Tennis Channel will take viewers into the remarkable life and career of one of the most notable — and notorious — stars of tennis' "Golden Era" with Signature Series: Vitas Gerulaitis.
The latest installment of the network's original Signature Series documentary line will premiere Monday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. ET. A complete schedule of episode airdates can be found on the channel's Web site at tennischannel.com/schedule.
Signature Series: Vitas Gerulaitis showcases the tennis achievements, celebrated nightlife and shocking death of one of the most colorful characters in tennis history. During a career that spanned from 1971 to 1986, an era brimming with compelling personalities, few shined brighter than Gerulaitis. Dubbed the Joe Namath of tennis by many, "Broadway Vitas" occupied the red-hot center of tennis' (and his native New York City's) boom years of the 1970s, standing alongside such iconic superstars as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg and Ilie Nastase - each of whom was proud to call him a close friend.
Ranked as high as third in the world in singles, off the court Gerulaitis was second to none, burning the candle at both ends, marching in lockstep with Andy Warhol and the glittering nights of Manhattan's world-famous Studio 54 disco club. Yet by day the New Yorker gave his heart to his sport and pioneered the notion of using tennis as a way to make a difference in the world. Gerulaitis' life is an incredible story, a tale of rise and fall, redemption and tragedy.
"On court or off, Vitas Gerulaitis' seemed to live his whole, outsized life in the headlines," said Laura Hockridge, vice president, original programming, Tennis Channel. "Through the warm recollections of his opponents - all of whom treasured him as a friend - Signature Series is able to take Tennis Channel viewers back to a time when Gerulaitis' enjoyment of both tennis and life defined a unique period in the history of this sport."
The film was shot and produced in high definition with hundreds of archival photos and rare video highlights. The real insight, however, comes from interviews with Gerulaitis' friends and rivals, including Connors, McEnroe (and his younger brother Patrick), Borg, John Lloyd, Mary Carillo and others.
Signature Series: Vitas Gerulaitis is the fifth edition in Tennis Channel's ongoing Signature Series line, which debuted in 2009. Other tennis personalities and subjects have included Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Rene Lacoste and the sport's centuries-old origins.
Gerulaitis' tennis resume is highlighted by the 1977 Australian Open singles championship and finals losses in the 1977 US Open and 1980 French Open, to childhood-friend McEnroe (John) and Borg, respectively. In all, he posted a 510-221 career record, captured 25 singles titles and eight doubles crowns. In 1990 a heating-system malfunction led to a carbon monoxide leak in the room where Gerulaitis was sleeping, causing his death at the age of 40. Media: A URL link to view of Signature Series: Vitas Gerulaitis is available upon request. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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