Rod Laver´s game

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by kiki, Sep 15, 2013.

  1. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    If the word " complete all round player" can be applied to somebody is, no doubt to Rodney George Laver.

    My recolection of watching him live is:

    Serve: a very good serve, not the best of his time, but enough to set up the game, either from the baseline or from the net ( and those kind of players love to volley so the cannonball ace they don´t care of).American twist, slice, flat out; deep and angled and many option to choose from

    Volley: almost perfect, specially because his reflexes, net sense and killing instinct combined perfectly.maybe Roche or Mac´s volleys were technically a bit better but Laver´s were deadly.great strategic use of the deep angled first volley.

    Lob: one of the best.Old pros used it so much and developed to its utmost stages.
    Overhead: great vertical lap, coordination and strength of arm and wrist.hewas short but his ferocity and precision made up for it.Demolishing stroke, he could also play a long, angled and span OH to save time to place himself when a very good defensive lob had pulled him out of position

    BH: One of the best of all time...and possibly the most complete ever.His slice was perfect, his top spin resulted in lethal passings or approach shots that placed the other player beyond the baseline.His flat shot, specially on the return was unbelievable

    FH: very strong and solid shot, he used an envolving spin that his wrist ( the strongest wrist ever in the game) allowed him to.

    Untangibles:

    Great stamina, the best reflexes the tennis game has ever known, massive wrist and great natural athleticism.

    One of the fastest players ever, with an amazing ability to change directions.Undeniably, the greatest reflexes of all time, and I have seen some of the greatest all time players.

    Mental: a tigger, a natural winner and the man that played the best tennis when under pressure.Nobody else, bar maybe Hoad, did it so well.OTOh, he was a very inteligent player, very mature, had a sixth sense and a great tactcal sense.

    I hope that my recolection helps other posters, specially those that were not lucky to see him live, describe what is the game of the greatest tennis player that lived
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013
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  2. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki, fine analysis of the Rocket's game.
     
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  3. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Ver nice analysis. Yes absolutely, a very complete game.

    Some of your typos are humorous: I think Laver was mentally stronger than Tigger.


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2013
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  4. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    I find, that Laver's serve in his prime often is a bit underrated. Sure, he lost a bit of bite since 1970, and he was prone to double faults then, because it was quite risky, and he could lose focus and rhythm on it. But in his prime, he could give it a real nudge, and could hit real crackers down the line. Going by my recollection of his 1967-1969 matches i have seen, he almost always outaced his opponents like Newcombe, Ashe, Smith, Roche, who were regarded as the biggest servers at the time. Maybe the lefty serves of the taller Fraser and McEnroe (here i go by his prime 1981-1984, not the period thereafter, when it slowed down considerably) had even more spin and bite, but Laver's bread and butter serve far out to the ad court, was difficult to handle, too.
    Adding to the style, i would add one aspect: Laver was one of first, if not the first, who could hit winners consistently on the dead run, from both flanks. His fast legs gave him great court space to cover, and his big wrist enabled him to flick winners from the arm only, when hitting from extreme positions and stretches, often under the nose of the spectators, and passing opponents with heavily angled shots.
     
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  5. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Yes..but not than Winnie Pooh specially with honey around:cry:
     
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  6. Phoenix1983

    Phoenix1983 Hall of Fame

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    Interesting analysis, thanks.
     
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  7. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    you welcome.

    Of course, Laver had bad days too.And when he did, he was playing like he cared absolutely nothing about it.
     
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  8. magnut

    magnut Hall of Fame

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    Laver is the goat IMO if the is one. Those who don't see it have never taken the time to study his career and game. He could do everything and was very strong mentally. He pretty much had everything and was an incredible specimen of an athlete. Not bad for a little runt farm boy that grew up in the outback.
     
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  9. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Suffices to say that, while I am not sure that Laver was the best of all the great players that I have been lucky to watch, he certainly is the one that impressed me the most.
     
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  10. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Which tournament did Laver win every single round in 1970 or 1971?

    I think it was a round robin with something like 9 rounds, where he didn't have to win every one, but he did.

    Dunlop something?
     
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  11. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Dunlop Challenge back in 1970 at Sidney.beat 7 - top - players in a row although the tournament was fractioned, if memory serves well.
     
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  12. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki and hoodjem, I think you mean the 1971 Tennis Classic where Laver won all thirteen matches, one of his biggest achievements.
     
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  13. josofo

    josofo Semi-Pro

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    #13
  14. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    YEP, THAT'S THE ONE:

    1971 Tennis Champions Classic matches are as follows:

    1/2 New York Laver d Rosewall
    1/10 Rochester Laver d Newcombe
    1/13 Boston Laver d Roche
    1/17 Philadelphia Laver d Emerson
    1/21 New York Laver d Ashe
    1/23 Detroit Laver d Okker
    1/28 New York Laver d Ashe
    2/4 Los Angeles Laver d Taylor
    2/6 New York Laver d Okker
    2/17 New York Laver d Ralston
    2/19 New Haven Laver d Emerson

    3/18 New York SF Laver d Ralston
    New York SF Okker d Emerson

    3/19 New York F Laver d Okker
     
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  15. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Was it a WCT super event?
     
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  16. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    two things set him apart:

    His bold switch of tactics; he never feared playing the most under % shots.

    And that said, he also put the most pressure to his foe when he was feeling most pressured.If you can get what I mean, this is extremely difficult to achieve at such level of competition.
     
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  17. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Not only did Laver win the Grand Slam in 1962, he also won the Italian and German Championships on clay that year also.

    Would that be the "old world quad": Italian, French, Wimbledon, German Championships.

    A Grand Sextet?
     
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  18. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Laver won arguably the six more important tournaments that year in the amateurs. Possibly the greatest year of all time in the amateurs.
     
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  19. magnut

    magnut Hall of Fame

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    Rod laver is simply the greatest and most complete player to ever hold a racquet. A good description of his game to those who are young or have never studied his game is that he is sort of a sampras/rafter hybrid. he had rafter like athletic ability, intensity, volleys, and serve while sampras like mental stability and groundtrokes.

    as far as is serve goes he is right up there. not the hardest server but he had complete control over spin and placement to set up the rest of his game.

    Rods game is technically perfect. there is no wasted energy and he had a mastery over both power and feel. his grip was continental on every shot. He used a standard size heavy racquet. he did not use poly. anyone who thinks you cannot use continental grips for every shot or need light, stiff, oversize, filled with plastic string need only to watch laver. Pure fundamentals, athleticism, intense competitor, hard worker, and excellent sportsman.....whats not to like? players should look to the excellence of the rocket if they are looking for a game to copy.

    rod had little to no ego and in my view is the greatest figurehead (edberg is another) we have ever had for professional tennis. although Edberg was quite excellent as well. Rods post match interviews were very analytical and genuine. i wish he would commentate.

    Anyways, thats my opinion of the Rocketman.
     
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  20. harryz

    harryz Semi-Pro

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    Maybe or maybe not:)

    ------------------

    Read Moose Malloy's thread from 2006 on one Richard "Pancho" Gonzales. In his prime, Gonzales was unbeatable for a very long stretch of years and even well into his mid 30s (1964) he had a clear winning record against Laver, who was six years younger and in his prime. Gonzales had a bigger serve and forehand, great antipation and smarts, and an indominatable will. According to the article quoted by Malloy, Jack Kramer thought that Gonzales was clearly the greater of the two. Not to be so contrary, as both are clearly in the pantheon, in any case, and both among the very greatest of all.

    Harry
     
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  21. magnut

    magnut Hall of Fame

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    no doubt Pancho is one of the all time greats. he is extremly underated. I dont take Kramers word on this one though. Laver was a better athletically and had greater balance IMO.
     
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  22. BobbyOne

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    pc1, Yes, he won 22 tournaments. A fantastic feat.
     
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  23. BobbyOne

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    magnut, Most of what you write belongs also to Ken Rosewall.

    But I contradict: Rod had a great ego. As every great person he knew about his greatness and was proud of it. But he is yet a humble man.
     
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  24. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    That is very well said, I firmly concur with your post.

    I still recall my first impression on his autobiography, delivered in 1971.He talked about, even the most humble peer in an enhancing way.Never a bad word although it was clear how difficult it was for him and Gonzales to have a friendship; but Gonzales was the alfa wolf seeing a younger alpha wolf taking away the food from him...
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
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  25. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    If, however, I had to choose a single event--that sports clincher of the "most thrilling" event--I wouldn't be far to select the night I watch Rod Laver beat Ken Rosewall for one of the early WCT barnstorming championships. I think the scores were something like 6-2, 6-3, but the match was magnificent. Laver may or may not have been the best ever, but he was superb that night, because Rosewall demanded it of him. The difference in games, the straight-set victory, was no indication of the match. Rosewall hit fantastic shots, but Laver reached them and sent them back for winners. To me, that was the essence of tennis. Laver might have won any of a score of ways, even 7-5, 7-5 and not have been permitted to display the dimensions of his court genius. It was Rosewall's spectacular performance which forced Laver's greatness. A victory without context is a mere scoreboard digit. But that night hooked me on tennis as a sport worthy of inclusion with all the others of more machismo images.

    from The Tennis Bubble
    by Rich Koster
     
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  26. Le Master

    Le Master Semi-Pro

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    Please post links to video clips of Laver to showcase what you've described.
     
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  27. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Here's a few clips of Laver playing Tony Roche in 1969 in the final of the US Open which Laver won to complete the Grand Slam. Note the court conditions were awful. Very bad bounces (if there were bounces at all) and the court was very slippery. Amazing play in my opinion considering the conditions.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvpckZmLaEc
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f60jJTbEps

    Here's Rod Laver against Jimmy Connors in 1975. Laver was 36 to turn 37 that year. Connors was at his peak having won three majors in 1974. Laver's clearly far weaker than 1969. Imo the forehand was far weaker, mobility was less and volley was weaker. His overhead was far weaker also due to some back problems and I suppose just plain aging.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SptdffCeVmM

    Here's Laver against Ashe at Wimbledon in 1969. Ashe was in the zone early in the match hitting winners all over.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43csIDKmkMk
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2014
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  28. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Laver was even a few months older when he played a memorable WCT Dallas semifinal, losing to Borg in five sets.

    In his book, Borg ,at some point accounted, that match as the best indoor match he ever played.His second favourite one, was the 1979 Masters RR match against Connors.
     
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  29. jackcrawford

    jackcrawford Professional

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    Laver, despite being well past his prime, gave a very good showing once he got into the match. Too bad the complete match isn't available, (at least to my knowledge it isn't.) Connors at this time was timing the ball so well and hitting fierce shots with just a little slice or top.
     
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  30. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Here's a clip from that match.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZUDv15wfZw
     
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  31. comeback

    comeback Professional

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    Wow What a match!

    I saw Laver play Borg at the 1975 US OPEN rd 16 on Har Tru. Borg won 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.. But Laver at 37 played great against the 2nd greatest clay courter of all time..To add the the great descriptions already written here..Laver had SWAGGER. He stalked around the court with his left arm/racket hanging without support. He went for his shots like the champion he was. NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER WHATEVER SURFACE
    I think his backhand side of slice, topspin, dropshot, volley, backhand overhead was better than his arsenal on the forehand side.
     
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  32. Gary Duane

    Gary Duane Hall of Fame

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    Did anyone correct that? There was 10 years difference, not 6. 1928 and 1938, I think...

    He was 6 years older than Rosewall, probably more like 6 and 1/2 years.
     
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  33. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Gonzalez is one of the few players imo with a legit claim to being the GOAT. He was as Gary said above six years older than Rosewall and about ten years older than Laver. Despite that he had a plus record against Rosewall (who faced him toward the end of his prime and mostly past his prime) and a 21 and 38 record against Laver if memory serves.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2014
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  34. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Truly great tennis exhibition, thanks PC1

    I can´t still understand why the 79 Masters macth is not available up to this day
     
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  35. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I recall Newcombe, the archtype of match winner saying in an interview that Laver was never more dangerous than when facing a set point or match point.He could play the boldest, under percentage combination of shots.He was the pressed man yet the way he put pressure in the opponents ( and I am talking about some of the best ever players¡¡¡) looks like it was him who had that sp or mp¡¡¡

    The way he simply managed that and the brilliance of the shot combination that came at those moments, just plainly and simply place him in a different scale than any other player who lived ( the only one close enough was Borg).

    Over a series of 20 matches, I can´t even start to imagine which tennis player over the last 150 years would have the slightest possibility to take more than 10 ( if we talk about peak Laver of course)
     
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  36. Tennisknowledge99

    Tennisknowledge99 Banned

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    Most complete player of all time. He has every shots in tennis book. He could use a lot of tactics and change to different playing styles in one match. Laver was an artist on the court because of his smoothness and shot-making artistry.
     
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  37. pc1

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    At his peak I think only a few (and I'm only talking about retired players here) could stay with Laver if they played on all surfaces over let's say 100 matches. I think these players would be Gonzalez, Kramer, Vines and Borg. Sampras would be able to stay with Laver on the medium and fast surfaces but on red clay and har tru he would be at a disadvantage imo.
     
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  38. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    Not Tilden?
     
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  39. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I don´t think Gonzo or Kramer would stay with him on slow clay or hard.

    Hoad is the only player I can think of having a chance to beat Laver on the rocket´s best day...but not certainly consistnet enough to dominate him long term.
     
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  40. Coolio

    Coolio Semi-Pro

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    Probably as good an athlete as your average Futures journeyman now.
     
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  41. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    (Well put.)

    And because he had no weak shots--nothing he would try to avoid or run around.
     
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  42. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Tilden too.
     
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  43. pc1

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    It's not only that Laver have no weak shots, Laver had explosive weapons in so many of his strokes. On the groundies he could hurt you on the backhand and the forehand. He had as Urban pointed out, a very underrated serve and the fact he was a lefty helped as. His volleys were very powerful and consistent. Some players may not have weaknesses but they don't have weapons to hurt the opponent either. John Newcombe for example was a great player but he couldn't hurt you with his backhand unlike some players like Laver, Borg, Ashe, Rosewall or Connors.

    And the balanced groundies allowed him to played it straight instead of running away as many do to hit a forehand which often leaves you vulnerable on one side.

    He also was very fast on the court. Arthur Ashe believed that Laver was the second fastest player he had seen next to Borg.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
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  44. DMP

    DMP Semi-Pro

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    Not sure about all time, because I haven't seen every player who ever lived, or read in fine detail about every player who ever lived, but yes, he was very balanced in virtually every aspect of the game.

    Which got me thinking about the difference between Laver and Djokovic.

    Because Djokovic is very balanced in the requirements for the modern game (where volleying and overheads are not as important). It is hard to pinpoint a weakness on either side, certainly defensively. But Djokovic isn't going the be the player Laver was unless something dramatic happens.

    It seems to me the reason lies in two big areas - the serve, and being aggressive. Djokovic's serve, while good, isn't relatively as good as Laver's was. But the biggest difference is the mental aggressiveness. Laver was a go-for-it player, in that respect more like Federer.

    So maybe the difference is that while Djokovic may possess the weapons on both sides, unlike Laver he isn't prepared to go for it. Laver was.
     
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  45. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Kiki,

    Gonzalez and Kramer, were excellent clay court players and hard court players. Kramer grew up on hard courts as did Gonzalez. Gonzalez won many clay court tournaments in the pros.

    Gonzalez was 36 when he first started playing Laver in 1964, the year Laver was arguably number one. Gonzalez came out of retirement and defeated Rocket in two of their first three meetings on clay spanning from 1964 to 1966. Laver eventually won the last two meetings on clay in 1968 when Gonzalez was 40. The first was in the semi of the 1968 French Open in which Gonzalez defeated the defending champion Roy Emerson in five sets in the previous round! The second was in the French Pro.

    On a hard court, while Laver would be very strong, Gonzalez, with his awesome serve would be extremely tough also. Gonzalez in 1970 defeated Laver at the 1970 Howard Hughes in the final on hard court in four sets. Here's a movie about Pancho Gonzalez in 1969 also winning the Howard Hughes, which incidentally was one of the huge money tournaments of the time with strong field. Gonzalez defeated Newcombe, Rosewall and Ashe to win the tournament.

    Here's Pancho defeating Newcombe
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=7wo9v33t6xI#t=1560

    Pancho defeating Rosewall
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=7wo9v33t6xI#t=1849

    Pancho defeating Ashe in the final
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=7wo9v33t6xI#t=2718

    This is by a guy who is 41 and WAY pass his prime. By the time the Howard Hughes was on hard courts. Gonzalez's game, with the big serve and volley, super movement, seems ideal for hard court, indoors and grass.

    Laver was perhaps the greatest player I've seen but Gonzalez could hang with anyone on grass, hard courts and slow courts. By slow courts I mean clay. Gonzalez won many great clay court tournaments in his career including the National Clay Courts twice as an amateur. The first time he won it he defeated Frank Parker, the French Champion in the final. He won the important Geneva Gold Cup in straights sets over peak Rosewall by 8-6 6-0. Gonzalez didn't mind the long rallies on clay. While I don't think his groundies were on the level of Laver I believe peak Gonzalez would be very competitive with peak Laver on clay. As Arthur Ashe wrote, Gonzalez would be in every match because of his great serve, possibly the best of all time.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
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  46. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Excellent points. I also think Laver can finish off rallies with his great volley better than Djokovic who has a good volley but not on Laver's level imo.
     
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  47. DMP

    DMP Semi-Pro

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    Laver was a much better volleyer. All the top players were because they had to be in those days. But volleying isn't as important in the modern game. The important thing was that Laver was prepared to be aggressive in whatever terms were open to him, which meant net approaches, or passing shots. For Djokovic the equivalent now would be a risky winner - but he doesn't take the risk. Laver was prepared to.
     
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  48. ARFED

    ARFED Semi-Pro

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    While i consider Laver as the most likely GOAT in my book (the other candidates being Gonzalez and Federer), we have to be careful with the hyperbole around Ròd`s game. Stating that no matter what the other player brings to the table, Laver would always come out on top is quite ridiculous if you ask me. The context of the match (or a series of matches) is essential to this topic. The technology available, the surfaces, etc.

    Given a peak Laver version (1967 seems to be the consensus among experts), i could name a few players from my days of watching tennis that could deafeat him. Provided we have modern conditions and Laver being adjusted to those conditions, i just can`t see how he triumphs over a 1989 Davis Cup version of Becker on an indoor fast court. Becker would blast him off the court. The same with Sampras 1999 version at Wimby. As powerful game as Laver could posses, indeed very powerful, those players were on a level of their own when they were hot. Yes he could hang with them for a while, just like Federer, but the match would never be on his racquet, no matter his amazing shotmaking ability. A 2011 version of Djokovic would drive him mad on a slow hard court (possibly on clay as well), his shots would keep coming back with interest, just ask Federer. And a 2008 version of Nadal would grind him dead on RG (the only past player i could see hanging with that Rafa version is Borg)

    The only mythical version of a modern player (modern meaning the last 25 years) i could very well see Laver defeating, is USO 2004 Fed. Funny because whenever someone talks about peak Hoad (around 58 or 59), the player i think of is that version of Fed. But the match up between Fed and Laver would be quite even, even in favour of Rod because of his leftiness.
     
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  49. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Laver lived on risk taking

    pdj knows very well his Laver and I concur with him.

    The things I have seen Laver do on court with his back on the wall, well, it is absolutely awesome.You can never compare Laver to Djokovic; completely different type of player.Apples and Oranges.

    As for Gonzales, yeah, his serve and mental fortitude would be very tough to manage for any player who lived.He is an all time great with, posibly, the best S&V combo seen ( not the best volleyer but his serve was top class and his net game , enhanced by his feline reflexes and reach, deadly most of time)

    Kramer, I wouldn´t know.He dominated a weak amateur field and, while he was the best pro for some years, he was never as dominating as Gonzo or Rocket.

    As I mentioned earlier on ( and Pancho words seem to confirm it), the only possible player who could aspire to beat Laver on Rod´s best day is Hoad.Problem for Lew is, I don´t think he was focused or consistent enough to keep it for a long series of matches; like 20 - 25 matches.

    Laver himself considered Hoad his role model, and he considered him the best player he ever saw.A least, before he met Bjorn Borg.
     
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  50. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Any all time great, and Sampras,Borg,Connors,Mac,Becker,Federer and Nadal are can certainly beat any other all time great, provided the right conditions and match up.It also depends on some intangibles that only those guys know when they face each other.

    But I am positively sure, that over, AND THAT IS WHAT I CLEARLY STATED, say 25 matches on 4 surfaces, that is 100 matches, Laver would never lose to anybody more than 49 times out of 100 all surfaces mixed up.He was simply too good for Nadal on grass and carpet, too good for Becker on hard and clay and for Djokovic on grass and carpet ( real fast Supreme carpet, there is no carpet now) and for Sampras on clay, too good, too many times, too many different surfaces.Too bad a match up too many times , too many surfaces.Simply, not possible.

    One question, how many times did you watch Laver live, and how many did you watch those other players?
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
    #50

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