Kent Carlsson: The Ultimate Supernova?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by LeftyServe, Oct 2, 2007.

  1. LeftyServe

    LeftyServe Semi-Pro

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    Supernova: "A rare celestial phenomenon involving the explosion of most of the material in a star, resulting in an extremely bright, short-lived object that emits vast amounts of energy."

    Who here remembers Kent Carlsson? He crashed onto the scene as a 17 year old Swedish clay-court phenom, the second wave after Borg and Wilander. In just 3 1/2 short years on the tour, he earned 9 titles and 8 runner-ups. By 1988, at age 20, he appeared to be seriously challenging Wilander as the premier clay-courter of his time. In that year, he won five titles (Madrid, Hamburg, Kitzbuhel, St. Vincent, and Barcelona), compiled a 50-8 match record, and rose to #6 in the world...And then within less than a year, he was gone, forced to retire at 21 with chronic knee problems. He had an intense grinding style, huge topspin strokes, one of the best kick serves I've seen. He first hurt his knee playing on the hard-courts at Indian Wells, and on doctor's orders played the rest of his short career almost exclusively on clay.

    If Carlsson had stayed healthy, he would have almost certainly triumphed at Roland Garros in the early 90's, probably multiple times. Of course, thinking about comparisons to today, Nadal comes to mind, another young, intense, topspin grinder, prone to injury, disdainful of the hard-courts. Is Nadal destined, likewise, for a short career? I don't know. But unless Nadal retires tomorrow, Carlsson will remain, for me, the ultimate supernova.
     
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  2. johnkidd

    johnkidd Semi-Pro

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    I had a poster of him from Prince titled "The Prince of Topspin". He was a big deal there for a couple of years.

    IIRC correctly he used a Prince Boron.
     
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  3. Kirko

    Kirko Hall of Fame

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    yes I remember him, he used the prn.boron and like you said his knees were bleak, just fell apart, I remember reading a doctor said he had the knees of 70 yr. old guy. nevertheless he looked fit and was indeed the "prince of topspin".
     
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  4. Jack the Hack

    Jack the Hack Hall of Fame

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    I remember watching Kent Carlsson play Mats Wilander on TV in the Indianapolis final back when that was on clay ('87 I think).

    He had the prototypical Swedish baseliner game of the time, but with even more extreme high, loopy, topspin strokes. If I'm recalling this correctly, the comment about him from Bud Collins (I think) was that if tennis were played over a volleyball net, Kent Carlsson would be the world champ.
     
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  5. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    I remember Kent Carlsson well. His topspin was extreme (at least for the time) to say the least. His grip was beyond a full western and when he got drop-shotted and had to come to the net, he had to swing at the ball. He could not volley at all.

    At his peak, I think he was seeded No. 7 at the French, but lost in the 16s to Joakim Nystrom (another Swede who also once won 5 titles in a season).

    Given his knee problems and technical limitations, no wonder he only played on clay. Today, he could probably make a run at Wimbledon given the surface change.
     
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  6. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    he was also one of the fittest guys on tour. he beat muster in a best of 5 match in the finals of barcelona in '88 and muster (always known as one of the most fit guys on tour) said he couldn't outlast carlsson. anyone got any clips of him?
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2007
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  7. djsiva

    djsiva Banned

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    Yeah I was about to mention this!!

    This is from Muster. Agasii's early run on clay was abruptly stopped by Muster. Agassi said that Muster would walking on his hands during change overs, while he hide under and umbrella and sucked up water. Muster destroyed the young Agassi. All this was before a drunk driver hit Muster.

    Carlsson's credibilty though is somewhat suspect, because Wilander beat him back to back on clay.

    But maybe he lost to Wilander at of respect. They praticed together at these same tournaments along with Nystrom. Even before the final.

    I think he could beat Nadal. I also think Muster, Wilander, and Lendl and maybe Mecir could also beat Nadal on clay. I'm not saying Carlsson could do it consistently, but I'm saying he was certainly qualified to.
     
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  8. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    yes, carlsson was very successful on clay but also consistently lost to guys like wilander and gomez on clay. part of this reason (the other part is that wilander was one of the all time greats on clay and won the french 3 times) is that he was very young (he was basically done at 20 years old) and even when he was having success in '87 and '88, his knees were still in horrible shape. had his knees held up and he kept improving then he could have won the french open multiple times.
     
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  9. LeftyServe

    LeftyServe Semi-Pro

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    I've got a match of Carlsson's that I dug out recently after I started thinking about comparisons between him and Nadal; it's the Hamburg final where he dismantles Leconte, and he's wearing a knee brace that pretty much covers his entire leg, but doesn't seem to hinder his outstanding court coverage in the least. [The other thing -watching a little of that match - is the topspin, the topsipn, the topspin, descriptions really can't do it justice]

    And, yes, he lost to Wilander three times in finals in 87/88, the last time a three-set match in Palermo shortly after Wilander had beaten Lendl at the US Open to get to #1 and was brimming with confidence. But like others have said, he was young and a little bit in awe of Wilander. If the knees hadn't taken him down, it was only a matter of time, I think, because he sure had no trouble handling the guys closer to his age and experience. (2-0 against the slightly older Muster, once in the finals in Barcelona, the other in the semis in Palermo).
     
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  10. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    This was the pre-Babolat, pre-poly era, so I wonder what Carlsson's racquet/string set up was. Granted, he got most of his spin simply from his technique, which everyone today should take note of.
     
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  11. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    I remember that he WOULD under no circumstances volley. If drop shotted, he'd run in, soop it with heavy topspin from about a foot from the net and while it was dropping down from the moon, he'd scamper back to the baseline.
     
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  12. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    I saw him do a swing volley a couple of times, but that's it. It was rare. He could not, under any circumstances, hit a standard continental grip volley.
     
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  13. Gaucho Behrend

    Gaucho Behrend New User

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    Yes, of course I remember the man from Eskilstuna. Yes, the injury problems began against Mecir at Indian Wells. He had 5 operations on the knee, also had some other ailments as well, which lead to his early retirement, the body couldn't hold up.

    The Muster match in Barcelona was funny. Muster's great comment, "Playing Kent is like watching a boring movie, next time I play him I will be going to the net from the start". He didn't lose matches because of a lack of endurance. I think the experience of playing Carlsson for Muster helped him, when he played Bruguera.

    The Carlsson forehand very sexy and yes, one of those things you have to see for yourself. The other Swedes he trained with him and knew how to play him, just a question of who could execute it.

    Gomez and Vajda played against Kent very well, mainly in Vajda's case, he had an excellent slice backhand and was able to use it and get Kent away from his comfort zone. The Gomez matches were very close, but the extra experience seemed to the big Ecuadorian the wins.

    Carlsson is doing quite well these days, as a horse trainer and involved in some grassroots tennis in Sweden, they need a shot in the arm.
     
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  14. gmonfils

    gmonfils Rookie

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    I caught a few of his matches in Boston back in the late 80's. Just loved his style and watching him play. Tennis magazine had a great article on him and how he dominated European junior tennis as a 14 year old. The article also broke down his forehand stroke very bizarre to look at and you wonder how it was possible to hit that way. He constantly had trouble with Gomez who stopped him a few times at the French.

    YouTube had highlights of a match with him and Noah from the French Open a while back but I can't find it now.

    If anyone has any of Carlsson's matches on video or DVD it would be great to get a copy of.
     
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  15. Gaucho Behrend

    Gaucho Behrend New User

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    Gomez and Carlsson played a lot of close matches, even though the stats were 5-1 to Gomez

    The first two times they played at RG, Kent made the 3rd round as a 16 year old, then Gomez knocked him out the next 2 years. 87 and 88, were Carlsson's big years. Gomez had good variations of spin and changes of pace, this helped him with Carlsson. The last 4 matches how competitive it was.

    1988 Stuttgart Outdoor Gomez 6-4 6-7 7-5
    1987 Boston Clay S Carlsson 7-5 4-6 7-5
    1986 Boston S Gomez 4-6 6-4 6-2
    1986 Roland Garros R32 Gomez 7-5 7-6 5-7 6-3
     
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  16. LeftyServe

    LeftyServe Semi-Pro

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    gmonfils: email me through TT
     
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  17. Gaucho Behrend

    Gaucho Behrend New User

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    Heisann

    Do you have another ones besides the Hamburg beatdown of Leconte? :)
     
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  18. big ted

    big ted Hall of Fame

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    with his grips and game style , carlssons game would not translate well to anything besides clay, i think theres a reason why he never bothered even playing wimbledon, nothing like nadal at all in my opinion.
     
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  19. obanaghan

    obanaghan New User

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    I think KC was a great player to cheer for but his game was rather one dimensional and the ultra extreme short falling topspins were no match for Ivan Lendl. When I saw highlights of their match Ivan just bludgeoned him although at an earlier tourney they had a closer match. KC was one of many good players who never did as well as they could in the majors. Johan Kriek is not a household name but he won the AO twice and reached the semis at the other three slams.
     
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  20. AndrewD

    AndrewD Legend

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    I think you're getting a bit carried away in suggesting Carlsson would have won at Roland Garros. If you have a look at his record he never actually beat anyone who would be considered one of the 'elite' players (Yannick Noah was only 'elite' for one year). He couldn't out-steady Wilander and he couldn't out-hit Lendl, the two dominant players of the day, and I believe the same would have applied when Bruguera and Courier, their successors on clay, came onto the scene.
     
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  21. Gaucho Behrend

    Gaucho Behrend New User

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    There was a gap between 1989-91, well he withdrew surprise surpise with an injuryin 89, where he realistically he should have been coming into his peak, that there was an opportunity. Wilander and Lendl were on the decline after 1988 and the newer generation hadn't come through to 92 onwards.

    Not saying he would have, but the guy was 20 when he retired.
     
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  22. Micce

    Micce New User

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    By the way, does somebody remember Henrik Sundstrom? Did he have a same kind of playing style than Carlsson (high bouncing top spin strokes)? I haven't ever seen him play, and would like to hear your comments about him. Sundstrom also had some good results on clay and retired quite early (in 1989 when he was 25 years old).
     
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  23. Gaucho Behrend

    Gaucho Behrend New User

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    He wasn't as extreme as Carlsson with the topspin, but he did get a lot of topspin. Had knee and shoulder problems, played only 21 matches in the last 3 years.

    He is a real estate agent in Monaco.

    Best win was over John McEnroe in the 1984 Davis Cup final.
     
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  24. retrowagen

    retrowagen Hall of Fame

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    The wave of pros from Sweden who burst onto the scene after Wilander's French win as a 17-year-old were some of my favorite pros of all time. That was a fun time for tennis. Let's see, there was:
    Mats Wilander, of course,
    Anders Jarryd
    Joachim Nystrom
    Henrik Sundstrom (who was the odd man out with his dark hair!)
    and then came the wave of child prodigies:
    Stefan Edberg (who won the ITF junior grand slam), and
    Kent Carlsson

    There were others in the mix, including Peter Lundgren and Jonas B. Svensson. On the WTA side, during this golden period of Swedish tennis, there was Catarina Lindquist, and Asa Carlsson came later. I can't remember any others between this period and the one with the next major wave, with Enqvist, Bjorkman, and that one tall male pro who had a wacky fan blow his house up... who was that?

    I enjoyed watching all of these guys play. They fielded some excellent Davis Cup teams, too, and overall seemed to be a throwback to the Aussies of the 60's-70's as good-natured, team-oriented people.
     
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  25. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    Yout forgot guys like Magnus Gustaffson and Magnus Larsson. Both of these guys got into the top 20 and had some runs at Slams. Larsson even won the Grand Slam Cup. I guess Soderling, Thomas Johnasson, Joachim Johansson came later.
     
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  26. superstition

    superstition Hall of Fame

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    Yet another reason to throw away the argument that pro tennis should be played on concrete. Look at how many players' careers have been shortened because of greed.
     
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  27. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I would consider those two 90s players, not 80s. I doubt either of them played Wilander, Jarryd, Nystrom, etc. And they weren't on any of the 80s DC teams for Sweden either.

    since hardcourt has been a significant part of the calendar since 1978 or so(& many were voicing your concern then), I think it may be time to give up on this ever being addressed.

    As far as greed goes, well pro tennis wouldn't exist without it, would it?
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2008
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  28. retrowagen

    retrowagen Hall of Fame

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    Right, like Moose explained above, the two Magnus (Magni?) came in the second big wave of Swedes hitting the ATP, which, in breadth and depth, was inferior to the mid-80's first wave.

    Larsson... Larsson was the unlucky bloke who had an obsessed fan destroy his house while he happened to be off on tour...

    Robin Soderling, To-Jo, and Jo-Jo were all active in the new century, not 1980's or 90's, really. A (weaker yet) 3rd wave, if you will.

    Would be nice to see a resurgence in Swedish tennis.
     
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  29. Gaucho Behrend

    Gaucho Behrend New User

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    Mariano Puerta has more chance of winning Wimbledon than that happening.
     
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  30. superstition

    superstition Hall of Fame

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    A weak point. That attitude is totally against progress.

    Yes, it would. Laver talked about getting a ten pound note and a handshake for winning Wimbledon and he kept returning and achieved more than anyone since.

    Besides, there are economic incentives for keeping players healthy. It's good for the sport.
     
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  31. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    ?? He turned pro right after winning Wimbledon in '62 & was banned from playing there(& all the majors)for the next 5 years. When the game went open he participated in many challenge matches strictly for the $$ & played more tournaments(in '69) in one year than Davydenko does today. Ditto Rosewall. They certainly weren't playing so much, well into their 30s, just for 'the love of the game.' The money was a major factor.

    And I've heard many of the players of the 40s/50s mention during the tennis boom of the 70s how they wished they were born later, so they could have made some real money.

    I sort of agree. I'm more against the amount of required events & the unfair criteria for injury protected ranking stuff than playing on hardcourts. Those issues are even more responsible for shortened careers than hardcourts imo.
     
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  32. jmsx521

    jmsx521 Hall of Fame

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    Carlsson was still pretty good in his last come back just several years ago... no? I've got to watch him live several times too.
     
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  33. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I think you're thinking of Kenneth Carlsen, the Danish player.

    'Kent Carlsson' hasn't played a match on tour since 1989.

    did you get my email?
     
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  34. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    wrong guy. you are thinking of kenneth carlsson.
     
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  35. jmsx521

    jmsx521 Hall of Fame

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    That's funny. The whole time I thought you're talking about Kenneth.
     
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  36. jmsx521

    jmsx521 Hall of Fame

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    What about Jonas Svensson!? Didn't he have a Big Loopy Topspin FH, or was his more flat, like Gustafsson and Larson's?
     
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  37. LeftyServe

    LeftyServe Semi-Pro

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    [

    did you get my email?[/QUOTE]

    Moose: I emailed you back, but it bounced (??)
     
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  38. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    message deleted
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2008
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  39. LeftyServe

    LeftyServe Semi-Pro

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    The thing I remember about Svensson was that he was tall and lanky, a player somewhat in the middle between the Edberg style and the Wilander/Carlsson. He made it to the semis of the French Open twice, but his five titles were all on hard/indoor surfaces.


    As an aside, for one of Svensson's titles, he beat none other than Fabrice Santoro in the finals. In 1990! Shows how long Santoro's lasted on the tour...
     
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  40. LeftyServe

    LeftyServe Semi-Pro

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    As recently as 2000, Sweden had two guys in the year end top ten (Enqvist and Norman) and about five or six others on the top 75. After that, it seems, even with To-Jo's suprise AO win, Swedish tennis has been fragile and unlucky. Magnus Norman was the one potentially great player, but a debilitating hip injury and he's off the tour at age 25, one year after reaching #2. Likewise with Pim-Pim and his shoulder, out at age 25. But Magnus Norman - of all people - is trying to turn Swedish tennis around. He opened the first (!) private tennis academy for serious developing players in Sweden (Stockholm) early this year. I think Sweden will be back, but maybe not full force for another 5 -10 years.
     
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  41. HoVa

    HoVa Rookie

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    someone put up some vids of carlsson youtube.

    i like seeing these flash in the pan players. i've analyzed all the top pros already and im bored.
     
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  42. AndrewD

    AndrewD Legend

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    There was were also Stefan and Hans Simonsson (excuse the spelling). They were slightly older than Wilander. Hans won the French doubles in 83 (with Jarryd) and was r/u in 85 (with Glickstein). Stefan wasn't quite as successful but still made top 50 in singles with a rank of 49 (Hans' best was 45).

    Not sure why exactly but both retired very young (like Sundstrom, although he did have injury problems). Stefan was only 27 and Hans was 24.
     
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  43. CyBorg

    CyBorg Legend

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    Ack. This has become such a cliche and it's not true.
     
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  44. CyBorg

    CyBorg Legend

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    Looking at guys like Carlsson in the history of the game and the injuries that Rafa is already dealing with (including chronic problems) it's getting harder and harder to imagine him still dominating at about 25.

    The key is not the clay aspect in itself but what appear to be congenital issues - that is, guys getting injured because they wear out due to genetic tendencies. Nadal's heels appear to be an issue. Knees/hip may really wear down as well. He's still very young and there are already serious signs of this.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2008
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  45. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    I was being sarcastic about Carlsson doing well at Wimby.
     
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  46. CyBorg

    CyBorg Legend

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    Ah. Good one then.
     
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  47. Micce

    Micce New User

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    #47
  48. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    ^thanks! are those your clips?
     
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  49. Micce

    Micce New User

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    No, they aren't my clips. It would be nice to see more of that match, especially of the last two sets.
     
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  50. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    I haven't seen Carlsson play in a long time. Man, his strokes were really kind of ugly.

    The topspin doesn't seem that extreme compared to some of the stuff we see today.

    What a unique player for the time though. Too bad about his knees.
     
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