Match Stats/Report - Connors vs Noah, La Quinta final, 1984


Hall of Fame
Jimmy Connors beat Yannick Noah 6-2, 6-7(7), 6-3 in the La Quinta final, 1984 on hard court

Connors was the reigning US Open champion, Noah was the reigning French Open champion

Connors won 102 points, Noah 85

(Note: I've semi-guessed a service point from Connors was a first serve and its direction - the end of the point is normally recorded. Direction for 1 unreturned Noah first serve that Connors got a racquet on is unknown and I've assumed it was a forced error)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (71/90) 79%
- 1st serve points won (51/71) 72%
- 2nd serve points won (12/19) 63%
- Aces 3
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (12/90) 13%

- 1st serve percentage (50/97) 52%
- 1st serve points won (32/50) 64%
- 2nd serve points won (26/47) 55%
- Aces 7
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (22/97) 23%

Serve Patterns
Connors served...
- to FH 27%
- to BH 67%
- to Body 6%

Noah served...
- to FH 31%
- to BH 67%
- to Body 2%

Return Stats
Connors made...
- 72 (24 FH, 48 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 15 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (3 BH)
- 12 Forced (7 FH, 4 BH, 1 ??)
- Return Rate (72/94) 77%

Noah made...
- 77 (25 FH, 52 BH), including 2 runaround FHs & 5 return-approaches
- 9 Errors, comprising...
- 5 Unforced (2 FH, 3 BH)
- 4 Forced (1 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (77/89) 87%

Break Points
Connors 4/6 (4 games)
Noah 1/4 (2 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Connors 38 (13 FH, 5 BH, 7 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 4 BHV, 4 OH)
Noah 19 (3 FH, 6 BH, 4 FHV, 1 BHV, 4 OH, 1 BHOH)

Connors' FHs - 5 cc (4 passes, 1 extreme angled, effective drop shot at net), 2 dtl (1 pass, 1 running-down-drop-shot at net), 2 inside-out (1 pass) and 3 lobs
- BHs - 4 cc (2 passes - 1 running-down-drop-shot at net) and 1 drop shot at net

- 8 from serve-volley points -
- 4 first 'volleys' (2 BHV, 1 FH1/2V, 1 FH at net)…. the FH1/2V being a stop
- 3 second volleys (2 FHV, 1 BHV)
- 1 re-approach volley (1 BHV)

- 1 OH was hit on the bounce withdrawing from net comfortably behind the service line but has been counted a net point

Noah's FHs - 1 cc and 2 dtl
- BHs - 1 cc (as Connors was retreating from net), 3 dtl (1 pass and 1 as Connors was retreating from net), 1 longline/inside-out pass and 1 net chord dribbler

- 3 from serve-volley points - 1 first FHV and 2 second volleys (1 FHV, 1 OH)

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Connors 43
- 28 Unforced (6 FH, 13 BH, 4 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 OH)
- 15 Forced (8 FH, 6 BH, 1 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.5

Noah 49
- 24 Unforced (12 FH, 6 BH, 3 FHV, 3 BHV)
- 25 Forced (5 FH, 12 BH, 2 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH, 1 Tweener)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.9

(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
Connors was...
- 46/65 (71%) at net, including...
- 12/19 (63%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 12/18 (67%) off 1st serve and..
- 0/1 off 2nd serve
- 4/7 (57%) forced back/retreated

Noah was...
- 27/57 (47%) at net, including...
- 10/23 (43%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 7/18 (39%) off 1st serve and..
- 3/5 (60%) off 2nd serve
- 1/5 (20%) return-approaching
- 0/5 forced back

Match Report
A good, though petulant match. Connors bosses from the baseline, returns powerfully and attacks the net aplenty while Noah is hesitant to come in and poor at dealing with his at-net opponent. Court is on the slow side of normal

Lets get the petulance out of the way first. Second point of the match, the chair umpire calls Connors' return out. Connors trudges over, gets in his face asking if he plans on doing that all day and if so, he'd better get every single one right or he's "out of the chair". Whether the ball was in or out isn't the point (replays are inconclusive), the point is it was very close

Commentators discuss the matter (later, after several other incidents). One says the umpire can overrule a call if and only if there has been a clear error. The way he says it sounds like he's reading an official rule (I'm not sure what the official rule is and what is just a generally accepted guideline). But what is a "clear error"? an inch? 1/2 an inch? a foot? Commentators rhetorically ask.

The overrules that occur in this match go beyond common sense "clear errors". A Noah unreturned serve is called out later by the umpire, a marginal decision and Noah seems ready to defaults he's so angry. A Connors ball is called on the line for a winner and Noah angrily insists the ball was out to the umpire (it wasn't). Linesperson doesn't make a call as a Noah FH lands near the line for a winner but after 3-4 seconds, with Connors gesturing the ball was out, calls it out. Noah goes ballistic, seems ready to default and demands to see the referee. In this instance, Noah was in the right... the late decision seems to have been influenced by Connors actions

A line licking serve from Noah is called in, which Connors thinks was out. He doesn't get heated but directs the linesperson as to where he should be standing (he was right, the linesperson wasn't properly positioned)

Connors gains the first break of the match when Noah double faults, on a foot fault. I can't tell if his feet were on the ground, both near both feet were inside the court on serving so it seems likely. No protest from Noah lends credence to it being the right call. But the linesperson who called it is soon removed. Commentators refer to the incident almost as if its unsporting to call a foot fault at a time like this

I've never understood this strange laxness that foot faults are regarded. To me, its a hard rule (as opposed to say, time violations)… I suspect a great many players get away with a great many foot faults from linesmen who don't think its a proper rule but a guideline. Noah's called for a foot fault later in the match too, and this time he's angry

Some needling between the players. Connors starts taking a bit too much time between points towelling off his grip. Noah responds by taking even more time to do the same. After Noah gets heated following a bad call, Connors does a sulky impression of him to the crowds laughter... Noah does not seem amused (and I suspect that was Connors intention). Connors jokes around with the crowd a few times... he has this ability to play serious tennis while being somewhat light hearted

Match Progression
Connors sweeps through the first set without much trouble. Noah makes just 8/19 first serves, but actually wins a higher percentage of second serve points. Both players come to net a healthy amount, including serve-volleys. Connors even comes in behind a second serve and Noah chip-charge returns a couple of times

The critical difference is in the standard of passing. Connors' is strong, Noah's is indifferent.... giving Connors a significant relative advantage in the forecourt (volleying quality is about the same)

Couple of excellent lobs from Connors. One forces Noah back as Connors comes in... Noah is able to make an over-the-shoulder shot from the baseline, but Connors is there to smash it away. Another is hit on the run and goes for a winner. Connors forces Noah back on another point, and Noah can only tweener the ball into the net. Noah's retrieving is good all match (and he gets plenty of chances to showcase it). Both of his OH FEs are baseline points where he got a healthy racquet on Connors smashes

Noah is broken early in the second in 16 point game, with some poor volleying from him. He's in foul humour, basically tanks the next game (3 return errors, none of them difficult), and looks ready to pack it in. Connors lets him back into the match with over-aggression. Jimbo had been seeking the net... but ups it still more by serve-volleying regularly. He's broken on the back of missing 2 easy volleys, a double fault and needlessly near the line BH UE

Set remains on serve, though its clear Connors is the better player. He serves 39 points in the set to Noah's 62

The tiebreak is fantastic, with the players combining for 9 winners (Noah 4, Connors 5 - including 4 in row). The pick of these are these is yet another Connors FH lob and a Noah BHOH. Couple of terrible shots too... Connors misses an easy OH (the sun getting in the eyes of player on that side of the court round about this time of the match was a factor), Noah nets a routine FH approach after forcing Connors back with a defensive lob and on another point, missing a foolish attempted third ball FH inside-out winner. Connors has the first set point (match point for him), but Noah makes it to net and puts away a smash, before taking the next 2 points from net to push the match into a decider


Hall of Fame
If the second set was tough stuff, third set is a breeze. Both players hold serve easily. Especially Noah, who holds to love all but once but unfortunately for him, that one exception is a break to love for Connors. Good play from Jimbo to get it... strong returns force volleying errors and he takes the net to force a passing error

One last twist in the match as Connors goes down 0-40 when serving for the match (getting there via bad approach and even worse volleying UEs). Its only the second game he's faced break point. He takes the net to save all three break points, living dangerously

First, he retreats from net after serve-volleying, but comes back up to hit a BHV winner. Second, he serve-volleys and hits a perfect first 'volley' stop FH1/2V winner (I think its a FH1/2V, might be a very low volley). Its not the first such shot he's hit in the match either... earlier he'd forced an error with the same shot (possibly a winner, but I think Noah got a racquet before the second bounce)

Match point is fantastic point. Noah chip-charges the return - a play he underutilized all match - Connors lobs him and takes the net, Noah once again manages an over-the-shoulder retrieval, Connors volleys it, Noah manages to make an unlikely running get... but Connors is there to put that FHV away cc into the open court to seal the match

Serve & Return
79% first serves in for Connors... not abnormal for him, and the serve is average at best (probably below). He does serve a couple of good, hard aces but for the most part, even his first serve is a point starter. Couple of errors he draws with the first serve have been marked unforced

By contrast, I've assumed a Noah unreturned first serve that I can hear but not see is forced. Wouldn't have done the same for a Connors serve

I don't think Noah returns well. Not too familiar with his game... possibly, that's his norm. His return rate is 87%... can't complain about that. But if Connors serve is a point starter, Noah's is a "point continue-er"... literally, his way of saying "Balls in your court now, Jimmy". Next to no attacking intent with the return, and there's plenty of scope for there to be so

I take it Noah does have the good when it comes to chip-charging returns, but he doesn't use it much. Some of Connors' first serves, let alone seconds, are chip-chargeable.

Not much success with the return-approach.... just 1/5, but that's down to Connors grade A passing/lobbing. Chip-charging probably still a better play then just putting the ball in play. So a bit timid from Noah - but that's not limited to the return. I think he was too timid in general (more on that later)

Noah doesn't serve well either with just 52% first serves in. Regardless, Connors returns excellently. Just 23% unreturned serves for Noah... Connors clobbers whatevers in his reach and does a decent job poking back what isn't. The decisive break in set 3 includes a stretched return placed well enough to force a volleying error (some luck involved also)

Note Noah with just 43% serve-volley points won and that falls to 39% behind the first serve. Poor volleying has a hand, but its also a good indicator of well Connors returned

In a nutshell, lots of credit to Connors return, some discredit to Noah's returning and less discredit to Noah's serving

Play & Strategy
Most of the matches of Jimmy Connors I've looked at recently are against Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe and I look to make sense of his play based on those. So we'll looking at the action of this match with half an eye on Connors vs Lendl/McEnroe match ups in the background

Generally, Connors -
a) doesn't/can't do much with the serve offensively (same here)
b) how well he returns varies, largely dependent on how well the server serves (same here, and he returns very well, admittedly with the server down a notch)
c) blasts heavy, attacking-ish groundstrokes from the back (same here... and similarly, still can't hit many winners/force errors doing so)
d) how much he comes to net varies (comes in a lot here)
e) how well he passes varies, largely dependent on how well his opponent plays at net (very well here, admittedly with Noah not great up front)

Lets zoom in on points c, d and e

In first set in particular, the players tend to exchange groundstrokes for a reasonable time before one or the other approaches net. Its clear that Connors has the advantage in baseline rallies but.... he still can't put many points to bed from the back

Look at groundstroke UEs. Connors 19, Noah 18... virtually even. Connors does hit the odd winner and force a small number of errors baseline-to-baseline so he's clearly coming out on top... but the take away from this is that even against Yannick Noah's feeble ground game, Jimmy Connors cannot count on forcefully wining points from the back.

{So why does he get it into his head to try to do so against Ivan Lendl (who'll play along from the back and usually outlast Connors in a way Noah can't) or John McEnroe (who'll take the net given half a chance)?}

In this match, Noah's just as error prone as Connors but a lot less heavy of shot. Beating him down from the back is a good ploy. Just has to watch out for Noah taking the net

Connors takes it one step further though and looks to take net himself. First set, he waits before coming in. Second and third set he tends to come in earlier. From rallies, Connors comes in 46 times (winning 34, or 74%). Noah comes in just 29 times (winning 16, or 55%... a lot better than his serve-volleying or return-approaching)

Figures are a bit tainted by the high number of forced back and retreated points. Connors moves back 7 times, mostly retreating and Noah 5 times, always forced back. These points include serve-volleys too

I think its fair to say Noah didn't try to come in enough, given he was outmatched from the back. But Connors is in a favourable position to come in more since he's mostly in command from baseline situations - and makes the most of it. Noah has chances to come in early in rallies, but tends to not do so

Noah's tends to approach down the centre, presumably to cut off Connors angles on the pass. And he predominatly comes in to Connors FH - which is common strategy, and assuming Noah usually comes in to the right handers BH... wouldn't have required him to adjust his approach shots

He encounters two problems -

- Connors is a beast on the pass.... including lobs, which Noah's down-the-middle approaches gives rise to being a good option. Superb from Connors, more so in light of how good Noah is on the smash. Little chance of him making them to the lobs Connors throws up (Noah has 5 OH winners.... Connors has 3 winners and forces him back 5 times, wining all of those points invariably replacing Noah at net on them)

- he doesn't volley well. 6 volleying UEs, and not putting away ones that were there to be put away

While Noah is hesitant to come forward - understandable given the force of Connors' passing, but also unwise given the alternative - Connors is keen to come in. 65 approaches from Connors, including 19 serve-volleys - even 1 off a second serve

For all that, Connors doesn't volley too well either. 9 Unforced volleying errors and many of them are downright easy. He gets away with it because Noah's passing is poor

Poor passing doesn't come out well in stats as virtually all missed passes are forced. Noah though can barely give Connors a tough volley to make. Just 1 FE in the forecourt for Connors... and he wasn't making a bunch of balls that would have been marked forced had he missed. He just didn't seem to get any. Some of this is due to his strong approaches, but by far the main reason is weak passing from Noah

Connors retreating from net so frequently is a sign that he wasn't too confident in his volleying. Usually, he wasn't in particularly bad situations when he chose to retreat... its not the stuff of a confident volleyer

Connors does show more touch than I've seen him - and apparently, the commentators too. He hits a perfect stop FH1/2V winner down break point and he'd 1 earlier too... McEnroe-esque shots both. Few touch drop shots too, the lobs show great feel as well but that's not unusual

(Against Lendl, Connors usually doesn't come in enough, despite losing bulk of baseline points via UEs. Same with McEnroe. Difference between those and here against Noah might be he's in more commanding positions to approach from here and more than that, he has no fear of Noah's pass

The second point would be particularly pertinent for Lendl, but shouldn't dissuade him from coming up more against McEnroe to the extent it seems to)

To win, Noah would have needed to come in more and volley better. Not doing the first is on him... he left the result in the hands of a monster. The second is probably just a bad day... though he'd likely have struggled badly against this calibre of passing and lobbing on his best day

For all that, Noah has good numbers for the match all round - 64% first serve points won isn't great but will do and 55% second serve points won (excellent and a little surprising). It looks like timidity on return was his biggest problem (Connors winning 63% second serve points is not a good sign for Noah)

Summing up, strong showing from Jimmy Connors - especially on the return and with the pass. Bit too meek from Noah and just not up to handling an opponent at net

Connors had won his previous tournament in Memphis also -


Hall of Fame
Connors played very well in 1984, perhaps the last year he really had an A-Level game. But, you can see his ground game wasn't quite as penetrating (but still potent) and he was taking to the net w/greater frequency. For him to be at net more than Noah, I find unusual. I don't recall if I saw this one when it aired...perhaps....Noah had a hard time with the stronger baseliners, like Lendl or Connors. Not so much with Mats, who played a different style...less hard hitting. But, in this one it's also clear that JC demonstrated some nice 'softer' skills w/lobs and droppers....he'd never be McEnroe, but he would surprise you sometime. I always thought his lob was quite good!


Hall of Fame
But, in this one it's also clear that JC demonstrated some nice 'softer' skills w/lobs and droppers....he'd never be McEnroe, but he would surprise you sometime. I always thought his lob was quite good!

He prefers passing to lobbing but is as good a lobber as I've seen

In the '79 Vegas match, I think he forces Mac back 7-8 times. And here Noah.... guys with amazing smashes

he was taking to the net w/greater frequency. For him to be at net more than Noah, I find unusual

Feeling I got was it was a combination of him scaring Noah with the power passes + Connors having 0 fears of Noah's passes

Bad for a guy like Noah, who sans net play, doesn't have much going for him... think he should have kept approaching no matter what

Ironically, this like the problem I see Connors having with Lendl and McEnroe

JC demonstrated some nice 'softer' skills w/lobs and droppers....he'd never be McEnroe, but he would surprise you sometime. I always thought his lob was quite good!

beautiful stuff... haven't seen him go in for much of that type of stuff (except the lobs)

Commentators were going a bit overboard (as commentators tend do) about it being McEnroe like, but even I thought the last FH1/2V winner fits that description

Amusing aftermath.... in the post match interview, guy mentioned what great touch he'd shown and asked if he'd been modelling McEnroe

Connors replied "no" almost before the guy had finished the question