Laver's Weaknesses

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by hoodjem, Mar 3, 2013.

  1. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    I recently posted that no player is without flaws or weaknesses. Following that thought, I'd like to offer what I believe are Laver's weaknesses.

    1. Impatience
    2. Serve




    I should perhaps explain. Laver often seems guilty of a certain bull-headedness. Though he had many strategies and game-plans, he seemed particularly reluctant to move away from his power game if it was not working. His favorite strategy (which seems to have been Hoad-based) was to try to out-gun his opponent--to blow them off the court. As Ashe said: to hit the lines and them hit them harder and harder.

    On number two, I might qualify this and say that, by all accounts of his opponents, Laver had an excellent serve, but it was not a huge power-serve. It was certainly fast-paced but not a monster. And he did get many aces, but his aces came largely through spin, placement, and timing.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
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  2. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Hard to tell if he had any, but could be unpatience.

    His serve was not a weakness, but just below the greatness of his other strokes.
     
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  3. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Maybe Laver was a bit inconsistent on low forehand volleys. But that's relative.
     
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  4. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    kiki,
    it's about time that you should agree that every players have weaknesses, because it's true. I see Federer's weakness is his breakpoint/set point/match point conversion. It got worse as the year gone by. Now can you be big enough to accept Laver has weaknesses too?
     
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  5. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    having watched him live, well, maybe his going for the winner too early or when he wasn´t tunned enough...but, on the other hand, that is a signal of great self confidence.

    OTOH, federer´s fail to convert is a signal of lack of confidence...
     
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  6. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Seeing how I can't really think of any major weaknesses, what did Rosewall pick on or do that brought him so many wins against him?
     
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  7. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Rosewall used to mix things up and made Laver think a lot.Plus he was the fastest player.And when each other played it was a delightful kind of chess match.

    And Rosewall was a bit more patient...
     
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  8. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    robow7, Interesting question. I would say his backhand, return, volley, smash, lob, half-volley, drop shot, angles, foot work, will to win, condition, speed, reflexes, anticipation, tactics...
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2013
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  9. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    When they met it was Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert in one.
     
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  10. timnz

    timnz Hall of Fame

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    Federer on break point.....hmmmmmm

    I have wondered about comments about Federer's so called weakness of converting Break Points. I am not convinced it is a weakness. The reason why is I consistently see that Federer has a lot more break point chances than his opponents. It takes a lot of work at that level to even get to break point. They don't start the games at break point. Federer's skill is what got him to break point in the first place. Not converting them is disappointing but a player who has a superior percentage just because he doesn't have the skill to generate that many break point chances isn't 'superior' to Federer in that regard.

    Making 2 break points out of 11 is superior to making 2 break points out of 3. The reason is that you are at least making the other player work very hard to hold serve and also you are making many more chances for yourself. It is similar to the misconception about Lendl in Slam finals (8 wins out of 19 finals) where people somehow think that it is a superior performance to win 8 out of 8 finals (100%) to winning 8 out 19 finals. It isn't anywhere as good because making a final is an achievement in itself. Otherwise Lendl would have had a much better career performance in those 11 Slams he lost if he had instead lost them in the first round. After all, he would then be at a 100% record in finals! Losing in the first round is not a superior performance to making a slam final. In the same way, losing at love on receiving games is not a better performance than pushing players to break point.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
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  11. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I was gonna say like Zep,messengers,Davis quintet and Who all in one¡¡

    Bobby, I feel like I should come off the closet and declare myself a Fed worshipper and abjure of my posts about Laver,Borg,mac,Kodes,Newcombe,Hoad,Nasatse and Rosewall...if I did you bet all those newatrds would go nuts?
     
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  12. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    As for Laver it's hard to pick a weakness if you're just asking about individual strokes. But style of play is a different question. Both Newk and Ralston thought that Laver could be beaten if you did not give him pace.

    When Laver lost to Tom Gorman at Wimbledon in '71, this was in Sports Illustrated:

    When Gorman arrived in London he was remembered only as "that fellow who made it to the fourth round at both Wimbledon and Forest Hills last year." And that is no big deal. Nor did his upset of Laver at the Queen's Club Tournament the week before Wimbledon cause a great stir. After all, it was on boards and it was Queen's, not Wimbledon. But it meant something to Gorman. "I found out it was possible to beat him," he said.

    The night before the match Gorman put in a call to Dennis Ralston and asked him for advice on how to play Laver. Ralston had beaten Laver at Forest Hills last year and is one of the best students of other players' games. The morning of the match the two of them met at the club to discuss strategy. In effect, Ralston told Gorman he should chip back Laver's service returns, that he should not slug the ball. "Laver plays so well off other people's power that it gets discouraging," Gorman says.

    The day was gusty and chilly, and the wind seemed to help Gorman and bedevil Laver. Whereas Gorman's big top-spin serve was not bothered by the breezes, Laver had trouble controlling his own slice serve. Even so, Laver matched service with Gorman until 4-5, when six times he had a set point against him. Gorman tried a number of tactics, including belting the return, trying for an outright winner—"A stupid thing and the last time I tried it"—but Laver held on to make it 5-5. "No, that didn't discourage me," Gorman said later. "I felt there would be other chances."

    And there were. Indeed, it was a one-sided match and if it had not been Rod Laver out there getting beaten it might have been routine. Gorman won in straight sets 9-7, 8-6, 6-3, the first time that has happened to Laver at Wimbledon since his 1959 final against Alex Olmedo. Laver never once broke Gorman's serve, and no one could remember when he had failed to do that. Moreover, only four times during the entire match did Laver have a break point.​
     
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  13. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    When Laver lost that five-setter to Pancho Gonzalez at the Garden (January 1970), this was in TIME magazine:

    As for court tactics, he likens himself to an aging boxer who can no longer rely on a quick knockout but must pick out a weak spot and "keep punching until the muscles give." His victory over Laver was a case in point.

    Anger Uses Energy.

    Using "lots of spins and changes of pace," Gonzalez won the first set at the service line. "I used to hit aces out of sheer power," he explains. "Now I hit them out of deception." Though he lost the next two sets, he began to establish a pattern: "Laver's not a very tall fellow and I felt that if I could get my lob going when he came to the net, I could work him pretty hard and penetrate more with a passing shot." In the final two sets the steady punching began to tell. Driven back by Laver's slams at the net, Gonzalez answered with top-spin lobs that dropped inches beyond the Australian's reach. Then, just when Laver seemed to be anticipating another pitty-pat shot, Gonzalez would power a thread-needle drive into the corner. Final score: 7-5, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.

    Throughout the grind, Gonzalez blew his cool only once. Fixing a hot eye on a linesman, he growled: "Every time I play you make at least one crappy call." That he didn't react more violently is part of the new strategy. "Anger uses up energy," says Gonzalez. "Because of the age factor I have to relax a bit more."​

    In August ’69 Pancho had told Arthur Daley of the New York Times:

    I played Laver enough to know that he has trouble in reading my serve and that he doesn’t like my lobs and dink shots. He loves to have the other fellow hit hard and can’t react to a soft game the way Ken Rosewall can.

    Frank Sedgman was fast enough to have handled Laver. As a matter of fact, I’m convinced that I could have handled him myself when I was young.
     
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  14. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    One thing for sure, righties had a tough time in the ad when Rod would swing it out wide but Rosewall with that slice-block-drive backhand (however you want to describe it) seemed to have no problem returning it offensively and Rod never seemed to be able to guess whether it was going cross or down the line, and therefore couldn't cheat one way or the other. Which is amazing when you think of it because these guys played each other like 200 times so you would think he would have picked up Rosewall's "tells" on that return.
     
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  15. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    There is good evidence that this is, in fact, Federer's weak point. Carl Bialik worked it out at the WSJ's blog:

    Djokovic’s Many Happy Returns.
    By Carl Bialik

    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s serve looked unbreakable for most of his Wimbledon quarterfinal upset of Roger Federer on Wednesday. Two days later, Tsonga was broken six times by Novak Djokovic, who claimed the No. 1 ranking and his first Wimbledon final berth with the win. The difference is mostly due to Djokovic’s superior return game, the best in tennis. But it also reflects the importance of winning points at the right time, something Federer didn’t do against Tsonga but Djokovic did.

    In two days, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s serve devolved from extraordinary to ordinary.Federer won 29% of points in Tsonga’s service games, compared to 39% for Djokovic. That may sound like a moderate difference, but it turns out to be enormous. Breaking serve requires winning four return points, or more, in the same game and outscoring the server by at least two points. So any small edge in returning on any point accumulates over the course of a game. If Federer had the same 29% chance of winning any particular point in Tsonga’s service games, then he had a 9% chance of breaking in each of those games. Djokovic’s chance, assuming his probability of winning any Tsonga service point was 39%, was 25% — nearly three times as great as Federer’s. That means Federer could have expected to break Tsonga twice, and Djokovic five times (Tsonga had more service games in his five-setter against Federer than in his four sets against Djokovic). The actual numbers were close: One and six, respectively.

    But on grass, where big servers often thrive and one break can be enough to win a set, Federer’s inability to get that second break may have prevented him from winning the match, while Djokovic’s extra break helped him close out Tsonga in four. The discrepancies reflect that Djokovic clustered his return points well: Tsonga had some easy service games against him, but Djokovic dominated him in others. Federer, instead, consistently scored one or two points on most Tsonga service games but never even had another break point after breaking Tsonga in Tsonga’s first service game. Given the number of return points he won, if Federer had clustered them randomly he could have expected to hold at least one break point in six different Tsonga service games. His probability of holding a break point in just one (or none) was 1%, yet that’s what happened. Tsonga, against Federer, clustered his return points well — he won just 24% of his and could have expected just one service break. Instead he broke three times and beat Federer, despite losing 10 more points than he won.

    Sadly for Federer, this has become the norm at the tournament he once owned. This is the fourth straight Wimbledon in which he broke just once in his final match at the tournament. In 2009, that break was enough to beat Andy Roddick in five sets. But in the 2008 final against Rafael Nadal and in Federer’s 2010 quarterfinal against Thomas Berdych, one break didn’t suffice. And each time, Federer had fewer breaks than would be expected from the proportion of return points he won. Against Berdych he should have had three; against Roddick, three; and against Nadal, four. This is a result of Federer’s recent record of poor rates of break-point conversions in big matches at majors, but also of too many games in which he never quite got to break point. If Federer wants to beat the likes of Tsonga next year, as well as Djokovic and Nadal, he’ll have to find a way to pack his return points into single games, and make the most of them.​
     
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  16. corners

    corners Legend

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    Over at tennisplayer.net Alan Fox, who played laver, has a really nice article about Laver's strengths and weaknesses. (Part of a series about past greats that he'd played.) Not as flattering an assessment as many, but probably more realistic than the typical hagiographic stuff we get on these boards. Behind subscription wall, unfortunately, but definitely worth a look if you're a member. I no longer am, otherwise I'd try to post a summary. I know he mentioned the overhead - solid but due to short stature attackable with lobs.
     
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  17. The-Champ

    The-Champ Legend

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    TMF has not addressed Laver's height yet....
     
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  18. SoCal10s

    SoCal10s Hall of Fame

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    beers and steaks ..
     
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  19. zagor

    zagor Talk Tennis Guru

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    No, but Pancho Gonzales did :)

    Joking aside, (relatively) short height can be a weakness (not one that is impossible to overcome) in some conditions (modern era with high bouncing courts) but can also be a strength in others (low bouncing courts) so it's hard to define it as an overall strength or weakness.

    That said IMO it's not the same for overly tall players, there seem to be no conditions which are suitable for them compared to the competition (If I'm not mistaken the tallest player to have ever won a slam is Delpo).
     
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  20. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki, please stay objective and at your admiration of some players of the past equal if you find many followers or not....
     
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  21. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Gorman was mentioned. Glad of that.
    Best US player in terms of achievements right behind Ashe and Smith and a little above great players like Bob Lutz,Riessen,Richey,Graebner, Froehling or Dennis Ralston
    Still able to take a set off peakest Borg at Wimbly well into his middle 30's
     
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  22. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    I disagree. I rank Riessen, Richey and Ralston above him.

    For instance Riessen was about even with Laver.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2013
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  23. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Gorman only won 7 titles in his career and probably was a more noteworthy Davis Cup captain than player
     
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  24. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Rod's tuna noodle casserole just isn't moist enough and it needs more onion.
     
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  25. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    robow7, Gorman has won at least 14 tournaments but still much less than Ralston, Richey and Riessen.
     
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  26. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Riessen did pretty well at WCT qualifying for two 8 men finals ( in the first two years of the tour).But Gorman reached the Masters semis at least once ( and retired when he was about to make the finals), Wimbledon ( beat Rod Laver¡¡¡), Forest Hills a couple of times, Roland Garros...Riessen did nothing decent at slams.No match for Gorman.
     
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  27. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    I was thinking his Roo Burgers get a little tough if over-cooked.

    Shouldn't go beyond medium rare.
     
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  28. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    I'm just going by what Wiki states, and they claim only 7 tourney wins.

    "Gorman won seven singles titles in his career, the biggest coming in 1975 at Cincinnati. He also won nine doubles titles, including Paris in 1971, the same year he reached the French Open doubles final with Stan Smith. Tom defeated Björn Borg to win the Stockholm Indoor event in 1973."
     
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  29. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki, You have convinced me. I agree.

    But Gorman reached F.H. SF only once.
     
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  30. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    robow7, Thanks.

    I found the 14 wins in Michel Sutter's book Winners.
     
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  31. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Gorman is pretty underrated do not you agree?
     
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  32. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Yes, I agree but also Ralston (No. 4 in 1967), Riessen and Richey are...
     
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  33. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Yea, but didn't only Cliff get a Wilson Kramer Autograph racquet slapped with his name on it :)
     
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  34. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Riessen and Ralston were pretty big hitters but Dennis was far more talented although Riessen was very corageous on court.same for never say die Richey, who had a very good Fh but I don´t think he had the all round game that Gorman brought to table...
     
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