Match Stats/Report - Agassi vs Becker, French Open semi-final, 1991


Hall of Fame
Andre Agassi beat Boris Becker 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the French Open semi-final, 1991 on clay

Agassi would go onto lose the final to Jim Courier. The result saw him reach the final of a Slam event for the third time in a row - previously having reached French and US Open finals in 1990 and having skipped the other events in between. Becker was the reigning Australian Open champion and this was his third and last semi at the French

Agassi won 133 points, Becker 116

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (93/130) 72%
- 1st serve points won (63/93) 68%
- 2nd serve points won (21/37) 57%
- Aces 6 (1 second serve and 1 a Becker whiff)
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (36/130) 28%

- 1st serve percentage (69/119) 58%
- 1st serve points won (45/69) 65%
- 2nd serve points won (25/50) 50%
- Aces 16 (1 second serve and 1 not clean)
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (37/119) 31%

Serve Patterns
Agassi served...
- to FH 27%
- to BH 71%
- to Body 2%

Becker served....
- to FH 34%
- to BH 64%
- to Body 2%

Return Stats
Agassi made...
- 78 (27 FH, 51 BH), including 3 runaround FHs
- 4 Winners (2 FH, 2 BH)
- 21 Errors, comprising...
- 10 Unforced (4 FH, 6 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 11 Forced (5 FH, 6 BH)
- Return Rate (78/115) 68%

Becker made...
- 93 (29 FH, 64 BH), including 7 runaround FHs, 2 return-approaches & 5 drop-returns
- 4 Winners (4 FH), including 1 runaround FH
- 30 Errors, comprising...
- 21 Unforced (7 FH, 14 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 9 Forced (5 FH, 4 BH)
- Return Rate (93/129) 72%

Break Points
Agassi 6/12 (7 games)
Becker 3/13 (6 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Agassi 28 (14 FH, 9 BH, 5 FHV)
Becker 28 (21 FH, 2 BH, 3 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)

Agassi's FHs - 5 cc (2 returns, 1 pass, 1 at net), 1 cc/inside-in, 1 dtl pass, 3 inside-out, 1 inside-in, 2 drop shots (1 at net running-down-drop-shot) and 1 running-down-drop shot dtl at net
- BHs - 4 cc (1 pass, 1 at net), 3 dtl (1 return), 1 dtl/inside-out and 1 net chord dribbler return

- 2 FHVs were swinging shots (1 of them not a net shot) and 1 FHV was an inside-out drop

Becker's FHs - 11 cc (3 returns - 1 of which Agassi left, 3 passes), 3 dtl (1 runaround return), 1 dtl/inside-out pass, 2 inside-out, 1 longline at net, 1 lob, 1 net chord dribbler and 1 running-down-drop shot dtl at net
- BHs - 1 dtl and 1 inside-out

- 1 FHV was from a return-approach point and 1 was played net-to-net
- the BHV was a pass from just inside the baseline and not a net point

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Agassi 50
- 24 Unforced (13 FH, 11 BH)… with 1 FH at net
- 26 Forced (13 FH, 10 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV)… with 1 FH at net and 2 BH at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 49.2

Becker 65
- 45 Unforced (20 FH, 23 BH, 2 BHV)
- 20 Forced (10 FH, 8 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 48.7

(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
Agassi was...
- 19/34 (56%) at net, with...
- 0/1 forced back

Becker was...
- 18/26 (69%) at net, including...
- 1/2 serve-volleying, both 1st serves
- 2/2 return-approaching

Match Report
A very strong showing from Agassi off the baseline. Becker doesn't disgrace himself and plays an interesting match

Some background. At the previous US Open, Agassi had comfortably beaten Becker and at one point broke serve 8 times in 9 games. Becker had largely played from the baseline there. At the Year End Championship, Agassi had beaten Becker even more comfortably. Agassi appeared to have Becker's number head to head, returning serve particularly well and dominating him from the baseline

Becker's Strategy
So how does Boris approach an encounter on slow clay against a considerably stronger baseliner?

- doesn't serve-volley at all. Just twice, to be exact - 1 draws a return error, 1 ends with Boris missing a routine first volley. 1 other point he was trying to serve-volley off, but missed the serve
- doesn't come to net much. Near out and out baseline approach from Boris
- uses a lot of drop shots. Surprisingly well - just a couple of error trying and there's 20-25 such successful shots. There's 5 in the first game alone
- returns and from rallies, hits close to lines even neutrally

Its an odd, not predictable combination of cards. Not necessarily bad either, though highly risky

Agassi commands action from the back as a matter of course, his shots heavier and more consistent, but its Becker's choices that shape nature of play

Serve & Return
Conservative serving from Agassi

Of his 6 aces, 1 is a Becker whiff, 1 is a second serve Becker was moving in the wrong direction to and 2 are in the last game of the match with the score 5-1 and Boris down 3 breaks

He eases up on the serve as the match goes on. First 2 sets serves at 64% and say, above average of strength. last 2 sets, he serves at 84% at about average strength. More than 'spinning/rolling it in', but short off 'difficult to return'

His gaining a healthy 28% unreturned rate is down to Becker returning with guile. Boris isn't smacking or attacking returns, but returning firmly and often, close to lines. 21 unforced errors is one by product of this. Most are against routine first serves, not difficult to put back in play. Some lovely drop-returning from Boris too. These are mostly very short slices than bona fide drop shots, but they're played with purpose

Is the returning style of Becker worth it? I gather he was aware that from even starting position, he'd be outrallied by Agassi regularly so would feel the need to do something extra with the return. He elects to not try to do too much (big cut, winner attempt level of returning) but more than usual (angling balls extra, going near lines, drop shots). Agassi can usually cover the wide returns and pretty quickly, turn play to what it would have been had Becker returned down middle of court. In this light, all the errors probably not worth what Becker did... but its an interesting ploy and not a bad one where something beyond regulation returning was called for. Agassi's serve is strong enough that wildly attacking it was unlikely to bear fruit - though Becker does quite well when he has a go. 4 return winners from Boris

Becker serves big and 16 aces is a high figure for clay. Agassi generally returns firmly and deep and seems to read the serve well

Something I keep forgetting to mention. Its very likely Agassi read Becker's serve, but probably not by the looking at Becker's tongue. There's no correlation between the direction Becker sticks his tongue out as he's about to serve and the direction of the serve... not in this match, not beyond it. Unless Agassi keyed in on some preliminary or first instance direction of Becker's tongue, I think he was just joking years later when he claimed he read the direction based on Becker's tongue direction
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Hall of Fame
Play - Baseline (& Net)
This is essentially a pure baseline match, and much of the approaches are Agassi forced to net by Becker's drop shots

Key stat as is usually the case on clay are UEs: from the baseline, Agassi has 23, Boris 43

Off the FH side though, Becker can hold even with Agassi. Note Becker's match high 21 winners and large chunk of Agassi's 26 FEs would also have come off Boris' FH. He's about equal of power but trailing in consistency (UEs - Agassi 13, Boris 20) off that side. How the FH battles go is also shaped by movement

Neither player are particularly good. Becker's average movement is about his norm. Agassi's is probably an issue with the surface. Round about this period, he was particularly fast of court coverage. His being below that in this match looks like the common relative drop that players who didn't grow up on clay tend to have on the surface

Off the BH, Agassi has a sizable advantage. His shots are heavy, consistent and deep and he's able to finish points with authority dtl. When driving the BH, Becker looks and is, not far away from an error - though he does hit quite powerfully. He also drive slices just as much, often a drop shot

Its an elegant shot, but even more vulnerable than the drive. And Agassi hits them even more firmly

Its more on the BH that Becker looks to play ball near lines. Balls near lines are usually attacking shots, designed to force or at least, encourage errors. The shots Becker plays are near neutral degree shots... even when they land in, they're not likely to draw an error. And he makes errors going so close to the edges

Again, an interesting approach from Boris

On all too rare occasions Boris comes to net, he's usually successful, winning 69% points up there, including both return-approaches. Apprehension about over-doing it on clay and against Andre Agassi's stellar passing is understandable and Agassi also hits with depth and power on the whole to make coming in difficult. All the same, for all Boris' fancy but short of aggressive ways to return and play from the baseline to shorten the odds... I think the simplest way out of slugging it out from the back of the court with a heavier and more consistent hitting opponent would have been to simply, come to net more

Initially, Agassi's caught out by Becker's regular use of drop shots. Even when he's used to it, he's not overly quick to move forward to cut off the balls. He has 3 FEs and 1 UEs dealing with drop shots. And Becker does a surprisingly good job of not missing attempted drop shots (just twice does he miss)… with the regularity with which he went for the shot and often from balls that weren't obviously there for it, I would have expected more Becker errors and more weak drop shots

Still, its not a winning plan. Agassi usually reaches balls and is at net after making strong shot. Even with Becker hitting some passes from defensive positions, Agassi edges these points. No drop shot winners from Boris is telling, given how many he hit. Drop shot plays don't cost him any more than normal baseline rallying

Match Progression
The first set is fantastic and lasts 105 points. Its filled with baseline slugging and the FH battles are particularly tough. Becker also regularly uses BH drop shots, usually winning the points. As set wears on, Agassi takes to voluntarily coming to net to finish points and is successful doing so

Players trade breaks in the middle of the set and both survive other tough holds. Ironically, the set is decided in the only game where Becker looks to attack net, which he'd started to do in the game before while returning. Its not net play that loses him the game - he wins 3/4 approaches, its being outplayed form baseline. An easy third ball BH dtl winner miss on game point is particularly ill timed and a couple of points later, Agassi has the set

Agassi walls up in set 2. He has just 1 UE in essence (he adds two nothing-to-lose winner attempt misses in his last return game), Becker 7. Boris continues to drop shot Agassi in, and doesn't come in at all himself (1 serve-volley unreturned serve and one drop shot related) and Agassi starts to get a better grip on the play. As set wears on, Agassi's greater weight of shot becomes clearer than it had been in near even first set and he starts coming to net voluntarily to finish points

There's a fantastic 1-2 play by Becker. A drop-return brings Agassi in and Becker BHV passes the third ball for a winner from just inside the baseline. Agassi finishes the set in style, with a lovely inside-out drop FHV winner

Set 3 is uneventful. Becker drops the drop shotting and loses just 3 points in 5 service games. Just a lull from Agassi... Becker's game doesn't improve markedly. Agassi also holds serve easily - but for the one game. 3 loose FH errors from Agassi over a short period, Becker taking net to bring up a fourth break point and hitting an excellent FH cc pass from defensive position on it sees Boris break and its enough to give him the set

Boris opens the fourth with a break, starting with FH cc return winner and ending with back to back winners - the first a FHV from a return-approach, the second a FH cc. And its the last game he wins. Agassi's just better from the back - much more consistent, heavier and better with the angles

Couple of cute drop shot related points. Having been on the receiving end, Agassi hits a perfect, touch FH drop shot winner. He breaks for the last time by drop shotting Becker to net, who replies with a drop shot of his own that Agassi is able to run down place away for the winner

As Agassi serves out the set, there's a similar point where Becker's drop shot off a drop shot is heavily back-spun to the extent of probably would have gone back to his side of the court without Agassi poking it at a fine angle. Becker's able to run that down sideways and place it away dtl for the winner, but Agassi goes on to hold to end the match

Summing up, impressively strong and solid from Agassi. 28 winners to 24 UEs, while forcing 20 FEs from Becker are fantastic figures. He's consistent and heavy of shot off both wings and has a particularly sizable advantage off the BH. Some creative stuff from Becker to make things tricky, but its not nearly enough to make up for the discrepancy in groundstroke quality. He'd probably do better to come to net more himself than bring Agassi in

Stats for the pair's '90 US Open semi -
Stats for their '90 YEC semi -