Evert against prime Graf, prime Seles, or even prime Henin on clay

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by NadalAgassi, Oct 13, 2011.

  1. NadalAgassi

    NadalAgassi Guest

    Chris Evert is regarded as the greatest female clay courter in history. That seems appropriate given her record. However if in her prime she faced a prime Graf, prime Seles, or even perhaps a prime Henin on clay how would she have fared. Would any of those possibly even had the edge over her.
     
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  2. Tennishacker

    Tennishacker Professional

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    It's very difficult to compare players of different era's.
    Playing style, equipment, training methods and competition all factor into how one player dominates their era.

    But I think the "ice queen" would be the best on clay, whatever generation she plays against.
     
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  3. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    Well, an older Evert was competitive vs Steffi so I think she would have held her own at the very least
     
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  4. dannykl

    dannykl Rookie

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    If all four played at the same generation, I think Evert would be quite even against the other 3. She wouldn't dominate the other 3 on clay, nor would the other 3 dominate her.

    However I think Henin might win more against Seles on clay. Seles' one dimensional game would be vulnerable to Henin. Henin versus Graf would be a tight match. No one will have clear advantage on clay.
     
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  5. NadalAgassi

    NadalAgassi Guest

    Not that competitive. She won only 1 set in their last 7 matches (excluding the walkover). That is in sharp contrast to say Navratilova who even in old age often won sets, and occasionaly a match from prime Steffi. I dont think Graf was a good matchup for Evert in general, whereas she was a pretty good matchup for Martina. 16 year old Steffi had her first ever win over Evert before ever winning a pro tournament (or exactly at the time of winning her first as that was also her first title) and it was on clay, then never lost another match again and only 1 set. I believe that was their last meeting ever on clay too.
     
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  6. NadalAgassi

    NadalAgassi Guest

    The funny thing is Seles in the twilight of her career just before retiring, and WAY below her prime level still went 4-3 vs Henin. They never played on clay. I also think Seles was a bad matchup for Henin.
     
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  7. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    Yeah true I guess I only remember the Boca Raton match in 89 and the 2nd set at the AO in 88.
     
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  8. pmerk34

    pmerk34 Legend

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    Seles was bad match up for everyone for a few years
     
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  9. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    I think Evert would win the slight majority of matches vs Graf and the better percentage of matches vs Seles because Seles is more limited, and easier to figure out. Once Evert figures out how to play an opponent and gains any confidence, its pretty much all over for baseliners on clay. She'd loose a lot of first sets though to both of them.
     
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  10. NadalAgassi

    NadalAgassi Guest

    Yeah but by the late 90s she had become an easy matchup for nearly all the top players. Yet even as a further diminished force by the early 2000s she was still a tough matchup for rising stars Henin and Clijsters, which makes me think those are two people who definitely wouldnt have done well against her in her prime when they couldnt even do well against that version of her.
     
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  11. boredone3456

    boredone3456 Legend

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    Evert would be a horrible matchup for Seles. Evert was extremely patient and tactical in her approach to the court. She set up winners and could move her opponents around very easily when she set her mind to it. She could rip winners from seemingly impossible angles and had amazing point construction. Seles would be a player Evert would exploit big time. Evert would easily push Seles around on clay and make her run, or bait her to net to pass her easily as Seles was very awkward at net. Seles couldn't even handle Hingis, no way would she handle Evert, Hingis was very Evert-like in her approach to tennis. She would stand a chance to win the occasional set...but I doubt she could win matches.

    Henin would be slightly more troublesome. Henin was a much better mover and had a much better all court game then Seles did. Henin could play strong at the net, move the baseline, construc points and she moved very well on clay. Henin also never had to play an opponent like Evert on Dirt, she had no one close in her league...Evert is a whole different animal to Kim or Serena on dirt. Evert's slices and lobs would run Henin around a lot, and Henin wouldn't have the option of simply waiting Evert out.

    Graf would be the biggest problem and their matches, both at their best, would be epic. Evert after 86 really went down in her form. She had blips of good play but after so many years it was obvious she was out of gas. By 88 at the Aussie it was because Graf got sloppy in the 2nd that Evert clawed back the way she did. Evert in her strongest years would take it more to Steffi then she did when they played. Grafs forehand and movement Vs Everts slices, lobs, passing shots...it would be a battle. If Evert baited her to net, Graf could volley but Evert would be ready for her I am sure.

    Overall

    Seles would be lucky to get more then 1 match in 10, and would lose, frequently, in straight sets.

    Henin would maybe do a little better, maybe not lose in straights so much, but overall Evert would get 7 or 8 out of 10.

    Graf and Evert...who knows, I say even split in a true battle. They are the top 2 clay players on the ladies side...it would be epic.
     
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  12. Joe Pike

    Joe Pike Banned

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    1 set in their last EIGHT matches (excluding the WO):

    1986 HILTON HEAD Graf 64 75
    1987 MIAMI Graf 61 62
    1987 FED CUP Graf 62 61
    1987 LOS ANGELES Graf 63 64
    1988 AUSTRALIAN OPEN Graf 61 76
    1988 MIAMI Graf 64 64
    1988 US OPEN Graf W/O
    1989 BOCA RATON Graf 46 62 63
    1989 WIMBLEDON Graf 62 61

    That is 16-1 sets.
    8 sets with Evert winning only 1 or 2 games.
     
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  13. Joe Pike

    Joe Pike Banned

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    Not for a slumping Graf in 1991/93.
     
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  14. Joe Pike

    Joe Pike Banned

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    In which year do you think Evert played at her best ever?
     
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  15. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    And here is the first half
    1985 Lipton/Delray Beach, FL SF W 6-4, 6-2
    1985 Hilton Head, SC SF W 6-2, 6-1
    1985 Berlin F W 6-4, 7-5
    1985 French Open 4R W 6-2, 6-3
    1986 Key Biscayne, FL F W 6-3, 6-1
    1986 Lipton/Key Biscayne, FL F W 6-4, 6-2

    That is the problem with this rivalry. Its like to entirely different rivalries. One where Graf was immature, another when Evert was burning out and inconsistent. Its interesting to note that while Graf and Sabatini were contemporaries, Sabatini was more competitive vs Evert in these early years. Once Chris figured out how to play against Graf's game in 1988, she was too old to implement throughout a very physical match.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2011
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  16. Joe Pike

    Joe Pike Banned

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    So a 30-year-old Evert dominated a 15-year-old Steffi and a 17-year-old Steffi dominated a 32-year-old Evert.

    What do you think was the main reason for that?
    Evert becoming two years older or Steffi becoming two years older?
    I think these questions answer themselves ...
     
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  17. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    Yeah, I tend to agree w/your assessment. Chris kind of figured out how to play Steffi a little late...she played a tough match against her in FL and even that AO final, was shockingly good in the 2nd set. But, Steffi's wheels were just superior at this point in the rivalry. Evert was still very good, just no longer at that very top level after 1985/86.
     
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  18. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    USO Quarters, 1989...Evert's revenge....

    previously, on clay even, Seles was making her look bad and very old.

    Chris really turned it on in this particular match, doing many of the things you note above.
     
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  19. NadalAgassi

    NadalAgassi Guest

    On clay Chris's best ever tennis was definitely 1974-1978.
     
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  20. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Wow,You could not be more wrong in my view. She dominated a weak slow court field by doing a few things very very well, The next generation included women who did many of those same things, in the same way, just about as well a la Austin, Jaeger etc. In essence a deep fast court era (60 & 70's) evolved into a deep slow court era (late 70's to mid 90's) and she and Martina bridged them both. You are confusing statistical dominance, with 'best'. Tennis stopped being about just avoiding errors, and keeping the ball deep and close to sidelines, even on clay. She was slower, weaker, had far fewer options, had a worse serve, worse volleys and worse groundstrokes and less of a sense of when to approach than she developed in the 80's.

    Honestly, no one in their right mind would claim she was not better, much better after Martina and the next generation pushed her into becoming an athlete, and developing an all around game. Let's put it this way. The Evert of 77 would never have made a dent in Martina in '85 or 86 RG finals. Rallies don't last long if you are overpowered and passes don't happen if you can't reach the approach shots in time to position yourself. I guess you feel the result of the Martina threat 82-84 made Evert a worse clay court player. Maybe you think Martina's play in the '75 final was better than her play in '85 too. Geesh
     
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  21. Polaris

    Polaris Hall of Fame

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    Disagree. Both Graf and Seles would completely overwhelm Evert.
     
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  22. droliver

    droliver Semi-Pro

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    All 3 would dominate Evert in their respective primes. Too much firepower from the more modern style players, and she has nothing to hurt them with. Keeping the ball in play without a kill shot would make her a dead duck!
     
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  23. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    http://youtu.be/PyW6RwLk2bA

    Another poster who does not know Evert's game very well. There they are, the 'kill shots' Do you see her just keeping the ball in play?
     
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  24. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    Ignorance is the order of the day for Oliver. Recent highlights include:

    Declaring there was no way Sampras was using a wood racquet at 13....since HE(Oly) was not at that time. (Numerous posters confirmed that it was Sampras who said he did)

    And a thread where he first insisted that Courier's forehand would be unremarkable today...and then tried to proclaim that Courier's junior career showed no indication of pro potential....that the Orange bowl was not a big tournament.....and then repeatedly insisted that Courier's FO win was an unparalleled "dark horse" breakthrough...that he was on nobody's radar....

    It's the latter claim that inspires me to post OT in this thread. I and some other posters (Limpin, Moose, others) debunked all these claims thoroughly, though Oliver continued to simply "deny".

    Anyways, Oliver, I thought of you a week or two ago upon reading this in World Tennis Jan 1991.....I had mentioned that many pundits had picked Courier as a serious contender (he was after all a top player, who had won back to back masters titles in the spring, and had previous good FO results):

    In World Tennis 10 predictions for the upcoming 1991 year:
    "#8 Don't be surprised if heavy hitting, hard-working Jim Courier uses his big forehand to topspin his way to the French Open final, beating last year's finalist, Andre Agassi, along the way. But don't expect Courier to be as polite as Michael Chang about it. He'll hoot and holler all the way to victory."
     
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  25. NadalAgassi

    NadalAgassi Guest

    Many players were a threat to Evert on clay by that period. Jaeger beat her back to back times on clay, including troucing her badly in the FO semis. Maleeva crushed her in the Rome final, and nearly beat her a number of other times. The clay court great Zina Garrison beat her in straight sets to win a tier 1 title. Meanwhile in the 70s high quality clay courters like Goolagong and Nancy Richey couldnt beat her once for 6 years. Yes she had developed a stronger physical game by the mid 80s, but she was nowhere near as consistent, patient, or deadly focused as she used to be, something she admited herself, and which is most paramount on clay.

    Fine though, you believe 82-86 and especialy 84-86 was Chris's apex on clay. If we take that as being true she took a straight sets loss in a tournament final on clay to a 16 year old/0 titles/1 time past the round of 16 of a slam Graf, I guess that already answers the thread question, atleast as far as Graf is concerned. Not to mention if Martina was able to crush Evert at her career clay best (according to you) by scores like 6-3, 6-1 and 6-2, 6-0 on clay, then how she would fare vs much superior clay courters than Martina such as Graf, Seles, and possibly Henin in their primes is already self explanatory.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 14, 2011
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  26. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    IMO, given equal equipment, Evert, in her prime, would have a winning record on clay against any other player in the history of women's tennis.
     
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  27. NadalAgassi

    NadalAgassi Guest

    IMHO it could depend on the kind of equipment too. I would favor Evert over Graf or Seles on clay if they all played in the wood era. Graphite though would probably favor the power games of Graf and Seles.
     
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  28. boredone3456

    boredone3456 Legend

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    By that point Chris had figured out how to handle Monica. Early on in their matches, Evert was older and out of gas, or getting there, and she wasn't as quick on the uptake as she was in 85/86 and earlier. That match, she really had Monica's number and had figured out her weaknesses and the best way for her in her current form to beat them. Evert several years younger/in her prime I think wouldn't have taken so long to figure out a strategy to beat Monica. Seles would win sets early on, but matches..I still don't know.
     
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  29. boredone3456

    boredone3456 Legend

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    Its possible, but when Evert finally decided to make the switch from wood she added a lot of power to her game and actually hit the ball pretty hard when she had finally adjusted. Evert added a lot of power to her game and in 85/86 she was hitting fairly hard. I think she waited a little to long to make the switch from wood, because by the time she did and adjusted in the end she didn't have a ton of year at her physical/mental best left to her. If Evert in 89 at the US Open could dismantle Seles, I think in their primes with modern racquets she could do it as well.
     
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  30. NadalAgassi

    NadalAgassi Guest

    While that could well be correct I wouldnt read too much into the 89 U.S Open match. Both players were well out of their primes (Evert maybe even more) but Chris seemed alot more determined to win the match that day, while Seles wasnt really ready for that kind of situation- playing a sentimental favorite and big champion in her swan song, the rowdy NY crowd being totally against her, etc..Chris also threw in a few more tricks and tactics after losing to Monica earlier that year and Monica didnt seem ready for them, but she herself probably would have been more prepared in future meetings. Monica did beat Chris on clay in their only other meeting that year.
     
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  31. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Jaeger and Maleeva are examples of the improved slow court games of the next generation, using many of the same tools, strokes and tactics that Evert had first employed. Her problem wasn't clay or early errors or more impatience or poorer performance per se. It was pschological ( in her head) and tactical, trying to find ways to crack the safe she had built. They built their games on not making errors and that two hander. Goolagong, and Richey and King and Wade and court, and Casals, and Durr, did not. Rallies lasted longer and more was expected of her point after point than before. She had to learn to break up other's rhythm, a skill she did not need in the 70's when no one had any!

    You keep pointing to a score or a result to disprove a generalization. I can find those scores to, for any player. This is why I so hate these 'peak' year discussions. Tennis don't work like that. Bad matches can crop up in anyone's career, even their peak. Correspondingly great play can sparkle well before or after. By '86 she had definitely begun to have intermittant lapses in concentration that affected her clay game first , then hard, and her grass game last. And Graf began to realize her incredible potential long before it was habitual. It explains why Martina can take a set in '75 from Evert and loose most of them badly on the same surface before or after until the mid eighties. It explains why the same 16 year old who Evert routed in straight sets, she lost to in straight sets about a month later. neither player changed that much between the Lipton and Hilton Head. It explains why the same woman who played so lousy in the first set of the RG final 2 -6, can end up playing her most exquisite clay tennis the next two.6-3, 6-3. Hell, she continued to produce some fantastic clay tennis through '88 where it all came together, the old and new EVert. But never enough to win a two week event, and rarely enough to win a one week event.

    Nadalagassi, you do not realize what Evert's real genius was. It wasn't her patience, her 'mental toughness, her perfect groundstrokes, etc. It was problem-solving. Time after time from the juniors unitl retirement, Evert faced stronger, faster , more agressive or and later even steadier threats who could take her down once or twice pretty badly. But given time, she would find keys to unlock the mystery, and practice the skills needed to execute. The clay gave her more time to do the above, and more balls to practice perfecting the patterns. I don't see how anyone dare right her off vs Seles or Graf when I think she was already trying keys in their locks in '88, '89.

    For the record, I am very iffy about who comes out on top between Graf and Evert in a series. If its best of three Graf wins without a doublt. , If its best of 5 or 10 I give the edge to Chris.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2011
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  32. Jack Romeo

    Jack Romeo Professional

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    i don't think there is a need to speculate about how graf and evert would have fared against each other. sure they caught each other at different stages in their respective careers but they still played a bunch of times and graf has the edge in the head to head. if they were contemporaries, it probably would still be similar. graf is a better athlete and more powerful. and she is just as tough mentally. on the flipside, she does tend to suffer more lapses on clay (hello? 0-6,2-6 to arantxa?). overall, i don't think the record would be much different if they played as contemporaries over a longer period of time.

    against seles, i think it would be tougher to tell. for one, seles in her prime was just as tough mentally also. athletically and tactically, evert might have the edge, but seles did move quite well on clay and people forget that she had a good drop shot (she used this effectively against sanchez-vicario in 91). seles was more aggressive and has a killer weapon with her return. in her prime, i saw her hit a lot of return winners even against graf and navratilova, so i reckon she would do even more damage against evert's serve. on the other hand, seles has a poor record against the evert-like martina hingis, though she was past her prime when they played. all the same, it goes to show that seles would still have to be at her best to compete against evert, who we know would not give anything away in terms of maximizing her abilities.

    the real speculative thing in this whole thread is how evert would have fared against prime henin. henin is a better athlete, at par with graf and navratilova. her power is also there, from both sides. she can play the whole court like martina and can hit heavier balls because of her modern style. but mentally, i still give evert the advantage. i guess it depends partially on equipment. it is easy to imagine that if they played in the wood/early graphite era, evert would have the edge and that conversely, henin would be better under modern conditions.
     
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