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Monday, March 16, 2009

Breaking a Losing Streak

“Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row.”

Those are the words that Vitas Gerulaitis is quoted as saying after finally ending Jimmy Connors’ winning streak against him. I’m not entirely sure if this quote is true, but I’ve heard it a number of times, including this past weekend by a commentator on the Tennis Channel, and it’s on several reputable websites. If you look at their head-to-head record, Connors led 15-6 (their 21 matches spanned 1974 to 1985). Gerulaitis could have been including exhibitions though.

The things is, if you know anything about Gerulaitis, then you know that it sounds like something he could have said. He liked to have fun on the court and he wasn’t above making fun of himself sometimes after hitting a poor shot. A man who is able to laugh at himself is a man who has come to terms with who he is and what his limitations are. He did get to number three in the world at one point, so he wasn’t that limited, but didn’t have many weapons and he had a hard time beating Connors and Bjorn Borg (Gerulaitis lost all 16 matches he played against Borg). He just made the most out of the talent he had. Sadly, Gerulaitis died in 1994 from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

He should be remembered for a lot of things. He was a great tennis player. He befriended some of his biggest rivals. He was known for quietly helping both friends and strangers. And like all of us, he had his issues, his was a battle with drugs. He had long hair and a big heart. And he had the aforementioned sense of humor—especially about himself. Just hearing his famous quote again over the weekend made me smile. And it made me want to laugh at myself more too.


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