View Full Version : Who was the best tactician in the 90'S ?

Pete Semper
05-11-2007, 06:37 AM
Who was the best tactician in the 90's ? I mean the faculty for a player to adapt his game to the adversarie.

I would say Brad Gilbert.

05-11-2007, 07:17 AM
Gilbert certainly had good theoretical grasp of the theory around tennis strategy. His analysis of other players strategy choices in "Winning Ugly" is impressive and proves that point.

05-11-2007, 07:10 PM
Gilbert certainly had good theoretical grasp of the theory around tennis strategy. His analysis of other players strategy choices in "Winning Ugly" is impressive and proves that point.

I agree he had a plan for each guy and put it in motion.

05-12-2007, 05:47 AM
Hingis. She had the skill to back it up too.

05-12-2007, 02:27 PM
Rios/Hingis, they're cut from the same cloth...it's just that Hingis tried more often. Other than that Gilbert, but really I feel Gilbert's prime was more late 80/early 90s, he was a tweener generation player for me and I don't really consider him a pure 90s player. Bruguera was a better tactician than Muster on clay, more able to mix his game up to the opponent. Definitely Fabrice Santoro should get a nod for all-surfaces. Natalie Tauziat I thought was very cunning and crafty as was Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, they both had ugly strokes though, one was a net rushing version the other a baselining version, but both were able and willing to mix it up and do anything to win. I kind of imagine playing them at their pugnacious best must have felt like playing a bugar, sorry, no offense, but can't think of a better fitting analogy.

Michael Chang was also a tremendous tactician, who would throw the kitchen sink at you and literally try everything to win, even serving underhanded as a surprise tactic.

Karol Kucera also was a tremendous tactician in his prime, looked and played like a surgeon out there who'd been smoking a little too much weed before his matches.

Overall though, I think the nod should go to Fabrice Santoro. The guy's way undersized, yet has made a career of making bigger, stronger players look like kiddies in diapers slipping in a pool of their own tears.

He had the most unorthodox game by far out there. Nothing he did by itself would scare you, but it's the way in which he constructs points with complete and utter randomness that makes players feel like they're slip-sliding every which way and getting wrong-footed every which way and never feel like they have balance, as if they were playing on glass, that makes him so tough and frustrating. He's the master junk ball artist, screwball/knuckleball/offspeed stuff pitcher, and then every now and agani he'll "blow" an 80mph fastball right by you because you're least expecting it for good measure.

I give him the nod over Gilbert, because for one he didn't retire in the 90s like Gilbert did. And two, the real big reason, is that Gilbert was a master tactician yes, but a huge part of his tactics was to also get in the head of his opponents. Santoro leaves it all on the court and you shake his hand afterward, with Gilbert you want to go after a match and punch him lights out then pour ice cold refreshing beer up his nose if you know what I mean...just ask David Wheaton, for example. Gilbert was an annoying guy with a grating personality, and he knew how to use it...to help give him the match. Now, that's cunning. But it's also mind games.

Santoro was a pure tactician, Gilbert was like a 6'2" Gilbert Gottfried in really tight, teeny weenie shorts trying to play you in a friendly tennis match. Good luck blocking out the sight and smile, and just concentrating on the match. With Gilbert, it was never easy.

05-12-2007, 04:26 PM
Great post !Tym! One of the most enjoyable sights in tennis is watching Safin self destruct against Santoro. I like both of them and you could see Safin, never a rock of mental stability at the best of times, being driven slowly, methodically insane :)

05-12-2007, 04:38 PM
Stich had a great tennismind IMO

05-12-2007, 04:46 PM
I like !Tym's list too with two changes.

I would omit Rios from that list. My memories of him are more of tremendous talent squandered. The mind and emotions getting in his way. Lots of those guys. There was a lot more in there IMO.

I would add Agassi under Gilbert's and Gil Reye's guidance starting in '94. I think people sometimes forget the drastic change Agassi made in his game coming off wrist surgery at the end of '93, transforming from the flashy "image is everything" shotmaker into the incredibly consistent "terminator" who in this incarnation controlled the center of the court like no one ever had. He would rely on his conditioning and employ that court control to grind the competition into submission almost appearing to prolong early rallies in order to take the opponent's legs away late. His consistent results were the fruits of a diametric change in tactical philosophy and that change was drastic from how he played through '93.

05-12-2007, 05:05 PM
I would go with Agassi in the mens as he controlled the court better than anyone for a while there, dictating play from the backcourt, and was able to use the tactic of beating the opponent down w. the constant body blows..he was really good at knwoing when to open up the court

On the womens' side, I think Steffi Graf is overlooked as a tactician because of her forehand and movement, but she also used the sliced backhand really well and knew how to use all places on the court and construct points really well....

Ted Ghost Shackley
05-13-2007, 03:08 AM
Regarding Santoro, I went to a Mats Wilander match at Roland Garros in 1991 hoping to see one last run of glory from him, only to see him get dismantled by Santoro. I had never seen Santoro before then. Mats tried to take the air out of the ball with looping groundstrokes, but Fabrice picked his pockets.

"The Magician" left one of my all-time tennis favourites wandering dazed and confused at match's end. Mats left the court with no watch, wallet or clothes. It was painful to see Mats get rolled like that.

I'd put Santoro right up there as one of the great strategists. I also put Hingis in that category. It was amazing how her soft hands could effortessly redirect a crosscourt shot down-the-line. Her great anticipation and touch allowed her chess master mind and killer instict to dominate the court. I hope her current injuries will not keep her out of the French.

Brad Gilbert was the master of psychological warfare. I wonder if "Winning Ugly" gave him too much credit as the guru of tennis strategy. He's a brilliant coach and knew how to play to Courier's forehand (etc.), but he wasn't alone in this regard.

My vote goes to Hingis and Santoro.

slice bh compliment
05-13-2007, 05:01 AM
Good answers above: Hingis, BG, Fabrice, CHang, Karol Kucera. I'd like to say Stich, but he was sometimes as frail mentally as Rios. But his tactics were as wonderful and as diverse as his strokes.

Andre was the master tactician in his later years.....the punisher. Kafelnikov was no slouch either. Could do just about anything with the ball, and his serve was on the large side, too. SO were his volleys.

You know who had a mastery of subtle changes, in attack/defense/tough play? Aleksandr Volkov. He'd fake a serve and volley to draw a shorter/central return, approach to the side T and touch away a little volley.

Slava Doesedel deserves mention here, too. Same with Paul Haarhuis, who was sort of a pusher, but also a very smart competitor.

And of course, Jim Courier, who used the inside-out FH tactic along with some subtlety on the BH side to good effect in the 90s.

Pete Sampras, I felt was not just a S&V'er. SO I would put him on this list, especially when he, like Henman, developed the chip-charge play.

Ted Ghost Shackley
05-13-2007, 10:11 PM

I agree with your post, but would not dismiss Stich as a head case. He beat Becker in a Wimbledon final and amazingly made it to the French Open final. This guy knew what he was doing. His problem as a pro was that he seemed to be embarrassed to wear shorts for his living. What is he doing today?

slice bh compliment
05-14-2007, 01:15 AM

...amazingly made it to the French Open final. ....

Good point. And he also the 94 US Open final....and was ranked much higher than the mulletted fella who beat him.

Talent-wise, he's up there with just about all the greats.

05-14-2007, 07:20 AM
Hingis is a great answer.

04-30-2008, 10:36 PM
On this topic, what do you people think is the best way to beat these players? I mean Fed crushed Santoro in the AO by hitting everything early and being super aggresive. Lendl and Mac obviously had an answer for Gilbert (1-13 vs. Mac, 0-16 vs. Lendl with 4 bagels). And the Willamses have been able to blow Hingis off the court. I believe the best strategy is taking away the tacticians' time, but in that case, why can't safin, with his pounding strokes, do anything agaisnt Santoro? :-?

04-30-2008, 10:42 PM
On this topic, what do you people think is the best way to beat these players? I mean Fed crushed Santoro in the AO by hitting everything early and being super aggresive. Lendl and Mac obviously had an answer for Gilbert (1-13 vs. Mac, 0-16 vs. Lendl with 4 bagels). And the Willamses have been able to blow Hingis off the court. I believe the best strategy is taking away the tacticians' time, but in that case, why can't safin, with his pounding strokes, do anything agaisnt Santoro? :-?

because he isn't mentally strong enough to play the right pounding strokes when the ball isn't being pounded at him. He is a great reactive player but i think Santoro strokes and variety don't feed him his "zone" balls therefore he has to create which isn't his strength

05-01-2008, 03:23 AM
Agassi,Chang,Santoro and James Blake(joking).

slice bh compliment
05-01-2008, 06:19 AM
Guy Forget. Forget abouddit -- there's Noah theranswer.

Nah, I just like saying, ''Forzhay about it.''

05-01-2008, 06:31 AM
Pozzi was pretty good at that too. The guy had a slow serve, yet he did so well on the tour for so many years. I've watched him live several times, and while the majority of the tour guys were switching to power tennis, Pozzi was playing with Graf's green Dunlop racket (the one with the long throat) and was very crafty at using it too: Lots of slices n' dices!

He turned pro in 1984, and had Career High ATP Ranking - Singles: 40 (29-Jan-01)

05-01-2008, 10:04 PM
^ He is also quite likely the last guy to be in the top 100 with a continental forehand. Saw him practicing at the US Open back in 1999 or 2000. We impressive how well he could hit his forehand. Very old school strokes, if the tour was forced to switch to wood, he would have been top 20 at the time maybe.

05-01-2008, 10:18 PM
Hingis didn't have much of a tactical mind when she lost (and melted down) in the 99 French Open final. Her shots weren't particularly well placed and her point construction looked amateurish. I do agree that she was at times a superb player, able to paint lines at will when she was on.

Navratilova, considering that she was able to win her 9th Wimbledon at an advanced age in the 90s and get to a final in 94 was an adept tactician. The recently aired 1984 FO final is a perfect example of this. One can't become one of the few candidates for female GOAT without a mastery of tactics. When she returned in her 40s, young players remarked that she won matches with little power and speed, just craft. How many players can win slam doubles titles in their 40s, let alone win matches in singles against top players in their late 30s (as Navratilova did)?

I didn't see Santoro play in the 90s so I can't comment on his game.

05-02-2008, 01:42 AM
I'm going to go with Santoro and Kucera, just built different in both cases. Others may have been more effective but they were (and are still with Fabrice) a joy to watch.

05-02-2008, 02:51 AM

Absolutely not, not under any circumstance.

Rios was a touch/feel player who performed if and when he was in the mood. When he wasn't, he folded like a cheap suit but when he was interested he played entirely on touch/feel and instinct. Tactics were the least part of his game. All he did was hit the ball however it 'felt right', not however was necessary in order to win points, games and matches.

Gilbert is the obvious choice and Mark Woodforde is another who used their brain to overcome weakness in their game (Woodforde carried a book detailing every one of his opponents and would read it before and during matches).

Q&M son
05-02-2008, 11:08 AM
Kucera & Gilbert.

05-02-2008, 11:36 AM
I think the case could be made for Rios. I don't see why you have to mentally stable to considered a tactician. I think Mac and Connors were tacticians, Chang threw hissy fits all the time and was a tactician, and maybe an artist's temperament should be expected for a player who can think outside the box and improvise new shot patterns to diffuse a hot player.

Rios was not overpowering the way Safin or even Agassi was, yet he could completely make even elite players look like total beginners. If that doesn't imply some sort of understanding of point construction and tactics, not sure what does. Maybe it was innate and he couldn't even consciously explain how he does it, but that's how it is sometimes. A guy like Brad Gilbert and Wilander probably had to give it some serious thought, whereas a guy like Rios had so many shots that he could formulate a plan on the spot during the match. Hingis was a combination of both. I got the impression she could deconstruct players, really understand what would work against them, and improvise.