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DoubleHanded&LovinIt
06-09-2006, 06:59 PM
I'm really not sure who is the best athlete I've ever seen on a tennis court. I'd have to say it'd be either Sampras, Nadal, or Federer. I would put Sampras and Nadal, both, ahead of Federer but then it's a wash between those two.

Pat Etcheberry, fitness trainer extraordinaire, reported that Sampras trained for some time, side-by-side, with Charles Woodson before the NFL combines that were coming up for Woodson. Etcheberry reported that Sampras was neck-and-neck with Woodson. Here's an excerpt:


Tennis Week: Of all the players you've trained who stands out for outstanding footwork?

Pat Etcheberry: One player who stands out for outstanding footwork, because everyone misunderstood how great of an athlete he really was, was Sampras. Pete moved so well on the court and was so easy and so natural, people don't realize how quick he was.

Tennis Week: One player once told me next to Michael Chang, Pete was the fastest guy on the tour at one point. He was a tremendous leaper as well, that guy could dunk a basketball.

Pat Etcheberry: Yeah, he was much, much faster than you think he was. I know this for a fact because when (Michigan cornerback) Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy (in 1997) coming out of Michigan, he came in and worked with me to get him ready for the (NFL) combine. At the same time, I was working with Pete at the time. A couple of times, I made them run and do some agility drills together and Pete stood right next to Woodson and did what Woodson could do.

Tennis Week: That's impressive because Charles Woodson was a great athlete.

Pat Etcheberry: Yeah and it showed that some of these tennis players are great athletes as well. A few of the football players said to me: "Hey, these tennis guys are a lot tougher than we think they are." They're on the court working out they're in the gym training and some of the tennis players are great athletes."

Here's the link: http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=13993&bannerregion=

Nadal's athletic prowess is obvious and well-documented--but I really wonder who the better athlete is? Nadal or Sampras? Are there some of you who think Federer is a better athlete than these two? Maybe another player?

Pat McEnroe keeps talking about how to play top-level tennis these days you have to be a top athlete. Is that true? What about Nalbandian? Is that a fair thing to say about David?

So I guess I'm asking two things:
1.) Who was the best athlete you've ever seen on a tennis court?
2.) Do/Did you have to be a great athlete, or one of the best athletes, to be one of top-ranked players on tour today or even in the past?

Matthew
06-09-2006, 07:10 PM
I think that most professional sports players, assuming that poker isn't a sport, are all great athletes. Afterall, thats what they are paid for - to be athletic.

DoubleHanded&LovinIt
06-09-2006, 07:16 PM
Matthew--yes, nostly all sports professionals have athletic ability, and maybe all of them even have GREAT athletic ability. Ok. But my questions pretain to whether or not you have to be one of the BEST athletes to be one of the best tennis player on tour. I'm wondering if the best players in the world are the best players, to a large-degree, because they are more athletic than their peers.

NoBadMojo
06-09-2006, 07:46 PM
I think it depends upon ones' def of 'athlete'. Many seem to think that just means 'fast'. That's part of it, but you can be very fast, and I wouldnt necessarily consider someone a great athlete for the sport of tennis. To me, a true athlete has all the shots, is obviously fast, can improvise and create, has equisite hand/ eye skills, power, finesses, etc etc. Because of that I think Fed may be the best tennis athlete of all time, followed by Samps, and i would put Nadal down in the heap and players like Yannick Noah significantly higher than Nadal on the athletic scale (those who have seen Noah play in person would agree I think..the guy was an amazing athlete and looks like his son got the genes as well). I think Nalbandian is an excellent athlete..great hands and speed for his size. Tommy Haas is a terrific athlete..better than Nadal I think. etc
With the game being less multi dimensional than ever before, I dont think the athletisism shows like it did in days by gone. Fed is considered the genius more so because nobody else on tour at the top is that athletic in comparison, but guys of old used to pull out amazing shots..guys like Nastase...you have a lot of trained tennis players on tour these days....they were started at a very young age, and years and countless thousands were invested in them so they could be trained to be tennis players...to hang at the baseline and hit forehands and backhands...these days the tour is more a fitness grind than an athletic competition and I think having a good trainer is more impt than havng a good coach. in a sport where Justin Gimelstab (who has little in the way of athletic ability) can be ranked well in the top100 in the world, tells ya something. tangential post..brain dump

DoubleHanded&LovinIt
06-09-2006, 07:51 PM
Ed,
I agree that a lot of this depends on your definition of an athlete. But, buddy, I've got to really, strongly disagree with your post that Nadal is not one of the best, if not the best, athlete amongst professional tennis players. Nadal does have great hands, is the fastest/strongest player on tour, and has an incredible amount of endurance. He's also reported to be quite a good soccer play. I believe that cross-over athletic success in other sports is a sure sign of being a great athlete and not being just a well-trained player. By the way, if you get a chance, seeing as how you are a TP, check this out and maybe show it to your students as well: http://matswilander.com/media/video/Mats_WomansSemisJune082006.wmv

mj01
06-09-2006, 08:08 PM
I think there are different types of athletic skills that relate to tennis, just like there are different athletic skills that relate to other sports. Some of them are comparable across a variety of sports, some aren't.

Someone like Sampras had "movement" abilities on par with great athletes in other movement sports- football, soccer, basketball, etc. That's what Etcheberry was talking about. Many excellent tennis players are going to have superb abilities in that realm of athleticism. However, I don't think all are going to have that, and I don't think its going to be the biggest factor in a tennis player's success, because equally or more important are some unmeasurable abilities- mainly hand-eye coordination.

Someone like Andre Agassi, at his absolute physical peak, was nowhere near your average NFL player (non-lineman) when it came to movement skills. No way- its not even on the same planet. But like a great baseball hitter, he had otherwordly hand-eye coordination. Nalbandian is similar.

So I would say that having "cross-over" athletic ability can help, but isn't a necessity.

DoubleHanded&LovinIt
06-09-2006, 08:10 PM
mj01--You raise a very interesting question: does athletic ability have to be broken down into a dichotomy between hand-eye coordination and movement (including strength)? Good points!

serveitup911
06-09-2006, 08:18 PM
James Blake and Gael Monfils are really good athletes.

NoBadMojo
06-09-2006, 08:27 PM
Ed,
I agree that a lot of this depends on your definition of an athlete. But, buddy, I've got to really, strongly disagree with your post that Nadal is not one of the best, if not the best, athlete amongst professional tennis players. Nadal does have great hands, is the fastest/strongest player on tour, and has an incredible amount of endurance. He's also reported to be quite a good soccer play. I believe that cross-over athletic success in other sports is a sure sign of being a great athlete and not being just a well-trained player. By the way, if you get a chance, seeing as how you are a TP, check this out and maybe show it to your students as well: http://matswilander.com/media/video/Mats_WomansSemisJune082006.wmv

It's fine to disagree, but let me reiterate somethng I said and add to it and see if you agree. I mentioned that a great tennis athlete can improvise...well a great one can also change playing styles and does great on all the surfaces....Nadal clearly cant change playing styles nor does he yet play well on all the surfaces..i'd like to see him attempt indoor carpet sometime. time will tell if that comes for him.
A great athlete would also be able to play in the court more than Nadal who plays mostly about 15 feet behind the baseline and seems to have to catch the ball in descent which is easier than catching it earlier....
I do think he is an amazing mover...lots of these baseline grinders (that term alone indicates not the finest of athletes) move great from side to side, but Nadal moves well side to side and up and back both, and moves up to take the offense and perhaps has the best transitioning from defense to offense in the business.
Thanks for the url

DoubleHanded&LovinIt
06-09-2006, 08:39 PM
I see your point Ed--I think our disagreement stems from the fact that we define athleticism in different ways. If I agreed with your definition, I would agree with what you're saying--and I'm sure the reverse case is true as well.

No problem with that url. I hope you enjoyed it and that you'll get a chance to share it with your students.

Andres
06-09-2006, 08:46 PM
Thomas Muster, Gillermo Vilas and Bjorn Borg.

DoubleHanded&LovinIt
06-09-2006, 08:49 PM
3 good picks, Andres. Muster had ridiculous endurance; Borg was quick, had great endurance, and had the hand-eye coordination to hit heavy topspin in an era of narrow, small-headed racquets; and I've seen pictures of Vilas sliding on clay--his legs are massive! Check this out:
http://www.tennisserver.com/turbo/images/citibank99/GuillermoVilas2.jpg

monologuist
06-09-2006, 09:13 PM
It's fine to disagree, but let me reiterate somethng I said and add to it and see if you agree. I mentioned that a great tennis athlete can improvise...well a great one can also change playing styles and does great on all the surfaces....Nadal clearly cant change playing styles nor does he yet play well on all the surfaces..i'd like to see him attempt indoor carpet sometime. time will tell if that comes for him.
A great athlete would also be able to play in the court more than Nadal who plays mostly about 15 feet behind the baseline and seems to have to catch the ball in descent which is easier than catching it earlier....
I do think he is an amazing mover...lots of these baseline grinders (that term alone indicates not the finest of athletes) move great from side to side, but Nadal moves well side to side and up and back both, and moves up to take the offense and perhaps has the best transitioning from defense to offense in the business.
Thanks for the url

well..actually Nadal beat Ljubicic (probably the 2nd best indoor player in the world) at the Madrid Masters which is indoor hardcourt that is supposed to play quite fast...he also beat Federer in the Dubai finals this year which is a fast outdoor surface, and he beat Agassi in the finals of the Montreal Masters last year on one of the fastest outdoor hardcourts (Cincinatti is supposed to be the fastest, but everyone was saying that last year Montreal played faster) outside of the USO. I'm not sure about his results on indoor carpet, but point is, other than grass, he actually has shown that he can play well on surfaces other than clay. As to whether he can change his style, I actually think he can, he just hasn't been forced to yet...he's had so much succes on so many different surfaces playing the way he does...given the mental fragility and inconsistency of 99% of the players out there right now, his style tends to work more often than it probably should.

for me, a great athlete is someone who you could imagine excelling at a variety of sports. In other words, their outstanding athletic gifts would translate to sports other than their chosen one. I could easily see Nadal excelling at just about any sport he chose...soccer, football, baseball, what have you...he appears to have elite level footspeed, balance, strength, hip fluidity, ambidexterity, explosiveness, timing, change of direction, hand-eye and small muscle coordination, probably vertical leap as well....

Progressive10s
06-09-2006, 09:16 PM
I think one thing that Etcheberry brings out in that interview is that he can bring out the best of a player's natural ability. Serena Williams has (or should I say had) the athleticism, but imagine what she could be if she trained with Etcheberry or say Mark Verstegen at Athlete's Performance. That video with Mats Wilander was very interesting--he certainly didn't mince his words. Who was interviewing him? Where is Mats living now and is he still very involved with the game?

Warriorroger
06-10-2006, 03:27 AM
Steffi Graf was the best athlete. So many pros male/female said that.

omniexist
06-10-2006, 04:04 AM
I dunno. It seems some people consider "talent" as "athleticism". Personally, I consider good hand-eye coordination as more a talent (since one could be a horrible mover and lousy shape and still possess that).

Me, I see someone with high endurance, speed, agility, and sure leaping ablility as very "athletic". Speaking for myself, I'd say I have more talent than say some soccer player because of hand/eye coordination and touch but more athletic?

Doubt it.

chess9
06-10-2006, 04:21 AM
I think one thing that Etcheberry brings out in that interview is that he can bring out the best of a player's natural ability. Serena Williams has (or should I say had) the athleticism, but imagine what she could be if she trained with Etcheberry or say Mark Verstegen at Athlete's Performance. That video with Mats Wilander was very interesting--he certainly didn't mince his words. Who was interviewing him? Where is Mats living now and is he still very involved with the game?

Mats is commenting for EuroSport on some of the matches. He looks pretty fit still. :)

-Robert

DoubleHanded&LovinIt
06-10-2006, 07:49 AM
omniexist--Good point. I tend to agree with you that hand-eye coordination is more talent than athletic. Although, supposedly, there are techniques and training programs you can use to improve your hand-eye coordination. I guess the fact that you would have to train to improve your hand-eye coordination would make it athletic.

TXKiteboarder
06-10-2006, 07:57 AM
what about lance armstrong?
his kinetics and body mechanics are totally superb

DoubleHanded&LovinIt
06-10-2006, 09:21 AM
TXKiteboarder--Yeah, Armstrong obviously an incredible athlete. But I'm asking if you have to be one of the best athlete's on the ATP tour to be one of the best player on tour in terms of ranking?

tennispro2388
06-10-2006, 09:47 AM
I really think Coria is a great athlete. He has tremendous flexibility and runs with grace. Nadal seems a little more unnatural in his movement compared to Coria.

Paradorn Schrichapan is also very athletic.