Is Agassi really one of the top returners in the game.

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by Mr Topspin, Feb 15, 2006.

  1. Mr Topspin

    Mr Topspin Semi-Pro

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    I just been watching a few classic AA matches curtesty of the Tennis Nexus. He provides good quality mayches at reasonable prices ----end of plug!

    However, i noticed that AA tends to get aced a hell of a lot of time to be described as a great returner. In the 92 Wimbly final he was aced by Ivanisevic almost 40 times. At the 2000 semi match at the OZ open Pete aced AA over 40 times. Plus Joachim Johansson aced AA 50 times in the OZ open of 2005. These are but a few examples of the so called 'world's best returner being aced far too frequently.

    It appears that Agassi guesses on his returns and committs fully to a position and usually when he connects he makes a winning return or puts the server under pressure. However, this appears to be at the expense of making frequent returns.

    In comparison to say Henman who is also a good returner, but is not as famous as AA, Henman IMO makes more returns in play that neutralise the point as Federer appears to do by blocking the serve back. IMHO i find Henman and Federer's style to be more effective as they tend to be able to get a no. of returns back in, tend to reduce their opponents ace count and put more pressure on their opponent by forcing them to hit one more ball rather than AA;'s 'guess and hit approach'.

    Another factor lies in the fact that AA hits a with a two handed backhand that is fairly flat and this limits the variety of returns he can make. Thus, AA's returns on his Bh are all driven with one pace and minmal variety.

    Just my two cents.
     
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  2. BaseLineBash

    BaseLineBash Hall of Fame

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    Yes, yes he is one of the top returners in the game if not the greatest.
     
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  3. tennissavy

    tennissavy Hall of Fame

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    Agassi is so over-credited, by the commentators, as the greatest returner in men's tennis. He does often get aced, very often. I watched him at the US Open, live, get aced many times by Kafelnikov who only served in the 80mph range that match! There are many players on the tour who return better than Agassi. He is definitely not one of the greatest serve returners and to call him the greatest returner is such a load of feces.
     
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  4. Grigollif1

    Grigollif1 Semi-Pro

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    I agree with Mr. Topspin. I believe the Return of serve needs to be evaluated in quality and Consistance as well. I think agassi does really well in the quality departament making amazing returns but he lacks consistance at times...
     
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  5. Galactus

    Galactus Banned

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    Agreed - I think he gets tagged as 'Great Returner of Serve' not due to his %of returns but the way he does return when he connects, as you stated, fully committed to the shot and often getting a winner off it.
     
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  6. Chadwixx

    Chadwixx Banned

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    Tagging agassi as the greatest returner was media made, just like sampras's greatest serve. Put them together and you have the greatest returner in history vs the the greatest server. A nice media made battle that puts buts in the seats.

    Id take hewtts return over agassi's anyday. I also think federer has a better return than andre too.

    Agassi just had that stand inside the service line and take the ball early that people thought was cool, he did get aced a ton using this style and probably could have beaten pete if he would return like everyone else who plays at that lvl. Instead he was caught with no time to cover the open court.
     
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  7. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    Agassi is the most aggressive returner in the history of tennis. He never backs up from the baseline(& if he did he'd get more balls back & not get aced as much, but that's not his game, he wants to hit winners & intimidate his opponenent. Notice how often Goran double-faulted in that '92 Wimbledon final? They can't afford to not go for it on the 2nd serve vs Andre. Agassi can take away a great server's confidence when he rips winners by you. Yeah, he gets aced a lot, but he also hits more clean winners off the return than Federer, Hewitt, etc. He won 8 majors playing this way(including that '92 Wimbledon, played on fast grass, beating Becker & McEnroe as well as Goran-the most amazing wimbledon I think I've ever seen. Agassi played in an era of far more aggressive s&v type players than today. Just getting the ball back ala Federer wouldn't cut it vs Stich, Becker, Goran, Krajicek, Forget, Sampras, etc.

    Lol at Henman having a better return. How many majors does Tiger Tim have?
     
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  8. DariusRaiden

    DariusRaiden Rookie

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    To compare Agassi to Federer makes it easy to see the trade offs in return style. Federer puts more balls in play because:

    A) His One-Hander lets him stretch farther
    B) He is 3 or 4 inches taller than Agassi, so his arm span as a whole is probably 5 or 6 inches longer.

    In Agassi's prime, during the 90s, he was considered to be the greatest returner because the game was dominated by serve and volley players. His powerful returns put servers on the defensive since they were forced to hit low volleys.

    Sampras was one of the few volleyers with the ability to dig out low volleys regularly(See the 1999 Wimby final or 2001 USO QF). Against players with weaker volley games like Krajicek, Ivanisevic, or Stich, Agassi's returns either won the point or put the server in a bad position to volley. This is evidenced by his strong record against these players(14-6 against the above names combined), but a bad record against Sampras especially in bigger matches.

    In today's game, so few players serve and volley, so the return does not have to be as powerful. We can see the success that Federer and Henman have had chipping returns back in play, and then playing the point out with all-court tennis.

    Serve and volley tennis could make a comeback. We see players like Mirnyi, Dent, and Henman give players fits but never have a really big win. Those players serve and volley well, but lack baseline power. The thing that made Becker, Sampras, and Krajicek so great was that they could serve and volley all day, but then play very well from the baseline and hit good passing shots on their opponents serves to get a break.

    It seems to me that really complete serve and volley players are lacking. Federer can serve and volley, but he doens't do it consistently. The players that do regularly serve and volley today don't have very powerful groundstrokes, so they are dead meat in long rallies. Oh well, I'm getting off on a tangent.
     
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  9. JediMindTrick

    JediMindTrick Professional

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    Agassi was the best returner and even now he may be one of the best. The only problem is that even the best returner is going to lose most of the points when he is receiving serve from a great server like Sampras or Ivanisevici. That's why the serve is the most important shot in tennis and return of serve is the second most important.

    Regarding the style of returns, for first serves I also think Federer's style of blocking the ball back is more effective and realistic against good servers. Agassi's agressive return style is good against people with lesser serves but, like you mentioned, against top servers it doesn't really work.
     
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  10. RadekStepanekTheKing

    RadekStepanekTheKing Hall of Fame

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    Seeing who gets aced the least is not the best way to evaluate the return.When a player gets his racquet on the ball, it won't count as an ace. But this tells us nothing about whether the player was able to get it back over the net, or whether the return put any pressure on the opponent. A player who gets his racquet on every ball but simply floats them back will be toast against someone who moves in to put that ball away.
    Agassi easily was/is the best returner of serve ever.
    The way he hits the ball off a very fast serve is something to admire.
     
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  11. NoBadMojo

    NoBadMojo G.O.A.T.

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    First of all, Sampras and Ivo had many aces no matter who they were playing because their serves were that good. Agassi elected to guess more aganst these types of servers playng the oddsas a strategic move..often he would guess wrong
    Kafelnikov never served 80mph serves unless injured..his first was reliably in the 110range..he just never could stick it and his placement wasnt so hot..it was a neutral serve...didnt win him cheap points but wasnt bad enough where it got picked on
    Agassi does have the best return of serve since Connors..arguable whose was better.
    Much of this is also strategy based. In Agassi's early days, his serve was kinda weak so he relied on his service returns to get enough service breaks to outnumber the times he was broken. Also in Agassi's earlier days, just blocking or chipping returns back wasnt such a good idea against many players because many players back then were playing S/V. Fed and Henman and many others can get away with it because there are so few serve volleyers these days.
    To say that Henman has a really good service return or one that even approaches that of Agassi is pretty wrong in my opinion..it may be in the realm of fair for a top pro
     
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  12. omniexist

    omniexist Semi-Pro

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    Yeah, look what Hewitt did with the Sampras serve...

    Federer and Hewitt..the two best returners imho..they don't get aced much.
     
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  13. Andres

    Andres G.O.A.T.

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    37 aces, 34 service winners and 8 double faults doesn't seem like he was double faulting THAT often as you say ;)
     
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  14. Grimjack

    Grimjack Banned

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    Even for the biggest servers, aces are just a bonus. The way big servers win cheap points is by blasting such huge serves that the opponent can do nothing with the ball other than stab it back helplessly. That way, the server has complete control of the point, and is usually no more than one competent shot away from taking the point.

    Agassi turns the tables.

    He brings a server's aggression to the act of returning the serve. Yes, he gets aced a bit more often than the other guys, but the aces he gives up are still just a drop in the bucket. Servers are still hoping to draw weak returns on the huge majority of points, so that they can assert themselves and win easy points. But Agassi, by stepping up and cranking his returns with his unprecedented reflexes, wallops back serves that the Henmans of the world would puff back as floaters.

    Agassi is playing a numbers game. Against a good server, the average "good" returner gives up maybe a half of an ace per game, puffs back three balls, and maybe gets one good lick on a return. This essentially gives the server three and a half easy points, gives the returner one point where he has an advantage, and leaves the rest of the points as essentially neutral -- with the returner having to get far the best of those neutral remainders to have a shot at the game.

    Agassi gives up maybe a whole ace per game -- double. Additionally, by overcommiting, he probably puts himself in puffball territory another two returns per game. (These numbers are fabricated, of course, but probably representative, at least philosophically.) But then, through aggression, he also really gets into maybe three returns per game, which gives HIM the upper hand in those points. Unlike a passive strategy that gives the server the advantage in 3/4 or so of service points, Agassi's strategy puts him about even with the server, giving him solid break chances in most games. Higher risk, but far higher reward.

    Why doesn't everyone do it, then? Because Andre has a combo of reflexes, hand-eye, and quickness that come along once a generation -- if that.

    Greatest returner ever doesn't begin to describe the gulf between him and #2 on that list.
     
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  15. tennisboy21

    tennisboy21 New User

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    i dont think agassi is the best returner in the game.
    yeah, He is probably the most aggressive returner and when he connects it goes well , but that is only if the ball is in his strike zone, ig he is streched he is not as good because he doesnt have a slice defensive return , this is why it was so easy for him to get aced against sampras.
    i dont know about you but for me it looked like sampras enjoyed playing agassi and he always thought he could beat him in the end.

    i definantly think as others have pointed out against sampras he should have stood further back sometimes and returned like hewiit, he might have had a chance then.
     
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  16. Turning Pro

    Turning Pro Professional

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    LMFAO@henman having a good return.nothing else.
     
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  17. cruzersi99

    cruzersi99 Rookie

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    At this time Agassi and Conners are the greatest returners in the history of the game. HANDS DOWN.

    Number of times being ACED has nothing to do with a returners ability to return serve at a Professional Level. An ACE is an unreturnable serve, by AA, by Conners, by whomever. On occassion the great returners my take a calculated guess at location against a big server, but thats also part of returning. At the time Ivo set the record for most serves in a tournament. He has set that mark even before entering the final. If you want to talk about Sampras, that's fine too, as he has gone on record to say that every time he played AA he had to raise his level of play. Anyone who has every watched Sampras can attest to the fact that he always played his best against AA, hit more ACEs, hit more service winners.

    A Servers job is to setup his point, returners job is to take control. No one has done a better job of taking control of a return point better then AA and Conners .

    Players who stand farther back to give themselves time to return may get a few more balls back, at the expense of staying on the defensive. At high levels of competition staying in a point doesn't cut it.

    In an age of serve and volleyers and big servers, AA and Conners won 8 grand slam titles. How many have Henman, Hewitt, Nalbandian combined?

    To those trying to compare Roger's return style to AA it's un unfair comparison. Roger's is able to hold serve fair easier then Andre ever could. This allows him to play a different style. Roger can afford to block a few back and see what happens. You'll notice that like sampras when they need the break he goes for it every now and again. Sampras and Federer can win a set against anyone with one break. Against the top players Andre and Conners may have needed two breaks.

    You also can't say that Andre's style is better or worse then Federers style against big servers or your average server. Again because of style of play.

    Also keep in mind that Federer is far and away better then his competion right now. He can't take control of a point from positions no one else can.
     
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  18. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    2 of those doubles were in the last game of the match. Maybe it was (understandably) just nerves. But Goran also knew he couldn't afford to just spin in 2nd's vs Andre in that game.
     
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  19. cruzersi99

    cruzersi99 Rookie

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    If you stand farther back against Sampras you will see more slice and kick serves out wide. Sampras slice was often clocked at 110 mph and upI'd like to see any top player take this approach against Sampras in his prime and see how many times they would break him. You'd end up returning so far off the court your chances of winning a point would be nullified.
     
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  20. gully

    gully Semi-Pro

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    But certainly, AA is no longer the greatest returner "in the game." He gets aced too often in recent years, and his return is no longer the weapon it once was, at least not on a day-in, day-out basis.

    I would agree that he may be the gretest returner in the history of the game, though, if we measure by his peak (94-99) prowess. His was a different return than Hewitt's or Fed's -- both of whom return more with a goal of consistency and neutrality than risk-taking.

    Connors, Hewitt, and Fed should figure in any discussion of great returners, despite their different styles: Fed's return, for instance, is a "neutralizing weapon" against some players (esp. Roddick), one that limits the number of aces and winners and defuses his opponent's advantage to start the rally. I'd vote for his as currently the best.
     
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  21. 127mph

    127mph Semi-Pro

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    well, the reason he got aced alot by goran and pete, was he had the attidude of im andre agassi im not moving you can ace me. but hes changed that and now runs around. have you seen him hit winners off of huge serves? thats where it is, other good returners include safin and nalbandian
     
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  22. FalconX

    FalconX Rookie

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    that baghdatis dude hit some agressive returns. It seemed like he was always well into the court on most of his return. But he also mixed it up and chipped a couple back as well. He might just be the best returner since andre.
     
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  23. West Coast Ace

    West Coast Ace G.O.A.T.

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    I agree with you on almost everything - except I spell it 'Connors' - so did Jimbo. :)

    Getting aced isn't reason to believe someone is deficient. Returning is about tradeoffs - you can't get to them all. And as others have said, when AA gets to it he punishes it. Ditto with Connors.

    Time will tell with Fed - hard to dispute that he's very very good considering what he does with Roddick's serve.

    Tiger Tim's chip and charge on 2nd serves may seem good to those who weren't around when a lot of people had that shot. To paraphrase the famous quote "I saw Stan Smith - and Tim Henman is no Stan Smith!"
     
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  24. cruzersi99

    cruzersi99 Rookie

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    Connors...touche....lol
     
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  25. arosen

    arosen Hall of Fame

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    I would take Baghdatis or Nalbandian as best returners over Agassi any time. Andre used to be fantastic, but nowadays he is a tad slow, a bit too predictable with his 2hbh flat over the low part of the net. He used to be the best, but not anymore.
     
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  26. jings

    jings Professional

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    I'd always understood "best returner" to equate to ability to read an opponents serve and then do something about it. In effect how much pressure they were able to apply. The Connors / Agassi style worked as they pressured (past tense I know) the second ball very heavily, easier to read, and in turn put pressure to get the bigger first serve in play - almost reverse engineering the return game. A good guess/ read here or there and they can swing away at the first ball too on occasion. The Hewitt / Federer (or more modern route) is more of a grinding approach, playing the percentages. Knowing that it's unlikely the server is following in they can get the ball back in play and then take their chances with their ground games. In reality all of the top players are good returners - they have to be. It's how you choose to apply the pressure that has changed, because overall styles have changed. For some reason I got Jimbo's return game, but I've never really got the Agassi thing. Maybe Jimbo never had Sampras making his great return game look pretty ordinary on several occasions. Last point on aces - there is a difference between one and another. Returner can do nothing about the screamer catching a mm of the centre T and swiinging away, or a similarly well placed serve the other side of the box. But I've seen plenty of aces where guys just get wrong footed or have left one side of the service box more open and that is the side that gets hit. I see that second type less often nowadays.
     
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  27. Max G.

    Max G. Hall of Fame

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    Yeah, I agree with arosen - his return isn't the best ANYMORE.

    Age takes it's toll...
     
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  28. dmastous

    dmastous Professional

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    It really depends on which Agassi showed up for a match, or played a point. Agassi let many points go, as well as games, sets and even matches when he was younger. If he couldn't put an aggressive return on the ball he let it go without trying. It was one of the measures of his imaturity at that time.
    There were many matches where he tanked an entire set if he got down a couple breaks. He felt it was more important to conserve his energy for the next set. He got boo neumerous times for that.
    But that was his mind-set at that time. He didn't have a problem giving up a point because he felt he would win the next one. Phase 2 of his career saw a change in his mentality. Now he grinds for every point and every point is precious.
    So Agassi in '92 was still in the "if I can't rip it, I won't bother to hit it" phase.
    When he did hit it, he changed the dynamics of the point, and he was, in his day, the only player who could say that the server didn't automatically have the advantage on every point. He was the first who returned serves faster than they came at him consistantly. He was one of the few who put the server on the defensive unless he had an outstanding serve.
     
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  29. jings

    jings Professional

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    Nice post dmastous - you recall him well.
     
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  30. splink779

    splink779 Guest

    Not many people can step far inside the baseline to crush a backhand return off a 130+ serve, as Agassi did against JJ. Most players could barely get a racquet on a serve when they were that close to the service line, much less get it back in court, much less crush it to win the point.
     
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  31. Grimjack

    Grimjack Banned

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    I do feel that Federer might just be the best defensive returner of all time. His ability to read a server, react to a direction, and get a ball deep and in play is better than anybody I've ever seen. Roddick's serve was child's play to him while the rest of the ATP still viewed it as a weapon of mass destruction.
     
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  32. mr.fitch

    mr.fitch Rookie

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    It's true that AA gets aced alot. That has to do with his lack of reach. But when he steps into the court and makes contact...WOW
     
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  33. Hewitt rulez

    Hewitt rulez Semi-Pro

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    This is getting a little off but at the Arther Ash Kids day Agassi was standing on the baseling and returned a Roddick serve I think between 145 and 150 for a winner. Roddick didn't have a chance.

    That said I would take Hewitt's or Federers return of serve over Agassi's.
     
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  34. fastdunn

    fastdunn Legend

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    During Sampras' prime years, AA was the only guy who came pretty
    close to truely threatening Sampras' service games, IMO.
    So he went for 2 1st serves a lot of times. You do not want get
    AA's hand on your serve period. All the other great servers of 90's
    feel truely powerless against AA at the other side of the court.

    When people say AA is the greatest returner of game, it implys
    "against serve-and-volleyers" behind, IMHO.
    AA with his oversized racquet truely is the symbol that
    explains the extinction of serve-and-volleyers thru out 90's...
     
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  35. dmastous

    dmastous Professional

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    It's true.... you do not want to be hitting a second server against Agassi in his prime.
    Serve & Volleyers were meat to Agassi when he was "on". He had the most trouble against counter punchers until he became one himself. Chang, when he still had good wheels really made Agassi work because he couldn't overpower Chang, or other patient players like Chang like Clemont. These guys didn't give Agassi a target to hit at.
     
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  36. legolas

    legolas Banned

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    Y E S !!!!!!!!!!
     
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  37. ta11geese3

    ta11geese3 Semi-Pro

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    Now that I think about it, Agassi gave Fed a good scare at last year's us open. For the first two sets, he was really ripping those returns, even on Fed's first serve.
     
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  38. superman1

    superman1 Legend

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    There's no doubt that he is. Just because you can ace him doesn't mean a damn thing. You can't win a match with aces, just ask Joachim Johansson. He beat the greatest server of all time 14 times and is 5-1 against Roddick. Unless you have a huge serve with unbelievable placement, you will be scampering sideways immediately after finishing the serve motion.

    Federer gets all his returns back, true, but if he didn't have the baseline game to back up those slice returns, he'd be useless and I doubt anyone would be calling him a great returner. They'd be saying things more like, "what a terrible returner."
     
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  39. devila

    devila Banned

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    Roddick's a fat pig. Agassihole and Roddick played tight (7-6 7-6 7-5 sets). It's not like Agassi faced a fighter. As he did many times, Roddick kept hugging Agassi and joked in their matches. Embarrassing.

    Hewitt and Federer are fighters.
     
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  40. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Leaving aside pre-open players like Rosewall or Laver, who had a pretty good return, i would say Connors and Agassi in that order. Agassi has great hands, to play attacking returns. But he tended vs Sampras, to do too much with his return, rushing his shots and playing them hard and often straight down the line. Hewitt, who played many low cross court returns to the feet, had much more success against Sampras. Connoras was dangerous, because he could clobber serves, but also could play it safe and bring the ball into play. Federer is very solid, makes few mistakes, but often floates the ball back and let you play the second shot. This second shot is vital, if you can attack with it, you have a chance, if you stay defensive, Federer gets the initiative and will dictate the point, ultimately with his forehand.
     
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  41. superman1

    superman1 Legend

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    Federer's return, given the rest of his game, is a major strength. With anyone else, that return would be a weakness. The commentators during the 05 US Open were talking about how he wasn't doing anything with those returns, and Agassi was punishing him as a result.

    Whether or not we're talking about the return itself or the return as a part of the entire game, Agassi is king.
     
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  42. Galactus

    Galactus Banned

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    Hmmm - good points:
    Agassi 6-3 Edberg
    Agassi 10-4 Becker
    Agassi 6-0 Stich
    Agassi 4-3 Krajicek
    Agassi 8-2 Rusedski
    Agassi 4-2 Ivanisevic
    Agassi 10-5 Rafter
    Agassi 2-1 Henman
    Agassi 5-0 Dent
    Agassi 4-0 Mirnyi


    I guess I stand totally corrected from my earlier post disputing Agassi :mrgreen: (but gradual decrease of court-speeds since the 1980's has to be taken into account).

    Mind you, this also goes to show you what a fantastic player Sampras was, and not just a great serve-and-volleyer...
     
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  43. superman1

    superman1 Legend

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    Sampras' serve gets talked about most, but he had a great ground game and a killer forehand. One of the best running forehands ever. You can't just rely on the serve, just ask Ivo Karlovic. I've seen plenty of Sampras/Agassi baseline rallies where Sampras was the one hitting the sharp angles and running Agassi off the court.
     
    #43
  44. gully

    gully Semi-Pro

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    Remember, though, that Fed changed his tactics midway through the third set and steamrolled Agassi as a result.

    Slicing back serves to Agassi plays to HIS strength -- grinding rallies -- but attacking them (and the 2nd serve is not what it used to be) turns the exhanges into a battle of angles and athleticism, favoring Fed.

    For Fed against a stronger server -- but weaker rallier -- like a Roddick, slicing deep or angled is simply the high-percentage, smart play, favoring Fed's consistency and opportunism.
     
    #44
  45. BiGGieStuFF

    BiGGieStuFF Hall of Fame

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    I don't know about you guys but for me when I'm playing against someone who can smack a few of my returns especially on the 2nd serve is much more dangerous to me then someone who just gets it back consistently. I may ace the guy a few times but that happens less then how much constant pressure he is putting on my serve by taking it early cutting my preparation time in half.

    In this situation I know I cannot throw him any creampuff serves ever. Guys who stand way back I know I can roll a couple serves in slowly and grind it out afterwards.
     
    #45
  46. erik-the-red

    erik-the-red Semi-Pro

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    Agassi is 35 and if he plays one more USO he'll be 36 by the end of 2006.

    He is not the best returner right now, but he was for a long, long time.

    I believe statistically Rafa Nadal was the best returner in 2005.
     
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  47. Bryan Aldridge

    Bryan Aldridge Rookie

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    Yep. Sampras' running forehand was nasty. If he got a racquet on it - point over pretty much. There was no comparision with his backhand. Watch all the games where agassi was serving playing sampras. Almost every second serve goes to the backhand, every groundstroke goes to his backhand, unless the court is so open andre can hit the winner. The forehand was so heavy and skidded so much no one wanted any of it.
     
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  48. Andres

    Andres G.O.A.T.

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    No, Nadal wasn't the best returner. He went so up with those stats not because of his return of serve, because it's pretty hard to win a point over him.

    He may slice the serve back, and then, chase down every ball, and rip a winner 14 feets beyond the baseline...
     
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  49. fastdunn

    fastdunn Legend

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    Exactly. Sampras could not use much of volleys against AA.
    He went more for 2nd serves and won from baselines via
    his killer forehand. S&V could not win AA period...

    I remember Fred Stolle once screamed after seeing Rafter
    demolished by AA "NO S&Ver can win against AA !!".
     
    #49
  50. joesixtoe

    joesixtoe Rookie

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    i forgot which year it was, but i remember the ouncers saying that brad gilbert was scouting pete sampras and he noticed sampras hits about 15 mph harder on his second serve against AA than he did against other players.
     
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