Match Stats/Report - McEnroe vs Lendl, Philadelphia Indoors final, 1983


Hall of Fame
John McEnroe beat Ivan Lendl 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-3 in the Philadelphia final, 1983 on carpet

McEnroe was the defending champion and he would go onto win the next 2 editions of the tournament as well, beating Lendl in the '84 final again. Lendl had won a record 66 straight matches indoors coming into the match
Lendl had won the pair's last 7 matches and 19/20 sets, stretching back to French Open 1981. Including this match, McEnroe would win 8 of their next 9 meetings

McEnroe won 143 points, Lendl 130

McEnroe serve-volleyed off all first serves, most seconds and return-approached off all but 1 second serve

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (67/127) 53%
- 1st serve points won (51/67) 76%
- 2nd serve points won (35/60) 58%
- Aces 10 (3 second serves), Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 7
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (49/127) 39%

- 1st serve percentage (83/146) 57%
- 1st serve points won (61/83) 73%
- 2nd serve points won (28/63) 44%
- Aces 7 (1 not clean), Service Winners 6
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (44/146) 30%

Serve Patterns
McEnroe served...
- to FH 34%
- to BH 54%
- to Body 12%

Lendl served...
- to FH 30%
- to BH 67%
- to Body 3%

Return Stats
McEnroe made...
- 97 (29 FH, 68 BH), including 1 runaround FH & 46 return-approaches
- 2 Winners (1 FH, 1 BH), including a would-be return approach
- 31 Errors, comprising...
- 10 Unforced (3 FH, 7 BH), including 1 runaround FH & 9 return-approach attempts
- 21 Forced (7 FH, 14 BH), including 1 return-approach attempt
- Return Rate (97/141) 69%

Lendl made...
- 71 (27 FH, 44 BH), including 3 runaround FHs
- 6 Winners (1 FH, 5 BH), including 1 runaround FH
- 38 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (2 BH)
- 36 Forced (16 FH, 20 BH)
- Return Rate (71/120) 59%

Break Points
McEnroe 4/12 (8 games)
Lendl 2/6 (4 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
McEnroe 41 (2 FH, 3 BH, 13 FHV, 2 FH1/2V, 17 BHV, 4 OH)
Lendl 35 (13 FH, 16 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV, 3 OH)

McEnroe had 22 from serve-volley points
- 12 first 'volleys' (4 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 7 BHV)… 1 BHV was a net chord dribbler
- 9 second volleys (4 FHV, 3 BHV, 2 OH)
- 1 fourth volley (1 FHV)

- 9 from return-approach points (3 FHV, 5 BHV, 1 OH)

- 1 other BHV was a net chord dribbler

- FHs - 1 dtl and 1 inside-in return
- BHs - 3 dtl (1 return, 2 passes)

Lendl's FH passes - 6 cc (1 runaround return), 1 dtl and 1 inside-out
- regular FHs - 5 cc (2 at net)
- BHs (all passes) - 6 cc (2 returns, 1 running-down-drop-shot at net - that was also a net chord pop over), 6 dtl, 3 inside-in returns and 1 lob

- 2 from serve-volley points - a second volley FHV and a third volley OH from behind the service line

- the BHV was a swinging shot from well behind service line and not a net point
- 1 other OH on the bounce behind service line but has been counted a net point

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
McEnroe 44
- 17 Unforced (1 FH, 7 BH, 6 FHV, 3 BHV)… including 1 FH at net
- 27 Forced (6 FH, 7 BH, 6 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 6 BHV, 1 BHOH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.6

Lendl 48
- 12 Unforced (5 FH, 4 BH, 2 BHV, 1 OH)
- 36 Forced (14 FH, 20 BH, 2 FHV)… including 1 BH running-down-net-chord-dribbler at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 48.3

(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...
- 106/155 (68%) at net, including...
- 65/91 (71%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 43/59 (73%) off 1st serve and...
- 22/32 (69%) off 2nd serve
- 29/46 (63%) return-approaching
- 0/2 forced back/retreated

Lendl was...
- 18/27 (67%) at net, including...
- 3/3 (100%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 2/2 off 1st serve and...
- 1/1 off second serve

Match Report
A high quality, if very 'pattern-ized' match, but for a drop in Lendl's level in the last set (seemingly somewhat mental of nature). Two inter-connected keys to the match: Strength of second serve and McEnroe's chip-charge returning is the key to the match -

Play is very easy to describe -
a) McEnroe first serves... always serve-volley. Lendl belts returns, some with overwhelming power, many misses and Mac otherwise volleying winner or to Lendl's BH
b) Mac's second serve.... mostly serve-volley, or come in early - and as a)
c) Lendl's first serve... huge, often unreturned or weakly returned. Lendl pounces on third ball with big groundstroke, almost always FH
d) Lendl's second serve... Mac chip-charge returns and as a)

The Court
Looks fast-ish to my eye, but commentators claim its somewhat slow for indoors

On a general note, unless otherwise stated, the frame of reference I use when eyeballing court speed is based on the potential for forcing points to an end baseline-to-baseline. Sometimes commentators have a different frame of reference - for example, they claimed a carpet match between Boris Becker and Pete Sampras was slow and noted that returns were being made, as a frame of reference

Not sure what they're referencing in this case. Surface looks faster than the Masters matches between the two, and the unreturned serve rates are higher than those matches. Those Masters courts aren't particularly fast, but I'd think would be a good anchor point for pace of carpet in general, as the pre-eminent indoor tournament of the year

It is slow compared to the '81 Philly court where Jimmy Connors beat McEnroe. I would call that court "lightning fast" (Connors' serve looked almost unreturnable on it). If one were to call that simply "fast", I suppose this '83 court being "not fast" is consistent

McEnroe - Strategy & Play
McEnroe's strategy is simple: Come to net as often and as early as possible

He chip-charge returns all but 1 Lendl second serve in the match. The one exception is an error, and its likely he would have tried coming in off that too, but it isn't an obvious return-approach attempt
Serve-volleys 100% off first serves (normal enough) and 64% off second

To win the match, he needs to volley well - and he does

The first serve is placed conservatively - probably by design. Lot of balls within Lendl's reach and not much stretching and jumping needed to deal with. He approaches the same way in rallies - down the middle of the court, minimizing the angle for Lendl to make a pass through - which suggests the placement was deliberate

Second serve is strong, and the main difference between the two players. Note the 3 second serve aces. Don't think anybody could chip-charge all of them, the way Mac does to Lendl's

Only in first set is the finishing touch on the volley not great. He fails to kill a number of balls that were there to be finished... thus giving Lendl a second or third shot at a pass. Thereafter, he's excellent in the forecourt, and against some very heavy hitting

Serve-volleying, chip-charging or rallying to net, most points end 1-2 strokes. A Lendl passing winner or error against the approach shot or a Mac first volley winner or error

Especially early on, Lendl blasts his returns and passes. There's no subtlety to it, just brute power. Given how well McEnroe volleyed, 14 volleying FEs to 10 UEs is a good indicator of the power of Lendl's passing. Even comfortable volleys above the net are relatively difficult because they're hit hard and rush Mac for time

Mac almost always approaches to Lendl's BH, except in the last set. More so than Lendl's FE distribution (14 FH, 20 BH) would indicate

From baseline, Mac's at Lendl's mercy. He hits feeble groundstrokes, while Lendl hammers the ball... and usually, Lendl has a head start as they're mostly his first serve points
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Hall of Fame
Lendl - Strategy & Play
Serve big. Destroy Mac from the baseline quickly.... and rest is reacting to whatever Mac does

Which turns out to mean hitting lots of passing shots, and returning against serve-volleying

As powerfully and well as Lendl returns and passes, I think he errs in his basic strategy on the shots, which seems to be everything-must-be-a-one-shot deal

Of serve-volley, Mac has 10 volley winners excluding first volleys (I'd estimate 6-7 of the 9 return-approach winners were also first volleys), Lendl has 34 groundstroke FEs (near enough all passing attempts)

That's not good enough to win the match, especially against chip-charge returns. Well as he volleyed, Mac does have 10 forecourt UEs... it was worth testing him more on the volley than going for overly ambitious passes all the time

This is a common feature of Lendl's passing. He goes for haymakers all the time... when it comes off, its perfect and when it doesn't, he loses the point via a forced error, for which one tends to excuse him. The percentages, as far as making the pass vs missing it tends to get lost in the wash. Here, its not good enough

There's an element of this to his groundstrokes too. He goes for huge shots early in baseline rallies, usually making them to end points, but occasionally missing too. Note his leading UEFI 48.3 to 47.6, despite 10/17 of Mac's errors being net shots to 3/12 for Lendl

Mac's chip-charges aren't particularly good ones. A big chunk of them are just lifted over, leaving Lendl a good shot on the pass, as he isn't rushed or out of place when lining them up. Fair few short ones too... and he doesn't do it well enough

Doing it well enough is bloody hard because Mac covers the net with thoroughness. Quite likely, putting more passes in play would just lead to more Mac volleying winners. Win or lose, I think Lendl's best bet was to have more Mac volley winners and fewer passing errors

Contrast Lendl's passing philosophy with Mats Wilander, who puts more in play but not as aggressively. Occasionally, it leads to a flurry of winners against him but more often, he can hit passes that draw relatively defensive volleys that he can take a better crack at the pass against. Lendl doesn't seem to have this at all... just goes for it, and its a winner or he misses. And here, he misses too often

Another possibility for Lendl is to keep Mac from approaching so much and here's where quality of second serves come in. He just doesn't have a good enough one to dissuade Mac from chip-charging. Same thing happened in the '81 Masters final against Vitas Gerulaitis

He serve-volleys off second serve once, and forces return error. Mac was returning to Lendl's BH virtually every time, but on this point, tries to steer ball inside-in away from the serve-volleyer. And he misses the return. And with most of Mac's chip-charge returns being airy rather than knife like... serve-volleying seems a good option against it. Lendl doesn't try... he doesn't seem to like coming forward much in general. Lots of chances for him to do on his first serve points that he lets by too, even though he usually wins up front. Even more than Mac, he comes in to his opponents BH

After the match, Lendl ascribes the loss to not serving well. When asked if Mac's approaching bothered him, he says yes, but he wouldn't have been able to approach so much if Lendl had served better

Lendl doesn't seem the type to be overly honest about strategic matters (in other words, he's smart that way) and maybe he's just saying whatever he wants when put on the spot, but I don't see any merit in his assessment. He served at 57% while serving huge first serves... don't think you could ask for much more serving that big. And he just doesn't have strong enough second serve to keep Mac away from net

His choice of almost always directing second serves to Mac's BH is also questionable. While Mac can and does chip-charge off both sides, the FH charge is just a little push without underspin and one imagines, would leave an easier pass. No question of Mac 'rip'-charging off FH... he doesn't do it a once off either wing, or try. Very least, if Mac's going to come in off both sides, better for him not to know where the serve is going

He also doesn't go for any big second serves, which again, is just like the Gerulaitis match. With Mac approaching so predictably and winning so much (Lendl won 44% second serve points), worth giving him a few near first serve powerful second serves and sow some doubt

Match Progression
All of the match follows the same dynamic as outlined at the start, with fluctuations of in serve percentage and how well Lendl passes and returns in particular (to a much lesser extent, how well Mac volleys). In that sense, the match seems to be on Lendl's racquet, despite Mac being the proactive player

First set, Lendl's whacking returns and passes hard as can. Mac's missing makeable, rarely as far as 'easy' volleys and not putting away a few that are there to be putaway. Game 3 is one of the best you'll see. Mac saves 2 break points and holds after 12 points - and there are 10 winners, 6 from Mac (including a pass), 4 from Lendl. Very difficult 1st 'volley' FH1/2V is the pick of them, but Lendl's thundering returns and passes is the sort of barrage that looks likely to eventually blast through

Mac though has a couple break points of his own next game. Missing a high BHV by a long way is the standout point as Lendl holds. And then breaks - couple of strong passes (1 winner), couple of Mac errors (1 double fault, 1 missed volley) in it

Lendl doesn't have it easy to hold onto the break. He's pushed to deuce later and has to ace away another break point, before finishing up with a pair of BH dtl passes - the second enabled by a not good volley to a high ball

Mac breaks to love early in the second, 4 second serve points, 4 chip-charges. He has chances to make it 2 breaks in a great 16 point game later. A perfect stop FHV by Mac and double fault later, he has break point. Lendl is superb at net on the point - first making a very low volley and then a stretch one for the winner. Down break point again and with a second serve, Lendl serve-volleys, knowing Mac will be chip-charging. It works... but that's the only time he tries the play all match

Horror game from Mac to be broken as he served for the set. 2 double faults, a routine BHV missed and a baseline error in short rally - and match is back on serve

Tiebreak is made and broken by Lendl. Up 3-1, first he misses an attacking third ball BH and follows up by not putting away an OH, allowing Mac to make the pass. He also strikes two stunning winners and misses 2 makeable passes (which we'd call stunning if he made them)… the ups and downs of the game he's playing. At 7-7, Mac fends a first serve return back, loopily to the baseline and Lendl misses BH. He thought the ball was out. Mac is all smiles about it. He'd thought Lendl's service winner the ball before was out too

Set 3 is where match bends Mac's way and Lendl is challenged on serve throughout it. The chip-charges are beginning to take a toll and 3 his first 4 games go to deuce. Big and timely first serves get him out of jams. Mac seems wholly helpless in returning them. And when he does, he can only do so gently and Lendl wades into the third ball. Against run of play, its Lendl who has 2 break points at tail end of set, but misses a makeable return on the first before being service winner'd on the second.

Both Lendl's returning and passing take a dip in this set. He's missing a lot of FH returns that he doesn't have to reach for

Couple of poor shots by Lendl to get broken, at critical one being missing an easy BHV to open court.

Set 4 is the only one of the match where a player demonstrates clear superiority. Mac holds serve easily and volleys surely, Lendl's level dropping is probably a bigger factor. He starts missing more and more returns of he same quality as those he'd returned fairly consistently earlier. With confidence up, Mac takes to volleying to FH as well as BH... and Lendl's passing is down to. Same kind of big swings of he BH, but misses them and can't get much done off FH passes either. He's broken to love again, where he had 2 good looks at passes. He starts half-assing his play after that

Down 3-5, and serving to stay in match, Lendl almost tanks the game. 2 return winners from Mac, neither of which Lendl attempts to run down though both are there for it. Down match point, he plays a couldn't-care-less point that ends with a wild, swinging BHV from well behind the service line - but it goes for a winner. Mac takes the extension to add one last beautiful shot - a FH1/2V winner before Lendl misses a pass on Mac's third match point

Given he was on a 66 indoor winning and 7 against Mac winning streaks... the capitulation near the end by Lendl is disappointing. Apparently not uncommon for him in these early days of his career - he pulled similar stunts a French Open '82 and Australian Open '83

Summing up, all out net charging assault from McEnroe with his ability to approach against the Lendl second serve being key difference in play, along with characteristic precision volleying. Lendl passively accepts having to hit passing shots all match - which he does with a one-shot-to-end-point brutality - that he eventually can't sustain

Stats for the pairs '82, '83 and '84 Masters finals -