Match Stats/Report - Agassi vs Connors, US Open quarter-final, 1989


Hall of Fame
Andre Agassi beat Ivan Jimmy Connors 6-1, 4-6, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the US Open quarter-final, 1989 on hard court

It was Agassi's first fifth set win, having lost his first 5. He would go onto lose in the next round to Ivan Lendl

Agassi won 136 points, Connors 126

(Note: I'm missing 3 Agassi service points, all won by Agassi. 1 of the points included a successful return)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (70/127) 55%
- 1st serve points won (44/70) 63%
- 2nd serve points won (31/57) 54%
- Aces 11 (1 second serve)
- Double Faults 6
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (22/128) 17%

- 1st serve percentage (77/132) 58%
- 1st serve points won (48/77) 62%
- 2nd serve points won (26/55) 47%
- Aces 2, Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 7
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (23/132) 17%

Serve Patterns
Agassi served...
- to FH 38%
- to BH 60%

- to Body 3%

Connors served....
- to FH 23%
- to BH 77%

- to Body 1%

Return Stats
Agassi made...
- 102 (27 FH, 74 BH, 1 ??), including 6 runaround FHs
- 3 Winners (2 FH, 1 BH)
- 19 Errors, comprising...
- 9 Unforced (3 FH, 6 BH), including 2 runaround FH attempts
- 10 Forced (3 FH, 7 BH)
- Return Rate (102/125) 82%

Connors made...
- 101 (39 FH, 59 BH, 3 ??), including 1 runaround FH, 1 runaround BH and 3 return-approaches
- 1 Winner (1 BH)
- 11 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (2 FH, 1 BH)
- 8 Forced (2 FH, 6 BH)
- Return Rate (101/122) 83%

Break Points
Agassi 7/15 (7 games)
Connors 6/13 (8 games)

(including returns, excluding serves)

Agassi 23 (9 FH, 12 BH, 2 BHV)
Connors 34 (5 FH, 7 BH, 9 FHV, 10 BHV, 1 BH1/2V, 2 OH)

Agassi's FHs - 2 cc, 4 dtl (1 return, 1 pass), 2 inside-out (1 return) and 1 lob
- BHs - 6 cc (3 passes), 2 dtl (1 return, 1 sliced pass), 1 longline, 2 drop shots and 1 lob

Connors' FHs - 1 cc pass, 1 dtl, 2 inside-out and 1 running-down-drop-shot at net
- BHs - 3 cc (1 return), 3 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-out running-down-drop-shot
- 2 from serve-volley points - a first FHV and a second OH

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Agassi 63
- 38 Unforced (22 FH, 13 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)
- 25 Forced (9 FH, 15 BH, 1 FHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45

Connors 81
- 51 Unforced (17 FH, 29 BH, 3 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 30 Forced (10 FH, 11 BH, 1 FHV, 3 FH1/2V, 4 BHV, 1 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.9

(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...
- 9/15 (60%) at net, including...
- 1/3 (33%) serve-volleying, all first serves

Connors was...
- 37/62 (60%) at net, including...

- 4/10 (40%) serve-volleying, comprising..
- 4/9 (44%) off first serve and..
- 0/1 off second
- 1/3 return-approaching
- 1/2 forced back

Match Report
(Recommend reading report from the pair's match the previous year first, as I'll draw on that to describe play. I would have put both matches in the same thread for easier discussion, but didn't because the forum posting format had been set to severely limiting post length so that I needed 4-5 posts per match, which would have made things clunky)

Most 5 set matches ebbs and flow of playing level - and this one is no exception. Some of it seems to be triggered by external factors, specifically Connors' illness, extravagant crowd participation and Agassi's apparent mental inability to take these in stride. Though a competitive struggle, I wouldn't call this a good match on the whole

Match starts where the last one left off. Agassi near flawless, Connors not so much. Trading groundstrokes, Agassi is consistent and powerful, Connors sloppy and error prone. After 6 games, Connors has made 12 unforced errors to Agassi's 1 as he serves to prolong the set.

Though he's broken, this is the first turning point of the match. Agassi reduces Connors to 0-40 - forcing 2 errors at net with powerful returns - but goes error bound himself for the rest of the game. Agassi makes 6 UEs (including 3 returns) from thereon (13 more points in the game) and while breaking... this is 6 a huge let down from the standard he'd shown up to this point.

So it continues to start the third. Connor breaks at once - half due to Agassi (2 routine FH errors), half himself (a volley winner and forcing an error). A very poor Agassi service game makes it 2 breaks and 4-1 to Connors, when the older man calls for the referee. Apparently, he's feeling dizzy and nauseous.... and he looks it.

Not sure what the rules are on this. Apparently, such things fall under the heading of "loss of condition", not "injury" and as such, Connors is more or less on his own. The trainer does see him, but I'm not sure how much help he's allowed to give. The commentators say none, the referee seems to say limited to giving him a pill, but no treatment. Connors seems to tell his wife at courtside that he's not going to make it (presumably finish the match, not contemplation of mortality). Soldier on he does however. Walking wobbly, giving back 1 break but playing decently. he manages to hold onto his one remaining break by tanking return games and focusing fully on holding serve - and evens the match at 1 set all
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Hall of Fame
And thus begins phase 3. Agassi seems confused how to proceed with Connors in dodgy shape. He seems to be trying to ease up on baseline aggression/opening the court and focusing on hitting the ball down the middle, probably in the hope of Connors bleeding errors. A fair strategy, given how Jimbo played in the first set

Connors proves up to the task though and keeps his errors low and frequently comes into net off excellent approaches, where he volleys well. In Set 3, Connors seems to be feeling well enough to play normally (though probably not 100%), while Agassi's confusion seems to be accentuated by vociferous crowd support for his opponent. Agassi goes to pieces - missing returns, making errors, passing poorly and still trying to hit safely

Set 4 is the best of the bunch. Agassi regroups to play a decent level, Connors continues to play as he has. A poor service game gives Agassi the break, but he's pushed to protect that break for most of the set

Final set, Agassi returns to top form, Connors looks tired - and Agassi wipes the floor with him to take a 5-1 lead. He's a bit nervy near the finish line (common in both matches) and with crowd support going off the charts (to Agassi's obvious discomfort), Connors finds it in himself to pinch a break back. Agassi though manages to serve it out the second time of asking

Playing Dynamics & Statistics
Two big changes from the '88 match are Connors is net rushing and the more closed court baseline dynamic

Connors at net
Connors ventures forward all match to the tune of 60 approaches - 23% of all points, to 15% in '88 - and is impressive there. Consistently putting away medium height volleys is not easy, but Connors does just that - and also awkwardly high balls (as opposed to high putaways). He's not challenged much on low volleys - but tends to make (forced) errors when he is. Partially, this is because his approach shots are excellent and partially Agassi not passing particularly well... but I would overwhelmingly credit the former rather than discredit the latter for this.

Good move coming in like that... its clear he's second best from the baseline, so how else can he win but by coming in? Even if his chances up front wouldn't be considered great against the heavyweight hitting of Agassi... its the right move. As Connors' poor serve-volley numbers (wins 40%) tells you, he needs a good strong approach to come in behind and both his judgement in when to come in and exectution (very few approach attempt errors - 3-5 I'd estimate) are exemplary.

Agassi not at his best on the pass (which by definition, he's not guaranteed to be at all times) but probably still better than almost anyone else would be... credit Connors for boldness and good play

Baseline Play
'88 was mostly open court, running from side to side, hitting winners/forcing errors dynamic

'89 is more closed court, hitting up and down the middle, consistency-more-important-than-shot-making stuff. Either way, Agassi is better.

Agassi misses a trick here. With Connors weary, running him ragged would probably have been the best way to go. Instead, the teenager tries to bleed errors out of Connors. I suppose it works - 46 groundstroke errors from Connors to Agassi's 35... but the other way would probably have been better (though more risky), especially in light of the players relative movements

Connors is noticeably slower than a year ago. Agassi has remained about the same... and even a year ago, Agassi had a big advantage in movement. He doesn't utilize this advantage, with the strategy he chose

Not that its all Agassi from the baseline and obviously, there's still plenty of running and attacking play. its a patchy match.... Connors gets the better for parts of the match when Agassi is playing loose and Agassi can only be so passive for so long (leaving aside Connors' ability to turn stationary situations into fluid ones)

Agassi seems to prefer FH cc to Connors BH cc dynamic rather than the other way round. Agassi with 22 FH UEs, Connors with 29 BHs is a fair indicator of how that battle went... close, but Agassi edging it

Serving & Returning
Connors serves less well than the previous year, Agassi returns a lot worse

The numbers for Connors in '88 were banal, which I credit to Agassi's excellent returning.... Connors was constantly stretching and moving Agassi about with the serve, but everything still came back

Here though, Agassi has bad day on return by his standard. Misses many easy returns - 9 UEs (Connors has 3). And Connors is neither stretching him particularly, nor serving at a high percentage (58%). Still, even a bad-returning Agassi is more than enough to handle Jimmy Connors serve, and this match up was in no danger of being a critical factor

Given Agassi's stronger serve, I think its clear Connors returned much better than Agassi in the match

Summing up, a patchy match with playing level fluctuating. The match is on Agassi's racquet - the bigger server, the stronger baseliner, the faster mover. Connors makes it competitive with very good net play, holding up from the baseline and having the stronger mind under pressure/stress. Its not quite enough to overcome the playing handicap
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Moose Malloy

FYI, most observers at the time thought agassi intentionally tanked set 3 in order to orchestrate his first 5 set win. His poor 5 set record was a big talking point in the media at the time. Agassi was seen mouthing 'this is going 5' to his brother after set 3, and there were reports of how enraged Connors was in the locker room after the match because of the tanked set(tanking sets was sort of agassi's thing back then)
Agassi circa 1989 may have been the most unpopular player on tour.

Also, Connors experienced full body cramps in his 3rd round win over Gomez, maybe there were some lingering issues here(there was speculation he may default vs Edberg in R4)


Hall of Fame
FYI, most observers at the time thought agassi intentionally tanked set 3 in order to orchestrate his first 5 set win. His poor 5 set record was a big talking point in the media at the time. Agassi was seen mouthing 'this is going 5' to his brother after set 3, and there were reports of how enraged Connors was in the locker room after the match because of the tanked set(tanking sets was sort of agassi's thing back then)

I remember you telling me this some time ago and I kept a special eye out for it. I don't think its true

Agassi seems rattled by Connors' illness and confused how to proceed. His level drops in second half of set 2.... and carries on into set 3, where Connors also starts playing better

It isn't til he's down 4-0 and two breaks that Agassi starts 'tanking'. And by 'tanking', I mean charging the net blindly, going for broke shots from the baseline on his last service game. That's not losing on purpose, that's frustration, being down, lashing out... many players do it

I see Djokovic do stuff like this occasionally when's rattled (only he usually pulls it of)

And if he tanks the last game... why wouldn't he, down 3 breaks, 0-5?

His level does not skyrocket back up in the 4th... just gets back to normal standard and play is tough

also don't see why anyone would tank a set at 1 set all in best of 5.... Agassi might not have been the smartest player around then, but surely he wasn't that crazy

Down 2 sets to 1, of course it'll go 5 if he wins... why would Agassi's comment to his brother be taken as an indicator he tanked?

Don't have a problem with how Agassi played. Connors tanked his first few return games post illness far more than Agassi did last two games of 3rd set

I've seen Agassi tanking last 2 games of the bagel he took from Edberg in Miami '90 (don't have a problem with that either, up 2 sets but down 2 breaks.... seems sensible enough), and that was blatantly obvious Not seeing the same here

If Connors had a hissy fit over it, that's probably Connors being a sore loser

Connors wastes oodles of times between points after his illness, even on Agassi's serve and we all know Agassi likes to play super fast. Not a peep of protest or complaint out of Agassi. Connors did similar stuff at the end of their match the previous year too

If Agassi got crap for this in the press, I think that's a case of the press loving to have a go at him whether its justified or not. If anyone's sportsmanship should be called into question over these two matches, its Connors