Vitas Gerulaitis, known as The Lithuanian Lion, was a Lithuanian American tennis player who went on to be ranked third in the world during the peak of his career. During his career, Gerulaitis impressively won the 1977 Australian Open and won the doubles at Wimbledon with Sandy Mayer in 1975.
There is no doubt that Gerulaitis had success in tennis and has become a part of Tennis history. In Lithuania, the Vitas Gerulaitis Memorial Tennis Centre was opened to remember his celebrated career, whilst Half Man Half Biscuit, an English rock band, named a song after him called Outbreak Of Vitas Gerulaitis.
Looking beyond his success as a Tennis player, one thing that stood out for me is a quote by Gerulaitis which he said after beating Jimmy Connors in the semi-finals at the 1979 Colgate-Palmolive Masters. Previous to his win, Gerulaitis had lost sixteen times to Connors. This is what Gerulaitis said.
“And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row.”
This quote still stands to be as one of my favourites from any sportsperson, showing us never to give up and also not to take life too seriously.
Gerulaitis went on to finish the professional tour in 1986. After, he became a commentator and even coached Pete Sampras for the 1994 Italian Open.
Sadly, in 1994, Gerulaitis passed away tragically from Carbon monoxide poisoning.