vitas gerulaitis

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by heathcliff, Oct 26, 2008.

  1. heathcliff

    heathcliff Rookie

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    hi!
    unfortunately i didn´t get to watch him since he had retired before i started watching tennis. i´d like to know more about him as a tennis player ( playing style etc. )
    looking forward to your posts....
     
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  2. Tshooter

    Tshooter Hall of Fame

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    Famously awful second serve. Not unknown for double faulting match point. Weak backhand. Had a hard time coming over it with topspin. His backhand was more often then not simply a means to slice an approach shot to the net. (Back then people actually hit an approach shot). Solid forehand. Very good movement and good at the net.

    I believe he hit #4 for a while but there was an ENORMOUS distance between him and the numbers 1 through 3 (Connors, Borg, JMac).

    A very likable guy.
     
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  3. MLoutch

    MLoutch Rookie

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    He was extremly fast and at the time in the late 70's was always mentioned as one of the fastest players on tour. Had quick hands and played serve and volley but he also did very well on clay with wins at the Italian open (beat Vilas) in an epic 5 or 6 hrs long match in the 1979 final. Got to a French open final in 80 and was crushed by Borg. He also won an Australian open on grass and again came close at Wimbledon - in 1977 he took Borg to the limit in another long match (it was after that match that Borg had so many blisters that he started taping his hands and fingers - a habit he continued until he quit).
    He really didn't have any "great" shot - his speed and hand/eye coordination made up for alot - His father was a teaching pro and Vitas had a very classic attacking game, slice approach, always down the line...etc

    Ranked as high as # 3 and was top 5 for most of the late 70's early 80's - also a top junior.

    The 6 hour Italian open final vs Vilas was one of the most amazing things to see -
     
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  4. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    I find it hard to believe, that not more people have anything to say about Gerulaitis, or have seen him play and can share personal memories.
    I saw him once on a training court with Zeljko Franulovic and was impressed by the seeming ease of his hitting and movement. He also seemed to be very friendly and stayed on to give numerous autographs.
     
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  5. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I remember seeing him vs Lendl, a guy he was not very friend of...big rivalry among them ( they played the longest Masters finals in 1981, and Vitas squandered 2 match points to lose in the fifth).

    His quick hands, speed, corrdination and stamina vs the great firepower and serve from the czeck on fast carpet.Great match.

    Everybody loved Vitas, the king of nightlife...except Lendl and...Lendl´s coach, the also pro Fibak.
     
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  6. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Very, very quick. Great serve-and-volley (touch not power) game. Mostly flat hitter with excellent placement. He had the kind of game that was perfect for the late wood racquet era, but would not translate well to today's graphite and poly power game.

    Gazelle with wood, gut, and flowing locks.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
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  7. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    That's a great description of him Hoodjem. Kiki, I never realized that he and Lendl were such big rivals back then. I missed that back story.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzF_kqvpw-8 (Gerulaitis vs. Lendl, 1981 Masters)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
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  8. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    There are some interesting " back of the room" stories between Lendl and Gerulaitis...
     
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  9. gpt

    gpt Professional

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    he won the AO (1977?) with bad leg cramps in the 4th and 5th sets (if i remember correctly) against a choked John Lloyd who didn't put him away.
     
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  10. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    And he beat quite a few of the all time greatest players,excepting Borg, and in different majors, like:

    Connors at the 1980 Masters SF and 1980 RG SF
    Mc Enroe at the 1980 Masters RR and WCT TC at Forest Hills 1980
    Vilas at the 1979 Italian Open Final and the 1981 Masters, and 1983 WCT
    Lendl at the 1979 FO as well as at the 1981 US Open SF

    He also beat Tanner ( an amazing USO SF IN 1979),
    Clerc,Wilander,Rosewall,Newcombe,Ashe,Nastase,Ramirez...all the big names other than his close firend and training mate Bjorn Borg.
     
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  11. TheFifthSet

    TheFifthSet Hall of Fame

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    Any idea why him and Lendl didn't like each other? I can imagine Lendl not liking the gregarious Vitas, but I don't know what specifically caused them to be such heated rivals.
     
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  12. jean pierre

    jean pierre Semi-Pro

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    In 1981, Gerulaitis lost the Masters final against Lendl after having a match point. He was very sad, because it could be his greatest victory, even if he won a Grand Slam in Australia.
    Gerulaitis was not so as good as Borg, Connors, McEnroe, Lendl or Vilas, but he was a great player, with a wonderful volley. His record in Grand Slams is very impressive : 1 victory (AO), 2 finals (FO and USO), 4 semi finals (2 Wimbledon and 2 USO).
    I remember in 1982, when he lost against the young Wilander in FO in quarter final. He did a good match, but, like Vilas, he didn't like playing against the swedishes !
     
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  13. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    quite honestly i don´t remember that. i can see them not hanging out with each other, being so different. but i haven´t heard about a heated rivalry.
    how often did they play against each other?
     
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  14. Snaab

    Snaab Rookie

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    The Polish Pro Wojtek Fibak especially disliked Vitas, although I don't know the origins. Fibak did beat the higher seeded Vitas in 1980 at Wimbledon 8-6 in the 5th set, after being down 2 sets to 0. (Vitas beat Fibak 6-3 in the 5th set at Roland Garros earlier that same year.) Billy Scanlon recalls in his insightful book how Fibak called him (unsolicited) to give him advice on how to beat Vitas in his upcoming match. Fibak's relationship and influence on Lendl no doubt had an effect on Lendl's relationship to Vitas. Vitas' victories over Lendl at the 1981 USOpen and the 1982 Montreal/Toronto Final were very impressive matches.
     
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  15. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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  16. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Lendl and Vitas had a very diverse life style and both cookie,they clashed.thr was a lot of body and verbal langyage
     
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  17. PrinceMoron

    PrinceMoron Hall of Fame

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    Hard times as a kid, public courts. Desperately sad ending. Take a CO alarm with you on holiday and don't let it have been in vain.
     
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  18. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    Gerulaitis and Fibak were already feuding at the time of their 1979 Forest Hills match. Fibak won 7-6, 7-6, and Gerulaitis refused to shake Fibak's hand.
     
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  19. ahuimanu

    ahuimanu Rookie

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    ...and then there was the time at the Master's when Lendl gave Vitas a free tatoo on his forehead (ball drilled at him)... It's competitive sports and they were very, very competitive...:)
     
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  20. PrinceMoron

    PrinceMoron Hall of Fame

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    Is that some kind of slang for substance abuse? Not Ivan, his choice of poison was a pocket full of talc and a suede grip, yes suede. But wild times elsewhere.
     
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  21. PrinceMoron

    PrinceMoron Hall of Fame

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    Read the tee, it tells you everything about Vitas. Good guy all round, never forgetful of his roots.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
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  22. ahuimanu

    ahuimanu Rookie

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    No coded language or reference to substance abuse at all...

    See video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLRx2TACIKA
     
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  23. jaggy

    jaggy G.O.A.T.

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    Cmon spill the gossip
     
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  24. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Vitas was flamboyant and dressed like a pop star, with those funky clothes and jewels and watches.They had some discussions in the locker room because Lendl was looking upon him and others like he belonged to another planet.Journalists don´tt alk it out because of the code of "omerta" that is a reality in almost all pro sports...
     
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  25. PrinceMoron

    PrinceMoron Hall of Fame

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    #25
  26. WARPWOODIE

    WARPWOODIE Rookie

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    I started playing/follwing tennis as the woodie (hence my screen name) era was migrating over to the newer racquets. Your description is spot on! I'm just trying to recall his stick of choice....the JK Autograph or the Stan Smith? I also remember how he would change the overgrip every so often during the changeovers.
     
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  27. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Snauwert.One of the very few pros who played with it.
     
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  28. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    I know this doesn't speak to his on court performance but I really enjoyed his US Open night time commentary on the USA network shortly before his death. He knew when and when not to speak and was always humble in his reminiscing, not to mention always had some great inside stories.
     
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  29. Kaptain Karl

    Kaptain Karl Hall Of Fame

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    His Return of Serve was excellent. (I still remind myself, "Vitas," before returning.) It's taken me *years* to model my Return after his.


    But I do think he used the Stan Smith before the Snauwert.

    - KK
     
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  30. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    Yes, I liked his commentary too.
     
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  31. PrinceMoron

    PrinceMoron Hall of Fame

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    Snauwaert.

    Where was the factory and what other frames came out of it? Quite a few if I recall. Donnay, Lacoste, Dunlop ..........
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2012
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  32. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    A wonderful volley, one of the best BH approaches (sliced) but an unconsistent Fh and serve.He was very solid, very fast and had great stamina.he lacked, however, the killer instinct of the true big champions.
     
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  33. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

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    He played with both....he was using the Smith until late 78 then switched to the Kramer Auto....he didn't get the Snauwaert until 1981.
     
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  34. stringertom

    stringertom G.O.A.T.

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    Vitas was as Aussie as you can get if you're born in New York of Lithuanian immigrants. His tennis mentor was Mr. H. and his game more closely resembled all the Aussie greats Hopman coached than any of the other stars of the late 70's/early 80's. I attended a Hopman camp @ Bardmoor in the mid-80's and you could see the affection the old master had for his protege, who was there to train for the upcoming season.

    His biggest strength was movement/court coverage...the USO QF match vs Kriek I saw from a courtside box was the most incredible display of athleticism from two players anyone could wish to see.

    Vitas was one of the last to stay with wood and he was a habitual stripper of his gauze overgrip on changeovers. I could see him in current equipment...a prostock Wilson straight beam with a gut/poly hybrid and Tournagrip customized handle. Whether he could have adapted to Western grip topspin technique is a matter we will unfortunately never see. With all the time he spent on court with BFF Bjorn, I think he would have adapted.
     
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  35. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

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    Approximately 30 years ago, we had a woman on our mixed doubles team. She said her aunt cleaned rooms at the resort in S Florida where Vitas owned a condo. Her aunt said "Vitas - oh, very wild - panties on the lamp shades". I think that about says it all.
     
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  36. GS

    GS Professional

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    On a David Letterman show years ago, he jammed with the band, playing lead guitar. He actually solo-ed pretty good.
     
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  37. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    yeah, he was lacking that special something wasn't he? that kill or be killed instinct of a Connors, the icy coolness of a Borg while he sliced you to ribbons, etc....maybe Vitas was just too nice.
     
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  38. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    18 years ago today (evening of the 14th September 1994), Vitas Gerulaitis had just injured his back in an exhibition doubles match in Seattle, Washington, where he and Bjorn Borg beat Jimmy Connors and John Lloyd. Gerulaitis injured his back after Lloyd lobbed a ball over his head and Gerulaitis attempted to chase it down. The injury meant that Gerulaitis decided to return to New York early, i.e. the next day (15th September). Gerulaitis would spend 2 nights in New York before his tragic, ultimely death :(
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2012
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  39. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    No, it is more a formation thing.Connors had the two handed backhand , Borg his forehand and later on, a better serve, mac that sliced serve...Vitas was very nice to watch and could beat anybody, but missed the big moments too...
     
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  40. carpedm

    carpedm New User

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    He was this big guy, with a big life and yet he played the most subtle and hard-working game. And ironically, it was that understated style that made him successful and yet prevented him from being better. For example, the simplicity of his backhand allowed him to be as quick as he was; add any more elements ( an extra knee bend into a bigger shoulder turn to result in a more topspin potent drive ) and Vitas might lose the one weapon he had - his speed. The added complexities could make him a step slower and his game just couldn’t have that. He was a big guy who could move and that was the scary thing. His weapons weren’t a stroke, his weapons were his physical constitution.

    Vitas was also played smart. He was also always in position and very difficult to wrong-foot, not something tall players always claim. And he was loathed to making dumb errors, something the tour’s current big-guys-who-can-move like Marat Safin/Tsonga could learn from. This is probably why he had such success with lower ranked players - he didn’t lose because of himself, he lost because the other players were better.

    He also had heart and was a great competitor. He wasn’t afraid to attack on a 60 mile second serve because he challenged his opponent, and it would work because it was intimidating - he had great reach and he was stupidly fast. Opponents would try to get the ball by him but the math was firmly in his favor. His favorite play was to attack the net up the middle - something you never see today - and cut off the limited angles with this height. I would go so far as to say he was one of the best of not the best at moving up the center. Imagine a good, low and slow moving ball the forces you on your back foot falling away from the baseline and before you is a big guy we could in one balanced step reach to either side and easier cut off whatever passing shot you tried. Another favorite play: running his opponents side to side, making them go from the right court and to the left court to chase down a low, slow moving backhand slice. Then they had to get there and generate the pace to make the shot only to see it go to the forehand corner again and then then have to go back to chase the same backhand. Vitas could literally do that all day. Does either play constitute big hitting, no. Are they effective, very much so.

    Other things of note: I would agree that Vitas was one of the better returners. He seemed to get more balls back into play than any except maybe Connors. His return wasn’t aggressive but they weren’t cream-puffs either; he made his opponents play. His mechanics were almost like a volley from the baseline, a good firm wrist with a shoulder turn and the racket head tall. And whether he played Lendl ( who he did quite well against ), McEnroe or Tanner - the biggest servers back then - they all knew the same thing: the ball was coming back.

    Other thoughts: Nastase wrote that Vitas consistently had problems with his ball toss and that's why his serve wasn’t as good as it should have been ( which was odd because the Romanian had a lousy record against him ). Also, his wrist on his backhand could have been a little looser for drives. And sometimes he was was prone to making life more difficult than it should've been which apparently was very Vitas. There were many times Vitas could simply put the ball away but somehow didn’t, giving his opponent second chances they didn’t deserve.

    Ultimately he was a balanced, flowing player whose had a great foundation to his game. If players moved their feet more, made the players beat themselves if they were prone to and knew how to be opportunistic it they would probably lift their NTPR an entire point. At the very least they would lose to people they shouldn’t be losing to, and that would be tennis player bliss.
     
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  41. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Vitas a tall guy?? He was very athletic but not tall although neither short
     
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  42. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Maybe he was big in his image as a fun loving guy. I thought the guy had a lot of talent. He was obviously very fast, had great reflexes, a good first serve, superb volley and good but not overpowering groundies. Maybe in some years he could have been number one if he worked at it like for example the year Kuerten was number one after he beat Sampras and Agassi at the end of the year.
     
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  43. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Vitas always worked his ass out not like Mac and alike the rest of top men.he just lacked that extra that the big four had but not him.very unfortunately of course
     
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  44. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    One of the most incredible matches Vitas lost was the 81 MSG final to Lendl:)Lendl and he could also have won the Wimbledon semi against Borg and the USO final vs Mc Enroe
     
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  45. carpedm

    carpedm New User

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    Yeah, "big" might be a bit of an exaggeration, although he was certainly taller than Connors, Borg and McEnroe. And he was more built than the wiry Lendl. I guess for the time period, he was a relatively big guy. Still, he was no Safin.

    As for that missing killing instinct, I'm not sure about that. His game was based on whether or not you could beat him. He consistently put his opponents in the mathematically disadvantaged positions and if you had the talent, ability and mental fortitude to get out of it you would win ( ie: McEncroe, Conrors and Borg). So nothing was easy.

    It was both a tough way to win a match as it was a tough way to lose.
     
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  46. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Vitas biggest talent, in addition to being a complete all round player with superb speed and reflexes was his capacity to adapt to any kind of surface

    Won two Italians on clay ( his second win against Vilas is a kind of Federer vs Nadal 2006 Rome final) and played a FO final and semifinal.He also trashed mc Enroe en route to the Forest Hills Invitational title in 1980

    Won the Aussie and played two semis at Wimbledon, his first one there against Borg is considered by many experts to be the best match of any time and certainly the best one at the AELTC

    Played one USO F on hard, and reached two more semis ( in 79 he survived Tanner after being 0-2 in the semis and in 1981 he beat lendl in the best match at Flushing Meadows that year).And he also won the Toronto title with an astounding win against Lendl in 1982.

    and, finally, on fast carpet ( different to current hard court indoors), he won a WCT title, played two Masters finals ( the second one against Lendl is right after the Becker vs Sampras 96 Masters final in terms of thrill).He reached the Dallas semis twice more.

    A very good record on all types of surfaces.
     
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  47. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    #47
  48. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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  49. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Nice pics, Borg

    I usually enjoyed the Vitas/Vilas matches, very even and depending on a variety of detaills

    Vitas, for all his flamboyant style looks a bit forgotten right now but he was one of the great characters of the Golden days

    I always remember a sentence of his on a book called " short circuit" written at the end of 1982 by US journalist Michael Menshaw.One of the best books I recall on the pro tour of that time.

    He was asked if Bob Kain of IMG had had any effect on his popularity and Vitas stroke back " I have had this image ever since I was a junior, you can ask the other players about that.Bob Kain wouldn´t carve an image out of a soup bar"

    Kain was considered the brains of the potent IMG organization, the greatest sports marketing and promotional agency founded by Mark Mc Cormack which had Vitas as one of their top income producers through his multiple ad contracts, promotions and exhibitions.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2014
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