Vitas Gerulaitis

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Vitas Gerulaitis
Vitas Gerulaitis.jpg
Vitas Gerulaitis at the 1978 ABN World Tennis Tournament
Country United States
Born (1954-07-26)July 26, 1954
Brooklyn, New York
Died September 17, 1994(1994-09-17) (aged 40)
Southampton, New York
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Turned pro 1971
Retired 1986
Plays Right-handed (one-handed backhand)
Prize money $2,778,748
Singles
Career record 510–221 (at Grand Prix tour, WCT tour, and Grand Slam level, and in Davis Cup)
Career titles 25
Highest ranking No. 3 (February 27, 1978)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open W (1977Dec)
French Open F (1980)
Wimbledon SF (1977, 1978)
US Open F (1979)
Other tournaments
Tour Finals F (1979, 1981)
WCT Finals W (1978)
Doubles
Career record 164–123 (at Grand Prix tour, WCT tour, and Grand Slam level, and in Davis Cup)
Career titles 8
Highest ranking No. 43 (May 20, 1985)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open 1R (1983)
French Open QF (1980)
Wimbledon W (1975)
US Open 3R (1972)

Vytautas Kevin Gerulaitis (July 26, 1954 – September 17, 1994) was an Lithuanian American[1] professional tennis player. In 1975, Gerulaitis won the men's doubles title at Wimbledon, partnering Sandy Mayer. He won the men's singles title at one of the two Australian Open tournaments held in 1977 (Gerulaitis won the tournament that was held in December, while Roscoe Tanner won the earlier January tournament). Gerulaitis also won two Italian Open titles, in 1977 and 1979, and the WCT Finals in Dallas, in 1978.

Biography[edit]

Gerulaitis was born on July 26, 1954, in Brooklyn, New York, to Lithuanian immigrant parents, and grew up in Howard Beach, Queens.[2] He attended Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, graduating in 1971. He attended Columbia College of Columbia University for one year before dropping out to pursue tennis full-time. Gerulaitis was nicknamed "The Lithuanian Lion".[3]

Career highlights[edit]

Gerulaitis led the Pittsburgh Triangles to the World TeamTennis championship title at Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena in 1975.

Gerulaitis was coached by Fred Stolle from 1977 until 1983.

He also won the men's doubles title at Wimbledon in 1975. He was a singles semi-finalist at Wimbledon in both 1977 and 1978. In 1977 he lost a long Wimbledon semi-final to his close friend and practice partner, Björn Borg 6–4, 3–6, 6–3, 3–6, 8–6.[4]

In 1977 Gerulaitis won the most significant title of his career at the Australian Open, when he defeated John Lloyd in the men's singles final in five sets.

In 1978 Gerulaitis won the year-end championship WCT Finals for the World Championship Tennis tour, beating Eddie Dibbs 6–3, 6–2, 6–1. By 1978 he was the third-ranked men's singles player in the world.

In 1979 Gerulaitis lost in the men's singles finals at the US Open to fellow New Yorker, John McEnroe, in straight sets. He was a member of the United States team which won the Davis Cup in 1979. He won two singles "rubbers" in the final, as the US beat Italy 5–0.

Gerulaitis reached his third Grand Slam singles final in 1980, when he lost in the final of the French Open to Björn Borg in straight sets.

During his career Gerulaitis won 25 top-level singles titles and 8 doubles titles. His career-high singles ranking was World No. 3 in 1978.

Gerulaitis was known for his exceptionally quick hands at the net and his outstanding court coverage.[5] In 1985 Gerulaitis teamed with Bobby Riggs to launch a challenge to female players after the famous Battle of the Sexes. The stunt, however, was short-lived when Gerulaitis and Riggs lost a doubles match against Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.

He retired from the professional tour in 1986. He was a regular tennis commentator on the USA network between 1988 and 1994.

Gerulaitis coached Pete Sampras during the 1994 Italian Open in Rome, when Sampras' coach, Tim Gullikson, was on a family vacation. Sampras won the title by defeating Boris Becker in the final in straight sets.

Gerulaitis is the subject of a Half Man Half Biscuit song from the album This Leaden Pall entitled Outbreak of Vitas Gerulaitis.

Death[edit]

Gerulaitis died on September 17, 1994, at the age of 40. While visiting a friend's home in Southampton, Long Island, a malfunction in an improperly installed pool heater caused carbon monoxide gas to seep into the guesthouse where Gerulaitis was sleeping, causing his death by carbon monoxide poisoning. Gerulaitis failed to show up for a dinner at 7 p.m. that evening and his body was found the following day by a maid who went to the guesthouse.[6] Gerulaitis' remains are interred in Saint Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York.

Grand Slam finals[edit]

Singles: 3 (1–2)[edit]

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent Score
Winner 1977 Australian Open Grass United Kingdom John Lloyd 6–3, 7–6(7–1), 5–7, 3–6, 6–2
Runner-up 1979 US Open Hard United States John McEnroe 5–7, 3–6, 3–6
Runner-up 1980 French Open Clay Sweden Björn Borg 4–6, 1–6, 2–6

Singles performance timeline[edit]

Tournament 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 SR W – L
Grand Slam tournaments
Australian Open (Jan) A A A A A A A Not Held 0 / 0 0–0
French Open A A A A A A A A SF F 1R QF 1R 2R 1R A 0 / 7 16–7
Wimbledon A A A 1R 1R QF SF SF 1R 4R 4R QF 2R 4R 3R A 0 / 12 30–12
US Open 1R 2R 1R 2R 2R 4R 4R SF F 2R SF 1R 3R 4R 3R A 0 / 15 33–15
Australian Open (Dec) Not Held W A A 1R A A 2R 2R A NH 1 / 4 6–3
Win – Loss 0–1 1–1 0–1 1–2 1–2 7–2 14–2 10–2 11–3 10–4 8–3 8–3 3–4 7–4 4–3 0–0 1/38 85–37
Year End Championships
Masters Grand Prix A A A A A A A A F A F R16 A R16 A A 0 / 4 6–6
WCT Finals A A A A A A SF W SF A A A SF QF A A 1 / 5 7–4
Win – Loss 0–0 0–0 0–0 0–0 0–0 0–0 1–1 2–0 4–3 0–0 3–2 0–1 2–1 1–2 0–0 0–0 1 / 9 13–10
Career statistics
Tournaments Played 9 20 15 19 20 18 22 22 19 20 21 22 15 2 244
Titles – Finals 0–0 1–2 2–7 0–3 5–9 3–5 3–6 3–6 1–4 5–7 1–2 1–3 0–0 0–0 25–54
Overall Win – Loss 7–9 33–19 38–13 31–19 60–16 46–15 64–20 52–19 43–19 61–15 32–20 34–20 12–15 0–2 510–221
Win % 44% 63% 75% 62% 79% 75% 76% 73% 69% 80% 62% 63% 44% 0% 70%
Year End Ranking 131 47 15 18 4 5 4 5 20 17 799

Grand Prix, WCT, and Grand Slam finals[edit]

Singles: 55 (25–30)[edit]

Outcome No. Date Championship Surface Opponent Score
Runner-up 1. 1974 Salt Lake City, US Indoors United States Jimmy Connors 6–4, 6–7, 3–6
Winner 1. 1974 Vienna, Austria Hard (i) Rhodesia Andrew Pattison 6–4, 3–6, 6–3, 6–2
Runner-up 2. 1975 Philadelphia WCT, US Carpet United States Marty Riessen 6–7(1–7), 7–5, 2–6, 7–6(7–0), 3–6
Runner-up 3. 1975 Roanoke, US Indoors United Kingdom Roger Taylor 6–7, 6–7
Runner-up 4. 1975 Salisbury, US Carpet United States Jimmy Connors 7–5, 5–7, 1–6, 6–3, 0–6
Winner 2. 1975 New York City, US Indoor United States Jimmy Connors W/O
Runner-up 5. 1975 Orlando WCT, US Hard Australia Rod Laver 3–6, 4–6
Winner 3. 1975 St. Louis, US Clay United States Roscoe Tanner 2–6, 6–2, 6–3
Runner-up 6. 1975 Bermuda Clay United States Jimmy Connors 1–6, 4–6
Runner-up 7. 1976 Indianapolis WCT, US Carpet United States Arthur Ashe 2–6, 7–6(8–6), 4–6
Runner-up 8. 1976 Toronto Indoor WCT, Canada Carpet Sweden Björn Borg 6–2, 3–6, 1–6
Runner-up 9. 1976 Charlotte WCT, US Carpet Australia Tony Roche 3–6, 6–3, 1–6
Runner-up 10. 1977 Richmond WCT, US Carpet Netherlands Tom Okker 6–3, 3–6, 4–6
Winner 4. 1977 Ocean City, US Hard United States Robert Lutz 3–6, 6–1, 6–2
Runner-up 11. 1977 Monterrey WCT, Mexico Carpet Poland Wojtek Fibak 4–6, 3–6
Runner-up 12. 1977 London WCT, UK Hard (i) United States Eddie Dibbs 6–7(2–7), 7–6(7–5), 4–6
Runner-up 13. 1977 Houston WCT, US Hard Italy Adriano Panatta 6–7(4–7), 7–6(7–3), 1–6
Winner 5. 1977 Rome, Italy Clay Italy Antonio Zugarelli 6–2, 7–6(7–2), 3–6, 7–6(7–5)
Winner 6. 1977 Brisbane, Australia Grass Australia Tony Roche 6–7, 6–1, 6–1, 7–5
Winner 7. 1977 Perth, Australia Hard Australia Geoff Masters 6–3, 6–4, 6–2
Winner 8. 1977 Australian Open, Melbourne Grass United Kingdom John Lloyd 6–3, 7–6(7–1), 5–7, 3–6, 6–2
Winner 9. 1978 Richmond WCT, US Carpet Australia John Newcombe 6–3, 6–4
Runner-up 14. 1978 Las Vegas, US Hard Sweden Björn Borg 5–6, 6–5, 4–6, 5–6
Runner-up 15. 1978 Milan WCT, Italy Carpet Sweden Björn Borg 3–6, 3–6
Winner 10. 1978 WCT Finals, US Carpet United States Eddie Dibbs 6–3, 6–2, 6–1
Winner 11. 1978 Forest Hills, US - WCT Invitational Clay Romania Ilie Năstase 6–2, 6–0
Runner-up 16. 1979 Monte Carlo, Monaco Clay Sweden Björn Borg 2–6, 1–6, 3–6
Winner 12. 1979 Rome, Italy Clay Argentina Guillermo Vilas 6–7(4–7), 7–6(7–0), 6–7(5–7), 6–4, 6–2
Winner 13. 1979 Kitzbühel, Austria Clay Czechoslovakia Pavel Složil 6–2, 6–2, 6–4
Runner-up 17. 1979 US Open, New York Hard United States John McEnroe 5–7, 3–6, 3–6
Winner 14. 1979 Sydney Indoor, Australia Hard (i) Argentina Guillermo Vilas 4–6, 6–3, 6–1, 7–6
Runner-up 18. 1979 Masters, New York Carpet Sweden Björn Borg 2–6, 2–6
Runner-up 19. 1979 Dorado Beach,US Hard United States Jimmy Connors 5–6, 0–6, 4–6
Runner-up 20. 1980 Pepsi Grand Slam, Boca Raton Clay Sweden Björn Borg 1–6, 7–5, 1–6
Winner 15. 1980 WCT Tournament of Champions, US Clay United States John McEnroe 2–6, 6–2, 6–0
Runner-up 21. 1980 French Open, Paris Clay Sweden Björn Borg 4–6, 1–6, 2–6
Winner 16. 1980 Stuttgart Outdoor, Germany Clay Poland Wojtek Fibak 6–2, 7–5, 6–2
Runner-up 22. 1980 Sydney Indoor, Australia Hard (i) United States John McEnroe 3–6, 4–6
Winner 17. 1980 Melbourne Indoor, Australia Carpet Australia Peter McNamara 7–5, 6–3
Runner-up 23. 1981 Monterrey WCT, Mexico Carpet South Africa Johan Kriek 6–7, 6–3, 6–7
Runner-up 24. 1981 Melbourne Indoor, Australia Carpet Australia Peter McNamara 6–4, 1–6, 5–5 retired
Winner 18. 1981 Johannesburg, South Africa Hard United States Jeff Borowiak 6–4, 7–6, 6–1
Runner-up 25. 1981 Masters, New York Carpet Czechoslovakia Ivan Lendl 7–6(7–5), 6–2, 6–7(6–8), 2–6, 4–6
Runner-up 26. 1982 Genova WCT, Italy Carpet Czechoslovakia Ivan Lendl 7–6, 4–6, 4–6, 3–6
Winner 19. 1982 Brussels, Belgium Hard (i) Sweden Mats Wilander 4–6, 7–6, 6–2
Runner-up 27. 1982 Zürich WCT, Switzerland Carpet United States Bill Scanlon 5–7, 6–7, 6–1, 6–0, 4–6
Winner 20. 1982 Florence, Italy Clay Sweden Stefan Simonsson 4–6, 6–3, 6–1
Winner 21. 1982 Toronto, Canada Hard Czechoslovakia Ivan Lendl 4–6, 6–1, 6–3
Winner 22. 1982 Melbourne Indoor, Australia Carpet United States Eliot Teltscher 2–6, 6–2, 6–2
Winner 23. 1982 Johannesburg, South Africa Hard Argentina Guillermo Vilas 7–6, 6–2, 4–6, 7–6
Runner-up 28. 1983 Forest Hills WCT, US Clay United States John McEnroe 3–6, 5–7
Winner 24. 1983 Basel, Switzerland Hard (i) Poland Wojtek Fibak 4–6, 6–1, 7–5, 5–5, retired
Runner-up 29. 1984 Toronto, Canada Hard United States John McEnroe 0–6, 3–6
Winner 25. 1984 Treviso, Italy Carpet France Tarik Benhabiles 6–1, 6–1
Runner-up 30. 1984 Johannesburg, South Africa Hard United States Eliot Teltscher 3–6, 1–6, 6–7

Doubles: 20 (8–12)[edit]

Outcome No. Date Tournament Surface Partner Opponents Score
Winner 1. 1974 Roanoke, US Indoors United States Sandy Mayer New Zealand Ian Crookenden
New Zealand Jeff Simpson
7–6, 6–1
Runner-up 1. 1974 Little Rock, US Carpet South Africa Bob Hewitt West Germany Jürgen Fassbender
West Germany Karl Meiler
0–6, 2–6
Winner 2. 1974 Salt Lake City, US Indoors United States Jimmy Connors Colombia Iván Molina
Colombia Jairo Velasco, Sr.
2–6, 7–6, 7–5
Runner-up 2. 1974 Oslo, Norway Indoor United States Jeff Borowiak West Germany Karl Meiler
Pakistan Haroon Rahim
3–6, 2–6
Winner 3. 1975 Roanoke, US Indoors United States Sandy Mayer Spain Juan Gisbert
Romania Ion Ţiriac
7–6, 1–6, 6–3
Winner 4. 1975 Wimbledon, London Grass United States Sandy Mayer United Kingdom Colin Dowdeswell
Australia Allan Stone
7–5, 8–6, 6–4
Runner-up 3. 1976 Indianapolis WCT, US Carpet United States Tom Gorman United States Robert Lutz
United States Stan Smith
2–6, 4–6
Winner 5. 1976 Boca Raton, US Hard United States Clark Graebner United States Bruce Manson
United States Butch Walts
6–2, 6–4
Winner 6. 1976 Fort Worth WCT, US Hard United States Sandy Mayer United States Eddie Dibbs
United States Harold Solomon
6–4, 7–5
Runner-up 4. 1976 Charlotte WCT, US Carpet United States Gene Mayer Australia John Newcombe
Australia Tony Roche
3–6, 5–7
Runner-up 5. 1976 South Orange, US Clay Romania Ilie Năstase United States Fred McNair
United States Marty Riessen
5–7, 6–4, 2–6
Runner-up 6. 1977 Masters Doubles WCT, New York Carpet Italy Adriano Panatta India Vijay Amritraj
United States Dick Stockton
6–7, 6–7, 6–4, 3–6
Winner 7. 1977 Brisbane, Australia Grass United States Bill Scanlon Australia Mal Anderson
Australia Ken Rosewall
7–6, 6–4
Winner 8. 1978 Birmingham WCT, US Carpet United States Sandy Mayer South Africa Frew McMillan
United States Dick Stockton
3–6, 6–1, 7–6
Runner-up 7. 1978 Philadelphia WCT, US Carpet United States Sandy Mayer South Africa Bob Hewitt
South Africa Frew McMillan
4–6, 4–6
Runner-up 8. 1978 Richmond WCT, US Carpet United States Sandy Mayer South Africa Bob Hewitt
South Africa Frew McMillan
3–6, 5–7
Runner-up 9. 1980 Monte Carlo, Monaco Clay United States John McEnroe Italy Paolo Bertolucci
Italy Adriano Panatta
2–6, 7–5, 3–6
Runner-up 10. 1980 Sydney Outdoor, Australia Grass United States Brian Gottfried Australia Peter McNamara
Australia Paul McNamee
2–6, 4–6
Runner-up 11. 1981 Frankfurt, Germany Carpet United States John McEnroe United States Brian Teacher
United States Butch Walts
5–7, 7–6, 5–7
Runner-up 12. 1985 Rotterdam, Netherlands Carpet Australia Paul McNamee Czechoslovakia Pavel Složil
Czechoslovakia Tomáš Šmíd
4–6, 4–6

Commemoration[edit]

The Vitas Gerulaitis Memorial Tennis Centre was opened in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.[7] Also, a street in Vilnius is named after him.

Quote[edit]

"And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row."

after beating Jimmy Connors at the January 1980 Masters. Gerulaitis had lost their previous 16 matches.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peter R. Eisenstadt, Laura-Eve Moss (2005). The encyclopedia of New York State. Syracuse University Press. p. 910. 
  2. ^ Sports of The Times; 'We've Lost Another of Our Kids', The New York Times, September 20, 1994. Accessed November 3, 2007.
  3. ^ "Read 'em and Leap". People. November 19, 1979. Retrieved May 14, 2008. 
  4. ^ Classic Matches: Borg v Gerulaitis
  5. ^ Finn, Robin (September 20, 1994). "Tennis Greats Call Gerulaitis A Friend First". The New York Times (New York). Retrieved September 5, 2008. 
  6. ^ Gerulaitis died of Carbon monoxide poisoning, Philly.com, September 20, 1994.
  7. ^ "GB's trip into the unknown". BBC News. September 23, 2009. 

Video[edit]

  • Wimbledon Classic Match: Gerulaitis vs Borg Standing Room Only, DVD Release Date: October 31, 2006, Run Time: 180 minutes, ASIN: B000ICLR8O.

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
Guillermo Vilas
ATP Most Improved Player
1975
Succeeded by
Wojtek Fibak