Match Stats/Report - Becker vs Courier, Stockholm semi-final, 1991


Hall of Fame
Boris Becker beat Jim Courier 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4 in Stockholm semi-final, 1991 on carpet

Becker would go onto beat Stefan Edberg in the final to defend his title. Courier had won the French Open earlier in the year and would finish runner-up at the Year End Championship shortly after

Becker won 102 points, Courier 92

Becker serve-volleyed off all first serves and most seconds

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (57/103) 56%
- 1st serve points won (46/57) 81%
- 2nd serve points won (24/46) 52%
- Aces 13 (1 second serve), Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 8
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (36/103) 35%

- 1st serve percentage (60/91) 66%
- 1st serve points won (43/60) 72%
- 2nd serve points won (16/31) 52%
- Aces 11 (including 1 Becker whiff), Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (28/91) 31%

Serve Patterns
Becker served...
- to FH 32%
- to BH 59%
- to Body 9%

Courier served...
- to FH 37%
- to BH 44%
- to Body 19%

Return Stats
Becker made...
- 61 (28 FH, 33 BH), including 3 runaround FHs, 17 return-approaches & 2 drop-returns
- 3 Winners (3 BH), including 1 drop-return
- 15 Errors, comprising...
- 6 Unforced (3 FH, 3 BH), including 2 return-approach attempts
- 9 Forced (2 FH, 7 BH)
- Return Rate (61/89) 69%

Courier made...
- 59 (18 FH, 41 BH), including 1 runaround FH, 1 return-approach & 1 lob-return (unintentional)
- 4 Winners (3 FH, 1 BH), including 1 lob-return (unintentional)
- 21 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (2 FH)
- 19 Forced (8 FH, 11 BH)
- Return Rate (59/95) 62%

Break Points
Becker 3/6 (5 games)
Courier 1/5 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Becker 27 (4 FH, 4 BH, 6 FHV, 7 BHV, 5 OH, 1 BHOH)
Courier 28 (14 FH, 7 BH, 3 FHV, 1 BHV, 3 OH)

Becker had 16 from serve-volley points
- 9 first 'volleys' (2 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 OH, 2 FH at net)
- 7 second volleys (2 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH)

- 5 from return-approach points (2 FHV, 2 OH, 1 BHOH)

- FHs - 1 cc pass and 1 dtl
- BHs - 2 inside-out passes (1 return), 1 drop-return and 1 net chord dribbler (with Courier serve-volleying

Courier's regular FHs - 4 cc, 2 inside-out and 1 inside-in
- FH passes - 3 cc (1 return, 1 diving shot), 2 dtl (1 return), 1 lob and 1 longline lob return (unintentional)
- regular BH - 1 running-down-drop-shot dtl at net
- BH passes - 4 cc (1 return, 1 at net), 1 cc/longline (that Becker strangely ducked under) and 1 longline

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Becker 28
- 13 Unforced (4 FH, 3 BH, 4 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 15 Forced (2 FH, 6 BH, 1 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 BH1/2V, 1 Tweener)... with 1 BH at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 50

Courier 37
- 9 Unforced (5 FH, 1 BH, 3 BHV)
- 28 Forced (11 FH, 13 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 2 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 51.1

(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
Becker was...
- 62/92 (69%) at net, including...
- 46/66 (70%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 32/43 (74%) off 1st serve and...
- 14/23 (61%) off 2nd serve
- 11/17 (65%) return-approaching
- 0/2 forced back

Courier was...
- 19/30 (63%) at net, including...
- 10/18 (56%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 9/15 (60%) off 1st serve and...
- 1/3 (33%) off 2nd serve
- 1/1 return-approaching

Match Report
Very strong return-approaching from Becker proves the difference in a well played match on a fast court

Boris serve-volleys most of the time - off all first serves and 61% of the time off 2nd serves, while serving typically hard. Good enough to see him hold comfortably for the most part. Courier serves near as hard, a lot more consistently (he has 2 double faults to Boris' 8) and serve-volleys a fair bit himself. For 1st set and a bit, he's the better player

No breaks in the 1st set and Courier takes the tiebreak. From middle of 2nd set onwards, Boris takes to return-approaching. Not chip-charges. He hammers the ball hard, sometimes wide and often deep before following it to net, and wins 6 games in a row to take the 2nd set and lead by 2 breaks in the 3rd. Courier pulls 1 back but his game has been thrown for a loop. He doesn't serve as hard (likely to avoid having to serve 2nd serves that are getting return-approached), comes to net to an uncomfortable amount for him (likely to keep Boris away from it) and Boris remains better player til end

Some great shots and some strange ones. Early on, Courier throws in a slower, wide kick 1st serve. Boris expertly drop shots the return for a winner. He plays another such return later in match, but this time Courier does well to run it down and hit a winner. There's a memorable Courier diving, FH cc passing winner. And Boris plays 2 very strange shots back to back - first ducking under a well hit but not overwhelming BH pass that lands well inside for a winner, then gracefully moving out the way of a body serve without offering a shot as it goes for an ace

Serve & Return
1st serve is roughly a wash between the 2 players

Becker 12 aces, 2 service winners from 57 first serves. Courier 11 aces (1 is Becker whiff), 2 service winners from 60. Becker is +4% on unreturned serves (7% excluding double faults), which is largely due to all the extra serve-volleying he does. Courier is also serving a lot to the body (19% to 10%), which are not intended to be aces, though he has one with a body serve

In light of Becker's reputation in particular, is being roughly even or slightly ahead on 1st serve strength a relative loss for him? Not really

Something changed in Boris somewhere around mid '90s. He was always a big server, but only became a super-heavyweight Goran, Krajicek, Philippoussis 'botting calibre one bit after this match. I haven't come across any completely overwhelming serve showings from him '85-'93 and small number of almost average ones. By contrast, they're the norm rather than exception from about '94 onward. In that context, his showing here is within his norm

Tough to return for Courier, but not just-getting-racquet-on-ball is tough. He does a decent job. Most returns are about net high, some particularly hard hit for Boris' 1st volley

Boris' 2nd serving is very good, strong enough to confidently serve-volley behind against a strong returner. He faces more tough 1st volleys doing it, but still wins 61% points. That's balanced against high 8 double faults

They key to play is Becker's return. Mid-way through 2nd serve, he starts hammering 2nd serves and following them to net. The returns are hard enough that they're potentially point ending shots, even without the approach. With it, it proves overwhelming. Boris wins 11/17 points return-approaching, while only just 2 errors trying. The shots are ambitious enough that it wouldn't have been shocking for him to have missed as often as not. A couple of these plays are against 1st serves when he can hit the return wide. 5 winners coming out of them total

Boris' return-approaches turn the match on its head. Leaving aside his winning so many points, Courier alters his game, takes something off 1st serves to get more in and serves more to the body to prevent the play. Neither works. Boris is able to neutralize more 1st serves - Courier's 1st serve points won drops from 78% for 2 sets to 60% in the 3rd - and he whacks return-approaches to body serves just as readily as anything else. In general, Boris is fantastic returner of body serves

Courier returns firmly. He keeps an unusual position half-way between center and sideline, especially in deuce court


Hall of Fame
Play - Net & Baseline
Not too tough for Boris in forecourt. Courier mostly gives him regulation, above net balls to volley first up. Occasionally above average power of force. Boris' volleying is adequate. He's in '2-volley mode' - looking for the passing error or setting up an easy 2nd volley putaway rather than going for winner first up

He volleys away from Courier but not overly far, well short of into corners. Courier can reach ball after few steps and play his passes from stable position. Nor are volleys punched through fully. Its good enough - Courier would have to pass exceptionally well to win points regularly. As is, he doesn't pass badly, but Boris doing enough to come out well ahead in the net vs pass battle

Boris hits small number of drop volleys. His use of touch is another note worthy aspect of match. Generally, power play is his element and its not rare for him to not hit a touch shot all match. In other matches, he throws in the odd touch volley or lob that stands out among the big hitting. Here, there's a high (for him) number of touch volleys. And the beautiful drop-return winner is a shot anyone would be proud of

He deals well with Courier's extra hard hit passes and returns, controlling the volleys well and making the ones that are low on top of hard hit. Just 5 FEs is a good figure. 6 UEs can be improved on, without being bad. For most of match, he volleys more to Courier's FH surprisingly, changing it up near the end. Courier ends with 11 FH FEs to 13 on BH... typically, both for Boris and for most players, you'd expect much higher proportion of BH errors

Courier's net play isn't bad either. Not as decisive as Boris with the volleys, not missing many but neither punching them through or placing them particularly well. Its the kind of court where this type of volleying is good enough and he wins 63% net points

In nutshell - adequate/decent volleying form both, coming out of strong approaches (including serve and return) which would require exceptionally good passing to counter, that neither player can muster. Becker at net more, of stronger approaches, facing harder hit passes and volleying a bit better. Nothing surprising

Courier's dominates the baseline. He wallops winners and forces errors early after drawing weak returns. There isn't much neutral play, but Courier is much the harder hitter. Towards end when he's been rattled a bit by Becker's returns, he gets a bit loose. Two end with very similar groundstroke UEs - Becker 7, Courier 6

Match Progression
No breaks in the 1st set. Boris has to save 3 break points in his first service game (1 with a 2nd serve ace) and is pushed to deuce in game after that too. Courier holds more comfortably and serves 35 points to Boris' 46 in the set

In tiebreak, an early double fault sets Becker back and he misses a FHV late to give Courier a 2 mini-break win

Courier continues to hold easily at start of 2nd set. Boris plays 2 strange (absence of) shots in game 2 - first ducking under a not overly strongly hit pass and then moving away from a body serve - both going for winners

Turning point is game 6. Courier manages to hold a 10 point game, saving 2 break points but Boris return-approaches 4 times, winning 3. Boris wins the next 6 games - breaking first with a superb BH inside-out return pass winner against a body serve and return-approaching to win the next 3 points - which is enough to win the set

2 more return approaches sees him break to start the third set and he adds another next return game, where the slightly rattled Courier also double faults and misses third ball FH and first volley to lose to love
Terrible game by Becker to hand back the break, begining and ending with double faults

No hiccups from Becker from there as he continues to be the more threatening returner, with Courier taking something off his serves, missing a small number of overly aggressive shots and coming to net more than he had previously - all likely a product of Becker's return-approaching. Courier does get off the shot of the match, a diving FH cc passing winner

Summing up, well played match from both players. Becker power heading on back of very strong return-approaches that Courier has no answer for

Stats for the final between Becker and Stefan Edberg -
Stats for the other semi between Edberg and Aaron Krickstein -
Stats for pair's '92 Year End Championship final -


Seems Boris played aggressive against Jim coming to the net more. Why he didn’t do that against Agassi I do not know.


Hall of Fame
Seems Boris played aggressive against Jim coming to the net more. Why he didn’t do that against Agassi I do not know.
Funny you mention that because I was thinking something similar watching this

Those three - Boris, Courier and Agassi - had a Papers, Scissors, Rocks thing going on around this period
- Becker beats Courier
- Courier beats Agassi
- Agassi beats Becker

despite similarities in Courier and Agassi's game. Is Agassi's second serve any harder to return-approach to than Courier's? Probably easier and Courier's first serve is significantly stronger

Just after this match, Boris clashed with Agassi on similar surface at YEC. Not coming in as much

Similar story at '90 YEC

I saw Becker comment just before that match that Agassi undoubtedly returned his serve better than anyone. Think he got into his head with it
Agassi by contrast when asked if Becker had the biggest serve in the game smiled, "Absolutely not"