Match Stats/Report - Borg vs Connors, Wimbledon final, 1977

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Bjorn Borg beat Jimmy Connors 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 in the Wimbledon final, 1977 on grass

Borg was the defending champion and he would go onto to win the next 3 editions also, including with wins over Connors in the following years final and the semi the year after

Borg won 155 points, Connors 133

Borg serve-volleyed off vast majority off first serves, Connors occasionally

Serve Stats
Borg...
- 1st serve percentage (98/133) 59%
- 1st serve points won (57/78) 73%
- 2nd serve points won (24/55) 44%
- Aces 8, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (41/133) 31%

Connors...
- 1st serve percentage (108/155) 70%
- 1st serve points won (63/108) 58%
- 2nd serve points won (18/47) 38%
- Aces 2
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (12/155) 8%

Serve Patterns
Borg served...
- to FH 21%
- to BH 68%
- to Body 11%

Connors served...
- to FH 27%
- to BH 65%
- to Body 8%

Return Stats
Borg made...
- 141 (65 FH, 76 BH), including 19 runaround FHs & 2 return-approaches
- 1 Winner (1 BH)
- 10 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (1 FH, 3 BH)
- 6 Forced (3 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (141/153) 92%

Connors made...
- 89 (27 FH, 62 BH), including 4 runaround FHs & 1 return-approach
- 3 Winners (2 FH, 1 BH)
- 32 Errors, comprising...
- 11 Unforced (5 FH, 6 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 21 Forced (3 FH, 18 BH)
- Return Rate (89/130) 68%

Break Points
Borg 9/19 (12 games)
Connors 6/14 (7 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Borg 30 (7 FH, 11 BH, 6 FHV, 3 BHV, 3 OH)
Connors 64 (17 FH, 18 BH, 8 FHV, 14 BHV, 7 OH)

Borg had 10 from serve-volley points
- 9 first volleys (5 FHV, 3 BHV, 1 OH)... 1 FHV can reasonably be called an OH
- 1 second volley (1 OH)

- 15 passes (7 FH, 8 BH)
- FHs - 4 cc, 2 dtl and 1 longline
- BHs - 4 cc (1 return), 3 dtl and 1 inside-out

- regular BHs - 2 cc and 1 dtl

Connors had 16 passes (7 FH, 9 BH)
- FHs - 3 cc (1 net chord flicker) and 4 dtl (1 net chord flicker)
- BH - 4 cc (1 return), 2 dtl, 1 inside-out and 2 lobs

- regular FHs - 1 cc, 2 dtl, 2 inside-out, 1 inside-in and 3 net chord dribblers (2 returns)
- regular BHs - 2 cc, 2 dtl, 2 inside-out, 1 inside-out/dtl at net, 1 drop shot and 1 net chord dribbler at net

- 11 from serve-volley points
- 8 first 'volleys' (2 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 OH, 1 FH at net)... the OH can reasonably be called a swinging FHV and the FH at net was a drop shot
- 2 second volleys (1 BHV, 1 OH)
- 1 fifth volley (1 BHV)

- 2 other OHs were on the bounce (1 from the baseline)

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Borg 54
- 16 Unforced (8 FH, 7 BH, 1 OH)... the OH was a baseline shot on the bounce
- 38 Forced (10 FH, 21 BH, 1 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 BHOH, 1 Back-to-Net)... 1 BHV was a lob
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 41.9

Connors 82
- 58 Unforced (27 FH, 23 BH, 6 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 24 Forced (8 FH, 7 BH, 4 FHV, 2 FH1/2V, 2 BHV, 1 BH1/2V)... with 1 non-net FHV from no-man's land
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.0

(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...
- 50/76 (66%) at net, including...
- 40/56 (71%) serve-volleying, all 1stt serves
---
- 2/2 return-approaching
- 1/4 (25%) forced back/retreated

Connors was...
- 68/98 (69%) at net, including...
- 17/25 (68%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
--
- 1/1 return-approaching
- 1/1 forced back/retreated

Match Report
Good match of all court tennis, with bit of everything on show - serve-volleying (primarily from Borg), baseline rallying and approaching from baseline rallies (primarily from Connors). Borg is comfortably the better player on the whole due to substantial advantage in consistency in all areas, but particularly the return, on groundstrokes and the volley. The former 2 aren't surprising, so its the volleying that stands out the most. He also has much stronger serve - as much for Connors' being distinctly average as Borg's standing out as special - which is probably the biggest factor in outcome

Key stats include...
- Borg with return rate of 92%. Connors' serve is ordinary, but even so, Borg's clockwork consistency is extraordinary
- Borg with 0 UEs on the volley or in the forecourt(!)
- Baseline UEs - Borg 16, Connors 50. Speaks for itself but counter-balanced by...
- Net points rallying to net - Connors 50/72 at 69%, Borg 8/18 at 44%

The 2 take different approaches to play. Off first serves, Borg serve-volleys most of the time, Connors occasionally (Borg 81% of the time, Connors 24%). From baseline rallies, Connors rallies his way to net regularly, Borg occasionally (Connors 72 times, Borg 18). The volleying is considerably better than the passing from both men, and both win bulk of net points (Borg 66%, Connors 69%)

So action is two parts -
i) serve-volleying (most of Borg's first serve points, about a quarter of Connors')
ii) points starting baseline to baseline

Serve-Volleying
Off the 1st serve...
- Serve-volleying frequency - Borg 81%, Connors 24%
- points won serve-volleying - Borg 71%, Connors 68%
- points won staying back - Borg 8/13 at 62%, Connors 44/81 or 54% (sans aces and service winners)

Good move by Borg to serve-volley so regularly. He'd likely to better to do so all the time. With 0 UEs and just 6 FEs on the volley, he takes care of business up front. He stays back most in the final set (to his detriment), while Connors comes in most at the same time (to his benefit)

Numbers are also suggesting Connors would do well to serve-volley more. What might happen were he to do so more regularly is anyone's guess, but they're probably right

Borg with hefty serve but not too demanding to return. Sans serve-volleying, Connors could likely return around 80%. As is, he manages 68%. 11/32 return errors have been marked unforced - all points Borg stays back on, and almost all 2nd serves... plenty of room for improvement in Connors' returning

Returning against the serve-volleying though is a tricky balance to get right. Generally, Borg is the kind of volleyer you'd fancy testing on the regulation, net high volley. In other words, toning down power/wide placement to get more returns in around net high... and expect a few regulation volley misses

This isn't general. 0 volleying UEs from Borg. He doesn't miss anything that's routine
For that matter, just 6 FEs for him in forecourt. He's tested - particularly early on, he gets a lot of tough volleys that are powerfully hit and at least low-ish and occasionally right to his feet. Puts almost all of them back in play

With Borg being a wall on the volley, it falls on Connors to go the extra mile on the return. A lot of his return errors hit the very top of the tape - they'd be challenging if they made it over. He needs to return that well because the ones' that make it over aren't winning him points

Borg's not particularly destructive with the volley. Its odd that he has1 fewer winner serve-volleying than Connors does, despite 31 more serve-volley points (granted, far more of Borg's end with unreturned serves where he has no chance to hit a winner). 9/10 of his serve-volley winners are first volleys - easy balls and putaways. No problem dispatching those, which for him, isn't a given

To the regulation volley, he volleys away from Connors but not too far and without punching through much. Reasonable shots on the pass for Jimbo. He usually can't make them... this is normal. I'd say he passed particularly well if he made more, not hold it against him for not doing so. Its typical grass court where balls regularly around ankle height... making any pass is a tall order

So from Connors point of view -
- any weak returns are dispatched
- any regulation returns are volleyed in play, with odds on his not being able to make the pass
-powerful or/and low returns are not too common, but are almost always put in play too. He has better shot on the pass on those, but odds would still favour Borg from that position - and so it proves

All credit to Borg on the volley. He just doesn't miss

Borg returns from a normal position a bit behind the baseline, as opposed to well behind it as he often employed. With Connors serve not being powerful, he'd have time to see that when Connors is serve-volleying. In other words, Connors serve-volleying doesn't have that big a positive surprise element helping it. Borg returns the same way against serve-volleys as he does at other times. Very consistent, regulation returning

Connors, unlike Borg, is ferocious in dispatching the ball. Most of his volleys to balls above net are at least slightly swinging shots. Its not necessary and liable to unnecessarily raise errors, but that's just his way. He doesn't miss much regardless - he's got 8 UEs on the volley from 98 approaches - but a few sloppy easy misses

Would he have done better to serve-volley more? Clearly, the numbers suggest it and I'd say so. Points Connors starts on the baseline basically become 50-50 affairs after Borg's return. Points Connors serve-volleys behind start with Connors having a volley above net to whack. His serve, though not strong, is at least as strong as the approach shots he typically comes in behind from rallying - and there are the usual for him, relatively high approach errors that wouldn't apply to serve-volleying
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
In short, Connors volleys well enough that serve-volleying more suggests itself as a good move, especially since alternative is having all initiative neutered with Borg's return. Borg, though uber-consistent, isn't threatening with the return. And Connors handles the tough volleys (he doesn't face much serve-volleying but gets his fair share coming in off rallies) pretty well too

Points Starting on Baseline
All 2nd serve points, most of Connors' first serve ones and small number of Borg's start baseline-to-baseline

Position is virtually 50-50 after the return. Neither player does anything with the 2nd serve. Note the considerable proportion of body serves (Borg serves there 11%, Connors 8%).... these aren't body serves per se, just as safely put in play as serves as possible. In addition to his large 19 runaround FHs, Borg regularly moves over to hit FHs to the gentle body serves. Connors too, though he has small 4 runaround FH returns

Connors leads the baseline dance, hitting much harder and changing direction as he pleases. The difference in hitting power is substantial, with Connors categorically ahead off both wings. There isn't a fixed pattern of cc rallies because he changes direction off both sides at will - longline, dtl or inside-out, including with BH inside-out. Borg's left to counter-punch

Even Borg FH trails Connors BH in hitting. The other way around, Borg's quite loopy and slicey with his BHs while Connors hits FHs hard. In fact, Borg's fairly side-spun slicey with his FH too, or poking balls back in play on his usual authoritive side. Lot of very low balls around ankle high to cope with, particular when Connors gets the ball deep, and that's as good a way of coping as any

Connors' hitting is pressuring, if not overly destructive. Typically, Borg resists the pressure and turns into a wall. Way Connors hits, he could expect to make a bunch of hard hitting UEs in exchange for gaining beat-out errors from his opponent. The hard hitting UEs come all right, but Borg refuses to give up the beat-out errors... primarily credit Borg

Connors with 50 groundstroke UEs, to Borg's meager 15 speaks for itself. Note relative evenness of Connors' UEs by wing. 27 FHs, 23 BHs... that's about even for most of match, with a late spurt of FH UEs late in the match taking it ahead. For that matter, Borg too is very even - 8 FHs, 7 BHs

Connors also hits 13 baseline-to-baseline winners (almost all from closer to baseline than service line) to just 3 from Borg. There are negligible errors forced baseline to baseline

With baseline points ending with errors, and Borg being a wall its left for Connors to take net to win points. He has more scope to as he's harder hitter and leading if not commanding rallies and he's much, much more net hungry

Rallying to net, Connors is 50/72 at 69%, Borg 8/18 at 44%. Small number of forced approaches in Borg's number too. Connors is never in undue hurry to get forward. Virtually never comes in off third ball and never appears to be looking to. Happy to hit his power groundies and wait for short ball to come in behind. He parlays some attacking wide hit shots into approaches too - but more waiting for weak or/and short ball. On the grass, such balls are often near dying under knee high and for Connors specifically, would be a tricky approach shot. He doesn't miss many - a good day for consistency on approach shots for him. In general, he tends to miss a high lot of approach shots, particularly when ball is low. Here, he has to come in off low balls because that's how Borg's weak shots fall to, but Jimbo's up to easing the ball over the net as he comes in most of the time. Also pounds the shorter balls that don't get low to set up an easier time at net, which is normal for him

Once at net, Connors volleys ferociously as described earlier, half swing volleying regulation height balls. Gets a good lot of tough volleys down low or out wide from Borg's dipping shots that he handles well too. There's some sloppy misses in the 8 UEs, but keeping the FEs down to 9 reflects a job well done at net. He leaves Borg with less shot on the pass than the other way around, which is largely behind his edging net points won

Connors wins 69% net points to Borg's 66% - and a high lot of Borg's are unreturned serves. Connors has to make many more volleys (he leads winners 29 to 12), volleys more aggressively, deals with higher lot of tough volleys (though the two are near equal at handling those - Borg is also very good, just not faced with it as much). Borg clearly the more consistent with his impeccable 0 UEs to Connors acceptably sloppy 8

Borg with a pair of BHOH FEs. A curious feature of his game in general is his poor movement on the OH. In all other aspects of movement - both at net and on the baseline, both short range or running - he movement is exemplary, like a cat a on a hot tin roof. On the OH by contrast, he just gives a half-hearted little hop like a middle aged man trying to reach the top shelf that's anything but confidence inspiring
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Connors - the better court player?
Note both players with low 2nd serve points won - Borg 44%, Connors 38%. Why?

non-serve-volley first serve points won read - Borg 62%, Connors 54% (excluding aces/service winners, but including other unreturned serves)
excluding double faults, 2nd serve points won read - Borg 46%, Connors 40%

From late in first set to early in 4th, Connors loses 14 straight 2nd serve points

Baseline action across the two serves for both players is virtually the same. Connors does hammer 2nd serve returns but that's how he hits all his groundies and is only kept from doing the same on the 1st serve return because its hefty. He also misses a good lot of returns - again, in similar way to his hard hitting, baseline play. And there are only 13 non-serve-volley Borg first serve points to compare it against

Borg's returning off both first and second serves are virtually the same, comfortably putting ball back in play and rally starting neutrally. You'd expect Borg to win about the same amount of baseline points returning 1st and 2nd serves... but winning 46% against 1st serves and 60% against 2nds is a big difference

I'd put this down to Connors being more passive in his play on his 2nd serve points. No real reason for it - maybe just the natural tendency to be more wary on 2nd serve points. Not a problem Connors has in general. He regularly wins more 2nd serve points than 1sts

In nutshell, taking neutral starting points to be both players 2nd serve points (sans double faults) and Connors' non-serve-volley first serve points sans aces (unusual for this to be considered a 'neutral' starting point, but for this match up, it realistically is) -

- Connors' non-serve volley 1st serve points (sans aces) - Connors wins 54%
- Borg's 2nd serve points (sans double faults) - Connors wins 54%
- Connors' 2nd serve points (sans double faults) - Borg wins 60%

Sans all unreturned serves and double faults, Borg wins 112 points, Connors 118

Though playing in thoroughly different styles - Connors harder hitting, more aggressive with his groundies and much more willing to come to net, Borg solid as a rock - there's next to nothing between the 2 in play. Its serve-return complex and Borg's willingness to serve-volley regularly that puts him well over

Match Progression
Action - and Jimmy Connors - is at its hottest in first set. Borg is wall-like as he is all match, but Connors also rarely misses from the back. He either comes to net, or hits winners from the back. 7 of his 13 baseline-to-baseline winners come in the set

Connors starts out serve-volleying. An easy missed FHV and Borg passing him BH cc with the return within first 2 games sees him ease off, and switch to staying back, hitting hard and coming in after drawing short ball. He has to save 3 break points in game 3, including 1 with a BH cc pass winner

The break comes in game 8 to love. Borg misses all his first serves, Connors hits 2 winners (FH inside-out and OH), Borg misses an approach shot and on break point, double faults

Action stays tough early in 2nd set too, and Borg endures a 16 point hold, saving 4 break points. Lot of powerful, low returns from Connors and Borg handles the difficult volleys well. From 2-2, Connors loses the next 8 games and 10 of the next 11.

First break comes through loose FH errors from Connors. Second is shaped by of all things, Borg forcing passing errors with 2 return-approaches. He doesn't play it again all match. In between all that, Borg's wall-like showing from the baseline starts wearing Connors down, who starts missing his groundstrokes

In third set, Connors becomes genuinely loose of the ground (as opposed to normal, but Borg being too wall like in 2nd set), and its groundstroke errors that sees Borg sweep it 6-1. Gaining in confidence, Borg starts staying back off the occasional first serve

Connors stops the rot in 4th set. The passing from both players is at its best for the match here, Connors also serves a bit more strongly. Borg still returns almost everything though. A Connors third ball BH inside-out winner from center of baseline right to the corner stands out as superb and there's a fantastic point that turns into a net-to-net scrap, with the serve-volleying Connors edging it with a fifth volley, BHV winner

Connors break to love to end the set with 3 winners

Borg races out to 4-0 lead in the decider. He serve-volleys least often in this set but seeks net from rallying most, while Connors serve-volleys at his highest rate for the match.

Borg actively manufacturing an approach to finish with an OH winner stand out as he breaks to open. He breaks again, this time taking net 4 times in a 10 point game (he only rallies to net 18 times all match - and some of those are forced approaches). In fact, Borg has 2 break points to go up 5-0. Connors serve-volleys 5 times in the game - hitting winners on every one - to hold it. Then breaks twice, with Borg staying back almost half the time off first serves to level match at 4-4

At 15-15, after just Connors' just 2nd double fault of the match, Borg again manufactures an approach and snaps away a sharp, drop FHV. Couple of sloppy, regulation groundstroke errors from Connors hands Borg the break, who serves out to love to take the match

Summing up, wall-like showing from Borg - barely missing a return, even more barely missing a volley and excellent not just in his consistency off the ground but also resistance to Connors' hard hitting shots from the back. He serve-volleys with commitment and every point Connors wins against it has to be earned the hard way. Connors leads baseline action with greater clout of shot but also much more error prone - some of it sloppy, some of it due to Borg being a wall - and rallies his way to net to attack, where he's ferocious in attacking volleys and good at coping with tough passes

Play is roughly even - within dynamics of Connors the aggressor, Borg the counter-puncher - but huge advantage for Borg in strength of serve, coupled with serve-volleying and tremendously consistent returning making Connors earn every point puts him fairly comfortably over

Stats for Borg's semi with Vitas Gerulaitis - (9) Match Stats/Report - Borg vs Gerulaitis, Wimbledon semi-final, 1977 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)
Stats for the pair's '78 final - (9) Match Stats/Report - Borg vs Connors, Wimbledon final, 1978 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)
 

sandy mayer

Semi-Pro
Thanks very much Waspsting. Great post. I have one quibble though. You talk of Borg being comfortably better and Borg winning comfortably. But this went to 5 sets and 6-4 in the fifth. That is not a comfortable victory by any stretch. Borg himself said that he thought he was going to lose when Connors came back from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the 5th.
Connors hit an amazing amount of winners: 64 to Borg's 30. The difference between winners is greater than the difference between errors. The reason Borg won came down to superiority on the serve. For Connors to have only 8% serves unreturned is far too low on a grass court. Borg's 31% unreturned percentage is vastly superior. If Connors had served as well as he did in 74 and 82, he would have certainly won the 77 final.
A massive turning point was when Connors double faulted at 4-4 15 love. Borg says that cost Connors the match. Connors himself says he played a bad service game at 4-4 which lost him the match, while Borg hit some big serves at 5-4 to finish Connors off.
Connors had a bad thumb injury which I think may have made the difference, though these things tend to even out. Borg's injury in the 78 US Open final helped Connors to victory.
 
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WCT

Semi-Pro
I was wondering if you'd do this match, Wasp. When I did the stats, years ago, I had unreturned serves at 41-9. I always wondered if I had taken the stats wrong. I would take them on a larger sheet of paper then transfer the summary total to another paper where I kept the stats for a bunch of matches. By the time I realized it was only 9 I had thrown out the first page where I took the stats. So, I'm off by 3, but, damn, 12 in 5 sets on a grass court was anemic.

Borg was exhausted by the end of this match. As tired as I've ever seen him. Couple times you can see it in his body language and he doesn't chase a couple of shots he ordinarily might. Dan Maskell comments on his not chasing a shot. My memory tells me Borg talked about how tired he was after the match, but I can't find it any searches now. You can find contemporary articles on the match. Nothing I see from Borg on his exhaustion, though.

Hated to see Connors lose, but it's not a match that he ever had. He lost the last 8 points. It's not change a point and he wins. He wasn't ahead 4-0 in the 5th, he was down. His form was always a bit off that year, too. Certainly a possibility that the thumb was a factor. At least his was on his off hand whereas Borg's wasn't. Of course, he is hitting a 2 handed backhand.

I don't think you have done the 1981 match, Wasp. If you do, IMO, Connors is clearly not coming in as quickly, but then I don't think Connors is coming as quickly here as in his 74 final. That match had one 15 hit rally and the 74 Open final had none.

If you recall, in the 78 final telecast, Newcombe mentions that he thought Connors needed to s/v more. That was for NBC and he also did color for them in 77. I have never seen their version since I saw it the day of the match. My memory is he said much the same thing in 77. Connors did s/v more in 77, but it's still relatively infrequent for a grass court back then. Much lower than any of his 74 and 75 Wimbledon matches that we've seen. I also believe he did it more in the Mcenroe semi. Not 1974 more, but more. I don't have the actual numbers. For some reason I never did the stats for that one. I certainly watched it. First time. Wasn't on tv in 1977. Maybe HBO, but I didn't have it then.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Was it not 3-6 6-2 6-1 5-7 6-4 Waspsting. It was the first men's Wimbledon final i ever watched and what a classic
Indeed it was - thanks for the catch

Very good match. Did you see Borg's semi with Vitas Gerulaitis?

Good as this match is, its not a patch on that one (very few matches are). I was wondering the extent to which this final following that wonder match has shaped people's view of this one, maybe underrating it a bit

Borg was exhausted by the end of this match. As tired as I've ever seen him. Couple times you can see it in his body language and he doesn't chase a couple of shots he ordinarily might. Dan Maskell comments on his not chasing a shot. My memory tells me Borg talked about how tired he was after the match, but I can't find it any searches now. You can find contemporary articles on the match. Nothing I see from Borg on his exhaustion, though.
Its always good to see you, WCT.

There's 1 ball in particular that stands out for Borg not chasing
On a couple other points Borg makes errors on, I've noted 'slow' (as in, slow to move to the ball)... don't think I've ever marked that for him

No obvious signs of tiredness in his body language, but I imagine he was feeling it a bit. The day is blindingly sunny. Borg in particular takes a bit more time between points than his norm

This is easy for me to see because I take stats between points. Borg's usually a pain to stat and I usually have pause to write stuff down or/and do it very quickly. In this match, I have time to jot down what I do comfortably before he's set to serve again

Lots of gruelling baseline play and Borg's made to run more in them. Also has to run more chasing Connors volleys than other way around, with lot of Borg's net points being unreturned serves

Only time I've seen Borg show overt signs of tiredness is his '76 WITC match with John Newcombe, where he leans over on his racquet a couple of times. He's sweating quite a lot there too

Connors is probably also feeling it by the end. He's error-prone more or less all match, but by the end, its more a product of sloppy misses to regulation balls whereas earlier, I'd more credit Borg wall-ing up

I don't think Connors is coming as quickly here as in his 74 final. That match had one 15 hit rally and the 74 Open final had none.
regarding Connors approaching in rallies - the really big difference that struck me with other matches was with '76 US Open final and the '78 Wimby one

Here, he comes in much more than Borg, ... partially because he's got big hitting advantage (as opposed to purely being more net hungry) from the back. He comes in after drawing weak/short balls

'76 match... very similar - big hitting advantage that draws weak/short balls that he comes in off. Big difference from here is Borg has little desire to be up at net

In '78, he doesn't come in much. and Borg comes in about as much as him... partially because they're evenly matched (of hitting strength) from the back, partially because Borg's keener to come in but also because Connors is more timid about approaching. He lets chances to come in go even after drawing not-strong balls... none of that in this '77 final

Number of approaches from rallies per match
- '76 US Open - Connors 81, Borg 32
- '77 Wimby - Connors 72, Borg 18
- '78 Wimby - Connors 43, Borg 40

With Borg serve-volleying so much more, Connors would have much more chances to come in, even in '78 particularly on his first serve points

Connors did s/v more in 77, but it's still relatively infrequent for a grass court back then. Much lower than any of his 74 and 75 Wimbledon matches that we've seen
Much more so. But his serve is a lot stronger in those years. I understand the hesitancy in serve-volleying behind this serve in '77

Borg would not be returning 92% against the '74-'75 serve, even with Connors staying back

1st serve-volley frequencies for choice Connors matches
- '74 Wimby final - 61%
- '74 US Open final - 69%
- '75 Aus final - 78%
- '75 Wimby semi - 77%
- '77 Wimby final - 24%
- '78 Wimby final - 19%
- '82 Queen's final - 86%
- '83 Queen's final - 42%
- '84 Wimby final - 74%
- '87 Queen's final - 19%

Looking at that, possible explanation is that his choice had something to do with not fancying his chances against the Borg return. In '87 Queen's, his serve is a feather - much worse than here

Thanks very much Waspsting. Great post. I have one quibble though. You talk of Borg being comfortably better and Borg winning comfortably. But this went to 5 sets and 6-4 in the fifth. That is not a comfortable victory by any stretch. Borg himself said that he thought he was going to lose when Connors came back from 4-0 down to 4-4 in the 5th...

A massive turning point was when Connors double faulted at 4-4 15 love. Borg says that cost Connors the match. Connors himself says he played a bad service game at 4-4 which lost him the match, while Borg hit some big serves at 5-4 to finish Connors off.
My pleasure - and please, quibble away. Different view points discussed in good faith is always great

would you say "comfortable win for a 5 setter" is a fair comment?

I agree no 5 set match is overly comfortable, but obviously how comfortable varies. I don't want to split hairs

Examples of 'easy' 5 set wins are '81 French final or even '14 Wimby, which had the scoreline 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-4

The first words out of the losers mouth in the post-match interview was "I can't believe this match went to 5"

I've heard about the stress given to Connors' double fault in penultimate game but don't follow the reasoning. The implication is if Connors gets his serve in, he wins the points. But he's only won 58% first serve points and 38% 2nd serve points all match. I'd understand the reasoning if it was someone like Pete Sampras or Goran Ivanisevic, but Connors' serve is just a point starter... why would anyone think he's sure to win a given point as long as he doesn't double fault?

Connors isn't just down 4-0 in the decider, he struggles through to hold to keep it from being 5-0, saving 2 break points. On which he serve-volleys successfully 5 times (something he'd been reluctant to do all match and comes as a surprise. Even winning all 5 of those points with winners, he needs a net chord dribbling winner from a net shot to actually win the game

regarding the bad game that costs him the decisive break... there are plenty of similar games all match. Connors losing serve through sloppy errors isn't at all unusual or out of line with rest of match. Now if Borg had done something like that... that would be completely out of left field

Connors hit an amazing amount of winners: 64 to Borg's 30. The difference between winners is greater than the difference between errors. The reason Borg won came down to superiority on the serve. For Connors to have only 8% serves unreturned is far too low on a grass court. Borg's 31% unreturned percentage is vastly superior
Of course... Borg, much better serve

With different tactics - viz. serve-volleying more - its possible Connors could win here, even with the handicap on serve

Borg's very consistent, but not particularly damaging with the return. With Connors staying back, he has no reason to be, but he's the same way when Connors serve-volleys too

If Connors had done so more regularly, I assume Borg would adjust to returning more aggressively - looking to go wide for passing-winners or hitting harder down the middle. He'd make more return errors in exchange for testing Connors' volley harder

I think Connors volleys well enough here that he could conceiveably been upto handling it

The broader implications of what you've brought up basically sum up my thoughts on the match up. Connors can hang with Borg in play or even get the better of him - which requires top notch play because Borg never plays badly - but he gives up such a handicap on the serve that his prospects for coming out ahead overall and winning the match are slim

Its like 2 equally fast guys having a race, with 1 having a 20% head start.

If Connors had served as well as he did in 74 and 82, he would have certainly won the 77 final.
I statted Connors' '82 US Open final with Lendl and Queen's final with McEnroe... I don't think the serve is much different from here. Commentators go on about it. I don't see it.

Commentators go on about a lot of things - e.g. Connors coming to net regularly is a huge surprise - that don't make much sense

Unreturned rate in '82 US final - 19%
in '82 Queen's - 27% (fairly low for a lot of serve-volleying on grass)

'74 yes, much stronger serve. Presumably, he'd serve-volley much more if he had that serve... in that case, we're talking about a different type of match
 
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WCT

Semi-Pro
Been years since I actually watched the whole match. Probably when I did the stats for the match. I think over 5 years at this point. I seem to remember Borg bending over a couple times in a manner that I thought signified fatigue. Plus the shots he didn't chase. However, this stemmed from him saying it all those years ago. Or I thought he did. Never found it online.

Couple words about Connors serve. I think both his 1974 and 1982 serves are better than this. His 82 serve was improved. Of course, that is relative. It doesn't mean he had a huge serve. Watch the one set of the Newcombe 1975 challenge match and tell me that's not a bigger serve than what we saw in this match.

Wasp, I think you are doing % of 1st serves, Connors is not at 24 of all serves. In 74 and 75, Connors also s/v on a bunch of 2nd serves. I had him 19 of 31 and 14 of 23 on 2nd serves in the 2 Rosewall matches. Only 10 of 40 vs Newcombe at the Australain but his 1st serve s/v was higher than the 74 matches. And I had him 10 of 22 with Tanner.
What is the s/v % on all serves? The difference is more than just how he is serving.

Borg had a great return, but so did Rosewall. And while I would not have recommended he s/v on the majority overall, it should have been more than 1 in 6 of all serves. No doubt, a lot must be Borg related because in his 78 semi with Vitas, I had him at his highest % ever that I saw. I had 43 of 50 on 1st and 28 of 37 on 2nd. Then he plays Borg and does it 12 times
Problem is we don't have any of the other matches to see which was more the pattern for the tournament.

IMO, Borg is coming in quicker in 78. He followed every 1st serve in and I thought came in on some balls he didn't in 77. Balls that landed several feet beyond the service line.
First year he used the backhand chip approach so much. For me, Connors may not have been quite as aggressive about coming in off the ground, but I'm not even sure about that. It certainly wasn't glaring. Borg's approach would lessen his net chances. He's at the net 30 plus % of the points. Not much lower than 77.

I think we discussed this before. I would still call Connors an all court player in these matches, not a baseliner. I don't think he's coming in AS quickly as earlier, but he's still coming in 98 times. That's not my idea of a baseliner.

78 US Open is different in that you have much more Borg slugging with Connors. He is really going for his shots. Look at that 3rd set and how many times he has Connors going corner to corner. Hard to come in when someone is doing that to you. And Borg was looking to come in more as well.

His declined aggression in coming in during these matches is noticeable if you are really looking closely. It's later in 79 into the early 80s when it becomes glaring. At least, IMO.

I didn't notice this until you pointed it out in the 1980 Borg/Mcenroe match. Borg didn't have a single UE on the volley in this match. In my mind, that pretty impressive even if he wan't volleying that decisively. He's at the net 75 times. Anyway, I hadn't noticed it initially. Not making a single UE, pretty good.
 

urban

Legend
I remember the final quite well. I think, it was the jubilee year, with Ginnie Wade making the Brits proud, Laver having his last appearance and another fine lefty McEnroe his first. For some time i had a radio tape of the match with the great commentary by Max Robertson and the BBC. Momentum changed often in this match, which had not always the best level, but much suspense.. Connors was the villain of the crowd, because he had skipped the champions parade for the centennial, he had also a dumb injury on his right hand, which hampered his doublehander a bit. But he started well in the final, and dominated the net with fine approaches and good deep cross volleys. But some experts even in the first set observed, that his starting level was too high and that he would not maintain it. Borg was the steadier of the two, and looked on his way to a four set win, and then again to a clear fift set win. Connors had his spurts, always when he came in behind his deep approaches. But he could not hold this pace, and struggled with his low forehand. It was close and anybodies match at 4all in the fifth. But then Connors had a very loose game, giving away his serve and the momentum pretty easily and Borg served it out.
 

WCT

Semi-Pro
You got that right about being the villain. A lot of people were angry that he would skip such a ceremony. For me, the final was sort of like his tournament. He never really found his best form.

This is back when John Newcombe used to write a syndicated, I think, tennis column. I know the New York Post carried. I specifically remember him writing, after the semis, that Connors would have to lift his game a good 15% to win vs Borg.

But I guess you can say the same about 1974. He almost lost early there, but played great in the final. And he started that way vs Borg, but couldn't sustain it that year.

I forget to mention in my last post to Wasp. I remember it was very hot the day of the finals. Maybe not US Open 1983 finals hot, bu very hot. I imagine that contributed to the fatigue.
 

urban

Legend
I also think, that Borgs win earlier in the year at the Pepsi Grand Slam was important, because it stopped a long negative series in the hth. Jimbo had had the number of Borg for some years 1975-1976, now Borg knew he could beat him again.
 

WCT

Semi-Pro
You know how you could tell how much that match meant to him. In the second set, he had match point with Connors at the net and pretty much a sitter passing shot. He missed it and slammed, I mean really slammed the ball, into the net. You just never saw him do that.

This was an example of my memory being off. For maybe 32 years, until it was replayed on tennis channel, my memory told me that Borg had hit the ball out of the stadium. No, just into the net. Still, told you how much he wanted that match. Clay, though, and it was only a 1 match streak going into Wimbledon. And I figured the grass would help Connors. Figured wrong.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Connors was the villain of the crowd, because he had skipped the champions parade
You got that right about being the villain. A lot of people were angry that he would skip such a ceremony
I found the commentry mentioning this amusing because without it, I wouldn't have even noticed. Its water onto wine compared to recent Wimby finals with Novak Djokovic. How times change

Mac got more obvious boos in the '80 final... but he won the crowd over, eventually

Wasp, I think you are doing % of 1st serves, Connors is not at 24 of all serves. In 74 and 75, Connors also s/v on a bunch of 2nd serves. I had him 19 of 31 and 14 of 23 on 2nd serves in the 2 Rosewall matches. Only 10 of 40 vs Newcombe at the Australain but his 1st serve s/v was higher than the 74 matches. And I had him 10 of 22 with Tanner.
What is the s/v % on all serves? The difference is more than just how he is serving.
1st and 2nd serve-volleying frequencies for Connors
- '74 Wimby final - 61% & 60%
- '74 US Open final - 69% & 61%
- '75 Aus final - 78% & 28%
- '75 Wimby semi - 77% & 41%
- '77 Wimby final - 24% & 0
- '78 Wimby final - 19% & 3%
- '82 Queen's final - 86% & 30%
- '83 Queen's final - 42% & 29%
- '84 Wimby final - 74% & 61%
- '87 Queen's final - 19% & 24%

Negligible difference in the '74 matches... that's behind his strongest serving
Thereafter, very large differences and against Borg, virtually zero 2nd serve-volleying (1/80 to be precise)
Last 2 matches are a bit odd.

In '84 Wimby final, I got the sense he was serve-volleying more to keep McEnroe away from the net then having any great desire to be there himself. Mac was apt to return-approach even against first serves at the time

'87 Queen's is just a weird match... his 1st serve invites return-approaching, let alone the 2nd

Borg had a great return, but so did Rosewall. And while I would not have recommended he s/v on the majority overall, it should have been more than 1 in 6 of all serves
I agree and would add that its 2 very different types of returning

Rosewall guided and soft block his returns, placing them wide and/or getting them low. Serve-volleyer is looking at playing tricky low-ish and or/wid-ish volleys first up

Borg biffs returns and is willing to make the server play regulation, net high volleys (as opposed to missing returns trying to give the server particularly difficult first volley)

From Connors' point of view, much stronger serve in his matches against Rosewall. If he had that serve, shouldn't have undue problem serve-volleying to Borg
In fact, I don't think he'd have undue problem even behind the '77 and '78 serves - though they're not strong, his volleying is. Connors himself apparently felt otherwise

Do you have numbers for Connors' serve-volleying versus Ivan Lendl on grass? From memory, how did Lendl return against it?

IMO, Borg is coming in quicker in 78. He followed every 1st serve in and I thought came in on some balls he didn't in 77
Absolutely

I make a distinction between manufacturing approaches (i.e. creating an approach from a neutral position) - coming in off a short ball (i.e. normal attacking play)
In '78, Borg manufactures approaches with his BH slice
Connors doesn't manufacture approaches in either match. He hits hard, draws short ball and looks to come in behind them.

In '77...
- he comes in regularly from short balls
- he's got big hitting advantage from back, so he gets more short balls while Borg gets very little
- with Borg not manufacturing approaches, baseline play unfolds til someone makes the error or Connors draws a short ball he can come in off

In '78...
- he comes in less regularly from short balls. Just hits a hard groundstroke back to a good few and continues the baseline rally
- he doesn't have significant hitting advantage (if at all), so is as likely to give up the short ball as get it
- with Borg manufacturing approaches, cuts down chances for Jimbo to come in

78 US Open is different in that you have much more Borg slugging with Connors. He is really going for his shots. Look at that 3rd set and how many times he has Connors going corner to corner. Hard to come in when someone is doing that to you. And Borg was looking to come in more as well.
Agree. Rallying to net figures...
- '78 US final - Connors 32, Borg 33
- '80 Masters semi - Connors 42, Borg 20
- '81 US semi - Connors 38, Borg 26
- '82 Richmond exho - Connors 39, Borg 29

'78 US Open final by far most aggressive baseline play from Borg... he's actually leading, Connors counter-punching for large chunks of it. Its virtually always the other way around

His declined aggression in coming in during these matches is noticeable if you are really looking closely. It's later in 79 into the early 80s when it becomes glaring. At least, IMO.
I'm curious to what extent Connors' approaching frequency changes across the years are influenced by surface

His play on hard courts in early and mid '80s is just as you've always told me... he doesn't come in much. Just slugs away from the back

But I have very few non-grass matches on his from '70s. Is is possible he didn't rally much to net even then on hard courts or carpet?

I'm guessing no, based on his rallying to net regularly in a couple of clay matches of his that I've done in '77 and '76... but I don't actually have much evidence that Connors came to net all that much on hard courts in his '74-'78 heyday

do you have stats for particular hard and carpet matches from that period that could shed some light on this? And your memory of it?
 

WCT

Semi-Pro
Connors s/v that much on 2nd serves in the 84 Wimbledon final? Didn't remember that and I have never rewatched the match. Completely agree on your take about why Connors s/v that much. That 82 Queens final is about what I had overall it's higher than it looks. He had close to 3 times as many 1st serves as second that match.

I said it 100 times. If he had played the Wimbledon final the way he did Queens s/v wise I might understand Collins' commentary where he basically went apeshit every time Connors came to net. Like he had avoided the net like the plague before 1982.

Connors declining interest in coming in has nothing to do with surface,IMO. It has to do with Segura's lessening influence as a coach. I have some of matches on every surface.
Here is what I have from 74 and 75 besides grass.

1975 US Open final 73 net approaches in 170 points. I have the last 9 points of the semi vs Borg. All the last game with Borg serving. 2 points are unreturned serves. One was Borg facing match point. The return hit at about the service line. In a surprise move, Borg came in and Connors missed the pass. The other 6 points are short rallies, maybe 4-6 strokes, and Connors approaching. Several times on balls that landed a couple feet behind the service line. I wish all the footage was available. I remember them joining the match about halfway through the third set and that was the story on the majority of points. Connors coming in. But that's memory and maybe it's off. Sure as hell wasn't the last 9 points, though. That's it for 74 and 75 clay.

Indoors. I have the last set of a 1975 London match vs Nastase. 6-1 set with 40 total points. Connors is at the net 18 times and Nastase 6 times.

The Laver challenge match. 86 total points. Connors came in 21 times to Laver's 42. On his serve, Laver is s/v almost every serve. That doesn't leave Connors a chance to come in. I have Connors s/v 11 times. I would say they came in about the same amount of times on rallies. I didn't do Laver's s/v, just total net sets.

I guess I should amend my earlier statement about it not being about surface, Connors clearly does not s/v as much, but off the ground no significant difference, IMO.

The Newcombe challenge match. 55 points, Connors at net 17 times in 28 service points. Newcombe's serve is moot since he s/v every point as he had in Australia.
Connors was s/v 12 times. He also 11 unreturned serves. Basically, if Connors didn't come in off the serve, he came in off the ground. Him, not Newcombe. Virtually every single time. Connors didn't follow 51 serves in at the Australian. Rewatch the match and see what happens in most of the rallies. Connors is in within maybe 6 strokes. If you think that would have been the case in the later 70s or early 80s, you are dreaming. He doesn't play the same way. Let me clarify about the Newcombe matches. I'm not saying Connors rallies his way in every single point. Some of the points, not very many, either he or Newcombe make an error in the first few strokes before anyone gets to net



1974 South African Open. Hard court vs Ashe. Only 22 points. Connors is at the net 8 points and Ashe 7. I think that's it from 74 and 75. I certainly haven't seen a match where he rarely comes in.

I didn't do the stats on the 84 Lendl Wimbledon match, but no way he s/v more than 20 times, tops. I wouldn't guess that much either. Came in a lot off the ground, though. The only other time he ever played Lendl on grass was 83 Queens and I've never seen that match.

Regarding the 1977 100th anniversary ceremony. That was opening day? People were really angry, but early on, when it happened. I think the anger lessened a bit by the times the final was played.
 
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