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Vytautas Kevin Gerulaitis (July 26, 1954 – September 17, 1994) was a Lithuanian American professional tennis player. In 1975, Gerulaitis won the men's doubles title at Wimbledon, partnering with 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.

Vitas Gerulaitis
ABN-tennistoernooi in Rotterdam Vitas Gerulaitis in actie, Bestanddeelnr 929-6578.jpg
Vitas Gerulaitis at the 1978 ABN World Tennis Tournament
Country (sports) United States
Born(1954-07-26)July 26, 1954
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedSeptember 17, 1994(1994-09-17) (aged 40)
Southampton, New York, U.S.
Height1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Turned pro1971
Retired1986
PlaysRight-handed (one-handed backhand)
Prize money$2,778,748
Singles
Career record528–225 (70.12%) in Grand Prix, WCT and Grand Slam level, and in Davis Cup
Career titles26
Highest rankingNo. 3 (February 27, 1978)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian OpenW (1977Dec)
French OpenF (1980)
WimbledonSF (1977, 1978)
US OpenF (1979)
Other tournaments
Tour FinalsF (1979, 1981)
WCT FinalsW (1978)
Doubles
Career record164–123 (Grand Prix, WCT and Grand Slam level, and in Davis Cup)
Career titles8
Highest rankingNo. 43 (May 20, 1985)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open1R (1983)
French OpenQF (1980)
WimbledonW (1975)
US Open3R (1972)

Contents

BiographyEdit

Gerulaitis, a Lithuanian American,[1] 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] His younger sister Ruta was also a professional tennis player.[4]

Career highlightsEdit

Gerulaitis led the Pittsburgh Triangles to the World TeamTennis championship title at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena in 1975. Gerulaitis played for the Triangles from 1974 until 1976. He also played for the league's Indiana Loves franchise in 1977.

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 Wimbledon semifinal to his close friend and practice partner, Björn Borg, 6–4, 3–6, 6–3, 3–6, 8–6, a match later considered one of the greatest of the decade.[5]

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.

In February 1981 Gerulaitis won a star-laden invitational tournament in Toronto, defeating John McEnroe in the final after having defeated Jimmy Connors in the semifinal.

During his career Gerulaitis won 25 top-level singles titles and 8 doubles titles. His career-high singles ranking was World No. 3 which he reached on February 27, 1978.

Gerulaitis was known for his exceptionally quick hands at the net and his outstanding court coverage.[6] 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 McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt album, "Outbreak of Vitas Gerulaitis".

DeathEdit

Gerulaitis died on September 17, 1994, at the age of 40. While he was visiting a friend's home in Southampton, New York, 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.[7] Gerulaitis' remains were interred in Saint Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.

Criminal charges of negligent homicide were later brought against the pool mechanic and the company he worked for. Both he and the company were acquitted at a trial approximately two years later in October 1996. Jurors heard testimony that a technician from the heater manufacturer had made adjustments several days before Gerulaitis' death and that even if an exhaust pipe had been longer, carbon monoxide (colorless and odorless) would have still been drawn into the air-conditioning vent because it is heavier than air. Arthur M. Luxenberg, a lawyer for the Gerulaitis family, stated that Gerulaitis' mother and sister believed the verdict to be fair, and he went on to state that the testimony at the trial "confirmed to us what we always knew: that there were a lot of other people involved in this matter."[8]

Grand Slam finalsEdit

Singles: 3 (1–2)Edit

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

Singles performance timelineEdit

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 9 9 5 20 17 81 799

Grand Prix, WCT, and Grand Slam finalsEdit

ATP Singles finals: 56 (26 titles, 30 runners-up)Edit

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

Doubles: 20 (8–12)Edit

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

CommemorationEdit

The Vitas Gerulaitis Memorial Tennis Centre was opened in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.[9] Also, a street in Vilnius is named after him.

QuoteEdit

"And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row."[10]

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

ReferencesEdit

  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. ^ Araton, Harvey (March 4, 2010). "In the court of the ultimate tennis playboy". The Independent. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  5. ^ "BBC SPORT - Tennis - Wimbledon History - Classic Matches: Borg v Gerulaitis".
  6. ^ Finn, Robin (September 20, 1994). "Tennis Greats Call Gerulaitis A Friend First". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved September 5, 2008.
  7. ^ Gerulaitis died of Carbon monoxide poisoning, Philly.com, September 20, 1994.
  8. ^ Rather, John (October 5, 1996). "Acquittal In Death Of Gerulaitis". The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  9. ^ "GB's trip into the unknown". BBC News. September 23, 2009.
  10. ^ "Roger Federer Unbuttoned". International Herald Tribune. July 9, 2009 – via The New York Times.

VideoEdit

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

External linksEdit