Match Stats/Report - Wilander vs Curren, Australian Open final, 1984


Hall of Fame
Mats Wilander beat Kevin Curren 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-2 in the Australian Open final, 1984 on grass

Wilander was the defending champion and this was his second title at the event. He would go on to add a then Open Era record third title in 1988. It was Curren's first Slam final, and he would go onto also reach the title match at the next Wimbledon

Wilander won 166 points, Curren 137

Wilander serve-volleyed off all first serves. Curren serve-volleyed off all serves.

Serve Stats
- 1st serve percentage (114/151) 75%
- 1st serve points won (80/114) 70%
- 2nd serve points won (21/37) 57%
- Aces 5 (1 not clean), Service Winners 2
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (43/151) 28%

- 1st serve percentage (73/152) 48%
- 1st serve points won (57/73) 78%
- 2nd serve points won (30/79) 38%
- Aces 9, Service Winners 5 (1 second serve)
- Double Faults 6
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (38/152) 25%

Serve Patterns
Wilander served...
- to FH 34%
- to BH 34%
- to Body 33%

Curren served....
- to FH 30%
- to BH 57%
- to Body 13%

Return Stats
Wilander made...
- 108 (34 FH, 74 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 2 Winners (2 BH)
- 24 Errors, all forced...
- 24 Forced (8 FH, 16 BH)
- Return Rate (108/146) 74%

Curren made...
- 106 (40 FH, 66 BH), including 2 runaround FHs, 1 runaround BH & 5 return-approaches
- 3 Winners (2 FH, 1 BH)
- 36 Errors, comprising...
- 2 Unforced (2 FH)
- 34 Forced (13 FH, 21 BH)
- Return Rate (106/149) 71%

Break Points
Wilander 6/19 (13 games)
Curren 3/11 (7 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Wilander 47 (16 FH, 8 BH, 3 FHV, 15 BHV, 5 OH)
Curren 43 (12 FH, 9 BH, 15 FHV, 6 BHV, 1 OH)

Wilander had 22 from serve-volley points
- 9 first 'volleys' (8 BHV, 1 FH at net)
- 13 second volleys (3 FHV, 5 BHV, 5 OH)

- FHs (all passes) - 6 cc, 5 dtl, 2 inside-out, 1 longline and 1 lob
- BHs (all passes) - 1 cc return, 4 dtl, 1 inside-out, 1 inside-in return and 1 lob

Curren had 23 from serve-volley points
- 11 first 'volleys' (5 FHV, 4 BHV, 2 FH at net)
- 10 second volleys (8 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 2 third volleys (2 FHV)

- 1 OH was from a return-approach point

- FHs (all passes) - 2 cc, 2 dtl (1 return), 3 inside-out (1 at net), 1 inside-in return, 1 longline and 1 lob
- BHs (all passes) - 4 cc (1 not clean), 2 dtl (1 return), 1 inside-out, 1 inside-out/dtl and 1 lob

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Wilander 54
- 7 Unforced (3 BH, 2 FHV, 2 BHV)
- 47 Forced (8 FH, 26 BH, 7 FHV, 5 BHV, 1 Back to Net)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47.1

Curren 70
- 30 Unforced (4 FH, 5 BH, 10 FHV, 11 BHV)… with 2 BH at net
- 40 Forced (7 FH, 14 BH, 2 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 10 BHV, 5 BH1/2V, 1 Over Shoulder)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 51

(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...
- 83/118 (70%) at net, including...
- 75/109 (69%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 73/107 (68%) off 1st serve and...
- 2/2 off second serve
- 0/1 forced back

Curren was...
- 86/154 (56%) at net, including...
- 73/132 (55%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 44/60 (73%) off 1st serve and...
- 29/72 (40%) off 2nd serve
- 2/5 (40%) return-approaching
- 1/4 (25%) forced back/retreated

Match Report
This match is to net play and serve-volley what closed court ball bashing is to baseline play. Efficient and smart showing from Wilander and though flawed in just about all areas, Curren's never quite out of it, as can happen in 'Big Game' encounters. Though somewhat inelegant a match of style, its one of the most interesting Slam finals of action

Match is almost all man at net vs man on baseline. Curren serve-volleys 100% of the time. Wilander does so off first serves while serving 70% first serves in. Its also close. Curren served for the third set but was broken before it went into tiebreak

Wilander's Service Games
I've never seen a service distribution like Wilander's in this match. In raw numbers, he serves -
- 50 to FH
- 50 to BH
- 49 to Body

Most serves to FH or BH are body-ish serves too. Basically, he serves straight at Curren all match. And with no great power, his serve is average - a good ways down from what he dished out in the final a year later.
Given the nature and type of serving he's up against, Curren doesn't return well. With Wilander serve-volleying, the missed returns get marked forced error... but there's a host of highly makeable returns that Curren doesn't get back in play

Curren doesn't move much to take body or body-ish serves. A step here or there, or not at all for the slower serves. If anything he tends move to make a BH return more than FH, suggesting that that's his preferred side. Gist of the Wilander serve vs Curren return is Wilander serving average and Curren returning below that

When Curren does get return back, the next act is the Wilander volley. and its not much different from the serve. He mostly doesn't look to volley away from Curren for winners or make him run to difficult passes. Basically, he volleys straight at Curren (that's an exaggeration, but essentially true). The exception is the BHV inside-out, which he uses frequently into open court or wrong footingly. Wilander's volleys are above average of depth but not punched through with force. The most praiseworthy part of it is the consistency. Just 4 volleying UEs from Mats (Curren has 23 - more on that later)… he rarely misses balls he shouldn't, which is easier to do with how un-attackingly he places the ball

Act 3 is the Curren pass. And its like his return. Against volleys he doesn't have to move to and that aren't punched through fully, passes are about as makeable as you can possibly expect. He doesn't make them very well. But for the third set, Curren's passing is ordinary. Plenty of makeable passes that he doesn't make

One suspects Wilander knew his man and tailored his serving and volleying strategy for him specifically. Though not a volley-into-corners guy, I've never seen him systematically knock volleys straight at his opponent like this before either. But if he can win points serving and volleying so safely... why not do it? The safety of the shots keeps his errors low as possible (note high first serve in count and low volleying UEs), and its good enough to win him a handsome 70% of net points

Note Wilander with 15 BHV winners to jus 3 FHV. This is his choice... he moves to take BHV as much as can and he's also more willing to volley to open court off that side. Curren doesn't particularly control his passes to volley to either side in particular

Wilander stays back on all but 2 second serves also. He's happy to rally neutrally on those points and doesn't look to come in for most part. Just 3 groundstroke UEs for him (not a single FH), while Curren has 7 is a fair indicator of how the two stack up in consistency off the ground. Curren chip-charges occasionally, but can win just 2/5. When Curren can get to net, he wins the bulk of points though. He's not particularly keyed in on finding a way to net either... which is understandable given the number of volleying mistakes he makes

Curren's groundstrokes, including returns, are characterized by excellent timing, especially the BH. He doesn't have a short swing but he doesn't swing hard at the ball either. Just seems to give it a tap - and it flies off. Whether it lands in or out of the court is a different matter

57% second serve points won by Wilander. Given his large superiority in play... he'd probably expect that to be even higher. A little too lax in allowing Curren to get to net from baseline rallies, and maybe not proactive enough to get there himself. Wilander's 8/9 approaching in rallies. Most of those would have been on his second serve points and he wins both serve-volley points

first serves in 75%, first won 70%, second won 57%... great numbers. It doesn't keep Curren from having break points in 7 games

Given what playing dynamics in match-ups like this often are - big serving holding serve easily, more skilled player working harder to, but more of a threat to break for being more skilled - that looks like living dangerously. Its not that dangerously in this case because...

Curren's Service Games
Curren has the big, fat serve. His biggest are through in blink of an eye. But he keeps missing it. Just 48% in - and he has to take something off - particularly of placement, to a lesser extent power - to get that few. Typically, he misses his biggest serves going for lines and shifts to slightly slower (which still makes it fast) and body-ishly placed first serves

Even these are a handful but at least Wilander has a shot at return. In this light, he doesn't return particularly well. 74% return rate is great against a bomber like Curren on grass... the way he serves though, there was scope to do still more. Curren's relatively low ace count of 9 (+4 first serve service winners) is due to conservative placement, not undue arcrobatic returning or reading of the serve by Mats. He can comfortably get racquet on most first serves and he at least, was capable of putting still more in play (continued...
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Hall of Fame
Most action is Curren's second serves. These are strong for second serves too, and Mats' returning of it is exemplary. Misses very little, doesn't go for too much but in his usual way, gets a good chunk of balls back low (which isn't necessarily ideal, given Curren's curious blend of strong points and weak)

Next act is the Curren volley, which is a very odd mix of good and bad.

a) To start, note 23 forecourt UEs. That's abysmal. He misses routine first volleys all match - standard issue balls about net high, the overwhelming bulk of which are first volleys

b) And yet... he's very consistent in dealing with half-volleys. He has 6 errors on the shot but puts in play about double that number. Invariably defensively, but the number of half-volleys and very low volleys that Curren puts in play is impressive by any standard

Commentators note this and one opines that he's particularly good on the half-volley generally because the power of his serve is such that he can only reach about the service line when returns come back - and thus, gets a lot of practice half-volleying. I've speculated the same thing for Pete Sampras

c) Next, he's good at dispatching volleys when he doesn't miss them. Punches them through and places them away from Wilander. Finds Wilander's BH with them as he pleases (Wilander with 26 BH FEs to 8 FHs). On higher ones, he snaps his wrist on contact and flashes the ball away for winners. It stands out next to Wilander's less adventurous way

d) Finally, he's a bit below par on moderately difficult volleys - low-ish or a bit wide stuff. Note 12 volley FEs... not many are flagrantly forced, many are makeable. The kind very good volleyers make regularly with good placement

Quite an odd combination of good and bad as you can see. Almost all his routine misses are to first volleys, but I don't see that he wasn't properly positioned for them. Same ball, same position off a second volley, he does much better. Bizarre

For Wilander on the pass, its the returns that do most of the work (mostly due to Curren's easy misses). His better returns that stay low usually come back. On the pass in play, I think Wilander errs a bit in going for too much. Generally, he's a master of not doing so and plays passes in combinations, not necessarily looking for a winner with every one. In light of the way Curren was playing, it was worth testing him with an extra volley to make rather than miss going for clean winner

Note Wilander with just 6 BH winners in play to 26 FEs (i.e. passing errors). On FH by contrast, its 16 winners to 8 FEs. The FH figure is incredible, but the BH is disappointing, particularly for him. Not a big deal... a lot of those FEs were strongly forced by well placed volleys that were bound to end the point, but occasionally when he has a good look at a pass, Wilander goes for the winner most of the time. Given how Curren played, firmly hit shots played near the man at net would likely have got him a few points via volleying errors. Or would it? Curren's problems are mostly on first volleys - he handles business at net much better in identical positions at other times

Curren faces break points in 13 games, and does well to keep the number of times he loses serve to just 6. The counter-play he's surprisingly able to get on return playing match-level percentage tennis is largely neutered by this.

In other words, he's not secure on his own service games - the way big servers tend to be on grass - so odd games where he can pull it together on return to threaten a break are unlikely to cut it

Compare how this match plays from Curren's point of view to Boris Becker in particular, and Pete Sampras - 2 of the very best. Lots of sloppy misses on return games, but they need just one good game to win sets so long as they can hold serve regularly (and they almost always can). Its good match play, despite sloppiness over majority of return games

Here, Curren is often sloppy on returns - both with the return and passes - but is able to get a lot of counter-play with random good games. However, he's not even close to being secure on serve... if anything, he's probably lucky not to be broken more often

Wilander's role in all this is doing the needful, attacking as safely as possible and counting on Curren's weaknesses to do the rest. It works

Match Progression
Though break free, the first set is anything but chance free. Wilander faces break points in 2 games and is taken to deuce one other game. Curren faces break points in 3 games

Curren gets his chances by coming to net on Wilander's second serve points. Wilander gets his through some combination of Curren missing routine volleys and good passing shots - more the former. In tiebreak, Wilander races out to a 4-0 lead, having whacked a BH cc return winner and forced a BH1/2V error on his first two return points. Then he double faults - 1 of only 2 he made all match - and it proves to be the turning point. Curren makes his volleys decisively from then on (something that can't be counted on), Wilander misses a difficult but makeable volley. On first set point, Wilander allows Curren to take the net and can't make the pass.

Wilander breaks to love early in the second with 2 great passes and 2 sloppy volley errors. He has break point again next return game on back of consecutive Curren forecourt UEs, but Curren serves them away. Next important game is game 8, where Wilander has to save 3 break points. Good returning and passing from Curren in that one, but Wilander is able to hold with serve-volley plays. No more hiccups in the set

Third set is the best of the match and by far the most eventful. There are 6 breaks - and Curren has to save break points in 2 further games. Quality of play is high, and returners mostly get their chances with strong passing and returning. In Wilander's case, Curren helps with a few volleying UEs, but less than at any other time in the match and less than what Wilander's passing and returns achieve

Though you'd have to say Wilander has the better of play, it feels like Curren's set because his play is so far above than it is in rest of match. Purely of quality between the two, Wilander remains the stronger even in this set. And the most critical game - where Curren being broken as he served for the set - is mostly down to Curren's bad play

Curren breaks to give himself the chance in a 14 point game in which he had 5 passing winners. To put that in perspective, he'd made 4 in the first 2 sets combined (and 1 of those was comparatively easy one at net). Big step up from him

Serving for the set though is a let down. He misses an easy volley and follows up a point later by missing a routine one. Then he fails to putaway an easy volley and goes on to lose the point. Could have done more with the volley down break point too, though credit for that point is more on Wilander, who anticipates (or guesses) which way the volley would go and clinically makes FH dtl passing winner

Wilander holds game 12 with 4 consecutive winners in a rare game where he opens court with the serve. Good combo of shots - a BHV inside-out, a stretch BHV and a drop BHV to go along with an OH. In tiebreak, he again opens up a 4-0 lead and this time, there's no let up. He finishes with another beautifully controlled BHV inside-out winner.

Final set isn't actually one sided. Its about the same as the first two sets, only chances are taken by Wilander. The vagaries of grass court tennis is what accounts for the difference in losing a set 6-7 and winning one 6-2. Pair trade tough holds - Curren's is tougher and he had to save a break point in 14 point game, while Wilander's just goes to deuce - then Wilander breaks to love with excellent passing. In the very next game, Curren gains a point to break back. Good play from him to get it - he again takes net when Wilander won't come in, but forces his way there too by lobbing Mats back to baseline. Can't make the return on break point though and Mats holds

Second break of the set is last game of match. A poor game from Curren - two routine volley errors and a double fault put him down 0-40. After saving one with a first volley winner, he can only watch as Mats lashes a FH dtl winner away to seal the match

Summing up, not a pretty match but a very interesting one. Sure returning from Wilander is the standout feature, along with sloppy routine volleying from Curren. Mats seems to know exactly what he's doing with a conservative approach to serve-volleying that's efficient at thwarting his opponents counter-chances. Wilander's overall superiority in virtually all areas is evident, and Curren would have needed to bomb serves in to a greater extent to potentially off set it. With low first serves in, he's swimming against the current of quality and does quite well to keep match competitive

Stats for '83 final between Wilander and Ivan Lendl -
Stats for '85 Wimbledon final between Curren and Boris Becker -


Hall of Fame
I expected Curren to win this I did the wimby match. I think he choked a bit in the GS finals, frankly. On grass, he was supremely he did not snag one GS escapes me...