Match Stats/Report - Lendl vs Gerulaitis, Masters finals, 1981


Hall of Fame
Ivan Lendl beat Vitas Gerulaitis 6-7(5), 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-2, 6-4 in the Masters (Year End Championship/ World Tour Finals) final, 1981 on carpet in New York, USA

It was the first of 5 titles for Lendl at the event and the second consecutive final in what would turn out to be a record 9 (1980-1988)

Lendl won 180 points, Gerulaitis 172

Gerulaitis serve-volleyed off most first serves and return-approached against most second serves

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (98/177) 55%
- 1st serve points won (78/98) 80%
- 2nd serve points won (39/79) 49%
- Aces 12, Service Winners 3
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (60/177) 34%

- 1st serve percentage (115/175) 66%
- 1st serve points won (82/115) 71%
- 2nd serve points won (30/60) 50%
- Aces 4
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (38/175) 22%

Serve Patterns
Lendl served...
- to FH 34%
- to BH 65%
- to Body 1%

Gerulaitis served...
- to FH 41%
- to BH 56%
- to Body 4%

Return Stats
Lendl made...
- 133 (63 FH, 70 BH), including 10 runaround FHs
- 5 Winners (2 FH, 3 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 34 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 FH), a runaround FH
- 33 Forced (16 FH, 17 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- Return Rate (133/171) 78%

Gerulaitis made...
- 115 (40 FH, 75 BH), including 47 return-approaches
- 2 Winners (1 FH, 2 BH)
- 45 Errors, comprising...
- 12 Unforced (1 FH, 11 BH), including 7 return-approach attempts
- 33 Forced (12 FH, 21 BH)
- Return Rate (115/175) 66%

Break Points
Lendl 5/10 (7 games)
Gerulaitis 4/14 (6 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Lendl 61 (28 FH, 23 BH, 4 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 OH, 1 BHOH)
Gerulaitis 49 (9 FH, 4 BH, 13 FHV, 16 BHV, 1 BH1/2V, 6 OH)

Lendl had 40 passes - 17 FH and 23 BH
- FHs - 7 cc (including 1 runaround return), 2 dtl, 3 inside-out (2 not clean), 2 lobs and 2 longline (1 hitting Gerulaitis) and 1 inside-in return
- BHs - 9 cc, 7 dtl, 4 inside-out (2 returns), 1 inside-in return, 1 longline/inside-out and 1 lob

- regular FHs -
- 5 cc (3 at net), 1 dtl at net, 2 inside-out, 1 inside-in and 2 at net

Gerulaitis had from 16 serve-volley points
- 6 first 'volleys' (3 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 BH1/2V)
- 10 second volleys (3 FHV, 3 BHV, 4 OH)

- 10 from return-approach points (3 FHV, 6 BHV, 1 OH)… 1 FHV being a lob

- FHs - 5 dtl (2 passes, 1 return), 2 inside-out, 1 longline and 1 net chord dribbler
- BHs - 1 cc return, 1 inside-out, 1 at net and 1 drop shot

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Lendl 83
- 22 Unforced (10 FH, 8 BH, 2 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 61 Forced (14 FH, 42 BH, 3 FHV, 2 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 48.2

Gerulaitis 55
- 20 Unforced (5 FH, 8 BH, 2 FHV, 5 BHV)
- 35 Forced (7 FH, 13 BH, 5 FHV, 9 BHV, 1 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.2

(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...
- 30/50 (60%) at net, including...
- 1/3 (33%) serve-volleying, all second serves
- 1/4 (25%) forced back/retreated

Gerulaitis was...
- 110/176 (63%) at net, including...
- 50/78 (64%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 46/70 (66%) off 1st serve and...
- 4/8 (50%) off 2nd serve
- 27/47 (57%) return-approaching
- 0/1 forced back

Match Report
A fine, if highly "patternized" match. Its a quick court - seems much more so than in the immediate years to come. Ultimately, its the first serve that puts Lendl over, though some of that is due to Gerulaitis' so-so returning

Lendl First Serve Points
Lendl has the big first serve and bombs it down. Power is his focus, not placement. He's not licking lines with it. He doesn't have to... decent or even averagely placed first serves give Vitas a host of trouble just getting back in play

Some of that is the power of Lendl's serve and some the court... but I think a large chunk of it is Vitas not being good on the return. He misses makeable returns and anything a bit wide is more likely than not to draw an error

What he manages to get back leaves Lendl in charge of the point. Lendl does not serve-volley at all, but looks to 'boss' the point through from the baseline. He hits big FHs and occasionally has a go with BHs too. Vitas is chief counter is his court coverage, which is excellent. He's able to run down a lot of hard hit balls from behind the baseline and his BH slice comes in handy to give him an extra fraction of second to get the ball back too

Its not enough. Lendl isn't at his most consistent off the ground and makes a number of surprising routine UEs of the BH, but the serve puts him ahead enough to win points he has a head start on. He's not slow to come forward to finish points at net either

80% first serve points won by Lendl is commanding. And take a look at the 34% unreturned serves.... which is high given he only served at 55%. Note also only 12/60 unreturned serves are aces, with Vitas making 33 forced errors

Credit Lendl for a big serve, but also noting getting back big serves doesn't appear to be one of Vitas' talents

Lendl Second Serve Points
47 return-approaches from Vitas - almost all of them chip-charges against the second serve.... I haven't seen anyone do so as often. After the first few games of the match, he basically return-approaches every chance he gets

Just 7 errors trying the play to 47 successful returns... excellent from Vitas. And he wins 27 such points, or 57%. Great returning from Vitas and backed up near as well with net play

I am struck by Lendl's helplessness against this line of attack. Obviously, he knows its coming but continues to serve regular second serves to the BH. Direction probably doesn't matter - on odd occasions when Lendl goes to the FH, that gets chip-charged too

Lendl serve-volleys twice off second serves to try to counter (loses both points). Don't think he was at all comfortably serve-volleying at this stage in his career

No attempt from Lendl to make bigger second serves. Note just the 2 double faults from Ivan. So it would appear he was content to try hitting passes on his second serve points. This was not good strategy... for much of the match, he's under severe pressure on second serves and more often than not, loses more points than he wins. Overall, he's won 49% second serve points and it feels lower than that

The court was quick enough that Lendl could have explored going for more on second serves, enough to discourage chip-charging. He doesn't

Once Vitas is at net (both chip-charge returning or otherwise), the patternized nature of the match continues. Vitas approaches to and volleys to Lendl's BH. Note the 42 BH FEs for Ivan... almost all of these would have been passing attempts

Lendl knocks Vitas down flat with a particularly powerful FH pass. Its hit from well behind the service line and a testament to how hard Lendl could hit the ball. Can't say I blame him.... I was getting slightly annoyed with the non-stop chip-charging, I can only imagine what Lendl felt

Vitas has a match point in the 3rd set tiebreak, second serve to BH... and chooses not to come in. Nothing special about the serve, about normal Lendl second serve and Vitas had been chip-charging those all night (and continued to do so afterwards). Risky from Lendl, timid from Vitas... and Lendl goes on to win the point after taking the net himself after outrallying Vitas from the back

Great strategy and execution from Vitas. Personally, I found the monotony of it less than thrilling... its almost as rote as a player serve-volleying on grass

Gerulaitis' First Serve Points
Lots of serve-volleying from Vitas - 70/111 means he serve-volleyed off 63% first serves and usually took the net off the third ball when he didn't

Serve itself isn't much. Even on this quick court, even serving at 66%, even with all the serve-volleying... unreturned serves is just 22%. And I didn't think Lendl returned particularly well, but he got balls back without much strain.

At net, its the same as the rest. Vitas volleying to the BH... and usually a passing error

Gerulaitis' Second Serve Points
If Vitas' first serve isn't much, the second serve is downright pedestrian. Lendl wants to FH return it - and does. In the deuce court, he stands 1/2 way between middle service line and outside line. In ad court, he stands in the doubles alley. Odd times Vitas tries to serve out wide to FH (almost always down the middle in ad court), its slow enough for Lendl to run down and hit comfortably with the FH anyway

Lendl hits hard FH returns, often giving himself control of the point with the shot. In this light, Vitas winning 50% second serve points is the biggest indicator of his slight superiority in play.

After the return, they baseline it out as described earlier... Lendl trying to dominate with FH, Vitas running down balls well, Lendl a bit more BH error prone than usual, Vitas in particular looking for a chance to come in


Hall of Fame
Gerulaitis net play vs Lendl pass
Vitas covers the net and volleys well. He's not looking to hit winners as much as test the Lendl BH pass.

Lendl follows his usual passing strategy. He's the sort of player who'd rather net a pass attempt than give up an easy volley winner... you don't see many easy volley winners against Ivan Lendl. He either misses a strong a pass or gives the net rusher a tough ball

So not many easy volleys for Vitas, but he does well on the hard ones. Passes reach him frequently powerful and often low... and he makes a healthy chunk of these with authority or touch

Just 7 volleying UEs for Vitas speaks to his quality up front. 15 FEs on the volley and half-volley.... from Lendl's point of view, that isn't a good number, but I'd more credit Vitas for making many difficult volleys instead

The constant volleying to the BH might be a bit monotonous, but its smart. Lendl might have 42 BH FEs, but he's also banged down 23 winners (all his BH winners are passes), nicely distributed (9 crosscourt, 7 dtl)
On the FH by contrast, Lendl has 14 FEs but has made 17 passing winners

(The above analysis is not all encompassing.... the FEs aren't necessarily all passing attempts, but the bulk are. The numbers are good enough to be strong indicators)

Lendl's net numbers look good too. 60% points won and a few of those he lost are trying to run down drop shots/volleys. That he's 1/2 the volleying UEs Vitas has coming in less than a 1/3 as much indicates how good Vitas was up front. Lendl is a bit clumsy looking at net... and his instincts are off, he's caught out of position coming in and so on.... Vitas passing has a hand in this, but primarily, discredit to Lendl for his troubles in the forecourt

As outlined earlier, Lendl looking to dominate powerhouse style of the FH with Vitas' court coverage keeping him in the rallies

Its a low bouncing court and noticeable is that Lendl isn't too comfortable with his BHs. He tends to hit under the ball and ease it over when it stays low (and with Vitas slicing all the time, it stays low most of the time). In years to come, Lendl would develop a game where he seemed to prefer playing BH tennis to FH, it being his control center. Not here. He plays BHs when he has to but obviously prefers to hammer away with the FH

Note Vitas getting the better of the UE situation of the ground. Just 5 FH UEs (Lendl 10) and both players with 8 on the BH. Vitas is exceptionally safe in his approach shots - next to zero UEs on that front (and he approaches 51 times from rallying). Odd hitting out, attacking FH UEs from Lendl, which is understandable... but the BH is a let down from his norm. He's playing safely off that wing, but just miss regulation balls

Note also Vitas with the lower UEFI (47.5 to 48.2), particularly unexpected since he has 7 volleying errors to Lendl's 4. Some explanation. Lendl's volleying errors were clear winner attempt misses (scored a 60), Vitas' were mostly attacking shots (scored 50). Lendl misses a few attacking FHs, while Vitas' groundstroke errors tend to be of the neutral variety. Finally, with the totals so low, Vitas' 1 defensive UE (scored a 20 - Lendl has none), pulls down his total

Summing up, competitive match with Gerulaitis excelling in net play - both in reaching the net and his play when there - and doing better than expected baseline to baseline (Lendl being a step down from his norm on that front). Ultimately, its Lendl's serve that puts him just over on the whole


This was a fantastic match imo. As well as the semi famous 'Gerulaitis staying back on match point' moment, I also remember a stupendous lob by Lendl in the 3rd set tie break when Vitas' approach shot landed so deep. In the 4th set Gerulaitis was completely deflated.

You don't mention missed points but I'm pretty sure the camera feed cuts out for a couple of points in the first set tiebreak, both won by Gerulaitis?

Their US open match the previous year was said to be a corker as well. Unfortunately I don't think much of it was filmed.


Hall of Fame
I also remember a stupendous lob by Lendl in the 3rd set tie break when Vitas' approach shot landed so deep

Don't remember the shot, but I see I've given it a double check mark. BH lob, second point

In the 4th set Gerulaitis was completely deflated.

I thought he looked disheartened in the 5th, more than the 4th (possibly tired too - Lendl as well)

Helluva game early in the 4th set... 18 point game where Vitas broke. 8 chip-charge returns and 2 errors trying

After that, Lendl breaks twice more mostly due to his strong passing

You don't mention missed points but I'm pretty sure the camera feed cuts out for a couple of points in the first set tiebreak, both won by Gerulaitis?

I know the ones you mean, but no, match is fully covered with no missing points

You can get the points you were missing here -

Speaking of lobs....I got the feeling Lendl was trying to lob some of his returns

He misses a few seemingly going rather high. And a FH inside-in winner is basically lobbed - it was placed wide enough that it would have been a winner anyway

No clear cut lob-return, but possibly something Lendl tried out a bit. Ambitious stuff, Vitas is a good guy to try it on


Yes I'm probably misremembering. I do remember being slightly disappointed in Vitas' fighting spirit, but perhaps it was tiredness. His game did involve doing a lot of the running side to side floating the ball into play - a bit like a Pat Rafter. You mention the slight monotony of his strategy, and that's true on his backhand slice even when he's not chipping and charging with such persistence, but I do enjoy watching him play. Perhaps because his style lends itself to long rallies. I've always heard he was one of the best players in practice, but I don't see how really unless he came over the BH with more confidence that he felt able to in a match. His BH was as consistent as anything, but opponents pretty much knew what they were getting.

Thanks for the missing points. A couple of very bad errors from Lendl as it turns out.