Originally Posted by Bursztyn
Perhaps AM should be viewed as a way to describe a tennis match rather than as a measure of its quality?
The ultmate goal in tennis is to win, isn't it?
So Borg beat Vilas in RG 1978 final because of his consistency and his stamina (perseverence, patience, discipline?) - both are very important for a tennis player.
He used his weapons to beat his opponent, however he employed a bit unusual tactics.
Should his performance be regarded as inferior (when compared to some of his other matches) because he decided to use less spectacular method to win?
No it shouldn't necessarily be regarded as inferior just because Borg employed a less spectacular method. You can have a high AM by lowering your UE's and playing un-spectacular tennis.
Lendl, for example, had a lower UE count in his '87 USO final than he did in the '88 final (both against Wilander). He also struck fewer winners in '87, because he was employing, as you put it, a less spectacular strategy.
But Lendl's AM is higher in '87. So the AM is not punishing the less spectacular performance. In this case the less spectacular is actually being rewarded.
The Borg/Vilas/Pecci example is trickier, because Borg’s less spectacular performance against Vilas does have a lower AM than his performance against Pecci.
That's because Borg actually made more UE's against Vilas. In that very short match (short in terms of number of points played), Borg made 19 UE, by my count. In the much longer Pecci match, Borg made only 17 UE (Bud Collins' count).
It's difficult to use AM's when the players you're comparing have radically different styles. Pecci was always coming into net, always forcing the issue. Borg had fewer opportunities to make an UE, when facing Pecci. On many points Borg was either forced into an error, or he made a winning pass. When Borg played Vilas, almost every point was an opportunity to make an UE because both players stayed back and rallied endlessly.
But it was a smart way to play Vilas -- at least for Borg.
So was Borg's '78 performance inferior to '79? I'm not certain. Borg was in peak form both years, and '78 was actually the year that he set the record for fewest games lost in the tournament.
On the one hand, I know that Borg had more UE's errors in '78 not because he played below form but because long rallies against another baseliner present constant opportunities to make UE's.
On the other hand I don’t think that Vilas forced Borg to dig deep or to do anything special. Against Pecci, Borg had to run more, make precision passes, keep Pecci from attacking his serve, etc.
I might have to say that Borg’s performance against Pecci was the higher performance. It’s not specifically his higher AM against Pecci that makes me say that, because AM's are a bit deceptive in comparisons that involve radically different styles. I say that just because I think that Pecci played a better match than Vilas. Pecci was in better form in ’79 than Vilas was in ’78. And in fact Pecci beat Vilas on the way to the '79 final, in straight sets. Pecci was a very good claycourter in peak form, and he could get "hot." Vilas in ’78 was struggling a bit with his game – and had a bit of a mental block against Borg.