Match Stats/Report - Borg vs Newcombe, WITC 1977

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Bjorn Borg beat John Newcombe 6-2 6-4 in a match that was part of the World Invitational Tennis Classic 1977 on green clay

It was an exhibition tournament featuring 8 players (4 men, 4 women), with each player playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches and the winner being the player to accumulate the most points. Borg was the defending champion

Borg won 62 points, Newcombe 52

(Note: I'm missing two games - one on each man's serve, both won by Borg)

Serve Stats
Borg....
- 1st serve percentage (20/52) 58%
- 1st serve points won (22/30) 73%
- 2nd serve points won (12/22) 55%
- Aces 2
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (11/52) 21%

Newcombe. ...
- 1st serve percentage (37/62) 60%
- 1st serve points won (22/37) 59%
- 2nd serve points won (12/25) 48%
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (2/62) 3%



Serve Pattern
Borg served...
- to FH 48%
- to BH 46%
- to Body 6%

Newcombe served...
- to FH 53%
- to BH 47%

Return Stats
Borg made...
- 58 (32 FH, 26 BH), including 3 runaround FHs and 2 return-approaches
- 2 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 FH)
- 1 Forced (1 BH)
- Return Rate (58/60) 97%

Newcombe made...
- 39 (21 FH, 18 BH), including 4 return-approaches
- 2 Winners (2 FH)
- 9 Errors, comprising...
- 7 Unforced (5 FH, 2 BH)
- 2 Forced (2 BH)
- Return Rate (39/50) 78%


Break Points
Borg 4/9 (6 games)
Newcombe 1/4 (2 games)

{Note: Borg's numbers include a deduced 1/1 (1 game) from one of the two games I'm missing. The points won and games are accurate, but he may have had more than just one break point in the game}

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Borg 7 (2 FH, 1 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
Newcombe 22 (11 FH, 3 BH, 3 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH)

Borg had 1 pass - a BH dtl which clipped the net chord

- one FH was a 3rd ball, the other was dtl

- the FHV was hit from well behind the service line and not a net point and one BHV was a drop volley

Newcombe had 6 passes (4 FH, 2 BH) - FH (2 cc, 1 dtl, 1 lob) and BH (1 cc, 1 dtl), with the cc being a slice

- two returns (2 FH), one a runaround cc and the other a dtl

- other FHs include 1 running-down-a-drop-shot, 1 payed at net, 1 step-in dtl and 2 played from just behind the service line (1 dtl, 1 i-o)

- the non-pass BH was a sharply angled shot

- 1 FHV was a drop volley and 1 was a put away. 1 BHV was the first volley of a serve-volley point while another hit the net chord on its way over


Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Borg 26
- 12 Unforced (1 FH, 8 BH, 1 FHV, 1BHV)
- 14 Forced (5 FH, 8 BH, 1 BHOH)

Newcombe 42
- 26 Unforced (13 FH, 10 BH, 1 FH1/2V, 1 BHV, 1 OH)
- 16 Forced (5 FH, 6 BH, 1 FHV, 3 BHV, 1 BH1/2V)

(Note : All half volleys refer to such shots played at net)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
(Stats methodology - "at net" refers to all approaches other than serve-volley, which is in a category of itself)

Borg was 12/27 (44%) at net, including 0/2 on return-approaches and 1/2 when forced back

He had no S/V

Newcombe was 19/26 (73%) at net, including 2/4 on return-approaches and 0/1 forced back

He was 3/6 serve-volleying - all off first serves

Total net points 22/32 (69%)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Report
Not a very serious match, which perhaps gives rise to a type of action not often seen

In the first set, Newcombe unusually targets the ballyhooed Borg FH, directing 24 serves there, with just 12 to the BH (in the second, he virtually reverses the pattern)

Mostly, he just rolls the serve in (especially in the first set) but does crank it up for all his rare s/v points, which he also directs to the BH 6/6

He also uses a lot of drop shots, which Borg invariably runs down, though that occasionally leaves him at net where he looks characteristically uncomfortable. His net numbers are a poor 44% for the match

Borg is visibly tired as early as mid-way through the first set. It's blindingly sunny and the Swede is glistening with sweat at the start itself. By the 15 minute mark, he a couple of times bends over and supports himself on his racquet in a gesture of feeling the heat

Perhaps for this reason, perhaps because it's an exho, Borg is a lot more aggressive than I've seen him on clay. He looks to use his big FH to command play and frequently ventures to net.... this is certainly not who-blinks-first tennis. He's more aggressive with the BH than usual too, and consequently makes a lot of errors on that wing (by his standard anyway)

He even return-approaches twice, though losing both points. In this match, he clearly favours his FH, which is both safe and powerful

I was interested in looking at Newcombe's shot making as I've not seen much of him before.

He has a sledgehammer FH off his own to match Borg, though it's a lot more error prone. On the BH, he uses slice-drives that many players of that generation favoured

It's an elegant shot though not threatening. Newks makes 10 UEs with it while rarely forcing the action from that wing. The FH yields still more errors, but also dictates play, hits winners and forces Borg errors

A curious habit of Newcombe's is he does his ball toss with 2 balls in hand and holds onto one of them during play. I would think this would hamper his ability to toss precisely... and what would happen if he dropped the ball in his hand in the course of play?

Despite unusual tactics, style and play... ultimately the match comes down to the usual key clay factors: frequency of errors

Borg's remains typically low and Newcombe's is too high to be a serious threat of winning

All in all, an entertaining and unusual match
 
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KG1965

Legend
Bjorn Borg beat John Newcombe 6-2 6-4 in a match that was part of the World Invitational Tennis Championship 1977 on green clay

It was an exhibition tournament featuring 8 players (4 men, 4 women), with each player playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches and the winner being the player to accumulate the most points. Borg was the defending champion

Borg won 62 points, Newcombe 52

(Note: I'm missing two games - one on each man's serve, both won by Borg)

Serve Stats
Borg....
- 1st serve percentage (20/52) 58%
- 1st serve points won (22/30) 73%
- 2nd serve points won (12/22) 55%
- Aces 2
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (11/52) 21%

Newcombe. ...
- 1st serve percentage (37/62) 60%
- 1st serve points won (22/37) 59%
- 2nd serve points won (12/25) 48%
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (2/62) 3%



Serve Pattern
Borg served...
- to FH 48%
- to BH 46%
- to Body 6%

Newcombe served...
- to FH 53%
- to BH 47%

Return Stats
Borg made...
- 58 (32 FH, 26 BH), including 3 runaround FHs and 2 return-approaches
- 2 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 FH)
- 1 Forced (1 BH)
- Return Rate (58/60) 97%

Newcombe made...
- 39 (21 FH, 18 BH), including 4 return-approaches
- 2 Winners (2 FH)
- 9 Errors, comprising...
- 7 Unforced (5 FH, 2 BH)
- 2 Forced (2 BH)
- Return Rate (39/50) 78%


Break Points
Borg 4/9 (6 games)
Newcombe 1/4 (2 games)

{Note: Borg's numbers include a deduced 1/1 (1 game) from one of the two games I'm missing. The points won and games are accurate, but he may have had more than just one break point in the game}

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Borg 7 (2 FH, 1 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
Newcombe 22 (11 FH, 3 BH, 3 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH)

Borg had 1 pass - a BH dtl which clipped the net chord

- one FH was a 3rd ball, the other was dtl

- the FHV was hit from well behind the service line and not a net point and one BHV was a drop volley

Newcombe had 6 passes (4 FH, 2 BH) - FH (2 cc, 1 dtl, 1 lob) and BH (1 cc, 1 dtl), with the cc being a slice

- two returns (2 FH), one a runaround cc and the other a dtl

- other FHs include 1 running-down-a-drop-shot, 1 payed at net, 1 step-in dtl and 2 played from just behind the service line (1 dtl, 1 i-o)

- the non-pass BH was a sharply angled shot

- 1 FHV was a drop volley and 1 was a put away. 1 BHV was the first volley of a serve-volley point while another hit the net chord on its way over


Errors (excluding returns and serves)
Borg 26
- 12 Unforced (1 FH, 8 BH, 1 FHV, 1BHV)
- 14 Forced (5 FH, 8 BH, 1 BHOH)

Newcombe 42
- 26 Unforced (13 FH, 10 BH, 1 FH1/2V, 1 BHV, 1 OH)
- 16 Forced (5 FH, 6 BH, 1 FHV, 3 BHV, 1 BH1/2V)

(Note : All half volleys refer to such shots played at net)

Net Points & Serve-Volley

(Stats methodology - "at net" refers to all approaches other than serve-volley, which is in a category of itself)

Borg was 12/27 (44%) at net, including 0/2 on return-approaches and 1/2 when forced back

He had no S/V

Newcombe was 19/26 (73%) at net, including 2/4 on return-approaches and 0/1 forced back

He was 3/6 serve-volleying - all off first serves

Total net points 22/32 (69%)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Report
Not a very serious match, which perhaps gives rise to a type of action not often seen

In the first set, Newcombe unusually targets the ballyhooed Borg FH, directing 24 serves there, with just 12 to the BH (in the second, he virtually reverses the pattern)

Mostly, he just rolls the serve in (especially in the first set) but does crank it up for all his rare s/v points, which he also directs to the BH 6/6

He also uses a lot of drop shots, which Borg invariably runs down, though that occasionally leaves him at net where he looks characteristically uncomfortable. His net numbers are a poor 44% for the match

Borg is visibly tired as early as mid-way through the first set. It's blindingly sunny Swede is glistening with sweat at the start itself. By the 15 minute mark, he a couple of times bends over to lean on his racquet

Perhaps for this reason, perhaps because it's an exho, Borg is a lot more aggressive than I've seen him on clay. He looks to use his big FH to command play and frequently ventures to net.... this is certainly not who-blinks-first tennis. He's more aggressive with the BH than usual too, and consequently makes a lot of errors on that wing (by his standard anyway)

He even return-approaches twice, though losing both points. In this match, he clearly favours his FH, which is both safe and powerful

I was interested in looking at Newcombe's shot making as I've not seen much of him before.

He has a sledgehammer FH off his own to match Borg, though it's a lot more error prone. On the BH, he uses slice-drives that many players of that generation favoured

It's an elegant shot though not threatening. Newks makes 10 UEs with it while rarely forcing the action from that wing. The FH yields still more errors, but also dictates play, hits winners and forces Borg errors

A curious habit of Newcombe's is he does his ball toss with 2 balls in hand and holds onto one of them during play. I would think this would hamper his ability to toss precisely... and what would happen if he dropped the ball in his hand in the course of play?

Despite unusual tactics, style and play... ultimately the match comes down to the usual key clay factors: frequency of errors

Borg's remains typically low and Newcombe's is too high to be a serious threat of winning

All in all, an entertaining and unusual match
Only some historical clarification.

1) I think Borg could have big problems with the Newk's game because the australian had a great serve
2) the aussie beat Bjorn 2 times when John was at the top and Borg ... was coming
3) since 1975 Newk is over the hill and can not be a problem for Borg
4) Newk seems to play without serve, which was his most important arm (maybe he had suffered some injuries months before ... I do not know)
5) the tournament is not recognized by ATP, it is not official then, but it was the most important unofficial special event
6) Borg's victory percentages in special events were very relevant, better than in official tournaments
 

Moose Malloy

G.O.A.T.
The serving with 2 balls in one hand thing was the norm for players before 2 handed bh's became common(meaning pre 70s) Laver, Rosewall, Ashe, Gonzalez, Nastase, Court, King, Goolagong etc all did this. Even later players like Vilas and Graf did this. I believe Graf only stopped serving with 2 balls around 1990, so it really wasn't considered that 'curious' a habit for those that followed tennis back then. I remember rec players doing that in the 80s as well.

They were pretty lenient with balls dropping on the court back then, it wasn't an automatic let. Evert didn't have any pockets in her dress early in her career, so after she hit her first serve, she would just throw the 2nd ball behind her. It was kind of weird and dangerous, but I guess not that big a deal(she was doing it in a Wimbledon final!)

A particularly weird sight was Borg serving with 2 balls in his hand vs Amritraj at the 74 USO. I guess because he was serve and volleying all the time that day, he felt he wasn't going to have to hit any 2 handed backhands in his serve games.

I've also seen points back then when players hats would fall off during points or paper would fly on court during play and the umpire would never call a let and the players never complained. And of course, no over ever toweled off except on changeovers.

It's funny the only guy from the early 70s I've seen that didn't serve with 2 balls in his hand was Roche. And during the 1970 USO, the commentators actually commentated how strange it was to see a player play with the 2nd ball in his pocket!
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
1) I think Borg could have big problems with the Newk's game because the australian had a great serve
2) the aussie beat Bjorn 2 times when John was at the top and Borg ... was coming
3) since 1975 Newk is over the hill and can not be a problem for Borg
They interviewed the two players at the changeover between sets where the players hinted about this dynamic

Newcombe said something like he held back in the first set because if he'd gone all out, he wouldn't have anything left now - which confirms that it was exceptionally hot and tiring (I didn't see any obvious signs of tiredness from Newks as I did with Borg in Set 1)... and now lets see if I can win the next two sets

Borg was very direct. When asked how Newcombe's game was since they'd last met (1976, I think), without being rude just stated he'd slowed down quite a bit. When asked about Newcombe's comment that he'd now try to win the next to sets, he replied with just a hint of humour, "I don't think he'll win the next two sets", which I found amusing (by that point, I think he was confident he could crush Newcombe)

During the match, one of the commentators said a bit stupidly that John Newcombe was now 33 years old and in his physical prime (Pancho Gonzales was one of the commentators, can't remember if it was him)

(Regarding Newcombe's unreturned serve percentage)
o_Oo_Oo_O
They had some side thing in the tournament where the guy who served most aces got a cash bonus.... or players got paid something for every ace they served (can't remember which)

So players had an incentive to bang down big serves

Borg's 97% return rate is the highest I've come across. I'm missing one game in which he broke serve... it seems probable, likely even, that he returned all serves in that game too

The serving with 2 balls in one hand thing was the norm for players before 2 handed bh's became common(meaning pre 70s) Laver, Rosewall, Ashe, Gonzalez, Nastase, Court, King, Goolagong etc all did this. Even later players like Vilas and Graf did this. I believe Graf only stopped serving with 2 balls around 1990, so it really wasn't considered that 'curious' a habit for those that followed tennis back then. I remember rec players doing that in the 80s as well.

They were pretty lenient with balls dropping on the court back then, it wasn't an automatic let. Evert didn't have any pockets in her dress early in her career, so after she hit her first serve, she would just throw the 2nd ball behind her. It was kind of weird and dangerous, but I guess not that big a deal(she was doing it in a Wimbledon final!)

A particularly weird sight was Borg serving with 2 balls in his hand vs Amritraj at the 74 USO. I guess because he was serve and volleying all the time that day, he felt he wasn't going to have to hit any 2 handed backhands in his serve games.

I've also seen points back then when players hats would fall off during points or paper would fly on court during play and the umpire would never call a let and the players never complained. And of course, no over ever toweled off except on changeovers.

It's funny the only guy from the early 70s I've seen that didn't serve with 2 balls in his hand was Roche. And during the 1970 USO, the commentators actually commentated how strange it was to see a player play with the 2nd ball in his pocket!
So strange to hear

I was flabbergasted by descriptions of the US Indoor Pro conditions too, with twin courts where balls from one match might roll into the other court mid-point

Connors apparently loved it there, Borg not so much
 

krosero

Legend
New York Times:

Bjorn Borg, showing no signs of his recent shoulder injury, defeated John Newcombe of Australia, 6-2, 6-4, today in the opening match of the World Invitational Tennis Classic…It was Borg’s first appearance since he withdrew from the quarterfinals in the United States Open at Forest Hills three weeks ago with a painful injury.​
 

krosero

Legend
Serve Stats
Borg....
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (11/52) 21%

Newcombe. ...
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (2/62) 3%
When we talked about this as return rates, it seemed just like a great stat for Borg --and it is. But looking at it as unreturned rate, for such a great server as John Newcombe this is abysmal. And with the ace-competition at this event, why was he taking pace off the serve?

In claycourt matches you often saw low unreturned rates but not always. In the '79 RG final, Pecci had a rate of 15.2%, and Borg 11.2. The '80 RG final, Gerulaitis had 15.7, Borg 12.2.

And in this match at Hilton, Borg's way up at 21%. So Newk's number is a bit of a mystery.

Whatever it was -- injury factor, or deliberate tactic by Newk -- he knew how to play on clay. He was actually a fine claycourter and had a number of big wins in the early OE.
 

krosero

Legend
Newcombe said something like he held back in the first set because if he'd gone all out, he wouldn't have anything left now - which confirms that it was exceptionally hot and tiring (I didn't see any obvious signs of tiredness from Newks as I did with Borg in Set 1)... and now lets see if I can win the next two sets

Borg was very direct. When asked how Newcombe's game was since they'd last met (1976, I think), without being rude just stated he'd slowed down quite a bit. When asked about Newcombe's comment that he'd now try to win the next to sets, he replied with just a hint of humour, "I don't think he'll win the next two sets", which I found amusing (by that point, I think he was confident he could crush Newcombe)

During the match, one of the commentators said a bit stupidly that John Newcombe was now 33 years old and in his physical prime (Pancho Gonzales was one of the commentators, can't remember if it was him)
Yes that was Pancho. I thought it was an incredible comment and just figured he was saying it for the sake of TV ratings, to make the match seem interesting, etc.

And maybe that was part of it but after our conversation in the other thread, about age, I think there could be more to it. We were talking with @Gary Duane about how the average age of champions can change over time. Well this Hilton match was played in late '77, well before the new stars of the OE had their early burnouts/flameouts. All these new guys were just getting started and the older ones were still going or had retired at a relatively old age. Gonzalez himself, at 33, won his last World Series. Laver turned 33 in '71, the year he won the TCC, and Pancho would have remembered that.

Of course there was also Rosewall, who was still playing '77 and beating top ten players at age 43. I don't think Pancho was holding Newk to that high standard, but it's still worth noting that this was an era in which somebody was winning Slams, and the Dallas championship, as late as age 37. In that context saying that Newk was still in his physical prime at 33, well it doesn't make sense with regard to Newcombe himself especially in hindsight, but as a limited statement about when a top tennis player could still be in his physical prime years it doesn't seem so far off.

Not in Oct. '77 anyway.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Newcombe only s/v 6 times? Even on a clay court I find that amazing. Tell me he didn't s/v on all his 2nd serves, okay. But only 6 including his 1st? Wow.
@WCT - shifting this comment of yours to this thread to keep things a bit organized

I've seen little of Newcombe and not at all on clay. While not serve-volleying much, that stats are showing he was the aggressor

22 winners in 16 games (the number of games the stats cover) against Borg on clay is no joke. 1.38 per game

From stats by me, Krosero and Moose, only higher rate of winners per game against Borg on any surface are

- Gerulaitis 1.45 at Wimbledon '77
- McEnroe 1.39 at Wimbledon '81 (and that one had two tiebreaks, which I'm counting as games)

Everything else falls under -

- 8 matches on grass (4 with Connors, 1 each with Nastase, Tanner, McEnroe and Gerulatis)
- 3 on carpet (2 with McEnroe, 1 with Connors)
- 4 on hard (2 each with Connors and McEnroe)
- 7 on clay (2 with Connors and Vilas, 1 with Laver, Gerulaitis, Pecci and Lendl)

Having 97% of his serves returned gives him more scope to hit winners. Borg was playing more aggressively than normal, thus leaving the court open for winners. I didn't note Borg letting up unduly in defensive situations (though one imagines he played within himself for an exho)

Even so, the rate of hitting clean winners by Newcombe is exceptional, especially for a guy getting crushed, so there's that for what its worth


...In that context saying that Newk was still in his physical prime at 33, well it doesn't make sense with regard to Newcombe himself especially in hindsight, but as a limited statement about when a top tennis player could still be in his physical prime years it doesn't seem so far off.
Today, it'd be an understatement:)

And at the other end, we have Borg himself

In the mid-match interview, he said something about how it'd be harder to dominate again next year, explaining that there were a lot of talented youngsters coming up

This amused the interviewer, who noted Borg was just 21!
 
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