Morning Man Classic: Vitas Gerulaitis!
The first time I ever watched a US Open match was the 1979 men’s final between a couple of New Yorkers I had never heard of: John McEnroe and Vitas Gerulaitis.
We all know about McEnroe so today we shine the spotlight on Gerulaitis who was one of the most charismatic players in the game.
With his long blond locks and absolutely sensational legs, Vitas was a sexy player to watch and he was good enough to win the Australian Open and reach number three in the world.
Vitas might have won a lot more big titles had he not come along at a time when McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg were at their peak.
He managed to win 25 titles in all, play in the finals of the French Open and US Open and lost a classic five-set semifinal against Borg at Wimbledon in 1977. He also won the men’s doubles titles at Wimbledon in 1975 and was a member of the US team that won the 1979 Davis Cup.
It is a testament to his immense popularity that Vitas was very close friends with McEnroe, Borg and Connors up until his untimely death in 1994 at the age of 40. A malfunction in a propane heater caused carbon monoxide gas to seep into the guesthouse where Gerulaitis was sleeping.