How fast - and great- was Vitas ?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by kiki, Oct 5, 2013.

  1. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    In the late 70´s and early 80´s, probably one of the most competitive and rich periods of tennis in history, Vitas was mostly known for two things: his legendary night life...and his amazing speed.

    Borg said he was just as quick as him or maybe more, and the same said Mc Enroe.He was dazzling quick, with great reflexes and a great reaction, albeit he sometimes looked like he was in slow motion.

    He had a very nice all round game but lacked the big serve or big groundie that would make the difference against the Borg,Macs or Connors, all of them he defeated many times ( except Borg).He was flashy and brilliant and he had no weakness except for a very suspect second serve and a rather hard to pick FH grip that sometimes affected his timing in that stroke.

    1 AO, 1 WCT, 2 IO, 2 Masters Finals, 1 RG Final, 1 USO Final, and a bunch of semis either at WCT Finals, RG,USO and Wimbledon made him a perennial top 5 player between 1977 and 1982.

    How do you remember this classy, flamboyant new yorker who was outstanding so much in an era loaded with unreal characters?
     
    #1
  2. hawk eye

    hawk eye Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Messages:
    2,091
    I was small back then and the only tennis matches i remember from that era were some wimbledon finals (very entertaining) and FO finals (pretty boring). He wasn't in one of those.
    Just knew his appearance him from some pictures/ posters.
    But the thing I remember is his name. Can't go wrong with that. I thought a guy with that name must be one hack of a player. Sorry, one heck of a player.
     
    #2
  3. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    Vitas came from a Lithuanian family, and his name is quite common there.
     
    #3
  4. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    Vitas with a mighty and dependable serve is not Vitas.

    But Vitas with a strong and dependable serve is a multislammer.
     
    #4
  5. illusions30

    illusions30 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2013
    Messages:
    351
    What do you think held him back kiki. Besides the serve that is. Was it playing in such a tough era, or was it a bit of a lack of the extra mental belief. I know he lost something like 20 matches in a row to both Connors and Borg, which would have made it near impossible to win a slam at the time. He did a bit better vs McEnroe I believe.
     
    #5
  6. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,654
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    And was pals with both Borg and Mac.
     
    #6
  7. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    He lacked plainly and simply a big weapon and the intensity and will of Borg,Connors and Mc Enroe.His prime coming from 1977 to 1982, i think he never played better tennis than in the period comprising 1979 USO and 1980 Fo with a highlight at the Masters and, specially, the Forest Hills WCT event.
     
    #7
  8. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2010
    Messages:
    5,280
    We had a girl on our mixed doubles team in the early 80s whose aunt was a maid who cleaned Vitas' condo in S Florida. Her aunt said "oh Vitas, very wild, panties on the lamp shades".

    Vitas didn't have the power ground game of Connor or Borg, and didn't have the strong serve of Mac or Borg. I think it is that simple - he just didn't have the weapons to hang with the big 3 of his era. Kind of like a Ferrer in today's game but more versatile style than Ferrer.
     
    #8
  9. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2009
    Messages:
    25,063
    Location:
    Cwmbran, Wales
    Indeed. The name Vitas Gerulaitis is very Lithuanian.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013
    #9
  10. CaptainCool309

    CaptainCool309 Rookie

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2013
    Messages:
    164
    Location:
    Rock Island Illinois
    I learned about Vitas Gerulaitis from watching a Tennis Channel's Signature Series episode featuring Vitas. And after I saw that I gained a lot of respect and admiration for him. He's a very likeable guy with an awesome personality and a unique tennis game built on speed and touch. Can someone explain to me why he isn't in the Tennis Hall of Fame? Is it because of the drug scandals that surrounded him...?

    Here's a clip from some "World Sports Masters" competition in 1982, that surprised me on how fast Vitas was
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBPPJHZWJhI
     
    #10
  11. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    No less than Arvidas Sabonis, indeed
     
    #11
  12. SCRAP IRON

    SCRAP IRON Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2012
    Messages:
    1,016
    Location:
    Ft. Lauderdale
    Does anyone remember the commercial that Vitas and his father was in? I think the commercial was for the automobile "Peugot." It was kind of witty.
     
    #12
  13. Kirijax

    Kirijax Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2012
    Messages:
    1,854
    When I first started watching tennis, it was all Borg-McEnroe-Connors. But after those three, the next three were Gerulaitis, Vilas and Tanner. Gerulaitis with that name and hair, Vilas with equally impressive hair and huge left arm, and Tanner with the perm and cannon serve. I tend to root for underdogs a lot of the time and those three were my favorite for a while. Still shocked with how Gerulaitis and Tanner ended up; Gerulaitis by no fault of his own and Tanner solely to blame.
     
    #13
  14. jean pierre

    jean pierre Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2006
    Messages:
    786
    I think that Borg-Connors-Vilas-Mcenroe was thé big four. Tanner and Gerulaitis, with Noah, Panatta and some others, was thé next group.
     
    #14
  15. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    Good description.In the 1979 ATP ranks we had 1/Borg ( Masters,FO,W) 2/Mc Enroe (USO,WCT) 3/Connors ( no major title but the US Pro Indoor and the US CC) 4/Gerulalitis (Italian Open win, USO and Masters F) 5/Tanner (W finalist) and 6/Vilas (AO).That was a splendid top 6 with a first unit and a second unit, such as you described.
     
    #15
  16. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,654
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    Vitas was great fun to watch, particularly at Wimbledon on fast grass.

    Indeed, he had a beautiful grass-court, old school game: be quick and get to the net at all costs, great touch and placement on the volleys.
     
    #16
  17. Mr.Lob

    Mr.Lob Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,404
    Location:
    Parts Unknown
    In Jimmy Connors book he wrote Vitas died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to a 3 inch piece of pipe that wasn't installed on a heat pump on a recent repair. Vitas was staying in a guest house by the pool. According to Connors they were really good friends.
     
    #17
  18. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    3,661
    VG was fantastic on clay as well........totally comfortable on all the surfaces - he grew up playing every day on clay and hard courts - winter time was indoor hard and clay.
     
    #18
  19. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    3,661
    Vitas was buddies with just about EVERYONE - fans, most all the players, folks in and around tennis...etc.

    Only guys he didn't get along with were some of the sour Eastern European players and especially Lendl (pretty solid dislike on both sides there).
     
    #19
  20. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2007
    Messages:
    7,610
    Location:
    Houston, Texas
    Vitas struck me as such a good guy. He seemed loyal too. Borg and Gerulaitis were great friends. Everybody loved Vitas. They became the best of friends after their epic 1977 Wimbledon semifinal. He was a very charismatic player, but he also displayed great grit and toughness in many matches during his great career. His training sessions with Borg helped them become incredibly fit. It was such a loss when he passed away but boy did he live as well.

    [​IMG]

    Hear this clip of Borg on Vitas. (from about 15:55 and then as he talks about Vitas practicing with him after that SF match.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoB9KnKn-vA#t=947
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2013
    #20
  21. Mr.Lob

    Mr.Lob Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,404
    Location:
    Parts Unknown
    Did anyone like Lendl back then? He was from Czechoslovakia, a Soviet Bloc country, playing his peak years during the height of the cold war. Aloof, distant, arrogant to some, very witty and dry sense of humor. Mack sure didn't like him, Connors seemed to tolerate him.
     
    #21
  22. Paul Murphy

    Paul Murphy Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,792
    Excellent post (as usual in this section).
    He was as fast as anyone I have ever seen but lacked a killer weapon - a little like Brad Gilbert in that respect.
     
    #22
  23. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    2 Italians, one of them a memorable match against Vilas, a FO semi and a Final plus a couple of quarters and the WCT Invitational in 1980.he also played the MC finals.Vitas was the best american on clay of the late 70´s-early 80´s, possibly the best of the whole 80´s until Chang and Agassi.Of course, excepting JMac´s great results in 1984.
     
    #23
  24. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    3,661
    He did have a few "friends" on tour (Leconte was a bud and they traveled to F1, Le Mans and rally's often together) but did keep to a close knit group of friends in the NYC area and Florida mostly away from tennis.

    He liked to scout out young players and would select some to practice and work with him - Just like Pete Sampras who was tight with Ivan and was often invited to come up to the Greenwich compound to practice and work out with Ivan before he exploded with his first USO win.
     
    #24
  25. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    Leconte close to Lendl? first notice really

    What I recall vividly is how much Lendl and Noah, Leconte´s buddy and DC mate HATED each other- with great press conferences by the way to attest it-
     
    #25
  26. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    Sorry but Gilbert would only dream about being compared to Vitas.He never got any close to him .
     
    #26
  27. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    3,661
    Noah and Ivan were not buy any means drinking buddies but there was no hate.........Ivan was a bit of a square (ha) and Noah was a pot smoking border line bohemian living in The Village in NYC -

    but Riton worked out with Ivan and shared a love of fast cars, cigars and golf.
     
    #27
  28. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    3,661
    Vitas was a super volleyer - his slice backhand was money - FH solid - but his speed set everything up.

    Go watch the DVD sold everywhere of the 1977 Wimby SF vs Borg.........amazing stuff. Gilbert was a pure junkballer and used his brain more than his strokes (I'm a huge Gilbert fan btw).
     
    #28
  29. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    Gerulaitis trade mark was his complete all round, nicely balanced game,Sound technically, perfectly executed even if some grip problems made his FH out of timing many times.His touch and fast legs made a dangerous volleyer out of him.But his main problem was a poor serve for top player standarts.

    Played equally well in all 4 surfaces.
     
    #29
  30. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    When Noah beat Lendl at the 1982 Palm Spring Finals, he broke something like a 40 consecutive wins streak from Lendl.Lendl gave some excuses for this loss and Noah answered to repporters: " You know, Ivan doesn´t lose very often these days.But when he does, he is a bad loser".

    Yannick beat Ivan when he less expected, 1981 Richmond, 1982 Palm Springs and DC quarter finals, 1983 FO Qf and 1986 WCT Invitational at Forest Hills.Their mutual dislike goes from their junior days, which is the kind of hate you don´t solve easily (Lendl and Mac´s rivalry also started in their junior days)
     
    #30
  31. Tshooter

    Tshooter Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2007
    Messages:
    2,103
    The second thing I thought of after thinking, wow, that's expensive for a smoke/carbon dioxide detector was Vitas, who anyone into tennis at a certain period of time in NY will remember died of CO2 poisoning (I seem to recall out in Southhampton, L.I. while sleeping in someones guest cottage).

    I bet they will sell a lot of these:

    http://nest.com/smoke-co-alarm/life-with-nest-protect/
     
    #31
  32. Paul Murphy

    Paul Murphy Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,792
    This was my point: "He lacked plainly and simply a big weapon."

    As did Gilbert - that was the only comparison I was drawing.
    I did not say or intimate that they were of similar ability - they were not - just that they lacked a big weapon.
    Vitas was far and away the more accomplished player.
     
    #32
  33. Paul Murphy

    Paul Murphy Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,792
    See my post above.
     
    #33
  34. Paul Murphy

    Paul Murphy Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,792
    I agree and I restate that I was merely pointing out that both lacked a big weapon - that is where my comparison ended.
    As you say his FH was "solid" - not big.
    As for Gilbert he had a "style" all his own and there can be no comparison with Vitas and nor was I making one, except in the sense of lacking a big weapon.
     
    #34
  35. HackersRUs

    HackersRUs Rookie

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2011
    Messages:
    187
    Location:
    All around you, you just have to listen.
    why do people always say this as though it was somehow true?

    sure, Gilbert DID junkball, a lot, but to say that was all he could do is just foolishness..

    here, watch this against the TTW darling Becker..

    those BHs...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T17zqevDMBw
     
    #35
  36. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    3,661
    1. I love BJ and it's not an insult

    2. He used gamesmanship and his head more than just about anyone in the top 20 at the time and is like a off speed pitcher. He was not able to stand toe to toe and trade groundies with a Lendl or Agassi......etc

    He would chip, dink, then lob then hit a screaming BH or FH winner - just like Ashe in the SW19 final v Jimbo - junkball is NOT a negative.
     
    #36
  37. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    I gottya

    I know that is what you probably meant.
     
    #37
  38. Rosewall

    Rosewall Rookie

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2013
    Messages:
    255
    Location:
    Spokane, Washington
    Connors (another Vitas friend -- see Hoodjem's post on page 1) lumped Vitas in the same category as Ille Nastase -- naturally gifted, could hit any shot, great athlete, loved to party and didn't take tennis too seriously. Pretty much everyone's conclusion. I remember watching him and he was graceful with awesome touch. The thing I most remember about Gerulaitis is he had a weak serve. Like he did with Connors, Mac would come to the net on Vitas' first serve. OUCH!

    Sub-thread: Another Euro that did not like Lendl was Mecir. I remember a match where they were both top 10 and Mecir was mocking Lendl for being an idiot about something and Lendl was FURIOUS. Next chance he had with Mecir at the net, Lendl hit a forehand as hard as he could at Miloslav. I thought, "hey, Ivan does that with everyone, not just McEnroe!"
     
    #38
  39. Paul Murphy

    Paul Murphy Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,792
    A little simple or a bit slow?
    I'm not sure but all the best with it anyway.
     
    #39
  40. HackersRUs

    HackersRUs Rookie

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2011
    Messages:
    187
    Location:
    All around you, you just have to listen.
    if it's any consolation, I understood exactly what you meant the first time...
     
    #40
  41. Ronaldo

    Ronaldo G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    14,147
    IMHO the 77 SF is the best match ever played at Wimbledon. Even better than the 80 and 08 Finals.
     
    #41
  42. HackersRUs

    HackersRUs Rookie

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2011
    Messages:
    187
    Location:
    All around you, you just have to listen.
    it was a brilliant match to be sure..
     
    #42
  43. Tshooter

    Tshooter Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2007
    Messages:
    2,103
    Maybe this is a friend (Connors) speaking because that description of his game is ridiculous. He was in no way in the talent class of Nastase, who was among the most talented players to ever play. Ashe used to say that players did not clap for other pros, with the exception of Nastase who could hit shots none of the rest could. Vitas not only didn't have Nastase level talent he had glaring deficiencies in his game. Every shot ? Only if you exclude the serve, the most important shot in the game, and the backhand. Vitas first serve was adequate; his second serve stunk. Can you recall another top pro that routinely double faulted on key points -- on match points ! His backhand slice was good. His topspin -- stunk. He had a very weak pass off the backhand side. His best "shot" was his movement and his forehand. He also had a very good volley. There was nothing particularly graceful about his shots. Especially the two weak ones: serve and topspin backhand. he would not have survived in today's game where you can't have any glaring weaknesses and crack the top 10 for any length of time. Yes, he liked to party and he was a nice guy. My friends and I used to bump into him in Roslyn. I think he lived in Kings Point or Sands Point, I forget which.

    As I alluded to earlier it was a shocking waste how he died. Keep those batteries fresh in the smoke detector people. $2 can save a life.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2013
    #43
  44. Paul Murphy

    Paul Murphy Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,792
    Thanks.

    I really didn't think it was that complex a point to grasp.
    All the best. :)
     
    #44
  45. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,715
    Tshooter, yes Vitas death was a stupid disgrace...and yes, he was not as talented as Nastase.He had a much " worked" or " drill out game" but he had great talent nonetheless.
     
    #45

Share This Page