Match Stats/Report - Lendl vs Becker, US Open fourth round, 1992


Hall of Fame
Ivan Lendl beat Boris Becker 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4 in the US Open fourth round, 1992 on hard court

It was Lendl's only win over Becker at a Slam, having lost the previous 5 (including in the US Open final '89). He would go onto lose to eventual champion Stefan Edberg in the next round in five sets in what would turn out to be his last quarter final at a Slam. The result evened the head-to-head at 10-10 and Lendl would go onto win their last match to finish 11-10

Lendl won 192 points, Becker 174

Becker serve-volleyed regularly and randomly

(Note: I've made educated guesses about serve type for a significant number of points)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (107/172) 62%
- 1st serve points won (81/107) 76%
- 2nd serve points won (33/65) 51%
- Aces 10
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (46/172) 27%

- 1st serve percentage (98/194) 51%
- 1st serve points won (66/98) 67%
- 2nd serve points won (50/96) 52%
- Aces 19 (1 second serve), Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 13
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (58/194) 30%

Serve Patterns
Lendl served...
- to FH 32%
- to BH 62%
- to Body 6%

Becker served...
- to FH 23%
- to BH 64%
- to Body 13%

Return Stats
Lendl made...
- 123 (24 FH, 99 BH)
- 12 Winners (6 FH, 6 BH)
- 37 Errors, comprising...
- 6 Unforced (2 FH, 2 BH)
- 31 Forced (8 FH, 23 BH)
- Return Rate (123/181) 68%

Becker made...
- 122 (40 FH, 82 BH), including 3 runaround FH & 25 return-approaches
- 1 Winner (1 BH)
- 36 Errors, comprising...
- 19 Unforced (9 FH, 10 BH), including 1 runaround FH & 5 return-approach attempts
- 17 Forced (7 FH, 10 BH)
- Return Rate (122/168) 73%

Break Points
Lendl 6/21 (12 games)
Becker 2/7 (6 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Lendl 56 (23 FH, 20 BH, 1 FHV, 10 BHV, 2 OH)
Becker 40 (6 FH, 6 BH, 13 FHV, 11 BHV, 4 OH)

Lendl had 28 passes (13 FH, 15 BH)
- FHs - 2 cc, 5 dtl (3 returns), 2 inside-out (Becker was on the floor for 1), 1 inside-in, 1 longline and 2 lobs
- BHs - 3 cc (1 return), 1 cc/longline, 8 dtl (1 return) and 3 inside-in returns

- regular FHs - 3 cc (1 return), 3 dtl (1 return, 1 Becker left), 3 inside-in (1 return) and 1 drop shot at net
- regular BHs - 1 cc, 2 dtl, 1 inside-out/dtl and 1 net chord dribbler return

- 5 from serve-volley points
- 3 first volleys (3 BHV)
- 2 second volleys (2 BHV)… 1 of them hit Becker, who was return-approaching

- 1 OH was on the bounce

Becker had 16 from serve-volley points
- 9 first 'volleys' (3 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 FH at net, 1 BH at net)
- 7 second volleys (3 FHV, 2 BHV, 2 OH)

- 8 from return-approach points (3 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 OH)… 1 BHV was net-to-net

- FHs - 1 cc at net, 1 dtl and 2 inside-out
- BHs - 3 cc (2 passes - 1 a net chord popover, 1 at net) and 2 dtl (1 return, 1 pass)

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Lendl 72
- 29 Unforced (16 FH, 11 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV)… with 1 FH pass, 1 FH at net and 2 BH passes (1 at net)
- 43 Forced (19 FH, 23 BH, 1 FHV)… with 1 FH running-down-drop-volley at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.6

Becker 77
- 51 Unforced (18 FH, 22 BH, 5 FHV, 5 BHV, 1 OH)… with 3 BH at net (1 running-down-drop-shot) and 1 baseline FHV
- 26 Forced (6 FH, 11 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 5 BHV, 1 BHOH)… with 1 FH at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 48.2

(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
Lendl was...
- 31/40 (78%) at net, including...
- 14/16 (88%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves

Becker was...
- 96/150 (64%) at net, including...
- 54/90 (60%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 35/60 (58%) off 1st serve and...
- 19/30 (63%) off 2nd serve
- 16/25 (64%) return-approaching
- 0/1 forced back

Match Report
Good match but patchy to the point of being strange. Becker is the driving force for it so being - even by his standard, he's unpredictable - to the point of being erratic in his aggressiveness. Lendl plays a more conventional, steady and reactive game

I can't recall a less predictable mix of serve-volleying and staying back. In total, Boris serve-volleys 76.9% off first serves (he wasn't necessarily trying to serve-volley off what turned out to be aces or service winners either) and 37.6% off second serves. And he does it randomly all match, with the exception of the final set. Serve-volleys a few times, stays back once, serve-volleys once, stays back a couple, serve-volleys again... no pattern or predictability to it

He frequently looks for third ball approach when staying back - again, of both serves and unpredictably. And mixes up what he does off the third ball baseline shot - some random assortment of going for a winner or playing neutrally or approaching - not necessarily in accordance with the ball he's faced with

Return-approaching choices are also a mixed bag. Some excellent chip-charges and a fair few hit into open court and dash to net too. The 64% points he wins return-approaching is top drawer, given some of them were low percentage, almost throw-away pressure ploys

His behaviour is not normal either. Early on, there's plenty of self-directed shouting. Soon, that turns to rants and complaints to and with the umpire, often for nonsensical things. He has one very strange, calm conversation with the chair... its not clear what he's trying to say but I took it to be a suggestion along the lines of, "a lot of close calls have gone Lendl's way, so why don't you give me the next one that's close"

"Distracted" is the mot juste for how he comes across. He's as likely to be so when play is going his way or not

Lendl is Lendl and just gets on with it, of course

Serve, Return & Serve-volleying
Lendl's returning is the highlight of the match - its more subtle and clever than spectacular

He just-less-then-firmly blocks BH returns. Ball tends to be dying on the serve-volleying Becker. This good thinking for a number reasons. First, pace of Becker's serve is such that short swings are preferable. Second, pace of Becker's serve and his relatively slow movement is such that the ball is likely to reach him when its dropping. Third, Becker isn't the most decisive of volleyers in general, with a tendency to punch ball reasonably to BH as his first option (as opposed to volley into a corner or swish away a winner)… that's good enough to win most points anyway

The standard first volley Becker gets in this match is slightly below the net, dropping and at less than average power. He volleys up. He has 10 volleying UEs... good number of these are on the hard side of unforced - not too difficult to put in play, but not easy to kill point off either. The way Lendl returns, its not too surprising Becker is 63% second serve-volleying to 58% first. Both consistency and the style of Lendl's returning comes through in those figures

Generally, this is the best way to return Boris. Stefan Edberg is invariably at his most successful returning when he does so, but tended to go for swinging firmly on the return. Unless you can do that hard enough to overpower Becker on the first volley, this way is much better and tailored to exploiting Becker's volleying tendencies.

For his part, Boris serves well. He mixes up his serves a bit more than usual, and goes to the body a fair bit (13%). Still has 21 unreturnable serves - more than double Lendl's 10. Also a high 13 double faults that don't have much to do with Lendl's returning; Its more Boris' rather erratic showing that's the cause

Lendl serves fairly conservatively. Some of his first serves are like strong second serves and many are comfortably in Becker's swing range. Boris organically return-approaches of a few. Note Boris with 19 return UEs to 17 FEs. The high proportion of UEs is due to a combo of aggresive returning misses (more than compensated for the damage he does when he gets it right as 64% return-approaching indicates) and missing routine first serve returns. The latter is just a part of Boris patchy showing.... he just misses regulation returns now and then. Its not unsual for him, but stands out next to Lendl's machine-like consistency on the second shot


Hall of Fame
Volleying & Passing
Have a look at Lendl's net numbers. 31/40 @ 78%, with 14/16 serve-volleying

40 approaches isn't too much in 350+ point match, but he's certainly capable in the forecourt. He manufactures approaches to get up front, sometimes early in rallies where that's clearly his plan (as opposed to spontaneously off a short ball). He doesn't appear to be looking for short balls to come in off - though there aren't many (Becker either hits deep or/and powerful shots or makes an error... not many short balls coughed up)

Sure volleying from Ivan Lendl and he copes with not-easy volleys slightly below the net well, punching the ball through reasonably well. Just 2 UEs on the volley.

Boris' net play, like most of the rest of his game, is erratic. He comes in regularly off third balls when he stays back and off short balls in rallies. Doesn't actually manufacture too many approaches, preferring to hammer away from the baseline. And makes the odd, mad dash (read: should be suicidal) approach. "Should be"... because some of them end in his favour

Its in keeping with the rest of his play... lot of pressure on Lendl and no telling when and from where it'll come

Lendl's passing is measured and great. 20 winners in play (sans returns), forcing 10 forecourt errors and making Becker play relatively tough 'regulation volleys'. Becker predictably volleys mostly to BH, and BH dtl passes are Lendl's best

Becker hits his muscling passes with power, but is actually quite sensible with it (i.e. not swinging wildly). Lendl's too solid in the forecourt and volleys firmly enough to get the better of him though

Becker's the aggressor - again, erratically so. Probably without justification, contrary to norm of the pair's encounters

Generally in the match up, Lendl is streets ahead of consistency. If they rallied neutrally off the baseline, Lendl out simply outlast and outsteady Boris. That's not really true here

Neutral UEs - Lendl 12, Boris 20 is a good indicator of how the two stack up of consistency. Lendl more, but not by an outrageous degree. That being the case, there's no need for Boris to be unduly aggressive from the back. Of course, he is anyway because that's just the mood he seems to be in

Attacking UEs are even closer - Lendl 12, Boris 16, which indicates that Boris somewhat drove Lendl to being more attacking. Lendl is relatively attacking by his standards. In fact, most of Becker's volleying UEs are 'attacking' not 'winner attempts', so Boris actually edges baseline attacking shots

Biggest difference comes out in winner attempt UEs - Lendl 5, Boris 14. And this is were Boris gets the short end of stick. All those extra errors aren't worth the points he wins trying... he has just 3 baseline-to-baseline winners, Lendl 10. He can't even force many errors out of Lendl from that position - and Lendl's movements aren't great

A word on Lendl's movements. In is 80s heyday, he never strikes me as being particularly fast, but he never seems to be out of position or hurried. Its the ultimate compliment to good, efficient movement.
Seeing his movement declined in this match, were he's rushed by slightly wide balls or a tad slow with his first step serves to highlight how good his movement used to be

A further word about Lendl's playing style. There's minimal difference in how he plays from his heyday, its just not as good. McEnroe did the same thing with advancing years (along with a strongly declined serve)

Contrast to the likes to Becker himself (who used the serve more and more aggressively), Pete Sampras (who serve-volleyed much more and served more aggressively), Roger Federer (who returns more strongly and looks to attack off BH and take ball earlier) and Nadal (who serves harder and hits more damagingly)…. who adjusted their games to compensate for waning natural abilities

Match Progression
Match starts with a pair of breaks. Becker earns his through return-approaches and FH dtl winner. Lendl hits a BH cc pass and FH inside-in return winner to break back, but is helped by loose Becker errors. Almost all comfortable holds til then to the tiebreak

Tiebreak is a bit strange with the first 5 points going against serve. Becker is bold throughout though and it pays and he wins points with a daring dash-in approach and a Lendl double puts him behind 2-6 before Becker close it out

Excellent second set from Lendl. He hold easily, breaks first through loose attacking baseline errors from Boris but the second is all his own doing. 2 near identical BH dtl passes are perfect and he follows it with an equally flawless guided BH cc return pass to break to love. He does face break point in serving out the set, but aces it away and finishes with a pair of winners

Becker starts the third set erratically, even by his uneven standards. Its more than his usual, high-risk/low percentage play... it seems more like unfocused and distracted. He's lucky not to get broken in a 10 point game where he serves 3 double faults when Lendl misses an easy BH pass from just behind the service line on break point

His luck runs out next service game. Having missed 2 first volleys that were dropping on him slowly, he stays back off first serve on break point, which was brought up by his 5th double fault in 3 games, and misses a third ball FH approach shot to give up the break

Becker breaks back at once though with pressuring approaches. Break point is an exciting one with Becker fending off 3 good passes from Lendl, before Ivan misses the easiest of the lot, a BH pass from in front of the service line

Tie break is good one. 4/5 Becker service points are aces - including an ace to a point that was replayed due to a bad call. Lendl leads 4-2 with a serve to follow after gently hitting a charging Becker with a BHV while Lendl was serve-volleying. That's the last point he wins though. Becker steals the next with a BH cc pass winner that popped over off a net chord, and approaches, including a particularly good runaround FH return-approach on set point sees him take the game 7-4

If anything, Becker is even more distracted of mind and erratic of play in the fourth set. You'd think he was down 2 sets to 1 rather than up and that he'd just lost a tiebreak than won it. After holding his first service game, Becker makes 6/32 first serves for rest of the set, including missing 14 in a row. His play is similarly unbalanced and he squabbles with the umpire over trivialities, not for the first time in the match. In all, he faces 8 break points over 3 games and is probably fortune to hold twice. Not much scope to return-approach with Lendl serving 21/31 first serves... and off the baseline, he's far too loose to be a regular threat to break

The final set is tense, dramatic and high of quality. Becker steels down to play with focus - the extent to which he manages brings home how distracted he was rest of the match. In fact, its Lendl who loses his composure on more than one occasion

This is the only set were Becker follows a consistent pattern of serve-volleying off first serves (he stays back off just 1), but continues to mix it up off second serve

Lendl's taken to deuce in his first 2 service games and has to 3 break points in them. Becker's best shot on them is a runaround FH winner attempt return against a second serve that he misses. Meanwhile, Becker's service games include 10, 14 and 12 point games where he faces 5 break points. He's finally broken in game 7 when a mediocre volley in the middle of the court allows Lendl to wallop a FH inside-in passing winner - and Lendl goes on to hold comfortably twice more to close the match

Summing up, a tough tussle, with healthy bits of drama thrown in. Lendl's returning is key and his passing not for behind. Becker is apparently distracted of mind and bordering on turbulent of play but still very dangerous

Stats for the pair's first 5 setter, '85 Wembley final -
Stats for their '88 Masters final -


Thanks for this analysis, very detailed as always. I remember it as being a great match, one more at the US Open. I was in favour of Boris so I was a little bit disappointed with the result but good match from Ivan, as you said on the run of his last quarter in a Slam.

1992 was not a good year in Slams for Boris but I recall that he had a great year-end, winning Paris-Bercy and the ATP Finals, ex-Masters.


Becker is apparently distracted of mind and bordering on turbulent of play but still very dangerous
As often with Boris and that's also why I liked him. He often seemed to fight with himself, it made me laugh but you could see that he was trying hard though.