Match Stats/Report - Lendl vs Connors, Stratton Mountain semi-final, 1985

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Ivan Lendl beat Jimmy Connors 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 in the Stratton Mountain semi-final, 1985 on hard court

Lendl would go onto lose the final to John McEnroe, but win the US Open over the same opponent in the final

Lendl won 83 points, Connors 69

(Note: I'm missing 1 Lendl service point won by Connors entirely and partial information for 1 other Lendl 1st serve point - on which he seems to have made a third ball baseline error - also won by Connors)

Serve Stats
Lendl...
- 1st serve percentage (34/74) 46%
- 1st serve points won (25/34) 74%
- 2nd serve points won (25/40) 63%
- ?? serve point 0/1
- Aces 10, Service Winners 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (19/75) 25%

Connors...
- 1st serve percentage (60/77) 78%
- 1st serve points won (33/60) 55%
- 2nd serve points won (11/17) 65%
- Aces 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (12/77) 16%

Serve Patterns
Lendl served...
- to FH 71%
- to BH 25%
- to Body 4%

Connors served...
- to FH 39%
- to BH 60%
- to Body 1%

Return Stats
Lendl made...
- 65 (27 FH, 38 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 1 Winner (1 FH)
- 10 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (2 FH)
- 8 Forced (4 FH, 4 BH)
- Return Rate (65/77) 84%

Connors made...
- 55 (44 FH, 10 BH, 1 ??)
- 7 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 FH), a return-approach attempt
- 6 Forced (3 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (55/74) 74%

Break Points
Lendl 5/12 (8 games)
Connors 2/4 (2 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Lendl 16 (5 FH, 8 BH, 2 FHV, 1 OH)
Connors 16 (5 FH, 1 BH, 6 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 BH1/2V, 1 OH)

Lendl's FH passes - 1 cc and 3 dtl
- BH passes - 1 cc, 5 dtl and 1 lob
- non-pass groundstrokes - 1 FH inside-in return and 1 BH dtl

- 1 FHV was a swinging shot from well behind the service line and has not been counted a net point

Connors' FHs - 1 cc, 2 dtl (1 at net running down a drop volley), 1 inside-in and 1 inside-out/dtl pass
- BHs - 1 dtl

- 5 from serve-volley points
- 4 first volleys (2 FHV, 1 BH1/2V, 1 OH)… 1 of the FHVs was a net chord dribbler
- 1 second volley (1 FHV)

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Lendl 39
- 18 Unforced (9 FH, 9 BH)
- 21 Forced (12 FH, 9 BH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 43.3

Connors 48
- 40 Unforced (22 FH, 14 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 2 OH)
- 8 Forced (2 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 45

(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...
- 5/8 (63%) at net

Connors was...
- 31/47 (66%) at net, including...
- 9/11 (82%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 8/10 (80%) off 1st serve and...
- 1/1 off 2nd serve
--
- 1/1 forced back

Match Report
A straight forward, easy to describe match. Lendl is so far superior from the baseline that Connors has no choice but to attack the net, where he's successful but doesn't come forward enough

First set is a train wreck for Connors. All but 1 serve comes back at him, while Lendl wins a few cheap points with the serve. From there, they settle into baseline rallying. Its pretty closed court stuff - neither player seeming to install that dynamic, though one imagines it favours Lendl more - neither player able to hit winners of force errors from that position and Connors almost always yielding the inevitable UE. Connors has 13 groundstroke UEs in the set (10 FH, 3 BH) to Lendl's 4

Approaching offers little relief. 7 times Connors does and 5 times is passed. Final point showcases the set as a charging Connors is met by a strong lob. He OHs it not strongly and Lendl blasts a pass that Connors can only reflex volley back. Lendl attempts another lob, but mistimes the shot badly, leaving Connors a high floater to move to and putaway. He moves to it all right, but Lendl's anticipated/guessed where the volley will go, runs to the spot and blocks the volley away for passing winner

Remaining 2 sets are hard fought. Connors ups his approaches to 21 and 19 in them respectively and wins the bulk of the points. He snatches a few points via unreturned serves (even winning a game with 4 first unreturned serves, including 1 ace in about a minute). The baseline dynamics remain the same however, with Lendl soundly ahead (though the gap between the two men in this area is smaller than in the first set - it would be difficult for it not to be)

Just the breaks to take set 2. He isn't at net at all in the game in question but manages to elicits 2 mildly forced errors from Lendl baseline-to-baseline (very rare in the match) and strike a passing winner.

3rd set is the best of the bunch. Lendl breaks early, Connors levels mid way through and Lendl break near the end before serving out the match. Connors serve seems stronger, Lendl's focus wavers at points

Serve & Return
Connors' serve looks fairly strong by his standard. Lendl is very sure in returning it - as is normal for him, but for brief periods when he seems to lose concentration. Almost 100% of the time, Lendl passively slices BH returns

On the other side of the match up, the usual patterns hold. Lendl's inevitably sends down aces and service winners (12 in total... Connors has 1). But anything short of that - including otherwise strong first serves, tend to come back

Note Lendl's low 46% first serve percentage. It doesn't matter much as he's winning 63% of second serve points. Its probably an indication of how confident he was of taking Connors out in play... the confidence is justified

Note Lendl serving 71% to the Connors FH. Finally, somebody gets it @KG1965

Playing Dynamics
It looks a fast-ish court to me but we still haven't reached the stage where that meant winners and forced errors coming out of baseline rallies. That being the case, baseline duels tend to end with unforced errors. On this front, its a complete mismatch... Lendl is league ahead of Connors

Note the groundstroke UEs - Lendl 18, Connors 36... a fair reflection of how they matched up. 22 of those 36 Connors UEs are FHs

Initially, Lendl doesn't seem to particularly target the FH and even later, doesn't do so with particular emphasis. Lendl rather just plays simple, slight angled cc shots of both wings, trying to keep the court closed up. He slices a fair bit, but not unduly. I'd say Lendl got the better of both his FH vs Connors BH and his BH vs Connors FH duels... his shots are just more reliable

And its obvious why. Lendl hits with much higher margin or error (i.e. net clearance). The typical advantage of hitting flat doesn't hold for Connors here because Lendl is wall and refuses to give up forced errors, but the downside (making unforced errors) is in full force for Connors. Early in the first set, Connors can be heard to say something about Lendl playing like a girl and should be wearing a skirt.... I don't think he held Lendl's highly effective style in high regard

Connors doesn't do a particularly good job of forcing the court open. The variety of directions he usually has on his groundies is lacking. Some credit to Lendl for this, but more discredit to Connors

With the baseline proving a losing plan, its left for Connors to attack the net

After the first set, he is 29/36 at net or 81%. Furthermore, he doesn't make a bundle of approach errors as he sometimes can and on average, goes for less heavy approaches than normal. He doesn't volley particularly well (not badly, but nothing to make one go 'wow')… and Lendl is a bit off on his passing.

Lendl has a tendency to go for nothing short of quality passes... seemingly preferring making an error going for such to risk being on the receiving end of volley winners. Somewhat like Connors approach shots

Well as he does at net and as outmatched as he is from the back, Connors should probably have been at net a lot more. There's no shortage of oppurtunities…. Lendl's fairly neutral in his baseline shots. For every approach Connors makes, there are multiple identical balls he chooses to continue to rally to. A stubborn cuss Connors... maybe he hadn't come to terms with being a distant second from the baseline. I think his best bet would have been to approach every chance he got, like an out and out net player

Summing up, Lendl's greater consistency from the back gives him a sizable advantage from the baseline, leaving Connors with net charging to avoid being smothered. He does it well but doesn't do it enough - and Lendl is a bit down from his usual standard of passing too. All the same, Lendl comfortably the better player.... even if Connors did approach a lot more, one senses sooner or later Lendl would hit a purple patch on the pass

That leaves Connors with charging the net
 

KG1965

Legend
Serve Patterns
Lendl served...
- to FH 71%
:eek:
Connors made...
- 55 (44 FH, 10 BH, 1 ??)
- 7 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 FH), a return-approach attempt
- 6 Forced (3 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (55/74) 74%
Usually the losers are criticized negatively, but it seems to me that the strategic choice to serve on Lendl's fh is incredibly wrong. Jimmy never fails to do fh.
The American has the same mistakes as the bh despite 70%
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
I don't recall much from this one other than the 1st set being a hot mess, then it being pretty close after that. JC had his chances. Perhaps if he had come in a bit more, it might've tipped in his favor. I don't think it had jack to do with Connors hitting 'flat' shots....more with Lendl's steadiness and willingness to slice the hell out of the ball. He started using this strategy with more regularity in '85 against Connors. And, it was successful. Serving to JC's forehand likely a bit 'safer' but secondary to the rest of his strategy. Would be interesting to just see the stats for sets 2 and 3. Whatever happened to Stratton Mountain by the way? Do they ever play tennis there any longer??
 

Wrecker

New User
Wasnt Stratton Mountain where a final once got abandoned between Lendl and Mac? I believe if Lendl had won that final he would have 4 straight title wins in the North American swing that year
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
I don't think it had jack to do with Connors hitting 'flat' shots....more with Lendl's steadiness and willingness to slice the hell out of the ball.

I've only heard about Lendl 'slicing the hell out of the ball' to draw errors out of Connors' FH. Can't say I've seen it, including here

Sure he slices a fair bit, but then he always does. The main point is he keeps the court closed... not quite hitting up and down the middle of the court, but cc with slight angles. And he does so off both wings and off slices as well as drives.

Effectively, this turns play into a who-cough-ups-the-unforced-error first situation. And usually its Connors. He can't open up the court with sharp angles out of the nothing Lendl's giving him (something he's usually pretty good at)... his only counter-play is taking the net

Regarding the 'flat' shots... the point is, your more likely to make errors hitting flat than you are hitting loopily, but your also more likely to force errors/hit winners. For Connors, its apparent he's not going to be able to forcefully end points (so normal advantage absent), but the error-proneness remains (normal disadvantage present)

Connors doesn't seem to know any other way to play from the baseline. If he did, he could loop ball over more, make fewer UEs and tempt if not force Lendl to win the points rather than wait for Connors to lose them

Connors isn't particularly proficient in taking the ball early. If he gets a deep ball, he's quick to fall back to deal with it. Maybe a combination of flat hitting and taking it early would have been enough to force Lendl to errors... what he does just isn't good enough

Be intereseting to compare with Mac, who does take balls early but doesn't hit with power (relative to Lendl)

Let me get back to you on stats for second 2 sets alone. The points total I can tell you is Lendl 59, Connors 61

Whatever happened to Stratton Mountain by the way? Do they ever play tennis there any longer??

Probably not. According to commentators, the place where they were playing it here is a temporary site and it took a week to clear the stands after the tournament was over... doesn't sound too stable


Wasnt Stratton Mountain where a final once got abandoned between Lendl and Mac? I believe if Lendl had won that final he would have 4 straight title wins in the North American swing that year

1987, yeah. Looked to be shaping up nicely too... Mac winning firs set but down 4-1 in second
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
"Connors isn't proficient in taking the ball early?" maybe in this match.....not in general. I'll have to watch this one a bit. But, if Lendl is slicing and dicing and keeping it in the middle of the court, JC has to generate all the power. That's the play for Ivan. And, he can wait for a sitter and then smack the hell out of it. But, other earlier matches when JC and Ivan went went toe-to-toe, there were plenty of power exchanges and balls hit early. Lendl used a different strategy in the mid to late 80's against Connors which he has freely admitted. And it worked. And, the flatness of JC shots is another grossly overstated legend...they are flatter than others, but far from completely flat. It's been analyzed before...
 

krosero

Legend
Enjoyed this match a lot, found it recently on YT.

A mid-match graphic showing some year-to-date stats for Lendl's service:


1985TODAY
% 1st serves6043
% 1st serves won7485
% 2nd serves won5466



There was also this mid-match graphic for “All Backcourt Points”

WonLost%
Lendl221264
Connors71531

At one point Fred Stolle says that Connors has hit 60 balls into the net.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
"Connors isn't proficient in taking the ball early?" maybe in this match.....not in general.

amplifying on this... he takes the ball early in that he plays close to baseline

But when faced with a deep ball, he hops back to deal with it - and tends to stay there

Contrast McEnroe, who won't budge from his position. He'll virtually 1/2 volley the ball off the baseline with no great power, but not give ground. This leaves him in good position to take net, which is probably his primary concern

For Connors, allowing himself to be pushed back is a double whammy -

a) he can't outslug Lendl
b) not in an optimal position to approach

Another thing about limitation is his lack of a slice. This shows up in at least two ways

a) on damage control in baseline rallies that aren't going his way. Most players would slice to slow it down. Connors usually FH cc moonballs (in this match, Lendl plays along and pseudo moonballs back. In others, I've seen him take the moonballs to the cleaners)

b) slice would be handy to approach off of. Keeping the ball lower means you don't have to hit as hard (i.e. lowers risk of making an error) in making a good approach. The way he does it, even when he puts the ball well away from the guy on the baseline, at least the ball will be bouncing to a comfortably height for hitting a pass (and Lendl in particular is generally very good on running passes)

Hooking up with one of the old Aussie net rushing champions might have done him some good in later years (provided he was willing to change, which I see little evidence of)

Compare to Roger Federer, who took to coming in more and more as his relative advantage from the baseline became slimmer and slimmer over the years. His coaches include Tony Roche, Paul Annacone and Stefan Edberg.... the guy pinpointed what he wanted to do and surrounded himself with the guys who could best help him do it

Connors seems to have wanted to slug it out with a younger, fitter Lendl from the back and try passing McEnroe
 

WCT

Professional
Agree about Mcenroe actually taking the ball a bit earlier. I used to say that back then. He would 1/2 volley a bunch of balls rather than back up. Connors backhand is pretty damn flat. I'm not talking short angled rolls. His basic drive backhand, whether crosscourt or down the line, was essentally flat. His forehand was another matter. His crosscourt forehand often had some topspin, not a lot, on it. Down the line often had underspn or sidespin.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
Agree about Mcenroe actually taking the ball a bit earlier. I used to say that back then. He would 1/2 volley a bunch of balls rather than back up. Connors backhand is pretty damn flat. I'm not talking short angled rolls. His basic drive backhand, whether crosscourt or down the line, was essentally flat. His forehand was another matter. His crosscourt forehand often had some topspin, not a lot, on it. Down the line often had underspn or sidespin.

McEnroe could in fact, and often did, take the ball early. Hitting approaches that were practically half-volleys. This business about Connors "hopping" backwards, well, I don't know WTF that is about. I'll have to go watch this semi on YT. Don't ever recall the man deliberately drifting several feet behind the baseline under most circumstances. And, if he is playing ON the baseline, well that certainly qualifies as 'taking the ball early'. You are also correct on the side spin and under-spin on the FH. He did come over the BH on a midcourt pass, but those were infrequent in occurrence, obviously. In a rally, whether it Lendl or Agassi, or whomever, he surely preferred to 'slug it out,' rightly or wrongly.
 

BringBackWood

Professional
McEnroe could in fact, and often did, take the ball early. Hitting approaches that were practically half-volleys. This business about Connors "hopping" backwards, well, I don't know WTF that is about.

I have seen what waspsting is talking about, though I think he is clearly wrong that Connors is not good at taking the ball early. It is predominately on a deep low (often slice) ball to connors forehand where he has to get uncharacteristic topspin on his shot, so he takes a fuller swing, which means taking it on his heels somehwhat.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
I have seen what waspsting is talking about, though I think he is clearly wrong that Connors is not good at taking the ball early. It is predominately on a deep low (often slice) ball to connors forehand where he has to get uncharacteristic topspin on his shot, so he takes a fuller swing, which means taking it on his heels somehwhat.

Yes, THAT I have seen. He would lean backwards then come over the ball. Not quite what I would call a hop, however. Otherwise, Connors took the ball just about as early as Agassi did off the ground. Two of the "earliest" hitters, I've ever seen. Just robs the opponent of time on the return shot. Particularly effective on grass. By 1985, Lendl had become fitter and faster, so was much, much better at handling everything on a hard court. Grass, maybe his weaknesses could be exposed somewhat. But that's about it.
 

WCT

Professional
McEnroe could in fact, and often did, take the ball early. Hitting approaches that were practically half-volleys. This business about Connors "hopping" backwards, well, I don't know WTF that is about. I'll have to go watch this semi on YT. Don't ever recall the man deliberately drifting several feet behind the baseline under most circumstances. And, if he is playing ON the baseline, well that certainly qualifies as 'taking the ball early'. You are also correct on the side spin and under-spin on the FH. He did come over the BH on a midcourt pass, but those were infrequent in occurrence, obviously. In a rally, whether it Lendl or Agassi, or whomever, he surely preferred to 'slug it out,' rightly or wrongly.

I still get what Wasp is saying. Mcenroe was more prone to occasionally just plant himself on the baseline and hit essentally half volleys. Against someone like a Vilas I pretty distinctly recall him doing this more than Connors. Doesn't mean Connors couldn't or didn't do it some, but not like Mcenroe to my recollection. I don't know what you call it where Connors winds up hitting some balls several feet behind the baseline rather than straddling it. To each his own, I don't find backing up inaccurate.

I think Federer half volleys or almost half volleys, far more balls, from the baseline, than either Nadal or Djokovic. This doesn't mean that Connors didn't take the ball early. That involves more than half volleys. As long as the ball is on it's way up it's on the rise. Half volley is right as it's begun it's rise. There are a couple more feet to go before it's reached it's apex.

Connors also would use underspin on his backhand when really stretched wide. But his basic drive backhand hit with real pace? Essentially flat.
 
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