Match Stats/Report - McEnroe vs Lendl, WCT Finals semi-final, 1989


Hall of Fame
John McEnroe beat Ivan Lendl 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-5 in the WCT Finals semi-final, 1989 on carpet in Dallas, USA

McEnroe would go onto beat Brad Gilbert to win his record extending 5th title at the event, which was in its final year. He and Lendl had previously contested the finals in '82 (Lendl won) and '83 (McEnroe won) at the event. This result would turn out to be McEnroe's last official win over Lendl. His last had come in Fall 1985, after which, Lendl won 10/11 matches - the exception being this match and with 1 match abandoned

McEnroe won 155 points, Lendl 154
(Lendl incurred a game penalty while down A-40 and McEnroe's total includes a point penalty )

McEnroe serve-volleyed off all but 1 first serve and most seconds

(Note: I'm missing 4 Lendl service points - he won 3, lost 1
Missing points - Set 2, Game 9, Points 1-4)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (98/170) 58%
- 1st serve points won (71/98) 72%
- 2nd serve points won (37/72) 44%
- Aces 10, Service Winners 3
- Double Faults 9
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (61/170) 36%

- 1st serve percentage (67/134) 50%
- 1st serve points won (48/67) 72%
- 2nd serve points won (41/67) 62%
- Unknown serve points won (3/4) 75%
- Aces 8 (3 second serves)
- Double Faults 5
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (35/134) 26%

Serve Patterns
McEnroe served...
- to FH 20%
- to BH 53%
- to Body 26%

Lendl served...
- to FH 42%
- to BH 56%
- to Body 2%

Return Stats
McEnroe made...
- 94 (34 FH, 60 BH), including 21 return-approaches
- 3 Winners (1 FH, 2 BH)
- 27 Errors, comprising...
- 12 Unforced (6 FH, 6 BH), including 1 return-approach attempt
- 15 Forced (9 FH, 6 BH), including 1 return-approach attempt
- Return Rate (94/129) 73%

Lendl made...
- 100 (22 FH, 78 BH), including 1 runaround FH & 1 lob-return
- 18 Winners (10 FH, 8 BH)
- 48 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (1 FH, 1 BH)
- 46 Forced (15 FH, 31 BH)
- Return Rate (100/161) 62%

Break Points
McEnroe 4/8 (5 games)
Lendl 1/16 (9 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
McEnroe 36 (5 FH, 2 BH, 16 FHV, 6 BHV, 7 OH)
Lendl 52 (21 FH, 18 BH, 8 FHV, 1 BHV, 3 OH, 1 BHOH)

McEnroe had 21 from serve-volley points
- 14 first 'volleys' (6 FHV, 4 BHV, 3 OH, 1 FH at net)
- 7 second volleys (4 FHV, 2 BHV, 1 OH)

- 5 from return-approach points (4 FHV, 1 OH)

- FHs - 1 cc pass, 2 dtl (1 pass) and 1 inside-in return
- BHs (both returns) - 1 cc and 1 inside-in

Lendl had 31 passes - 16 returns (9 FH, 7 BH) and 15 regular (8 FH, 7 BH)
- FH returns - 4 dtl (left by McEnroe), 3 inside-out and 2 inside-in
- BH returns - 3 dtl, 1 inside-out and 3 inside-in
- regular FHs - 3 cc, 1 running-down-drop-volley cc at net, 2 dtl, 1 inside-in/cc and 1 longline at net (which hit and knocked down McEnroe)
- regular BHs - 4 cc, 2 dtl and 1 inside-out

- regular FHs (non-passes) - 1 cc, 1 dtl return, 1 dtl/inside-out and 1 inside-in
- regular BHs - 1 cc, 1 dtl and 2 net chord dribblers (1 return)

- 2 from serve-volley points - 2 first volley FHVs
- 1 other FHV was a non-net swinging shot and 1 was played net-to-net

- 2 OH on the bounce (1 not a net point)

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
McEnroe 55
- 34 Unforced (7 FH, 11 BH, 8 FHV, 8 BHV)
- 21 Forced (9 FH, 6 BH, 2 FHV, 3 BHV, 1 BH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 49.1

Lendl 53
- 18 Unforced (11 FH, 3 BH, 1 BHV, 1 OH, 1 Point Penalty, 1 Game Penalty)… with 1 FH pass
- 35 Forced (13 FH, 21 BH, 1 BHV)… with 1 FH running-down-drop-shot at net & 3 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 51.3

(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)

(Note 3: The 2 penalty UEs have been excluded from Lendl's UEFI)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
McEnroe was...
- 109/168 (65%) at net, including...
- 85/130 (65%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 58/85 (68%) off 1st serve and...
- 27/45 (60%) off 2nd serve
- 12/21 (57%) return-approaching
- 1/6 (17%) forced back/retreated

Lendl was...
- 25/35 (71%) at net, including...
- 3/5 (60%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
- 1/1 forced back

Match Report
Good match on a fast court where McEnroe hangs in and somehow holds off Lendl to win. Strategy is more interesting (and complicated) than action is good and though Lendl is the better player on the whole, I would credit McEnroe more for the result than discredit the loser. Mac does need fortune on his side in all the many 50-50 critical points to somehow fall his way

Note equal points won (discounting a Lendl point penalty) despite Mac winning 6 more games (the game penalty Lendl incurs is effectively just 1 point) and serving 36 more points. Also Lendl's 1/16 on break points from 9 games, compared to Mac's 4/8 from 5 games. Second serve points won - Lendl 62%, Mac 44%

I think its fair to say Lendl was the better player and put the result down to Mac playing the bigger points better. And he's regularly up against it all match, but at the last hurdle, Lendl can't quite deliver. Mac does play these points well - as in, doesn't make errors - but they tend to be the same types of points that Lendl was winning a good percentage of the time. But on break points and in the tiebreak... Lendl tends to miss the return or pass that couple of points earlier he'd made with authority. Just law of averages would predict a few more would go his way... but they don't.

Its one of those days when chance seems to always fall on one players side. Mac plays well, but not outstandingly or 'clutch' at critical times. Lendl doesn't play badly and not 'choke' at the same. Just things fall Mac's way seemingly every time

Other points of interest are Lendl winning 71% net points. And about half the small number he doesn't win are forced approaches. Particular keys to the match are Lendl's returning and passing not being good enough on important points

Lendl matches tend to be complicated of strategy more than most players' because he has so many options. For Mac, getting to net is a must - no need to anagonize over how to approach the match. What of Lendl? Though Mac is the more proactive player, he's also more predictable. Thus, the shape of play is in Lendl's hands

Lendl - Prospects, Choices & Execution
Lendl can serve huge or hold back a bit. If he serves huge, he'll get a lot of unreturned serves but have a lower percentage... and Mac's likely to attack second serves

In the event, he keeps a foot in both camps and holds back on first serves but serves big second serves. one would be hard pressed to tell the difference between his two serve... 1st serves not nearly as powerful as he's capable (I doubt McEnroe could get return consistently against Lendl's full-on first serve), second serves well up from his norm and would make a reasonable first serve

Of result, Mac's able to return first serves reasonably consistently. But not with much authority. He's floating and even moonballing returns back. And subsequently not finding returning second serves easy, let alone attacking them

Note Lendl's aces. 8 isn't a high number for this court, indicating he held back. 3 is a very high number of second serves - indicating both that it was exceptionally strong and by comparison, the first serve wasn't
For all that, Lendl still can't dish out a particularly high first in count, which lies at just 50%. If your going to serve that low, may as well go all in with the first serve, but its not abnormal for him to have a much lower count when going for it. And despite the big second serving, just 5 double faults

Lendl on his service games can come to net regularly, play consistent baseline game, beat down baseline game or attacking baseline game. And would know he'd have to do some passing

But for the last set, he doesn't come to net much. The way McEnroe returned, it was well worth serve-volleying more to dispatch a few floating or moonball-ish returns, but he doesn't look to. Just waits for ball to drop near the baseline and hit a FH, not particularly aggresively

His ground game is firm and consistent mostly, somewhere between outlasting and beat down play. Its good enough. He holds serve easily most of the match... and while Mac doesn't disgrace himself (as in, he keeps rallies going for awhile before yielding errors), its clear Lendl will win most points playing so from the baseline

At different points in the match though, Lendl seems to get rattled or frustrated/angry and he's apt to start playing unduly aggressively at such times. Look at his UEFI of 51.3.... that's a humongous figure with 88% (14/16) of his errors being groundstrokes. Mac's score is 49.1 with 53% being groundstrokes by contrast. Lendl has 9 winner attempt errors - 7 of them groundstrokes - but just 6 regular baseline-to-baseline winners. Just bad, overaggressive shot choices from him, when more moderate play was getting the job done admirably

On return, Lendl can go hard at the ball (miss more but be more damaging) or go softer (make more but be less damaging). For first option, he runs risk of missing too many returns. For second, he leaves himself somewhat in Mac's hands


Hall of Fame
In the event, he goes somewhere in between, a bit closer to option A. And it largely works. Mac isn't at his best on the volley. Note the large 16 volleying UEs... these are typically not-easy, the kinds of balls a top of his game Mac would dispatch, but he's not up to it in this match. The ones' he makes still leave Lendl challenging running passes but short of highly improbable ones. And he misses a bundle. Firm but not overpowering returning from Lendl most of the time... he'd want to have a higher return rate when he's playing that way

Matters are different in the last set, when Lendl goes for Option 2 and puts more balls in play hitting less hard. Mac dominates at net, again, while still leaving Lendl chances on the passes. Mac's unreturned rate in 4th set is 10/41 @ 24% as opposed to 51/129 @ 40% for the rest of the match... the latter figure is just too high for less-than-overwhelming of power returning

One of Lendl's big problems on the return are against body serves. Mac directs a full 26% to Lendl's body - and they're good, powerful serves too. Still, plenty of scope to cope better than Lendl does. He doesn't move much and often fends balls back, occasionally muscling it away

Like other matches from this period and unlike earlier ones, Lendl seems to prefer returning with the BH. Not much effort to FH return body serves. Look at the numbers on return. He's hit 10 FH winners from 22 made, while on the BH, its 8 winners out of 78

McEnroe's Play
Choices and prospects for McEnroe are much simpler: he needs to find the net. On serve, he does that serve-volleying. On return, the sooner he gets up front the better... he's no match for Lendl from the back

Mac serves well. The wide first serves aren't too wide and Lendl seems to read them but conditions and the shot are fast enough to still make returning a handful. His second serve is particularly strong, though less than Lendl's. and he pays the price for it with 9 double faults

Though having some trouble on the volley, his instincts are virtually perfect. This is best seen in his return-approaches, on which he's 12/21 (and 2 errors trying). Many are against first serves that he's returned wide and takes the chance to rush in behind and others are more orthodox pick-ups and chip-charges

The strength of Lendl's second serve makes return-approaching very risky. But the prospect of trading groundstrokes with Ivan is even worse. Mac could be forgiven for making a mad dash to get to net off returns - the way he did to detriment against Mats Wilander at French Open '85 - but he doesn't. He picks and chooses his approaches, and they're difficult shots to make. Make them he does - almost every time. Winning 57% return-approach points while Lendl wins 62% second serve points is testament to how well he does

He doesn't do badly rallying from the back either, keeping rallies going for decent time before yielding errors. This might have a small hand in Lendl being overaggressive in his shot choices - though the blackmark for that goes on Lendl

With Lendl's returning being a bit off, Mac wins most serve-volley points via unreturned serves. His volley isn't tested all that much. In fourth set when Lendl returns with more consistency, Mac volleys well by a normal standard, though down from his own. Balls are placed away from Lendl without quite going to corners. Even then there are lapses. He falls 0-40 in a game missing 3 regulation first volleys - and needs Lendl muffing an OH to keep from being broken

A facet of this match that stands out from the pair's other matches is the relatively small number of difficult volleys Mac is faced with. He has just 6 FEs (and 16 UEs)… that's mostly due to Lendl not presenting him with too many tough passes more than Mac making lots of difficult volleys. He does make a good chunk - and typically, makes them look easy - but well down from what he's usually faced with against Lendl

In a nutshell, Mac's volleying is bit down from norm, but Lendl's returning and passing is more so

Match Progression
No breaks in the first set, though Lendl is comfortably the more threatening on return. He hits some terrific returns and passes, has break points in 3 games and takes Mac to deuce in 1 other. Can't make the return on 3/4 break points - including a strong second serve Mac stayed back on that's been marked FE - and the other break point is first volleyed away for a winner

Mac's only break point is in a 12 point game where Lendl double faults 3 times, but down break point, he comes up with an ace

Tiebreak is outstanding from Lendl. On 1 point, he lobs Mac away from net, who nonetheless successfully retrieves the all with his back to net. Lendl is likewise forced back but swats the ball for an OH on the bounce winner. There's also thumping BH inside-in return winner and a BH cc pass ont eh stretch. Mac meanwhile misses two easy FHVs and a near routine BHV one to give up the set.

Lendl carries on from where he left off in the second and thoroughly commands play. He breaks at once and regularly passes Mac
Mac gains the break back mid-way through the set with Lendl missing attacking FHs, while Mac pinches net twice to gain points. Lendl's plays drops couple of notches from there and he starts missing returns and attacking groundstrokes more regularly

In tiebreak, Lendl is up 5-3 with a serve to follow, still very much in charge. He serve-volleys on the point - something he hadn't done much off, but its a good move given the feeble way Mac was returning. Only on this point, Mac hammers the return back to Lendl's feet, who does well to put the volley in play but leaves Mac a sitting duck pass from about the service line. At 5-5, Lendl hits poor pass that's volleyed away. The point after on his serve, Lendl misses a simple third ball BH to allow Mac to even the match

Lendl appears annoyed and plays without focus in set 3, especially after missing 3 early break points. The game after, Mac breaks to 15 with adventurous return-approaches, but Lendl's pass attempts are feeble. He plays carelessly and casually, especially on the return. He also knocks Mac down flat with a FH longline pass from about the service line... it was the best shot to play, having run in to meet the ball

Mac adds a second break to take the set. This is an awful game from Lendl with a double fault and 3 casual looking third ball errors

Lendl changes tacks in set 4. He returns less powerfully but more surely. While most service points Mac had won to this point were unreturned serves, now he has to work with the volley. Mac does so very well, placing balls well away from Ivan and knocking of the higher balls for winners

Meanwhile, Lendl starts coming to net in his service games and holds very easily. He loses just 1 point in holding 5 times, while pushing Mac to deuce 4 times, having break points in 3 of those games, including a 0-40 situation

He just can't find the right shot on these points. A hissy fit after Mac evens the game in question sees Lendl get a point penalty. Unhappy (probably correctly) about it, he refuses to play til the referee comes down. And is docked a game for the delay (effectively, just 1 point, but it does mean he's one violation away from defaulting the match)

Mac's best game is the last of the match. He makes difficult and daring return-approaches 4 times and comes in on another point from an uncertain position. Lendl misses passes and that's the match

Summing up, McEnroe puts his very best foot forward - serving well, returning and playing from the baseline as well as possible and dealing with the net best he can. Even with all that, his play trails Lendl's on the whole. Mac makes things as difficult for Lendl as possible at crunch times, but even so, the result is more dependent on Lendl faltering just a bit more than anything Mac does. Lendl also gets overly frustrated and plays carelessly at times. He does not find a good balance between hitting heavy and being consistent on the return

Stats for the pair's next match -
Stats for Mac's '85 French semi with Mats Wilander -