Duel Match Stats/Reports - Connors vs Borg, US Open final, 1978 & semi-final, 1981

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Jimmy Connors beat Bjorn Borg 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in the US Open final, 1978 on hard court

It was the first year the tournament had been played at Flushing Meadows and on hard court and this was Connors' 3rd title and 5th consecutive final. He had previously beaten Borg in the final 2 years ago and the semis the year before that. Borg had beaten Connors in the Wimbledon final earlier in the year

Connors won 105 points, Borg 82

Serve Stats
Connors...
- 1st serve percentage (62/79) 78%
- 1st serve points won (45/62) 73%
- 2nd serve points won (10/17) 59%
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (15/79) 19%

Borg...
- 1st serve percentage (61/118) 56%
- 1st serve points won (40/61) 66%
- 2nd serve points won (18/47) 38%
- Aces 8
- Double Faults 6
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (20/108) 19%

Serve Patterns
Connors served...
- to FH 37%
- to BH 58%
- to Body 5%

Borg served...
- to FH 30%
- to BH 67%
- to Body 3%

Return Stats
Connors made...
- 82 (26 FH, 56 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 5 Winners (5 BH)
- 12 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (2 FH, 1 BH)
- 9 Forced (2 FH, 7 BH)
- Return Rate (82/102) 80%

Borg made...
- 64 (34 FH, 30 BH), including 8 runaround FHs
- 15 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (4 FH, 1 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 10 Forced (3 FH, 7 BH)
- Return Rate (64/79) 81%

Break Points
Connors 5/17 (8 games)
Borg 0

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Connors 33 (6 FH, 13 BH, 8 FHV, 3 BHV, 3 OH)
Borg 25 (10 FH, 4 BH, 2 FHV, 6 BHV, 3 OH)

Connors' FHs - 2 cc passes (1 popped over on a net chord, without which Borg appeared to have the ball covered), 2 dtl, 1 lob and 1 net chord dribbler
- BHs - 10 cc (2 returns - on 1 of which Borg's racquet slipped out of his hand on serving and he wasn't able to play a third ball - and 3 passes), 2 dtl return passes and 1 inside-in return

- 2 from serve-volley points - 1 first volley BHV and 1 second volley OH

Borg's FHs - 5 cc, 3 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-out and 1 inside-in
- BHs - 1 cc, 1 dtl pass, 1 inside-out pass and 1 lob

- 2 from serve-volley points - both second volley BHVs
- 1 OH was hit from the baseline

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Connors 37
- 20 Unforced (14 FH, 5 BH, 1 BHV)
- 17 Forced (12 FH, 4 BH, 1 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 44.5

Borg 51
- 30 Unforced (10 FH, 16 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 2 OH)… 1 OH was from the baseline
- 21 Forced (7 FH, 14 BH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.3

(Note 1: All 1/2 volleys refer to such shots played at net. 1/2 volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke numbers)

(Note 2: the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index is an indicator of how aggressive the average UE was. The numbers presented for these two matches are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Connors was...
- 30/37 (81%) at net, including...
- 5/5 (100%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
--
- 2/2 forced back/retreated

Borg was...
- 27/42 (64%) at net, including...
- 7/9 (78%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
--
- 4/5 (80%) forced back/retreated

Match Report
A very strong, all round showing from Jimmy Connors, the absolute quality of which is somewhat obfuscated by an obvious injury to Borg. Regardless, whatever the effect on the contest of Borg's right thumb problem, Connors plays excellently on a fast hard court. 33 winners to 20 unforced errors for the champion - fantastic figures

The court appears to be very fast, at least as fast as normal grass court. Borg serves 8 aces out of 108 serves (he'd served 5 in 85 in Wimbledon final earlier in the year). Connors' unreturned rate is 19%, well higher than the 7% he managed at Wimbledon (Borg's unreturned rate at Wimby was much higher than here - 28% to 19% - but that's confounded by his having serve-volleyed off all first serves in the earlier match). The bounce of course is regular, unlike grass, and higher

Borg's Injury
According to commentators, a blister Borg had on his right thumb got infected the night before the final and left him in a state where defaulting was considered a likely possibility. Having taken injections to be ready, Borg chose to play. Having won the French Open and Wimbledon earlier in the year, he was still on course to win the Grand Slam. Commentators make it clear that Borg would have been allowed to take another injection in the middle of the match, though he doesn't - and this seems out of place with rules around this period (or now for that matter). Apparently, the commentators had particularly sought out the specific information regarding Borg being allowed to be treated during the match

As far as I know, as he entered the match with a pre-existing condition, this shouldn't have been so? Its not a factor in the match though as Borg does not receive any treatment. Even when its clear he needs it

There's no overt sign of Borg being uncomfortable in the early part of the match and he plays much as normal. Mid way through the second set, that changes. His racquet flies out of his hand while serving on 2 separate occasions. His groundstrokes become worse and worse - more prone to regulation errors and more apt to land short when playing regulation shots. John Newcombe notes how quick he is to switch the racquet to his left hand as soon as a point is done

He also changes his playing style (more on that later) after seemingly feeling discomfort in his hand

3rd set is the worst body language I've seen from Borg (which isn't saying much). He looks more sleepy than calm

Play Phase 1 - Pre-Injury Acting Up
Borg was likely hampered throughout the match, but its not overtly apparent at the start. For simplicity's sake, we can divide the match into when his play deteriorated or/and changed. From the start to early second set, he appears to be playing unburdened

Match starts as a struggle, with the opening game lasting 20 points, Borg saving 5 break points to hold. His double faulting 3 times is an indication that all might not be well. Otherwise, play is about standard for the match up... Borg hitting high percentage groundies, Connors more attacking but also more error prone. Borg serve-volleys 3 times in the opener and comes to net 2 other times

Neither player has it easy on serve. Courts quick enough that returning even Connors' serve isn't a gimme - and Borg does well to return it as consistently as he does. Borg's first serve is much bigger - and he really goes for them virtually always. The pace helps Connors returning too though - as long as he can reach the ball (and most of Borg's serves are within reach), the harder they come at him, the harder he sends them back. Still, Borg's steady enough to deal with not easy third balls - and then they rally

Connors is on fire. In first set, he has 21 winners to 11 UEs (Borg is 9 and 8). He's hitting winners and forcing errors from the back (and that's with Borg defending well) or coming in to dispatch volleys. And not bleeding UEs. Borg is overwhelmed - just being steady isn't cutting it against this type of assault. Connors gains the break middle of set by aggressively taking net three times. On break point, Borg makes a sloppy approach error. Borg resort to serve-volleying or coming in to give his game the attacking edge its missing

Connors breaks early in the second too with a superb FH dtl pass on the run and a return pass winner

In a nutshell, during this period Connors is in his element attacking from back and front, and Borg's steadiness can't match it. Conditions suit Jimbo's game more than Borg's. One wouldn't expect Connors to be able to keep up this standard of play indefinitely. But then...

Play Phase 2 - Injury Acting Up
Borg loses his racquet while serving in 5th game of second set - a 16 point affair in which he fights off 3 break points to hold. Thereafter, his play falls off, though Connors continues to play splendidly

Borg's -
- serve weakens somewhat and he seems more strained in delivering it. easy to spot given how thoroughly relaxed it usually is
- groundstrokes become softer, shorter and more prone to error. Ditto return

And that's not his only problem. Connors has been returning strongly all match - and steps it up still more. Even against Borg's strong first serves. And Connors is on one of his never-miss-a-first serve runs - making 22/26 in second set, which slips to 17/23 in the third

In third set, Borg plays like Connors, with a bigger serve. Starts stepping in to hit strong third balls. Serve-volleys more and approaches more. Not surprisingly, he's not quite as good at this as Connors is - and has 12 UEs for the set. It would be an exaggeration to say Connors plays like Borg, but he does settle to counter-punching more. He's about as successful as Borg could hope to be - just the 3 UEs for the set
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Key Factors
Many impressive features to Connors' showing but the best of it is the returning. 80% return rate against Borg biffing his first serve as hard as possible. Against serve-volleying, he knocks away a couple of winners. With Borg on the baseline, he returns with power, depth or placement. Against the second serve, all that amplified. There's a nice step-in BH inside-in winner - not a return he employs often. Some returns land near lines and send Borg off to chase it down. Others don't need much movement to get to but are still hit hard

Borg has a bucketload of third ball errors. As many forced as unforced, but it should be noted that on this court and with Connors hitting very strong routine balls, Borg's UEs are relatively difficult

- Note Borg's 16 BH UEs. Generally, he prefers to stay in control of points using BH cc and against Connors, that has the additional advantage of keeping the ball on Connors' FH. Not only does Borg's BH let him down (particularly in phase 2), but the high count is unusual in that he didn't go this route most of the match. He leads with the FH and his errors off it tend to be attacking shots. The BH just lets him down randomly, against odd routine balls directed towards it

On grass, Borg shortens his usually elaborate BH swing and would have been well served to have done the same here. He's frequently seems rushed on the shot. Doubtless injury was a factor in Borg's BH not holding up (likely the biggest), but his not adjusting the swing to the court pace (and Connors' explosive hitting) lies independent of that

- Note Connors winning a humongous 81% of net points. He comes in off strong approaches as always and volleys decisively. Particularly good is a low, first BHV winner off a serve-volley point. The strong approaches and sure volleying would do well enough, but with Borg's groundstrokes growing feebler as the match went on, Connors' net success goes into skyrocketing territory

- Borg's net play. Also a very good 64% points won at net. He doesn't volley particularly well in that he isn't able to put balls away that were there to be so treated, but does come in behind particularly strong approaches and serves. Unlike Borg, Connors passed well

With uncertainty about when his thumb might start acting up, I thought Borg's best match plan would have been to all out attack, like he does on grass, serve-volleying of all first serves from the get go. He doesn't do this at all... he starts with his usual ground game, which is probably less than ideal for such a fast court. Connors' natural groundgame by contrast, is perfectly suited to getting the most out of the surface

- Note Borg's very low 38% second serve points won. 6 double faults in that, Connors attacking the second serve in a measured way and Borg's somewhat weak game accounts for it. Its at its worst in second set, when he wins just 6/20 @ 30% and was adjusting to being more attacking. By third set, he looks to attack from the third ball and is more successful

- Note Connors BH numbers. 13 winners to 9 total errors (5 UE, 4 FE). Very, very rare to find numbers like this on a BH... equally deadly and steady. He's not particularly varied with it but hits hard and crosscourt most of the time. Even Borg's FH can't cope.

In matches between the two, both often seem keen to avoid the others strong wing and play tends to center around Connors FH - Borg BH. This was a more dynamic match... and Connors comfortably comes out on top in the hard hitting, Connors BH- Borg FH duels

Summing up, very strong showing from Connors - his game ideally suited to the surface, which gives even his serve an edge and his returning even more power than usual. He backs that up with groundstrokes both strong and consistent plus a willingness to come forward to finish points. I would primarily give overwhelming credit to Connors for a great performance, while noting that Borg was significantly hampered for most of the match

Stats for their Wimbledon final earlier in the year - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...-borg-vs-connors-wimbledon-final-1978.656924/
 
I had high hopes for that final, especially with how Borg was playing in the first half of the year. Borg had been taking some pain injections due to a thumb injury. When the racquet flew out of his hand on a serve, Tony Trabert and Pat Summerall mentioned his thumb. See that moment here.

 

KG1965

Legend
Jimmy Connors beat Bjorn Borg 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in the US Open final, 1978 on hard court

It was the first year the tournament had been played at Flushing Meadows and on hard court and this was Connors' 3rd title and 5th consecutive final. He had previously beaten Borg in the final 2 years ago and the semis the year before that. Borg had beaten Connors in the Wimbledon final earlier in the year
IMHO this match is among the 5 or 10 historically most relevant matches of the OE.
Most media has underestimated it, but it has 2 basic characteristics: the first is that despite Connors playing fantastic tennis in 1978, Borg is rightly considered the best player of 1978, BUT not for ATP Ranking. Well ... if Bjorn won in NY it would have been number one. The match turned out to be decisive for the number one.

But the second most decisive aspect: if Borg had won he would probably have made GS as Laver in 1969. In Melbourne he would have had a fair chance. Connors would have gone to Australia to obstruct his rival but the seeding would have been bad the same.
 

KG1965

Legend
Some technical considerations:
- Aces 8
- Double Faults 6
I agree that the match was balanced (and wonderful) until about halfway through the second set.
Then something happened to Borg that is difficult to assess because the swedish guy alternates big plays with amazing mistakes, very powerful aces and second weak services.
8 aces is an impressive figure (can you tell me how many up to the second half of the set?).

...

It's difficult to determine if Borg 78 (finally at its peak) in good condition could recover Connors after losing the first set and with Jimmy in his favorite terrain: shark-sized in water.
I think the swedish could probably overturn the match, but we'll never know.
The question is instead another, this:
Borg (who had finally overcome Connors on har-tru) had proven to be clearly better on Wimbly's grass in 1978 (not in 1977), the difference seemed sidereal.
On the hard court of Flushing Meadows it seemed that the two players were close. No sidereal distance.

The two terrains were very fast, but the ball at Flushing bounced very high and perfectly regular while at Wimbly it was very low and irregular.
Can these two big differences radically change a match? IMHO yes, because they bring out the weaknesses of the two players.

Connors never liked Wimbly's irregularities in his baseline game because he didn't allow him to play the game, he always won against almost everyone but he couldn't play the game.

Borg didn't feel safe in the courts in hc because his great advantage of attacking the net with the serve and with the bh in back with high rebounds has more problems.

t's basically a problem of driving the game, leading the game, commanding the exchange.
At Wimbledon the feeling is that Borg always controls the exchange, on fast regular ground (carpet and hc) Borg doesn't seem to command the exchange.
He can win only if Connors makes many mistakes. But the american drive the game (who lacks in commanding the game at Wimbledon).
 
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KG1965

Legend
I have tried to compare what I think are some important factors of the two matchs terminated in a unidirectional way.

Wimbledon 78: Borg serve-volleyed off all first serves
USO 78: Borg 7/9 (78%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves:confused:
Borg has a diametrically opposed strategy at Wimbledon. Always to net after serve. In NY he basically never goes after the serve.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
Wimbledon 78 Borg... Unreturned Serve Percentage (24/85) 28%
USO 78: Borg - Unreturned Serve Percentage (20/108) 19%

Wimbledon 78: Connors... - Unreturned Serve Percentage (7/97) 7%
USO 78: Connors - Unreturned Serve Percentage (15/79) 19%
In Wimbledon, Connors fails to oppose Borg's serve. Despite being a top returner, in 1978 Wimbly didn't prove it.
The notoriously mediocre Connors serve, at Wimbledon 78, literally ... sucks.

----------------------------------------------------------------
Wimbledon 78: Connors ... - Return Rate (61/85) 72%
USO 78: Connors ... - Return Rate (82/102) 80%
A further fact that shows how painful Jimmy's return was in this final.
------------------------------------------------------------------
Wimbledon Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Borg - Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.7
Connors - Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.2

NY Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Connors - Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 44.5
Borg - Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.3
Data quite similar, this does not seem to be the key to interpreting the big difference between these two endings.

This shows that the main reading key is in the serve-return.

-------------------------------------------------------------
Net Points & Serve-Volley
Borg was...
- 54/81 (67%) at net.... Wimbly
- 27/42 (64%) at net... USO

Connors was...
- 36/59 (61%) at net (Wimbly)
Connors was...
- 30/37 (81%) at net (USO)

Borg rallies in NY are half that at Wimbledon, but the difference is in the s&v.
Connors a net at Flushing is intractable, at Wimbledon the figure is not bad but it is not even remotely comparable.
 
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jrepac

Hall of Fame
One more match I have to sit through from start to finish, having watched the 1st and 3rd sets, and the clip from the 2nd where the racket flies out of Borg's hand. JC always seems to get an asterik on this win, given Bjorn's injury, but the 1st set was competitive It felt like Bjorn threw in the towel by the 3rd, probably sensing that it was futile on this day, under these conditions. Anyone can see that JC is playing near peak and hyper aggressively, which when it's 'on' seems to serve him well w/Borg. In this match, like 76, Borg does not pass very well. Hard to say if it's due to JC or the injury (or both). For the record, Borg has said it would not have mattered in this match if he was injured or not.

Question for the posters....do we know if Flushing in '78 was significantly faster than today? And, by how much? It's been said that the court has been slowed down over the years.....here it seems quite fast, with a predictable bounce, which clearly suits Connors.
 

KG1965

Legend
Connors won 105 points, Borg 82
You gave me the opportunity to review the second set, the decisive one.
The match was very balanced in the first set but also in the second up to the 2-4 .. advantage Borg.
I believe that Jimmy had not made so many points more than Bjorn until 6-4 4-2.
The swedish was late 4-6 2-4 but had 3 chances to get to 3-4 by playing some good plays (passing-shot, 2 fh and one bh volley) but lost the 3 chances to get back into the match. Here ends the match.
I don't know if he had a problem with his hand, also because he made many aces and fh winners....:confused:
What I seem to notice is that Bjorn was very tried, more tired than usual. I think more than anything that in the middle of the second set he felt unwell, exhausted.
I see Bjorn destroyed, .. reminds me Lendl in the third set of the USO 83 final. Always v Jimbo.
Obviously they are tired of a different kind: Ivan was destroyed by too hot (too heat), Bjorn maybe he was not well physically.
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
JC always seems to get an asterik on this win, given Bjorn's injury, but the 1st set was competitive It felt like Bjorn threw in the towel by the 3rd, probably sensing that it was futile on this day, under these conditions. Anyone can see that JC is playing near peak and hyper aggressively, which when it's 'on' seems to serve him well w/Borg. In this match, like 76, Borg does not pass very well. Hard to say if it's due to JC or the injury (or both). For the record, Borg has said it would not have mattered in this match if he was injured or not.
Matches that are possibly injury affected tend to get talked about from a "Well, if he hadn't been injured..." point of view

That's not how I look at it at all. I consider injuries incurred while playing like I do consistency of groundstrokes... a skill the players are responsible for, not luck

Injuries are inevitable in tennis. Every player knows they'll get 'em, sure as day follows night... just like every player knows they'll make unforced errors

Isn't it thus on the player to manage their health, the same way they manage their shots... to minimize injuries (and the timing of it)?

Connors played great - and I tend to agree with Borg that the result would have been the same regardless his health (which, from my point of view is like saying "it wouldn't have mattered if he'd come to net more or served higher percentage...Connors would have won")

But, got to note the injury and its role in all this. It sticks out like a sore thumb

Then something happened to Borg that is difficult to assess because the swedish guy alternates big plays with amazing mistakes, very powerful aces and second weak services.
8 aces is an impressive figure (can you tell me how many up to the second half of the set?).
Borg served 2 to start the second set and those were his 5th and 6th. So 6 in 6 games to start... and 2 in the remaining 7 games of match

Also 4 double faults in the first 6 games, and just 2 after that

The match was very balanced in the first set but also in the second up to the 2-4 .. advantage Borg.
I believe that Jimmy had not made so many points more than Bjorn until 6-4 4-2.
That's true but its a bit deceptive because most of the points were on Borg's serve

After 2 sets, Connors had served 56 points, Borg 86

This match is unusual in that Connors wasn't too dominant on serve for a player who didn't face a single break point

When that happens, usually you see numbers like 80%+ first serve points and 70%+ second serve points won. Connors' numbers are 73% and 59%... great numbers, certainly match winning ones, but not what you'd expect to see for not having faced break point at all (and of course, Connors has a huge first serve percentage)

3 Connors games went to deuce

I saw the third set. It's a massacre perhaps because Bjorn is not healthy: 27-17 points (despite the score 6-4 6-2)
So it means that the first 2 sets are close enough: 78-65 points.
Points in 3rd set 27-18 (Connors serves 23, Borg 22)
Points in 2nd set 36-29 (Connors serves 26, Borg 39)
Points in 1st set 42-35 (Connors serves 30, Borg 47)
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Borg (who had finally overcome Connors on har-tru) had proven to be clearly better on Wimbly's grass in 1978 (not in 1977), the difference seemed sidereal.
On the hard court of Flushing Meadows it seemed that the two players were close. No sidereal distance.

The two terrains were very fast, but the ball at Flushing bounced very high and perfectly regular while at Wimbly it was very low and irregular.
Can these two big differences radically change a match? IMHO yes, because they bring out the weaknesses of the two players.

Connors never liked Wimbly's irregularities in his baseline game because he didn't allow him to play the game, he always won against almost everyone but he couldn't play the game.

Borg didn't feel safe in the courts in hc because his great advantage of attacking the net with the serve and with the bh in back with high rebounds has more problems.

t's basically a problem of driving the game, leading the game, commanding the exchange.
At Wimbledon the feeling is that Borg always controls the exchange, on fast regular ground (carpet and hc) Borg doesn't seem to command the exchange.
He can win only if Connors makes many mistakes. But the american drive the game (who lacks in commanding the game at Wimbledon).

So many interesting points, KG

Connors' game seems less suited to grass than other fast surfaces for a number of reasons
- the serve not being too strong (that's true for all surface, but serve on low bouncing court gives his opponents maximum net advantage)
- the low and uneven bounce making his power groundstroking difficult
- also, low uneven bounce not suited ideally to his style of drive approaching (Borg's slice approaches are better for the surface)

and in the '78 final, not serve-volleying. With Borg just as keen to get to net from rallies, that means Borg is at net serve-volleying 100% on his first serve points... and on all other points, either player is as likely to come in as the other

My take away from that final was that despite superficial appearence (which was Borg thrashing Connors), the two were dead equal in almost all areas - save Borg serve-volleying

I agree completely about Connors directing the action

During this '78 US Open match, commentators quote Borg as having said this court was made for Jimmy Connors, it was perfect for his game

Wimbledon 78: Connors ... - Return Rate (61/85) 72%
USO 78: Connors ... - Return Rate (82/102) 80%
A further fact that shows how painful Jimmy's return was in this final.
That would be influenced by Borg's having serve-volleyed so much at Wimby. 8% drop based on facing Borg coming in vs Borg staying back is probably normal

Wimbledon Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Borg - Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.7
Connors - Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.2

NY Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Connors - Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 44.5
Borg - Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.3
Data quite similar, this does not seem to be the key to interpreting the big difference between these two endings.
Like the UE/FE distinction, this one is heavily influenced by net play - of which there was so much at Wimbledon, much more so than here

Generally, the more volley UEs, the highe the UEFI tends to be (volleys are always at least an attacking shot). And with 1 guy at net, the guy on the baseline virtually can't get a UE on a passing shot (and on very rare occasions I give him 1, its scored a winner attempt)

With much higher proportion of volleys in Borg's UEs at Wimby than USO... the UEFI being the same is suggesting that he was playing very attacking baseline tennis here (which is true)

Borg rallies in NY are half that at Wimbledon, but the difference is in the s&v.
Connors a net at Flushing is intractable, at Wimbledon the figure is not bad but it is not even remotely comparable.
Agree, completely

A difference in playing dynamics across the matches (and surfaces) is that in baseline rallies at Wimby, it seems like the goal for both players is to get up to net
At USO and hard court, that's not necessarily so. Neither player appears to be looking for a chance to come in.... they come in when they've outplayed the other guy from the back. And Connors in particular is quite capable of hitting winners or forcing errors baseline-to-baseline and thus doesn't need to come in all the time to finish points

Question for the posters....do we know if Flushing in '78 was significantly faster than today? And, by how much? It's been said that the court has been slowed down over the years.....here it seems quite fast, with a predictable bounce, which clearly suits Connors.
I think so - and by a lot

This court looks as fast as can be to me. Probably faster than grass - a big part of the problems of playing on which are related to bounce rather than speed

Eyeballing court speed is a tricky business. I mainly note how rushed players are on routine or near routine balls. The attacking shots of certain players in particular always make conditions look fast - for example, del Potro

Here, anything either player has to move a couple of steps to tends to rush them (even Connors - which is more pertinent because Borg wasn't hitting abnormally hard early part of match). And Borg's rushed even on balls he doesn't have to move to at all

Think the pace of these courts change year to year, let alone across decades. I stat-tted a bunch of USO matches from early 2010s... and can tell you the courts look significantly faster than they have been for last 2 years there

Its been awhile since I did the '79 semi between McEnroe and Connors. In that match, Connors was belting balls hard (just like here), but Mac was able to just stand on the baseline and push or junk them back without seeming to be short on time. I doubt that would have been the case in '78 conditions

 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
I think they get resurfaced every year at Flushing, no? It's too bad that the current game has been slowed down so much, even on the grass. I think there was more diversity in the 70's and 80's. Connors seemed to do well on fast surfaces....indoor carpet included...but Wimbledon had very uneven bounces back then. By the finals, the court was a wreck. Not so now. Still, JC did win 4 GS on grass and beat Mac more than once, which like beating Borg on clay, is pretty remarkable.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
In 1981, Borg beat Connors 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 in the semi-final

Borg would go onto lose the final to John McEnroe, his 4th runner-up showing at the event and this match would with Connors would turn out to be his last Slam win. Connors would go onto win the next two US Open titles

Borg won 109 points, Connors 89

Serve Stats
Borg...
- 1st serve percentage (47/100) 47%
- 1st serve points won (39/47) 83%
- 2nd serve points won (27/53) 51%
- Aces 15 (1 possibly not clean), Service Winners 5
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (37/100) 37%

Connors...
- 1st serve percentage (76/98) 78%
- 1st serve points won (44/76) 58%
- 2nd serve points won (11/22) 50%
- Aces 1
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (10/98) 10%

Serve Patterns
Borg served...
- to FH 21%
- to BH 70%
- to Body 8%

Connors served...
- to FH 26%
- to BH 72%
- to Body 2%

Return Stats
Borg made...
- 86 (31 FH, 55 BH), including 8 runaround FHs & 1 return-approach
- 2 Winners (2 FH), including 1 runaround FH
- 9 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (3 FH, 1 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 5 Forced (5 BH)
- Return Rate (86/96) 90%

Connors made...
- 61 (13 FH, 48 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 17 Errors, comprising...
- 7 Unforced (2 FH, 5 BH)
- 10 Forced (3 FH, 7 BH)
- Return Rate (61/98) 62%

Break Points
Borg 5/7 (6 games)
Connors 1/12 (5 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Borg 18 (9 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 2 OH)
Connors 21 (7 FH, 2 BH, 7 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH)

Borg FHs - 2 dtl (1 pass), 5 inside-out (2 passes - 1 return, and 1 runaround return), 1 inside-in and 1 net chord dribbler
- BHs - 1 cc pass, 2 dtl passes and 1 inside-out

- 1 OH was hit on the bounce

Connors' FHs - 2 cc passes, 3 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-out and 1 at net
- BHs - 2 cc

- 1 FHV was a swinging shot and 1 BHV was a swinging shot played net-to-net

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Borg 56
- 26 Unforced (9 FH, 13 BH, 2 FHV, 2 OH)… 1 BH was a pass attempt
- 30 Forced (15 FH, 10 BH, 3 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.3

Connors 52
- 36 Unforced (22 FH, 12 BH, 1 FHV, 1 OH)… the FHV was not a net point
- 16 Forced (5 FH, 5 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 4 BHV)… 1 BHV was not a net point
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45

(Note 1: All 1/2 volleys refer to such shots played at net. 1/2 volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke numbers)

(Note 2: the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index is an indicator of how aggressive the average UE was. The numbers presented for these two matches are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Borg was...
- 19/34 (56%) at net, including...
- 4/7 (57%) serve-volleying, all first serves
--
- 0/1 return-approaching
- 3/5 (60%) forced back/retreated

Connors was...
- 30/42 (71%) at net, including...
- 2/4 (50%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
--
- 3/3 (100%) forced back

Match Report
A tough match for a straight setter and an unusual one from Borg's point of view. The critical difference is the power of Borg's first serve - which gives him a decisive cushion

Serve & Return
Borg serves huge. Uncharacteristically so - his play is reminiscent of someone like Pete Sampras or Boris Becker - with an unreturnably big first serve just round the corner at all time

Look at the numbers. 15 aces and 5 service winners. The latter figure is rare, let alone the former. And the 10 other return errors he forces with first serves are mostly very, very forced

So that's 30/47 or 63% first serves that went unreturned, with most being unreturnable. Generally, I've Borg to throw in a mix of big serves and regular, good serves but in this match, virtually every first serve is as big as he can hit them. And they're too much for even Jimmy Connors to get a racquet on, much less put back in play. Borg's power serves rarely kiss lines. They don't have to - power is more important than pinpoint placement

The downside of this is the low 47% first serves in. This might be a problem for a 'serve-bot', who doesn't have good court skills and needs the serve to win points. For Borg, one of the most skilled court players, its fine. Essentially, all the cheap points he wins is just a cushion (not a necessity) and he starts every neutral point with a good chance of winning. Ivan Lendl would come to play this way regularly

For all that, Connors does not return particularly well. Note the 7 return UEs, all against 2nd serves. While the 1st serve is phenomenal, Borg's 2nd serve is fairly ordinary. Its not uncommon for McEnroe's second serves (sans serve-volley) or even Lendl's to force errors, but I don't think I've ever marked an error drawn by Borg's 2nd serve as forced before (sans serve-volley) and there's nothing in this showing that's different from that. A lot of second serves are directed at the body, and Connors can step away to make his shot so simply its hardly perceptible. Just bad returning by Connors to miss 7 of these... and the returns he makes lack the depth (and to lesser degree, power) he usually gets. Bulk of credit to Borg's serving, minor blackmark against Connors' returning

Connors himself serves well. Now, what exactly does Connors serving "well" mean? No great power, but he does place the serve well and has Borg moving about to make the returns. This is enhanced because Borg chooses to return from well behind the baseline, which doesn't seem necessary against the Connors serve.

Moving around or not, return the ball does Borg - a full 90% of them. Normal for him, but that doesn't make it any less impressive. He obviously can't read Connors' serve as well as McEnroe does, but reacts to it through the air or otherwise copes with. Runaround FH returns against first serves aren't uncommon

Couple of rare, aggressive return plays from Borg. He runsaround a 2nd serve to his BH in the deuce court to spank a FH inside-out winner taking the ball early. Late in the match, he return-approaches once but is met by a low pass that he can't handle. For the most part though, he returns per his norm - with great consistency and without pointed aggression. Mostly credit Borg's returning, while Connors serves well within the limits of his own limitations on the shot

Play - Baseline
Statistically, Connors has an edge in play. He's +3 on winners and -4 on total errors for a net +7 in play (nowhere near enough to off set the -27 he has on serve-return complex)

Using the '78 match as a frame of reference to describe play, the big difference on show is there's no flagrant difference in power between the two players. Connors hits hard, Borg hits hard. Rallies are mostly open court, dynamic ones which Connors imposes. Borg for his part doesn't seem to be trying to slow down the dynamic, but accepts it and plays along. And does so well

Borg's defence is excellent. He does more of the running and gets back many a ball on the run, frequently with authority or at awkward angles. Its difficult business forcing errors out of Borg from the baseline. Connors for his part keeps down his own attacking UEs, though going on an error bender is what ultimately costs him the last two sets. You could say Borg never falters in defence, but Connors does on consistency on occasion

Though not passive from the baseline, Borg isn't attacking for the most part either. Unlike Connors, he doesn't seem to have it in him to regularly force errors baseline-to-baseline but needs to be at net to do that.

On pressure points, Borg looks to come to net (when he hasn't aced it away, which is most of the time), usually successfully

Connors is able to win baseline points by -
- moving Borg around
- Borg's BH giving way

Like the '78 match, Borg's BH isn't too reliable and is prone to UEs. He has adjusted his swing to one more suited to the court, but still struggles on BH. 13 BH UEs for Borg to just 9 on FH (and 12 off Connors' BH). The FH is the star of the show - with most winners and fewest errors of the 4 groundstrokes on show. Connors does take it on with his BH... and comes off second best most of the time

Borg wins points by -
- Connors making UEs

… he doesn't force many errors or hit winners baseline-to-baseline
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Play - Net & Passing
Borg is not good on the volley. Approaches do the work and even when he wins net points with volleys, needs to hit 2-3 of them to finish a point - and not difficult volleys either. He misses 1 of the easiest OHs imaginable after Connors had done very well retrieving a lob with a back-to-net-over-shoulder shot. He whiffs another. Not putting away OHs and even missing a few seems to be a part of the Borg package - like Novak Djokovic today. Probably worse. Just 56% net points won by Borg and a lot of those are with approach shot, including the serve

He does manufacture approaches when down break point though - the boldness of the move is even more commendable for how uncomfortable he looks up there. And it works, much credit to Borg for tactical sense

Connors is excellent at net. He comes in after overpowering Borg to knock away winners, virtually never failing to do so (misses just 1 - an OH. his FHV UE was not a net point). And in the third set in particular, manufactures approaches on top of that. This was smart because Borg was very resistant to baseline attacks and I thought it likely that perseverance with attacking baseline play would sooner or later lead to Connors bleeding UEs more than Borg making FEs

In third set, Connors makes 21 of his total 42 approaches - and wins 15 of his total 30. There's a significant number of approach errors also - not high by his standard, but costly. And Borg passes very well, forcing 6 errors and hitting 6 winners. Some difficult volleys for Jimbo to make too, but he's mostly up to it

Note Borg leading UEFI with 47.3 to Connors' 45. Connors has just 1 winner attempt miss, Borg has 6

A possible option Connors doesn't go in for much was using drop shots. Borg usually plays from well behind the baseline, and though he's quick enough to run balls down is clumsy enough at net that Connors would have had good chance of winning points. He wins one such with a swing BHV winner after forcing Borg forward

Match Progression
All sets, including first, are competitive. The match can be seen as one decided by clutch play. One of the key stats indicating this are the break points -

Borg 5/7 (6 games)
Connors 1/12 (5 games)

Borg saving break points is almost entirely down to his play. Usually, he aces his way out of tight corners and otherwise, takes the net early. Connors though does make a bit of a has of things when he's the one in trouble

After Borg breaks to start the match, Connors has 3 break points in the second game. the first is aced away, the 3rd is a near unreturnable serve and the strong pass forces a volleying error on the second. 2 other aces and a serve-volley aided forced return error keep Connors to just the 3 chances in the 14 point game. Connors is broken a second time from 40-15 up on the back of 4 UEs in 5 points, including 2 approach errors

Borg starts the second set with a stunning, runaround FH inside-out return winner. Serve-volleying later, he makes a good BH1/2V first 'volley' but Connors goes on to win the point with an unlikely running FH dtl pass. Connors opens up a 4-1 lead, breaking with a FH cc pass winner and has Borg down 0-40 to make it 2 breaks

Borg aces away all 3 break points - and another one a couple of points later. The third break point is unfortunate. Borg had taken net off a second serve point when a bad call has to be overruled and the point replayed... and then bangs down the ace.

There are a number of close calls that go against Connors in the match and he takes it well on the whole. Some strange line calling, where they don't have a man on the center line on both sides of the court. On some points, the linesperson calls the center line for a serve and then runs to the sideline afterwards, which I'd think would be distracting to the player? On these points, the sideline is being called by somebody from the opposite end of the court

Borg breaks back in a strongly played game where he's quick to seize net and punish Connors with strong passes. The second break though is down to Connors faltering. 40-15 up, he double faults and makes back to back approach errors (the second particularly bad) to give up the break

Borg survives being down 0-40 for the second time in the match - and this time he does it without big serving. He takes net twice and though forced back by a lob once, wins both points and on the last, hits a great BH cc pass.

Part of the reason for Connors attacking net more so much in the set is Borg playing at his most powerful from the back in this part of the match. In this set, Borg is the more commanding player from the back

Both players survive tough holds before the decisive break game. Connors opens it with a drop shot play ending with him swinging away a BHV winner from a forced to net Borg and Borg wins the next point by lashing a FH inside-in winner against Connors' change up FH cc moonball (a shot he occasionally employs against Borg to slow down action). And then, Jimbo just reels off 3 UEs in a row to get broken... the first a 3rd ball off a deep but loopy return that he hops back to deal with, the second a routine FH dtl to open court and the last a routine BH

Summing up, hard fought straight setter with Borg serving phenomenally and at all the right times to keep himself ahead of the curve. Action in play is tough baseline stuff with Connors the more attacking, the more error prone and the more eager to come forward and having a slight edge
 
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