Match Stats/Report - Borg vs Gerulaitis, French Open final, 1980


Hall of Fame
Bjorn Borg beat Vitas Gerulaitis 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in the French Open final, 1980 on clay

It was Borg's 3rd title in a row at the event and 5th overall. He would go onto add a 4th and 6th respectively the following year. Borg dropped just 38 games in winning the tournament and never more than 4 in a set. The match marked Gerulaitis making it to the final of a Slam on 3 different surfaces as only Jimmy Connors and Borg had done at that point

Borg won 91 points, Gerulaitis 66

Gerulaitis serve-volleyed off all but 2 first serves

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (51/74) 69%
- 1st serve points won (36/51) 71%
- 2nd serve points won (12/23) 52%
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (9/74) 12%

- 1st serve percentage (49/83) 59%
- 1st serve points won (28/49) 57%
- 2nd serve points won (11/34) 32%
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (13/83) 16%

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

Gerulaitis served...
- to FH 38%
- to BH 59%
- to Body 4%

Return Stats
Borg made...
- 67 (47 FH, 20 BH), including 12 runaround FHs
- 4 Winners (3 FH, 1 BH), including 2 runaround FHs (1 not clean)
- 13 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (3 FH), including 2 runaround FH
- 10 Forced (2 FH, 8 BH)
- Return Rate (67/80) 84%

Gerulaitis made...
- 64 (46 FH, 18 BH), including 1 runaround FH, 11 return-approaches & 2 drop-returns
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 9 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 FH)
- 8 Forced (7 FH, 1 BH), including 1 drop-return attempt
- Return Rate (64/73) 88%

Break Points
Borg 8/11 (8 games)
Gerulaitis 2/5 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Borg 33 (12 FH, 6 BH, 5 FHV, 4 BHV, 6 OH)
Gerulaitis 23 (3 FH, 2 BH, 7 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 5 BHV, 5 OH)

Borg's had 14 passes (9 FH, 3 BH, 2 FHV)
- FHs - 3 cc, 3 dtl, 2 inside-in returns (1 runaround) and 1 dtl/inside-out
- BHs - 1 dtl, 1 longline return (which Gerulaitis misjudged and left) and 1 inside-out/dtl
- FHVs - 2 swinging shots from behind the service line, neither has been counted a net point for Borg

- regular FHs - 1 runaround cc return (not clean), 1 running-down-drop-shot cc at net and 1 inside-out
- regular BHs - 2 cc (1 at net) and 1 dtl at net

- 1 BHV was a drop and 1 was played net-to-net

Gerulaitis had from 12 serve-volley points -
- 5 first 'volleys' (2 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 FH1/2V)
- 6 second volleys (2 FHV, 4 OH)
- 1 re-approach 'volley' (1 BH at net)

- 3 from return-approach points (2 FHV, 1 BHV)…. 1 FHV and the BHV were re-approach points

- FHs - 2 cc (1 pass, 1 return... Borg lost his racquet and couldn't play a shot to the return) and 1 dtl
- BHs - 1 cc pass

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Borg 29
- 9 Unforced (3 FH, 3 BH, 3 OH)
- 20 Forced (10 FH, 7 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 46.7

Gerulaitis 46
- 28 Unforced (10 FH, 8 BH, 5 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 OH)… the OH was from the baseline
- 18 Forced (4 FH, 6 BH, 4 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 2 BHV, 1 BHOH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 48.2

(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...
- 27/39 (69%) at net, with...
- 2/4 (50%) forced back/retreated

Gerulaitis was...
- 48/83 (58%) at net, including...
- 28/49 (57%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 28/47 (60%) off 1st serve and...
- 0/2 off 2nd serve
- 7/11 (64%) return-approaching
- 0/3 forced back/retreated

Match Report
A commendably creative - possibly unique - match played by Vitas Gerulaitis to counter the Borg juggernaut. It doesn't come to anything Borg as the final scoreline indicates, but does give the defending champion odd moments of discomfort, especially in the first set. And does make for more interesting viewing than who-blinks-first baseline rallies (which almost certainly have gone Borg's way) or incessant approaching (which there is an element of in the third set)

On serve, Vitas serve-volleys of virtually all first serves and stays back on all seconds. That's not unusual. What he does from the baseline - in return games and on his second serve points - is

Vitas' Strategy
Off the baseline, Vitas plays to bring Borg to net. And then draw OH errors out of him

He does the drawing bit well. Note Borg with 39 approaches (Vitas has 23 from rallies). Most of those are forced. Vitas dinks, chips and lightly slices or pushes balls short to force Borg forward. Rarely are these bait balls out and out drop shots

Borg comes in to meet them. Rarely does he make an error on the ball he's run down, and about as rarely does he hit a point ending shot. Usually, he's hovering around the service line after his first run-up shot, rarely fully at net but with his momentum certainly making it a lot more natural to carry on to that position that he does not favour

Then Vitas lobs. Not as to hit a winner, but to make Borg hit OHs. Rarely does he even try to pass Borg

Note Borg's point ending OH numbers. 6 winners to 3 UEs. For that particular shot, these are not good numbers at all. From Vitas' point of view though, they're even worse, but... probably better than what he would have got just rallying neutrally from the back of the court {Note the groundstroke UEs - Borg 6, Vitas 19 (including 1 OH)}

Worth noting that on top of the point ending OHs, Borg fails to put away a large number of smashes too. Typically takes him 2-3 OHs to finish a point, or he retreats or other shots come into play. Borg does not smash well by any means

Its a very interesting approach, not one likely to end well (and doesn't), but taking as a given that neutral baselining would get Vitas slaughtered, only other alternative would be for him to seek net himself. And he does this, mixing it in with the bring-Borg-in-and-rope-a-dope-with-him bit

Vitas executes pretty well. Its not easy to bring someone in - especially someone as fleet of foot as Borg - without leaving them putaway balls in the forecourt. But Vitas manages. I think he overdid the defensive lobbing and could have gone for more regular passing shots. Borg though is pretty good on the volley in this match (9 winners, 0 UEs, 3 FEs), but that's not something one would have counted on. Generally, Borg is prone to making a mess of volleys... and the likelihood of winning a majority of points against anybody's OH (even someone not proficient at the shot) is extremely slim

Borg wins 70% net points. Not all of those are forced approach points, but the majority are

Vitas at net
Second part of Vitas' plan is to serve-volley off all first serves. That goes reasonably well too - he wins 60% doing so off first serves, with 59% first serves in. Not bad - and better than any alternative. Vitas serve is not strong and sans serve-volleying, would likely be neutralized instantly by the ever consistent Borg return

He perseveres with junking Borg forward over approaching himself til end of second set. I thought a judicious blend of seeking net and the junking tactics would have been better. The junking on its own was never a match winning strategy - he should have used it just as a distraction and led with approaching

The Vitas volley vs Borg pass is a great battle. There's scope for improvement for Vitas. Note the 9 volleying UEs. That's not as bad as it looks... most were not completely easy. Borg passes extremely well too. Note Vitas' 7 volleying FEs, on top of Borg's 14 passing winners

The head of Borg's passing spear is dip rather than power. Balls don't appear to be hit overly hard, but tend to be coming down almost as soon as its past the net. Even coming forward a long way, balls are usually dropping on Vitas as he makes volleys with a large number down by his feet. In this light, Vitas does well to make so many balls. He mostly goes with touch and drop volleys, which is a good idea against such balls
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Hall of Fame
Serve & Return
Borg starts the match serving as he does on faster surfaces. A mix of strong serves and ordinary ones. But for most of the match, does little with the serve. And interestingly, going to Vitas' FH.

68% of Borg's serves are directed to FH. He knew Vitas' game better than anybody. It certainly works... Vitas does little more than poke and push FH returns (sometimes to try to bring Borg in). While Borg's strong first serve had potential to do damage to Vitas' not confidence-filling return, easing back on it also works out well

Vitas' great strength in returning is chip-charging, but he's not adventurous enough to try it against first serves. Its not uncommon for Borg to do near as well on second serve points as first on clay, but here there's a wide gap. 71% first serve points won, and 52% second. The latter is largely down to Vitas' superb chip-charging (wins 7/11 @ 64%), but he's not adventurous enough to try against the first serve. Hence, its wise of Borg to drop power first serving in favour of getting higher percentage of first serves in. Borg's first serve percentage by set is 64%, 80% and 67%

Vitas does not miss a second serve return and his chip-charge returns are stellar. They have to be, Borg is very punishing to any weak approach shots all match

Both Vitas' serves are fairly gentle. So gentle that one imagines he had to serve-volley to get to net as returns were likely to come back awkwardly for him to approach of third ball. Its the volley that's behind his success on first serve but its not the serve that's the cause of his winning just 32% second serve points; that has more to do with inconsistency of groundstrokes and the draw-Borg-to-net tactics. He tries serve-volleying twice of second serves - both points end with return of serve winners. A good demonstration of what pressure an approacher is under coming in to Borg and not a bad one of how well Vitas volleyed in the match

Is a no contest. Borg puts ball in play like clockwork. Not only does Vitas not, but his strokes of both wings are feeble, even when he's not deliberately trying to bring Borg in. The weakness of Vitas' groundgame justifies his utilizing his draw-Borg-in plan

If Borg does get aggressive, its with FH cc. His FHs are heavier than his BHs (of consistency, about the same) and he occasionally gets stuck into a FH cc that tests Vitas and forces a small number of errors

baseline court coverage isn't much of a factor as play is mostly slow. When Vitas is at net, Borg does make his usual lot of crazy running-from-one-end-to-the-other gets with authority.

Vitas would probably have done well to seek net more. Not easy as Borg's shots are heavy, but anythings better than rallying with the beast
Borg races to a 4-0 lead to start the match, with Vitas serve-volleying off first serves and drawing Borg to net on second serve points. It takes Borg 3 attempts to get an OH winner the first time he's dragged forward, but he breaks with a pair of winners. 1 is spectacular... having run like a maniac to reach an excellent first volley from Vitas, he hits a BH cc winner as Vitas retreats from net. Apparently, Vitas had a good idea that even his best volley was likely to come back

Second break is largely down to Vitas missing back to back first volleys - the first, easy the second less so but still judged unforced. Down 5-1, Vitas wins 3 games in a row. Borg is unable to serve out the set first chance when he voluntarily comes forward, but misses back to back, winner attempt OHs. Most OHs he hits in match weren't winner attempts. Vitas has 2 break points the second time Borg steps up to serve for the set. Borg needs 2 OHs to erase the first. The second is one of the best points of the match - a cat quick approach by Vitas, a needle threading BH inside-out/dtl pass by Borg

Vitas continues with his draw-Borg-in tactics in second set, but the champions got the measure of it. He's more patient with OHs and prone to abandon net and return to baseline - and Vitas has to start all over again. Borg hits a couple of swinging FHV passes from no-mans land. On another point, Borg is brought in, then retreats, then is brought in again, then is forced back, then comes in again... finally winning the point with a net-to-net BHV winner

Borg gives Vitas a dose of his own medicine with high defensive lobs. Vitas doesn't fare much better, failing to putaway 2 OHs before making a BHV UE. Vitas wins his sole game of the set by coming forward relentlessly - he's at net 5/6 to break. Its small respite - next game, Borg breaks again with 3 winners - a return Vitas lets by but two stunning FH cc passes

Third set, Vitas plays relatively orthodoxly, looking to find net rather than Borg in. It works - at least as well as anything else has - and first 5 games go on serve. Vitas is broken in a poor game from him - 1 regulation first FHV miss, followed by 1 easy FHV miss, followed by a missed baseline OH winner attempt after having been lobbed back to back of court puts him down 0-40. He double faults after saving 1 break point. He's swearing quite audibly after the volleying misses. Borg breaks again to seal the match

Summing up, a standard near perfect showing from Borg... barely missing a ball, hitting heavy and passing strong. The story teller of the match though is Vitas, whose unorthodox tactics at least makes the action memorable. Given limitations in Vitas' ground game, his plan is worth a go - better than being bled dry exchanging groundstrokes, anyway - but wasn't likely to hold Borg long

Stats for '78 final between Borg and Vilas -


New User
'Play tennis for 15 goddamn years, can't f*****g even make an easy forehand volley'. Gerulaitis during that dreadful game to lose his serve in the 3rd set.

I really like this match. Lots of interesting rallies and Gerulaitis has such a nice game to watch. I even like his backhand and forehand (as non-threatening as they are). There are times when it looks like he and Borg could just go on rallying forever but Gerulaitis probably knew better. Drawing Borg to net was probably his best bet but it didn't work that well. Definitely one of Borg's best performances. When he plays like this on clay, beating him seems an impossible task.

I wonder about Gerulaitis' tactics against other players on red clay. 2 Italian Opens and a very decent record at the French seems to suggest that he was very, very good on the surface. In a way, despite having a very different game, he seems to have been the Mecir of his day - hugely talented, fantastic to watch on his good days, could play well on all surfaces, but lacking both the power and/or mentality to compete consistently with the great players.


Hall of Fame
There are times when it looks like he and Borg could just go on rallying forever but Gerulaitis probably knew better

I think that's a function of the times and racquets... average rally length was just much longer than now (or 90s). Can't get enough power with the wooden sticks to hit winners or force errors from teh back... so it goes on 'til someone makes a regulation error

Have you seen the Borg-Vilas final in '78? Or even 'better', their match at Monte Carlo in '80? Lendl-Wilander could be like watching a pendulum swing back and forth too

Those are examples of how long rallies could go on for on clay. By comparison, this match is rather short... though not by todays standards

Far as I can tell, consistency of shot is what set Borg apart from on clay. No one could come close to outlasting him in who-blinks-first, especially on slow court

Wilander vs Borg would have been an interesting match ('fun' is probably a bridge too far), in seeing who could outlast the other

I wonder about Gerulaitis' tactics against other players on red clay.

I wondered that too. I'm sure he didn't make the final by drawing OH errors from his opponenets in first 6 matches

His movement is excellent and he's comfortable on clay, unlike many Americans. My guess would be he didn't serve-volley as much as come in early on rallies

In a way, despite having a very different game, he seems to have been the Mecir of his day - hugely talented, fantastic to watch on his good days, could play well on all surfaces, but lacking both the power and/or mentality to compete consistently with the great players.

I've just seen a bit of him, so can't comment with much authority

His net play - both volleying and instincts (knowing how and when to come in) are very good. The BH is odd. Hits some strong drive passes against McEnroe in Forest Hills '83... but in baseline to baseline situations, almost always slices it. Like Steffi Graf

There's something a bit comical to my eye about his pre-service movements. He does this hunch backed, swivel 2-3 times... looks like an old man with arthritis. Completely incongruent with how well he moves

There's a hint of something about his mentality not being champion like. His hair is down. Why? I can't imagine any good reason to have long hair down while playing tennis... sure as day follows night, it'll flap into your eyes during play. Bare mimimum, that'd be a hindrance - and probably a big one

Even a distracted head case like young Andre Agassi wore a head band. As does Borg and Vilas. Can only speculate that its a vanity thing... giving priority to looking nice over inconvenience to game. Not the stuff of the greats


New User
Most of what I know about Gerulaitis comes from his first Wimbledon match with Borg which I've seen many times and by most accounts (including Gerulaitis himself) is the best he's ever played. His pre-service habits in that one is very different to here in that he doesn't really have any in the earlier one, he just goes straight into his service motion.

Being a serve volleyer, the Wimbledon match maybe is not the best to judge his ground game but he did hit some tremendous passes off both wings. BH slice struck me as being quite consistent and he only really drove it to make the pass (they still didn't seem to be hit with top spin). Similarly, his forehand also seemed pretty lightweight but did the job of keeping him in rallies.

In the Wimbledon match, the commentators do make some interesting points about Gerulaitis:

Right after he hits a clean forehand winner with Borg standing on the baseline, they say his groundstrokes are often considered to be lacking in power for the top level (and this was even though he'd entered Wimbledon that year as the reigning Italian Open champion)
That both he and Borg and 2 of the fittest men on tour
Descriptions like risk taker, extrovert are used to describe him but they also called his play cautious and tentative when Borg broke back in the 5th set (I wonder if that was a sign of his lacking the champion mentality)
And they do make a point on several occasions of how little time each of them is taking in between points (like I've said above, there's none of that pre-serve ritual in this match). Gerulaitis' right foot also drags up the turf when he serves - I'm not sure if it's the same service motion he uses here.

Gerulaitis did seem a lot more confident back in 1977 but maybe his was just having a good day.

Going back to the 1980 final though, I do think Borg plays better here than the 1978 final where he just seems to be outlasting Vilas (who makes a lot more early errors than I was expecting) and in 1980 looks much more comfortable coming to net. And for the first 2 sets at least, Gerulaitis does seem to be giving Borg plenty to think about - it's just that Borg's up to dealing with it for the most part. It must be pretty disheartening to play quite well and still lose a set 6-1!