Agassi - greatest returner in history?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by Orion3, Jul 12, 2012.

  1. Orion3

    Orion3 Semi-Pro

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    Saw this on YT and had to share...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdDzhENhMXs&feature=g-vrec

    I've been really impressed with Djokers returns over the last few years - his consitency and depth is fantastic...but watching this highlight reel, I re-remembered how devastating AA's return of serve was.

    Court speed was quicker back then (although in the latter years the difference was much less) and the servers he faced - Sampras, Becker, Ivanisevic, McEnroe, Federer... I know you can only beat what is put in front of you, but for me AA all the way.
     
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  2. 5555

    5555 Hall of Fame

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  3. War Safin!

    War Safin! Professional

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  4. 5555

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    McEnroe is an tennis expert. Are you a tennis expert?
     
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  5. McLovin

    McLovin Hall of Fame

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    Agassi had great eye-hand coordination, and had the ability to pick the ball up easier than anyone. He moved into the return and drove it back hard, sometimes harder than the serve itself. However...

    Agassi also guessed a lot. In fact, he admitted to just that when returning against big servers such as Sampras, Becker & Ivanisevic.

    Djokovic seems to be able to anticipate the server's direction, as opposed to guessing, in addition to being almost as good as Agassi in the other categories. So, while the returns might not be as devastating, they are damn close, and he gets more of them back.

    Because of that, I tend to agree w/ McEnroe: Djokovic is the greatest returner to date.
     
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  6. sportsfan1

    sportsfan1 Hall of Fame

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    Yeah agree with your comment on McEnroe's habit. He needs to tone down his commentary a tad.
     
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  7. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    McEnroe is more in the manner of a tennis savant. Half of what he says is incoherent blather. The other half is hyperbolic nonsense. Of course, it comes as no surprise that you haven't figured that out.
     
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  8. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    IMO, Agassi was the greatest returner of all time. Djoko is nearly as great, has better reach, and hits better when reaching. So, overall, it's very close. But, for any ball that Agassi can get good stick on, he's the best.
     
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  9. The-Champ

    The-Champ Legend

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    Returning Nadal's serve who stays at the baseline is not the same as returning Sampras' Becker's Stich etc. Not only did they have huge serves they followed it to the net. Novak hasn't faced those kind of players.
     
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  10. Devilito

    Devilito Hall of Fame

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    Agassi had it WAY tougher than Djokovic does now. Fast low bouncing skidding balls to which someone was hugging the net to put away weak returns / floaters. This forced you to take the ball early and risk getting aced or missing so you can counter someone like Petros coming to the net. Now a days djokovic has the luxury of balls dying when they hit a rougher surface and bouncing higher making timing far easier. He is also able to stay 10’ back and potentially float returns back deep against a field of %100 baseliners that give him no pressure at net. When him and Nadal reach for a serve and float it back deep they’re in the point 50/50. If Petros was at net the point would be over. The amount of returns they’re able to get back are way higher and the shots are way easier to hit.

    So who’s better, Agassi or Djok? Who knows because it’s another totally theoretical question that’s impossible to analyze with statistics and the constantly different conditions that tennis is played under. One thing is for certain though, that if you’re impressed with how Andre returned in the 90s on fast surfaces against S&Vers, he’d be twice as good under current slower conditions where he has more time to uncoil on returns. So when Mac says that Djokovic is the best, yes because that’s all he can see now. He has no access to prime Andre on current surfaces against current players. Like Limphitter said. Mac is a tennis playing genius but lots of former greats are terrible tennis analysts . That’s why often the best tennis coaches aren’t necessarily the best former tennis players.
     
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  11. 5555

    5555 Hall of Fame

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    Has your opinion on issue who is the greatest returner of all time ever been published by a reliable source?

    Are you recognized as a tennis expert? McEnroe is widely recognized as a tennis expert http://www.google.co.uk/#q=tennis+e....,cf.osb&fp=3cbbe7df7233a578&biw=1024&bih=587
     
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  12. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I know this is difficult for you. But, try to comprehend this concept: there is a difference between an expert player and an expert commentator, and history has demonstrated that those two areas of expertise are usually, mutually exclusive.
     
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  13. Nathaniel_Near

    Nathaniel_Near G.O.A.T.

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  14. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I think you can reverse the "you" and the "are" and delete the "perchance."
     
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  15. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Now, now guys, take it easy. I do believe Nathaniel is very impartial as a poster.

    As far as John McEnroe is concerned, yes he's super knowledgeable in tennis, no doubt about that but he is human and prone to changing his mind. He picked Agassi years ago as the greatest returner ever but frankly the facts don't always match the reality. A number of players rival Agassi in returns and some actually surpass him somewhat statistically.

    Agassi looks super impressive in returning serve but I've found in watching him that I believe that if he doesn't hit a great offensive return that he's often in trouble because his movement isn't as great as a Connors or Chang for example. We tend to remember the winners Agassi has hit off return of serve but forget when he can't return the serve or is aced. Perhaps a Connors, Chang or Rosewall would have gotten those serves back that Agassi couldn't. It may not be as impressive but it does win points. And those players could hit winners off the return also.

    My gut feeling and I don't have ATP information that supports this since stats have been kept in this category after Connors was on the verge of retiring is that Connors probably broke more by percentage than Agassi. He hit great offensive returns like Agassi but I felt he was much better defensively than Agassi and could win a lot of points off the return that way also. Much superior movement to Agassi in my opinion.

    Djokovic is a great returner but he was at a super high level for one year (2011) and his return stats while excellent have come back down to Earth. To call him the greatest returner of all time already is really illogical. But McEnroe is part of the media now and that's a great way to push today's players. They push how great they are. Everyone today seems to be the GOAT in everything and that just can't be true all the time.

    Here's ATP Match Facts for this year. Djokovic is number two.
    http://www.atpworldtour.com/Rankings/MatchFacts.aspx

    Here's the career leader in return games won. Djokovic is number 13 and he's played a lot of return games.
    http://www.atpworldtour.com/Matchfacts/Matchfacts-List.aspx?c=9&s=0&y=0

    Point is you can't believe what the media says. You have to check the correct information. I've done a lot of research on the matter and I have some ideas on who actually may be the leaders in the Open Era on percentage of games won when returning serve. Connors may very well be the leader of the Open Era but there are other candidates too.

    The greatest returner of all time shouldn't be number 13 in the stats all time. A number of guys like Murray, Ferrer and Nadal currently are ahead of Djokovic lifetime in returning serve. How can you be the greatest service returner of all time if you are not even the best among your peers?
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
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  16. The-Champ

    The-Champ Legend

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    You've committed is a logical fallacy called "argumentum ad verecundiam". Just because Mac is known as an "expert" it doesn't make him always right.
    I hope you question your professors in school and not take their words as absolute truths, just because they are called "professors". :)


    At this year's wimbledon Mac proclaimed Djokovic a bettter volleyer than Federer. Really? He also said Nadal is the best volleyer in the top 10 right now. What about Tsonga?
     
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  17. Devilito

    Devilito Hall of Fame

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    You know who else will be a terrible commentator if they ever do it? Federer. His self-analysis of matches and other players have been proven to be terrible. I remember a certain interview when they asked him why he was having trouble with a certain shot. He said “I never miss that it’s perfect”. Then the interviewer showed him the statistics that showed him missing %80 and Fed was like, “oh really? Wow I didn’t realise that”. Or at one point he thought his break point conversion rate was one of the best on tour when in fact it’s one of the worst % on tour. Sometimes just because you’re a god at playing the sport doesn’t mean you’re any good at analyzing it. Heck Pete Fischer was a terrible 4.0 hacker yet he was able to mold Petros into a future champion because he was so good at analyzing the sport
     
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  18. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    Great post. I am increasingly finding that whenever anyone wins a slam they are suddenly the GOAT, until the next slam winner. There's this OTT reaction going on. What surprises me most it is ex players doing it all the time.
     
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  19. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Haha! That's been going on forever! It's a subset of the most recent greats are always greater than greats of the past mentality. And, McEnroe is as guilty of it as anyone, or, at least he is publicly. Who knows if he really believes all that he says.
     
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  20. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Limpin,

    As you know McEnroe used to say Sampras was the GOAT until recent years. Yet when he was saying Sampras was the GOAT he admitted that he would like his chances in his prime against Sampras.

    He almost beat Roddick a few years ago in WTT (double set point for both) at over age 50 so I'm sure he must have thought he would have had a super chance against Roddick if he was 25. All time greats like John McEnroe I'm sure have immense confidence in themselves. I would not be surprised if McEnroe thought to himself that if he was young, given the racquets today and his great variety of skills that he would love to play all the top players.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
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  21. The-Champ

    The-Champ Legend

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    Really? lol, maybe Mac let Rod win :D
     
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  22. big ted

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    it is harder to tell who is the better returner these days because everybody stays back. all djokovic or anyone has to do with a serve is just block it back high and deep. that wouldnt work in agassis or connors era
     
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  23. santoro

    santoro Banned

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    The stats - "career returns won" don't say anything about being a good returner. IMO winning the return games doesn't mean you are returning the services great- you may just crappy return the services but then somehow win the points. E.g if you took this stat it would mean that Sergi Brugera was a better returner than Andre Agassi. Or that Muster was almost as good returner as Murray- wchich isn't surely the case.
    When taking the first stats "% of winning the point after returning the 1st serve" or after the 2nd serve it indicates much more your returning quality- but also not completey because it doesn't indicate if you won the point because of your great return or because you made the point in other circumstances...
     
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  24. santoro

    santoro Banned

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    "Needless to say, there's a difference between return game and return of serve. A player can be excellent at reading and reacting to serves, but lacking in terms of general game. As to the former, no one was probably better than Andre Agassi, but he wasn't as clear-cut a No. 1 in the latter as we might expect."

    http://http://bleacherreport.com/articles/911819-the-best-returners-of-the-last-twenty-years

    top ten returners on hard court (refering to the article- % of return games won)
    1. Michael Chang
    2. Andy Murray
    3. Andre Agassi
    4. Stefan Edberg
    5. Lleyton Hewitt
    6. Guillermo Coria
    7. John McEnroe
    8. Jimmy Connors
    9. Christian Bergstrom
    10. Novak Djokovic

    However as stated above when counting only just the return of service I definetely would go with ANDRE
     
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  25. santoro

    santoro Banned

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  26. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    But isn't that the point and I don't mean it as a pun. Overall these guys are combining the strength of their games, a return, mobility, defensive play or other things to win enough points on the return to break serve.

    Let's give an example "A", let's say you're Agassi and you hit a super return at Edberg's feet but Edberg somehow half volleys the ball into the other corner with good pace. Agassi runs and cannot make the passing shot.

    Let's give an example "B", let's say you're Connors (in his prime) and you hit a return that's good but not quite as good so Edberg hits a volley into the other corner with better pace. Connors somehow reaches the ball and tosses up a lob and somehow wins the point.

    Agassi hit the better return but lost the point. Connors hit the lesser return but won the point. What result is better? The answer is obvious. No sane person would want to be Agassi considering the result of losing the point.
     
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  27. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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  28. pc1

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    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
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  29. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    It wouldn't surprise me all that much if he was able to beat the top players today. But, that doesn't mean he doesn't says some pretty silly things as a tennis commentator from time to time.
     
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  30. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Very good point. I think Agassi would be a more successful returner today than Djokovic would have been in the 90's
     
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  31. santoro

    santoro Banned

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    On the other hand don't they play on baseline nowadays because they have respect for the big returners?
     
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  32. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Since we're talking about returners, McEnroe was a pretty good returner himself. Amazing reflexes and he often could half volley a return and approach the net. He was obviously a different type of returner than most of the returners today. No one ever hits a return and approach the net now although I was shocked when Federer did that during the recent Wimbledon final. I was thinking to myself "Why don't they do that more?"

    Let's just put it this way with McEnroe, if he played today at age 25 no one would be sure how to play against this style of play.
     
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  33. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I also agree.

    True but a more than an occasional serve and volley would give the returner something more to think about. A lot of returners miss their returns because they want to a better return to stop the serve and volleyer.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
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  34. santoro

    santoro Banned

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    It's especially weird on grass court. Like untill 2003 the Atp used to play a lot serve and volley. Afterwards the serve & volley players disappeared. :(
     
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  35. pc1

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    I think it's easier to find Bigfoot than a serve and volleyer today.
     
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  36. BTURNER

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    Connors returned an incredible variety of serves and styles and surfaces over his extensive career. He returned Laver, Rosewall, Smith, Ashe, Nastase, Newc,Tanner, Borg Mcenroe, Lendl, Edberg, Becker, Leconte. He's the only one mentioned here who returned served on wood courts. Evidently that's the true test of a quick eye and hand.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
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  37. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I've never seen a pro half volley return. However, Mac hit plenty on the rise. He stood in close, blocked it back almost like a volley using his opponent's power against him. I remember the first time he played Becker in about 86. Becker was bombing serves and Mac was taking them at the baseline. Compare that to Lendl who would stand 15-20 feet behind the baseline to return Becker's serve.
     
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  38. pc1

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    You're probably more accurate in your description but he hit it so early that it may be very close to a half volley. I've seen him do it with Jimmy Connors and I was shocked when I saw him do it with Lendl.
     
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  39. pc1

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    That's a lot of super serves that you mentioned there. Push comes to shove I would think Connors overall return game was superior to Agassi's.
     
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  40. 5555

    5555 Hall of Fame

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    Expert is expert. McEnore is a tennis expert. You are not a tennis expert. Period.

    There is no proof that McEnroe said what he does not believe.

    I do not claim that McEnroe is right in this case, so I did not commit argumentum ad verecundiam. My point is that every rational person who is not a tennis expert will rather belive to someone who is widely recognized as a tennis expert than to unknown people on internet forums.
     
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  41. pc1

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    I didn't write that he didn't believe it but you cannot deny that saying Djokovic is the greatest returner ever is a good way to tell the audience viewing what a great product they have in tennis today.

    Incidentally there are tennis experts and then there are tennis experts in different areas. John McEnroe is super knowledgeable about tennis in general but there are a number of things he may not be super knowledgeable about in the game of tennis, no one can be. So just because he says it doesn't mean you should value his opinion over a Steve Flink for example who obviously could not play tennis at the level McEnroe played at but knows his tennis history and stats.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2012
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  42. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Laver,Connors,Rosewall,Borg,Budge on the ocassion,Segura were just as good returners as AA ( which is an all time rgeat in that department, no doubt)
     
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  43. 5555

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    What is your point?

    Can provide a reliable source which says that Flink is more knowledgeable than McEnroe regarding return of serve?
     
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  44. pc1

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    Can you provide a reliable source the other way around? Flink is a stats man among his many areas of expertise in tennis so he can talk about stats and information that players don't know. If Chris Evert during her press conferences did not know some information statistically in tennis and often deferred to Flink to answer the question. Evert's pretty knowledgeable about return of serve also and she deferred to Flink.

    And the point I made was that it is good publicity for the good to discuss how great the players are today. Frankly players like Djokovic are fantastic players so it's easy to praise them. It's a marketing tool to push the game. It's probably that McEnroe believes it but to say Djokovic is the greatest returner ever doesn't hurt.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2012
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  45. 5555

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    I do not have to provide it, because I do not claim that McEnroe is more knowledgeable than Flink.

    McEnroe is not Evert.

    That's not problem as long as they say what they believe.
     
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  46. Gonzalito17

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    Agassi just said yesterday in NYC that Djokovic is a better returner. It's been written up at tennis.com
     
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  47. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    I read that article and Agassi also compliment Federer and Hewitt.

     
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  48. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    I am inclined to agree with you that Mac believes what he says--at that moment. But the trouble is that he will say something contradictory a week or two later.
     
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  49. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    I just don't see it, but maybe that's just me.

    He's very good, but up there w/the all time best? I'm not so sure.
     
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  50. pc1

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    Agassi said it and I'm sure he believes it but Djokovic's only been a super returner for one year. This year he's dropped back to Earth even though he's still excellent. You can't say all time best yet for Djokovic. I do feel however that guys like Djokovic, Murray are capable of raising the bar on service returning but you have to do it for a while, not just for a short time.
     
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