Greatest Forehands of All Time

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by hoodjem, Jan 2, 2010.

  1. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    You be the judge:



    In my view, Federer and Nadal still have the best two forehands in tennis. The real question is who are numbers 3, 4 etc., et al.
     
  2. SamprasisGOAT

    SamprasisGOAT Semi-Pro

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    This video makes you look clueless. Pete Sampras had the greatest fast court forehand of all times. And I don't even think it's close. Federer has the greatest slow court forehand.
     
  3. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    It ain't very balletic.

    (My wrist hurts just watching all those inverse twists and turn.)

    Is this considered a good, powerful shot nowadays?
     
  4. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    That video certainly doesn't look smooth but I suppose it's effective. Personally I like Djokovic's, Federer's and Nadal's better for the overall way it looks.
     
  5. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    I haven't watched that much of Jack Sock. When I have watched, I have noticed that he does have a bit of a timing problem on his forehand handling hard penetrating balls. So does Kyrgios who has a similar, although less insane, forehand to Sock.

    From what I've seen, what impresses me more about Sock is his net game. He's very good at net for a modern player.
     
  6. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, droliver seems a bit irrational in his disdain for Samrpras' forehand. It's one thing to say that it isn't a top 5 forehand. It's another to say that it doesn't belong on the ATG list at all.

    PS: That video is an excellent demonstration of the greatness of Sampras' groundgame which seems to be generally underrated on this board. I've often said that Sampras' groundgame is at least as great as his net game. In my opinion, it certainly was up to the late 90's.

    PPS: Here's another video of Sampras vs. Agassi in which Sampras demonstrates a pretty decent forehand:

     
    Last edited: May 28, 2016
  7. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    I think that Hoad and Laver and Emmo came to the net in their era, Hoad especially. I am seeing Raonic doing the same today, this year...it seems to work.
     
  8. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    Dan, Yes, they were all big game players who also had great groundgames. But, this comment makes it seem like you didn't read or didn't understand my little dissertation on Sampras' forehand.
     
  9. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    He does look a little late.
     
  10. Flash O'Groove

    Flash O'Groove Hall of Fame

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    Following the bolded part, Sampras game was extremely effective on fast surfaces when he played against men who elected to play a full clay court game (Muster, Bruguera, etc.) or against player who elected to have a more balanced game, which could gather success both on fast surfaces and slow surfaces (Agassi, Chang, Courier, Kafelnikov). These two types of players were at a disadvantage against Sampras on the quicker surfaces, which were a big part of the tour back then.
     
  11. droliver

    droliver Professional

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    Then we're not watching the same video, as the most notable thing about those Sampras highlights (as always) is how serve dominant he is and how predatory his style was. There's no such thing as the best "fast court" forehand, and the very fact that you're having to try to quantify that already excludes it among any idea of having it be of the greatest. For the very best, the surface is largely irrelevant as they are both consistent and dictating play with the stroke across the whole season. Think of Lendl, Agassi, Moya, Federer, Nadal, Courier......
     
  12. droliver

    droliver Professional

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    Wrong (kind of).

    Sampras was dominant on surfaces where his serve was dominant, and less so where it wasn't. That's just evident in a cursory glance at his serve data and the spreads on it between surfaces. It's why any discussion of his forehand approaching the level of his serve is just logic-challenged.
     
  13. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    deleted.
     
  14. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    That's a sign of hope. In seems to me that the decline of the net game among modern pros is two fold: better passing shots due to evolved equipment, and also, less experienced and less confident net players. If Raonic can capitalize on attacking the net, then I think that many other players can do the same.
     
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  15. Flash O'Groove

    Flash O'Groove Hall of Fame

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    I answered to Limpinhitter who said that Sampras's lack of success on clay was a result of him specializing on fast surfaces. I agree with it but it's only one face of the deal. Polarisation of surfaces AND playing style made him hard to succeed on clay but it also made it easier to succeed on fast surfaces as many others top players made a different choice.

    I disagree also that a forehand can't be somewhat surface dependent. Many of the most powerful forehand require a lot of preparation (Wawrinka or Gonzalez for example) and for this reason they are more effective on slower surface (slow hard or clay) than faster ones. I agree that the best forehand (top 10 forehand) are effective everywhere though.
     
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  16. Flash O'Groove

    Flash O'Groove Hall of Fame

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    In this interview of Indian double specialist Leander Paes you have every explanation on the evolution of the game in the last 20 years. He speak of how the racket technology changed the ability to hit passing shots. Leander Paes became a professional in 1991, became a top player (top 100 then better) since the mid-90's. He has been winning double men slam until 2013 (with Stepanek) and double-mix until last year (with Hingis). This is a professional player who has been active for the last 20 years and isn't involved on some egocentric bias toward his own era like most top players who are interviewed on the evolution of the game are. It's a must watch.

     
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  17. hawk eye

    hawk eye Hall of Fame

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    Sampras played a high risk game which is way less rewarding on a slow surface like clay.
    Flat trajectory shots, always looking to move forward, always trying to take time away from the opponent and keep point short. He didn't have the stamina to play more of a grinder's game. Like Flash said - since we talk about forehands here- his forehand was tailor made for fast lower bouncing courts, but could also be effective on clay when he was on. So he could play great matches on clay whith the tools he had, just couldn't string 7 in a row together in a best of five.
     
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  18. Flash O'Groove

    Flash O'Groove Hall of Fame

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    I would also add that very powerful forehand are more effective on slower surface because it's on slower surface that the power makes the bigger difference. You don't need Wawrinka's power to hit a backhand winner on fast indoor court, but you need it to do it on clay. I would call this concept marginal benefit of power on different surfaces.
     
  19. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    the Problem is that you cannot really compare old times to modern times due to racket Technology. the best FHs all have been in the plastic racket era. there simply weren't any really "booming" FHs in the Wood racket era (jack sock would probably break his wrist with his technique using a Wood racket:)), the first one to regularly hit winners was Lendl.

    modern stroke mechanics were made possible by modern Rackets.

    that applies to other strokes too but not as much because the modern FH is more dependant on extreme forearm/wrist movements which is not possible with a Wood racket.

    for serves and BHs that is not as extreme, there were less dominant serves but tanner could hit booming aces with Wood too. there is no FH equivalent to Roscoes serve before Lendl, because Technology simply didn't allow it
     
  20. Karma Tennis

    Karma Tennis Semi-Pro

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    I suggest the most widely copied Forehand of all time was Bjorn Borg's.

    Back in the day, literally everybody tried to copy his Forehand attempting to generate high levels of topspin and a higher launch angle for greater net clearance.

    If you look at Borg hitting a forehand at normal speed he looks like he is hitting the ball with a very open stance and he looks like he covers the ball as he hits it.
    In the late 1970s and early 1980s everyone tried to copy him by trying to roll their racquet head over the ball as they hit it thinking that they could generate a lot of topspin.

    Sadly, it never seemed to work for most people.

    Vic Brayden solved the Borg riddle with the use high speed camera technology several years later.

    The reality was that Borg used to coil his upper body during the prep phase and then wildly uncoil so that he would hit the incoming ball with massive power. And while he certainly did roll his racquet head over the ball, the ball had already left the string bed so the rolling action was part of the follow through and had no bearing on imparting topspin on the ball.

    Indeed there were a few players - Laver a key one - that used topspin before Borg. But Borg turned topspin into a weapon. The game literally changed because of the way Borg hit the ball. And the modern game is simply an evolution of what Borg did mainly because the modern equipment makes it much easier to generate the levels of topspin that Borg generated simply because of his brilliance.

    One final thing I will say. Borg was hitting this forehand with a racquet that had an 18x20 string pattern and a 70 sq inch head size. And he was able to do it ball after ball after ball.
     
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  21. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    I disagree. Clay tends to neutralize power and reward patience, steadiness and consistency. Power is more rewarded on faster courts.
     
  22. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    Not exactly. Almost all pros from the 20's forward used topspin on the forehand side, and some like Tilden, Budge and Trabert, hit topspin on the backhand side. Some players, like Hoad, Laver, Okker, Roche, Nastase and Vilas hit heavy topspin as a weapon with modern technique, with 65 sq. in. racquets, before Borg.
     
  23. Dan Lobb

    Dan Lobb Hall of Fame

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    Raonic is apparently now working with McEnroe to prepare for Wimbledon...we will see.
     
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  24. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    Super post!
     
  25. Karma Tennis

    Karma Tennis Semi-Pro

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    Thank You. But most of the credit has to go to the late great Vic Brayden who was an absolute genius.

    The only way Mac is going to help Raonic win Wimbledon is to convert him to a lefty ;)
     
  26. danbrenner

    danbrenner Hall of Fame

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    Thiem is who we need to watch out for
     
  27. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    It's funny. Bobby Riggs was watching a rally between Nastase and Vilas, both players hitting heavy topspin. Riggs, who also had great groundstrokes and could rally forever was amazed either player was doing anything and commented he couldn't imagine Budge not trying to do something with the ball after such a long time. I think he also mentioned Budge didn't hit with as much topspin but his shots were more penetrating than Nastase or Vilas.
     
  28. Santiagomac

    Santiagomac New User

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    Aaron krickstein, Gregor Bresnik
     
  29. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne G.O.A.T.

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    Who is Gregor Bresnik?
     
  30. KG1965

    KG1965 Hall of Fame

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    It depends on which type of racquet...
    Wood Era: BORG
    Middle Era: LENDL
    Actual Era: DEL POTRO
     
  31. NatF

    NatF Talk Tennis Guru

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    Del Potro is one of my favourites but Federer and Nadal both have better forehands than Del Potro overall. He beats them in pure pace though both Federer and Nadal crank up the mph as well.

    Federer has the best FH I've ever seen.
     
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  32. KG1965

    KG1965 Hall of Fame

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    I have divided into three categories because now the tools are too favorable .

    In the last 25 years Federer has the most comprehensive forehand , Nadal has the forehand more annoying .
    I choose Delpo because I find her shot less than full of Roger but .... simply devastating . A weapon x .
    I think that no injuries he would give much trouble to ... all in the last five years .
    The Argentine played with a shot while the top players have all shots .
     
  33. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    Haha! Yes, especially if you are a righty with a 1 handed backhand.
     
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  34. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    A quick view of the Little Bill Johnston forehand and topspin backhand at about :38 seconds and again at about 1:22:

     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
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  35. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Well, Raonic did make it to the finals after beating Fed in five in the semis.

    Pretty good, considering that in 2014 he lost to Fed in the semis in straight sets, and otherwise his best Wimbledon performance is getting to the third round.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
  36. Karma Tennis

    Karma Tennis Semi-Pro

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    He did indeed and it was a great effort on his part. He probably would have won the Title if Mac had converted him to a lefty though ;)

    Poor ol Raonic. I think he was born in the wrong era. I can imagine him winning at least a couple of Wimbledon titles - may even more - if he had been born a generation or two earlier. Though you could probably say the same thing about several of the modern players.
     
  37. NatF

    NatF Talk Tennis Guru

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    Needed 5 sets to beat Federer returning for knee surgery and a back injury. Even then he needed Federer to aggravate his injury in the 4th set to finish the come back.

    Stellar play from Raonic ;)
     
  38. Karma Tennis

    Karma Tennis Semi-Pro

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    But none of that is Raonic's fault.

    You are presented with your opponent, and you either win or lose. A "win" is a "win". And the added benefit of a significantly bigger pay cheque too :)
     
  39. NatF

    NatF Talk Tennis Guru

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    Credit to Raonic, after those double faults from Federer got him to deuce he played sensational tennis to get the break.

    I was just pointing out that going from a straight sets defeat to winning in 5 might overstate the improvements he's made due to Federer's vastly different form.
     
  40. jga111

    jga111 Professional

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    Yes you need more prep on this shot. The big pro of their stroke of course is that you generate more pronation as you hit into the ball, thus generating more spin - nothing to do with power. Which is great when you're on a slow court. They will struggle against hard-hitting low balls, and they will shank more balls as they get older.
     
  41. dr7

    dr7 Rookie

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    The Sampras running forehand!


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  42. BorgCash

    BorgCash Professional

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    Good choice
     
  43. mattennis

    mattennis Hall of Fame

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    I think Limpinhitter is spot on.

    Completely agree with his analysis of the different eras.

    How prior to the 70s a player didn't have to make a choice, because conditions (basically small-headed wooden racquets) allowed the great "big game players" to be successful everywhere, playing that same style on all courts.

    Then came Vilas and Borg with a new extra-top-spin game, that was later developed and perfected with bigger graphite racquets, and then during two decades (80s and 90s) a player had to make a choice. The "big game" was no longer able to win on clay against this new especialized clay game (extra-top-spin, SW and W grips, bigger graphite racquets) though it was still able to win on grass and faster courts.

    During two decades, if a player wanted to win on all surfaces, then he had to change drastically his game from one tournament to the next. Borg was able to do it (serve-and-volley on grass, absolute baseliner on clay), Lendl tried to do it and came close (Lendl also serve-and-volleyed on grass).

    Other players changed their game very little among different surfaces, and still were close to win all the big titles on all surfaces: McEnroe, Edberg and Connors for example.

    Agassi was the only one that actually was able to win them all (when they still were completely different and there were players specialized on different conditions) and in fact he didn't change drastically his game to do it, he was another genius that was able to play "his game" succesfully everywhere.

    But later on, with homogeneous slow conditions and poly-strings, in the last 15 years "everybody" plays like a claycourt specialist with enhanced equipment, and once again, a player doesn't have to make a choice anymore: this type of game is enough to win everywhere (if you are the best one at this unique style).


    There is a reason (and that is why Limpinhitter is spot on) why prior to the 70s there were several players (often playing at the same time) that were able to win many big titles on all different surfaces (Kramer, Gonzales, Rosewall, Laver, Hoad....), then during two decades that was almost impossible to achieve, and then during the last 10-15 years it is often the case that the very big players win big tournaments on all surfaces again (Federer, Nadal and Djokovic).


    Conditions (not only surfaces and balls, but also equipment, type of racquets and strings) determine what happens in a given era.
     
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  44. mattennis

    mattennis Hall of Fame

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    In that sense, it is completely true that players from the 80s and 90s were a bit "unlucky" in that they had to make a choice about their game, whereas players in earlier and later eras knew that they didn't have to make a choice (because there was a game style that would win everywhere).
     
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  45. dr7

    dr7 Rookie

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    The game has become "homogenized". Today, everyone plays from the baseline and all of the courts have moved to the center. Grass courts are slower, clay courts are faster, so there is much less variety in the court surfaces today. Back in the era's of Laver, McEnroe, Edberg, and Sampras the courts surfaces were much different than today. There is no doubt that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are incredible players, but all their opponents play from the baseline. Point is, today's players face much less variety in court surfaces and opponents playing style. Certainly, things change over the years, but in my opinion it was more difficult for players of earlier eras to consistently win. Back in the day, one day you had to play Courier, the next day you play Rafter, one day Agassi and the next day Sampras. Point is, you had to play against a variety of playing styles on surfaces that were more extreme than they are today.


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  46. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

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    So taking this into consideration, what forehand do you guys think fulfills all the requirements to play against all styles?
     
  47. NatF

    NatF Talk Tennis Guru

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    Courier was done before Rafter was a top player.

    Even back in the 90's S&V was dying. After Edberg what top true S&V player was there? Only Rafter and Sampras in his last years. How do you even make clay play quicker? Faster balls perhaps but I'd be interested to know when you feel this all started and finished?

    Federer's era was a decade ago, you think the conditions were in place by then?

    I will continue this below.

    This is a gross simplification. Everyone plays like a clay court specialist? Does Federer play like Gilles Simon? Players were predominantly baseliners even in the 90's, a bunch of doubles specialists with weak singles careers in the draws at Wimbledon hardly makes it a more competitive era ;)

    Nadal has 9 FO's but only 1 Wimbledon, Federer has 1 FO but 7 Wimbledons. Look at Djokovic's contrasting record at the AO and the USO. You take the homogenisation argument too far. Game styles have converged, less adjustment have to be made in strategies this is true. However there is now depth on all surfaces. In the 90's there was no dominant force on clay because the likes of Sampras did not excel there, this led the way for relatively weaker dirtballers to share the titles.

    There has still be variety in the recent past, there was carpet until 2006, clay does seem to be playing faster but the change appeared to happen around 2009 - that's when we started frequently seeing more winners than errors in matches on clay. Federer won Wimbledon in 2003 by coming in about 50% of the time. Whatever homogenisation has occured was not instantaneous. I don't believe the early and mid 00's were so bereft of variety.
     
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  48. dr7

    dr7 Rookie

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    You are splitting hairs, substitute Courier with Hewitt, Kuerten, Safin, Muster, Kafelnikov, Korda or any other baseliner. Point is, you had to beat a greater variety of playing styles. It was a different era, different game. Becker, Edberg, Stich, Kajicek, Ivanisevic, Rafter & Sampras all S&V players won GS, this style of play doesn't exist today.



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  49. metsman

    metsman Legend

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    I think there was still decent variety around 04 or so, not the amount there was in the 90's, but starting 05/06 the surfaces began merging together and net players started to die out and by the late 2010's this was in full effect. Today there is absolutely zero variety. I think homogenization can also be reflected by the ease in which top players consistently get to the late rounds of every event. Because everyone plays similar styles on similar style courts the top players have a decided advantage and they are rarely tested or stretched beyond their comfort zone because pretty much every match is against a neutral baseliner on a slow or medium court. The depth outside the top 10 is nothing these days. I mean the depth inside the top 10 sucks too at the moment but even in 11-12 when the top 10 was stronger 10-20 were still quite weak.

    As for "90's clay" the 90's were a special case. In pretty much every other era the elite player on clay was also an elite player overall. Agassi should have been more of a factor on clay than he was, and Sampras just didn't care and because of his medical condition there was no point in him trying on clay either. But the 70's and 80's both had strong clay fields with good depth as well as an elite player at the top. And since 2012 or so the depth on clay has been an absolute joke.
     
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  50. NatF

    NatF Talk Tennis Guru

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    Henman was still a top player in 2004, there were also numerous other holdovers from the back end of the 90's. Also young guys like Ancic even Stepanek (yes he was young once :D ) were around attacking the net frequently. You had a guy like Mirnyi S&V'ing relentlessly against Federer in Toronto for example as well.

    The top players getting the later rounds with ease is a byproduct of the younger generation IMO. The draws don't have any dangerous youngsters out for blood, facing Berdych in every QF is easy. Agreed about the lacking of adjustments for the top players but I do think the amount of S&V is overstated in early era's on HC. I think the net was played more by everyone but the numbers of successful pure S&V players wasn't exactly high.

    Yes my comments were specifically for the 90's which is revered by some here but is actually sorely overrated overall.
     

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