Vitas Gerulaitis


Born: 26/7/1954 Died: 18/9/1994

Australian Open 1977 (Dec.)

Vitas Gerulaitis was a New Yorker of Lithuanian descent who was a top player in the late 1970s. He made his Grand Slam debut at the US Open in 1971, where he lost in the opening round. At Wimbledon in 1976 he beat defending champion Arthur Ashe in the fourth round before losing to Raul Ramriez in the quarters. At Wimbledon the following year Gerulaitis made it through to the semis, where he was involved in an epic match with Bjorn Borg. Both players were moving around the court like lightning and neither looked likely to crack under pressure as they entered a final set. There was nothing between them as the score reached 6-6, but Borg raised his game to take the set and match 8-6. At the Australian Open later in the year, Gerulaitis beat Ray Ruffels in the quarters and John Alexander in the semis to set up a final against John Lloyd. Gerulaitis took the first two sets but began cramping up badly in the third set. His left leg had a visible hole at the back of the thigh where the muscles had contracted. Lloyd took the next two sets. Gerulaitis was in a lot of pain but he summoned one final effort and hit out, avoiding long rallies by hitting clean winners all over the court. Gerulaitis took the fifth set 6-2 to take his first Grand Slam title. At Wimbledon in 1978, Gerulaitis lost in the semis to Jimmy Connors. At the US Open he lost in the semis to Borg. At the French Open in 1979, Gerulaitis beat Ivan Lendl and Jose Higueras before losing to Borg in the semis. At the US Open he beat Johan Kriek and Roscoe Tanner before losing in the final to John McEnroe. At the French Open in 1980, Gerulaitis came from two sets to one down to beat Connors in the semis before losing to Borg in the final. At the 1981 US Open, Gerulaitis beat Lendl in the fourth round before going out to McEnroe in the semis. Then his form began to dip and he retired at the end of 1985. Gerulaitis was famous for his non-stop party lifestyle and for a time was addicted to drugs. However, the tennis world was stunned when he was found dead in his apartment in 1994 at the age of 40. In fact it had not been drugs that had killed him but carbon monoxide poisoning, due to a faulty heater in his hotel room. Many of his rivals paid tribute to Gerulaitis, who was one of the most popular players of his era.


HEAD TO HEAD Win-Loss: A.Ashe 1-1, B.Becker 0-1, B.Borg 0-5, J.Connors 1-2, M.Edmondson 1-2, A.Gomez 0-1, J.Kriek 2-0, I.Lendl 2-0, J.McEnroe 0-2, Y.Noah 0-1, S.Smith 1-0, R.Tanner 2-0, M.Wilander 0-1

Vitas Gerulaitis' Grand Slam record