Laver's backhand

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by CyBorg, Nov 9, 2009.

  1. CyBorg

    CyBorg Legend

    Mar 8, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    Does anyone else feel that Laver's backhand is really underrated nowadays? Even in the old books it doesn't get mentioned as much as Rosewall's.

    Watching these old matches I'm really amazed by the angles and depth of Laver's backhand. It's a nasty shot.

    Rosewall's backhand is more subtle with late action, as he'll take a little off it - it must have been hard to time the ball off this shot for the opponent. But Laver's is more of a modern shot. He times it and zoooom, gone. Down the line or crosscourt. Like a bullet. Often on the line.
  2. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

    Jul 18, 2008
    Arthur Ashe felt the two best backhands he ever saw was Rosewall's and Laver's.

    But I agree with you, Laver's backhand is really underrated. The man could hit any shot. I'm not sure if any backhand is the history of tennis was as versatile as Laver's. The only one I could think of was Ashe's.

    John Alexander mentioned in a tennis instruction book that it wasn't wise to serve wide to Laver's backhand because he had the perfect reply, in six varieties!
  3. timnz

    timnz Legend

    Oct 17, 2008

    If you look at the youtube matches of Laver - most of which are when he was well past his prime - what strikes me, is the effortlessness of the stroke. He hardly uses the supporting (right) hand at all. Just runs to the ball, racket back and first - and the ball goes where he wants. He just seems to have huge confidence in the stroke.

    There are 2 backhands Rod hits in the Connors - Laver match in 1975 when laver was 36 or 37 - that just a spectacular.

    People really under-estimate how effective this guy was off the ground!
  4. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

    Apr 22, 2005
    The backhand and the serve were the barometers of Laver's game. When they were on, he could become unplayable. In his prime, he could really whack the backhand. Not much of a backswing, but nice shoulder turn (he often stood with the back to the net) and fast movement of the racket head. His extremely strong wrist enabled him, to hit on the run and near the ground, shortly after the ball hit the ground. When overlobbed, he often raced back and hit a backhand for a winner.
    In the new Dunlop 1970 clips you see one half volley from the baseline, with one leg in the air, but still with pace, generated purely by the wrist. In the Newcombe Wim 1969 II clips you see at 2.10-2.30 a half volley slice from the service box against the incoming Newk, with pace and an impossible cross angle, parallel to the net. In all accounts by Laver and Newk, this shot decided the match. And a few games later, Laver finds the same point shortly behind the net, but this time as service return from the baseline.
    He could hold the ball back on his racket, and could hide the direction of the shot. But even if the opponent knew, that the shot would go cross court, he couldn't get it. In his later years, when he lost a bit of movement and confidence (also on his serve) he relied more on his slice. Newcombe writes, that he encouraged Laver in the 1973 DC, more to hit the flat and overspin backhand again. And that a Laver whack on the second point of the doubles against Smith/ van Dillen decided the whole tie. I personally saw a Borg Laver exhibition late 1978 at Essen, Germany. Laver was 40 and way past his prime, Borg at his absolute peak. Laver had no chance, but for a few games, he was still able to whack his backhands and enlighten the crowd. I remember one or two down the line winners from two feet into the court.
  5. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

    Jul 18, 2008
    I really think that Laver's backhand compares with any backhand in the history of tennis. We all have heard about the famed Budge backhand but I've read (don't remember the exact magazine or book but I think it was Segura who made the comment) that Budge wasn't able to do a few things with his backhand and that Budge didn't have an effective chip. Now Budge's backhand could very well be the best ever but Laver had every shot available on his backhand plus a lot of shot on the backhand that it seemed that no one but he could make.

    As Urban wrote Laver was able to take the ball on the rise on his backhand inches after it bounced. In Vines' book he wrote that Laver, because of his incredibly strong wrist (it was measured to be the same size as the World Heavyweight Champion) he was able to handle high kick serves in a way few with one handed backhands can. Incidentally Vines mentioned that Vilas could do the same also because of his powerful wrist.

    I don't think necessarily that Laver's backhand is the best ever but at worst I think it was one of the best backhands ever.

    It's definitely on the level with Budge, Rosewall, Connors, Borg, Kovacs, Ashe and Agassi among others.

    On a different note, some thought that Laver's forehand was the best of his time.

    Is it my imagination or was Laver's forehand hit much more solidly in the video's of the 1970 Dunlop Tournament compared to his challenge match with Connors? It seems to me that his forehand deteriorated considerably between 1970 and 1975 as you would figure it would due to age. Perhaps it was just Connors great power off the ground that made it seem that Laver's forehand declined. I would tend to think it was mainly due to age.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2009

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