Vitas Gerulaitis

by Lorenzo Piccoli

Vytautas Kevin Gerulaitis was a Lithuanian American professional tennis player who died in 1994 at the age of 40, because of a malfunction in an improperly installed pool heater that caused his death via carbon monoxide gas. Gerulaitis won the men’s doubles title at Wimbledon in 1975, as well as two Italian Open titles, in 1977 and 1979, and the men’s singles title at one of the two Australian Open tournaments held in 1977.

However, rather than for his tragic death or the titles he won, Gerulaitis is most fondly remembered as the man who never let tennis interfere with his fun. This attitude was captured by an iconic sentence he pronounced in 1979: after losing to his friend Jimmy Connors in 16 consecutive matches and then doing the unthinkable by winning, Gerulaitis commented: “And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row!”