Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by vkartikv, Nov 16, 2006.
who is it?
The best classical volleyer of that group is Edberg. McEnroe didn't have the most orthodox technique but I think he's probably considered one of the greatest ever, maybe second to Laver or Emerson.
Yeah, my vote went to Edberg based on classic styling and finesse.
Ya, Edberg, just. Thought about picking Rafter because he did it in an age of vicious topsin returns at his shoelaces, but Edberg was just too great.
Edberg. Then Laver. Then me
henman is a former player ?
Ya, I just threw it in there because he belongs to the 90s as well
Mac > Edberg > Rafter > Henman > Sampras > Becker, IMO.
no question about it......edberg.
Mcenroe by far, just cause his instinct to read the passing shot, noone including Edberg can match that. Edberg has better technical volley but Mcenroe used to know where the pass is going even before the guy starts the swing even. When he was playing Derick Rostanio who was ranked about #34, he used to move to the right spot before Derik started the forward swing.
Pat Cash was a very good volleyer in his heyday, maybe a bit better than Rafter on both flanks.
I am going to assume that you were really extremely sleepy when you put that up...
McEnroe gets my nod but I do agree with Urban that Pat Cash would have been a better choice than Pat Rafter. As Todd Woodbridge (who could have rated a mention) said, Rafter was the most athletic volleyer he ever saw (and he played against everyone on this list, singles and doubles) but not the best technically. He rated McEnroe, Edberg, Cash and Rafter in a class apart from anyone else he played with or against and I think he's in the best position to make that judgement.
Edberg's backhand volley was superior to McEnroe's (and everyone else's bar Tony Roche - recognised as having the best backhand volley in the game's history) but McEnroe had more touch off either side and was better balanced in that he was equally lethal off both forehand and backhand. Edberg could get a bit stiff-armed on the forehand volley but that isn't unusual with right-handed players as they're mostly stronger off the backhand side.
If you had asked about the low volley I would have said Pat Cash was the best, then Edberg and then Tim Mayotte.
Surprised no one has talked about Pete and he has very few votes! Perhaps his serve made it so easy for him to put away the volley that he didnt need to be perfect there... I think Leander Paes belongs in that list as well
I'm sure people will scream blue murder but I'll go with Woodbridge again when he said that Sampras was a good but not great volleyer who had a lot of power in his shot but very little subtlety or touch (a power volleyer with hard hands).
That's no slight on Sampras's ability but, unlike the other players on your list apart from Federer, he was someone who re-invented themselves as a player who attacked the net. I was fortunate enough to call service line in quite a number of his matches at the Aus Open, as well as players like Edberg, Cash, Rafter, McEnroe (only a few years) and Becker, and the difference between his volleying skills and those of the first four guys was quite apparent. I'd rate him on a par with Becker which is still pretty darn good but a significant drop below the very top guys. I'd be inclined to say he was almost identical to Pancho Gonzales who players of his day said had the best serve but not the best volleys although, with his serve he didn't need them.
Of course, if we were being fair in talking about the best volleyer of the 80's and 90's we'd have to include the doubles players, Jarryd, Fitzgerald, Woodbridge and Woodforde. If we were being fairer still we'd also include Navratilova, Mandlikova and Lisa Raymond who I think has, probably, the best volleys in the game today (and was active during the 90's).
Edberg, 2nd Mc enroe
lol, probably he was so.
Did you ever get a chance to meet any of these guys (one on one) since you called the service line at their matches? The closest I have come to a pro is when Rafter played in my hometown of Chennai in '97... really nice guy.
My vote goes to Edberg as well.
how am i the only one that voted for becker?!!
ok i agree he probably isnt as good a volleyer as the rest, but the way he would dive and jump for volleys and still make them was amazing. he may not be the best but he definitely was the most entertaining and fun to watch volleyer in that lot.
I think this is right on.
As an umpire you really aren't supposed to have any outside contact with the players (I was a linesman, not a chair umpirel). That said, I do think I saw some of them so many times I got to know the little tics and twitches that you can't see on tv or even while watching from the stands.
The only ones I've met face-to-face (not on the court) were Pat Rafter - after he retired (he works with some juniors here in Brisbane) and, in one of the first years I umpired, Ivan Lendl. Rafter was just a great bloke and hope you found the same thing. Lendl was also very nice. He struck me as one of those shy people who try to mask it with a bit of bluff and swagger but are, when they get comfortable with you, enjoyable to be around. Basically, if he'd been a prat, Tony Roche wouldn't have been coaching him and guess you could say the same about Federer.
Mac had the best touch and hands for making unbelievable vollies. I would give Edberg the edge as the best serve/volley'er. What this means is that if I had to pick on of these greats as a dubs partner, it would be Mac.
Are you Joe Schartmann of woodtennis.com?
Nevermind, your profile answers this question.
What I found interesting is that Edberg's serve really wasn't suited for grass, as topspin/kick really isn't as effective on grass as other surfaces.. though I think he did okay on grass.
That's one of the key reasons why he did so well at the Australian Open, when it was on grass. In Australia the grasscourts at that time of year (Dec-Jan) become very hard and play quite similarly to a hardcourt. So Edberg, with his heavy kick serve, was able to get far more work on the ball than he could at Wimbledon.
Despite what a lot of people will try to tell you, grass doesn't play the same in all parts of the world and, back in the days when 3 of 4 majors were played on grass, they were, in effect, playing on three totally different surfaces. One of the chief reasons why a player like Ken Rosewall never won Wimbledon (the chief being that he wasn't allowed to play it during his prime years when he was the best player in the world) is because English grass courts allowed the serve to shoot through quicker than in Australia or America. In the States, the grass was softer, not as well tended and the ball stayed low but didn't shoot through with the same kind of speed as at Wimbledon (fast but not to the same degree). So a player like Rosewall, with exceptional speed and groundstrokes, plus a low centre of gravity was able to conter the big servers who couldn't handle the very 'funky' bounces. In Australia, there was a slightly higher bounce which gave him a fraction more time to make his shot (something that helped Wilander win two Aus Opens on grass). One surface -grass-, three totally different set of conditions and not unlike the way things are at the Aus, US Open and Wimbledon today (although Rebound Ace plays more like American grass and the US Open hardcourts play more like Australian grass).
Sorry for the excess information but, growing up in a country where cricket is the national sport (at the highest levels all cricket is played on turf -grass) you develop a good understanding of how the only real similarity between grass in one country and the next is the generic name.
Ken Rosewall also suffered from hay fever during many of the Wimbledon's he participated in. He made quite a few finals, regardless. By the way, Rosewall was one of the greatest volleyers of all time.
henman above sampras? gimme a break. id say mcenroe, rafter, edberg sampras, all had their own unique styles and strengths, hard to compare, but becker had that crazy grip on his volleyes and henman i jsut dont think belongs on that list at all
henman is the best volleyer in today's game, but nowhere near Mac, Edberg and co
According to Rosewall, Harry Hopman tried to discourage him from using his volley more often in singles matches and it was only when he went to the pro tour he was able to prove that he could volley as well as anyone. Without an overpowering serve (although I have been told, by a couple of guys who played against him, that it was not only exceptionally accurate but surprisingly heavy and very hard to return), I guess he had to be very sharp on the volley (Todd Woodbridge was similar -exceptional volleyer- as was, to a lesser degree, Ramesh Krishan)
I haven't seen enough of them, but I think the consensus is that Edberg was the best classical volleyer, whereas McEnroe had the best and quickest hands EVER. His technique may not have been textbook, but his hands were like something out of the Wild West.
What about Laver, et al? Drysdale says that Tony Roche was a God at net.
Prior to Roche there was a bloke called Mervyn Rose who a large number of the Aussies say was the best volleyer out of the lot of them. Roy Emerson also gets a lot of mention (so quick to get in to the net and with such a strong wrist he could routinely hit his first volley off the server's first volley): he and Frank Sedgman are often tied for best forehand volley of all time. As to more current players I think you can't overlook Ander Jarryd and John Fitzgerald who were both lightning at the net. Also Byron Black and Frew MacMillan were brilliant volleyers and did it with two hands which I imagine would require even quicker hands than usual.
Andrew, you are right to mention Sedgman, who had probably the best forehand volley. He left space on his right side at the net, to jump into the shot. Merv Rose was, as far as i know, a lefthander with a bunch of tricks. Should have been the best ever in the series of knee-high-jumps, which Hopman favored. Emerson was the first Wimbledon champion i saw on TV as a kid. Had a strange service motion, circulating with his racket arm. But was quick, and like a wall on the net. If you had to play Newcombe/Roche, you were facing the best forehand and backhand volley. Because Tony was a leftie, they covered the middle as well. Laver with his strong wrist played quite often a stroke volley with overspin, risky but spectacular.
hey c'mon guys!
you can't be serious!
how can you put henman in front of sampras??????
henman is of yourse a very good volleyer. but c'mon, no way he's better than sampras was
One other that hasn't had mention is Lew Hoad. Todd Woodbridge has spoken quite a number of times of how he tried to model his volleys on those of Hoad but could never quite manage it as he just couldn't generate the same power (impressive given that Woodbridge was using modern graphite frames and Hoad was only using standard sized wood). He also mentioned that one of the major qualities Hoad possessed on the volley (and on all strokes) was a complete 'stillness' when hitting his shots and perfect balance. Does that description remind you of anyone.....current?
My comments: I went for Edberg although I could just have easily gone with Mcenroe who did have great touch. Id probably say Cash was better than any of the others included and I felt becker had great agility and athleticism at the net but his volley always looked pretty unnatural.
Cash also had, what Woodbridge emphazises, this balance, when hitting the volley. Was a muscular guy - like Hoad - but bent his knees, and had a perfect deep gravity centre of his body. But this put pressure on his knees and back ligaments and forced his early retirement, also a parallel to Hoad.
Sampras was a great Serve and volleyer because of his serve, not of his volleys.
Henman, on the other hand, didn't have that huge serve/weapon, but he EXCELLED at the net to compensate that
IMO, volley by volley, Henman is better than Sampras.
AndrewD and Urban, how would you rate the Aussies compared to Edberg, Henman, Sampras etc. I thought that John Fitzgerald's volleys were better than Cash or Rafter's although he didn't have the good singles record.
BTW, the best volley stroke I ever saw was Hans Jurgen Pohmann's forehand volley. He couldn't hit anything else but made a good living in doubles on the strength of that one shot. It was freakish. Tony Roche's backhand volley would be #2 on my list.
A friend of mine said that Harry Hopman could hit more angle with his volleys at age 75 than any of the pros that used to come by to workout at his academy.
I think Fitgerald had the fastest hands of the 'modern' Aussie players but Rafter and Cash were far more athletic volleyers. Of course, of the three, Fitzy had the worst serve (it alternated between shaky and shocking LOL) so he needed to be very sharp. It's hard to say which one was best as it really comes down to effectiveness and I think you'd be hard put to split them in that department.
I think Henman compares favourably to all three of them although he didn't have as much power in his shot as they did (Cash being the most powerful volleyer of the three). Edberg, off the backhand volley, was better than any of them but in all other departments there isn't much difference - one player being a bit better in one area, another being better in another aspect.
Sampras, I'm very sorry to say, I just don't rate in the same company as those guys, and I don't think he deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as a McEnroe, Emerson, Rafter, Edberg or any of the game's greatest volleyers. Sampras had very good, effective volleys, Im not suggesting he didn't. However, being totally objective (which I figure is what we should be aiming at) they weren't as good as many other players and didn't appear to be as natural a shot as they were for a Henman, Edberg, McEnroe, etc. As I said previously, he's probably most like Pancho Gonzales who had the best serve of his day (one of the best of all time) but not the best volleys: didn't need them to be as sharp due to his serve.
Overall, I've never seen anyone as good as McEnroe for the quickness of his hands, his anticipation at net and his ability to hit such a wide variety of volleys with equal effectiveness.
Of the names on the list, I agree that Sampras and Becker aren't in the same league if you just look at their volleys. I used to like Henman's attacking style but his brain would break down at the worst times.
BTW, I ran across this interesting page on Wikipedia. It has some interesting Mervyn Rose anecdotes and a few comments on Lew Hoad's game by other players amongst other things: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Hayford_Peirce
Trinity and Andrew, nice and competent posts.Pohmann would be glad, to be named here. He is a TV commentator today.Normally he is remembered for his ugly clash with Nastase at the USO. As a single player, he was not in the same league as Bungert and Kuhnke, the two Germans before him. But he formed a good doubles with Jürgen Faßbender. What i find the most impressive, if i see clips of the old Aussies volleying, is the calmness and composed positional play, they exhibit in the forecourt. Nowadays, the players seem to get hectic, if they have to play a volley or a half volley. And the old guys had could hit heavy and deep volleys. I once read, that Hoad shortened his wooden racket by some inches, to get more feel for the volley.
I thik i forgot to comment on this when I voted, though I made a mental note to do so. I think Edberg is the pretty obvious choice, mainly because the poll only asks for best volleyer. If it had been asked the best "serve and volleyer", it completely changes everything, however.
I haven't heard that about Lew Hoad but never thought his racquets looked anything less than standard size. Given the strength of the man and the way he played the game it would seem a bit odd. Actually, I'd be more inclined to believe it was John Bromwich as he was known to be constantly tinkering with his racquets. He used to whittle the grips down to an exceptionally small size to aid control and, according to Vivian McGrath, the grips were about the size of a shilling piece (old currency). Not sure what that compares to in American currency but it'd be, very roughly, somewhere between 4 1/8 and 4 1/4.
Actually, Bromwich is a player who should always get a mention when talking about the best ever volleyers and best doubles players of all time. Jack Kramer did once say that if "Earth were playing in the all-time Universe Davis Cup, I'd play Budge and Bromwich in the doubles. That's what I think of Johnny as a doubles player." That's a pretty big compliment given that that Kramer rarely gave anyone not on his circuit or not from the States praise. On the American side, Vincent Richards is someone often mentioned in any debate regarding the 'best volleyers of all time'.
It's interesting isn't it, that the volley (excluding the topspin drive-volley) is one of the very few shots which hasn't changed in the past 70-ish years. So, it gives us a link between players as far apart chronologically as Bromwich and Federer. It also illustrates that, if those men could master a shot which is a complete mystery to so many players today (of all levels), the likelihood is that they'd be equally capable of mastering any of the 'modern' shots. Not all of them would succed to the same degree but far more of them would make the transition than we're willing to admit. The game has changed, the equipment, the techniques, the training, the information and the surfaces have all changed. BUT, it is still a game played by people and they haven't changed at all. Bigger? In most cases, yes. Smarter, tougher, more tenacious, more innate talent, more determined and more heart? Absolutely not.
I'd have to say my best friend Rafael (topspinmonkey) Nadal.
edberg, followed by mcenroe
You made some outstanding points.
Regarding volley technique and it being an excellent comparison between vintage and modern players, I think you are right on. I actually think that the 10 ten in the Kramer era would adapt much easier to today rackets than the 10 ten today attempting to play woodies. In fact, it would be scarry to see the games that the top 10 in the Kramer era would play with todays rackets, it would truelly be an allcourt power game.
No votes for Andy "Volley Machine" Roddick? How saddening...
For a guy that probably spent 2 minutes volleying in each of his practices prior to a few months ago, Roddick is doing pretty damn well at net. If he can get his racquet on the ball, he usually uses an ugly volley and effectively puts it away. His problem is on the approach and his slowness around the net. But if you can come one point away from beating Federer by charging the net frequently, my hats off to you.
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