fresh, personable, and ,oh, the memories...

GS
03-01-2012, 09:07 AM
I'll always remember when Vitas was commentating a match years ago---after the hot-headed loser (Goran?) lost and smashed his racquet after 2 or 3 smacks, he said, "Well, they make racquets good these days, but not THAT good."

pc1
03-01-2012, 01:21 PM
The 1977 Wimbledon semi between Borg and Gerulaitis was one of the great matches of all time. Two lightning fast players hitting great shots and running down everything. I prefer this match to the more famous 1980 Wimbledon Final between Borg and McEnroe. The 1980 match had some one sided sets and I don't think the quality of play was quite as good throughout.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lkemwpd6TmU&feature=related

Yes I thought Gerulaitis was extremely fast.

kiki
03-01-2012, 02:36 PM
Lendl liked to do that to intimidate net-rushers. He did not even try to pass Vitas--just went straight at him.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-8lPjgW2YY&feature=related

When asked when did he learn to do that, he said from the old aussies...he may be right, I´ve seen that many times in aussie´s doubles (Emmo and Stolle were particularly adept at)

kiki
03-01-2012, 02:38 PM
Yeah, that's what Chrissy said...

I didn´know about it, but now it makes sense..and it explains why Connors, the former Evert boyfriend would be friends with John LLoyd and Vitas Gerulaitis...

kiki
03-01-2012, 02:41 PM
I often heard Vitas say his game plan was to get into the net on EVERY point. He was coming in after his first serve, his second serve, or chip and charge on his opponent's serve if the surface would allow it. Anything resembling a short ball and he was coming, and he was resigned to the fact that you would have to pass him 50 points a match to beat him. Of course that's what Borg could do. Saw him live a few times and he was both a fan and player's favorite. One of the best TV commentators in my opinion. Really enjoyed him when he was doing the US Open, sad that he passed so early.

Yeah, he was amrvelous at the net, so nimble, great reflexes, sound touch and technique...but he was able ( after so much practising with Borg ) to keep at the baseline and trade shots with Lendl or Vilas.The only US player to produce consistent clay court results ( along Connors ) for may years on slow clay.

How such a fast player did so well on that slow court , he probably learned a lot trading 5 hours a day with Borg...

kiki
03-01-2012, 02:43 PM
I'll always remember when Vitas was commentating a match years ago---after the hot-headed loser (Goran?) lost and smashed his racquet after 2 or 3 smacks, he said, "Well, they make racquets good these days, but not THAT good."

He and long time coach Fred Stolle were probably the funniest doubles team of that time.I wish they had played Nastase and Tiriac, the other super funny team of the 70´s...

robow7
03-01-2012, 03:58 PM
Lendl liked to do that to intimidate net-rushers. He did not even try to pass Vitas--just went straight at him.

So after a match when he had knocked McEnroe down the umpteenth time, when Lendl was asked as to whether that was the gentleman thing to do, Lendl said something like, "Hey, I didn't invite him into the net"

Tshooter
03-01-2012, 05:10 PM
I saw him in person.

I remember after he lost to Solomon at the 77 USO he complained to the press about Solomon's style of play. About Solomon's "moonballing." It was funny at the time because it was the same complaint every kid would make after losing to a "pusher." And here was a top pro complaining just like a kid.

Yes, he was fast. He had to be. His backhand stunk. He would, like a lot of 70s OHB, slice it a lot and he wasn't that good if he had to pass you with it. His serve, especially his second serve, was awful. And I remember him double-faulting key points (and occasionally match points.)

I met him a few times as a kid. He was a very nice, cool guy.

Ronaldo
03-01-2012, 05:41 PM
I saw him in person.

I remember after he lost to Solomon at the 77 USO he complained to the press about Solomon's style of play. About Solomon's "moonballing." It was funny at the time because it was the same complaint every kid would make after losing to a "pusher." And here was a top pro complaining just like a kid.

Yes, he was fast. He had to be. His backhand stunk. He would, like a lot of 70s OHB, slice it a lot and he wasn't that good if he had to pass you with it. His serve, especially his second serve, was awful. And I remember him double-faulting key points (and occasionally match points.)

I met him a few times as a kid. He was a very nice, cool guy.

Seemed to always change his serve. And never got better serving.

Frankc
03-01-2012, 05:51 PM
If I remember right, Fred Stolle commented on trying to help Vitas with his second serve technique...

kiki
03-02-2012, 01:30 AM
Correct.Stolle was developing Vitas second serve, but he never really got a good serve ( the first one could be well placed but that´s it, second stunk).

ahuimanu
03-02-2012, 01:54 AM
Saw Vitas playing team tennis back in the mid-late 70's. Blessed with exceptional speed in the 15-20 yard sprints. Like an earlier posted noted, Vitas had to be quick, his strokes off the ground were fairly defensive, neutral at best.

Great athlete, one of the best of that era and very nice person...thanks for remembering Vitas :) !

Tshooter
03-02-2012, 03:57 AM
He actually had a very good forehand. And a net game that most top pros today would be glad to have.

heathcliff
03-02-2012, 08:12 AM
The 1977 Wimbledon semi between Borg and Gerulaitis was one of the great matches of all time. Two lightning fast players hitting great shots and running down everything. I prefer this match to the more famous 1980 Wimbledon Final between Borg and McEnroe. The 1980 match had some one sided sets and I don't think the quality of play was quite as good throughout.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lkemwpd6TmU&feature=related

Yes I thought Gerulaitis was extremely fast.

you´re damn right

jaggy
03-02-2012, 02:10 PM
So Chrissy liked him because he was fast?

Frankc
03-02-2012, 04:12 PM
Just finished the 1980 semi at the French against Connors - 5 beautiful sets on the clay. Yes, his first serve was very effective in the fifth ( at 4-3, 0-30, 2 first serves bailed him out) and , as others posted on his fitness, he looked extremely fresh. In comparison, to my eyes, Connors seemed to be laboring in comparison.

Ronaldo
03-02-2012, 04:21 PM
Just finished the 1976 semi at the French against Connors - 5 beautiful sets on the clay. Yes, his first serve was very effective in the fifth ( at 4-3, 0-30, 2 first serves bailed him out) and , as others posted on his fitness, he looked extremely fresh. In comparison, to my eyes, Connors seemed to be laboring in comparison.

May be the Cokes, eh?

Moose Malloy
03-02-2012, 04:33 PM
remember something in print somewhere that seems so interesting to me. Photographers caught on to Vitas as his powers declined. One photographer used find delight & joy in catching those acrobatic volley shots of Vitas that we all have seen. Well, the photographer would always set up his camera for a certain spot expecting a Vitas volleying position there after the serve. This worked for years (many wonderful shots were enjoyed) and then the camera setting was a hair off here and there - then with more time, Vitas was not getting to that spot exactly enough. That was when the photorapher went to the author of the piece and very sadly related the decline of Vitas' great art & gifts...

Mary Carillo told that story during TC's profile on Vitas that aired last year.

here is a nice excerpt from Tignor's book on the '81 USO on the Lendl-Vitas match, one of his last big wins

Up to that point, the most notable moment of Lendl’s Open had come in his third-round win over Mark Vines on the Grandstand. During that match, a nearby trash compactor had exploded—these were the gritty days of NYC and Flushing Meadows—and ash and cinders had been sprayed into the arena. Lendl, ignoring the chair umpire, had wasted no time packing his bags and stalking off court—to, naturally, cries of “Choke artist!” from the beery Big Apple crowd.

Now, two days later, Lendl walked into that same Grandstand, which was filled beyond capacity for his fourth-round match with Gerulaitis. Talk had already begun about a possible semifinal match-up between McEnroe and the young Czech. Lendl had won their quarterfinal at the French Open, and many believed he would do it again here. But Gerulaitis was inspired. For the first time that he could remember, his hometown crowd was on his side.

“I kept thinking, ‘the boy is back,’” Gerulaitis said after the match. “It was the first time they were behind me. Maybe it’s because I’m ranked about 2,000 now.”

The twitchy Gerulaitis and the stone-faced Lendl couldn’t have made for a starker contrast. Over the years, Gerulaitis had become a ball of tics on court. Before every serve, he dipped his head, shook his blond locks, and peeked back over his right shoulder. “He looked like a rooster checking the henhouse for interlopers,” sportswriter Michael Mewshaw said. At this point in his career, Lendl emphasized intimidation. He wore dark clothes when he could, and his facial expression never changed even as he leveled one of his Howitzer forehands straight at an opponent’s head. While Gerulaitis used little bunny steps to sneak up to net and angle off volleys, Lendl pounded the baseline with heavy-footed strides. The difference could be heard even in the sound of their shots. Gerulaitis’s left his strings with a light ping; Lendl’s with a resounding thud.

Their match was a see-saw marathon. By the middle of it, Gerulaitis was so worked up that he fired a ball at a lineswoman, only to hit a spectator in the leg. He repeatedly harangued the umpire to “give someone else your seat, it’s the best in the house.” After losing the fourth set, 6-3, he walked to the sideline and saw his coach, Fred Stolle, stand up and lean out from the crowd. “He told me to stop bleeping around,” Gerulaitis said later. He settled down and the two players began the fifth set.

“Vitas was always a tough opponent for me,” Lendl says. “He was quick and he rushed straight up the middle of the court, so it was hard to find an angle to pass him.” That’s how most of the points in the fifth set developed, with Gerulaitis chipping and coming forward and Lendl replying with a rifled passing shot. The two remained knotted at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3.

From the vantage point of 30 years, tennis seemed to be moving in two directions in this set. Gerulaitis, a student of the great Aussies of the 50s and 60s, was going back in time, to the serve-and-volley, chip-and-charge Big Game of previous decades. Lendl the power-hitting baseliner was taking the sport forward all the way to the present day. A few months later, the two would face each other again, in the final of the 1982 Masters at Madison Square Garden. Gerulaitis, his 1981 slump well behind him, came in on a high. The same was true for the ever-improving Lendl. Gerulaitis got the better of their duel for two sets and seemed to have victory well in hand. But the tide began to turn when he was up a break and 2-0 in the third. In that game, Gerulaitis took a return of serve and rushed the net behind it. An angry Lendl took out his frustrations by drilling a forehand right into Gerulaitis’s forehead. Vitas was floored, literally, even if he wasn’t too worried for his health: “I have nothing in my head to really damage anyway,” he joked afterward. But the momentum had shifted, and Lendl would come all the way back to win. Symbolically, tennis had changed as well. In the future, the rifle-shot forehand would rule, and players would come to net at their peril.

At 3-3, 30-30 in the fifth set at the 1981 Open, Gerulaitis made the same move he would later make at the Masters. He took Lendl’s serve and followed it in. Lendl also did the same thing, slapping a forehand right at Gerulaitis. This time, though, the future was denied. Rather than taking it on the forehead, Gerulaitis deftly ducked to his left and knocked off a volley winner. “I decided at the beginning of the day that he was going to have to hit 2,000 passing shots,” he said. “He made 1,999 of them.”

Gerulaitis went on to break serve and, to the roars of the crowd, serve for the match. He walked to the back of the court and saw a familiar face. Patrick McEnroe was a 15-year-old ball boy working his older brother’s friend’s match. Gerulaitis looked at him and said, “Give me a good one, Lenny,” using Patrick's childhood nickname. He took the ball that McEnroe tossed him and won that point. A minute later he reached match point.
The two players rallied. Gerulaitis thought about coming to the net but stayed back instead. He didn’t want to give Lendl another crack at a passing shot—or a shot at his forehead. The safe play worked. A Lendl backhand caught the tape and fell backward. Gerulaitis lifted his arms and exulted. Tears came to his eyes as he put his hands to his lips and blew kisses to his 6,000 new supporters. “I love you, I love you,” he cried. The slump was over. Vitas had made it on Broadway at last.
Gerulaitis was last glimpsed on his day triumph running from reporters in the parking lot. “The boy is back!” he called out from the driver’s seat of his yellow Rolls-Royce.



http://blogs.tennis.com/thewrap/2011/08/making-it-on-broadway.html

Don't Let It Bounce
03-02-2012, 08:09 PM
So Chrissy liked him because he was fast?Naw, Chrissy liked him because he was male. The rest of the female half of the tennis world, and of the New York social scene, liked him – loved him – because he was a mobile one-man party and a world-class charmer.

And fast, too. I've sometimes thought that we'd still be speaking in whispered tones of how fast Gerulaitis and Kriek were, if only they hadn't had the misfortune of playing at the same time as Borg. And if VG wasn't as fast as Borg, he might still have been as quick, or even quicker.

So after a match when he had knocked McEnroe down the umpteenth time, when Lendl was asked as to whether that was the gentleman thing to do, Lendl said something like, "Hey, I didn't invite him into the net"A classic line. Remember that early 80's U.S. Open when a bunch of players were knocking net-rushers down? (It was a dark time for our dying breed, like the dinosaurs' first few days after the asteroid hit.) American Chip Hooper floored a guy with a forehand, was asked about it afterward, and put on a fake Czech accent: "Vell, nobody ask heem to come to net."

Roddick is entertaining in a press conference, but I don't think even he ever got off a line like that.

kiki
03-03-2012, 05:50 AM
Just finished the 1980 semi at the French against Connors - 5 beautiful sets on the clay. Yes, his first serve was very effective in the fifth ( at 4-3, 0-30, 2 first serves bailed him out) and , as others posted on his fitness, he looked extremely fresh. In comparison, to my eyes, Connors seemed to be laboring in comparison.

This was possibly the best Gerulaitis period, comprising the 1979 Masters, where he beat back to back Connors and Mc Enroe to lose the final to Borg, going through the 1980 WCT Tournament of Champions at Forest Hills, where he baggeled Mc Enroe in the last set of the final, and ending up at Borg´s hand at the 1980 FO final, after that great match that you mentioned against Jimbo.He was mature, very much in shape and with confidence grooming.But after losing to Fibak at Wimbledon, he just faded away...just to make a sensational recovery one and a half year later at Flushing Meadows, where le lsot to eventual winner Mc Enroe in a hard 5 sets semifinal, after defeating in an unforgettable match Ivan Lendl at the quarterfinals...and went on to reach 1981 Masters finals, losing in 5 sets to Lendl after having a match point at the third set ( lead 2 sets to 0 and just blew it off).

I think, that first half of 1980 saw the very best version of Vitas.

kiki
03-03-2012, 06:01 AM
Mary Carillo told that story during TC's profile on Vitas that aired last year.

here is a nice excerpt from Tignor's book on the '81 USO on the Lendl-Vitas match, one of his last big wins



http://blogs.tennis.com/thewrap/2011/08/making-it-on-broadway.html

The best hommage one can make to Vitas is that he was one of the great characters of a magic era , absolutely unrepeatable in tennis and life.When I think of his sad death, I just cannot avoid some small, nostalgic,tears coming out.

kiki
03-03-2012, 06:05 AM
Naw, Chrissy liked him because he was male. The rest of the female half of the tennis world, and of the New York social scene, liked him – loved him – because he was a mobile one-man party and a world-class charmer.

And fast, too. I've sometimes thought that we'd still be speaking in whispered tones of how fast Gerulaitis and Kriek were, if only they hadn't had the misfortune of playing at the same time as Borg. And if VG wasn't as fast as Borg, he might still have been as quick, or even quicker.

A classic line. Remember that early 80's U.S. Open when a bunch of players were knocking net-rushers down? (It was a dark time for our dying breed, like the dinosaurs' first few days after the asteroid hit.) American Chip Hooper floored a guy with a forehand, was asked about it afterward, and put on a fake Czech accent: "Vell, nobody ask heem to come to net."

Roddick is entertaining in a press conference, but I don't think even he ever got off a line like that.

cannot compare the creativity of thsoe eras.Chip was great, I remember when he made the 4 th round of the french and lost to Connors.The french press was so upset to see a big black guy who played the big game go so far in their tournament.When asked if he wasn´t surprised for his own success ( he had never played on clay before), he just answered." hey¡ what´s the difference? it is still a tennis court.Same size, same length.

Chip had just a couple of great years, and it´s a pitty cause he was such a great character and a booming tennis player.He was the son of a well off man in Virginia or North Carolina.He introduced himself as " Lawrence III " chip" Hooper"

hoodjem
03-03-2012, 07:13 AM
And fast, too. I've sometimes thought that we'd still be speaking in whispered tones of how fast Gerulaitis and Kriek were, if only they hadn't had the misfortune of playing at the same time as Borg. And if VG wasn't as fast as Borg, he might still have been as quick, or even quicker.
Borg was fast. Vitas was quick. There's a difference.

Whose volley would you rather have?

Don't Let It Bounce
03-03-2012, 08:56 AM
Whose volley would you rather have?Sweetas's, 24/7/365. I guess I'd say of his strokes that he was more pure athlete than pure tennis player, but you can't make a living at the net that long without getting a volley. Borg's volley was serviceable (heh), especially by modern standards, but I was never awestruck by his net game.

Whose, um, bedpost notches would you rather have? :)

kiki
03-03-2012, 11:08 AM
Borg was fast. Vitas was quick. There's a difference.

Whose volley would you rather have?

No question here.Vitas is in my top 10-15 for open era volleyers, while Borg would hardly be top 50.

kiki
03-03-2012, 02:39 PM
Yeah, that's what Chrissy said...

He slammed away at Evert?

Chris, tell us which of the 3 players ( to my modest knowledge) went faster to the net on bed.

kiki
03-03-2012, 02:40 PM
He slammed away at Evert?

Chris, tell us which of the 3 players ( to my modest knowledge) went faster to the net on bed.

I mean, John LLoyd,Vitas Gerulaitis or Jimmy Connors ?