Budge, Perry, Vines-the magic trio of the 30s

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by urban, Nov 21, 2009.

  1. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    In some older threads the names of Budge, Vines and Perry came up. They formed a wonderful trio of contemporary greats like Borg, Connors and Mac later. Throw in people like von Cramm, Nuesslein, Crawford, old Tilden and young Riggs, and you have a most formidable line-up in the 30s. Sadly, due to the amateur-pro-split the picture is somewhat unclear. Although most experts would rank Budge first (due to his Grand Slam), an opinion i would tend to agree with, but some would hold Vines and Perry at least on the same tier.
    Vines seems to have been the most talented. When as a kid i got my first book on tennis history by Lance Tingay, the picture, i most admired was a picture of Vines in full flight. What a wing, what a swing, power with grace! In terms of pure shotmaking, especially on serve and forehand, he was the best pre 1940. But, in his best amateur years, he lost some crucial matches in the crunch, to old Borotra, Perry and Crawford, he didn't look as the most robust player physically and mentally.
    Perry was this robust player. He emulated Cochet for the early hit forehand drive and played from a crouch position. Frank Sedgman once wrote, that Perry was the only real athletic player pre WWII. He trained with Arsenal, was cocky and ruthless, not very popular among the Sirs of the British establishment. And he was a crunch player par excellence. In a vital DC tie or major final, he normally excelled (he once lost a close DC one to Daniel Prenn at Berlin). In 1936 US final, Budge twice served for the match, only to lose due to lack of stamina. Perry knew it, that he was fitter, and showed it to Budge during the change-overs.
    The younger Budge transformed the backhand. His matches with von Cramm were epics. He dominated the amateur scene and topped the pros too since 1939, later was dethroned by Riggs. But were Vines and Perry still at their respective peak in 1939. Its not easy to tell. Who was really the best of the trio say in 1937, when Budge by most accounts had his best year? Sadly, we have not many major matches between those three. If one regards only amateur majors and DC matches, Perry seems to have the best head to head record between this trio. Maybe some other posters weight in and help to clear the picture.
     
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  2. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Urban, that's a very interesting trio. All of them were excellent players in 1937 and Vines in his book called that era perhaps the greatest concentration of talent in tennis history. That may very well be true.

    Don Budge as everyone knows won the Grand Slam in 1938. However it was a Grand Slam that he invented and it could not possibly be as pressured packed a situation as it would have been for a Maureen Connolly, Rod Laver, Steffi Graf or Margaret Court as they attempted to complete their Grand Slams. No one knew about it and also the skeptic in me wonders if Budge wouldn't have said another tournament was the fourth in his Grand Slam attempt if he failed at for example the French Championships.

    In 1938 Budge was 38-5 with a Games Won Percentage of 62.70. That's very good but it was against an amateur field. Budge didn't have Vines, Budge, Nusslein, Tilden and the amateur von Cramm to play against, among others. Ivan Lendl for example from 1985 to 1987 had GW percentages of respectively 63.20, 62.66 and 60.93. This was against a professional field.

    Borg, during the Open Era averaged over 65% in GW% from 1978 to 1980.

    Budge had an excellent record in 1937 of 57 wins and 3 losses. His GW% was an excellent 64.14%, impressive but as I wrote before, it was against an amateur field. Two of Budge's losses were to Bitsy Grant. Grant was an excellent player but it shows Budge's vulnerability considering Grant was not an overwhelmingly powerful player.

    Vines defeated Perry in 1937 32 matches to 29 on tour according to McCauley's book. I'm actually more impressed with Perry's showing than Vines' showing here considering, according to Perry's book that Perry played virtually very night without rest and that often Vines alternated playing Perry with Tilden. Perry wrote in his book that at one point Perry played ten nights in a row against an alternating Vines and Tilden. Not exactly fair in my mind.

    Also they played often on canvas courts (which would tend to favor Vines power) but the problem was that at many of the smaller arenas they had to move the baseline up by as many as six inches and Perry felt it was not fair to him considering that he thought he needed the full length of the court for his groundstrokes. Yet Vines, in these situations never shortened the service box. So overall I wonder what would have happened if they played outdoors on clay or even on grass more often.

    Interesting that in 1937 Nusslein won two of the three Pro Majors. However I don't believe Vines or Perry entered any of the Pro Majors in 1937. According to Nusslein's widow, Vines won most of his matches against Nusslein indoors and that Nusslein won the majority of the outdoor matches.

    Vines was injured according to some accounts during his first tour with Budge. Kramer mentions that in his book. Yet Budge only defeated Vines by 21 to 18. Again a very close result. Vines was started to get interested in golf and wasn't totally into tennis at that point.

    Budge also defeated Perry by a match score of 18 to 11 according to the Collins Encyclopedia. This contradicts what some sources say as 28 to 8. Budge tended to always make the match scores more in his favor than his opponents I've noticed. It may have been faulty memory but I wonder. This was the same man who was watching Sampras play (he was sitting with a friend of mine) and raved about Sampras. My friend asked how he would have done against Sampras and he told my friend that Sampras wouldn't have won a set off of him!! I think Budge tended to be very protective of his legend of invincibility. The somewhat close match score (I am not sure if Perry was hurt or not) again puts Perry in a good light. Perry was very strong on clay and clay was clearly Budge's weakest surface. You wonder how the tour would have gone if they had played more on clay.

    While Perry has a very impressive record as do Vines and Budge I have seen videos of Perry and I cannot stand his backhand. From a subjective point of view I can see players like Budge and Vines hurting him on the backhand side.

    At the same time Budge wasn't considered that fast nor did he have great stamina according to Bobby Riggs. Even in 1942, during Budge's peak and Riggs wasn't near his peak, Budge only defeated Riggs by a score of 15 matches to ten. You wonder how a Riggs at his peak would have done against a peak Budge.

    Overall I would think the big three (big four if you count Nusslein) were very close if you consider all the surfaces.

    My best guess and it's a close call is that Vines was the best overall when he was into tennis and may have won a tour over the other two if Vines was playing at his top level around 1934 or 1935.

    I don't think any of them could match Bill Tilden at his peak for overall consistency.

    It's a tough call and I could pick a different player tomorrow.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2009
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  3. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the very subtle and complex input, pc 1. It sheds good light on the pro scene and shows how difficult it is to rank these three against each other. The pro surfaces in 1939 favored clearly players like Budge and Vines. Indeed, across all surfaces, including clay, Perry could have been the most consistent.
     
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  4. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    I'd put Budge, Perry, Vines up against any other trio in the history of the game, and bet on them. Borg, Lendl, Connors ain't too bad either. Fed, Nadal, and ? wouldn't be too bad also, but who's the third?

    (Although I believe the ultimate trio is Laver, Rosewall, Gonzales.)
     
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  5. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    PC, This is not entirely true, I guess depending on what you mean by "invented." The Grand Slam was talked about previously (maybe even "invented" in tennis) in 1933 for Jack Crawford. Crawford came oh so close, losing in the very last leg of the GS, that is in the finals of the US Championship to Perry in a five-setter. (Crawford was even up two sets to one, but Perry came on strong in the last two sets to demolish Crawford: 6-1, 6-0).
     
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  6. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Perhaps you're right. A newspaper writer mentioned Crawford in conjunction with a Grand Slam I believe. I was thinking of Don Budge's book. Chapter six is called "The Grand Slam--My Favorite Invention." Here's the first paragraph of chapter six-"Except for a fluke, I might not have been the first person to win the Grand Slam of tennis. Jack Crawford of Australia really deserved to have accomplished that in 1933, five years before I did. Of course, it is also another fact when Crawford almost managed the feat in 1933, and even when I was successful in 1938, no one was really aware that there was such a thing as the Grand Slam. If that sounds like I am saying Crawford almost won something that didn't exist anyway, I am. I take a certain whimsical pride in not only having won the Grand Slam, but, in a sense, having created it as well."

    Here's a paragraph later in the chapter "Conceivably, the fact that there was not such acknowledged entity as the "Grand Slam" made it somewhat easier for me. I was certainly not faced with the cumulative pressure of the press and the fans that Rod Laver had forced upon him when he took the Grand Slam in 1962, or that Lew Hoad faced when he came within a set of winning the four titles in 1958. For the athlete, however, pressure more truly comes from within, and so I doubt that my feelings and fears were any less intense than Laver's or Hoad's were a quarter of a century later when the full glare of world-wide publicity was upon them."

    Incidentally Budge is slightly incorrect in the paragraph, Hoad came within two sets of winning the Grand Slam in 1956, not a set.
     
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  7. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Yes those players were all excellent. What a rivalry the players of that era must have had!

    It would be interesting to have a poll to discuss what era had the best concentration of players at the top.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2009
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  8. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    I've often pondered that same thing myself.

    Once I suggested that maybe it was the early 1980s with Borg, Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, and Vilas coinciding. (But it is true that this was late Borg and very early Lendl.)
     
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  9. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    Five years after he became #1, what makes you think Budge was still at his peak in 1942? Also, I thought Riggs didn't turn professional until after WWII, so how could he have played Budge in 1942?
     
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  10. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    How so? Tilden had a good backhand drive before him. True, Budge's backhand drive was better, but very few players emulated it. Most of the other players, before and after Budge, used the slice as the bread-and-butter rally shot. (The only exceptions I can think of, until Guillermo Vilas, were Dick Savitt and Tony Trabert -- and maybe Frank Kovacs.)
     
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  11. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    From old clips on this side above, one can see, that Tilden played mostly slice, which was smooth and natural, but that he threw his body around in a somewhat cramped way, to get pace with the backhand. Budge's backhand drive was much more free swinging and natural. He transformed the backhand into an offensive weapon.
     
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  12. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Riggs turned profession before World War II and Budge played a tour versus a number of players including Riggs.

    Budge's peak has been mentioned by some (including Vines) to be up to 1942, before he had an accident in the armed forces that altered his serving motion.

    Budge was only 27 and still very young in 1942.

    I agree. While Tilden could hit a topspin drive, in the videos I've seen of him, it doesn't seen that natural and to me not as good as Budge's.
     
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  13. the little dasher

    the little dasher New User

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    Terrific thread and thanks to Urban and you for your comments.

    I'm perplexed by the highlighted. Where did 2 such wildly different scores come from? 28-8 as opposed to 18-11 is quite a discepancy. Which result was the more authoritive? Ray Bowers for instance cites the former figure which is more flattering to Budge.

    So do you know what sources inform each statistic? Personally I hope the 18-11 figure is the more believable as that would be a better indication of the difference between the 2 players in 1939.
     
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  14. the little dasher

    the little dasher New User

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    It must be said that Nusslein lost a 1934 match against Von Cramm quite convincingly but redeemed pro honour the next year when he beat the US davis cup pair Allison and Wood.

    He actually teamed up with Budge who also beat Allison and just lost to Wood. Subsequently Budge played all DC matches for the US that year.

    I agree that Tilden would've won a match up against the other 4 mentioned here (Budge, Vines, Perry and Nusslien) if he was at his peak.
     
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  15. the little dasher

    the little dasher New User

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    As an aside I was musing an ATP world finals tour for 1939. It would be a pro/am mix. I'd pick the blokes who performed the best in the pro and am slams and take the Davis Cup into consideration too.

    The 1st qualifiers would be

    Budge. Won the pro tours and the Wembly and French Pros.

    Vines. Won the US Pro

    Bromwich. Won the Australian and was part of the successful DC team.

    Don McNeil. Won the French.

    Riggs. Won Wibledon (and the US I think).

    Quist. Part of the winning DC team.

    The last 2 would come from the runners up in the pro and am majors and I'd favour Perry and Nusslein for their efforts at the US and French Pros over amatuers Cooke and Van Horn. Cooke as the reserve.

    No room for Von Cramm as his tennis season was restricted for reasons other than tennis.
     
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  16. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I think some of the problem is due to (to be nice) Budge's faulty memory. I've noticed he tends to put the results more in his favor when he remembers the figure. For example he defeated Bill Tilden on tour probably by a score of 46 to 7 and 1 tie but in his book he writes he defeated Tilden by 55 to 6.

    He said Vines (a good friend) defeated Tilden in his book by 55 to 22 when it was really 47 to 26 and Tilden was in his forties.

    He said he defeated Vines by 22 to 17 when I've read source that said 21 to 18 on his first tour with Vines.
     
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  17. the little dasher

    the little dasher New User

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    Bowers seems to favour the 22-17 and 28-8 scorelines but doesn't confirm if he's relying on independent verification.
     
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  18. the little dasher

    the little dasher New User

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    If you include am and pro then the late 50s had Gonzales, Rosewall, Sedgman, Hoad and Trabert while the late 30s had Perry, Vines, Budge, Riggs, Nusslein and Von Cramm.

    I'm sure there are plenty of others including the mid 60s when Laver, Rosewall, Emerson and an admittedly ageing but still good Gonzales were active while the late 20s had Tilden, Cochet, La Coste and Borotra teeing off at each other. That 80s quintent though still harbour my favourite tennis memories.
     
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  19. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    ^^^ These are very good suggestions for great periods. We should do a poll.
     
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  20. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Going by Ray Bowers' descriptions of the pro wars and the 1939 clash between Vines and Budge, it looks, that in the early encounters, Vines had substantially more winners (aces and other winners) than Budge, while Budge was the more solid and consistent, making fewer errors. On the first US tour, Budge took an early lead, but Vines hold it quite even afterwards. Bowers has a 22-17 margin to Budge, other sources have it 21-18 to Budge. The gap widened on the European tour. Vines seemingly lost interest in tennis, to look after a golf career.
     
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  21. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I think in the Kings of the Court video Gene Mako said that Vines averaged 2.5 aces per game and Budge 1.5 during the tour but I'm not sure.
     
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  22. the little dasher

    the little dasher New User

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    Exactly. He had trouble with motivation but when faced with a challenge he always met it; even in 39. There is little doubt Vines coverted the pro tour crown hence his excellent effort against the seemingly invincible Budge. Later in the year he set his sights on his 1st ever US Pro and beat Perry in one of the great pro finals. Bowers says Vines vowed he would win that match.

    Those challenges met Vines didn't have any further point to prove in tennis and opted for golf which he was finding more pleasure in and motivation for. A truly talented sportsman.
     
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