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View Full Version : On red clay, tennis was once slowwww


CyBorg
04-21-2009, 05:14 PM
I had a disagreement with a poster some time ago over that youtube clip of Borg and Lendl in 1981. I notice it has become a popular reference for some people here.

The disagreement was over Lendl. The poster argued that Lendl at the time was very young and hadn't yet learned to correctly drive through the ball. He said that the older Lendl would have been able to pulverize Borg's groundies rather than staying back behind the baseline and exchanging in long, debilitating rallies.

I argued that this wasn't true at all. Even though Lendl was privy to graphite, the technology in the 1980s still wasn't anywhere close to what we have now, not to mention the strings. As tall and strong as Lendl was, he still coudn't deviate beyond the reality of the place and time. The clay was slower, the racquets provided significantly less control than they would years later and that meant for very, very slow tennis. Lendl whether 21 or 25 wasn't really the catalyst for power tennis as some suggest he was. If anything, I believe he's pretty old school.

Someone posted this clip recently of Wilander and peak-strength Lendl playing in Roland Garros in 1985. Watch how slow and long the rallies are. By all means, clay court tennis really hadn't changed all that much between 1981 and 1985.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AudpnN67vUQ&feature=channel_page&fmt=18

The biggest change actually appears to have occured in the late-80s as racquet technology continued to evolve.

gj011
04-21-2009, 05:20 PM
This thread sucks.

10 characters.

CyBorg
04-21-2009, 05:24 PM
10 characters.

Sorry to disappoint you - this isn't another topic about Monica Seles.

slice bh compliment
04-21-2009, 05:33 PM
Good points above.
All I know is that women's tennis on clay used to absolutely awful. Bo-ring.
Now it's still frustrating, but not because it's slow. It's faster than men's tennis used to be...they just don't artfully attack/counterattack (there are exceptions like Justine, Mauresmo et al).

Back in the wood era, when men's tennis on clay was a game of patience, there was still incredible creativity, calculated risk, touch and superb passing and lobbing going on. Nastase and Panatta come to mind. Borg, too, though he was a machine. Yannick Noah somehow beating Wilander at the 83 Roland Garros final comes to mind, too, though that was the early graphite era.

Lendl/Mac 84.....Kuerten/Corretja 2001.....the recent Rafa/Roger matches.....all a great ride. Loving men's tennis on clay.

CyBorg
04-21-2009, 05:43 PM
Good points above.
All I know is that women's tennis on clay used to absolutely awful. Bo-ring.
Now it's still frustrating, but not because it's slow. It's faster than men's tennis used to be...they just don't artfully attack/counterattack (there are exceptions like Justine, Mauresmo et al).

Back in the wood era, when men's tennis on clay was a game of patience, there was still incredible creativity, calculated risk, touch and superb passing and lobbing going on. Nastase and Panatta come to mind. Borg, too, though he was a machine. Yannick Noah somehow beating Wilander at the 83 Roland Garros final comes to mind, too, though that was the early graphite era.

Lendl/Mac 84.....Kuerten/Corretja 2001.....the recent Rafa/Roger matches.....all a great ride. Loving men's tennis on clay.

Thanks for the contribution. I enjoy the clay matches today as well - I just think there's no way a player like Federer gets very far at Roland Garros with conditions like those of 1985.

slice bh compliment
04-21-2009, 05:49 PM
Yeah, I'm thinking the balls are a lot quicker and harder now as well. They used to use Pirellis at RG back then. Ever play w/ those? Slow.

I think it's Dunlop making the current RG ball. Love those. Firm, great felt. Made for solid, spinny kind of tennis. Very fair. And yeah, the courts do look more uniformly firm...and well-maintained......fewer bad bounces, too, so that's also conducive to a less defensive match in general.

EDIT:
Even though things are quicker now, I still feel Federer would have done well on clay, in the way Nastase did. All-around amazing athletes did great on grass as well as clay. In terms of athleticism and talent, a lot of experts put Nastase and Roger in the same league. Roger, of course with the advantage in the stability and drive departments.

CyBorg
04-21-2009, 06:08 PM
One other thing is that they used to water the clay regularly, which slowed it down significantly.

egn
04-21-2009, 06:15 PM
Thanks for the contribution. I enjoy the clay matches today as well - I just think there's no way a player like Federer gets very far at Roland Garros with conditions like those of 1985.

I am confused as in to why you think that..you are saying the rackets are the reason the ball is not moving as fast and they provide less control. Well Fed himself has excellent ball placement and if it is just the rackets slowing down the rallys what would lead him to not make deep runs on clay? I am not challenging your statement I was just wondering your reasoning behind it as I am not sure, are you saying it is cause of his offensive style, because I think he would stand a better chance than McEnroe on clay in the 80s.

CyBorg
04-21-2009, 06:19 PM
I am confused as in to why you think that..you are saying the rackets are the reason the ball is not moving as fast and they provide less control. Well Fed himself has excellent ball placement and if it is just the rackets slowing down the rallys what would lead him to not make deep runs on clay? I am not challenging your statement I was just wondering your reasoning behind it as I am not sure, are you saying it is cause of his offensive style, because I think he would stand a better chance than McEnroe on clay in the 80s.

Federer likes to speed up points. Slow, high bouncing balls for four hours would drive him insane.

This is not to say that he wouldn't be at least as good as Connors was on red clay.

McEnroe wasn't terribly successful either aside from that one year, when he played perfectly until finally breaking down.

egn
04-21-2009, 06:21 PM
Federer likes to speed up points. Slow, high bouncing balls for four hours would drive him insane.

This is not to say that he wouldn't be at least as good as Connors was on red clay.

McEnroe wasn't terribly successful either aside from that one year, when he played perfectly until finally breaking down.

I see what you are getting at but yea I guess he would probably equal Connors but I think he could do a bit better, still no French Open titles though but I think he could have gotten a final in there somewhere.

Richie Rich
04-22-2009, 06:10 AM
i remember watching a wilander vs kent carlson back in the 80's. talk about sloooooow moonballs. you watch it now and it looks like they are playing in slow motion.

Thor
04-22-2009, 06:54 AM
Nice vid.
To me it seems that they hit slightly faster,but the difference wouldnt have prevented Borg to compete at that time.
IMO his movement was hardly ever put to the test,had he played vs graphite racquets im pretty sure we'd have more highlight reels a la Nadal.

pmerk34
04-22-2009, 08:16 AM
Good points above.
All I know is that women's tennis on clay used to absolutely awful. Bo-ring.
Now it's still frustrating, but not because it's slow. It's faster than men's tennis used to be...they just don't artfully attack/counterattack (there are exceptions like Justine, Mauresmo et al).

Back in the wood era, when men's tennis on clay was a game of patience, there was still incredible creativity, calculated risk, touch and superb passing and lobbing going on. Nastase and Panatta come to mind. Borg, too, though he was a machine. Yannick Noah somehow beating Wilander at the 83 Roland Garros final comes to mind, too, though that was the early graphite era.

Lendl/Mac 84.....Kuerten/Corretja 2001.....the recent Rafa/Roger matches.....all a great ride. Loving men's tennis on clay.


That Lendl-Borg Final is unbearable. I like the power game on clay now much better. BTW if you look at the 1985 USOPEN Lendl is crushing the ball.

pmerk34
04-22-2009, 08:17 AM
i remember watching a wilander vs kent carlson back in the 80's. talk about sloooooow moonballs. you watch it now and it looks like they are playing in slow motion.

awful to watch.

Chopin
04-22-2009, 08:48 AM
I had a disagreement with a poster some time ago over that youtube clip of Borg and Lendl in 1981. I notice it has become a popular reference for some people here.

The disagreement was over Lendl. The poster argued that Lendl at the time was very young and hadn't yet learned to correctly drive through the ball. He said that the older Lendl would have been able to pulverize Borg's groundies rather than staying back behind the baseline and exchanging in long, debilitating rallies.

I argued that this wasn't true at all. Even though Lendl was privy to graphite, the technology in the 1980s still wasn't anywhere close to what we have now, not to mention the strings. As tall and strong as Lendl was, he still coudn't deviate beyond the reality of the place and time. The clay was slower, the racquets provided significantly less control than they would years later and that meant for very, very slow tennis. Lendl whether 21 or 25 wasn't really the catalyst for power tennis as some suggest he was. If anything, I believe he's pretty old school.

Someone posted this clip recently of Wilander and peak-strength Lendl playing in Roland Garros in 1985. Watch how slow and long the rallies are. By all means, clay court tennis really hadn't changed all that much between 1981 and 1985.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AudpnN67vUQ&feature=channel_page&fmt=18

The biggest change actually appears to have occured in the late-80s as racquet technology continued to evolve.

Actually, RG has played progressively slower over the years. The reason the rallies were slower was due to the racquets (the balls used were actually faster), and imo because the players today are superior both technically and athletically.

Rabbit
04-22-2009, 08:55 AM
^I have to disagree. The courts are way faster now than then. Last year, Nads even took issue. There was a windy day which blew most of the clay off the court revealing the slate underneat. The footing became very slippery and Nads said it was like playing on a slick hardcourt. On Tennis Channel at RG, they interviewed Pat Cash. He disclosed that the clay courts were way firmer and faster now than when he was on tour. They were much softer then. Combine that with the old pressureless balls and it was definetly slower.

I prefer the old clay mainly for one reason. There was more diversity. It was always fun to watch the guys who were grass courters try to figure out how to beat the dirtballers. And there were two camps back then as well.

Nice thread.

CyBorg
04-22-2009, 12:29 PM
Actually, RG has played progressively slower over the years. The reason the rallies were slower was due to the racquets (the balls used were actually faster), and imo because the players today are superior both technically and athletically.

I see you haven't put much thought into this, once again.

Cyan
04-22-2009, 12:33 PM
Interesting. And very few replies. I bet if this was a thread complaining about how Wimbledon used to be faster it would have tons of replies from the *******s. :rolleyes:

svijk
04-22-2009, 12:34 PM
not familiar with a few posting terms. what do these mean ....

'10 characters'
'troll'
apologies and thanks

Chopin
04-22-2009, 12:37 PM
I see you haven't put much thought into this, once again.

The clay definitely plays slower than it did 15 years ago, there's been loads of talk about it.

Out of curiosity though Cyborg, do you play tennis yourself, or are you merely a fan?

CyBorg
04-22-2009, 12:43 PM
The clay definitely plays slower than it did 15 years ago, there's been loads of talk about it.

Out of curiosity though Cyborg, do you play tennis yourself, or are you merely a fan?

1985 was 24 years ago. 15 years ago the clay was already a lot faster than in the days of Wilander/Lendl.

I play tennis. Not competitively.

djones
04-22-2009, 12:44 PM
I argued that this wasn't true at all. Even though Lendl was privy to graphite, the technology in the 1980s still wasn't anywhere close to what we have now, not to mention the strings.

Well wasn't the Pro Staff 6.0 original introduced in the early 80's?
And what about the Wilson Graphite something racquet, isn't it from '79?

Mick
04-22-2009, 12:44 PM
...The disagreement was over Lendl. The poster argued that Lendl at the time was very young and hadn't yet learned to correctly drive through the ball. He said that the older Lendl would have been able to pulverize Borg's groundies rather than staying back behind the baseline and exchanging in long, debilitating rallies.

lendl had a fragile mind at that age. he lost a number of grand slam finals until he managed to win his first one against mcenroe.

borg, on the other hand, had already won 10 grand slam titles when he played lendl and when the match ended, he earned his 11th grand slam title.

Federer_pilon
04-22-2009, 12:49 PM
One other thing is that they used to water the clay regularly, which slowed it down significantly.

So no one is complaining that they sped up the clay but so many people are whining about the 'slower' grass at Wimbledon?

(This is an invitation to Nadal_Freak to start a thread to counter the 'slower' grass argument. hahaha)

CyBorg
04-22-2009, 12:50 PM
Well wasn't the Pro Staff 6.0 original introduced in the early 80's?
And what about the Wilson Graphite something racquet, isn't it from '79?

Lendl used Kniessl, and then switched to GTX Pro-T in 1986. Maybe I missed your point.

Chopin
04-22-2009, 12:51 PM
1985 was 24 years ago. 15 years ago the clay was already a lot faster than in the days of Wilander/Lendl.

I play tennis. Not competitively.

This simply isn't true but thanks for your reply.

VivalaVida
04-22-2009, 12:56 PM
Interesting. And very few replies. I bet if this was a thread complaining about how Wimbledon used to be faster it would have tons of replies from the *******s. :rolleyes:
________________________ 10 chars.

CyBorg
04-22-2009, 12:57 PM
This simply isn't true but thanks for your reply.

Um, okay thanks?

djones
04-22-2009, 12:58 PM
Lendl used Kniessl, and then switched to GTX Pro-T in 1986. Maybe I missed your point.


My point is, technology or not, those racquets were there back in the early 80's.
So if Federer and Sampras can hit the ball quite a bit harder with those old racquets, then I don't think it's really the racquet technology to blame.
It's just evolution.

CyBorg
04-22-2009, 01:05 PM
My point is, technology or not, those racquets were there back in the early 80's.
So if Federer and Sampras can hit the ball quite a bit harder with those old racquets, then I don't think it's really the racquet technology to blame.
It's just evolution.

Evolution means change - as in something constantly evolves, regenerates. I agree that athletes always change, as do the conditions around them. And yet the racquets stay the same? How so? How do corporations make money off racquets if they just sell old models?

There have been a lot of changes in graphite since the early models. Early graphites were particularly heavy for example. Then came widebodies, poly strings.

Also, graphite isn't really "graphite" - it's a mix of materials, constantly altered, updated to provide for most comfort.

Of course, there are folks who post here who know a lot more about racquets than I do. I'm just speaking of basic, common-knowledge changes.

Nadal_Freak
04-22-2009, 01:28 PM
Nadal prefers faster clay so I'm not complaining. Monte Carlo was very old school though. Very slow clay there.

jimbo333
04-22-2009, 03:13 PM
One other thing is that they used to water the clay regularly, which slowed it down significantly.

Doesn't it depend on how much it rains?

jimbo333
04-22-2009, 03:15 PM
1985 was 24 years ago. 15 years ago the clay was already a lot faster than in the days of Wilander/Lendl.

I play tennis. Not competitively.

I've never tried playing non-competitive tennis, do you enjoy it:)