Vitas Gerulaitis neutralized Ivan Lendl's powerful forehand shots and used his own quickness to defeat the Czech, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, and win the $300,000 Canadian Open tennis championship.
Gerulaitis, who has beaten Lendl in three of their five career meetings, won $48,000 and gained a measure of confidence heading into the U.S. Open championships that will begin in two weeks.
Lendl, who played strongly in defeating No. 1 ranked John McEnroe Saturday, had not lost a set until today in his bid to win his third straight title here.
He weathered Gerulaitis' rushes at the net and short forehand shots in the first set but became very erratic in the second set. He failed to hold serve and was unable to get any consistent accuracy from his usually punishing forehand passing shots.
At one stage, Lendl lost four straight service games and six in all.
"I played very poorly and my footwork was very bad," Lendl said.
He shrugged off a suggestion that he "choked."
"I was never in the match so how could I choke?" he replied.
Gamesmanship has played a big part in this rivalry and today was no different. Matches between the two have been distinguished by the occasional shot to the body. Lendl knocked Gerulaitis flat with a forehand shot to the head at Madison Square Garden earlier this year.
Gerulaitis directed a volley that barely missed Lendl from about three feet today in the second game of the second set. He acknowledged the shot was deliberate but not motivated by revenge since Lendl had cut off all other angles.
"There is a consensus of players who feel that sort of thing is all right. But they think he (Lendl) does it too much, even when he has a wide court. I just want him to know that he can whack away all he wants -- I love it," Gerulaitis said.
Gerulaitis said he thought the momentum of the match swung to him in the second set when Lendl started arguing with officials and the crowd of 9,000 shifted its support to the New Yorker. "I've seldom had that many fans behind me -- even in New York," he said.
Gerulaitis repeatedly charged the net and used short, slicing shots to bring Lendl off his preferred spot on the back of the baseline.
The strategy worked briefly in the first set until Gerulaitis' weak second serve allowed Lendl to recover and run off five straight games. In the ninth, Gerulaitis' fourth double fault of the match and a stinging backhand winner accounted for the service break that put Lendl ahead, 5-4.
However, Lendl's serve and forehand, reliable and powerful throughout the tournament, deserted him as Gerulaitis increased the pressure at the net.
Gerulaitis broke Lendl's first two serves to take a 4-0 lead in the second set. He then lost his own serve but broke back yet again in the sixth game to go up, 5-1, and fought off four break points in the seventh game, winning the set with one of his 11 aces.
Lendl's tactics crumbled in the first game of the third set as Gerulaitis rallied with him willingly and waited for Lendl's passing shots to misfire. Gerulaitis, moving Lendl all over the court, gained a 1-0 lead, breaking at love, and held to go up, 2-0. Lendl held serve in the third game, but Gerulaitis recorded his sixth service break of the match in the eighth game and served out the match.