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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex- Star Gerulaitis, 40, Dies Suddenly

SOUTHAMPTON, New York -- Vitas Gerulaitis, once one of the best and most flamboyant tennis players in the world died over the weekend. He was 40 years old.


Gerulaitis was found dead shortly after 3 P.M. Sunday at the home of an acquaintance.


Southampton Village police said a preliminary investigation did not appear to reveal any suspicious circumstances. The cause of death will be determined after an examination by the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.


Gerulaitis, a former Australian Open winner, played Wednesday in Seattle on the Champions Tour, a circuit for men's players 35 and over. He withdrew from the tournament the next day because of a bad back.


Gerulaitis, who left the main tour in 1985, worked last weekend for the CBS network at the U.S. Open as a studio analyst. He also played in the men's 35 and over doubles event during the tournament.


"That's a very big loss for tennis because of Vitas' personality and his play," tennis star Michael Chang said. "He was very easygoing. All the players were able to joke around with him."


An excellent shot-maker who played with great flair, Gerulaitis had acknowledged using cocaine during the late 1970s. He admitted his drug use and late-night partying undercut his ability as a player. He was a regular on the Manhattan nightclub circuit during that time. But for all his excesses, Gerulaitis remained a durable and imposing player, outlasting many opponents not only with deft volleys or drop shots, but with strength and perseverance.


Gerulaitis was No. 4 in the world in 1984. He won 27 singles titles and nine doubles championships on the ATP Tour and had career earnings of more than $2.7 million. His one Grand Slam title was the 1977 Australian Open, over John Lloyd.


"The whole tennis community is going to be in shock and really saddened," said former player Tim Mayotte, a golf and tennis partner of Gerulaitis' this summer. "He brought heart and enthusiasm and life to tennis, and that's really rare."