Match Stats/Report - McEnroe vs Edberg, WCT Finals semi-final, 1987


Hall of Fame
John McEnroe beat Stefan Edberg 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-4 in the WCT Finals semi-final, 1987 on carpet in Dallas, USA

McEnroe would go onto lose the final to Miloslav Mecir. Edberg had won the Australian Open shortly before and beaten McEnroe in the final of Rotterdam at his last tournament

McEnroe won 138 points, Edberg 130

McEnroe serve-volleyed off all first serves and about half seconds. Edberg serve-volleyed off all but 7 first serves and about half seconds

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (88/133) 66%
- 1st serve points won (69/88) 78%
- 2nd serve points won (31/45) 69%
- Aces 15, Service Winners 4 (1 second serve)
- Double Faults 4
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (53/133) 40%

- 1st serve percentage (77/135) 57%
- 1st serve points won (57/77) 73%
- 2nd serve points won (41/58) 71%
- Aces 5 (1 second serve), Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (35/135) 26%

Serve Patterns
McEnroe served...
- to FH 47%
- to BH 33%
- to Body 20%

Edberg served...
- to FH 37%
- to BH 49%
- to Body 13%

Return Stats
McEnroe made...
- 99 (52 FH, 47 BH), including 1 runaround FH & 4 return-approaches
- 9 Winners (3 FH, 6 BH)
- 29 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (1 FH, 2 BH), including 1 return-approach attempt
- 26 Forced (7 FH, 19 BH)
- Return Rate (99/134) 74%

Edberg made...
- 76 (43 FH, 33 BH), including 3 runaround FHs & 1 return-approach
- 6 Winners (5 FH, 1 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 34 Errors, comprising...
- 3 Unforced (2 FH, 1 BH)
- 31 Forced (21 FH, 10 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- Return Rate (76/129) 59%

Break Points
McEnroe 2/5 (3 games)
Edberg 1/1

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
McEnroe 43 (9 FH, 12 BH, 10 FHV, 6 BHV, 6 OH)
Edberg 41 (7 BH, 6 BH, 9 FHV, 12 BHV, 6 OH, 1 BHOH)

McEnroe had 25 from serve-volley points
- 11 first volleys (3 FHV, 3 BHV, 1 OH, 2 FH at net, 2 BH at net)… 1 BH at net was a drop shot
- 14 second volleys (6 FHV, 2 BHV, 5 OH, 1 FH at net)… 1 FHV possibly not clean

- 1 from a return-approach point (1 FHV)

- FHs (all passes) - 3 cc (1 return), 1 dtl and 2 inside-out returns
- BH passes - 3 cc (1 return), 4 dtl (3 returns, 1 at net), 1 inside-out return and 1 longline return (that Edberg left)
- regular BH - 1 drop shot

Edberg had 25 from serve-volley points
- 15 first volleys (4 FHV, 8 BHV, 2 OH, 1 BHOH)
- 9 second volleys (2 FHV, 4 BHV, 3 OH)
- 1 third volley (1 FHV)

- 1 other OH was a drop shot

- FHs (all passes) - 4 cc (2 returns - 1 runaround, 1 at net), 1 dtl return and 2 inside-out returns
- BH passes - 1 cc, 2 dtl (1 return) and 1 longline
- regular BHs - 1 cc and 1 dtl at net

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
McEnroe 50
- 16 Unforced (7 FH, 2 BH, 4 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
- 34 Forced (16 FH, 11 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 2 BHV, 2 BH1/2V, 1 OH)… with 1 BH at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 50.6

Edberg 41
- 19 Unforced (3 FH, 5 BH, 7 FHV, 4 BHV)
- 22 Forced (7 FH, 10 BH, 3 FHV, 2 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 48.9

(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
McEnroe was...
- 77/107 (72%) at net, including...
- 71/93 (76%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 51/70 (73%) off 1st serve and...
- 20/23 (87%) off 2nd serve
- 2/4 (50%) return-approaching
- 0/2 forced back

Edberg was...
- 82/113 (73%) at net, including...
- 66/94 (70%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 46/65 (71%) off 1st serve and...
- 20/29 (69%) off 2nd serve
- 0/1 return-approaching
- 0/1 retreated

Match Report
A top class, highly serve dominated, big game match of style with a-point-here-a-point-there the difference on a fast carpet court. The final result is most appropriate. The only non-top class aspect of the match is Edberg's returning at times and it gives Mac just a shadow of an edge

Both players serve-volley most of the time. Off first serves, Mac does so always, Edberg 92% of the time. Off second serve, Mac does so 58% of the time, Edberg 52%. The last figure is a bit deceptive - Mac's frequency picks off at the end when he's virtually always coming in behind the second serve. Over the course of the match as a whole, its Edberg who does so relatively more often

Edberg also looks to come in early, especially off first serve points he's stayed back on, usually off the third ball. He comes in 18 times from rallying (winning a huge 16 of them), Mac just 10 (wins 4). Statistically, that looks about in proportion to opportunities to come in but again, that's slightly deceptive. A small number of Mac's small total are forced or near forced approaches... Edberg is actually the more hungry net seeker in the match

Basically, there's 1 bad game in the match, where Edberg's broken to love in the 4th set where he misses 2 routine volleys (Mac also hits a passing winner and forces a volleying error). The two also exchange breaks in the second set in well played return games

Some noteworthy runs of play. Edberg wins 22 service points in a row at one stage, a run that overlaps to a degree with a streak of winning 17 second serve points won in a row. Mac wins 17 service points in a row towards the end and 21 of the last 22

Statistically, the biggest difference in play is unreturned serves. Mac 40%, Edberg 26%. Mac leads in the area throughout the match, but the end figure is weighed Mac's way by the 4th set, where 16/21 or 76% of his serves don't come back

There are several other stand-out stats
- Mac's very high first serve in count of 66%
- both players doing superbly on second serve points - Mac wins 69% (including 87% serve-volleying, which is comfortably higher than what either player manages of their first serves), Edberg 71%
- Mac with huge lead in unreturnable serves 19-6. Of aces, its 15-5
- Mac serving mostly to FH - he goes there 47% to 33% to BH

So what's going on? This report is going to contain critique based against a very, very high standard. The numbers that have come out of it are up there with any match ever played. As great a match as it is, it isn't quite that great. So the question of why such figures needs an explanation

Serve & Return
Mac serving at 66% is uncharacteristically high. He serves very well but the general quality of his serve is down from his top form

A good lot of reasonably makeable returns and body to body-ish serving (he serves 20% to the body). Speed of serve is not overwhelming, so the body-ish serves aren't as difficult to return as can be. Of placement, relatively low percentage of wide serves that leaves Edberg no chance on the return

15 aces and 4 service winners are very good numbers, but even there there's a catch. Especially in first set, some of it is down to Edberg guessing wrong where the serve is going. That's an indication of good disguise of direction, but the serving there wasn't so powerful as to necessitate guessing - and it was a mistake for Edberg to do so. He ceases after first set and returns orthodoxly, reacting to the ball. And can reach them reasonably comfortably, with aces not too common

Where Mac does well - or to put it another way, where what he does ends up paying off - is targeting Edberg's FH return. Its something I've kept a close eye on, given Edberg's reputation for having a stronger BH than FH shot, and have found no justification for the reputation as far as effectiveness goes (aesthetics is another matter). And those who know Edberg's game best (i.e. Boris Becker) invariably learnt to serve predominantly to his BH as the better strategy

You still see matches of people going to his FH most of the time and almost never do numbers support it having been a particularly good idea. At best, not a bad one and usually not that. Mac's results in this match though are an exception. He's forced 19 FH errors to 10 BHs (discounting 2 runaround FHs) and as Edberg doesn't return particularly well, credit Mac for his strategy. Furthermore, Edberg's return position suggests he's more confident of BH - he tends to stand well over to leave BH side more open than normal - maybe it was a bluff? If so, Mac doesn't fall for it and sticks to going at the Edberg FH most of the time

Decent second serving from Mac too, just short of it being a strong weapon

For all that, I don't think Edberg returns particularly well. 59% return rate against McEnroe's serve - which is reasonably returnable - is on the lowest possible side of acceptable, if it is acceptable

Just 1 break point for Edberg. Well as Mac served, he didn't serve this well... and his numbers - particularly second serve points won (69%) but also unreturned serve percentage and aces are flattering to Mac. Some discredit to Edberg's inconsistency on the return then... more credit to Mac's serving

Not that Edberg returns badly by a normal standard. He gets his fair share of meaty hits in. Mac's superb on the tough volley (more on that later), which would encourage him to go for more. But he doesn't... he basically misses returns going for normal and moderate aggression on the returns. His low return rate would be more understandable if he was hitting harder or placing returns more riskily or return-approaching. Final word on Edberg's returning... missing a few too many, given what he was up against
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Hall of Fame
Edberg's serve looks quite ordinary. Its not too powerful as low 5 aces (1 was a second serve) indicates. And its not well placed, most balls being well within Mac's reach

Mac's returning is good. On top of Edberg's placement, Mac appears to read the serve well. There's above his norm power returning - most of his 9 winners are hard hit shots - and less touch/angled stuff that he often employs. I'd say Mac's returning is better than Edberg's serve.... but he has the same problem Edberg does after that:

The volleying that comes right after

Volleying & Passing
Exceptionally high quality volleying from both players. The key to it is how many difficult volleys both make

Mac has 8 FEs in the forecourt, Edberg 5. And the number of tough volleys both make, especially of the low variety, is eyecatching

Neither player is an overwhelmingly powerful returner or passer. The strong passes/returns they make are less than the absolute, hammer and tongs standard of an Agassi or Connors. That's the only caveat. Mac in particular is up from his norm for power returning/passing. Still, all those balls come back

A word on UEs. Mac has 7, Edberg 11. About half of Edberg's lot are about as difficult as a ball can be for being marked UE. Above average power, slightly under net level type balls... balls a player should be able to put in play at least. Of course, he makes the overwhelming bulk of such volleys - hitting a few for winners even. 'Not easy' is a good description for them, though still marked unforced

Edberg is slightly better on the volley as far as attacking placement goes. Most of his volleys leave Mac with next to no chance on the pass. Mac's no slouch in that area either... but at least Edberg gets a few looks at passes, which if he'd made, one would call a very good to great shot

All credit to the volleyers, no discredit to the passers. The heaviest passing is done by the return shot and both deal admirably with strong returns. Edberg faces more but I'd call it a wash between the two at coping with tough volleys - and both top notch

Edberg has an edge volleying to kill points, but there's little in it and both are top notch again. One addendum to that. On the OH, Mac is better. Though he has a couple of errors (1 forced, 1 not) to Edberg's 0... Mac's far more decisive in finishing with the OH. Edberg tends not to kill points with the shot and leaves Mac half-chances to pass

Look at the very low number of baseline-to-net passing winners in play. Mac has 5, Edberg 4. That's down to the quality of volleying. There's nothing wrong with either player on the pass... and even when they can get a good one off, its usually dealt with by the volleyer

In a nutshell, first rate stuff on the volley from both players - Edberg just a touch better, but its splitting hairs, Mac stronger on the OH. With volleying so good, scope for doing much with the pass is severely limited. Edberg has a few more chances on the pass (another way of saying his volleying left Mac less chances) and would have needed to pass extraordinarily to make something off it

Not a significant factor in the match

Mac has 9 UEs, Edberg 8. 7 of Mac's are FHs - which usually would be a good sign for him as his FHs tend to be more attacking shots. That's not true here. His FH misses are routine shots almost always

Edberg is much quicker to come in from baseline rallies. On the rare first serve point he stays back on, coming in early is a given but even from more neutral starting points, including Mac's second serve points, he's the one more keen to find a way forward. In fact, Mac doesn't seem to be looking for the net from baseline situations... which given how his passing stacks up against Edberg's volleying, isn't a good move

Edberg is an incredible 16/18 approaching from rallies. Mac is just 4/10 - a number of those being forced approaches or 'encouraged' approaches

Though generally the consummate serve-volleyer, I think staying back off the first serve and coming in early would have been a very good move for him in general to complement his serve-volleying. His serve isn't so strong that strong returners can't get stuck into them and he also tends to take a bit off the serve to allow himself to get closer to net. In this and other matches, its noticeable that some of his hardest serves are the one's he's doesn't follow to net

A serve like that will draw a defensive return often, and coming in off it works at least as well as serve-volleying. If nothing else, it keeps his opponents less sure of what to do with the return

Match Progression
Almost all easy holds to the first set tiebreak. Edberg holds more easily - he starts with 3 love holds - but is pushed to deuce in the game before tiebreak after missing 2 volleys (the first regulation, the second not easy)

Edberg misses 2 more volleys in the tiebreak, after Mac double faults to start. Mac hands back the mini-break missing a routine third ball FH

Its clutch stuff from Mac then that gives him the set. Strong return forces 1/2volley that he's able to dispatch at net and a BH return dtl pass winner put him again. On his second set point, Mac thumps a powerful return, but Edberg 1/2volleys it deep and away from Mac. Mac's up to making a spectacular BH cc pass, almost on the half-volley

Players trade breaks early in the second. Edberg gains his with a couple of passes and net point. Mac's even more impressive in breaking right back with 4 passing winners, including 3 returns

The second set tiebreak is decided by Edberg's greater thirst for net. At 5-5, Mac plays an uncharacteristically passive baseline point off his second serve and Edberg rushes in to win the point before serving out the next point to even the match

In third set, Edberg is untouchable on serve, winning 22 straight points. Mac too holds easily, losing 7 points in 6 service games.

Mac moves ahead in the tiebreak with a FH dtl passing winner, set up by a strong return that Edberg was able to put back in play. Another strong return draws a weak Edberg 1/2volley, leaving an easy BH cc pass from about the service line. Edberg double faults on set point - his only double of the match

Fourth set is disappointing from Edberg. He can barely get a return back in play and is broken to love in the only genuinely badly played game of the match where he misses 1 easy and 1 regulation first volley. Tail up, Mac serve-volleys off most second serves and Edberg can't get those back in play either

Summing up, a great and beautiful match of serve-volley with the serve not doing too much work and leaving room for the volley to shine. While probably a shade better in the forecourt, Edberg's returning is at times not as good as it needs to be and he has little let downs with errors in the tiebreaks. McEnroe by contrast is clutch and makes some of his best passes at these times and is the stronger returner throughout

Stats for pair's Rotterdam final, played shortly before this one -
Stats for pair's '89 Wimbledon semi -
Stats for next years final between Edberg and Boris Becker -
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