"Peak-Play GOAT-List for Women"

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by hoodjem, Aug 3, 2014.

  1. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    As the title indicates, this is only about the highest level of each--not total accomplishments over an entire career. "Career sh/lams" do not count here.

    What counts is best level of play in one match. (Thanks Kiki)

    I don't know a great deal here only a modicum, but I'll throw out a few names.
    1. Connolly
    2. Lenglen
    3. Wills Moody
    4. Graf
    5. Court
    6. Navratilova
    7. Marble
    8. Goolagong
    9. Mandlikova
    10. Bueno
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2014
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  2. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    This is one category where you'd best find room for Serena! She may be controversial as a GOAT, but by all accounts her peak play, is second to none.

    My short list here is Serena, Navratilova, Graf, and Lenglen and note that surface is almost irrelevant. When any of these were striking the ball in the zone, people were fortunate to win games.
     
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  3. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Yeah, I´d place Serena Williams and Hana Mandlikova in that list.

    As for Serena, one has to consider the quality of the competition she played against, which was menthally weak.

    But Hana played and beat four of the toughest menthally players of any time: Evert,Navratilova,Austin and Graf.

    To be able to beat those 4 players at slams, and in the case of Martina and Chris several times, is just stunning.Only an extremely talented player can achieve that.
     
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  4. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    why Lottie Dod is never included? she belongs there.
     
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  5. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    For one match I may pick Serena and Hana.
     
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  6. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    A lot of people I know (some of them tennis writers) feel Serena's top level may be higher than any female player in history. Steffi's is tremendous also especially since she had the ability (although) she rarely used it to hit great topspin backhands. I always think about how great her topspin backhand was against Navratilova in the 1988 Wimbledon final.
     
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  7. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    If I knew Hana would play her 110%, there is no other player I´d pick over 4-5 matches on different surfaces.

    I can´t figure out how she could be beaten or by whom.
     
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  8. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    If you look at all Hana's strokes and compare her striking ability with a lot of greats, it's hard to see some of them getting an advantage in any area. She also had great mobility. I may check every category in Hana's favor for her ability to hit winners.

    I just think she had a tendency to play low percentage tennis. I guess in that way she could be compared to Lew Hoad. She's the only player I've seen who could make Navratilova at her peak look helpless.
     
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  9. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Hana had all the shots and some only she hit, much in Goolagong´s way; Evonne was steadier but Mandlikova had a bit more firepower.

    The other female I watched who could break any forecast against her was Bueno; she had everything except good luck with her health.
     
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  10. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I loved Evonne also. I think she was an even more fluid player than Hana. Both had such beautiful backhands. Sometimes I would get the feeling that Evonne could hit a backhand winner in her sleep. Evonne seemed to have more fun playing on the court than any player I've seen.
     
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  11. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Connolly and Court, GS winners.Both had the big D

    Connolly was Deadly, like a constrictor, once she came across to you, she´d never stop until all your tennis bones were crushed

    Court was Dense; like an elephant; she´d just come and come against you with a heavier ball, a higher pace, a change in rythmics, she had that gear that she could use to crush you.
     
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  12. conway

    conway Banned

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    Over a 5 year period it would definitely be Navratilova of 82-86 amongst Open Era players. No other women have maintained that top level tennis for that long. Look at the others:

    Graf- 88-89, 93-early 94, 95-96

    Serena- 2002-2003, mid 2008-mid 2010 (and even this not really as she only performed at the slams, otherwise we might as well add Martina late 81-87), mid 2012-early 2014

    Court- 62-65, 69-70

    Seles- 91-early 93

    Venus- mid 2000-early 2002

    Those who could compare to Navratilova in peak play, none maintained it for 5 years. Most for various 2 or 3 year spans.


    A better question for women would be a 2 or 3 year span. That would be a tougher call between Navratilova 83-84, Graf of both 88-89 and 95-96, and Serena of 2002-2003 and mid 2012-early 2014. A 5 year span is Navratilova in a blowout, atleast amongst modern day players, when it comes to peak play.

    Interestingly I think you could even argue Henin as 2nd best over a 5 year span of peak level play. From 2003-2007 she was always very strong, generally the best player in the world almost all that time, very consistent, and good across all surfaces. Her only weaknesses were being vurnerable to illness and injury, and despite being one of the hardest hitters still being vurnerable to being overpowered by a GOATing bigger women on a given day (or facing someone whose topspin went over her head like Mauresmo). Graf, Court, Seles, Venus, at their best were probably all better and more imposing but none maintained close to their best for a 5 year span. I would say Henin's peak level is probably competitive with Evert who isn't known for an astounding peak level.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2014
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  13. conway

    conway Banned

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    There are others who could reach GOD mode levels but only rarely maintained it for a whole tournament, never mind a whole year or series of years, LOL! People like Mandilikova, Goolagong, Mary Pierce whose power was virtually unplayable on her GOD days.
     
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  14. eldanger25

    eldanger25 Professional

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    What about Evert in the mid-70s? I think she was around 95 w/p or so in the '74-'76, or '75-'77 range, winning two out of every three slams she entered, etc.
     
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  15. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    You could make an argument Court's whole career was her peak considering she won over 92% of her matches lifetime. What is Court's peak period anyway? So many options.

    I do love Henin's game. She had one of the most beautiful one handers I've seen but how are her stats for five years? Never checked.
     
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  16. conway

    conway Banned

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    I don't think peak Evert was ever as amazing or scary as peak Navratilova, peak Graf, peak Serena, maybe even peak Seles. None of her peak year stats are as good as Graf, Navratilova, or Court either. Winning 7 of 12 slams you play (74-77 if that is what you deem Evert's peak) is not as good as winning 8 out of 9 (Graf in 88-89) or 6 in a row (Navratilova 83-84), and her best years ever she still lost atleast 5 matches, while Graf, Navratilova, and Court all have years they lost only 2 matches (Nav. even one she lost only 1). However she maintained an excellent level so consistently over so many years, which is the hallmark of her greatness. In peak play she would never be a choice though. Even on clay peaking Graf or Seles would probably beat Evert more ofter than not. Heck peak Navratilova seemed to have the edge over Evert on clay, killing her in about half the matches and barely losing the other half.
     
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  17. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Very Good list

    Another very brilliant player was Lily Alvarez, but she ended with no majors.
     
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  18. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    hoodjem, I miss Wills Moody who was about as strong as Lenglen.
     
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  19. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    The list is great

    I wonder if peak Gibson and peak Brought wouldn´t have a chance to qualify...Venus peak was almost as good as Serena´s.
     
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  20. eldanger25

    eldanger25 Professional

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    Well, I think there's often a subtle favoring of explosive shotmaking in the "peak" discussion - sort of a good offense beats good defense bias - that may not have turned out to be accurate in this hypothetical world. You gotta respect the streak, as they say - I disagree that you could just drop 1980s Graf or Martina or 1990s Seles into the middle of Evert's mid-70s clay kingdom and assume they'd push her off the court - and certainly not on the basis of an Evert with plenty of tread on the tires fighting peak Martina to a draw on clay in the 1980s. We're talking about a player who went 35-0 in clay court slams from '74-'77.

    Anyway, I suspect these other great players would each win their share of love service games, and solicit plenty of applause across individual points - but would still lose the matches to Evert more often than not on clay.
     
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  21. conway

    conway Banned

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    Clay is the only surface peak Evert would be close to even odds against peak Graf or peak Navratilova though. On any other surface they would win almost every match peak to peak. Evert was not far from her peak level when she was losing 13 matches in a row to Navratilova after all. Serena would beat Evert anywhere but clay regularly peak to peak too. That isn't to say Evert is weaker than those players (I would rank her far above Serena in an all time ranking which is totally different than just a peak play list), but her greatest strength is not her absolute peakiest level play, especialy outside of clay. There is a reason the OP didn't even think to mention Evert, and it wasn't disrespect.

    As for bias to power, probably, but history shows when it comes to peak level play superior power and athleticsm tend to win out anyway. Graf, Navratilova, and Serena are all more powerful and far superior athletes to Evert, even taking into account eras and equipment (Navratilova is same era anyweay). Keeping in mind peak play is players playing as well as they possibly can.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2014
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  22. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    whatever, but Evert´s off court perfs is something Graf,Navratilova and Williams can only dream of...
     
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  23. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    What's this? Seeking the GS of husbands. . . ?
     
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  24. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    ...among others.

    Slam counts don´t tell everything:)
     
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  25. AngieB

    AngieB Hall of Fame

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    No.

    Chris Evert went YEARS without losing on clay. No man or woman was ever more dominant on a single surface in the history of tennis over a ten year period.

    1973-1979 125-0 on clay (only lost 8 sets) before her 1st loss
    1979-1981 64-0 on clay before her 2nd loss
    1973-1981 189-2 on clay (9 years)

    ^^^^^is a record which will likely never be eclipsed in tennis history^^^^

    As great as Navratilova, Graf and Seles were, neither of them dominated a single surface like Chris did. Ever.

    #KeepinItReal #GOATEvertClay

    AngieB
     
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  26. AngieB

    AngieB Hall of Fame

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    1. Connolly
    2. Graf
    3. Wills Moody
    4. Court
    5. Lenglen
    6. Navratilova
    7. Evert
    8. S. Williams
    9. Seles
    10. Marble
     
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  27. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    I agree that Evert just wasn't much of a peak champion, and with most of your assessment of her except the highlighted portion. While Evert was not far from her 'peak' in general, she was miles from it vs Martina when she had those embarrassing losses on clay. Take a look at those matches in their context.

    1983 U.S. Open F L 6-1, 6-3
    1983 Tokyo, Japan F L 6-2, 6-2
    1984 Livingston, NJ F L 6-2, 7-6
    1984 Slims Championships/N.Y. F L 6-3, 7-5, 6-1
    1984 Amelia Island, FL F L 6-2, 6-0
    1984 French Open F L 6-3, 6-1
    1984 Wimbledon F L 7-6, 6-2
    1984 U.S. Open F L 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
    1985 Key Biscayne, FL F W 6-2, 6-4

    Evert had lost the last 9 sets in a row before Amelia Island and RG. Evert had lost those matches before she ever walked on the court. Mentally, she had to hit 'rock bottom' before she even tried to climb out of the abyss. Frankly the clay under her feet, was what defined that rock bottom and it just served the purpose of scraping off her last coat of dignity. The very next match on fast grass showed the beginning of the resurgence of Chris Evert the player in that rivalry. She got to a tiebreaker, then took a set at the Open, then a match in the next three meetings.

    Conway, Evert was no closer to her mental peak in those two clay '84 matches (losses # 10 &11) than a gradeschooler is from his SAT preparation.

    From 1975-1988 Martina was only able to get 3 victories out of 14 meetings on clay. That is the most lobsided disparity as a percentage of any surface they played on. Take out losses #10+ 11 in '84, and you have one solitary loss. Surrounding them, you have some close three setters on clay like the 85' RG and the '87 Houston, and some Evert slaughters, like the Italian or the '88 Houston. That is no different than the pattern of their grass meetings. After Evert broke the spell at Lipton '85, they played 5 clay matches. Martina won 1 of those 5. However far from martina's 'peak' years, she may have been in any one of them , Evert was inevitably further. Didn't matter. Those '84 crushers were the fluke, nothing more.

    I am not saying you are wrong about peak Martina winning on clay, but lets not pretend she was playing anything but a mentally disabled Evert in 1984 Amelia Island or RG. Chris was figuratively shooting up on self doubt before those matches. Rehab is a *****.

    The closest thing Evert and Navratilova had to a match on clay with them both in peak form, IMO, was the '86 RG final. Martina did not slip from her peak form in the first set (6-2), but Evert found hers in the latter stages of the final two (6-3,6-3)
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
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  28. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Evert, like Rosewall, pays for her consistency over almost two decades in a way that is unfair to her and, I think, unfair to tennis as a pro sport.
     
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  29. eldanger25

    eldanger25 Professional

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    Agreed - co-sign. No doubt in my mind peak Evert over peak Martina on clay, irrespective of whether Martina hits 7-8 out of the 10 sexiest shots of the match.
     
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  30. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    But remember Hoodjem did specify that he meant peak level for one match. Maybe for the long term Evert is better but I can see Navratilova better for one single match if both are at peak levels.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvN-xiElUxs
     
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  31. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    The best husband of Majors Champions is Andre Agassi. I heard of a story once about Andre and Jim Courier playing golf a number of years ago. Courier asked how many majors Agassi won and Andre give the answer as 8. I think Andre asked Courier how many he won and he answered 4. They asked Steffi who was tagging along and she answered 22! I think Andre and Jim laughed that Graf had far more than they did combined!
     
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  32. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Husband maybe. But Chrissie holds the record of Majors champions in some other, more unofficial department.
     
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  33. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I can hear Vitas laughing loud in his tomb:)
     
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  34. eldanger25

    eldanger25 Professional

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    I understand it's a single match discussion - I just think peak play includes between the ears just as much as shotmaking.

    So basically we're not even granting mid-70s Evert at her mental peak the clay courts anymore - and what a mental peak it was on the surface, losing 8 sets total across a dozen matches times ten plus five.

    Anyway, what's the backstory to this lone match? Is it in an alternate universe where neither player is aware of how they'd played a week or a month or a year prior, against the field or each other? Do we grab each candidate at her most imperious, ignorant of all the context that got each of them to that plane of confidence?

    Does 80s Martina know she'd finally overcome her great rival on clay in their later years? How does she feel about now having to stare across the net at that same rival undimmed, in earlier times? Would it remind her of earlier losses? What happens if/when the momentum swings for the more momentum-based player like Martina?

    Of course, we all know that Martina never won a clay match against Evert that went the distance, in either decade. 3-0 Evert in 3 setters, two of which took place right smack in the midst of the consensus "peak" Navratilova era - so I assume that those who favor Navratilova on clay in single match "peak" discussions are assuming not merely that Martina would win but that she'd straight set Evert on clay, yes?

    Anyway, back to the vacuum: so is Evert also aware of what was happening in the rivalry in the 80s, or is she blissfully ignorant and just staring out at another target on clay? If she is aware, is 70s Evert immediately dispirited at the task, or emboldened by getting to transport back to her own glory days to face Martina the buzzsaw?

    As a match-up between two fallible, three-dimensional humans - rather than a computer simulation - I wouldn't rule out mind beating matter on mind's favorite surface. Evert in 3.
     
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  35. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Fair enough. :)
     
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  36. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Actually her ex Greg Norman did win two majors but it was in golf. So I suppose Chris Evert may hold the husband of a great female tennis player record for golf majors. By the way, it's not easy to make up a category like this. :)

    Perhaps if we included fiancees than Evert beats out Graf and Agassi for overall career record with Jimmy Connors but the Graf/Agassi duo is still ahead by four majors over Evert/Connors.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
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  37. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Not Borg? Please not Borg.

    (Eeewww! Yuck.)
     
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  38. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Michele Platini or Alain Prost are shivering with fear.

    french, ex sportsmen ( top ones), rich, famous.

    The missing leg of the Grand Slam
     
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  39. eldanger25

    eldanger25 Professional

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    I hope all the creepy double-talk about Evert's sex life doesn't deter anyone from contributing to a very cool thread. After all, I doubt she was the first or last member of the human race to f*ck co-workers, and it's utterly irrelevant either way.

    Anyway, I'm curious to learn more from knowledgeable folks about about Lenglen in this discussion - where would she stand against the heavy hitters of the late 20th century in a single match?
     
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  40. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    she had vast resources and a true champion mind.she would work her way.if Hingis beat so often the two sisters, no reason why Lenglen would not.
     
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  41. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I think she would do quite well. Obviously a smooth mover, I believe she was abaout 5'6" which is probably a little taller than Justine Henin. She was able to handle the great power hitting Helen Wills in their one match together and many do believe that if both were in their primes that Lenglen would win the majority of the matches.

    I think the key would be that her footwork and speed was so good that she'd be in position to handle the power of today's women very well. You have a player like Maria Sharapova who, while a great player is basically a one note player. I think Lenglen would be able to handle that type of play quite well.

    Lenglen's power and spin would be magnified by today's racquets so I doubt if she would be on the defensive most of the time, far from it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HSsH7V3Ml8

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_90PPjyGBgk

    I think Lenglen was sort of posing for the cameras in the second video.

    She probably would make some adjustments for the racquets of today.
     
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  42. eldanger25

    eldanger25 Professional

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    This is interesting stuff - thanks.
     
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  43. eldanger25

    eldanger25 Professional

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    Thanks - what about Lenglen-Graf, surface by surface?
     
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  44. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Eldanger25,

    A sort of contempory of Lenglen, Helen Wills, at 5'9" tall seems very impressive to me. Her forehand is has a loop swing that imparted topspin and was the most feared groundstroke of her day. She had a strong slice serve and a strong backhand which was primarily hit crosscourt.

    http://www.britishpathe.com/video/helen-wills-still-supreme/query/HELEN+wills
     
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  45. eldanger25

    eldanger25 Professional

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    Thanks pc1, I'll take a look - any thoughts on a Lenglen-Graf or Lenglen-Martina matchup? (as difficult as it is to compare of course)
     
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  46. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    That's tough. No doubt that Lenglen was even more dominant than Graf in her day often not even losing games in winning some tournaments. One year she lost only I believe 11 games in winning Wimbledon. I think their may have been a default or two in their however. She didn't lose for years.

    The styles are so different that it's so hard to pick. Clearly Graf played in a much stronger era.

    Lenglen won 8 of 11 majors played or 12 of 16 if you included the World Hardcourt which should be included.

    Graf's backhand was somewhat vulnerable to attack while Lenglen was more solid on both sides. Lenglen was probably the stronger volleyer while Graf was the bigger server.

    Clay-Lenglen
    Grass-Even
    Hardcourt-Graf
     
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  47. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Very tough calling.I think Suzanne would find the opening coming in by approaching to Graf´s weakest shot, the BH ( although she could hit some top spin BH).She would make a lot of drop shots to have Graf at the net, specially on grass, and we all know Graf was not a good volleyer.and she´d mix up paces and effects, playing just down the middle to deprive those angles that Graf used so efficiently.

    Graf had a better serve, of course.That is how I figure Lenglen would play her.

    In other words, this would be the same tactics Ashe used against Connors on grass or Orantes used against Connors on clay...
     
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  48. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    It's so hard to decide. Lenglen never met a serve and volleyer of the level of Navratilova but it's possible that Navratilova never met a player with the ball control of Lenglen. Clearly Lenglen was a far better mover than Chris Evert although Evert's mobility is underrated I believe. So I think Lenglen would be in better position to hit passing shots than Evert. Whether she could do as well with the passing shots as Evert is debatable. Lenglen did approach the net more than Evert so she could force Navratilova perhaps a bit more.

    My gut feeling is that Navratilova would win the majority on grass and hard court due to the serve and volley and her great wide slicing lefty serve. Lenglen would win on clay.

    To be honest in watching Lenglen hit, the styles are so different to today's game and it's so hard to compare.

    One of the commonalities in most great players is movement and certainly Lenglen was a great mover. And she hit the ball early so I think whatever style she would change to, she'd still be a great player.

    It's much easier to compare the men from the 1930's to now. Even Tilden in the 1920's is easier to compare.
     
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  49. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    IMo, the Evert of the 70's hasn't a prayer, because that was wood clay tennis she had mastered which will always lose to a graphite modern and fit Martina. Evert needed a modern mindset, and modern equipment to beat heranywhere. Evert needed to accept those errors and double faults we noted with a critical eye, as a new price to be paid for more winners, bolder tactics and a more potent serve.

    Then she takes the new package, and applies faster legs, a stronger upper body and that tactical and strategic genius she always had. And there you had the combination that beat Martina in 4 of the 5 last matches.

    There you have the result of the 1986 RG final. If someone claims Martina did not bring her 'A' peak game into that match, they are lying. Evert found the right balance of aggression and exploited the chinks she found.
     
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    #49
  50. conway

    conway Banned

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2014
    Messages:
    721
    Fair enough. Maybe Evert did have a mental problem playing Navratilova, especialy at that point, and underperformed vs her. However I was just thinking of her play in general, as I don't follow the Navratilova-Evert rivalry with such furor to speak only on their specific matches. Evert in general was very subpar in 1983, but was quite good in 82, 84, and 85 and that long losing streak to Martina stretched from late 82 to sometime in mid 85.
     
    #50

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