View Full Version : Players with the MOST INFLUENCE to later generations

02-21-2005, 12:36 PM
I just received the current issue of Tennis magazine. First, I do not understand the need to wait for 10 issues to see the top 40 pick of the greatest tennis players (I miss those other more quality tennis magazineS [ace, australian tennis, tennis, smash, etc.] I used to be able to get when I was in Asia). Second, I do not agree with the 33rd - 40th pick and I doubt I would agree with the rest. At least, not with their ranks.

Those prompted me to start this thread.

Who do you think has the most influence on later generation players. I am not talking about title achievements here.

02-21-2005, 12:42 PM
This is my list, on players influences:

Michael Chang => Asians
Althea Gibson => African Americans
Andre Agassi => Middle Easterners
Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg => Everybody
Martina Navratilova => Eastern Europeans
Gabriela Sabatini => South and Latin American Girls

02-21-2005, 12:48 PM
who in the hell really thinks of agassi as a middle easterner? no offence intended, but its not like that's something that's blatantly obvious by sight. i mean, pete sampras influenced greek players. maybe, but not because he's of greek heritage.

02-21-2005, 12:56 PM
IOP, for South America I would say the great Guillermo Vilas.

02-21-2005, 02:16 PM
Jimmy Arias.

When a world full of kids realized they could, at MINIMUM, rule the juniors, and possibly hold their own in the college game and beyond with nothing but a forehand, an undying will to run around backhands all day to hit it, and the insane level of fitness necessary to do so, the game changed forever.

02-21-2005, 02:25 PM
Bjorn Borg: He totally changed the game with topspin, huge loopy back swing, non-eastern forehand, and off course his open stance forehand.

He won French & Wimbledon within 4 weeks period. It is amazing how he can adapted from slow clay court to fast grass.

The rest that follow mostly refined Borg's revolution.

Aykhan Mammadov
02-21-2005, 02:42 PM
I really don't understand this question. What to understand under " to influence" and what under the word " later " ?

If u mean those who contributed in tennis with new techniques then obviously they are those who proved that their tecniques are better comparatively and they are those hence who achieved better results. Say Sampras, Agassi, Borg, Wilander, ....

02-21-2005, 06:11 PM
I am not related to and do not know StupidCupid. But, I guess when he said INFLUENCE, he was referring to influence of any kind. For example, inspired a race, introduced a new training regime, or simple taught other players to taka advantage of loopholes in the rules.

I would like to add Boris Becker to the list. He introduced the "diving for the ball" technique. Now, it can be seen used on hardcourt as well.

02-21-2005, 06:17 PM
guga for South American kids... brazil to be specific.

02-21-2005, 06:36 PM
Bill Tilden - wrote the definitive book on tactics. He realized that the player who made the most errors lost the match. In the pro game, errors are forced through power, in the club game, errors flow like water.

Jack Kramer - defined percentage tennis. He saw that net play would lessen the room for error and really influenced a generation of serve and volley players, all the way to the ultimate serve & volley player, McEnroe. McEnroe has called himself the "last great player to have played with a wood racket" and I see no reason or room to argue. (Before anyone says Sampras, he meant professionally.)

Harry Hopman - defined fitness and training regimes that are still prevalent today. He stressed that fitness and work in the gym would win tennis matches. All of the great Aussies were students of his and followed his methods. His influence was felt outside of Australia.

Rod Laver - two Grand Slams sends a message to the young players coming up. Arthur Ashe threw up before playing Laver at the U.S. Open, the man was revered by a whole generation (or two or three) of players.

Pancho Gonsalez - probably the most overlooked great player because he turned professional so young. He owned all of the professional players of his day, and they were the best of the bunch in the world. Jimmy Connors has always said that if there was a tennis match and his life depending on the outcome, he would want Pancho playing for him.

Billie Jean King - Martina Navratilova gives her credit, that in itself makes her one of the most influential people. The match with Bobby Riggs is probably a big reason for the tennis boom of the 70s.

Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, and Chris Evert - there probably wouldn't be two-handed
backhands on tour if not for these three.

Nick Bollitieri - he is the father of the modern game. He's had more number ones train at his place than anywhere else and he's been involved in the development of a gaggle of number ones. Someone previously mentioned Jimmy Arias, and it really isn't a stretch. All of today's pros ought to pay Arias some type of royalty. He was the prototype for today's player. Whether you like his methods and results or not, he is responsible for the power baseliner of today.

In his book "My Aces, My Faults", Bollitieri argues that he does not simply build baseliners. He says that if a serve/volley player needs fine tuning, he gets what he needs. I don't argue the point, but 99% of what comes out of his academy hug the back stripe; and do a damn fine job.

NB also rewrote Tilden's book. Bollitieri advocates hitting more winners than your opponent. With the equipment today, that is possible. Tennis is 180 degrees from where it started in the 20s.

02-21-2005, 07:18 PM
Ivan Lendl: underrated in so many ways... the first modern player? i.e. incredibly fit, cross trainer, huge serve and forehand, the serve used not to set up a volley but an easy forehand putaway, using the inside out forehand to control the court.

But he also proved that there might be no limit if you're willing to work hard enough, that you didn't have to just "settle." Borg and Mac were both athletic geniuses, and watching them it was clear to see they were more or less "destined" for greatness. Not Lendl, though. He could have just sat back and said to himself "goddamn I was born in the wrong generation," but instead he dared to imagine that working harder than Johnny Mac might neutralize the Brat's superiority of talent.

He worked hard to become a legend, allowing all players after him to KNOW without a doubt -- because Lendl proved it --that they haven't maxed out their potential until they took their fitness to the highest level.

I know that for me to reach the next level I'm going to have to get into the best shape of my life. Thanks, Lend, for that important lessonl. (yeah, I know Harry Hopman basically had the same philosophy...)

Also, Lendl's stylish forehand is way underrated. Yeah, his tactics were robotic, but I actually think if his groundstrokes were pretty nice to look at.


02-21-2005, 07:53 PM
Well I don't know about previous generations, but any discussion of the current state of tennis must begin and end with Andre Agassi and the academy style.

Granted, their were other Bradenton products - Courier, Seles, etc. - but nobody had more influence on the current crop of pros.

02-21-2005, 09:38 PM
who in the hell really thinks of agassi as a middle easterner? no offence intended, but its not like that's something that's blatantly obvious by sight. i mean, pete sampras influenced greek players. maybe, but not because he's of greek heritage.

His middle eastern looks are pretty hard to miss.

Kaptain Karl
02-21-2005, 10:01 PM
I can only answer this as a two-parter. And you'll note that some players are in both categories....

Negative Influence:
Ralston - a jerk of a player; nobody liked
Connors - obnoxious behavior
Evert - boring style still persists in womens' game
Tiriac (sp?) - scary guy -- beligerent with fans
McEnroe - obnoxious behavior
Agassi - tanking behavior

Positive Influence:
Nearly all the players prior to the 1960s
Laver - classy with highly competitive nature
Court - classy & tough
Newcombe - made sportmanship a goal for the regular guy
King - played attacking game with fire
Connors - drew "regular guys" to tennis
Borg - changed the game
McEnroe - flamboyance, flair, artistry and winning
Navratilova - changed the womens' game
Sampras - changed the game (again)
Graff - can girls really hit that hard?
Agassi - class returns to tennis ... "Andre II" has it

To Be Determined...
Serena Williams

- KK

Fred The Red
02-21-2005, 10:27 PM
Jim Courier:Raised the physical aspect of the game to a new level in the nineties.
Andre, Pete,...had to step up in their training regime.

"Jim was the epitome of a hard worker . . . He was very, very intense. He forced everybody on tour to re-evaluate their training system, to work harder. he was such a physical presence, such a competitor. He made tennis better." --Andre Agassi

02-22-2005, 12:58 AM
Thanks Rabbit, you took most all of my picks LOL. I'd just make a couple of additions to that list, for better or worse .

Guillermo Vilas: for his influence on the South American game (Corio didnt get that first name by chance and Sabatini wasn't born with that style of hers)

Boris Becker and Steffi Graf: got the German players out of the lucrative club leagues and aiming for the pro tour

Anna Kournikova: for showing that, in women's pro tennis, se x can sell and sell better than a winning game.Seriously though, if you compare the way the women presented themselves pre-Kournikova and post-Kournikova you'll see just how influential she was/is. Also, note her influence on the Russian women of the moment (they might dislike her but she showed there was money to be made and now you've got 3 Grand Slam winners as a result).

Jack Kramer, Lamar Hunt and the original 'pro tour'

I'm undecided about Kafelnikov, the first 'great' Russian player of the open era as I'm not sure of the influence he had on the ones who have come after him.

02-22-2005, 02:42 AM
Sampras - changed the game (again) - KK I don't understand this one. If he changed the game, he only did so by dominating and rewriting the record books. As far influencing playing style, I don't really see it.

Camilio Pascual
02-22-2005, 04:09 AM
Nice posts. I'll go with 2H BH baseliners Borg, Evert, and Agassi as the players having the most influence on the way the game is played today in the pro and amateur ranks. Michael Chang may be the single player alive today who will have the most significant influence on the future of the game. In keeping with Rabbit's catalogue of players, I would add Don Budge, who had an influence with his instruction book on us in the 50's and served as a counter to Wild Man Jack Kramer's revolutionary tradition- busting S&V game. I had to throw that in for you S&V fans who think of themselves as traditionalists, S&V'ers were the rebels of the 40's and 50's.

02-22-2005, 04:32 AM
I really don't understand this question. What to understand under " to influence" and what under the word " later " ?

If u mean those who contributed in tennis with new techniques then obviously they are those who proved that their tecniques are better comparatively and they are those hence who achieved better results. Say Sampras, Agassi, Borg, Wilander, ....

Influence in tennis not always related to technique. Just give it a little more thought.

Take Agassi's case, for example. He dropped to # 141 in the world , and came back upto #1 player in the world. Now he's one of the fittest, best, and oldest player in the world. Don't you think this story will have some influence on younger generation to work hard on their fitness?

Look at Todd Martin. He's hardly the best player ever, but his demanour on and off the court is a great example of how to behave as a professional tennis player to many other players.

Micheal Chang probably had a lot of influence on Asian players; giving them hope that they can also do it.

As far as techniques are concerned, it's more important to develop kid's own style rather than to copy some pro's stroke from start to end.

Kaptain Karl
02-22-2005, 06:00 AM
... Michael Chang may be the single player alive today who will have the most significant influence on the future of the game.Are you referring to his "introducing" Asians to the game? (Or is he becoming some behind-the-scenes Big Shot and we just don't know it yet?)

- KK

Camilio Pascual
02-22-2005, 06:16 AM
Yes, I know very many Chinese people and every one knows who Michael Chang is and he is the most often cited as the inspiration to take up tennis. Agassi got a fair amount of mentions. The PRC put out some survey in the early 90's that asked the people what sport would they most want the opportunity to play that they don't/can't play now. This was to make funding decisions. Tennis was the #1 choice by a large margin. The PRC government has been acting on the results of that survey.

02-22-2005, 06:33 AM
Brettolius, I'm quite fscinated with your comment. Every time I look at Agassi I just laugh at times. Because I follow cricket a lot and Pakistan is one of the big cricket nations. And of course Pakistan is next to Afghanistan which is next to Iran and Iraq (Persia etc). Agassi has the close look of these peoples. The big nose and big forehead and nice skin tone.

What is interesting for me is perceptions. As he's from Las Vegas is it that people would not look closely at his features or his name. The features of people from Middle East can be quite similar to people from the European Mediterrean countries. For instance Syrians and Lebanese are a good example. It would be hard to tell them apart from the Spanish and Italians for example until they spoke. I've been to Italy many times, Spain and Tunisia in North Africa. Its a fascinating region on the whole where religion and culture distinguishes a lot. But consider that the Moors from what is now Morocco ruled Spain at one point and in South of Spain there is still a lot to show for that.

So, on the tennis front, I think Sampras and Agassi both been meditterean/middle eastern descent influenced a lot of young people around the world that not just white northern europeans (or Americans and Australians with that descent) can get to the top.

Also, I think the Williams Sisters are having the same effect. They choose not to take the Arthur Ashe route and seem to get on the nerves of a lot of white Americans. I think they show black Americans that they don't have to compromise and be what other people want them to be to get to the top. I live in England but I hear a few black Americans are doing well in the junior ranks.

I also think Sampras' athletic game is very evident all over professional tennis. I'll give some examples:

Sharapova's serve
Federer's game
Gambill's serve
Dent's serve
Serena's serve
Alexandra Stevenson's serve

A lot of players are forever trying the slam dunk as well.

I also think Lendl was a huge influence on the game and more important than Courier when it comes to fitness and inside out forehand. The reason I say that is because he lasted a lot lot longer at the very top than Courier.

Unfortunately, Henman is classic counter example over here in England. Because of his background and "relative" lack of sucess at the biggest tournaments, he's not really an influence. A lot of people here site his rich upbringing and the fact he had his own tennis court in his backyard to go with what the British think is his apparent choking at the crucial moments at slams means his legacy is not what it should be. For instance he had Coria running scared in Roland Garros semi but seemed to freeze letting Coria back in.

At the end of the day, the winners are the ones that do the influencing

02-22-2005, 07:14 AM
By the way, Kafelnikov claims to have influenced the young Russians with his sucess. I wouldn't doubt that at all.

02-22-2005, 10:33 AM
i agree that agassi possibly influenced people of that nationality, but it seem imo that they would be the ones to notice more. i always thought thought he was a just a white dude. obviously when it's brought up you look a little deeper and can see his heritage, but c'mon, its not like he looks like sargesian, or el anouyi (sp?)

02-22-2005, 12:23 PM
Brettolius, I tell you who's an interesting comparison to Agassi; Zinedine Zidane...Algerian name, Algerian parents, born in Marseille, France's greatest footballer along with Michelle Platini (who had an Italian father!) Like Agassi, Zidane's features would look European on just first glance. But I would imagine if Zidane or Agassi constantly lived in a hot climate for twelve months a year it would become even more noticeable. By the way El Anouyi is Moroccan. What happened to him?

I know that Agassi and Sargesian are good friends. Agassi's mother is Armenian I believe. Can anyone confirm this? Sargesian is also Armenian.

Kevin Patrick
02-22-2005, 01:11 PM
Agassi's mom is a white american. Most Americans are not aware of Agassi's ethnic background, like brettolius said he's just considered a "white dude." Part of this might be due to the fact that he's so famous (in the league of MJ, Tiger Woods) that race isn't really an issue. I remember when he had his breakout year in '88 no commentators really talked about his ethnic background (like they did Chang)

Also laurie, I don't mean to stereotype your country, but I've visited England a few times & definitely got the vibe (encountered many questions about my ethnic background) that it is far more of a 'race-conscious' country than the US.

02-23-2005, 04:10 AM
Kevin, maybe you are right about that. I'm of an ethnic background myself. However, as you may know, us Brits have many hang ups. Don't forget the class issue and the establishment issue as well. Thats precisely one of the reasons why Henman hasn't gotten into the hearts of the great British public. Its also one of the reasons why football (soccer) is so popular. Its seen as a sport played by working classes and watched by working classes, despite the money that has gone into that sport at the top end in recent times.

But at the same time, England has to be one of the most tolerant countries in Europe and the western world when it comes to race issues. And they could genuinely could have been interested about your background.

When it comes to a sport like tennis, I sincerely believe the likes of Sampras, Chang, Agassi, Williams sisters, Noah, Ashe, Lori McNeil, Zina Garrison, El Anaouyi, Phillipousis, Chanda Rubin; whether intentional or not, do help to break down barriers people may have about the sport. They do get other people from ethnic backgrounds or fringe countries who are not known for tennis wanting to play either to be professionals or just for fun. They are role models in that sense.

02-23-2005, 07:53 AM
In keeping with Rabbit's catalogue of players, I would add Don Budge, who had an influence with his instruction book on us in the 50's and served as a counter to Wild Man Jack Kramer's revolutionary tradition- busting S&V game. I had to throw that in for you S&V fans who think of themselves as traditionalists, S&V'ers were the rebels of the 40's and 50's.

Dang....I knew I'd be found out. That is a great point, Camilio and one that I had never really thought about or knew much about until some time last year.

Jack Romeo
02-23-2005, 09:49 AM
most influential men
1. ivan lendl - big baseline game, supreme fitness, athleticism and hard work
2. boris becker - all-court all-out power game
3. jimmy connors - double-handed backhand, relentless counterpunching and irrepressible attitude
4. bjorn borg - western grip, double handed backhand, effortlessness, consistency and mental toughness

most influential women
1. chris evert - double-handed backhand, baseline style
2. martina navratilova - fitness, athleticism, power
3. monica seles - grunting, aggressive baseline bashing style (an improvement of evert's game)
4. venus and serena williams - combining seles' power baseline style with navratilova's fitness and athleticism added to brash, larger-than-life personalities

why i didn't mention
1. billie jean king - wta pioneer, but does anyone serve and volley anymore? do you see the top players going all out to support the tour and try to create a team atmosphere? do players now commit their whole careers to playing for their country? no, no and no.
2. pete sampras - he combined lendl's discipline, becker's power game, borg's efficiency and mental toughness and mixed in his own real gift - an unwavering hunger for success. those things just can't be taught. people may say "i idolized sampras" but the truth is, there will never be anyone like him because it's so hard to learn from him. i mean how do you teach or learn "hunger for success?" either you're hungry for it or not - it's as simple as that.
3. steffi graf - see sampras; plus does anyone slice their backhand anymore?
4. anna kournikova - the russian divas have come in full force and most of it was attributed to the trail blazed by anna. but we're talking about influence to a later generation, not just a certain geographic location.

02-23-2005, 03:37 PM
If I had to pick players who have changed the game I would pick Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova. Connors showed us all it was ok to express our angry and emotions on the court, with a few good yells, racquet throws and my favorite sceaming at chair umpires. The womens game would not near be as fit and strong as it is now if it weren't for Martina Navratilova. She showed the women's tour what dedication to the body and physical training could do for a player.

02-24-2005, 02:14 AM
Jack, I really don't understand what you are trying to say. Of course anyone can learn from hunger of Sampras and Graf and Billie Jean King and their will to win. But as I mentioned above just look at the service actions of some of the top players and its got Sampras written all over them. Serena's action is very similar with the ball toss and lowering her racket down to the floor, then bringing it to the backscratch position and unleashing the serve. That type of serve has good kinetic chain, gives good timing and is very economical on the body whilst having a good base for power. Sharapova's seve is very similar. Then Gambill and Dent and Alexandra Stevenson. Its a very different service action to the likes of Rafter, Hingis, Sanchez Vicario who started the racket position almost in line with the ball toss. None were known for big serving and look at the shoulder problems Rafter suffered because the kinetic chain was not very good and too much emphasis was placed on the shoulder as opposed to starting from the legs.

I think you may be confusing the issue here. What I mean is this, you may be looking at things from your point of view as a spectator but one can broaden the view and look at how aspiring young or even established pros look at it, and also how their coaches look at it. I've recently gotten three coaching books including "World Class Tennis Technique" and Sampras' technique on all aspects of the game is all over the book plus the front cover. Its compiled by a host of names from Jose Higueras to Pam Shriver to Mary Joe Fernandez and Patrice Haguelar. I can say for sure that a lot of players on the tour, plus club players I've met always mention Sampras as an influence especially when it comes to serving and taking risks on second serve and using the serve down the centre as a constant weapon. And I also believe Sampras' game along with Edberg and Becker was an inspiration for Mr Federer. Federer's serving pattern and how he uses it to stretch his opponent with spin is very similar to Sampras and in time his second serve will also get stronger. You can't get more of an influence than that on later generations.

02-24-2005, 02:43 AM
Curiously, Kournikova, having won not a single tournament had a huge influence on Russian and Eastern European girls who are poised now to dominate the tour.

02-24-2005, 07:42 AM
I admit I don't see the Sampras serve influence either. The most distinctive thing about his serve was the Chong stance. That's what they call it, right? I haven't seen Kevin Kim play in a long time but I think he's the only other player I've ever seen do it.

Becker used to go for a lot on his second serve, too. He was a clutch server years before Sampras.

The other things being attributed to him are IMO not distinctively Sampras, way too commonplace.