Match Stats/Report - Borg vs Lendl, French Open final, 1981


Hall of Fame
Bjorn Borg beat Ivan Lendl 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in the French Open final, 1981 on clay

It was Borg's 4th title in a row at the event, his 6th overall and would turn out to be his last Slam title and participation at the French Open. Lendl was playing his first Slam final

Borg won 140 points, Lendl 108

(Note: I've made confident guesses regarding serve type for a small number of points)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (92/129) 71%
- 1st serve points won (62/92) 67%
- 2nd serve points won (21/37) 57%
- Aces 8
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (20/129) 16%

- 1st serve percentage (57/119) 48%
- 1st serve points won (37/57) 65%
- 2nd serve points won (25/62) 40%
- Aces 3
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (12/119) 10%

Serve Patterns
Borg served...
- to FH 63%
- to BH 31%
- to Body 6%

Lendl served....
- to FH 25%
- to BH 69%
- to Body 6%

Return Stats
Borg made...
- 103 (52 FH, 51 BH), including 26 runaround FHs & 1 return-approach
- 9 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (1 FH, 1 BH)
- 7 Forced (2 FH, 5 BH)
- Return Rate (103/115) 90%

Lendl made...
- 105 (77 FH, 28 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 12 Errors, comprising...
- 9 Unforced (8 FH, 1 BH)
- 3 Forced (3 BH)
- Return Rate (105/125) 84%

Break Points
Borg 9/13 (9 games)
Lendl 5/12 (6 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Borg 28 (6 FH, 9 BH, 2 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 5 BHV, 1 BH1/2V, 3 OH, 1 BHOH)
Lendl 36 (21 FH, 8 BH, 3 FHV, 2 FH1/2V, 1 BHV, 1 OH)

Borg's FHs - 2 cc (1 pass), 2 dtl passes, 1 inside-in and 1 running-down-drop-shot at net dtl pass
- BHs - 3 cc, 3 dtl (1 pass, 2 at net), 2 longline (1 pass, 1 at net) and 1 lob

- 1 from a return-approach point, a BH1/2V
- 1 OH was on the bounce, 1 BHV can reasonably be called a BHOH and 1 BHOH can reasonably be called a BHV

Lendl's FHs - 6 cc (2 passes, 1 return - on which Borg had lost his racquet), 5 dtl (4 passes), 5 inside-out, 3 inside-in, 1 longline at net and 1 lob
- BHs - 2 cc (1 pass... the non-pass can reasonably be called a drop shot), 4 dtl (2 passes) and 2 drop shots (1 at net - a net chord dribbler)

- 1 from a serve-volley point, a first 'volley' FH1/2V
- 1 OH was on the bounce

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Borg 56
- 35 Unforced (17 FH, 15 BH, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
- 21 Forced (7 FH, 12 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 43.1

Lendl 88
- 61 Unforced (44 FH, 16 BH, 1 BHV)
- 27 Forced (14 FH, 12 BH, 1 Behind Back)... with 1 BH at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 42.0

(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...
- 38/55 (69%) at net, with...
- 1/1 return-approaching

Lendl was...
- 24/33 (73%) at net, including...
- 3/4 (75%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
- 1/1 forced back

Match Report
Very good, hard hitting baseline slug fest. Borg is sizably better due to far greater consistency, though Lendl isn't wanting in this area either. Its just that Borg is so much better at it

UEs read Borg 35, Lendl 61. And that's due to the difference in FHs, where Borg has 17, Lendl a massive 44. On the BH, the two are virtually equal (Borg 15, Lendl 16)

Its Borg's choice to keep things predominantly FH-FH
. He also serves there 63% of the time. This is unusual for him

Generally on clay in particular, Borg prefers to lead with BH cc rallies, which he hits very consistently, loopily and unthreateningly. It creates a passive, who-blinks-first dynamic... his balls get up high to opponents upper ribs or shoulders from where their shots can't pack a punch and it would be very difficult to attack dtl (even if they do go longline, its without power and Borg can easily run ball down). So they go back cc. And the cc rallies continues til someone gives up the error. Overwhelming majority of time, its not Borg, whose BHs land in like clockwork. Length of rally is irrelevant... Borg's always the more secure

So for him to initiate and maintain FH-FH cc rallies is surprising. He must feel that Lendl's more vulnerable on that side and events would suggest he was right.

Lendl is harder hitter and more damaging. FH-FH rallies tend to be long (in fact, all rallies are) and he's usually the one hitting flatter and harder, pushing Borg back a bit, in more comfortable position when making his shots. It usually doesn't extend to the point of Lendl attacking/Borg defending, but its fair to say Lendl leads/Borg reacts most of the time, after Borg initiates the rallies. Lendl seems just as happy for this to be staple of play and makes no effort to turn things BH-BH, which would be simple to do

Lendl's FH also has match high 21 winners (Borg has just 6 and 17 total groundstroke winners). 11 of them are baseline-to-baseline shots (Borg has 2). He does get his damaging hits in, but Borg's too solid to give up errors, even when slightly pushed back. With rallies being long, all credit to Borg's wall-like play. It takes a long time for Lendl to give up the UE and he's regularly hitting hard enough to 'beat-down' Borg. Only the ball keeps coming back

Significant amount of genuinely, error forcingly hard hit, slightly wide shots or longline change ups from Lendl's FH. Again, Borg races ball down and puts them back in play. A much higher lot of Borg's 19 baseline FEs are from baseline-baseline situations than Lendl's 25, which are mostly passing shots.

In nutshell, excellent FH play from both players - both being highly consistent (rallies are long) and Lendl being pressuringly hard hitting to boot. Borg though isn't just consistent - he's a wall

BH-BH play makes up minority and dynamics are similar. Again, Lendl is the harder hitter and leads play, while Borg reacts more and is lightly pushed back. Lendl doesn't have the same consistent power of that side - its a wonder he has as much as he does hitting one-handed against shoulder high balls. For most of match, Lendl has slight consistency advantage too. Towards end, he makes a few careless and/or tired errors. He makes no attempt to initiate the rallies, though getting short end of the FH stick

Reactive or not, Borg does maintain decent depth, unlike other matches where he tends to drop balls short of service line quite regularly. Not troublingly deep, but not short as to invite Lendl to attack the ball

Both players do well coming to net, Borg winning 69% of his 55 approaches, Lendl 73% of his 33. Borg is apt to come in on important points and in fourth set, actively manufactures approaches. Lendl shows little interest in coming forward. He does so most regularly near the end, when he's likely tiring (and probably half given up)

Note low UEFIs of Borg 43.1, Lendl 42.0. Neither player overdoes the aggression. With the retrieving and defence of both - particularly Borg - its unlikely to have pay dividends.

And behind it all is both players returning with great consistency. Generally, Borg is apt to roll in first serves on clay to extent that they'd be difficult to distinguish from second serves. Here, he serves firmly enough that that's not the case - while hammering down the occasional one (particularly on game point). 8 aces is a lot for him on clay, but Lendl returns most near everything else. Just 12 return errors from Lendl, with disproportionate number near end

Borg returns even better. For one thing, Lendl's first serve is very strong. On grass, he could easily have 50% first serves unreturned as hard as he sends them down. Borg, like his groundgame, puts them back in play like clockwork and returns at a full 90%. Near end, he even starts returning aggressively deep and wide. Its good ploy from Lendl - get as much of first serve as possible (unfortunately for him, he doesn't get much) and take his chances on long rallies

Large 25% difference between Lendl's first serve and second serve points won, with the second being a problematicly low 40%. Borg's difference is just 10% and he wins healthy 57% second serve points. These numbers are a fair indicator of how the two stack up in play. Even most of Lendl's first serve points turn into 50-50 rallies, but he does get a significant number of advantageous starting positions. Even those rallies usually go long. Play on other 3 serves are mostly 50-50 starting points... and Borg wins the bulk on all of them

Borg has at least 1 winner from FH, BH, FHV, FH1/2V, BHV, BH1/2V, OH and BHOH. This is just the second instance of this that I've come across. Borg would have been one of the last players I'd expect to have done it
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Hall of Fame
Match Progression
Despite the 6-1 scoreline, first set isn't easy. Lots of tough long FH-FH rallies with Lendl the harder hitter. Borg though is a wall after the first game (which he holds after 12 points, saving 2 break points) and its left for Lendl to make the errors

Lendl ups the power hitting on his FH in second set, and play distinctly has feel of him pushing towards attack and Borg resisting it. Borg isn't put out and continues playing to Lendl's FH. On BH rallies, he's the one to switch longline back to Lendl's FH. Borg starts coming to net more when he's outmanuvered Lendl. Lendl does some pounding FH inside-outs to Borg's BH

Lendl breaks to end the set in an 18 point game where Borg's at net 8 times. Couple of FH winners bring up Lendl's 4 break and set point of the game, on which Borg misses a regulation BHV

Borg switches to more BH-BH play and hitting pseudo-attacking FH inside-ins, sometimes approaching behind the shot. Lendl shows the first signs of weariness - occasionally not moving properly or doing so slowly and making some careless, if not wild, errors. For first time, he's a bit loose (as opposed to Borg just being more tight). On the BH, he starts push-slicing or chipping or playing pseudo-drop shots. Previously, he'd been driving all the time. Borg serves harder than before. He still goes to Lendl's FH but after working him BH cc rallies. Also hits hard FH inside-outs to Lendl's BH. Of scoreline, set is straight forward and Borg has even share of being harder hitter on top of greater consistency

4th set is Borg's most aggressive. He's hitting beat down strong, manufacturing approaches from regulation positions or coming in from routine shot. returning wider and harder. Categorically different from the outlasting or baiting-Lendl's FH play he'd gone in for up to now. Couple of first class half-volley winners from the champion. Looks like he's trying to put Lendl away in a hurray. With Lendl showing signs of fatigue and not fighting for every point as he'd done earlier, its not a bad idea. On other hand, why stop doing what's working?

Lendl hangs in and gets decisive break when Borg misses 2 attacking, FH inside-out shots

Fifth set is also not as easy as the 6-1 scoreline might suggest with Borg gaining his first two break in 8 and 10 point games, while being pushed to deuce once to hold himself. The hitting is lighter than earlier, baseline rallies are genuinely neutral (as opposed to Lendl leading, Borg reacting slightly). Even Borg is showing some signs of tiredness, and misses a small number of balls he hadn't moved to well. Lendl occasionally misses seemingly careless shots and his movement is noticably down, without being poor. He's probably tired, but nowhere near to what he would be following year at end of his match with Mats Wilander or the '83 US Open final with Jimmy Connors. Subtle changes in play aside, the big one stays the same. Borg keeping ball in court a lot better

Summing up, good hard hitting baseline encounter. Borg implements a FH-FH dynamic. Lendl has the harder hit, more damaging FH, but Borg resists being beaten down and is able to outlast him most of the time. On flip side, Lendl the harder BH hitter too when both are fresh and equally consistent, but he makes no attempt to implement BH-BH play. Borg chooses the playing field, Lendl leads play in it

Some other things going on - Borg's willingness to come to net, finishing there ably, choice strong serving and very good returning against a big serve. Lendl playing along mechanically to whatever tune Borg sets but also doing well at net when he chooses to come in. But gist of story is simple. Borg keeping ball in court much better, outlasting Lendl or letting him hit himself out

Stats for the '80 final between Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis - (6) Match Stats/Report - Borg vs Gerulaitis, French Open final, 1980 | Talk Tennis (
Stats for the '82 fourth round between Lendl and Mats Wilander - (6) Match Stats/Report - Wilander vs Lendl, French Open fourth round, 1982 | Talk Tennis (


Hall of Fame
I always regarded this match, as one of the most 'one sided' 5 set matches I've seen (if that makes sense). Despite it going to a 5th set, I never once thought that Borg was going to lose, and 32 points is a very big differential for a 5 setter. His serving during those first 3 sets in-particular, minus the final game of the 2nd set, was outstanding.

There were major questions marks about Borg's form going into this tournament, and talk that he was in decline and a lot more vulnerable compared to previous years. He notably reduced his playing activity in 1981 compared to previous years (which would become more of a contentious point later on). RG was only his 5th tournament appearance of the year, including the Toronto Indoor invitational event when he lost an entertaining SF against McEnroe after holding 2 match points in the final set tiebreak. He had only played 1 match (including exos) in the 2 months preceeding RG, a 1st round defeat against Pecci at Monte-Carlo, struggling with a shoulder injury during that period. Lennart Bergelin had labelled his performances at RG in 1980, when he only dropped 38 games in 21 sets, as 'clay court perfection' and basically said that the only way for him was downwards from that point.

But then things clicked into gear for him at RG, and he had an impressive route to this final without dropping a set. His 4th round opponent Terry Moor wanted to celebrate after finally winning a game in the 3rd set and avoiding a triple bagel.

This was a good showing from Lendl in his first major final though to take Borg to 5 sets after beating McEnroe in straight sets and the in-form Clerc (saving a match point with an unreturnable serve in the 4th set tiebreak) to get there. He competed and fought very well, and definitely looked a level above the opponents that Borg faced in his previous RG finals including Vilas, especially with his forehand firepower. At that point I didn't think he would have to wait 3 years to win his first major.
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