Match Stats/Report - Connors vs Borg, Richmond Indoor exhibition 1982

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Jimmy Connors beat Bjorn Borg 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in an indoor exhibition match in Richmond, Virginia, 1982 on carpet

Connors had just recently won Wimbledon while Borg had been off the tour for virtually the year

Connors won 120 points, Borg 118

(Note: I'm missing an unknown number of points.
a) 1 Borg service point won by Borg.
b) A Connors service game cuts off at 40-15, which Connors went on to hold
c) A Connors service game where he's down 40-A and would go onto to lose

Potentially as little as 3 points missing then)

Serve Stats
Connors...
- 1st serve percentage (97/117) 78%
- 1st serve points won (55/91) 60%
- 2nd serve points won (11/26) 42%
- Aces 1
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (13/117) 11%

Borg....
- 1st serve percentage (63/118) 53%
- 1st serve points won (36/63) 57%
- 2nd serve points won (29/55) 53%
- Aces 8, Service Winners 3
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (24/118) 20%

Serve Patterns
Connors served...
- to FH 20%
- to BH 79%
- to Body 1%

Borg served....
- to FH 34%
- to BH 65%
- to Body 1%

Return Stats
Connors made...
- 89 (29 FH, 60 BH), including 3 runaround FHs
- 2 Winners (2 BH)
- 13 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (1 FH, 2 BH), including 1 runaround FH attempt
- 10 Forced (8 FH, 2 BH)
- Return Rate (89/113) 79%

Borg made...
- 103 (28 FH, 73 BH, 2 ??), including 3 runaround FHs
- 2 Winners (2 FH), both runarounds
- 12 Errors, comprising...
- 4 Unforced (3 FH, 1 BH), including 3 runaround FH attempts
- 8 Forced (3 FH, 5 BH)
- Return Rate (103/116) 89%

Break Points
Connors 9/15 (9 games)
Borg 7/15 (9 games)

(Note: Borg's tally includes an additional 1/1 in a game he broke in which is incomplete. The points won is accurate - as are the number of games he had break points on - but he may possibly have had more break points)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Connors 32 (12 FH, 10 BH, 3 FHV, 5 BHV, 2 OH)
Borg 23 (10 FH, 5 BH, 6 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)

Connors' FHs
- regular - 4 cc, 1 dtl, 1 inside-out, 1 inside-out/dtl and 1 at net
- passes - 2 cc (1 on the run), 1 dtl (on the run) and 1 inside-out

- BHs
-regular - 5 cc and 1 dtl
- passes - 1 cc, 2 dtl (1 return) and 1 inside-in return

- 1 BHV was drop to a low ball

Borg's FHs - 2 cc (1 pass at net, played net-to-net), 1 dtl, 3 inside-out (2 runaround returns) and 1 inside-in

- BHs - 2 cc passes, 1 dtl pass, 1 inside-out and 1 net chord dribbler

- 5 from serve-volley points - all first 'volleys' (2 FHV, 3 FH at net)

- the BHV was a drop

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Connors 67
- 40 Unforced (17 FH, 20 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV)
- 27 Forced (12 FH, 11 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 1 BHV, 1 Other)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.3

Borg 69
- 39 Unforced (15 FH, 21 BH, 1 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 30 Forced (12 FH, 14 BH, 1 FH1/2V, 2 BHV, 1 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45.1

(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)

(Note 3: Connors' other FE was an over-the-shoulder attempt to retrieve a lob that forced him back from net)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Connors was...
- 27/42 (64%) at net, including...
- 2/3 serve-volleying, all first serve points...
---
0/2 forced back

Borg was...
- 25/45 (56%) at net, including...
- 8/16 (50%) serve-volleying, all first serve points...
---
- 2/4 forced back/retreated
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Match Report
An entertaining, and despite patchiness, high quality match for 3 sets. From the last game of the third set onward though, Borg is disappointing

Some background. Borg was on hiatus from the tour and had scarcely played any official tennis for the year (commentators keeps saying he's been off for "five months"). Connors was having the most success he'd had in years, with much attention drawn to his improved serve. This match is played on a normal paced carpet court. The winner receives $40,000, the loser $20,000. Borg looks fit and healthy and appears to have added muscle mass to his upper body. He looks a bit top heavy... his legs skinny compared to the top.

The match seems to be played in competitive spirit. Connors jokes around with the crowd and with Borg regularly, Borg smiles once or twice.... but the action is intense enough

How serious the match is might have been answered by the very first point. Its an extended, rally off about 20 shots, both players hitting both ways off both wings. Borg wins it by coming to net and hitting a FHV and Connors jokes about being too old (he was 30) to keep this up for much longer. Nonetheless, Connors breaks - with help from a sharply angled FH cc winner - but Borg breaks right back with Connors making 4 errors

The rest of the first set is high quality stuff, with the usual patterns of play emerging. Connors hitting more winners/forcing more errors, while making more errors. Both serve well - Borg's first serve is a genuine big shot and even Connors' is better than usual. The baseline rallies are long and gruelling. Connors gains a late break, with Borg double faulting, missing a FH at net off a serve-volley point and missing an attempted attacking BH.

Second carries on like the first, but with errors creeping up by both players. But remaining about equal. Connors saves two break points in a 10 point game while Borg is broken as the American opens up a 3-1 lead

He goes on to lose the next 7 games. Makes more errors in this part of the match than any other, but the rallies remain tough ones. Borg's greater consistency (overall, he is more error prone than in general, especially off the BH) has a hand in this, but its mainly a drop in Connors' level.

Borg gains breaks to love in game 7 of set 3, steps up to serve for the set and 3 second serves later, has 3 sets points and 40-0. And thus begins the last act

Three first serves later, its deuce. And Connors goes on to break. its all clutch from Jimbo… 6 winners in 9 receiving points - returns, volleys, passes and groundstrokes are all represented. And that clutch showing triggers a Borg chokefest, beginning with a strange BH error break point down where he hits a BH into the doubles alley (and repeats the shot next game when returning)

Serving to stay in the set, a seemingly rattled Borg chokes it away. 2 double faults, a no-footwork to a deep ball error and a routine FH error gifts the set to Connors.

4th set is bad stuff from Bjorn. Not only does he make plenty of errors, but its the way he makes them. Often to routine balls and/or in short rallies. Misses more returns than at any point in the match (mostly to first serves, which are eminently returnable as he's shown all match). Also goes for bigger and bigger groundies from the back (with a net negative result). Starts coming to net (including serve-volleying) more and more.... its as if he's tired and wants to finish things off one way or another as quickly as possible. Not fight it out tooth and nail as usual. The result isn't too bad - Borg breaks twice and is broken 3 times - but he looks like he's thrown in the towel. Connors, though visibly more fatigued, keeps fighting, and comes away with a well deserved win

Serving & Returning
Borg's first serve is a weapon. I haven't been particularly impressed with it previously, but here, its deadly (second serve is just average though). Maybe bigger than it had ever been. In this light, major credit to Connors' returning. He retains an excellent 79% return rate. With 11/24 of Borg's unreturned serves being ace or service winners.... that means Connors got all but 13 unreturnable serves back (even with Borg serve-volleying a fair bit). Might not get noticed because he's not hitting winners or forcing errors with it regularly, but top stuff from Connors on the return

Connors' first serve is indeed improved, but not enough to seriously trouble a returner as steady as Borg. On a slowish court like this, one could say its improvement manifests as not-being-as-easy-to-attack as it used to be, rather than being dangerous. Borg does take to aggressively returning the second serve, which is an indication he wasn't getting the results he was looking for against the first. It largely works - 42% second points won for Jimmy (Borg was 53%)

Something about the match up that interests me is Borg's insistence on serving primarily to Connors' BH. Connors does the same thing - Borg's FH return is clearly more dangerous (while just as steady) than his BH

But Connors' returning in general seems equally strong off both wings. No reason to go for one side and not the other, but that's what I've seen Borg do 3/3 matches I've tracked. Maybe mixing it up to keep Connors guessing would have been a better strategy

Passing & Volleying
Good from Connors on both. Couple of stunning passes on the run, very able from stationary positions and good use of the lob too. On the volley he's good too - good approach shots as praiseworthy as the volleys themselves (most of which are not difficult). And not many errors approaching - Borg makes about the same, small number (I'd estimate 3-5)

Borg's volleying... not great. Misses a few sitters, doesn't put away some easy ones and anything slightly harder than normal, either makes an error or puts it over not well. Couple of good volleys too - including a genuine drop volley (which makes him smile). By 'genuine', I mean he gives with the hands on contact to take the pace off the ball, as opposed to those let-the-ball-hit-the-racquet-without-punching-it drop volleys he plays on grass (I still don't know if those were deliberate or not - my guess is no). And he does approach well - often having Connors on the run and out of position with it

Borg decent on the pass - which is a step down from his often spectacular showings, but nothing to criticize in it

Baseline & Movement
Rallies are well distributed across sides, neither player showing an obvious preference for a particular side.

There are Connors FH - Borg BH rallies. Borg's more error prone here than usual and Connors less. Connors generally hitting with good depth probably the key to it - so primarily credit to Connors rather than discredit to Borg (until the last part of the match when Borg is poor of the BH anyway)

There are Borg FH - Connors BH rallies. Maybe the two best groundstrokes in the game at the time. Both players are more ready to get into these than usual (both seem to prefer the alternative usually), maybe because its an exho. These rallies go a long way in explaining Connors' uncharacteristic 20 BH errors (to 17 FH)…. usually, he has far more FH errors. I think Borg has the edge in these rallies, but not by much

There are no fixed rallies, as the above two paragraphs might suggest. Any rally is apt to change direction. Mostly because of Connors versatility - he seems to be able to switch to dtl or even inside-out (even of the BH) without difficulty

Connors is the more aggressive. I would say more than the near identical UEFI is suggesting (Connors 45.3, Borg 45.1), but that's explained by Connors standard shot being more attacking than Borg's. Good depth from Connors is key

Note the unusual similarity in errors - UEs Connors 40, Borg 39, FEs Connors 27, Borg 30.... usually Connors has far more UEs and Borg far more FEs. Connors does come ahead comfortably in winners though (32 to 23) and that gap would be wider in pure baseline situations

Of movement, Borg certainly doesn't look slow, but he also doesn't look like the jack rabbit he usually does either. Some signs of rust from Borg too - strange shots choices (drop shots, questionable dtl's etc.)
----

Summing up, a good and entertaining battle with baseline rallies both hard hitting and tactical. There's also net play and serve-volleying for an all-court fest. Both players levels dipping at different intervals, which effectively just makes the match more interesting rather than less. The edge tips on some great clutch play from Connors, which triggers a decisive impatient, error strewn choke-fest from Borg at the end
 

WCT

Semi-Pro
Never did stats for this match. Years since I watched it last, but memory would have said Connors didn't come in 42 times. Even that is 18% of the points. No question in my mind 5 years earlier he would have been at the net more.

Look at how close the unforced errors were. Borg had some rust going on. He could still make the most amazing shots, but then he'd make the simplest error. That was the big difference. Before you so rarely saw that type of error. Overall, though, I remembered as pretty high quality play. And while Connors joked around, I think he still really wanted to win.
 

KG1965

Legend
Something about the match up that interests me is Borg's insistence on serving primarily to Connors' BH. Connors does the same thing - Borg's FH return is clearly more dangerous (while just as steady) than his BH
The Jimbo's return of fh was more held by his opponents. If you compare other matches you will see that often the opponents served on the bh.

BH >> FH but BH return < FH return.

I think that the reason is that Jimmy fails in BH return..
- to perform the entire bh movement,
- to relax completely.

With the FH instead it stretches well and always strikes balls with a good strength.


Great work with these threads, Waspsting.
You begin to have a considerable amount of data.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
I don't recall if I saw this one back in the day. Probably. I really looked forward to them, given that Borg was no longer playing on the tour. It was a treat to see him go toe-to-toe with Connors. Watching them hit ground strokes was always like watching a master class...and Connors with his calculated aggression, trying to pressure Bjorn. I think key to Jimmy's success was being tour sharp, more than anything. Arguably, Bjorn was the fittest man on the planet. But Connors was match tough. And this one was won in the clutch, as the poster pointed out. The longer Bjorn stayed away, the less competitive he would prove in these exo formats. And, early on, they were quite competitive.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
The Jimbo's return of fh was more held by his opponents. If you compare other matches you will see that often the opponents served on the bh.

BH >> FH but BH return < FH return.

I think that the reason is that Jimmy fails in BH return..
- to perform the entire bh movement,
- to relax completely.

With the FH instead it stretches well and always strikes balls with a good strength.

.
Wonder if there are any career stats on JC's BH return vs. his forehand one?
I always felt it was less about the mechanics and more his eye-hand coordination.
If he saw the booming serve coming, all he had to do was get his racket on it to crush it.
When he had more time on the return, I always felt he made more errors, actually.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
The Jimbo's return of fh was more held by his opponents. If you compare other matches you will see that often the opponents served on the bh.

BH >> FH but BH return < FH return.

I think that the reason is that Jimmy fails in BH return..
- to perform the entire bh movement,
- to relax completely.

With the FH instead it stretches well and always strikes balls with a good strength.


Great work with these threads, Waspsting.
You begin to have a considerable amount of data.
Generally speaking, everyone serves more to the BH than the FH because the FH obviously has a longer reach and a freer swing

People serve more to the BH even against players with reputed stronger BH returns than FH... its just common sense

What I've observed is that the percentage serving to the BH is less the stronger the players BH return is relative to the FH return

Not that the BH return is stronger than the FH return in absolute terms.... but the gap between them is smaller than it is for most players

for example, Djokovic and Agassi... people might go more to their BHs than FHs.... but its roughly 60-40. By contrast, they'll go 75-25 to Becker, Sampras or Federer.... guys with weak BH returns, relative to their FHs

My eye test judgement is that Connors fits into the Djokovic/Agassi mould… but Borg serves to him like he's in the Becker/Sampras/Federer mould

One things I'd be curious to look at is how the field as a whole distributed serves to Jimmy, not just Borg (and McEnroe) and how often they distributed to the field as a whole, not just to Jimmy (almost certainly such data isn't available)

Lot of threads to look through, but I'll give it a go when I have time to see how the proportion of return errors across wings lines up with the proportion of serves directed to each wing

My guess for Connors would be that he's making about the same proportion of errors off both wings.... if that is the case, serving something like 75-25 to his BH wouldn't be the best strategy. He's as unlikely to error of either side... why not keep him guessing a bit which way it'll go, rather than let him get grooved returning BHs?

Will take some time and won't be precise (I don't have data for which way the aces and service winners were directed), but results might be interesting
 
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