Stats for 1982-83 USO finals (Connors-Lendl)


I have not seen any Nastase-Connors match but I bet you're right, since that is more or less what Ashe did to beat Connors at Wimbledon (not the part about getting into Jimmy's head, but the other stuff).

Nastase beat Connors in April '77 as part of the WCT Challenge Cup, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-5. The New York Times said that he won because of a strong serve, aggressive play and his “usual strategy of mixing speeds as much as possible against Connors’s power.”

Nastase had a 15-5 lifetime edge over Connors, according to some press reports earlier that year.

Their H2H is somewhat uncertain because the ATP doesn't count all their matches. The Times reported that Nastase went 5-1 against Connors in '76, one of Jimmy's best years (even though Ilie turned 30 that year).
Wasn´t that match when , afterwards in the press room Connors said to Nastase something like: "Hey buddy, you might not have a house anymore"? ( there had been an earthquake in Romania the day before and some journalist had told Connors about it but not Nastase)


A few years ago I did some stats that I never got around to posting, for two Lendl-Connors USO semis.

Separate post for each match.

Lendl d. Connors, 6-2, 6-3, 7-5, 1985 U.S. Open semifinal

Jimmy had sprained his left ankle on the practice court earlier in the day. He said later that even if he had won the third set, he would have stopped.

Connors is not only visibly limping. He’s also making many uncharacteristic errors from the BH, including an easy one on match point.

Connors had not won a tournament all year – a drought that would go on until ’89.

Trabert said that one of the biggest differences in Jimmy’s game compared to 4 or 5 years earlier is that he doesn’t go for the lines nearly as much as he used to; he now stays consistently within a few feet of the lines and seldom pulls players very wide.

One thing I notice in watching this match is how little time Lendl has on his FH, with that big looping swing. It’s most apparent when he’s returning Connors’ flat crosscourt backhands. Lendl handles it mostly well in this match, but you can see how even on this surface where he excelled, he was vulnerable to someone who could rush him.

Connors was using his T-2000 here.

Lendl was 25, Connors 33.

The loss meant that Connors was eliminated in straights at all three Slams that he played this year (RG, W, USO). Not counting 1970 and 1971 (he played only one Slam event in each of those years), he had never before been defeated in straights in all the Slams that he played. And it would happen to him only one other time: 1987.

I thought that in this match CBS had provided a sideview of the action, in which you could only see the ball crossing the net. As I remembered it, Lendl’s shots always had more clearance, and inevitably you’d see Jimmy’s shot land in the net.

However when I watch this match on DVD, there’s no such sequence by CBS.

Lendl’s volleys are as good in this match as I’ve ever seen anywhere. Newcombe was surprised at his touch on one drop volley and impressed with some of his serve-and-volley.

The following are my own stats.

I am missing only one game at 1-2 in the second in which Connors was broken; per CBS it was a love game, and per their mid-match stats Connors made 1 of 4 first serves. So it leaves a question over Lendl’s total placement winners, Connors’ first serves made on break points, and Connors’ total errors (though Jimmy’s total DF’s are already accounted for). But it makes no difference to Lendl’s total errors, to any of Lendl’s service stats (obviously), or to Connors’ winners, aces, unreturned serves, service percentage, and points won on first and second serve.

Lendl won 96 total points, Connors 61.

Lendl won 58 of 84 service points (69.0%): 31 of 41 on first (75.6%) and 27 of 43 on second (62.8%).

Connors won 35 of 73 service points (48.0%): 28 of 51 on first (54.9%) and 7 of 22 on second (31.8%).

Connors may have made the third set close, but his success on second serve bottomed out in that set, dropping from 50% in the first set to 28.6% in the second and 14.3% in the third.

Whenever Lendl and Connors had their serves returned successfully:

Lendl won 55% on first serve (12/22) and 62% on second (21/34).
Connors won 45% on first serve (19/42) and 32% on second (6/19).

Lendl made 41 of 84 first serves (49%)
Connors made 51 of 73 first serves (70%)

During the first set Lendl made 11 straight first serves.

Lendl made his first serve on 2 of 3 break points.
Connors made his first serve on (6 or 7) of 9 break points.

Lendl converted 6 of 9 break points, Connors 2 of 3.

Connors was broken at love 5 times, of the 6 times he was broken. He was broken at love twice consecutively to end the opening set.

Lendl had 3 df’s, Connors 2.

Lendl had 11 clean aces and 14 other unreturned serves, including 4 that I judged service winners.

Connors had 1 clean ace and 9 other unreturned serves.

All of the aces in the match were first serves, except one of Lendl’s.

Lendl served on 84 points, and 25 serves did not come back: 29.8%
Connors served on 73 points, and 10 serves did not come back: 13.7%

Lendl’s serve drew 14 errors:

Total – 9 first serves, 5 second serves
Total – 8 FH, 6 BH
Total – 5 unforced (5 FH, 0 BH), all on second serves

Connors’ serve drew 9 errors:

Total – 8 first serves, 1 second serve
Total – 2 FH, 7 BH
Total – 4 unforced (1 FH, 3 BH), one on second serve

A breakdown of all the strokes in the match, including serves and returns:

Lendl made 29 winners: 11 clean aces, 4 service winners, and 14 clean placements (5 FH, 5 BH, 2 FHV, 2 BHV), including 4 passing shots.

Connors made 11 winners: 1 clean ace and 10 clean placements (1 FH, 2 BH, 4 FHV, 3 BHV), including 1 passing shot.

Lendl made 26 UE’s: 3 DF, 13 FH, 9 BH, 1 OV
Connors made 45 UE’s: 2 DF, 14 FH, 26 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV

Lendl made 24 FE’s: 7 FH, 14 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV, 1 OV
Connors made 18 FE’s: 7 FH, 7 BH, 2 FHV, 2 BHV

(The FE count does not include service winners but it does include rallies that ended with tipped balls, no matter how slightly the frame touched the ball; in today’s counts these would be counted as winners instead of forced errors.)

Lendl’s Aggressive Margin – counting only 92 points won by Lendl since I am still missing a game – was 13.7%, Connors’ -6.5%.

It’s rare to see a negative AM on a fast surface. I think this shows the seriousness of Connors’ injury.
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Lendl d. Connors, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, 1987 U.S. Open semifinal

Connors here does not appear to be making those easy BH errors he made when injured in ’85. On the other hand he looks overmatched, at his age. He’s able to stay in the rallies longer than in ’85, but they leave him exhausted. Lendl never missed at this stage of his career.

Lendl was 27, Connors 35.

Connors was using his graphite here, unlike ’85.

Compared to the ’85 semifinal, I think Lendl appears a little cautious here, and less energetic (he did tell the press that he was running a fever). He seems to be chipping the BH more. His net game (both his transitions and volleys) looks much less assured.

Lendl had been broken only 3 times in the tournament, per CBS.

The following are my stats.

Lendl won 102 points, Connors 74.

Lendl won 54 of 82 service points (65.9%): 32 of 40 on first serve (80.0%) and 22 of 42 on second (52.4%).

Connors won 46 of 94 service points (48.9%): 29 of 62 on first serve (46.8%) and 17 of 32 on second (53.3%).

Connors had higher success on second serve than on first.

But as in their ’85 semi here, Connors’ success on second serve dropped as the match progressed. In this match it went from 76.9% in the first set to 44.4% in the second and finally 30% in the third.

Lendl won 14 straight points on first serve.

Whenever Lendl and Connors had their serves returned successfully:

Lendl won 56% on first serve (10/18) and 52% on second (22/42).
Connors won 35% on first serve (18/51) and 57% on second (17/30).

Lendl made 40 of 82 first serves (49%)
Connors made 62 of 94 first serves (66%)

Lendl served at only 33% in the third set but it didn’t cost him anything because in that set he had higher success on second serve than on first.

Connors made 14 straight first serves during the third set but was broken during that stretch in a long game in which he made 12 of 12 first serves.

Lendl made his first serve on 6 of 6 break points (100%). At 5-4 in the first set he got out of love-40 by making big first serves on all four break points he faced.

Connors made his first serve on 8 of 16 break points. He double-faulted once on break point.

Lendl converted 6 of 16 break points, Connors 1 of 6.

Lendl had no df’s, Connors 2.

Lendl had 5 clean aces and 17 other unreturned serves, including 2 that I judged service winners.

Connors had 2 clean aces and 9 other unreturned serves.

All of the aces in the match were first serves.

Lendl served on 82 points, and 22 serves did not come back: 26.8%
Connors served on 94 points, and 11 serves did not come back: 11.7%

Lendl’s serve drew 17 errors:

Total – 13 first serves, 4 second serves
Total – 8 FH, 9 BH
Total – 2 unforced (1 FH, 1 BH), both on second serves

Connors’ serve drew 9 errors:

Total – 6 first serves, 3 second serves
Total – 4 FH, 5 BH
Total – 4 unforced (2 FH, 2 BH), three on second serves

A breakdown of all the strokes in the match, including serves and returns:

Lendl made 24 winners: 5 clean aces, 2 service winners, and 17 clean placements (12 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV), including 8 passing shots.

Connors made 15 winners: 2 clean aces and 13 clean placements (1 FH, 2 BH, 6 FHV, 3 BHV, 1 OV), including 2 passing shots.

Lendl made 17 UE’s: 0 DF, 7 FH, 9 BH, 1 OV
Connors made 53 UE’s: 2 DF, 27 FH, 18 BH, 4 FHV, 2 BHV

Lendl made 42 FE’s: 19 FH, 22 BH, 1 BHV
Connors made 25 FE’s: 11 FH, 9 BH, 3 FHV, 2 BHV

(The FE count does not include service winners but it does include rallies that ended with tipped balls, no matter how slightly the frame touched the ball; in today’s counts these would be counted as winners instead of forced errors.)

Overall, Connors forces more errors than Lendl does, but Jimmy makes far more unforced errors.

Lendl’s Aggressive Margin per my UE count was 18.2%, Connors’ 2.3%.
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Some articles.

New York Times:

September 7, 1985​
SCOUTING; Odds Against Jimmy Connors​
By Sam Goldaper​
Can Jimmy Connors really beat Ivan Lendl today and advance to the final at the United States Open? His New York idolaters may cry yes, but his past performance responds with a loud no.​
Connors, who at 33 will be spotting Lendl eight years on the steamy Stadium Court of Flushing Meadows, seems to have found a competitive level - or rut - unto himself: He regularly conquers opponents ranked below his No. 4 world placing, even those in the top 20, but he does not come close to competing successfully against the top three: John McEnroe, Lendl and Mats Wilander.​
* Jimbo has not won a Grand Prix title since triumphing last October at Tokyo, where his victory in the final marked the last time he beat Lendl. The 18 tournaments he has played since then span almost 11 months, the longest drought of his 14-year career as a professional.​
* Starting with last year's Open, his record against the top 20 other than McEnroe, Lendl and Wilander is 18-4, in vivid contrast to his 1-11 mark against the top three (0-2 vs. McEnroe, 1-7 vs. Lendl and 0-2 vs. Wilander).​
* His overall record in the last year is 65-18, and in the 65 matches he has won (all but one of which at the expense of players ranked below him), he has dropped only 11 sets. In contrast again, he has played 31 sets during that time against the top three, and won just six.​

New York Times:

September 8, 1985​
Ivan Lendl has already had more opportunities than most players get. Now he will have yet another. Late this afternoon he will make his fourth consecutive appearance in the final of the United States Open - a Grand Slam of sorts - but this time he would like to win the championship he says he covets the most.​
So he will sleep late, he said, then begin watching tapes of his previous matches against John McEnroe, who will be vying for his fifth Open title.​
''I'm not going into the match thinking of the past,'' Lendl said. ''I'm just going to concentrate on every point. The more I play him, the better off it is for me. I get a chance to learn from every match.''​
Lendl advanced to the final when he defeated Jimmy Connors, 6-2, 6-3, 7-5, in a half-filled stadium. Connors was hampered by a sprained left ankle that he suffered during practice earlier yesterday. He soaked the ankle in a tub of ice and had it heavily bandaged, but it is questionable whether he would have beaten Lendl, who now has won their last seven matches, in any event....​
Lendl and Connors have had an acrimonious rivalry over the years and not much changed after last night's match. Lendl acknowledged Connors' career achievements and said the 33-year-old five-time Open champion would be missed when he retires. As for their match, however, Lendl said that Connors was not favoring his ankle during the course of play although he appeared to limp between points.​
Connors grudgingly said that Lendl had played well, but added that he did not like his chances against McEnroe. ''Lendl won't play as well,'' Connors said. ''He never does.''​
Despite his No. 2 ranking in the world, Lendl has been criticized because he has won only one Grand Slam championship - the 1983 [sic] French Open - in the seven times he has reached Grand Slam finals. He has also never been particularly well liked by the fans, although he was pleased with the reception he received last night when he played a crowd favorite.​
''They were fair and that was nice,'' Lendl said. ''The first step is to have them admire me. I knew in the third set that they wanted Jimmy to come back into the match but that was the last thing on my mind.''​
Lendl hits a tennis ball as hard as anyone, but Connors's strength has always been his ability to hit the ball back even harder than it is hit to him. But in their recent matches, Lendl has learned to vary the pace against Connors, slicing his backhand for example, and also becoming more proficient at the net. A subpar Connors could not handle Lendl's shot selection last night.​
New York Times in '87:

But the Open has become a tour de force for the top-ranked player in the world, who defeated Connors, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, yesterday when he was less than his best.....​
He played several close games in the first set against Connors, even overcoming a 40-0 deficit when he was serving for the set at 5-4. Connors tried to fuel the crowd, pumping his arms, looking for any edge he could get. But that just doesn't work against Lendl, who has won the past 14 matches between them.​
''You don't want to give Jimmy Connors any unnecessary chances,'' Lendl said, ''especially for a crowd starving for an American to win. If I let Jimmy back in the match, he would go crazy and the crowd would go absolutely crazy.''​
Connors changed his strategy somewhat, deciding to force the issue more often rather than try to outlast Lendl from the baseline. He did win 25 of 50 approaches, but Lendl's passing shots more than compensated.​
''I don't think the score tells it,'' Connors said. ''There were a lot of close games, but he hit good shots when he had to. I think he was a little flustered in the beginning and I should have won the first set. If I had, the crowd would have been a huge factor.''​