Match Stats/Report - McEnroe vs Gerulaitis, US Open final, 1979


Hall of Fame
John McEnroe beat Vitas Gerulaitis 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 in the US Open final, 1979 on hard court

It was McEnroe's first Slam title and he would go onto win the next 2 US Opens also. It was Gerulaitis' sole US Open final and he would go onto be runner-up at the next French Open

McEnroe won 105 points, Gerulaitis 78

Both players serve-volleyed off all first serves. Off second serves, McEnroe serve-volleyed off all but 4 and Gerulaitis all but 8

(Note: I've deduced or made educated guesses about serve type a small number of points and on 2 or 3 points, I've made educated guesses about ending of point through hazy print

I'm missing 4 Gerulaitis service points, of which he won 2, lost 2

Missing points - Points 1-3, Game 1, Set 1 - all completely unknown
- Point 1, Game 2, Set 3 - deduced to be a first serve point, all other data unknown. Vitas appears to be at net... though the point was almost certainly a serve-volley point, it has not been included as such or as a net point or in any way other than as a first serve point)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (48/82) 59%
- 1st serve points won (36/48) 75%
- 2nd serve points won (25/34) 74%
- Aces 3, Service Winners 3
- Double Faults 3
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (20/82) 24%

- 1st serve percentage (50/98) 51%
- 1st serve points won (35/50) 70%
- 2nd serve points won (21/48) 44%
- Unknown serve points won (1/3) 33%
- Aces 2
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (19/97) 20%

Serve Patterns
McEnroe served...
- to FH 18%
- to BH 65%
- to Body 18%

Gerulaitis served...
- to FH 29%
- to BH 61%
- to Body 10%

Return Stats
McEnroe made...
- 73 (32 FH, 41 BH), including 7 runaround FHs
- 4 Winners (4 BH)
- 17 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 FH)
- 16 Forced (2 FH, 14 BH)
- Return Rate (73/92) 80%

Gerulaitis made...
- 59 (15 FH, 44 BH), including 2 return-approaches
- 2 Winners (2 BH)
- 14 Errors, comprising...
- 14 Forced (3 FH, 11 BH)
- Return Rate (59/79) 75%

Break Points
McEnroe 5/15 (9 games)
Gerulaitis 1/3 (3 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
McEnroe 39 (5 FH, 11 BH, 12 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 5 BHV, 5 OH)
Gerulaitis 17 (2 FH, 4 BH, 6 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH)

McEnroe had 21 from serve-volley points
- 12 first 'volleys' (7 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 4 BHV)
- 6 second volleys (4 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)
- 2 third 'volleys' (1 FHV, 1 OH)... the OH was on bounce from no-man's land
- 1 fourth volley (1 OH)

- FH passes - 3 cc (1 at net) and 2 dtl
- BH passes - 3 cc (1 return), 1 dtl, 4 inside-out (3 returns) and 1 lob
- regular BHs - 1 cc at net and 1 net chord dribbler (with Gerulaitis at net)

Gerulaitis had 10 from serve-volley points
- 4 first volleys (2 FHV, 2 BHV)... 1 BHV was misjudged and left by McEnroe
- 4 second volleys (2 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)
- 2 third volleys (1 FHV, 1 OH)

- 1 from a return-approach point, a FHV

- FHs (both passes) - 1 cc and 1 running-down-drop-shot dtl at net
- BHs (all passes) - 1 cc, 2 dtl (1 return) and 1 inside-in return

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
McEnroe 37
- 10 Unforced (4 FH, 6 BHV)... with 1 FH pass
- 27 Forced (11 FH, 10 BH, 1 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 BHOH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 52

Gerulaitis 39
- 11 Unforced (1 BH, 5 FHV, 4 BHV, 1 OH)
- 28 Forced (11 FH, 10 BH, 1 FHV, 4 BHV, 2 BH1/2V)... with 1 FH at net, 2 FH running-down-drop-volleys at net & 1 BH running-down-drop-volley at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 51.8

(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...
- 61/81 (75%) at net, including...
- 54/69 (78%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 30/42 (72%) off 1st serve and..
- 24/27 (89%) off 2nd serve
- 2/4 (50%) forced back/retreated

Gerulaitis was...
- 56/93 (60%) at net, including...
- 49/82 (60%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 32/47 (68%) off 1st serve and..
- 17/35 (49%) off 2nd serve
- 2/2 return-approaching
- 3/5 (60%) forced back/retreated

Match Report
Tremendous performance from McEnroe in a virtually all-out serve-volley match. He does everything - serve, volley, return and pass - at least a bit better than Gerulaitis, who plays decently but is never in the match. The volleying in particular stands out for the winner, though as happens in Big Game matches, all parts of the game are interconnected

Vitas serves 15 games, and faces break points in 9 of them demonstrates how under the gun he is all match. Mac faces just 3 break points in 3 games by contrast. Both players serve-volley off all first serves, while off seconds, Mac does so 87% of the time (all but 4), Vitas 81% (all but 8 - 1 in first game of match and remaining 7 in the last set)

Serve & Return
Mac has the stronger serve, which allows him to return better but its a return rather than serve based match. Note high return rates of 80% for Mac and 75% for Vitas, despite a quick court.

Mac's serve is more powerful but short of his best in terms of placement. Not many sweeping serves out wide dragging Vitas off court, as Mac tends to at his best. Good, healthy 18% serves directed to body and very low same amount to FH

The quality of Vitas returning is based on consistency. He misses little as 75% return rate indicates. His return tends to leave Mac regulation first volleys (more on that later)

Vitas' serve is neither powerful or well placed and Mac can swing at them freely. Doesn't even get many first serves in (just 51%)

This is some of strongest returning I've seen from McEnroe. Generally, quality of his returns against serve-volleying is based on firm blocks/pushes that yield a low or low-ish first volley. Here, he hammers returns (by his standards). Vitas usually gets above average powerful first volleys around net high, and more low ones than he can give Mac. Also some excellent wide returning - but that's normal for Mac

Note tremendous consistency by both, especially Mac, on the FH return. Both have just 3 errors (1 of Mac's is unforced). Neither players serves much to the FH (Mac 18%, Vitas 29%) but still, excellent from both on the strong wing. Note also 0 FH winners (off BH, Mac has 4, Vitas 2)

In nutshell, Mac serving stronger and at higher percentage (59% to 51%) and returning strongly as well as very consistently while Vitas is consistent but not too challenging with the second shot


Hall of Fame
Play - Volley & Pass
Superb volleying from McEnroe and its the key difference in the match. High volleys are putaway (with Vitas' high return rate, there's a fair few), regulation volleys are put in corners and low volleys (including 1/2volleys) are put back in play with regularly without leaving easy passes

Since the bulk of volleys he gets are regulation ones, its the volleying into corners stuff that's most important. Vitas scarcely gets a shot at a stationary pass... everything has to be made on the run. That on top of the small matter of 23 volley/OH winners that are an extension of highly aggressive volleying

Alongside the aggression behind the shot, he doesn't miss much either. Just 6 UEs (Vitas has 10) and he makes most of the tough volleys he's faced with while being forced into 6 errors

Mac moves to take FHV whenever he can. Its justified. He misses just 1 FHV all match (a FE) but 10 BHVs (6 of them unforced)

On the pass, Vitas runs with great enthusiasm (and has to). His ability to reach balls is very good. Not much shot at making the pass though, and he rarely can... all credit to Mac on the volley, very little chance for Vitas on the pass. We'd say he passed magnificently if he'd been able to pull of a few, not criticize him for hardly making any

Note Mac's unusally high success on 2nd serve-volley, where he wins 89% of points - by far the highest off the 4 serves on show. He can 'only' manage 72% off 1st serves

Vitas faces more powerful returns and higher proportion reaching him low. He's very good at handling the tough ones. With 7 forecourt FEs to Mac's 6 while facing more such balls, you could even say he handles them better than Mac does. This isn't necessarily true because Mac tends to place wide or drop tough volleys to leave himself in control of points, while Vitas low volleying leaves Mac with good shots on the pass. He also retreats a few times after making a first 1/2volley

Pretty sure on the regulation volley from Vitas too. He has 9 UEs (minus an OH) to Mac's 6 but is at net 12 more times and facing more powerful regulation volleys. Of consistency than, there's hardly anything in it between the two players

The key difference is in aggression of volleys and Vitas' is at least a category below the winners. He volleys away from Mac, but not into corners or too deep or punched through thoroughly the way Mac does. Not only does he trail volley winners 23-11 but his volleys leave Mac reasonable passing chances, unlike the reverse

To be clear, Vitas volleys well enough that odds would be highly in favour of drawing passing errors rather than getting passed.... it suffers by comparison to Mac's extraordinary showing. The greater damaging quotient of Mac's net play extends to the OH. He doesn't miss OHs or eases them down as Vitas tends to

Mac does well on the pass too. Strong ones draw 'defensive' volleys that he can line up and whack and some good ones on the move too. He gets enough counter-play on passes to regularly threaten, despite Vitas solid showing

Note great similarity in errors and their breakdown.
- UEs - Mac 10, Vitas 11
- FEs - Mac 27, Vitas 28.... with identical number on FH, BH, FHV and BHV

Match Progression
Vitas faces break points in 5/6 serve games in set 1. He's broken early to go down 1-2 with Mac wrapping up with a pair of passing winners (BH lob and FH dtl) and is always playing catch up after that. Serving for set, Mac's broken back - with a FH UE on a point both players were forced back from net on and a regulation BHV miss, sandwiched between a coupe of Vitas winners (FH cc pass and a FHV from a chip-charge return)

Terrible game from Vitas right after though where he double faults twice in a row and down break point, misses an OH. And this time, Mac serves it out to love

For rest of match, Mac cruises through service games, only being taken to deuce twice and facing break point in the last game of the match, while continuing to press Vitas on return

More competitive play in the second set. Vitas' returning goes up a notch and he gives Mac a number of low volleys. Only Mac seems to make them all. Mac gives Vitas more, and Vitas does the same. Few high returns from Vitas that Mac can swat away while Vitas gets nothing easier than regulation volleys that he places away from Mac

Brilliant, BH inside-out pass from Mac to seal first break. And he breaks a second time to end the set with a BH dtl pass from mid-court after drawing a weak volley with the return. Earlier in the game, Vitas missed consecutive routine volleys

Vitas goes down 0-3 to start the third, the break coming to 15 (2 double fault, a third ball FH FE from a pounding return and a BH inside-out return pass winner). He endures other difficult holds through the set but manages to hold. Near the very end, Mac appears a bit tired and is noticably breathing through his mouth. He was in similar situation in his straight set semi with Jimmy Connors.... there's probably a fitness issue there, and he eases up on running after passes a bit too

Summing up, superb match from McEnroe who volleys particularly well and damagingly, amidst doing everything quite well. Vitas plays the same style and is at least a bit worse in every area (serve, return, volley and pass) but he too volleys well. That its made to look banal next to the winners showing is at the core of the match

Stats for the semi between McEnroe and Jimmy Connors -
Stats for pair's '83 Forest Hills final on green clay -
Mac says that Denis Shapovalov reminds him of his own youthful game. See it in this match with big cut groundstrokes and the way his feet athletically grip the court. One reason the quality of play is so high is that they had played so often at Port Washington. Mac had lots of mini-chokes in this match but was able to brush them aside.