Bjorn Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis, good friends and practice partners, met in the 1977 Wimbledon semi-final. It turned into an instant classic, and Borg prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 for his second straight Wimbledon final.
Two great rivals pushed each other to the limits from start to finish and competed on a high level to keep the crowd on Centre Court on the edge of their seats. Bjorn and Vitas showed their quickness, anticipation and shotmaking abilities on the most notable tennis court, hitting around 130 winners from the field from a total number of 353 points (Borg won 177 and Gerulaitis 176).
Vitas was the more aggressive competitor, rushing to the net and hitting around 40 volley winners, while Bjorn had the edge with his groundstrokes, especially from the backhand side. It was a barrage fire of lobs, passing shots, volleys, and groundstrokes, with 13 winners in the third set's fourth game alone!
The American went to the net almost all the time, and the Swede opted for a different plan, building the points from the baseline and seeking the opportunity to capitalize at the net. Vitas served at only 49% and faced 20 break points, although only two in the last two sets.
He suffered five breaks while stealing Borg's serve four times from 11 chances, falling short in the end and missing the possibility for an all-American final against Jimmy Connors. Borg made a perfect start and broke in the encounter's first game with a backhand down the line return winner.
The Swede earned an early momentum and saved a break point in game four to remain in front. He served well after that and clinched the set with an ace in game ten. Vitas fended off a break point in the second set's fifth game and grabbed a break in the next one with a backhand volley to forge a 4-2 advantage.
Gerulaitis closed the set with a booming serve at 5-3 to level the overall score and gain momentum.
Bjorn Borg prevailed over Vitas Gerulaitis in the 1977 Wimbledon semi-final.
As we already mentioned, the third set's fourth game sent the drama toward the sky, with eight deuces and five break chances for the Swede.
Gerulaitis fended them off and clinched the game with a service winner after ten minutes of high-quality tennis to level the score at 2-2 and remain in contention. Bjorn produced magic in game eight with his groundstrokes, finding a forehand winner to break his good friend and take a 5-3 lead.
Borg served for the set in the next one and fired a forehand winner to wrap up the set and open another advantage. Refusing to surrender, Gerulaitis pushed even harder in set number four and earned an early break at 2-1. Bjorn was a better player in service games in the rest of the set but could not create more significant pressure on Vitas' serve outside deuces.
Thus, the American held in game nine to take the set 6-3 and force a decider. Borg defended two break chances in the final set's third game before Gerulaitis broke him at love with a backhand return winner two games later for a 3-2 lead.
Vitas had a game point that could have sent him 4-2 in front, but he squandered it and got broken to keep Bjorn on the positive side. Both players served well in the following four games to lock the result at 5-5 and increase the drama.
Borg held after deuces in game 11 to stay in touch and held at love for a 7-6 lead. Serving to stay in the match in game 16, Vitas got broken at 15 after a volley error to hand the victory to his opponent and propel him into the title clash.