Remembering Vitas Gerulaitis... 25 Years On

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on 17 September 2014.

Vitas Gerulaitis made everyone smile. Blond-haired, athletic and flamboyant, he walked about with a confident swagger and had a spark that could instantly energise any locker room.

Mary Carillo, who was 12 when she first met 15-year-old Gerulaitis and his sister, Ruta, a former pro, at the Port Washington Tennis Academy in New York, recalls her first meeting. “I was in proper awe of him. He was striking to look at — great clothes and carrying more racquets than any kid I’ve ever seen before. He had a mane of blond hair trailing behind him, and was friendly even though he was in a constant state of motion.”

John Lloyd remembers, “I think I first played him aged 17, alongside Billy Martin and Pat Dupre, in Torquay. Even then he was charismatic and he stood out. [A few years] later, I remember watching [the British comedy series] Fawlty Towers with him and he commented, ‘This is crap. You want to watch this?’ It was typical of him. He had a great sense of humour.”

Carillo fondly remembers partnering Gerulaitis against Ruta and her partner in a mixed doubles club-level final at the West Side Tennis Club, the former venue of the US Championships. “Once there, Ruta's partner took a dive for a volley and scraped himself up pretty badly, to which Vitas handed him a towel and said, ‘Hell, John — we're only playing for an ice bucket.’ My proud parents still have that ice bucket.”

To this day, the tennis world is quick to recall his quip after beating Jimmy Connors in the semi-finals of the January 1980 Masters. Although Gerulaitis had won their first meeting indoors at New York in 1972, Connors had gone on to claim their next 16 matches. At the press conference, a reporter asked Gerulaitis how he had finally managed to beat Connors after losing 16 in a row. Gerulaitis grinned and said, "And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row." Veteran tennis writer Steve Flink, who was present, remembers, “The room erupted with laughter. He said it genially and everyone got a big kick out of it.”

Dashing and daring, Gerulaitis was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Lithuanian immigrants. He was the sport’s ultimate jetsetter in the late 1970s, adored by a legion of female fans, who screamed, “Take me

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Verdasco Sprints Out Of The Gates In Metz

Spaniard Fernando Verdasco suffered a disappointing second-round loss at the US Open against Hyeon Chung, letting slip a 6-1, 6-2 lead and also failing to convert a match point in the fifth set. But the Spaniard wiped away those memories on Monday, defeating Belgian Steve Darcis 6-2, 6-2 to reach the second round of the Moselle Open.

The fifth seed began this ATP 250 tennis tournament with just a 1-2 record at the event. The last time Verdasco competed in Metz, four years ago, he lost against then-18-year-old Alexander Zverev.

But the veteran lefty faced few problems against Darcis, saving the only break point he faced and winning 64 per cent of his second-serve return points in his 69-minute triumph. Verdasco leads Darcis 4-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, winning all nine sets they have played.

Verdasco will next face 2017 Rolex Paris Masters finalist Filip Krajinovic, who beat Peter Gojowczyk 7-5, 6-4 after one hour and 24 minutes. It was an impressive win for the Serbian considering Gojowczyk claimed his lone ATP Tour crown in Metz two years ago.

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A Frenchman is through to the second round, as wild card Antoine Hoang ousted German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 11 minutes. The 23-year-old will next face sixth seed Hubert Hurkacz or countryman Gregoire Barrere.

Second-Seeded Doubles Tandem Eliminated
Robert Lindstedt and Jan-Lennard Struff upset second seeds Luke Bambridge and Ben McLachlan 6-4, 7-6(15) to reach the second round in the doubles draw. Bambridge and McLachlan were carrying strong form into this tournament, their first since reaching the US Open quarter-finals. Lindstedt and Struff are competing together for the first time. 

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Former Champ Kukushkin Ousts #NextGenATP Sinner In St. Petersburg

Nine years ago, Mikhail Kukushkin won his lone ATP Tour title in St. Petersburg. And on Monday, the Kazakh got off to a strong start at the St. Petersburg Open with a 6-3, 7-6(4) victory over #NextGenATP Italian Jannik Sinner.

The sixth seed’s one-hour, 40-minute triumph against the wild card was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggests. Sinner, who turned 18 last month, battled hard to recover from a break down on two occasions in the second set, ultimately earning a set point at 5-4 to force a decider.

But Kukushkin was undeterred, saving nine of the 11 break points he faced to advance to the second round. The World No. 57 will next face former Top 10 player Janko Tipsarevic or lucky loser Damir Dzumhur.

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Sinner was trying to earn the biggest victory of his career by ATP Ranking. The Italian has earned all three of his tour-level wins in 2019, and he is at a career-high World No. 127.

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In the other main draw singles match of the day, seventh seed Adrian Mannarino beat Italian Stefano Travaglia 7-5, 6-2 after one hour and 19 minutes. The Frenchman lifted his maiden ATP Tour trophy earlier this year in ’s-Hertogenbosch.

Top Seeds Move On In Doubles
Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor, the top doubles seeds in St. Petersburg, eased past Ricardas Berankis and Tipsarevic 6-3, 6-4 after 62 minutes. The Croats, who triumphed together at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters this year, won 52 per cent of their first-serve return points.

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Wawrinka Wards Off Double Fault Pain In Rankings Resurgence

One way to evaluate second-serve performance is to examine how many points you win. The more the merrier. Another way is to look at how many points you don’t lose through the self-inflicted wound of a double fault. Less is always best.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of double faults as a percentage of second serve points lost from the current Top 20 in 2019 identifies a hidden weapon that Stan Wawrinka has used to surge back to the elite level of our sport.

Wawrinka entered the 2018 US Open with an ATP Ranking of No. 101. He left the 2019 US Open back inside the Top 20, with second-serve performance a big key to his comeback.

In the past 52 weeks, Wawrinka is ranked seventh on the ATP Tour in second-serve points won, at 55.4 per cent. But if you dig a little deeper, you find a hidden metric where he is head and shoulders above any other player in the Top 20.

The first part of the analysis is to only examine the second-serve points Wawrinka has lost in 2019 before uncovering how many of them were double faults. It is by far the fewest of the current Top 20. Wawrinka’s double faults only account for 11.5 per cent (85/740) of his second-serve points lost, which is well below the Top 20 average of 22.3 per cent, or about one out of every five second serve points. In this analysis, the lower the percentage the better.

The leading five players of the current Top 20 that hit the least amount of double faults per points lost on second serve are below.

1. Stan Wawrinka = 11.5% (85 double faults/740 second-serve points lost)
2. Roberto Bautista Agut = 14.6% (91/625)
3. Roger Federer = 15.2% (89/586)
4. Matteo Berrettini = 16.3% (121/743)
5. Stefanos Tsitsipas = 16.5% (137/832)

Essentially, these five players “score own goals” the least with double faults when losing a second-serve point. On the other end of the spectrum, there were three Top 20 players that crossed the 25 per cent barrier, meaning that at least one out of every four second serve points they have lost so far in 2019 was a double fault. Those players are:

• Alexander Zverev = 40.9% (342/837)
• Nikoloz Basilashvili = 30.9% (261/844)
• Gael Monfils = 27.7% (172/622)

Double faults will always be a necessary evil in our sport, with some players employing a more aggressive strategy of going for more on second serves and absorbing some double

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All The Way With RBA? Minnesota Fan Hopes So

One American tennis fan believes more than ever that practice makes perfect.

As the lone contestant in the Nitto ATP Finals ‘Pick Your 8 Contest’ to have selected all players in the current ATP Race To London Top 8, Minnesota’s Brandon Kuether is reaping the benefits of his belief in the importance of intense practice… and his faith in Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.

Finalising his team well before Bautista Agut’s surprise run to the Wimbledon semi-finals, Kuether is one of just 5.8 per cent of contestants to pick the Spaniard, who is currently seventh in the Race. The nine-time ATP Tour titlist is trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time.

Kuether had faith in Bautista Agut after seeing him practise at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open.

“I went and watched and spent a lot of time on the practice courts. I watched his practice sessions and seeing the intensity at which he practised, the consistency, I just think that there’s a lot of people on the Tour who work really hard, but he’s sort of similar to like a Ferrer or Nadal,” Kuether said. “He pushes himself beyond the point of working hard. You see the intensity with which he hits every single ball.”

Not only did that event prove important for Kuether’s contest chances, but it is also the only professional tournament the American has attended.

“I’m not a man with a lot of money so I won those tickets and I jumped on the opportunity,” Kuether said. “That year I went to Indian Wells, Roger was injured, so I didn’t get to see him. [But] I saw Djokovic, I saw Murray, I saw Nadal, and I was within 10 feet of them. I got an autograph from Djokovic and I saw Wawrinka practising.”

Get Your Tickets For The Season Finale

Kuether, a 25-year-old from Minnesota, received an email last Thursday notifying him that he is the only participant in the contest who chose the current Top 8. At first, he didn’t believe it. The winner of this contest will earn the ultimate trip for two to London to attend this year’s season finale as a VIP guest at The O2 for the semi-finals and final of the world’s largest indoor tennis tournament.

“I was definitely very surprised. I saw the email and I’ll be honest, I had to check if it was spam. I was like, ‘Is this real? Am I actually the person who cou

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The Key Things To Watch In St. Petersburg & Metz

ATP Tour action returns this week with the St. Petersburg Open and the Moselle Open in Metz. The ATP 250 tournaments provide players with the opportunity to earn crucial points in the ATP Race To London and the ATP Race To Milan.

Four Top 15 stars headline a packed draw in St. Petersburg, led by home favourites Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov. In Metz, 2014 winner David Goffin leads the way in an exciting field which features eight Top 40 players.

St. Petersburg Talking Points

Two former St. Petersburg Open champions received direct entry into the main draw: Mikhail Kukushkin (2010) and Martin Klizan (2012). However, 2013 champion Ernests Gulbis can join them in the main draw if he wins his final-round qualifying match on Monday.

Top seed Daniil Medvedev is the ATP Tour leader in match wins this season. His US Open semi-final victory against Grigor Dimitrov made him the first player to hit 50 tour-level singles wins in 2019.

World No. 4 Medvedev also has the most hard-court match wins this season. His 37 victories on this surface give him a clear lead against Roger Federer and Gael Monfils, who are tied for second place with 23 hard-court wins in 2019 to date.

The team of Roman Jebavy and Matwe Middelkoop own a 7-1 record in St. Petersburg over the past two editions, claiming the title in 2017 and reaching the final last year. However, they will team with different partners in 2019. Jebavy enters alongside Philipp Oswald, while Middelkoop partners Marcelo Demoliner.

Metz Talking Points

Every Moselle Open singles champion since 2010 is in the 2019 field: Gilles Simon (2010, 2013, 2018), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2011-‘12, 2015), David Goffin (2014), Lucas Pouille (2016) and Peter Gojowczyk (2017).

No. 1 seed Goffin was 12-13 on the season and fell outside of the Top 30 in the ATP Rankings on 10 June. Since then, the 28-year-old Belgian is 20-7 with final appearances at the NOVENTI OPEN and the Western & Southern Open.

Read Goffin's Quest For Confidence

Goffin will rise from No. 11 to No. 8 in the ATP Race to London if he reaches the Metz final and No. 9 Matteo Berrettini does not advance to the St. Petersburg semi-finals, or if he wins a title on Sunday and Berrettini does not.

A Frenchman has won the Moselle Open singles title in 10 of 16 years since the tournament debuted in 2003. Still seeking his

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