Balance - the undersung athletic attribute

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by BTURNER, Apr 10, 2009.

  1. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Messages:
    3,608
    Location:
    OREGON
    tired of talking about who's fastest/strongest as the very definition of being a great athlete. Ashe mentioned about the role of static and kinetic balance has the hidden key to physical success on a tennis court. In this sense many players such as Hingis and McEnroe were often the best athletes on the court despite the more obvious speed and strength of their opponents. Its often the primary ingredient in consistency and defensive play both at net and at he baseline. So often errors we think of as being mental, reflect a player who's sense of balance is not as keen in awkward or even static positions. What role did this under appreciated quality play in successes/ failures of your favorite players? How much of this is taught/developed how much is a gift of birth?
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2009
    #1
  2. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Good thread. While Nadal is of course amazingly fast I actually don't think he has the balance that Federer has even though I think Nadal may cover slightly more ground.

    Guys like McEnroe, Borg, Connors, Mecir, Hingis, Goolagong, Rosewall, Nastase and Laver had great balance.

    It will be interesting to see what the others think.

    One question to put out to the others "Who has the greater balance, Nadal or Federer?" I would vote for Federer.
     
    #2
  3. mental midget

    mental midget Professional

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2008
    Messages:
    1,434
    stefan edberg should be on the very shortest of lists in this category.
     
    #3
  4. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    You're right. He was smooth as silk.
     
    #4
  5. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2005
    Messages:
    4,380
    Thats a very good thread. Indeed together with power, stamina, such things as balance, flexibility, movement, court sense and anticipation are important athletic assets , particular in ball sports. Great strikers in soccer like Mueller or Romario had a low gravity point, to move on a short space. Equally, great players often had strong legs and quite lean upper bodies. I remember, that Arthur Ashe marvelled about Laver's and Rosewall's low body position. Rosewall's main strength was his balance and anticpation. And unlike many observers, i find, that the nickname Muscles (given by Hopman) was quite true. I find him quite solid and stocky built, and he had far more weight in his shots, than it looks on first sight.
     
    #5
  6. Deuce

    Deuce Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2004
    Messages:
    5,270
    Location:
    A not so parallel universe...
    Wow... 5 posts on the subject of balance and fluid movement... and not one mention of two of the smoothest movers to have graced the courts in the past 30 years - Mecir and Krishnan.

    Very odd...
     
    #6
  7. J011yroger

    J011yroger G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2007
    Messages:
    12,331
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    2nd post in the thread.

    J
     
    #7
  8. Deuce

    Deuce Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2004
    Messages:
    5,270
    Location:
    A not so parallel universe...
    ^ Right. I didn't see his name in there with the others.
    Sorry.

    I do, however, believe that Mecir's smoothness stands out above that of the others mentioned.
    Mecir and Krishnan are really in a league of their own when it comes to balance and smoothness in movement.
     
    #8
  9. chess9

    chess9 Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2005
    Messages:
    4,274
    Location:
    1.d4
    All the greats have/had awesome balance.

    What you are saying is you SEE some players appearing to be smoother and more balanced. The eyes are dreadful measures of balance. Sure, some players have slightly better balance, or more flexibility, or more speed. But you really need MEASURES to determine those qualities.

    Human eyes are dreadful things. ;) Oh to see like your average chicadee, let alone an eagle or falcon. :)

    -Robert
     
    #9
  10. Deuce

    Deuce Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2004
    Messages:
    5,270
    Location:
    A not so parallel universe...
    ^ True enough...
    But, at the same time, the eye can also see what is truly there.

    Some players have to work hard to achieve certain things - like balance, movement, etc. - that enables them to compete at the highest level.

    What I'm saying is that Mecir and Krishnan seemed to come by their balance and fluidity more naturally than others, who had to work harder to achieve it.
     
    #10
  11. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Messages:
    948
    I think that balance goes hand in hand with anticipation. Some players read their opponents a little better than most. To me, it's their anticipation that lends them that tiny fraction of time that allows them to have such great balance.
     
    #11
  12. CyBorg

    CyBorg Legend

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2007
    Messages:
    5,544
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    It's partly mental, partly physical. Good foowork is good anticipation, but also quickness, lightness.

    Footwork I think was Borg's greatest strength. Although he's best known for being fast.
     
    #12
  13. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Messages:
    3,608
    Location:
    OREGON
    BUMP for more imput.
     
    #13
  14. Tshooter

    Tshooter Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2007
    Messages:
    2,234
    Should you be bumping ancient threads (especially those that start with a false premise -- that balance is "unsung," when it's not) or working on your appellate brief for Bob Hewitt, who is going to need it after his trial in a few months.
     
    #14
  15. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    Of course, Ken Rosewall should be mentioned.

    Jan Kodes also comes to my mind.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2014
    #15
  16. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Yes Rosewall was wonderfully smooth and balanced. Actually Jimmy Connors had great balance also as did his buddy Ilie Nastase. People have already mentioned Borg of course.
     
    #16
  17. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Messages:
    3,608
    Location:
    OREGON
    Graf. How often did you see Graf off balance. You just cannot hit that forehand without phenomenal kinetic balance.
     
    #17
  18. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    May 10, 2012
    Messages:
    14,446
    Location:
    On the road from would of to would have
    #18
  19. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Messages:
    948
    I think a player with great balance was Mecir. He was tall and lean with a long torso, but his knees were always properly bent with his weight moving forward into the ball. I would say balance was one of the keys to his clean stroke production.
     
    #19
  20. World Beater

    World Beater Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2007
    Messages:
    2,751
    I actually think that Nadal has amazing body control. He may not always be as elegant as some of the other players mentioned here..but he gets the job done whether its at net or hitting passing shots on the run. He seems to compensate for his lack of balance when out of position and alter his swing path to ensure the ball makes it over.
     
    #20
  21. PDJ

    PDJ Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2012
    Messages:
    2,499
    Balance coupled with anticipation- Evert & Borg rarely looked off balance and had phenomenal anticipation.
     
    #21
  22. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    Gerulaitis was very well off balanced...and his quickness balanced it up.

    I also think of Gene Mayer
     
    #22
  23. DMan

    DMan Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2007
    Messages:
    923
    IMHO, best balance beam performance on a tennis court goes to......

    Oh wait, that's not the meaning of this thread.

    I believe a great sense of athletic balance is an innate gift. Those who have an abundance are:

    Roger Federer - maybe the tennis player with the greatest abundance of all.
    Chris Evert - not far behind Roger. Really? Yup! Crank up the old video tapes. From the slo-mo teenie bop years, to her final days matching Graf and Navratilova nearly stroke for stroke. Did she EVER look off balance? Or slow? Nope. Another of her most underrated abilities.
    Steffi Graf - yeah she hit her forehand late. A lot. Off her back foot. Falling backwards. And still hit a gazillion screaming winners. She hit so many winners from difficult positions. You can't do that if your overall sense of balance isn't just about perfect.
    Ken Rosewall had great balance too.
    Ditto for John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.
    Martina Navratilova was such a supreme athlete too, and had a very good sense of balance. But I think she sometimes made it more difficult for herself by trying to do too much.

    And many mention the other Martina. Hingis was known for having great balance. But you know what? I think she's a bit overrated in that department. She had excellent anticipation, and she knew how to improvise. It hid one aspect of her game which I think caused her downfall. Lack of speed. And on the run her sense of balance diminished. It's where Evert was leaps and bounds ahead of her.
     
    #23
  24. PDJ

    PDJ Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2012
    Messages:
    2,499
    Great post.
    Dan Maskell often said that Evert was a far greater athlete than others, and Evert herself, gave her credit for.
    Hingis - I'll go back and watch some of her matches as I've always thought of her as being quick.
    Navratilova sometimes appeared to be feigning being out of breath after a long point, which could be irritating at the time.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
    #24
  25. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Messages:
    3,608
    Location:
    OREGON
    just a fine post, D-man. No quibbles from me! I was watching Goolagong play the other day and she deserves a mention in this thread. Superb balance no matter how out-stretched.
     
    #25
  26. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    I might add the great Pancho Gonzalez who was known for being silky smooth. He definitely had super balance. I would also include one of Gonzalez's students, a fellow named Jimmy Connors. I think Miloslav Mecir also should be included. Mecir never seemed to be rushed.

    I suppose if we really go back we would include Suzanne Lenglen also.
     
    #26
  27. PDJ

    PDJ Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2012
    Messages:
    2,499
    Ah yes, Goolagong. She appeared to float. As kiki would add, as did Lenglen and Bueno by all accounts.
     
    #27
  28. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    Never watched Suzanne but that is how everybody defines her.Watched Bueno and she really floated like a panther around.
     
    #28
  29. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Here's a vid in which they focus on Suzanne and her footwork. Suzanne I noticed tended to be showy when she was being filmed and kicked her leg up. In this video I see nothing of that but nice balance and footwork.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUWTPIWtdLk
     
    #29
  30. DMan

    DMan Professional

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2007
    Messages:
    923
    Thanks. And thanks for reminding me about Goolagong! How could I forget!

    She had such an amazing ability to hit balls from impossible positions, and make it look so easy and natural. Her retrieving and improvising skills were so good she scared opponents into defeat. She would look out of position and off balance and then hit a casual, behind the back, perfectly placed, absolute drop dead, drop volley winner.

    And then, she would swing at balls and shank them so badly you would have thought she was nearly blind and just took up the game.

    Nevertheless a joy to watch! I'd be more inclined to watch Evonne shank shots all day as opposed to watching some of today's players!
     
    #30
  31. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    Evonne was a gazelle
    María Esther was a panther
    If contrast is the great Kpi for top class rivalry,then her rivalry with Court is one of the greatest ever and unfortunately for them,out of the mediátic powers that sell fish for meat so much freely today
     
    #31
  32. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Great post D-Man.
     
    #32
  33. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    The male version of Goolagong was Ilie Nastase,pc1
     
    #33
  34. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Probably. Not quite as perky as Evonne however. lol.
     
    #34
  35. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    Speed,quickness,reflexes,playing by mere instinct with no plot at all,creativity and shotmaking
    Like two water drops
     
    #35
  36. Mac33

    Mac33 Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2014
    Messages:
    434
    I have a friend that is much younger and faster than me in a sprint.

    However on a tennis court I reckon I'm at least as quick and probably quicker.

    He runs fast to the ball like Andy Murray but can't stop as quick as me.

    I tend to stop well before the ball and lunge,a bit like Djokovic.

    I give my vote to Djokovic as the most balanced,certainly the fastest to recover position after being stretched to the limit by his opponents shot.
     
    #36
  37. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,771
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    Second (or third here). Mecir "glided" around the court.

    Amazing footwork.
     
    #37
  38. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,771
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    #38
  39. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    This thread brings to mind the question, which player hit the best shots while "off balance?"
     
    #39
  40. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Messages:
    3,608
    Location:
    OREGON
    Oh you mean while flailing at the ball, or diving etc. Well first I contend those shots are actually being struck 'on balance' after all, its just that other body muscles and parts (torso arms, wrists, shoulders )are maintaining proper balance in the contact while compensating for the fact the legs aren't,) and I think you are looking at physically very strong players who can contort and control muscle groups to ensure the ball contact point remains correct regardless, and there is enough impact to keep momentum sufficient to hit something workable.

    In short you are looking at the Lavers, the Navratilovas, the Samprases and the Courts in the sport, who appear to muscle the ball regardless of circumstance.
     
    #40
  41. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2005
    Messages:
    4,380
    To hit off balance requires some athletic skill, body flexibility and/or wrist strenght. Some players who were constantly scrambling and diving were Freddie Huber, Chuck McKinley, Ion Tiriac or Dr. Dirt Tim Wilkison or Wilkinson (?). Often they lacked a bit footwork. Panatta was called the goalkeeper for his divings, Becker emulated this technique. Some players could hit at the very end of their reach or stranded off balance, by pure wristwork, including Laver. In the Sydney 1970 match against Rosewall, Laver hit one passing shot, laying flat on the ground, only with his wrist action. Nadal on his backhand, often seems out of the rally, but still scrambles to hit the ball somehow back. Djokovic can hit out of a very deep split step or sliding (seems awful for some important body parts), but somehow holds his balance .
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2014
    #41
  42. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Excellent post Urban. My first thoughts were Laver and Nadal also. I can think of so many times in which it appeared an opponent like Federer had him totally off balance and yet somehow Nadal muscles the ball for a winner.
     
    #42
  43. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Not necessarily diving but not being able to set up totally to prepare for a shot. The players you mentioned are excellent examples.
     
    #43

Share This Page