Ellsworth Vines' 10 Best List

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by Moose Malloy, Feb 24, 2007.

  1. the little dasher

    the little dasher New User

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    #51
  2. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Yes Budge hurt his shoulder in the military and never was the same.
     
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  3. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I agree. The most ridiculous choice in my mind was his choice of Ted Schoeder (perhaps his best friend) as being on the same level as Laver and Rosewall in the second tier of all time greats. He admitted Schoeder had to serve and volley because he had unreliable groundstrokes. How does a player who has unreliable groundies be equivalent to Laver, Rosewall, and some other greats?

    He said Riggs was superior to Gonzalez. It's well known Kramer didn't care for Gonzalez and was a good friend of Riggs.

    His book is fascinating but I found his choices to be a little unusual.
     
    #53
  4. ttbrowne

    ttbrowne Hall of Fame

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    It had been stated that someone wouldn't win a point off of these so-called greats. I'm 3.5-4.0 and I could win a point off of these guys.

    My point; Quit comparing these guys to players today. They were good for "their day" but now it's like putting a classic T-Model Ford up against a new Mustang....ridiculous.
     
    #54
  5. dh003i

    dh003i Legend

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    Try playing with a wooden racket (i.e., with their technology) and then see how superior you feel to them. I suspect this is just outright bragging, and that the pros of the 50s or 60s could beat you or any other non-pro player with a frying pan. No, you couldn't win a point off of them, even if they used old technology and you use new technology.
     
    #55
  6. the little dasher

    the little dasher New User

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    So humanity progresses. Big deal. We all know that. So what is your point actually contributing?

    No doubt if I could go back in time I could command a modern army and thrash Hannibal's Carthiginians. Armed with the knowledge of his tactics at Cannae would make it even more of a sure thing.

    Doesn't make me a better general though does it?

    It simply isn't fair to compare the older generation against modern stds. For example we might be arguing the merits of Federer against the derision of our grand kids...hell kids even. And we know they'd be just as wrong as those who saw Vines and Crawford play know that we are wrong being skeptical about them.

    The true comparison should be made by transporting the modern player's birth date into the past: Can you honestly say that if Fed was born in 1911 (as was Vines) he'd be the same player he is now without the benefits the modern era gives him?

    He wouldn't. He would still be a champion but his stds would be on par with the other champions of the era he found himself in.

    In fact if you reversed the assumption and teleported Fed into the future he'd most likely get his butt whipped. You'd expect that if tennis kept improving wouldn't you?

    So I don't take these comparisons across eras seriously. Being transported into the past or the future will determine if you are the terminator or catweazle.
     
    #56
  7. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Good points. Riggs and Schroeder don't belong in the same group as Laver, Rosewall, and Gonzales.

    Heck, you can barely get Borg, Fed, and Sampras in that company.
     
    #57
  8. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Vines was often named as possibly the best player of all time on his best day, and one of the greatest overall. Alice Marble gave her own list of the best of all time and talked at length about Vines, Budge and Tilden in an interview from March 4, 1941.

    This was during the middle of a long tour of one-night stands in which Marble was the headliner. At each stop on the tour Marble would play against Mary Hardwick of England while Budge would take on Tilden, followed by mixed doubles.

    LOS ANGELES (AP). Miss Alice Marble had a miserable cold, and, being neighborly, I fixed up a basket of cookies, wild haw preserves, chicken broth and Kleenex, and paid her a visit. After eating up most of what I brought her, I delicately maneuvered the conversation around to tennis and asked her to name the greatest player of the game she had ever seen.

    "Well," she answered, "I'm traveling around on my professional tour with two of them-Bill Tilden and Don Budge. I know, there can’t be but one greatest player, but how are you going to choose between Bill and Don? As a matter of fact, in naming the greatest tennis player who ever lived, I think you’ll have to take three names into consideration. Bill, Don and Ellsworth Vines.”

    While I finished off the cookies, Miss Marble and her friend and teacher of many years, Eleanor Tennant, figured out how they would rank the veteran Philadelphian, the California redhead, and the lanky Vines, who has abandoned tennis for golf. They decided that Vines, for one match, was the best of all time. They rated Budge as the greatest player over a stretch of a year. They put Tilden at the head of the great players over the years.

    “Vines was unbeatable when his game was absolutely under control," Miss Marble said. "This wasn’t often, because Elly allowed no margin for error. He hit every shot with everything he had—went out for a winner on every ball. On those rare occasions when everything went right, there was simply no beating him, or even coming close to beating him."

    I asked Miss Tennant if his three set victory over Henri Cochet in the national finals at Forest Hills was on one of those days. I saw that match and the mighty Frenchman was bewildered by the ferocity and precision of Vines' shots.

    "Yes, that was one of the days," Miss Tennant answered. “No one who ever held a racquet could have beaten him that day.” On the other hand, Miss Marble pointed out that, over a period of a year, playing, say, two matches a week, Budge would gain a decided edge over Vines.

    "Budge's game is marvelous every day. He is never in-and-out. He hits no patchy streaks. Since we have been on this tour, and I have had a good chance to watch him, I have yet to see him have an off day. He has an amazing temperament, too. Nothing upsets him, nothing excites him. He just goes out day after day and plays magnificent tennis.”

    Tilden Rated Tops

    As for Tilden, Miss Marble couldn’t say enough. "Bill is unbelievable. He is 48, and has been playing tennis for more than 20 years, but every time he steps out against Budge he firmly expects to beat him. ‘I’ll get that young man tonight,’ he’ll say, and twice he has beaten Don, and beaten him when Don was playing beautifully. He has twice as much stamina as any of the rest of us. He works all day at his job with a sporting goods company, and then plays singles and mixed doubles at night. Then he gets in the car and drives to the next engagement. He thinks nothing of driving 900 and 1,000 miles a day and then playing five sets of tennis. Over the years, there never has been one like him. And he picks up all the checks. When we all go out to dinner we have to warn the waiter in advance not to let Bill get the check. He’d buy all our meals every day if we’d let him.”

    Miss Marble believes the veteran Helen Jacobs will again win the national women's title this year. "Helen plays as well as any of the youngsters, and she has the experience that is needed at Forest Hills. As for the men, it’s a tossup between McNeill, Riggs, Kramer and two or three others."​
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
    #58
  9. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Well said!

    For one match--
    “Vines was unbeatable when his game was absolutely under control," Miss Marble said. "This wasn’t often, because Elly allowed no margin for error. He hit every shot with everything he had—went out for a winner on every ball. On those rare occasions when everything went right, there was simply no beating him, or even coming close to beating him.

    No one who ever held a racquet could have beaten him that day.
     
    #59
  10. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    #60
  11. pc1

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    One little point by the way, when Marble made those comments regarding Vines and Budge, Vines was or was about to be 30.

    Vines was but a shadow of what he used to be at that point. He had some injuries, was more into golf and I believe in 1941 he was heavier. At one point in 1939 during a tour against Budge he weighed 187 lbs, about 20 to 30 lbs heavier than his peak weight.
     
    #61
  12. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    ˄˄I assume Vines was completely retired from tennis at that point. I think he played a few matches in 1940, not sure if he played any tennis afterwards.

    Towards the end of the tour incidentally Budge was telling the press that he was ready to retire from tennis too and was going to concentrate on his business. He said there was "no future" for pro tennis (this was at the start of WWII, of course, with no end to the war in sight). He did say that he would first finish his tour with Tilden.
     
    #62
  13. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    What I find most interesting about these greatest-of-all-time lists is that they talked about players' games, rather than counting up titles, the way we do.
     
    #63
  14. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    In June 1941 Karol Kozeluh was asked to name the greatest of all time. Kozeluh --

    famous international tennis professional, adds his name to the long list of experts who think Bill Tilden rates as the greatest tennis player of all time. Kozeluh thinks Tilden, Lacoste, Cochet, Budge and Perry rate in that order, with Tilden and Lacoste as standouts. Suzanne Lenglen is his choice as the greatest of the gals, followed by Helen Wills Moody Roark, Alice Marble and Molla Mallory. He doesn't think Alice Marble would have had a chance against the great Suzanne.​
     
    #64
  15. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    In February 1945 Tilden (excluding himself, of course) picked Budge:

    “For 365 days out of the year, Don Budge,” he replied. “He was superior to Ellsworth Vines and demonstrated it. Vines could attain a higher peak, but not often. Sustained quality is greatness. When Vines was bad he was awful. Even when he was off, Budge was great. The test of a champion is the ability to prevail when he is not right.”​

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?n...f8uAAAAIBAJ&sjid=EdwFAAAAIBAJ&pg=6416,3746573
     
    #65
  16. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Vines' own choice of Budge as #1 apparently goes all the way back to '39, though it's a little difficult to know what to make of the statements made by the players to the press in the midst of tours that needed to be promoted. Some comments seem designed to stir up interest: Vines and Perry both announced flat-out, before their tours with Budge, that they would beat him; when Vines lost his tour he predicted just as adamantly that Perry would beat Budge.

    Yet on April 22 -- with Budge now leading Perry 19-8 in their series, on the way to a dominating 28-8 victory -- Vines said this to the press:

    Budge is the power-house of modern tennis and has been compared by many experts with Big Bill Tilden. Ellsworth Vines, who was defeated by Budge for the professional championship, declares that Budge is the all-time great of tennis. The red-headed Californian blasted Vines off the courts with his straight power-hitting.​

    http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/23739780/

    Again, even that could be taken as part of the smack-talk that you would expect in those circumstances -- except that this turned out to be Vines' real opinion, as reflected in his book.
     
    #66
  17. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Krosero, you know what I find odd, the facts point that Vines was extremely strong in winning his matches. For example he won 14 straight tournaments. He also has the second highest winning percentage in tennis history in majors if we include Pro Majors. He never lost to Cochet while I believe Budge lost at least once to him.

    I can name a number of other things also but I typing from my phone while parked in my car now so it is a bit of a pain.

    I can see Vines level of playing varying in a match but the bottom line is that he generally won. Budge of course generally won also but I've noticed that he lost a lot more than I expected when I first looked at some of his records.
     
    #67
  18. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    They discuss level of play which I find perfectly okay.

    When you think about it, isn't achievements just a way to look at a great player's level of play. How do we quantify Jack Kramer's World Championship Tours compared to a major or a Pro Major?
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
    #68
  19. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I'm not sure if Vines picks Budge or Tilden as number one. In his book he writes Budge is the best of those who played after World War II. I'll find the quotes later which put some doubt on that.

    Edit-Vines writes in his book "Tennis Myth and Method"-All kinds of lists select Tilden as the greatest player who ever lived. I can't argue with them. His record is amazing. The next page Vines writes about Tilden-From personal experience I can vouch for his all-around game. I played a tour against him in 1934 abd was glad to win 47 out of our 73 matches, even though he was 41. In our Madison Square Garden debut, in which he beat me 8-6 6-3 6-2, I was not only overawed by him personally but also by his game. I was coming off a rather poor amateur season in 1933 and simply wasn't prepared for a player of his accurate strokes and experience. He had a cannonball serve, heartbreaking length and angles plus the energy of a junior. I gradually improved on the tour as I became more familiar with the indoor courts; yet I had never played anyone who could do as much off both wings. His return of service was superb; he could blow you off the court with his drives and at the same time was a master of spins. His energy was amazing for his age. I remember on grueling match in Los Angeles which lasted over three hours before I took it in the fifth after losing an earlier set 23-21.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
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  20. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Well both of them are straining a bit against their reputations in a way. You can see from these quotes that very early on their reputations were already basically in place: Vines was referred to as the one who could be invincible one day and a total amateur the next, while Budge was the super-consistent one who could rarely be defeated, except occasionally on Vines' best days. But the truth is probably somewhere in between. Vines was more consistent -- and Budge more often beatable -- than their reputations would suggest.

    Maybe back then, since they were paired off against one another in a heavyweight championship, they were contrasted as opposites. And there's a lot of truth, I think, to their reps: Vines was more powerful and high-risk, while Budge was more consistent.

    But it's not like Budge was hitting with the topspin consistency of Borg. From our perspective Budge and Vines look very similar; to me they both look like flat power hitters who could be vulnerable to really consistent players who got the ball back enough. You can see that in their losses to Bitsy Grant.

    Both men were at their weakest on clay. Vines took maybe the single biggest lost of his career, to Borotra in Davis Cup, at Roland Garros. Three of Budge's four losses to Grant were on clay; and Budge's most significant loss of '39 was probably the one at Southport, again on clay, to Tilden in three straight sets.

    I think both of these men would have been awesome on today's hard courts; and on any indoor surface.
     
    #70
  21. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Yes, there's no doubt Vines' list purposely starts post-Tilden, and that he holds Tilden perhaps as the greatest of all. He never faced peak Tilden, but he had so much trouble with an aging Tilden that he had to know how great Tilden in the '20s must have been.

    A lot of Tilden's high reputation seems due to what he did in his declining years, not just against the Musketeers but in his pro tours against Vines and Budge. Everyone back then seems astounded by how well he could still do.

    It makes me wonder how great Tilden would have been regarded, if he had not continued playing well into his decline. If he had "gone out on top", I'm not sure his reputation would have been as great.
     
    #71
  22. krosero

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    Here's Budge talking about Tilden (May 1, 1941, near the end of their tour):

    Budge Is Best

    Budge is so far the best tennis player in the world that watching him play has long since become an exhibition of skill rather than a contest. At present he has played Tilden 55 matches and beaten that remarkable old gaffer 50 times. Marble has lost only three times to Hardwick in about as many matches.

    "When he decides to get off the dime,” Budge told us, speaking of Tilden, "he can still play some pretty amazing tennis. Bill's forty-eight years old, you know, but those times he beat me he really beat me. There wasn't any laying down on my part, either. He just began to move around as he must have done in the early nineteen twenties, when nobody could touch him. Took the play away from me, hit harder and truer than I can, and made me look like a sap. He beat me six-one, six-one in Dallas, what’a you think of that?”

    Tilden Great Showman

    “But win or lose, Bill's been a great show. Let me tell you what happened in Toronto. You never see a guy beef very much in tennis if a lineman is making mistakes in the other guy's shots, do you? But Bill did. I had hit three or four good ones in that Toronto match. They were pretty plainly in the court, but each time the lineman said [out]. Well, I didn't care. But Tilden was indignant, even though he was the fellow the lineman was helping.

    "Finally he stopped the play and said to the umpire, ‘I want that lineman removed.' Well, you know about the good neighbor policy, and all that, but darn near everybody there in the stands stood up and began booing Bill. But it didn't stump him a bit. He walked over to the umpire's chair, took the loudspeaker and made a speech.

    "He said: ‘The usual British custom is not to condemn a man until he has been proven wrong. For your information I'm not defending myself. I'm here defending Don Budge against this atrocious officiating. This linesman has been wrong so often that he should be removed, not only for the good of Budge but for the good of the match. I don't know just what you want to see, but I have an idea that it is a fair match, where each man has the benefit of accurate officiating. As it is now, I'm getting all the breaks, and it's just not fair.'

    "In the end there wasn't a peep out of the gallery. He's quite a guy, that Tilden. No thought of quitting the game, at 48, and still able to beat anybody, if he decides to get off the dime."​
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
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