Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by krosero, Nov 20, 2007.
Has anyone seen the whole of this match?
Thanks, Krosero, great stuff. I can remember to have seen parts of it on German TV. Laver came from a half year lay off and a knee operation, to play the match in February 1975. He had problems to climb really into the match, but after losing the opening sets, he made a real close match of it. If you can put other highlight clips on you tube, like some from the Laver-Newcombe match, it would be fantastic, Krosero. Sadly, i am no internet expert and don't know myself to do it.
I just might do that. I'm working my way slowly through a list. So this match was on German TV -- an international event, then (beyond U.S. and Australia, I mean).
The match was one of the big tennis boom matches of the 70s, after the Riggs-King Bonanza in 1973 and the Rosewall-Laver match in 1972. It put tennis on the map. They made these challenge matches at Las Vegas, officially as winner-take-all matches, but unoffically both got their money. Connors' old mentor, Bill Riordan, a former boxing promoter, had advised Jimbo, after the Forest Hills final in 74, to murmur in front of the cameras: "Get me Laver". He hadn't played Laver before.
The match was a big hit then, with greats like Don Budge and Gonzales calling the lines, and many Hollywood greats in the seats. The old master vs. the controversial young gun - a wonderful matchup. The next challenge matches Connors vs Newombe, Nastase and Orantes never had the same charm and appeal again.
I love that line. And I don't think they ever played again, though Connors at the end of the match said that he'd love a rematch.
Trabert said Gonzales was the referee, sitting behind the umpire. Some of the linesmen other than Budge were Ted Schroeder, Barry McKay, Frank Parker, Bill Talbert, Hugh Stewart, Tom Brown, Gardnar Malloy, Gene Mako, Dick Sabitt and Sven Davidson.
Borg had one with Laver in early '76 that went in straight sets, billed as winner-take-all, which was said to draw the largest indoor crowd ever in Europe (12,000). (it was in Goteburg). The prize was formally the same as Connors-Laver, $100,000. But apparently that one like all of the other challenge matches went in straight sets or were not competitive, unlike the Laver match.
What I appreciate the most about this match is Laver's volleys. The art of controlling and directing a volley besides also punching it with power. That is what draws me the most to the older matches.
Not to mention the sheer reflexes and anticipation at the net.
I think, Connors beat Laver again twice, at Bretton Woods and once at Philadelphia in 1976. In 1975 Laver wasn't that bad. After the Connors match, he got into the groove and set a record for WCT events with 4 wins in a row and 23 matches in a row (beating good young players like Gerulaitis, Tanner, Ramirez, Gottfried and others in the progress). He had that great match vs. Borg at Dallas, and had a winning record (as always) over Wimbledon champ Arthur Ashe. Overall he was 45-15, fifth in the list of Rino Tommasi for the year.
That's right, I must have been thinking of another pair.
i feel the same way.
everytime i have seen video of laver, it was immediately clear to me why he's a legend. it seems like he could hit any shot from anywhere, and his anticipation and court sense are unreal. he was an absolute genius on the court.
i've only been watching tennis since the late 80s, and have only seen video of a few of the old greats, but federer is the only player i have ever seen who even approaches laver's all-around ability and shotmaking.
Great stuff and it just goes to show you that wood racket tennis wasn't all that slow after all. They are both hitting the ball quite hard.
From the clip, Rod Laver at 37 y.o. seems to be holding his own with a 23 y.o. Connors. Laver was a player who had all the shots and great footspeed and anticipation (even though he had probably lost a step by this time) as well as the mental fortitude to back it all up. Truly the GOAT in men's tennis history. Watching a prime Laver take on a prime Federer would truly be a match made in heaven.
never noticed before back in the day - but Laver somewhat casually held his racket by his side until the last moment before he needed it.
The next time you watch a baseball game, notice the infielders - they are very relaxed and casual right until the pitcher winds up and releases the ball.
Really nice clip. Some excellent anticipation at the net by Laver.
It looks as if Connors was getting winded and being rather frustrated by the much older Laver at the net. (Sorry, Laver was only 14 years older, but still looking very good.)
Last year, I think, before I was posting here, there was a poster who said he'd been disappointed with the Borg-McEnroe final of 1980. His complaint, however, wasn't that the tennis was slow. Rather he was disappointed that the points didn't go longer; that the players couldn't put hard serves (and by implication, other hard shots), back into play.
But when you look at Borg and McEnroe on hard courts at the U.S. Open, and particularly Connors and Borg at the '78 Open, you see some very fast tennis in rallies of decent length.
I just wonder if our general image of pre-Open Era tennis is skewed because three of the Slams were on grass, so most of what we see of pre-Open tennis are highlights from grasscourt finals at Wimbledon and Forest Hills.
I, for one, had never seen a highlight film showing points from Roland Garros before the Open Era, but recently when NoelEdmonds put up those links to the Laver and Rosewall matches at Roland Garros, I was surprised to find the ball traveling so fast.
I think it's because on clay, these players could get a ball in their strike zone and really hit it with some of the pace and aggressiveness that we're used to seeing today. Today even Wimbledon plays like Roland Garros, so all we see today are players getting a good bounce and taking a mighty swipe at the ball, so the impression is that tennis today is very powerful.
And of course, it is powerful, I'm not saying otherwise. But the thing about grasscourt tennis -- old grass, not today's Wimbledon -- is that in a way, it's not "powerful" tennis; to the contrary, the ball dies softly. It might shoot through, but it hardly bounces, ending points quickly; and when the players did get to the ball, it would be so low that they'd slice it, or else lift it up for a waiting volley, rather than taking a mighty whack at it in the strike zone as you get to do everywhere today.
I'm am not at all familiar with pre-Open tennis, so these thoughts are basically speculations prompted, in part, by the Connors-Laver exhibition, in which both players are hitting the ball pretty hard in rallies of decent length, because they're getting a good bounce on an indoor surface that is nevertheless very fast.
It makes me wonder what tennis was like on fast indoor courts in the 50s and 60s, on the pro circuit -- precisely the tennis we never see today. The footage most of us born after 1970 are used to seeing consists mostly of slices and dying balls on Wimbledon and Forest Hills grass (with the occasional "pace" shot on smashes).
Such a good post, Krosero, that I quoted you in full on another board.
I agree especially about the slices. Touch and placement was so much more vital on grass. It just made no sense to swing away with big windups, because there was just no time to do it.
Thats right, Krosero. Apart from the serve, the old grass style overall was slower in pace, than on more solid surfaces with true bounces. Because the ball stays low on grass, you have to play more slice and dink shots. Pros like Laver were actually glad, that more synthetic surfaces emerged in the late 60s. The Forest Hills grass in particular was awful, the ball skidding through like a rabbit.
In the match above, one can notice that Laver had difficulties to get lenght in his forehand shots. When he had good lenght in his backhand approaches later on, the volley got easier against a dangerous returner like Connors, who really hammered his flat retuns in those days. Good volleyers like Laver were nevertheless able,to produce good volleys out of difficult positions, because of the court coverage, position play and overall 'volley mentality'. I guy like Roddick seems to panic and to be always out of position, when he gets near the net.
Lenght was imo also the key in the Borg- Connors matchup. Later on, Borg had more lenght in his topspin shots, which made it harder for Jimbo, to get his body into his pace shots.
That to me was entertaining tennis, not the baseline bashing of today - boring...
I think that one of the key ingredients is that people today take for granted television's ability to transfer images at close to real-time speed . So, when they see footage from 20+ years ago they don't take into account that the pace is slowed dramatically by the less advanced broadcast technology (the cameras not being able to pick up and transmit things at the actual speed). Not too dissimilar from seeing footage of Nolan Ryan pitching in the 60's and thinking that he didn't look to be throwing as fast as he did in the 90s.
Off topic: I saw your vid for Tennis in NYC - are you a regular there? I've seen their web site and thought that it looked like a good bunch of people to hit with when I'm next in New York.
Well if you go back far enough (I'm not sure what year(s) would be the cutoff time) the reels are actually playing at an exaggerated speed, like when you see Tilden playing. Then you just don't know what's going on, because you know it's obviously faster than real time.
But I was actually not aware that the footage from about 40 years ago was any slower than real time. Maybe I should look again at my few highlight films, but they don't appear slow.
One thing that is certainly missing from the old matches is the energy of our present-day announcers, the TV hype, or the high-energy music playing in the background when we watch today's players hit on YouTube, etc. All that tends to add to our impression of pounding energy in the tennis (I'm including myself in this). It's a subtle influence, but it's there.
And in many old matches, the sound of the ball is not transmitted well. The Connors-Laver match seems to have a lot of microphones on court (I think one of the announcers might have even mentioned it).
Absolutely, they're a great bunch. The director is a great character and really takes care of her people. Stop by if you can, just send her an email.
What board was it?
I've always been a baseliner, and I've started noticing that I have a bit of a baseliner's mentality at net; I volley as if I just have to hit one more volley than the other guy. That outlasting strategy is not what I always do at the baseline, but at times I do it, and you can get away with it. At the net, however, you need to do something with your volley -- if the other guy is doing something with his. Sometimes with Borg or Connors you get the sense that they're hitting volleys up at net in a bit of a baseline mode, trying to direct or to pound into this or that corner, trying to get the last shot, but not really thinking of all the options available. The contrast comes out when they're facing really good volleyers like Laver or McEnroe.
replace * with a "u".
Back in the 70s and 80s, my mother used to have the same complaint: that points were too quick. That serve and volley tennis in the men's game was not long enough. Either the guy at the net put the volley away--end of point, or the guy at the net got passed--end of point. She would only watch women's tennis where the points went on longer (particularly if Evert was playing).
Ironically, she still doesn't like the men's game with almost no serve and volley tennis. But now it's the hard-hitting-go-for-winners-from-the-baseline or serve and ace mentality.
I loved the rivalries in the 70s and 80s (more than tennis today).
Mom must have missed 75-77 when the Open and many of the summer's events were played on har-tru and when guys like Solomon, Dibbs, Orantes, Vilas and Borg played.
Somewhere Solomon and Dibbs might still be playing the same point they started in mid 70's.;-)
Dial up the USO final between Vilas and Connors for a good example of how good tennis was back then. Then watch Borg v. McEnroe at Wimbledon for contrast and how enjoyable it was to watch a consumate s & v vs. the best baseliner and how it forced the baseliner to take the net.
Comparing with Federer/Sampras exos
As far as the ages of the contestants, the analogy is fairly close. Laver was 36, just as Sampras is now. Connors was 22, while Federer is 26 -- but I don't think there's much difference there. For all intents and purposes, 22 and 26 are both at a champion's peak, or very near it.
However tennis has changed in general, and the particular circumstances are different. I'll just throw out a few off the top of my head.
Connors-Laver was a one-off contest, not a best-of-3 series, so in 1975 we're not talking about the possibility that one match was "real" while another was "thrown", or that someone was fully motivated to get one or two victories but not the third, or whatever else. In 1975, whatever the match was, it was all on the table in one night.
I think the money meant more to the contestants in 1975. Sampras and Federer are multi-millionaires many times over, more fabulously wealthy than either Connors or Laver -- who were sharing the biggest payday in tennis history up to that time. Of course, both were paid well (the "winner-take-all" line being just for promotion), so the money by itself does not tell us that Connors and Laver were more motivated to win than Sampras and Federer were.
Connors-Laver was Connors' idea; it was his challenge. I don't think he had any intention of losing the match (and again it was only one match, not a series) in front of television audiences and press reports that were altogether different from what Federer and Sampras are getting. Connors-Laver was a huge story in the press, and was understood at the time as a significant event in the emergence of Open tennis; Federer and Sampras are not getting anything like that attention, nor can they think they're doing anything particularly important.
And surely Connors had few scruples about dominating a tennis legend thoroughly. He does precisely that through two sets. And he didn't even try to make his remaining Challenge matches entertaining -- not in terms of the scores, anyway.
Personally I don't think you can conclude much from the Federer-Sampras series. Exhibitions are a business, and while I don't know that I would speak of them being "fixed", it doesn't take much for them to be close matches. All that requires is for the superior player not to take the match as seriously as he would take the same matchup at the U.S. Open (for example), and for the underdog (especially if he's been dominated in the rivalry) to want to taste victory against the favorite. That's why Connors has a series of exo wins over peak Borg, just like Roddick has over Federer; etc. etc. Exhibitions are exhibitions.
But the Laver-Connors matchup was technically an exhibition, so you have to ask: just how seriously can you take it? Is there anything it tells us?
My own feeling is the match tells us something about shotmaking, styles of play, maybe something about character. The outcome -- Connors' victory -- was expected, with such an age difference. The match as a whole gives us hints about what would have happened if both men had been at their peak, but hints are just hints.
The same goes for the WITC Borg-Laver match (which was for much less money; it probably was not even regarded as much of an "event") and the Gonzales-Laver five-setter at MSG in 1970 (I know little about that one but it seems to have been a big draw, an "event" match).
I have not seen the Fed-Sampras exos, but I suspect that there is even less to them. Exhibitions are exhibitions, and some are bigger than others, but I don't see how Federer and Sampras have very much at stake in their series.
Any thoughts about how all these matches compare?
The picture is transmitted much faster today than it was 40 years ago. Of course that should be expected because technology hasn't remained static (think of that wonderful slow motion footage of Federer at the Aus Open). The picture clarity and, as you mention, sound quality also has changed dramatically - for the better.
As to the idea that the Connors-Laver match might have been 'fixed', I had been told by a few people who might have an idea (a couple of Lavers and a couple of old Aussie players) that, initially, it was supposed to unfold like your typical exhibition match. That is, one guy eases up first set, next one eases up second set and then they play hard the last one or two. Unfortunately, Jimmy somehow 'forgot'. However, the last two sets were, as we Australians say, 'fair dinkum' and the third set was an example of what happened when Laver played 'angry'.
Given the feud between Riordan/Connors ("the radicals") and the WCT tour ("the establishment") I don't think there is any way Connors was going to give up even a point. Connors had to prove he and his smaller tour were legit.
Just looked at your profile on youtube, good choices, good length of clips. Have many matches on dvd/tape (I have all the matches you posted so far), but have no idea how to put them on youtube. And I noticed the quality on your clips was quite good, I heard that some quality was lost when converting clips to files.
I recommend posting some of the Laver-Ashe match from '69 W, blows my mind some of the winners they were hitting. And I'd like to see some of Connors-Orantes as well.
Yeah, this is a big factor why tennis from that era is thought of as being 'slow.' None of those old BBC Wimbledon matches had mikes on court, so it sounds like they weren't hitting hard. I have the '77 W final from BBC & the '78 W final from NBC & it sounds like they are hitting 10 times harder in '78 because there are microphones on court in the NBC feed.
Great post(didn't quote the entire thing) I never thought of it the way you did, but have noticed that the pace of shot seems harder in indoor matches in the 70s as opposed to grasscourt matches. Was just watching Borg vs Lendl indoors, they were really slugging it out. In a way its a shame that W is the most famous tournament, clips from their event are more widely seen, so younger viewers see those clips today & think that all tennis in the 60s/70s must have been kinda slow(in terms of racquet head speed)
Connors was on the cover of SI in May '75 after beating Newcombe in their challenge match. The cover says, "The Million Dollar Kid."
The article inside is great(I'm sure you can find a copy on that auction site)
and it sounds like it was a big deal at the time, was televised in 10 countries(I doubt the French got that kind of coverage in 1975)
Caesars Palace put 250,000 to host it, CBS paid 600,000 for tv rights, foreign rights yielded another 150,000.
Connors won. 63,46,62,64. Match was billed as 'winner take all,' but Newcombe still got $300,000. Connors got 500,000. Total prize money for the US Open back then was only 300,000 I think.
The article speculates that tournament play may be a thing of the past, & challenge matches may be the norm in the future. Both Connors & Newcombe sound defensive when questioned if these matches are bad for the game.
There was also a detailed article about this match in a book called, The Tennis Boom:Big-money tennis, how it grew and where its going.
Thanks. I used an advanced method: played the DVD on my television and shot the TV with my camera.
Then I took the MPEG's and made them into movies with Windows Movie Maker, which comes with the latest versions of Windows. Movie Maker does reduce the quality somewhat.
I don't have video editing software and I'm not sure what would be the best (affordable) choice to get.
The problem with the '69W matches is that my copies are not great; I'm not confident that I can get the ball to show too well. But I've put these matches on my list.
I agree. Ice versus scalpel.
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