Match Stats/Report - Borg vs Vilas, French Open final, 1978


Hall of Fame
Bjorn Borg beat Guillermo Vilas 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in the French Open final, 1978 on clay

It was Borg's 3rd title at the event and first in 3 years. He won the tournament without loss of set and for the loss of an Open Era record low 32 games. Vilas was the defending champion had had previously lost to Borg in the 1975 final

Borg won 84 points, Vilas 49

(Note: I'm missing the ending of 7 points - 5 won by Borg, 2 by Vilas)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (37/68) 54%
- 1st serve points won (27/37) 73%
- 2nd serve points won (19/31) 61%
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (5/68) 7%

- 1st serve percentage (44/65) 68%
- 1st serve points won (18/44) 41%
- 2nd serve points won (9/21) 43%
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (3/65) 5%

Serve Patterns
Borg served...
- to FH 17%
- to BH 83%

Vilas served...
- to FH 7%
- to BH 88%
- to Body 5%

Return Stats
Borg made...
- 57 (19 FH, 34 BH, 4 ??), including 13 runaround FHs
- 3 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (2 BH)
- 1 Forced (1 BH)
- Return Rate (57/60) 95%

Vilas made...
- 62 (20 FH, 39 BH, 3 ??), including 10 runaround FHs & 2 return-approaches
- 5 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (2 BH)
- 3 Forced (1 FH, 2 BH)
- Return Rate (62/67) 93%

Break Points
Borg 8/10 (8 games)
Vilas 1/2 (2 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Borg 18 (8 FH, 6 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 OH) + 2 Unknown (1 volley, 1 pass)
Vilas 20 (4 FH, 3 BH, 6 FHV, 5 BHV, 2 OH)

Borg's FH passes - 3 cc, 2 dtl, and 1 inside-out
- BH passes - 3 cc (1 net chord flicker) and 2 dtl
- regular FHs - 1 inside-out and 1 cc/inside-in
- regular BH - 1 cc

- the 2 unknown winners are confident guesses based on watching only the player on the receiving end of them

Vilas had 3 from serve-volley points -
- 2 first volleys (1 FHV, 1 BHV)
- 1 second volley (1 BHV)

- FHs - 1 cc and 3 dtl (1 pass and 2 at net)
- BHs - 2 cc (1 slice) and 1 lob

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Borg 25
- 15 Unforced (10 FH, 2 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 BHOH)
- 8 Forced (1 FH, 3 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)… the OH was a baseline attempt to return a smash
- 2 Unknown
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 51.3

Vilas 54
- 41 Unforced (8 FH, 26 BH, 4 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 OH)… the OH was an attacking shot from the baseline
- 10 Forced (5 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV)
- 3 Unknown
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 44.9

(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...
- 12/21 (57%) at net, with...
- 2/2 forced back/retreated

Vilas was...
- 23/46 (50%) at net, including...
- 5/6 (83%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
- 0/2 return-approaching
- 1/4 (25%) forced back/retreated

Match Report
Both players serve gently, return with near absolute consistency (Return rates - Borg 95%, Vilas 93%) and then they rally. Then Vilas makes the unforced error - sooner, later, doesn't matter - Vilas makes the unforced error. Wash, rinse, repeat for two sets - and the score is 6-1, 6-1

In third set, Vilas comes to net a lot more (26 of his 46 approaches are in that set) and is able to sneak a couple extra games by forcing passing errors and hitting volley winners. Just a couple though - Borg gets stuck into his passes regularly enough and Vilas isn't too sure of himself in the forecourt that its still a very uphill task for the champion to make any headway against the machine-like Borg game

In a nutshell, Borg never seems to miss a ball. On traditional slow clay, hitting winners from the back is virtually out of the question. Forcing errors from there is no easy feat either. Vilas is scarcely powerful enough to do the latter regularly, but even when he can get a particularly well placed shot off... Borg runs it down, easy as you like, and puts it back in play. And that's when he's facing relatively difficult balls. Neutrally, Borg's shots come back like clockwork

Note the baseline UEs. Borg has 12, Vilas 35 (including an OH) - 26 of them BHs. Vilas mostly slices the BH, unlike their similar match in Monte Carlo a couple of years later. Same result though - Vilas makes the UE. Rallies are relatively short (given the match up). Not many 50+ shot rallies at any time. Taking that into consideration, I'd say Vilas played badly in an absolute sense

Its one thing to not play as well as Borg.... one can rally for 60 shots but if Borg can rally for 61, then he still wins the point, without his opponent playing badly. In this match though, Borg is typically wall like, but Vilas tends to blink more quickly than one would expect

The rallies in Monte Carlo match were noticeably longer on average and that was with Vilas coming over his BHs. Here, the slicing adds to the impression of passivity. Vilas makes little effort to grab the initiative but just puts balls in play

Borg doesn't unduly go out of his way to target Vilas' vulnerable BH. He goes to it more often than not with FH cc's an FH inside-in's but stops short of systematically and relentlessly targeting it. Vilas passivity - on top of huge handicap in consistency - cost him here. Note on the FH, Vilas has the edge in UEs - he has 8, Borg 10. While that likely wouldn't hold if more play was FH based, its a start for a way out for Vilas; Use his FH more

He doesn't seem up to dictating to the extent necessary to do that. And Borg isn't particularly aggressive. He's just putting balls in play, but Vilas is a step down still and just slicing balls in play

Note Borg's very high UEFI of 51.3. His UEs comprise 4 neutral shots, 5 attacking ones and 6 winner attempts. That's a very, very high count and unexpected, especially when you consider his BHOH UE was marked a 4 (a lazy shot, where he gets a racquet on the ball without jumping). Its mostly a function of Borg almost never missing routine balls - so any UEs he makes end up being attacking ones. He wasn't being particularly aggressive

And note Vilas' 44.9. 21 of his UEs were neutral shots and despite 7 volley/OHs, he had just 3 winner attempts. Other than putaway volleys - which he slaps down with finality, Vilas was fairly tame in his shot choices at net

The most memorable parts of the match are Borg's making near impossible gets. On 1 point, Vilas hits a tip top BHOH that looks a sure winner. Borg runs from the doubles alley on one side to the near the doubles alley on the other at full speed and from about 10 feet behind the baseline, somehow manages to lob the ball back, forcing Vilas back and going on to win the point. On another, Vilas drags Borg out of court with a very wide serve and volleys to the other corner... only for Borg again to somehow turn, run and get the ball back with some authority even. The wise Vilas had retreated from net when he saw Borg start to run... and is able to hit a FH cc into open court from the baseline on that one

Neither player is impressive at net. Borg passes well, but Vilas has lapses on the volley - note the 6 UEs, some of them downright putaways. Nonetheless, he gets back in play some difficult ones too. Borg looks less uncomfortable at net than he often does. A strange chink in his game is inability to putaway smashes - both in general and in this match

Alternatives for Vilas
Vilas would have been no stranger to Borg's game and given Borg's form, would likely have anticipated coming up against something like he did. Its doubtful anything could have reversed the result but net play was his best hope

If you can't beat Borg from the baseline, then you have to drag him to net or go there yourself. I've seen Newcombe try to drag Borg to net (and with reasonable success), but this is generally, not a good idea. As for coming to net, Vilas wins just 50% up front, which isn't good enough

He's a healthy 5/6 serve-volleying but that's half a strategy as he only goes for it in ad court, when he can maximize how wide he takes Borg off court.

Net play has other benefits. Part of the reason for Borg's attacking UEs is he was going for more on his shots to keep Vilas back in the third set (by contrast in the first, when Vilas stayed back, he was playing more passively and making next to no UEs). Borg also comes in himself to keep Vilas from doing so - he's broken first game 3rd set doing so, after Vilas had come forward on the first 5 points - and is somewhat vulnerable there

Whatever the best way to tackle Borg on clay might have been... what it wasn't was rallying neutrally with him from the back

Summing up, clinically wall like from Borg and Vilas just can't cope. Its like watching a man in a room with the walls closing in from opposite sides

Their 1980 Monte Carlo final -
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