Laver's reflections on the 1972 WCT Finals '...that bloody thief Rosewall'

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by timnz, Apr 26, 2012.

  1. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Admittedly it was long time ago so memories fade. However I believe Laver was serving very poorly. You could tell by the commentators (Bud Collins and I think Jim Simpson) that the general impression was that Laver wasn't playing in top form at that point. Now you could argue and reasonably so that Laver had more pressure on him to serve well because he was serving to Rosewall. It still doesn't take away that it was a great match and overall well played. But I have no doubt Laver and Rosewall played far better matches against each other. The matches at the 1963 French Pro and the 1964 Wembley match are probably two of the finest matches of all time and I'm positive there were of a higher quality than the 1972 WCT final. Laver and Rosewall were at or near their peaks in the other two matches I mentioned but clearly years past their peaks in 1972.
     
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  2. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    pc1, I agree. I'm aware that Laver made more double faults than he usually did. Surely not Rod's very best day.
     
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  3. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    I couldn't see the 1972 WCT final, because it wasn't transmitted in Central Europe. Only Wimbledon semis and finals and some Greman events were shown altogether on German tv in that time. I recall that the Connors-Laver match at Las Vegas in 1975 was shown on German tv a few days later. I read in a WCT yearbook, that Laver had indeed problems with his serve resulting in crucial double faults, even in his matches against Newcombe and Riessen before. In the Riessen semi he barely escaped. I think, Rosewall could have closed it out in the fourth, when he had a mp against Laver's serve. .
    I agree with Bobby, that probably the Coubertin match of 1963, the Wembley match of 1964 or the Boston match of 1966 had better quality. I would be good, to see actually those matches or parts of them. Sometimes the legend is greater than the reality. In Max Robertson's encyclopedia of 1974, Adrian Quist is marvelling about the 1970 Sydney match between L and R. I have the complete video of the match. It has some great, great exchanges - like the Borg-Gerulaitis match later on - with both players running back and forth, using every inch of the court. Rosewall excells with his cunning lobs, and Laver makes returns even laying on the ground. But it is to say, that both are serving quite poorly. Laver makes i think about 16 double faults. Conversely, the Laver-Roche match of 1969, which some people in Evans' book also name, is every inch as good as the legend says (although only the first two sets are available). And the Laver-Roche and Rosewall-Roche matches at Forest Hills in 69 and 70 were actually better, than many commentators had written
    And pc 1 is right about Borg-Mac, in the 1980 Wim final, Borg is playing quite poorly the first two sets, and Mac lets him escape there. The match is quite tame, until suddenly, when facing the end in the fourth after losing his serve, Mac explodes and breaks back Borg with some instinctive hitting, to get into the legendary tiebreak. In the fifth, Mac looks quite weary, and only his serve holds him in the match. I thought that the Mac- Lendl final at RG 1984 had throughout the whole match better quality. Against popular believe, Mac was not giving in after the third, but fought and played brilliantly to the end, having chances in all of the last sets.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014
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  4. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Nastase beat Kodes in the finals of 1970.
    Laver beat Kodes in the finals of 1971.
    Orantes beat Kodes in the finals of 1972.
    Nastase beat Orantes in the finals in 1973.
     
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  5. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    It looks like Jan didn' t throw enough coins at the Fontana di Trevi each time he visited Rome
    Best world city for ice creams as well:)
    Orantes also lost the 1975 F this time to Ramirez
     
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  6. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    ha, truer words were never spoken.

    For what its worth, there were the same amount of unforced errors(per NBC) in 5 sets of the '80 W Final as there were in the first 4 sets of the '84 RG Final.

    Not sure how anyone only making 13 ue's in the first 2 sets like Borg in '80 can be said to have 'played quite poorly.' I think Mac only had like 2 ue's in the opening set, maybe he had something to do with the 6-1 score.
     
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  7. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Moose,

    Sometime unforced errors as you well know don't tell the entire story. Rallies can be great and both players can make incredible returns of seeming winners and have the rally end in an unforced error to use that as an example. Perhaps a player isn't making unforced errors but is hitting very short allowing his opponent to push him or her around.

    I check and analyze stats as much as the next guy but we also have to observe why the stats are what they are. For example players hit fewer winners against Serena Williams. Is it because they don't play as well or less aggressive or is it because Serena moves so well she doesn't allow the winners? I think the latter generally speaking.
     
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  8. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Description of the Borg-McEnroe Wim final 1980, here excerpt of the first two sets, by Norman Giller in 1986 (if i have time i look for some other in Evans biography of Mac):
    "Borg, weighted down by the gigantic task of going for the fifth successive championship, began as nervously as a cat in a dog pound. He was continually beaten all ends up by McEnroes vicious serves and lost the first set 1-6. Borg was just a shadow of himself for much of the second set, but with the true grit of a great champion he forced himself back into the match and scrambled enough points to win the set 7-5."

    This corresponds with my memory, that Mac started out on a high note, but couldn't convert his chances in the second set, against a still quite rusty and poorly playing Borg. I thought that Mac would have closed out the match in three, if he had won the second. Somehow the sudden break to lose the second set, now left Mac somewhat subdued, intil he woke up again, when Borg served for the match in the fourth.
     
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  9. DMP

    DMP Semi-Pro

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    I am also in the camp that thinks the 1980 final wasn't that good. The tiebreak was fantastic for intensity, but in general both players played well only in patches, and not much at the same time. That is where it falls down, and why the 1977 semi between Borg and Gerulaitis is the 'better' match IMO. There they were both on top of their game from start to finish. It is also the reason I think the 2008 final between Nadal and Federer was a better match than the 1980 final, because they both played well together for much more of the match.
     
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  10. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I agree with you on all points. I enjoy the 2008 Wimbledon match of Nadal and Federer far more than the 1980 Wimbledon final.
     
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  11. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    The 2007 final for Federer and Nadal was arguably even better quality wise. There was less choking and the first 3 sets were absolutely stunning. It's the drama of that 5th set which makes 2008 such a great match.
     
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  12. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Haven't seen the 2007 final in a while but it was upsetting that Nadal was hurt in the fifth. It would have been nice if both were healthy and playing at top level.

    Nat, what are some of your favorite matches? One of my favorites is the 1984 Connors-McEnroe semi. Great variety of play with contrasting styles. At the same time I also like the 1988 Lendl-Wilander US Open final which bores some people but I enjoyed the long baseline rallies and Wilander's many net approaches. Very smart match by Wilander imo.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014
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  13. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    It was upsetting watching Federer choke for the first couple of sets in 08 ;). Nadal wasn't that hurt in 2007, he had many break point chances. Federer just channeled his inner Sampras and served through him.

    That 1984 Connors/Mac semi is probably IMO the greatest USO match of all time. Absolutely sensational. I also really enjoyed the Blake/Agassi clash in 2005 and the Sampras/Agassi 2001 matches at the USO.

    The AO has had some thrillers over the years. Roddick/Aynaoui 2003 is an absolute classic and underrated. Safin/Agassi and Safin/Federer from 04 and 05 were both incredible matches.
     
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  14. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    NatF,

    I've seen a ton of matches at the US Open in person and on television and I don't think I've ever seen a better match than the 1984 US Open semi of Connors and McEnroe. I agree with you. Connors was a little past his peak but still excellent and McEnroe was right at his peak and never would McEnroe be better. It does make me wonder how a peak Connors c)1978 or so would do against McEnroe in 1984 considering how close the 1984 match was with a past prime Connors.

    I liked the Blake-Agassi match in 2005 but I think in the back of my mind I knew that Agassi wasn't nearly at his peak and Blake, while a great athlete wasn't the great shotmaker that others were. So while it's looked great I knew for example 1995 Agassi would wipe the floor with both.

    Safin/Federer in the Australian Open however was mind boggling. Again, one of the best matches I've seen. Two gifted players at their peaks playing at top levels. That's what you want and what a viewer didn't get with Blake-Agassi in 2005.

    The Roddick match was thrilling also.

    Perhaps the most memorable match I've ever been at was the 1975 US Open semi of Vilas and Orantes. It was a battle of clay court giants. Vilas was picked by many to win the tournament. I watch Orantes with awe throughout the tournament and his level of play I thought was the highest of any player leading up to the semifinals, including Connors, Vilas, Nastase and Borg. Vilas won the first two sets with long rallies and led two love in the third before Orantes went on one of his hot streaks and won six straight games to win the third. Vilas led 5-0 and had two match points in the fourth set. Around this point I left my seat and moved closer to the portal to get a head start on leaving the stadium. I would wait a lot longer. :shock:

    Orantes hit one of his touch streaks and totally dominated Vilas in winning seven straight games. I kind of knew it was over once Orantes won the fourth set because I've seen Orantes mentally defeat Vilas in the past. Orantes won I think 6-4 in the fifth. It was incredible. Orantes was incredible. He was so fun to watch with his angles, spines, lobs, touch, volleys and drop shots. Perhaps the greatest touch of any player I've seen.

    Thanks for the answer NatF.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2014
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  15. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    For those of us who are interested in Orantes, there is a thread

    Orantes. A true legend
     
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  16. Vensai

    Vensai Professional

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    I wish I had a video of that match. It sounded absolutely epic.
     
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  17. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    It's true that Laver did not serve his best: 10 double-faults in each of the losses to Rosewall.

    1971 final
    Sports Illustrated:

    The fast surface, green Sportface over cement, was supposed to be just right for Rocket Rod's serve-and-volley game; Rosewall would have preferred a slower surface because of his marvelous groundstrokes. Laver had won eight out of their last nine meetings and was in the habit of winning all his big-money matches. He had already banked $292,717 this year in prize money, $194,040 more than his countryman.

    But to play a serve-and-volley game one has to serve well, and Laver quite often did not. Ten times he double-faulted, he couldn't get his first serve in regularly and he was even called for a few foot faults. Rosewall, in fact, got some benefit from the Sportface because it exaggerated his spin serve. The ball would land in front of Laver, take a sharp hop to the left and send him lunging after it with his backhand, often leaving an acre of empty court for Rosewall to volley into.

    Laver fans were not too concerned when he lost the opening set. Rosewall served first, broke Rod early and held serve the rest of the way to take it 6-4. When Laver raced through the second set 6-1, his followers, who were in the minority, sat back and relaxed. Rocket is usually a slow starter, but now he was properly warmed up and would soon be heading back to his California seaside home with a fatter wallet than ever.

    Four years older or not, Rosewall had plenty left. In the seventh game of the third set, with Rosewall serving, Laver five times had the advantage but could not get the break point. The set went to 6-6, bringing on the tie breaker, which in WCT events is won by the first man to reach seven points, providing he leads by two. Twice before in 1971 they had been forced into tie breakers, and Laver had won both. This time Rosewall won easily 7-3.

    To win the match now, Laver had to take two straight sets; with a $30,000 difference in prize money at stake. He started the fourth set by netting three balls and double-faulting to let Rosewall break him. It seemed hopeless. Two double faults cost him his second service, and it was getting embarrassing. At this point, so far behind and with all that Lamar loot at stake, some players would become too cautious or get a case of concrete elbow. Laver chose to fire at will—screaming backhands and cross-court cannonballs. He broke Rosewall twice, held his own serve and forced another tie breaker. It proved to be the back-breaker for him. Rosewall's slashing backhand helped the dark-haired little Aussie jump off to a 3-0 lead and he won 7-4, joyfully hurling his racket high into the lights when Rocket's last shot, a typical guns-blazing, all-out try for a winner, went wide.​


    1972 final
    New York Times:
    Laver’s serve failed him time and again and Rosewall also took advantage of numerous backhand errors by the 33-year-old Rocket.​

    Milwaukee Journal:
    Almost out on his feet in the closing set, Rosewall took advantage of the last of Laver’s 10 double faults to win the tiebreaker and defeat his fellow Australian in the WCT final for the second time in two years. ​
     
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  18. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    krosero, great that you post again after a certain pause. I have been missing you... Thanks for giving these interesting descriptions.

    Milwaukee Journal was wrong: The last point of the 1972 final was not a Laver's double fault. In fact Rod's backhand netted a Rosewall's service.
     
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  19. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Borg had the same injury in both years so I think it's very problematic to say that one year he was injured while the other year he wasn't. He had pulled stomach muscles both years.

    The severity of the injury in each of those years can certainly be debated (though it's probably unknowable with any precision), but he had the very same issue both years.

    '76, when he won the tournament without dropping a set, shows that Borg could have stomach muscle pulls and yet still play better than he had ever done before. More to the point, he served, in '76, according to universal agreement, better than he ever had before.

    I don't know how serious the muscle injury was in '80 compared to '76, but we know this: abdominal muscle pulls might have been an issue for him but they did not necessarily result in his level of play falling to any significant degree. He really proved that emphatically in '76, sweeping through the entire tournament without dropping a set.

    Though it is very difficult to tell such a thing on DVD recordings, I have to say that I don't notice Borg's serving at less than full power in 1980. Do you really notice that when watching the matches?

    To the contrary, if I had to pick between the two matches, just doing an eyeball test, Borg's serves seem harder in 1980. I don't know if the average speed was harder, but there were several times in the 1980 final that he served with impressive power.

    As you know, his serve improved after '76. In '78 was when it really reached its full power. Neil Amdur said after the '78 Wimbledon final that in the past two years his serve had gone from a rifle to a cannon. He overpowered Connors in the '78 final to a degree that he had not been able to do in the previous year's final. One of the big improvements in '78 was his wide serve in the deuce court, which he hit with incredible and surprising power (Bud said he'd never seen Borg hit that serve so well before).

    So that's one additional reason to be skeptical about a claim that he served better in the '76 final than in '80. In '76 his serve, in pace and particularly on the wide serve, was not as imposing as it would become later.

    Borg felt he had served with great force in the '80 Wimbledon final. When he blew Connors away with his serve at Flushing in '81, he said that was the hardest he had served since the fifth set of the Wimby final.

    And the thing is, all the stats confirm this. You don't need to just go with the eyeball test. Borg, as you know, won 19 straight service points in that fifth set -- and I still cannot find another streak that long in a fifth set, in any men's match before or since.

    Moreover, Borg held 15 straight times against McEnroe, which was his best such streak in all his Wimbledon finals.

    Put all of Borg's Wimbledon finals together, and also include the great five-setter against Gerulaitis, and the straight-set semifinal over Connors in '79. Taking all those matches together, the 1980 Wimbledon final has the best service numbers in three categories: most service holds in a row (15), longest streak of service points won (19), and best % of first serves made on break points (12 of 13).

    That last one still has to count as one of the greatest service stats in Wimbledon history. It's extremely rare to find something like that. Against Gerulaitis, for example, Borg made his first serve on only 7 of 11 break points: a decent but fairly typical performance.

    So again, I'm sure he had stomach muscle pulls in 1980, but his serve, besides remaining powerful, was also reliably powerful, as the break-point stat shows. He saved three consecutive break points in the second set with three massive first serves, all of them unreturned.

    Against Gerulaitis, 23% of Borg's serves were unreturned.
    Against McEnroe, who needless to say was a much better returner, 29% of Borg's serves were unreturned.

    That's better even than Borg's rate against Connors in '78 when he was serving bombs.

    An even better comparison would be between the '80 and '81 Wimby finals: same players, same statisticians, same conditions, no change in racquets, etc.

    The 1980 final was a higher quality match, in terms of UE's, than the first half of the '81 final (unfortunately NBC did not provide UE's for the whole '81 match).

    I agree, McEnroe was more than capable of beating a healthy Borg by a 6-1 score. He did it at New Orleans in '79 (and again at Flushing in '80).

    So I don't think there's any need to appeal to the injury. Borg was probably nervous when he came out for the '80 final. And he had not yet faced tough competition in the tournament so he wasn't grooved, while McEnroe had been given the toughest test possible by Connors. So McEnroe came out for the final razor-sharp, inspired, and essentially in the zone; he kept a nervous Borg from finding his rhythm.

    That's how I interpret Borg's relatively low # of UE's: most of his errors were forced by his opponent.

    I agree emphatically, stats can't be read literally. They have to be interpreted, and often there's more than one interpretation.

    But this case of the '80 Wimbledon final is one in which many different kinds of stats all point toward a high-quality match: the UE's from both men, Borg's record-breaking service stats; and McEnroe's service stats were stellar as well.

    And there is no stat that is subpar: not Borg's first-serve percentage (it was actually 62%, the highest he ever achieved against McEnroe in a Slam), not his success on 1st serve, or his success on 2nd serve. None of them stand out as subpar.

    A very different case would be the '78 USO final, when Borg had an infected thumb on his blister: that was a serious injury that genuinely limited/hobbled his play. You can see it just by watching, and it's borne out in the stats: Borg made more UE's than Connors, which you would never expect, given their respective styles.

    Borg himself called the '80 Wimbledon final the best match he had ever played at Wimbledon.
     
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  20. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Thanks, glad to be posting again.

    I think in this case "took advantage" simply means that a Laver double-fault during the tiebreak gave Rosewall a certain advantage. If they had meant to say that the double-fault was the last point, they would have said it differently (something like: Rosewall "won the tiebreak on the last of Laver's 10 double-faults").
     
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  21. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I don't want to say that the '80 final was definitively higher quality than Borg-Gerulaitis, because the latter was, of course, five close sets of unending quality.

    But I do think they're very different matches, and imo the '80 final is sometimes given short shrift because for that reason. (It is also sometimes praised unthinkingly to the skies, as all "legends" are, but that's not what I'm talking about; I disagree with that too).

    The '77 match for me is like two inferior players, neither of whom has that "higher" level that will allow him to really dominate his opponent or run away with a set or two. And let me be clear, by "inferior" I simply mean that Borg in '77 was not as good as he would be later (his serve was a greater weapon later), and Gerulaitis, at any time in his career, was an inferior player to 1980-McEnroe.

    The '80 final had a different dynamic altogether. In that match, McEnroe brought out, at the start, a special level of in-the-zone, natural grasscourt tennis the likes of which Borg had never encountered before, and which unsurprisingly kept him "down" at the start. He was getting dominated. Sure, some of that can be put down to his nervousness about the history he was attempting to make (I will even concede that a little bit could be due to sore stomach muscles, at least at the beginning of the match): but credit to McEnroe for making him so nervous and putting him off his game.

    The next two and a half sets, Borg was dominating McEnroe. After finding his groove, Borg held 15 straight times and McEnroe -- the less experienced player -- had no idea or ability to stop it.

    Then in the tiebreak they were both at their best.

    And in the fifth set Borg reached a level that he never reached anywhere else, and it was his turn to dominate again -- though he still had to go 8-6 because McEnroe was still serving well enough to hang on.

    In short, the '80 final can seem like it has patches of low quality play by the players. But it's equally true that it had stretches of extremely high quality -- higher than anything produced by a younger Borg and an inferior Gerulaitis in '77.

    So for me it's a real possibility that those stretches of extremely high quality in the '80 final were the main reason for the apparently "low" patches. It could be that dominant play by one player was forcing the other player to be off his game. And it happened that way like a roller-coaster -- which is why it produced such swings and great drama.

    The '77 match was more like two players both unable to pull away from the other. Great stuff, but I'm not sure that the average level of the '80 match (when the highs are combined with the "lows") was lower than the average level in the '77 match. It could be. I'm just not sure.

    A lot of this is aesthetics. Borg-Gerulaitis is a harvest of great rallies, maybe the best ever on a grasscourt.

    Borg-McEnroe is not like that at all, but undoubtedly that's because the serving was better. With such imposing serving, rallies could not take place to the same degree. Borg, as I wrote above, had 23% of his serves unreturned in the '77 match, compared to 29% in the '80 final. Gerulaitis also had a rate of 23%, whereas McEnroe's rate was 39%.

    Which match was higher quality overall, who knows, but one thing I'm confident of is that the '80 match had better serving.

    On grass, that often means less entertaining tennis (fewer rallies). But nothing is more important on a grasscourt than good serving.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2014
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  22. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    Borg was serving perfectly fine in that 80 final. I have no idea why you think that was not the case. Krosero has already pointed out most of the things showing that. the only thing left I guess is the average speeds in the matches.
     
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  23. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    FTR, nadal took timeout at 4-0 in the 4th set. He was perfectly fine after that and playing at top level.

    He held serve 4 times after that, had two breakpoints in two of federer's service games , 1 all and 2 all in the 5th.

    Its just that federer raised his game to a different level and took away the match from him after that. The injury excuse is just that, an excuse, not reality.
     
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  24. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    Krosero,

    I agree with you that sometimes better serving can make it look like the match wasn't of that great quality ( partly due to the aesthetics ).

    See a comparison of the 2008 and 09 wimbledon finals for example. There wasn't much of a difference in the quality, but the 08 final quality gets praised a lot more.
     
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  25. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    I saw the Borg-Mac 1980 match on tv again, a few years later during a rain break at Wimbledon. and indeed i noticed the amount of many unreturned serves, which made the play sometimes a bit dull. The highlight was imo not only the tiebreak, but Mac's play when he faced mps on Borg's serve before, late in the fourth. Suddenly he played magical again, including a volley from the backcourt, after falling into sleep after losing the second set. Still i think, that the second set was crucial for the whole match. Mac had several break chances and leads against the serve of a still subpar playing Borg, and had several very makable return chances, but couldn't convert. Maybe he got nervous at this stage, to win his first Wim final. Wouldn't be the first nor the last player.

    In the fifth, it is widely known, that Borg had that high serve winners percentage. I also saw no injury problem for him, he looked as fit as ever. It was a great psychological resolve by Borg, to get over the fourth set so fast, but on the other hand, as Budge observed, Mac began to look a bit tired.
     
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  26. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Maybe personal memory is faulty and incomplete, because selective, and stats give a more solid picture of a match. But i do think, that Borg never served better on grass than in 1976 against Tanner and Nastase, when he was really hammering his serves on a lightning fast court (it was very hot that year), which looked like a billard table. And i still believe from what i have seen, that Federer never played better on grass than in his 2003 semi with Roddick, although he came near in his 2004 or 2005 (?) performance in the Halle final against Fish.
     
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  27. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Probably the most exciting, but he also said he played better in 1981 when he lost than in 1980 when he won.His semifinal against Connors in 1981 was of higher quality from Borg´s POW and almost as exciting and memorable as the 1980 final.The way Borg played in the last two sets of that semi still seems unreal to me when rewatching it.

    His most consistent Wimbledon play would be 78 ( excepting Amaya he anihilated the whole field), but I think the 1979 tournament was the most competitive he faced (Connors and Tanner one after the other is tougher than Gottfried and Mc Enroe) as well as 1977 (Gerulaitis and Connors)

    finally, in a way, the 77 and 80 finals looked somehow very alike to me.Lots of great and exhilarating tennis from both contenders but also very loopsided.Connors began the 77 match like a storm with Borg below par, exactly the same that happened in the 1980 Final first set.Then Borg recovers and dominates in set 2,3, the 2 americans react very dramatically and take the best set of both matches ( the 4 th set) and the fifth one is extremely close and dramatic.Borg serve made the difference there.

    But while I really felt Mac had lost momentum and even if it was close, I never thought Borg would lose the fifth set after the first 3 or 4 games, the truth is that if Connors doesn´t commit that DF when he was catching Borg ( 1-4 to 4-4 and serving), most likely is that Jimmy would have won their 77 final.Just my two cents.
     
    #77
  28. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    krosero, Sorry but I still contradict Milwaukee Journal and yourself.

    His last double fault happened at 3:2 for Laver. Thus the score was 3:3.

    The Rocket finally lead 5:4 and his service. Then the two legendary Rosewall backhand shots and a missing Laver return.
     
    #78
  29. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    It's no problem, I just think there's been a misunderstanding somewhere, because I agree with everything you say in this post.
     
    #79
  30. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Kiki I don't recall Borg ever saying that he played better in the '81 final. He said, to the contrary, that his heart was not truly in it (referring to the '81 final). That was a reflection of his some years later, when he said it was ironic that of all his Wimbledon finals, the '81 final was the one he should have won (he had four chances, four set points, to take a lead of two sets to one), but he lost because his heart wasn't in it. In his view that was the irony about that match.

    I just don't recall him saying that his actual level of play was higher in '81. His central point is that he really was just going through the motions and didn't have his heart in it.

    I agree completely with you about the '77 and '80 finals. Those two matches were very similar. Connors and McEnroe came out blazing and had Borg on his heels both times. They both won the first set easily but neither one of them could keep up such a pace and they ended up losing the next two sets, before grabbing the fourth set and making a final push in the fifth.

    Very similar dynamics, and completely different from Borg-Gerulaitis. In '77 Borg and Connors took turns dominating each other, just as Borg and Mac did in '80.

    I think that has a lot to do with the aggressive styles of Connors and McEnroe; and they were both just so supremely talented that they could get into zones in which they were simply unplayable.

    But those highs came with the inevitable let-downs.
     
    #80
  31. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    That's a great example. I enjoy the '08 final more than '09, as probably most fans do, because '08 was characterized by great rallies. '09 was completely different because Roddick was a far better server than Nadal, and had a completely different style to boot. But there's no reason to believe that the '08 final was necessarily better quality. They were similar quality and arguments could be made for '09 as superior.

    Sampras may have been the best grasscourter of them all, and of course everyone regarded his tennis as boring. But that's how it was on the old grass: the most brutally effective grasscourt tennis was often not the most entertaining. Long before Sampras, big-serving, aggressive tennis on grass was often called boring.
     
    #81
  32. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Borg hadn´t played too well coming to the finals in 80, but he had played top tennis in 81, destroying such hard customers such as Gerulaitis and Mc Namara before facing Connors in what turned to be one of the most exciting matches ever played at Wimbledon.The match of the event (Connors was sharp because he had destroyed Fibak and being fully tested by that magician called Vijay Amritraj in the QF, a match that followed the Borg-Connors pattern and which Vijay had on his hand).

    So Connors played the two best 81 Wimbledon male matches.

    Borg, in 81 had gone easily through the first rounds, unlike in former years.In 81 he faced Ghering ( who had just beaten him at Brussels indoors) and a very good grass court player called Peter Rennert.He anhilated d both in straight sets and those two guys were better players than some of the first rounders that had given Bjorn some headaches in the past tournaments.I recall how strong Borg looked after reaching the semis and surviving Connors.
     
    #82
  33. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Not sure about Borg in '76. In some ways he did play the tournament of his life (before or after), at the 76W. On the other hand he improved in some ways later, particularly in '78 when he unveiled a new slice approach that caused Connors so much trouble; and he really picked up the pace on his wide serve that year. In general I think he made small improvements in his game year by year.

    On the other hand I might agree with you about Federer. In '03 he was still pretty young, but there seems to be general agreement that Federer had certain things back then that he lost, due to lack of practicing them, in later years: net play, and SV in particular.

    The semi against Roddick was an overwhelming performance in every way. And he came in on over 50% of all his serves and won 71% of those points. He's always done well at the net behind groundstroke approaches, but those numbers show how well he did in his early years with direct SV.
     
    #83
  34. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    True, looking at all 7 rounds Borg may have played better in '81 than in '80.
     
    #84
  35. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Krosero,

    While I thought Borg was clearly a superior player (by far I might add in 78 and 79) in 1978, 1979 and 1980 to himself in 1976 I thought it was very possible he played better in the 1976 Wimbledon than he did in 1980. Some people have thought his great play in 1976 was due to the fact he was beaten by Panatta in the French giving him more time to devote to practicing his serve and preparing for Wimbledon. I'm am sure you are correct that Borg was a better player in 1980 than in 1976 overall. However I do think there's a good chance Borg may have played better at the 1976 Wimbledon than he did overall in any Wimbledon. There is some evidence of this in Borg winning all 21 sets he played. He defeated Tanner in straight sets (after Tanner beat Connors in straights) in 1976 while in 1979 he almost lost to Tanner in five sets. Incidentally my initial memory of the 1979 Wimbledon final was that both players didn't play that well. It was okay but not great.

    Borg himself said that he didn't do anything but spin his serves in after he broke in the fifth set. And that probably helped his serving percentage.
     
    #85
  36. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I'd agree, for average level of play over seven rounds, '76 was probably his best year.

    Yes I have the same impression about that fifth set against Tanner. It seemed that Borg took speed off his first serves (he ended up making 79% of them, in that set). SI described him as spinning serves in the fifth set to Tanner's backhand which had become suspect at that point.

    But SI also said that Tanner's BH had kept him in the match until then. They said that he could now roll his BH as well as hit it flat. That was crucial against someone like Borg who could force his opponent to play extended rallies.

    I haven't seen the Borg-Tanner match from '76 but if it's true that Tanner's BH improved in '79, then I wouldn't use the two Tanner matches as a measure of Borg's play. Tanner's performance in the '79 final was possibly the match of his life.

    By contrast after the '76 semi, which went in straights, Borg said, "Roscoe didn’t serve as well as he usually does. He was more inconsistent than I’ve known him before." Tanner said, "I tried to chip and go in which is not my style." He said it was a mistake and that he had not tried to play that way against Connors in the quarters.
     
    #86
  37. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    precisely what I meant

    yeah, exactly.
     
    #87
  38. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Guys, now that I mentioned him
    Remember Rennert?
    Very good friends with Mac since Stanford
    He surfed the whole year till the AO , then he decided to play seriously
    Two quarters at Kooyong
    A talented but inconsistent lefty
     
    #88

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