Greatest Footwork of All Time!

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by Limpinhitter, Sep 3, 2011.

  1. BTURNER

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    You might be right but her groundstrokes (mostly her loopyish forehand) were so anti-smooth and awkward I never paid attention to her court coverage. But that serve was glorious.
     
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  2. magnut

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    I just liked her legwork the most. Great female athlete in that era when she was in her prime.
     
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  3. urban

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    Not so easy to define, what footwork means. Speed, stamina, body coordination, horizontal and vertical movement, sidesteps, turning around movement, jumping ability, even more mental abilities like anticipation are aspects, which come to mind. Players who were widely known for their footwork were Lacoste, von Cramm, Parker, Rosewall, who was called Fred Astaire in sneakers, Osuna, Nastase, Okker, Borg, Wilander, Mecir. I would single out Rosewall with his anticipation, Borg with his athletic abilities (like Graf he was a virtual track and field athlete), and from modern times Federer, with the execption of clay, where i would prefer Nadal's sliding.
     
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  4. Laurie

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    Interesting topic Limphitter.

    I'm probably not as expert as some here on this subject but here are two names that I haven't seen mentioned.

    Justine Henin - Saw her play 5 times, twice at the French Open, twice at Wimbledon and the 2007 WTA final, the great final against Sharapova. I would put Henin up there in the footwork department. When she was on top form she was very fluid, similar to her heroine Steffi Graf, but also with a great backhand, and probably went to net more often, she had great improvisation on volleys.

    Amelie Mauresmo - very similar to Stefan Edberg, fantastic volleys, fantastic athleticism, fantastic mover, will probably be the last ever female player to serve and volley her way to a Wimbledon title. Like Edberg, a dodgy forehand which when on worked very well but was unfortunately a liability due to the extreme grip, she often dropped the ball short and was vulnerable to attack, especially on clay. But I thought she had great footwork, especially when coming forward.
     
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  5. Noisy Ninja

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    Another vote for Edberg to be moved way up; he's gotta to be in the top five imho. Edberg was rarely, if ever, caught flat footed.
     
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  6. Limpinhitter

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    Do me a favor, go back and read my posts on Edberg's footwork. If you can address those concerns and come up with something compelling I'll consider moving him up further.
     
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  7. Limpinhitter

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    If you read my opening post, I think I gave a pretty detailed description of why I put Federer and Conners 1 & 2. IMO, the primary purpose of footwork is shot preparation and set-up. Federer does it with amazing precision and efficiency. Connors does it with the greatest precision I've ever seen, if not as efficient as Federer. Connors expended more energy to accomplish his set up. He probably took 2-3 times as many adjustment steps. But, have you ever seen Connors out of position to hit a shot, off balance or out of energy? Hahaha! I can only guess that Connors was the Steve Prefontaine of tennis - bottomless lung capacity.

    Footwork technique such as side stepping, etc., horizontal/vertical movement would all be aspects. Anticipation is a factor as long as we're talking about shot preparation. However, mixing in speed and jumping ability confuses the issue, IMO. As I've mentioned previously, I don't want this to turn in to a speed/athleticism thread - that's been done.

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2011
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  8. magnut

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    From what I remember your beef was more to do with the actual stroke production on the forehand side than the footwork used to get to that point. Yes, Edbergs forehand was a bit weak but his movement and footwork to get in position was never in question. The proper steps were always there and I have never seen him suffer from balance or awareness on that side. Edbergs footwork was actually so good that it was hard to attack his forehand as he would always put himself in proper position. He had to.

    In fact Edberg probably had the most flawed forehand for a dominant world #1 ever. He was extremely good at protecting it though due to his excellent footwork, tactics, anticipation, and overall court coverage.

    In truth he was a little dangerouss of that side at times when hitting running forehands (again largely in part to excellent footwork). His return of serve off that side was excellent.

    He was also not surface specific in his movement. He was a very good mover on clay both in the back of the court and the net. I cant think of any player in the open era that could move as well on clay around the entire court. Basline yes....there are tons of them.

    Whats even crazier is how well he still moves. He looks the same now as he did in 1996. I dont think he has lost a step and the balance is still perfect. Pretty amazing for a Serve and Volley player without a booming serve. Most players in that mold break down and loose a lot after retirement (Rafter, Cash etc.) Thats the difference with Edberg.

    Hes not really even my favorite player but as I get older I appreciate him more and more in terms of pure athletecism. I also find his demeanor and personality traits unbelievable for a top athlete but that has nothing to do with footwork. I dont think we will see another Edberg. Just a unique combination of qualities that can seldom become proffesional athletes. Most people like Stephan end up becoming things like surgeons etc.
     
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  9. BTURNER

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    And that is why I recommend Evert so strongly. The only possible weakness in all that you mentioned is is an early/mid career hesitancy in moving forward for droppers that she improved beginning in the early eighties when it took the best of dropshots to do the job. Master of anticipation, She moved as beautifully on grass or clay or hard courts. And she was always prepared and balanced to hit the ball when she got there and so motion efficient in her footwork and swing she rarely tired in those long rallies. There were always about 5 better sprinters among her contempories through her entire career. But excepting Graf, I cannot think of anyone better cumulatively in your definition,especially in footwork as very narrowly defined. And Graf was not quite as good at anticipating or racket prep - but no one was. Like Martina, Graf was such a great athlete and so physically strong more than made up for a slightly late arrival or swing.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2011
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  10. Manus Domini

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    I haven't seen Rosewall play like you have. But from what I have read, he was extremely efficient, wouldn't be tired after hours of play even if his opponent would be, and he had Federer's forehand precision with his backhand (even more consistent, too, I read)
     
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  11. pc1

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    I thought Rosewall's footwork was incredible and perhaps the best I've seen.

    People used to compare Rosewall and Connors and how similar they were. Among the similarities was that they both had super footwork.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2011
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  12. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Nope! Just the opposite. What I said was that Edberg's set-up on his fh side was erratic and lacked the intensity of his set-up on his backhand side and at net. That's the main reason his fh was his weaker side - his set up wasn't consistent. Frankly, IMO, Edberg's fh is underrated. When he sets up properly it's a great shot. And when he doesn't, it isn't. I've seen him fail to set up well and mis-hit fh's many times, especially in response to a big cross court fh from Becker or Lendl.
     
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  13. magnut

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    The Hell you say!

    But serioussly. I will have to pull some matches from my library in the near future and have a closer look. I have never noticed anything out of the norm or erratic with his set up. Was this something you noticed throughout his career oh during a specific time? I have a good bit of Edberg on DVD and it would make it easier to narrow it down.

    Oh, I still think your wrong though. I see bad footwork and mishits much more often from Federer and Borg. Your kind of nitpicking. Edberg should be at least top five with his exceptional legwork at net (as well as everywhere else). Spanning an entire career and up to present I might add. Lots of guys moved great in there prime. Edberg is still a great mover.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2011
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  14. jrepac

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    I'd put Connors ahead of Fed, frankly. Fed looks sloppier and sloppier nowadays. Connors footwork was sharp well into his 30's. Borg should be higher, and where is Edberg and Mecir definitely should be on here.
     
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  15. pc1

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    I'd probably agree about Connors ahead of Federer but I wouldn't complain too much if someone reversed it. Borg is hard to evaluate because while I think he had great footwork I'm not sure if he's greater than some. I do think it's very possible Borg had more mobility than any player that ever lived but that's different from footwork.
     
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  16. urban

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    I have seen slow motion clips from Borg, where only the legs and feet were shown. He was always on his toes, moving fantastically from side to side with little steps, always preparing for the next shot.
     
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  17. Limpinhitter

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    I thought long and hard about Fed and Connors. As I've explained in detail, no one had more precise footwork than Connors. But, I gave it to Fed for his unparalleled combination of efficiency and precision. You're right that Fed's set-up isn't what it used to be. But, does that take away from what it was during his 6+ year peak?

    Edberg and Mecir are on there #11 and 9 respectively.
     
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  18. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    Great footwork should be measure in all surfaces...clay, hc, grass, carpet.

    Overall, Fed ranked the best.
     
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  19. NikeWilson

    NikeWilson Semi-Pro

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    What about Ivan Lendl?
     
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  20. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I thought about Lendl. Funny, as much as I've watched him play, I've never been impressed with, or even noticed, his footwork very much. Maybe his footwork is so efficient a natural it doesn't draw your attention. I remember seeing Lendl reaching and stretching a lot for his shots. On the other hand, I don't recall seeing Lendl overrun his shots and get jammed the way Sampras did. Bottom line, I'm not sure where to put Lendl, or even if he's top 20-30 in that regard.
     
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  21. pc1

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    I think you're right. Lendl was fast but his footwork wasn't the greatest. Not sure if he's among the top in that area but overall I think his mobility was way above average and of course his stamina was fantastic.
     
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  22. RF20Lennon

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    Borg had no elegance federer did in my opinion federer had better footwork, backhand and forehand but borg was more aggressive
     
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  23. TopFH

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    Of the people I have seen play, Federer wins the best footwork. However, no one compares to Monfils in his movement.
     
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  24. Dedans Penthouse

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    Men: Federer, Borg, Rosewall
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  25. heftylefty

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    Let me pile on your thought. I also think Lendl foot work was highly underrated because he was so efficient and he had other weapons so his footwork was overlooked.
     
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  26. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    No way should Chang be above Edberg! Chang was quick around the court and had foot speed, but not as good of footwork as Edberg.

    Edberg was always on his toes and hit every shot with near perfect form and balance. From the stutter steps on return of serve, to the perfectly-executed forward motion to the net into a split step and then moving forward and crossing over with weight on the front leg to hit the perfect volley, especially moving in for a backhand volley.

    One could create a textbook of how to execute perfect tennis movement and footwork with just pictures and videos of Edberg - it's actually difficult to find examples of when he wasn't moving and setting up perfectly. When he was off or played poorly or missed shots, it was rarely, if ever, due to poor footwork.

    It was a shame that Edberg quit playing much doubles after about 1987, because his footwork in doubles is also quite amazing.

    I even question Nadal being placed above Edberg. Again, no doubt he is incredibly fast around the court, but I think Edberg's footwork is more precise and consistent.
     
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  27. magnut

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    Here Here! I wish he still played doubles even now. He would be right there with the current crop of top doubles players.
     
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  28. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    It's a tough one to call, I think. Fed's been looking very good this week at the USO, frankly! I'm surprised.
     
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  29. Limpinhitter

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    One more time - Edberg's shot preparation and set up on his fh was a weakness and, IMO, the reason his forehand was erratic and vulnerable. Chang had no such weakness in his shot preparation.
     
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  30. NikeWilson

    NikeWilson Semi-Pro

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    Well let's not forget that Lendl was pretty much the '80s template of perfection. The guy was like a machine, a robot.
    From Lendl stemmed Sampras, from Sampras stemmed Federer.
     
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  31. Limpinhitter

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    I don't know what you mean by "stemmed," but, I am pretty certain that Federer did not use Sampras or Lendl as model's of great footwork.
     
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  32. Joe Pike

    Joe Pike Banned

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    Something positive about the big-nosed Kraut girl????

    Who has hijacked Mr. Penthouse's TW account?
     
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  33. NikeWilson

    NikeWilson Semi-Pro

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    Yeah, not entirely footwork, but Sampras' idol was Lendl. and Federer's idol was Sampras.
    Consistency in technique is something they all share.
    Ofcourse Sampras developed more of a net game than the other 2.
     
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  34. magnut

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    Lendles idol was Jan Kodich (Spelling?).

    Who ever thought Jan would have such a big influence on the game?
     
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  35. piece

    piece Professional

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    Isn't this supposed to be a consensus list? Edberg's ranking has been questioned a number of times now in this thread. In hoodjem's threads (which you professed to be modeling yours on) this is enough to get a player elevated significantly higher on the list, almost without exception.

    That being said, I might be mistaken about your intended methodology here. If so, carry on.
     
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  36. Limpinhitter

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    Sampras has said many times that his idol was Laver. But, Sampras' footwork was his weakness, IMO. However, it was Lendl who took him under his wing and showed him the kind of work and devotion it takes to be a champion. From what I recently read, Sampras had a similar HTH with Donald Young.
     
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  37. Limpinhitter

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    Jan Kodes was a Czech national hero. He was a great player with a balanced all around game, who won 2 FO's, 1 W (boycott year), and was a 2x runner up at the USO.
     
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  38. Limpinhitter

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    I hear you. I did move him up a few places after about half a dozen comments. But, I also pointed out that his set up on the fh side was a weakness and no one has responded to that. I don't know exactly what Hoodjem's criteria for moving players around his lists are, but, before I make a move I'd like some reasonable justification for it. Otherwise, isn't this just a "****" list.

    Also, if you think he should be moved up, it helps if you state where you think he should be, being mindful of the players he's being placed above. For example, someone expressed an opinion that Edberg's footwork was better than Chang's. OK, maybe in some respects, but, when I pointed out Edberg's weak fh set up, I got no response. Chang's set up was nearly immaculate on every shot. Better than Edberg? Maybe, but Chang had no weaknesses in that respect. Maybe the answer is that both Edberg and Chang should be higher. If that's what it takes to justify a move, then make the case.
     
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  39. pc1

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    #89
  40. Limpinhitter

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    Great player, great open stance WW forehand, with a conti grip. I saw him play a few times. Where would you put him on the list?
     
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  41. magnut

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    Thanks Mate. I dont know much about Kodes other than my Ivan Lendle: Tennis My Way Video/DVD.
     
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  42. pc1

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    Not really sure. For overall mobility he's up there but hard for me to say concerning footwork.

    Okker was considered one of the fastest men in tennis along with players like Rosewall, Laver and Nastase but I'm not sure how he ranks with footwork.
     
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  43. piece

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    Personally, I'm not too fussed about the ranking you've assigned to Edberg. If I'd done the list myself he would probably be higher, but I don't see your ranking of him as an obvious mistake or anything like that. My comment was intended merely to point out an incongruence between your professed method of ranking (akin to hoodjem's) and staunch resistance to placing Edberg as high as many posters in this thread have said they think he should be.

    Now, you've defended this move by noting that little, or poor justification has been given for assigning Edberg a higher ranking, however, I'm not sure this is the case. magnut, for instance, has responded to your charge that the comparative weakness of Edberg's forehand stemmed from his somewhat flawed shot preparation and set up by claiming that it was Edberg's forehand technique, rather than footwork on that side, that resulted in the weakness of the stroke. magnut may be wrong in claiming this, but in the context of this thread he has provided no less justification for his stance than you. Both, essentially, are little more than bare assertions.

    In fact, I suspect that this very issue is what prompted hoodjem to base his list on consensus rather 'justification' or strong argument. Because for the most part (sans reliable and relevant stats) these debates are, at root, just different individuals asserting or rejecting that player x is better than player y in respect r, period. Little argument can be given one way or the other (except for the always welcome testimony of experts - none of which has been given in the particular debate I'm referencing.)

    (The best serves thread is an welcome exception to this generalization largely
    because of the availability of great stats for serves).
     
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  44. magnut

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    My stance on Edberg is correct in every concievable way and this cannot be questioned. But you must understand that I am also extremely bias in every concievable way due to the fact that I look at him as the closest we have ever been to total perfection both on and off the court in the sport of tennis.

    Laver was a decent enough player though. I will give people that.
     
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  45. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    I just wanted to make a case of moving Mats Wilander up at least a few notches in your list.

    He won seven slam titles, and his main weapon was his movement. Sure, he had good strokes, but not weapons that stuck out then or now. He just seemed to glide around the court, seemingly with great anticipation and often just seemed to be there without seeming to sweat. In this regard, his movement was a lot like Fed.
     
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  46. BTURNER

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    Never really thought about it before, but he did seem to end up in the right spot, balanced and ready. Maybe he teleported but footwork is a possible explanation.
     
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  47. Wilander Fan

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    Wilander deserves more recognition for footwork. He won his titles with his movement and balance. He was also underrated at the net where he also moved very well.
     
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  48. magnut

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    Wilander did everything well. Smartest tennis player of all time. He is also the GOAT for commentary IMO. Mats is also the most overlooked player in the open era.
     
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  49. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    I don't think that's true. Federer's idols were Becker and Edberg.
     
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  50. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    I just do not see Edberg's oft-criticised forehand being a result of poor footwork. And has been pointed out often, his forehand wasn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It is his weakest shot, and it is his least aesthetic shot. And when comparing to his backhand, volleys, outstanding athleticism, graceful movement and precision footwork, of course the forehand is targeted because it is his weakest shot. But I'll bet there are many - even ATP pros - who would take his forehand!


    Time zone differences, my friend. :) By the time you responded I was offline and asleep.

    Also, just wanted to add that *personally* I would put Edberg even higher because - of the players I've watched most over the years, I consider Edberg, Connors and Borg to have had the best footwork I've seen. However, acknowledging that I have not watched much of Rosewall, Tilden, Nastase and even Laver (who I've seen a bit but nowhere near as much as many others), I didn't even try to challenge you on those.

    Also, I'm a bit mixed on Mecir compared to Edberg. I agree his movement around the court was uncanny and he seemed to float into position effortlessly and return balls that looked like clean winners. Personally if it were my private list, I'd rank Edberg higher due to his footwork technique, but I don't feel as if I can adequately justify ranking him higher in this forum because I know much of this is subjective and I fully understand Mecir being ranked where he is by others (I can agree to disagree).

    But I feel quite strongly that Edberg's footwork trumps Chang and I also mentioned I thought it was better than Nadal, who I acknowledge has raw speed and is amazing moving around the court. But he doesn't move effortlessly as did Edberg and is not near as precise nor graceful in his footwork.

    So I didn't come here just saying, move Edberg higher, with no thoughtful justification, although I am not as eloquent as many of you in describing technique in technical terms.

    But again, I just don't see any part of Edberg's 'weak' forehand being specifically an error in footwork that justifies pushing his ranking down below Chang and Nadal. I'll try to find something on youtube but, of course, one could spend hours looking through Edberg clips (not that that's a bad way to spend idle time, but I don't have much time right now).

    While not a forehand example except for the first low volley (which is quite incredible at shoe top level), I really liked this very short clip as an example of Edberg's anticipation and footwork:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phNjmgEZT5Q&feature=related

    Edited to add this additional short clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf2LnHcUo58&feature=related

    Now how about you providing an example of Chang that convinces me his footwork is better than Edberg's? Your statement that "Chang's set up was nearly immaculate on every shot" is quite strong, but give us some evidence as well, just as you challenged us to "make the case" about Edberg :wink:

    Cheers.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2011

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