Match Stats/Report - Wilander vs Cahill, US Open semi-final, 1988


Hall of Fame
Mats Wilander beat Darren Cahill 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in the US Open semi-final, 1988 on hard court

Wilander would go onto beat defending champion Ivan Lendl in the final, in reversal of the previous years finals. Winning the event gave Wilander his third Slam of the year - the first person to win more than 2 in 14 years, and it would be another 16 before the feat was repeated. This was Cahill's only Slam semi, his next best result being third round appearances

Wilander won 97 points, Cahill 73
Wilander won 100 points, Cahill 77 (estimated - assuming both missing games were love holds, which is unlikely)

Cahill serve-volleyed off overwhelming majority of first serves and frequently off seconds

(Note: I'm missing first 2 games of the match, but for the ending of the last point of the second game. Both players held serve
I've guessed serve type for a couple of points)

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (62/79) 78%
- 1st serve points won (39/62) 63%
- 2nd serve points won (8/17) 47%
- Unknown serve point (1/1)
- Aces 1, Service Winners 1
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (16/80) 20%

- 1st serve percentage (44/90) 49%
- 1st serve points won (27/44) 61%
- 2nd serve points won (14/46) 30%
- Double Faults 7
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (10/90) 11%

Serve Patterns
Wilander served...
- to FH 51%
- to BH 39%
- to Body 10%

Cahill served...
- to FH 14%
- to BH 73%
- to Body 12%

Return Stats
Wilander made...
- 73 (18 FH, 55 BH), including 4 runaround FHs & 1 return-approach
- 2 Winners (2 BH)
- 10 Errors, comprising...
- 1 Unforced (1 FH), a runaround FH
- 9 Forced (1 FH, 8 BH)
- Return Rate (73/83) 88%

Cahill made...
- 62 (38 FH, 23 BH, 1 ??), including 3 runaround FHs & 3 return-approaches
- 1 Winners (1 FH)
- 14 Errors, comprising...
- 8 Unforced (5 FH, 3 BH), including 1 runaround FHs & 1 return-approach attempts
- 6 Forced (2 BH, 4 BH)
- Return Rate (62/78) 79%

Break Points
Wilander 9/18 (10 games)
Cahill 5/13 (5 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Wilander 30 (8 FH, 14 BH, 3 FHV, 3 BHV, 3 OH)
Cahill 30 (5 FH, 3 BH, 7 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 7 BHV, 7 OH)

Wilander's FHs (all passes) - 1 cc, 4 dtl, 2 longline/inside-out and 1 lob
- BHs (all passes) - 8 dtl (1 return), 1 inside-out/dtl, 1 inside-in return and 4 lobs

- 1 BHV was the second volley off a serve-volley point
- 1 OH was on bounce from no-man's land and not a net point

Cahill had 13 from serve-volley points
- 4 first volleys (2 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OH)
- 8 second volleys (3 FHV, 2 BHV, 3 OH)
- 1 third volley (1 FH1/2V)

- FH passes - 2 cc (1 return), 1 cc/inside-in and 1 dtl at net
- regular FH - 1 dtl at net
- BH passes - 1 cc and 1 inside-out/longline
- regular BH - 1 dtl

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Wilander 31
- 4 Unforced (1 FH, 3 BH)
- 27 Forced (12 FH, 13 BH, 1 FHV, 1 FH1/2V)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 42.5

Cahill 44
- 24 Unforced (8 FH, 7 BH, 3 FHV, 5 BHV, 1 OH)… including 4 clear approach errors
- 20 Forced (7 FH, 1 BH, 5 FHV, 5 BHV, 1 BH1/2V, 1 BHOH)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 49.6

(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
Wilander was...
- 19/30 (63%) at net, including...
- 6/8 (75%) serve-volleying, all 1st serves
- 1/1 return-approaching
- 2/4 (50% forced back/retreated

Cahill was...
- 55/101 (54%) at net, including...
- 25/50 (50%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 21/37 (57%) off 1st serve and...
- 4/13 (30%) off 2nd serve
- 1/3 (33%) return-approaching
- 1/4 (25%) forced back/retreated

Match Report
Good match, centering around Cahill rushing net and Wilander passing on a slow-ish hard court. Action is like a clay court match, with 15 breaks of serve in 28 games. Points of interest include Wilander's use of the lob and the way he uses his BH

Cahill's Game
Weak serve + Weak return = Not Good prospects. I'm not surprised Cahill's career record is ordinary (career high ranking 22, next best Slam result third round). But there are two things he does very well in this match - volley and game plan

The serve is distinctly ordinary. 0 aces, 0 service winners, 11% unreturned serve despite serve-volleying regularly. Despite the lack of power and penetration of his serve, he still only gets 49% first serves in. And double faults 7 times to boot. These are horrendous numbers

He's not as bad as the numbers look because Mats' typical high quality and uber-consistent returning has a hand in it. But it would be a stretch to call Cahill's serving as little as 'decent'

The return is likewise ordinary. Mats serves gently all match. Probably less than half a dozen first serves strong enough to warrant marking a return error forced (sans serve-volleying). Even then, Cahill doesn't return too consistently or too damagingly. Note 8 return UEs

FH return in particular is a bit feeble. Often just pushes gentle serves back of that side. Mats knows what he's doing serving the bulk there

His ground game isn't great either. Note 15 groundstroke UEs to Mats' 4. Being outlasted by Mats Wilander to such an extent doesn't necessarily mean a players game is weak - it definitely means its weaker than Mats' but that's true for almost everybody - but in this match, Cahill's groundies are inconsistent to the point of being weak. Rallies don't have to go on long before he yields the error. Couple of times he swings for big shots and wins a couple points doing so. Should have done it more... he had nothing to lose. Baseline-to-baseline is a no contest... but that's not his strategy. His strategy is taking net

Cahill does well to move forward to the extent he does. He's at net 101/171 points the stats cover or 59%. This is by far the best way to play when one is hopelessly outmatched from the back of the court... smart play from Cahill. Wilander is particularly susceptible to so being counter-attacked because while very consistent of shot from the back, his shots aren't heavy enough to discourage coming in such as, say, Ivan Lendl or Bjorn Borg... coming into Mats is relatively easy

He's not in a mad rush to get to net either. When second serve-volleying starts going against him, he stays back and looks to approach early in rallies. In baseline encounters, he waits for a particularly good ball to come in off. Late in the match, he stays back of a few first serves too and comes in early on the ensuing rallies (very successfully - he wins 6/7 first serve points he didn't come in behind)

Against Wilander, I've seen so celebrated a player as John McEnroe err strategically - both in victory in their marathon '82 Davis Cup encounter and in defeat at French Open '85. Henri Leconte didn't quite get it right in the '88 French final either. Whatever limitations there are to Cahill's game, I think strategically, he was perfect

Cahill's volleying is top drawer. He punches them through and puts them corners. Also faced with a lot of not-easy to difficult, low and/or wide volleys - makes most of them, while still placing the ball very well. Does miss a few routine ones (8 volleying UEs)… but excellent volleying from him. Pace of the court is not his friend - and Mats returns and passes superbly (more on that later). You get a sense of how good his volleying is when you see Mats at net not punching balls through or placing the ball to anything near as well as Cahill did
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Hall of Fame
Wilander's Game
Ordinary serving. Doesn't seem to be even trying to get much done with the shot, as 78% first serves in suggests

Superb returning - and it has to be. Cahill covers the net well and volleys even better. Not overly ambitious with the - above average of power, often a little wide of the serve-volleying Cahill, sometimes down low-ish (very rarely down by shoelaces low). And very consistent - 88% returns made at the moderately counter-attacking pace he hits is phenomenal

From the baseline, Wilander primarily slices BHs... I don't think its the best way. He has an obvious humongous consistency advantage, including on the BH... but the top spin BH is just as consistent as the slice. On high bouncing court, the top spin gets up (1 Wilander serve rises slightly above Cahill's head), making groundstrokes awkward... why not test the vulnerable looking Cahill BH with it?

Furthermore, Cahill's main counter is to approach off slice BHs - which he can do quite comfortably against Wilander's slice, but would be a more difficult proposition against the top spin ball. And naturally, the top spin shot is faster than the slice

Whatever the aim of the BH shots - encouraging errors, keeping Cahill back, controlling play, not making errors - top spin BH was probably a better option than the slice given the conditions and the opponent

Mats is also a bit slow to be proactive in his service games. It doesn't cost him because he's constantly breaking or threatening to - he breaks 9/14 games and has break points in one other game - but Cahill coming in on return games hurts Mats. He's broken 5 times himself. His baseline play is not attacking and allows the bold Cahill to come forward

An alternative is for Mats to come forward himself. He's highly successful in forecourt, winning 63% points there, with 0 UEs. The attacking force behind his volleys is average - not quite just plonking ball in court, but closer to it than hitting corners or punching the ball through. Cahill's not too strong on the pass, which helps

Wilander's at his best on the pass and the key to it is the lobbing. He has 5 winners, forces Cahill back 6 times (he re-approaches twice) , forces a BHOH error, and leaves Cahill with a number of tricky OHs (which he's mostly up to making). Beyond damage and troubleshooting value, the regular lobbing keeps Cahill from getting cozy at the front, which is important because he volleys so well

Quick movements from Mats as well. He's often on the run or stretched when hitting his passes. As in other matches, on display is Mats ability to pass in combinations, rather than going for a 1-way-or-the-other point finisher

Match Progression
Starting at 2-2, there are 5 successive breaks. Cahill breaks by coming to net and Mats with passing shots. Terrific battle - some great volleys, some great passes - both in combination and to lesser extent, standalone shots

Mats breaks the run by serving out the set to love. Set point is a fantastic one. Mats serve-volleys and hits a mediocre first volley, that Cahill adroitly lobs. Mats runs back to retrieve it as Cahill approaches, which he does with a defensive lob that forces Cahill back too. Cahill OHs that from back of court, comes in again and hits an excellent volley into the corner, which Mats again, defensively lobs. Cahill makes the awkward, back-pedalling OH... but Mats is able to run it down and punch it FH cc for the passing winner

Players trade breaks to start the second set too. Beautiful third 'volley' FH1/2V winner from Cahill in game 3. After surviving 2 break points to hold - having saved the second with a strong wide pass of his own - Cahill goes up a break when takes net on 6/8 points. Mats is finally broken missing FH1/2V as he serve-volleys

Its the last game he wins in the set though. Mats breaks back immediately in the 1 of the duller break games of the match - 4 of Cahill's 10 unreturned serves come in, Mats forces a couple volleying errors, Cahill misses a routine volley and at third ball FH winner attempt... and game ends ignominiously with 2 double faults

In third set, Cahill stops habitually coming in behind first serves. First 3 games are all break. The second game is quite a tussle - it lasts 8 points, the serving Wilander is at net on 5 of them while Cahill comes in on 6
Game 3 is the best of the match, as Mat breaks to 15 with 4 brilliant winners - a BH lob after a short exchange of volleys vs passes, a running FH dtl pass, another FH dtl pass on the stretch and finally, a deft BH inside-in return pass of a tight body serve

Cahill's broken again later in probably the worst game of the match. Pair of FH errors and a double fault on break point, though Mats does open the game with a combination of shots ending with a FH lonling, slightly inside-out passing winner

With Mats serving for the match, Cahill takes net first two points. First he's lobbed, next point he's passes BH inside-out/dtl. Mats finishes the match with a serve-volley winner

Summing up, great job by Cahill of playing to his strengths and his volleying his first class. Wilander's passing though is the same - with the lobbing giving him something extra on top. That, sure returning and a very large consistency of groundstrokes advantage putting Mats comfortably over
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