Match Stats/Report - McEnroe vs Borg, US Open final, 1981

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
John McEnroe beat Bjorn Borg 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in the US Open final, 1981 on hard court

The win gave McEnroe his third consecutive title at the event and was Borg's 4th runner-up finish. McEnroe had recently also beaten Borg in the Wimbledon final. This would turn out to be Borg's last Slam match
Previously posted - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/stats-for-1981-uso-final-mcenroe-borg.219827/

McEnroe won 122 points, Borg 104

McEnroe serve-volleyed off all but 2 first serves and majority of seconds.

Serve Stats
McEnroe...
- 1st serve percentage (60/114) 53%
- 1st serve points won (45/60) 75%
- 2nd serve points won (27/54) 50%
- Aces 10
- Double Faults 7
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (35/114) 31%

Borg...
- 1st serve percentage (62/112) 55%
- 1st serve points won (39/62) 63%
- 2nd serve points won (23/50) 46%
- Aces 8, Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 7
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (24/112) 21%

Serve Patterns
McEnroe served...
- to FH 24%
- to BH 72%
- to Body 4%

Borg served...
- to FH 30%
- to BH 62%
- to Body 9%

Return Stats
McEnroe made...
- 81 (35 FH, 46 BH), including 14 runaround FHs & 5 return-approaches
- 3 Winners (3 FH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 14 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (2 FH, 1 BH), including 1 return-approach attempt
- 11 Forced (3 FH, 8 BH)
- Return Rate (81/105) 77%

Borg made...
- 72 (29 FH, 43 BH), including 12 runaround FHs
- 7 Winners (2 FH, 5 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 25 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (1 FH, 2 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 22 Forced (7 FH, 15 BH), including 3 runaround FHs
- Return Rate (72/107) 67%

Break Points
McEnroe 7/13 (9 games)
Borg 4/11 (7 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
McEnroe 41 (10 FH, 6 BH, 12 FHV, 8 BHV, 5 OH)
Borg 22 (4 FH, 10 BH, 3 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH)

McEnroe had 20 from serve-volley points
- 12 first volleys (7 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH)... 1 BHV was a net chord drop over and 1 OH can reasonably be called a FHV
- 4 second volleys (1 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
- 3 third volleys (2 FHV, 1 BHV)
- 1 fourth volley (1 OH)

- 1 from a return-approach point - a FH cc at net

- 3 FH returns - 1 runaround dtl/inside-out and 2 inside-out (1 a runaround in ad court)

- FHs -1 cc pass, 2 dtl (1 pass), 1 inside-out and 2 lobs
- BHs (all passes) - 4 cc (1 left by Borg), 1 lob and 1 running-down-drop-volley dtl at net

Borg had 7 returns (2 FH, 5 BH), all passes
- FHs - 1 cc and 1 runaround dtl
- BHs - 3 cc and 2 inside-in

- FHs (both passes) - 2 cc
- BH passes - 2 cc, 1 dtl and 1 inside-out
- regular BH - 1 inside-out at net (that can reasonably be called a pass)

- 4 from serve-volley points -
- 2 first volleys (2 BHV)
- 1 second volley (1 BHV)
- 1 third volley (1 FHV)

- both OHs were on the bounce - 1 just behind service line that has not been marked a net point

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
McEnroe 51
- 29 Unforced (6 FH, 7 BH, 9 FHV, 5 BHV, 2 OH)
- 22 Forced (7 FH, 10 BH, 2 FHV, 3 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 49.0

Borg 39
- 20 Unforced (8 FH, 9 BH, 3 FHV)... with 1 FH pass attempt
- 19 Forced (5 FH, 12 BH, 2 BHV)... with BH running-down-drop-volley at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 48.5

(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
McEnroe was...
- 63/102 (62%) at net, including...
- 52/79 (66%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 33/48 (69%) off 1st serve and...
- 19/31 (61%) off 2nd serve
---
- 1/5 (20%) return-approaching
- 0/1 forced back

Borg was...
- 27/44 (61%) at net, including...
- 7/12 (58%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 6/11 (55%) off 1st serve and...
- 1/1 off 2nd serve
---
- 1/2 forced back/retreated

Match Report
What odds would you have given on McEnroe missing volleys at twice the rate Borg does? Or Borg missing more groundstrokes than Mac? Or Mac hitting passing winners at more than twice the rate Borg does? All of the above are on show in a not bad, but at least half-disappointing match on a standard hard court. Its a two part affair -

a) McEnroe serve-volleying vs Borg return/passing
b) points starting on baseline (mostly Borg trying to beat down Mac)

The focal point of a typical, high quality Borg-McEnroe match is usually a). Here, a) is ordinary to below-average stuff from both players. b) is better... good job from Mac not just hanging in with, but near getting better of Borg in it

Who-plays-big-points-better is a factor in result. Mac pulls off some tremendous shots and returns and passes at such times. Borg often fails too

Mac's Serve Games - Mac at net vs Borg on the pass
This is probably the most inconsistent volleying display I've seen from Mac - and certainly so for this period - and worst returning from Borg

Mac serve-volleys 96% off first serves (all but 2) and 66% off second serves. In other words, most action is serve-volley vs return-pass based

Borg's returning from way back position, leaving plenty of room for Mac to move him out of position with the serve. Mac doesn't do it. He has his 10 aces but other first serves don't drag Borg off court, as Mac liked to do to even orthodoxly positioned returners. Borg's able to reach serves comfortably to return. Mac also tends to serve short - and with Borg standing far back, he has almost too much time to return. Its unusual to see Borg in position and having the luxury of waiting for the first serve to reach him before making his return. Not good serving from Mac, leaving Borg in position to return with relative comfort

Borg doesn't make most of it. He returns high over net and Mac gets a plethora of high volleys. 12/20 of his serve-volley winners are first volleys and almost all of them are high balls. Very few low returns by Borg. His better returns yield regulation, net-high volleys. 67% return rate returning at this level of damaging is not good... especially in light his facing relatively comfortably returns to make. It leaves Mac in position to destroy Borg with his volleys

Mac doesn't do this. Note 16 volley/OH UEs to go with 25 winners. That's not at all a good ratio for these shots. I haven't seen Mac missing regulation volleys to this extent. Borg of all people, by contrast has just 3 volleying UEs. Relative to approaches (Mac 102, Borg 44), Mac's makes a UE 16% of the time, Borg 7%... that's shocking stat number 1

This rare error proneness on the volley isn't due to particularly aggressive volleying. Most are attacking shots, not winner attempts. Note Mac's UEFI of 49.0, which is low when 16/29 UEs are volleys/OH

Generally, Mac's a 1 volley killer and volleys into open court corners. The forced passing errors he draws tend to be full running ones - almost hopeless shots. Not here. He looks to volley to Borg's BH more than far away from Borg. Normal enough strategy for normal volleyers but a step down of aggression (and artistry) for someone like Mac. Furthermore, Borg's return position leaves room for another aggressive move that Mac generally excels at - stop volleys. He doesn't do it here - just volleys regularly to BH

Finally, Mac's volleying to BH strategy leaves Borg with shots on the pass. Note Borg with 12 BH FEs to 5 FHs (1 or 2 are non-passes) and in play, he has 5 BH passing winners to 2 FHs. There is scope to have done better against the kind of shots he faced but plenty of credit to Mac for this too. One thing he does do phenomenally well is read Borg's passes - almost like a mind-reader, he covers the right direction and is able to cut off the passes. Borg probably errs some in trying to target Mac's BHV at times, playing BH inside-outs to it (usually missing) rather than more obvious cc

In a compound nutshell -
- below par serving direction from Mac
- below par, unthreatening returning from Borg
- below average consistency and below par aggression on the volley from Mac
- at least below personal norm passing from Borg + top notch anticipation at net from Mac
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Borg's Serve Game - Starting point baseline
Borg himself serve-volleys 12 times (once off second serve) or 23% off first serves. Mac successfully chip-charge returns 5 times (winning 1). Most points begin baseline-to-baseline

Neither players is able to hit winners or force errors from that situation so most points end with a UE or when someone takes net. Borg takes the lead with hard hit shots, looking to beat down more than outlast Mac. He looks most in command when playing FH cc to Mac's BH both because his FH is a lot stronger shot than his BH and Mac's BH looks delicate. He doesn't do it systematically though, and is seemingly just as happy to hit BHs as FHs

Regardless of which side he uses, Borg does go more to Mac's BH, throwing in a fair few BH longlines. By contrast, he rarely plays FH longline to Mac's FH

Mac hammers his own FH and of power, is at least equal to Borg's BH in cc rallies. The BH is usually sliced or dinked delicately looks and is undamaging but holds up quite well. Just 7 UEs from Mac's BH. Its not unduly targetted, but Borg goes there more often than not. Very little swinging BH drives from Mac... his BH just holds the fort

Shocking stat number 2 are the final groundstroke UE counts -

i) Mac FH 6
ii) Mac BH 7
iii) Borg FH 8
iv) Borg BH 9

Initially, play follows expected lines with Borg barely missing a ball and Mac making the errors. Towards end, Borg's play becomes more patchy and he plays some low percentage attacking shots that miss to bring up the final numbers. Whatever the progression, its a very unexpected outcome

Good consistency from Mac. Even when he's outplayed from back, the errors don't come easy and rallies go on for awhile before they do. In fact, its Borg who makes early errors towards the end of the match

Little in it of movement between the two players. Borg isn't slow by any means, but he's not jack rabbit quick either as he often was. He's forced into a couple errors because he's not quick enough to get into position

Throughout match, Borg looks to come to net. In conjunction with his heavier (and initially, more consistent) groundies and occasional serve-volleys, its a good, balanced approach to play. And he's very successful at net, winning 20/32 or 63% coming in from rallies. Mac by contrast is just 10/18 or 56%

Most of the work is done by strongly hit and/or deep approach shots. Borg's also consistent on the volley with just 5 errors (3 UEs, 2 FEs) but very ordinary in being damaging. Whereas Mac at least volleys to BH, Borg just puts volleys in play down middle of court where Mac has decent shots on the pass

Mac's not too good on the pass, and usually, doesn't look capable of making them. Until he does. 10 passing winners from Mac. 4 come in a single game late in third set that seems to rattle Borg considerably and his play falls after. Its a freakishly good game from Mac but the way Borg volleys down middle of court - both generally and in the match - he does leave himself open to things like this

Pretty hefty serving from Borg. He'd turned in a hammer-&-tongs power serving display in the semis against Jimmy Connors, the emphasis on power more than placement. This is a toned down version, likely due to need for having higher percentage to keep Mac from attacking second serves. As is, he gets 55% in and sends down pretty big (for him) second serves too. It does keep Mac from being too adventurous in attacking second serves, but comes at high cost of 7 double faults, which costs him at least one game

Mac's returning is one of keys to the match, though a quiet one. Excellent 77% return rate against the hefty stuff. Not damaging, but consistent. He doesn't chip-charge much (just 5 times - winning just 1) and the large 14 runaround FHs are usually neutral shots. But he picks his moments... hitting his best attacking returns at most crucial times. 2 of his 3 return winners come on break point, as does his sole winning chip-charge which also finishes with a winner

Match Progression
First set is along the lines you might expect. Borg makes 2 UEs in it, Mac 10 - 6 from the baseline (both of Borg's are baseline shots). Borg holds serve by outlasting or beating Mac down from the back, coupled with coming to net to finish points off (usually by forcing a passing error). He gains the break to love when Mac double faults, misses two regulation/easy BHVs and on break point, Borg strikes a typical FH cc pass winner

Borg holds one game constantly coming to net, including a second serve-volley that surprises the chip-charging Mac. Mac survives going down 0-40 in another tough game where he stays back regularly off second serves, misses 2 OHs and double faults twice

Mac breaks to go up 2-0 in set 2 with a great game with winners on 3 of last 4 points. Break point is particularly good as he runs round a serve to his BH and whacks it as much inside-out as dtl into corner. Consecutive regulation FHV misses sees him go down 15-40 the game after and on first break point, he stays back off a first serve and a rally develops. It ends with Borg missing a FH approach shot

Last 3 games of the set are all breaks. Mac goes up 5-1, wrapping up game with 2 winners (a BH running-down-drop-volley dtl at net and an even better runaround FH return than the earlier game - this time shot is inside-out from near center line). Borg breaks back at once but set finishes with third break on the trot - a terrible game from Borg where he double faults twice and misses a regulation BH

Borg wins 4/10 first serve points and 7/14 second serves in the set

Borg breaks to move ahead 3-2 in third, with 3 winners and Mac missing easy FHV on break point and then consolidates to move to 4-2. He doesn't win another game in set. Mac reels off 8 winners in 10 points across next 2 games (4 as server, 4 as returner). The break game is critical turning point of match and just about perfect from Mac

Borg had been highly successful coming forward from rallying (also serve-volleying, but doing so less often) and takes it up a notch by coming in all 5 points (including 2 serve-volleys). 2 BH cc's and 2 FH lobs fly by or over him - all great shots, 3 of them just about perfect

Does the game take the wind out of Borg's sails? Next game is over in a flash to love with 4 unreturned serves. Prior to it, Borg had returned 15 of last 16 serves he'd faced (not necessarily challengingly). Perhaps he felt need to try to get returns lower - he'd given up 3 first volleys winners in previous return game - and misses the returns for that reason. It does look like getting broken by 4 perfect winners from out of the blue has rattled him

From hereon, he plays somewhat erratically and uncharacteristically. He's broken again with Mac hitting a couple of good shots, but Borg helping with 2 FH UEs - an approach attempt and a un-Borg like dtl winner attempt

In 4th set, Borg has 10 UEs (8 from baseline) to Mac's 5 (just 2 from baseline). How often do you see that? His shot choices become edgily attacking (and he usually misses)

After trading breaks, there's terrible baseline game from Borg to get broken again. 4 UEs from Borg in it - 2 third ball approach attempts, a regulation third ball and a low percentage FH dtl winner attempt. Very out of character. McEnroe goes on to serve out to 15 with last 3 serves being unreturned

Summing up, strange match. McEnroe serves ordinarily. Borg returns less than that. McEnroe misses a boatload of regulation volleys but makes hay off Borg's high returns. Borg's not too great on the pass. McEnroe returns surely and as match wears on, hangs in better and better from the baseline until by the end, he's actually the better player from the back (more for Borg's consistency falling than Mac's shooting up). Borg's highly successful at net, until he isn't and Mac steps up with some stunning passes at choice times

Highlights would be Mac's returning, anticipating Borg's passing shots and some great aggressive plays on critical points. On the whole though, match is more a strangely patchy showing from the loser than a high quality one from Mac

Stats for Borg's semi with Jimmy Connors - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...al-1978-semi-final-1981.659112/#post-13950948
Stats for '78 final between Borg and Connors - https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...rg-us-open-final-1978-semi-final-1981.659112/
 

Pheasant

Hall of Fame
Wow Waspsting. Your work is always extremely impressive. I saw this match on live TV and your work does a fantastic job of helping us relive the moment. I showed your work to asports historian friend of mine and he was blown away. Your detail is 2nd to none!

I'll ask everybody here at TTW, since there are so many great fans of tennis on this site. Has anybody ever seen anybody write up such a detailed analysis of a match before? These write ups blow all of the other pros out of the water. And yes, I'm assuming that Waspsting is a famous sportswriter for a living.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Thank you - great detail...

Is this the US Open final where Mac's two topspin lobs break Borg's spirit? Those shots were only for the "utterly gifted one" in a pressure situation.
My pleasure, Frank

yes, this is the one. 2 perfect shots - not a ghost of a chance for Borg to smash them, even less than that to retrieve... and he does start playing a bit hectically right after


Wow Waspsting. Your work is always extremely impressive. I saw this match on live TV and your work does a fantastic job of helping us relive the moment. I showed your work to asports historian friend of mine and he was blown away. Your detail is 2nd to none!

I'll ask everybody here at TTW, since there are so many great fans of tennis on this site. Has anybody ever seen anybody write up such a detailed analysis of a match before? These write ups blow all of the other pros out of the water. And yes, I'm assuming that Waspsting is a famous sportswriter for a living.
Good to see you, Pheasant, and thank you very much

Did you get a chance to go through the '89 Wimby semi? Would be interested to get your take on that one -

 

jorjipy

Rookie
Borg lost it when up a break in the 3rd by going to the net. It put him in his weakest position on the court. If he had resisted coming in and kept rallying, he wins! McEnroe was doing no damage in those baseline rallies

The same scenario happened in the first set against Connors in the 1976 US Open final......Borg got broken by serve and volleying and by approaching the net in one of his service games. From the baseline Connors was making no impression in baseline rallies on that grey clay, Borg had been holding easily

Also, people forget in the Classic 1980 Wimbledon final, Borg served for the match in the 4th set and was up 40-15..... the Federer situation. And what did he do? He twice came to the net and got passed twice! So the moral of the story is that Borg stupidly surrendered his dominant place on the court, the baseline, and gave the American lefties a chance to pass which they took. Of course Borg won that 1980 Wimbledon final so people forget his Federer moment.
 

Pheasant

Hall of Fame
My pleasure, Frank

yes, this is the one. 2 perfect shots - not a ghost of a chance for Borg to smash them, even less than that to retrieve... and he does start playing a bit hectically right after




Good to see you, Pheasant, and thank you very much

Did you get a chance to go through the '89 Wimby semi? Would be interested to get your take on that one -

Break Points
McEnroe 7/13 (9 games)


Borg 4/11 (7 games)

I think the above was the key to the match. Mac was incredibly clutch on break points.

I will take a look at the 1989 Wimbledon. That’s one of my favorites!
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
Borg lost it when up a break in the 3rd by going to the net. It put him in his weakest position on the court. If he had resisted coming in and kept rallying, he wins! McEnroe was doing no damage in those baseline rallies

The same scenario happened in the first set against Connors in the 1976 US Open final......Borg got broken by serve and volleying and by approaching the net in one of his service games. From the baseline Connors was making no impression in baseline rallies on that grey clay, Borg had been holding easily

Also, people forget in the Classic 1980 Wimbledon final, Borg served for the match in the 4th set and was up 40-15..... the Federer situation. And what did he do? He twice came to the net and got passed twice! So the moral of the story is that Borg stupidly surrendered his dominant place on the court, the baseline, and gave the American lefties a chance to pass which they took. Of course Borg won that 1980 Wimbledon final so people forget his Federer moment.
Well, in both of these matches, Borg had his chances. I think him coming in against the more net-aggressive player is simply a matter of surprise/mixing it up. In both the matches you cite, he was generally conceding the net to Connors and Mac. In the 81 final (which I need to go back and watch), Mac held his own on the baseline, no question. He's very under-rated in that regard.
 

urban

Legend
I would agree, that the 1981 USO match was the worst of the 4 major battles between these two great players, in terms of overall standard of play. The first two sets were strange and pretty lacklustre from both sides. But Mac had that highlight in the break back game of the third, when he made those two famous lob-backhand pass combos.This broke Borgs spirit and confidence, Borg looked throughout somewhat subdued, he never had the confidence at Flushing, he had at Wim. And if i recall it right, he got a telephone warning just before the final. After the match, Mac got praise by Laver for his footwork and anticipation on the baseline, which were pretty underrated factors in his game.
When we talk about those great matches, even the USO 1980 had some strange, subpar streaks by both players in the first 4 sets. In the Wim 1980 final, outside the 4 th set tiebreaker, both played their best at different times: Mac started in great style with a 6-1 set, when he couldn't close out the second set, which was very possible, his standard dipped, and Borg was on route to a normal for set win, when Mac suddenly at mp down came alive again.
 
Mac seemed too relaxed, unstressed in the 1981 final. A princely, even genteel bearing. The pressure and anxiety of the Gerulaitis semi was torturous. Mac got in a phony argument in the 5th that derailed Vitas. . . Borg missed a lot of forehands long.
 

Frankc

Professional
That Vitas-Mac semi is one gorgeous battle - dynamic atmosphere... the personal history at place is special... Let me beam back to those stands, that one match...
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Borg lost it when up a break in the 3rd by going to the net. It put him in his weakest position on the court. If he had resisted coming in and kept rallying, he wins! McEnroe was doing no damage in those baseline rallies
True, but neither was Borg. And Borg had been highly successful coming to net prior to that game

baseline-to-baseline... they rallied til someone made the error (Borg about as often Mac being the one to err... and by end of match, more Borg than Mac, very surprisingly) or someone came to net

Rallying to net prior to that game, Borg was 14/21 @ 67%
From that game onward, 6/11 @ 55% (including 1/3 in that game)

Serve-volleying prior to that game, Borg was 6/7 @ 86%
From that game onward, 1/5 @ 20% (including 0/2 in that game)

Also, people forget in the Classic 1980 Wimbledon final, Borg served for the match in the 4th set and was up 40-15..... the Federer situation. And what did he do? He twice came to the net and got passed twice! So the moral of the story is that Borg stupidly surrendered his dominant place on the court, the baseline, and gave the American lefties a chance to pass which they took. Of course Borg won that 1980 Wimbledon final so people forget his Federer moment.
I imagine another factor in Borg coming in (especially against McEnroe) is that if he doesn't, then Mac will

Borg might prefer to play things out baseline-to-baseline... but he can't be sure Mac won't take net
Better to be at net with Mac on baseline than the other way around? Probably

If Mac holds up from the baseline, as he does in this US Open match... Borg's got a bit of a problem on how to proceed
 

jorjipy

Rookie
In the 81 US final, that game Borg gets broken, Borg didn’t choose to come in - he HAD TO since the McEnroe groundshot was so short he had no other option

In that 80 Wimbledon final, at 5-3 40-15 Borg CHOSE to serve and volley......bad choice!

Anyways, the US Open finals were not their great matches in NYC.....Their matches at the Masters in January80 and 81 featured better quality play
 

KG1965

Legend
Not to mention 3 cannon backhands. That game starting at 1hr:19min is how I always choose to remember John playing.

I remembered a one-way match. With a dominant Mac over a shutdown Borg.
I remembered badly.
The game you refer to is the key: 2 Fh lobs and 2 bh passing-shots. Incredible game of Supermac.
End match.
 

WCT

Semi-Pro
I don't think that turnaround game was about anything Borg did anything wrong. Mcenroe hit 4 winners. Borg made no errors. And Borg absolutely chose to come in on at least 4 of the 5 points. The first you could argue that the shot sort of forced him forward since it was very short and low. 2 of the points were really s/v.

I never saw this as a route, Borg was up a break in the 3rd. When he lost that, though, it seemed to take a bit of wind out of his sails. Even there it's not like he lost at 1 or love in the last set. It was a break.
 
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