Lenglen or Wills Moody, how would they have fared vs the other in their primes?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by anointedone, Jul 19, 2007.

  1. anointedone

    anointedone Banned

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    Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills Moody were the first 2 truly dominant Champions of womens tennis. Suzanne Lenglen lost only a single match from 1919 to 1926, and it was a default while trailing Molla Mollarey 2-6, 0-30 in a second round match of the U.S Open. Helen Wills only lost a single match from 1927 to 1933, a final round retirement while trailing 0-3 in the final set to longtime rival Helen Jacobs. They played each other in one match, in Cannes in 1926 with Lenglen winning 6-3, 8-6.

    From what I am aware of Wills Moody was the one who introduced the power game, hitting with devasting pace, depth, and precision off both forehand and backhand, as well as serving hard for the time. Lenglen had the beautiful all court court, and was an extremely fluid and graceful player.
     
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  2. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Very difficult to answer. As in the case of Tilden and Budge, Wills was prehaps the better player, but Lenglen the greater figure. Wills gave Lenglen a tough fight in their only meeting, and one could assume, that a more experienced Wills in the early 30s would have beaten an older Lenglen. Wills however had great respect for Lenglen, and rated her the greatest women player. Wills was a bit like Evert, a handsome, but cool personality with a mechanical, but highly effective baseline game. Lenglen was ugly, but charming, and played a wonderful balletic offensive style. Like Martina Nav she was nervous, often feeling ill, and needed inspiration (and a bit brandy) to get into form. Interestingly, in many eyes, neither Lenglen nor Wills had the best game before WW II, but Alice Marble. She perfected the offensive style of Lenglen, was more robust and athletic. Her career was cut short due to severe illnesses (tuberculosis) and the war, where she became a spy.
     
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  3. Morpheus

    Morpheus Professional

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    From 1919 through 1938, Wills Moody had a 398-35 (0.919) match record, including a 158-match winning streak (1927-1932), during which she did not lose a set.

    I find this to be a remarkable feat -- 158 matches without dropping a set! (not to mention 31 grand slam titles)
     
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  4. The Gorilla

    The Gorilla Banned

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    How old are you urban?
     
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  5. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    One-hundred and five.
     
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  6. chaognosis

    chaognosis Semi-Pro

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    The most thoughtful discussion that I know on this topic is in Al Laney's book Covering the Court. He believed that under normal conditions, Lenglen would have been able to beat Wills more easily in their sole meeting; he also hypothesized that if had they played later that same year, Lenglen would have won again, though less easily. Ultimately Laney thought that in an extended series of matches, Wills would have eventually overtaken Lenglen -- but only because Lenglen had already reached the beginning of her decline. In Laney's opinion (and the opinion of most critics, I might add), Lenglen at her peak was superior to Wills. Indeed, like Tilden, for many decades Lenglen was very widely considered the greatest player ever. Both Gene Scott and Gianni Clerici, as late as the mid-1970s, rated Lenglen above every other female player.
     
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  7. CEvertFan

    CEvertFan Hall of Fame

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    There's also a very interesting book called "The Goddess and the American Girl" by Larry Engleman which goes into great detail about the one and only time they played one another in Cannes, France in 1926. I've read it and it's well worth the read. I wish they had filmed it so we could have watched two masters at work.
     
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  8. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    If the films I've seen of Lenglen are any indication, you'd have to be very very generous with the speculation to think Lenglen could compete with the women of the past 30 years. Like assume she would have totally different mechanics, be stronger, fitter, faster, etc. Basically be a completely different player. And then, yeah, this Suzanne Lenglen from an alternate universe could compete.
     
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  9. anointedone

    anointedone Banned

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    If she were born today dont you think she would have been that different though?
     
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  10. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    That's my point. Especially for somebody who played in the 20's or whenever, you're basically talking about a completely hypothetical player. Might as well talk about how great Roddick would be with Djokovic's backhand and Edberg's volleys.
     
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  11. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    I read on another board in a friendly post, that Chaognosis, me and some others on this board here were ' a bit romantic biased' towards the past. Maybe. But one thing is certain: Never was a tennis player - male or female - more adored than Lenglen. Many books were written on her: The first by the French poet Claude Anet, who called her 'divine' like Garbo. Even plays and ballets were devoted to her (she based her style on the pattern of ballet). Just in the last 2-3 years at least 3 new books were edited on her, by Clerici, Engleman (as mentioned above) and this year by Allan Little, the historian of the All England Club.
     
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  12. CEvertFan

    CEvertFan Hall of Fame

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    From what I've read, Lenglen's natural talent was amazing. Her father would place handkerchiefs around the court and she would have to hit each one over and over during her practices which honed her pinpoint accuracy to an unprecedented degree. She was a player who had ALL the shots and had the mind to go along with them, which is why she dominated. Ted Tinling said that Lenglen played tennis like a chess master.

    Helen Wills was no push over though and during the match Lenglen at one point thought that she might lose but managed to keep it together with the additional help of some iced cognac to calm her nerves and closed out the match. Wills was nervous in the 1st set and lost it 6-3, but made Lenglen work extremely hard for the 2nd set.


    I think that with modern rackets and a modern training regime that either woman would do quite well today and would most likely dominate the modern game although probably not quite to the same extent that they did in their own era.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2007
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  13. superstition

    superstition Hall of Fame

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    This works both ways. People who dominated the game in recent years may not have fared well in those days. The idea that contemporary tennis players are better in every respect is fallacious, I think. Navratilova, for instance, vollied better than any female pro of today.
     
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  14. Dedans Penthouse

    Dedans Penthouse Hall of Fame

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    Agree, Martina's a cut above today's wta pros at net. And you can include Pam Shriver and Jana Novatna among others. "Today's" diminutive "journeyman" pro, Lisa Raymond is probably better than 90% of 'today's wta guns' at net as well.

    As for "real-old-school" i.e. Suzanne Lenglen:
    maybe her pictures suggest that she was a jumping-bean "ham" (i.e. needlessly showing off) in terms of style, but check THIS picture out--and a picture says a thousand words. And THIS picture clearly tells me that aside from stroking style and aside from whatever physical fitness levels might've been the 'norm' at the time, Suzanne "Le Grand Beak" Lenglen had some serious 'physical' skills. In this picture (link below), if nothing else, please note the following when viewing:

    1. the absolute perfect (georgeous) balance of Lenglen (this was at Wimbledon)

    2. the absolutely perfect "up" racquet head position while volleying

    3. a perfect example of possessing "physical gifts;" Suzanne Lenglen had some serious "ups" for a white chick.

    Please check this out (click on below--and MAXIMIZE your browser):

    http://tennis.quickfound.net/training/suzanne_lenglen.html

    I've seen this "picture in its entirety" that is, this picture is actually a frame from a digitized (rare) films of hers that you can view at the French Open Museum at Roland Garros. I was able to see this "frame" that is, this "film" that showed Suzanne closing in, leaping and then crunching one of the most "fly" backhand volleys you'd ever want to lay your eyes on. And in viewing that film, I came to realize that while 'styles' may come and go from one period to another, the greatness of a player (however relative) is still timeless. And in Lenglen's case, yes, she was a true great--then and now.

    Long live the anteater!
     
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  15. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Nice picture. And it's actually a real match. Some films i have seen are instructional films, where Lenglen displayed the balletic foundations of her game. It requires real athletic powers, to jump like that, and enormous technical skill, to execute the proper shot.
     
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