Tall/big players of the past

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by dominikk1985, Nov 29, 2013.

  1. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    People in the current player forum always say that the pre 1970 players all were midgets that could not compete today just because they lack size.

    however there were some quite tall guys too:

    vines 6"2 (1.89)
    kramer 6"2 (1.88 )
    budge 6"1 (1.85)
    Tilden 6"2 (1.88 )
    Gonazelez 6"3 (1.91)

    those guys are the same height as djokovic and federer.

    Do you know more notable tall guys (6"1 and above) of the past (say guys that have their prime till about early 70s)?
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2013
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  2. Mainad

    Mainad G.O.A.T.

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    Fred Perry was a pretty tall guy too. I don't have his statistics but I'm pretty sure he was over 6ft/1.82.
     
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  3. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    I"m not much of a historian.
    StanSmith was 6'4".
    BrianGottfried 6'2".
    ColinDibley was reputed to be 6'3", but he slouched always and had arms longer than an apes.
    VictorAmaya was 6'6" lefty.
     
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  4. DMP

    DMP Semi-Pro

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    Orlando Sirola. Stan Smith. Peter Fleming, of corse.

    There have always been really tall players, but Smith is the exception in making it to the very top. I'll think about other names, but none come to mind. Edit: ^^^Amaya.

    I think it proves, even today that the ideal height for a player is around 1.80-1.82 (6 foot-ish). That is because the court dimensions haven't changed. Big guys win on serving and power, small guys react quicker, accelerate faster, and have less weight to carry in marathon matches (less important now that they have breaks when chaging over).

    On the women's side Karen Krantzcke was pretty tall, but I can't find her height listed anywhere. Davenport of course.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2013
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  5. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Fleming was in the early '80's, I think, so doesn't qualify.
    Amaya went 3 rounds in the TransAmerica tourney in SanFrancisco, but wasn't a top level player at the time.
     
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  6. YaoPau

    YaoPau Rookie

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    Bigger picture, the "players of the past could not compete today" argument pretty lame-o anyway.

    Give today's players wooden racquets and have them play on wood/canvas courts 100 times a year and let's see how great Nadal looks. Doesn't make Nadal any less great.

    Doesn't matter that Rosewall and Laver were 5'7", they crushed the world in their times and that's all you can do.
     
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  7. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    Nice list. Gonzales, vines, perry, tilden, budge,
    Wow, Jack Kramer was 6'2"!? He must have been slouching when i shook hands with him in the late 80s...looked more like 5'11". Age.

    Now barry macKay was tall. At least 6'3". Huge paws on the bear.
    Chuck and bob mckinley seemed tallish for the sixties. Eugene scott was certainly over six feet. Fiery fred stolle and drysdale are tall, and Ron holmberg and nikki pilic are over six, too.
    Ilie nastase was 6 even. Hit like a tall guy but moved like a little guy. Big hands, too.
    Ashe was about 6'1". Rochey and newk were about 6 even, right? Sherwood stewart was a tall man.
    Wondering about ashley cooper and adrian quist - the great davis cup dubsmen.
    Also wondering about Frank Sedgeman, ken macgregor, frank parker.
    Trabert and seixas were about 6ft, too.

    But as for freakishly tall guys, Amaya was the tallest i remember. Then i saw peter fleming at a tournament in nj once, and i thought he was some sort of stork/human/giraffe hybrid. Six4, hmm. Stan smith-like! What a serve, man.

    Then fleming's height became more commonplace as the really tall guys came on, like richard krajicek, magnus larsson, michiel schapers, todd martin and marc rosset. So 6ft 3 or 4 became just kind of on the normal side of tall....andres gomez, goran, safin, kafelnikov, boris, slobodan zivojinovic, stich, et al....too many to mention.

    Once i met rafter and sergi bruguera. Both at least 6ft1, maybe 6'2"....but on tv next to the goran, boris, krajicek types, they seemed short!

    Lew hoad was regarded as the perfect body type for this game. Sort of the pete or roger of his time. I guess now, that ideal dimension is that of djokr or rafa or muzzer.

    Edit: years ago, if a guy was tall, you just figured he moved like a sequoia. Now, jerzy and delpo are actually really good movers. You can tell delpo must have worked really hard all his life on flexibility and explosiveness. Impressive guy.
     
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  8. DMP

    DMP Semi-Pro

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    I've gone back and arbitrarily looked at the Wimbedon draw for the mid-60s, 1965, and compared it with the draw for 2013. I clearly remember the names from 1965, so I trawled through the draw and got a few names I remembered.

    So...top 8 seeds

    1965

    1. Emerson (with that helicopter blade serving action) 1.88m 6'0"
    2. Stolle (my Mum liked his legs!) 1.91m 6'3"
    3. Lunquvist (he of the bandy legs) 1.91m 6'3"
    4. Ralston (all-American crewcut) 1.88m 6'2"
    5. Bungert (ramrod straight back) 1.88m 6'2"
    6. Newcombe 1.83m 6'0"
    7. Roche 1.77m 5'10"
    8. Osuna (fondly remembered, with Palafox) no height data, but a photo indicates he was twice the height of the net 1.82m 6'0"

    Average for the top 7 = 1.86m 6'1.5"
    Aberage for the top 8 - 1.86m 6'1.5"

    Also in the field

    Froehling 1.92m 6'3"
    Graebner 1.88m 6'2"
    Drysdale 1.89m 6.2"

    2013

    1. Djokovic 1.88m 6'2"
    2. Murray 1.90m 6'3"
    3. Federer 1.85m 6'1"
    4. Ferrer 1.75m 5'9"
    5. Nadal 1.85m 6'1"
    6. Tsonga 1.88m 6'2"
    7. Berdych 1.96m 6'5"
    8. Del Potro 1.98m 6'6"

    Average height top 7 seeds = 1.87m 6'1.5"
    Average height top 8 seeds = 1.88m 6'2.5"

    The heightists are going to have to work hard to explain the lack of major difference over 50 years! And is 2013 weaker because you have a puny Ferrer (same height as Laver when he was in his prime) ranked at #4?

    Plus ca change again...
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2013
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  9. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    I forgot stan smith of course. he was 6"4 (1.93). von Cramm was also quite tall for a pre WW2 player at 6"0 (1.83).
     
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  10. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    No, no.

    Haven't you heard: tall tennis players were not invented until the 1990s.
     
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  11. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    kiki don't you have a few more tall players for us?:D
     
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  12. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Is it also a myth among the women?
     
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  13. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    Before the davenpovawilliams hegemony....there were
    Betty stove, pam shriver, brenda schultz, claudia khode kilsch, jo durie, helena sukova.
     
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  14. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Bob Falkenburg, Gardnar Mulloy, Judy Tegart, Karen Krantzke, Dick Savitt, Ken McGregor, this South African mate of Gordon Gorbes, Frank Froehling, Andres Gimeno, Alex Olmedo, Orlando Sirola, Lennart Bergelin, Ove Bengtson, Chip Hooper, Dick Crealy, Zednik, Bill Bowrey, John Alexander, Phil Dent, Yvon Petra.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
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  15. CyBorg

    CyBorg Legend

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    Victor Amaya comes to mind - big server and huge at 6'7.
     
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  16. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Gimeno was taller than me and I am barely 6,1.I´d say he was 6,3 or so.
    Panatta, Lendl,Sirola,Alexander,Falkenbourg and , of course, all those that have been already mentioned.

    willing to help
     
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  17. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Abe Segal? I mean Forbes mate.

    Tomas Smid from Czechkolovakia too.

    Good one on Hooper; he was just a pubic hair short of becoming a basketball professional but he gave tennis a chance.Nice guy, one of the great surprises of that wonderful 1982 season.and what a big big serve¡¡¡
     
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  18. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Yah¡¡ Vic Amaya came from Indian roots ( I mean native american roots)...what clan did his ancestros belong to?

    Hank Pfister, his doubles mate was also a big fella.
     
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  19. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Exactly, Abe Segal was Forbes' mate. He wrote a book recently. Les Stoefen, Kurt Nielsen, Clark Graebner, Marty Riessen, Buster Mottram were also quite big, all of the handsome 8, except maybe Tony Roche.
     
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  20. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Good one on the H8.Pilic and Barthes were big, atheltcis guys.

    Dennis Ralston was also a great atheltic fellow.
     
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  21. DMP

    DMP Semi-Pro

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    On the issue of the height of players I do think there may have been a very small drift upwards since the 50s and 60s, but it is very small, and much less than some people think.

    There is no doubt that people generally have got bigger due to diet (I hesitate to say better diet because we know the issues surrounding diet), but of course it is more complicated than that. For starters it seems that people have got wider as much as as they have got taller - I love the representation of the future population in WALL-E as round blobs! And bigger does not mean better, since a recent scientific survey showed the current generation of schoolchildren in the West is actually slower than their parents were at the same age, due to lack of exercise.

    However even without the general increase in height I think the modern game would have benefitted the pre-existing population of tall players for two technical reasons. The first is the move to more consistent, higher bouncing surfaces. That makes life much easier for a taller player because the ball is now coming into their preferred hitting zone. Life is much tough when the ball is bouncing variably, and coming through around your ankles. That is why players in the past were generally built more to be able to react quicker, but with less power than nowadays.

    The second reason is the increasing ability to take breaks in matches, which can be either the official changeover breaks and the unofficial towelling breaks. Both these factors make like easier for heavier players, and taller usually means heavier. There is a reason marathon runners are small wiry men.

    So increased population height, higher truer bounces, more rest time during matches all help make the game easier for taller players, and we might expect to have seen a significant increase in height for the top players.

    But then things start filtering all those taller players. Even before tennis starts filtering, other sports start filtering too, because they have improved their surfaces too, to make life easier for taller athletes. Soccer in particular has improved pitches out of all recognition, so there are no longer boggy, slippery patches favouring small, nimble, athletes. American football looks to me to have done the same, and hockey has gone the astroturf route. So they now recruit many of the good tall athletes which they might not have done in the past.

    Soccer, in fact, seems to me have increased in height significantly more than tennis, and that is because tennis also has the technical factor. Taller = more leverage = more stress = more injuries (ref Del Potro). The other technical factor is the small size of the tennis court and the nature of the game, which puts a premium on rapid acceleration from a slow or standing start. This starts working against taller players, so despite the increased population of tall players, the optimum size still is around 1.85m (6'1").

    If all this is true then I would expect the height of tennis players in 1965 and 2013 to be like two triangles. At the bottom, the millions of recreational players, the triangles are wide, because size matters less than motivation, people play for enjoyment. The triangle is wider in 2013 because of more taller players. But as you rise up the triangles towards the top players, then the tennis filter kicks in and people who are too small or too tall drop away because they cannot compete with those who are better sized. Both triangles the one in 1965 and the one in 2013 narrow, until at the very top the triangles are at their narrowest, and the difference between 1965 and 2013 has narrowed significantly.

    In fact I would predict that the differences would be less for the top 4 players than for the top 8. So let's do that for the top 4 seeds in 1965 and 2013. Using the heights I gave earlier

    1965 Average height of top 4 seeds = 1.90m
    2013 Average height of top 4 seeds = 1.85m (!)

    So the top 4 in 2013 are actually shorter than in 1965! The reason is obviously because of Ferrer, but even if I swap Nadal for Ferrer

    2013 Average height of top 4 seeds = 1.87m

    still shorter.

    Of course we are considering very small populations, so you can't read too much into any one comparison, but it does show again that 'modern players are bigger therefore better than shorter players from the past' is not borne out by the facts.

    In fact if I had three players heights 1.75m, 1.85m, and 1.95m in height and they were all exactly equal in ability and I had to choose one to play tennis for my life, I would take the 1.85m player whether they were playing in 1913, 1963, or 2013.

    * As a footnote I have ignored the extra factor that the shorter player can have - that extra determination to prove themselves aka the Napoleon syndrome. Ignore that at your peril!
     
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  22. galain

    galain Hall of Fame

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    No mention of Chip Hooper? He was one of the giant serving monsters of the early 80's.
     
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  23. Flash O'Groove

    Flash O'Groove Hall of Fame

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    Excellent post. But I have one critic.

    You explain very well why in theory, the idea that the current playing conditions favor the taller players more than the playing conditions of the 60's.

    Then you provide an empirical example that contradict the theory. The sole problem is that your empirical example don't include the two guys from which the theory that the 60's were small players come from: Laver and Rosewall, who are the true best players of the 60's, not the amateur you measured.

    So I think you don't really answer the original question: could Laver and Rosewall be as successful now that in their time, considering that some of their physical advantage (quickness, reactivity, lightness, etc.) would be less usefull, and that as the same time, taller players don't really have to bother with low bounce?
     
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  24. DMP

    DMP Semi-Pro

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    The OP was only about tall/big players, and didn't really refer to Rosewall/Laver, so I didn't really want to discuss them particularly. I just took a random year as an example.

    However to answer your question - I think the answer is yes, but they would be different players. Rosewall himself has said he didn't think he would be able to compete as well nowadays, but I think he is being modest, and maybe doesn't remember how good he was. The big issue is not the size of players because as we have seen that hasn't changed, and Rosewall was able to hang with Gonzales who was taller than the current top players, had one of the all-time great serves, and they played mostly on fast indoor surfaces. So I don't think he would have a problem now. The main issue is the need for power these days and the question is whether he (and Laver) would be able to generate the power needed.

    On that point I think the answer is yes, because we have two examples of small players who have achieved high rankings - Olivier Rochus and now Ferrer. Ferrer is the same height as Laver, and Rochus is even shorter than Rosewall. If those two could achieve the rankings they have, then I think Rosewall and Laver, who were much better players, could comfortably have have coped with the modern game. They might, however, have been slightly bulkier as the game needs more power these days. They wouldn't have needed to change much though. Ferrer isn't exactly heavily built.

    Of course if they were playing right now they wouldn't dominate, because they would be playing Federer and Nadal and Djokovic at the top of their games (I am assuming we are discussing Federer at his best). At that point they are all at about the same level.
     
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  25. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    I found another interesting tall player when I searched for gottfried von Cramm.

    he is on the wikipedia picture of the german listed at 6"7 (2.01m).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lyttleton-Rogers

    He looks huge next to von Cramm who was an even 6 himself.

    not a top player of course but he made a FO QF twice in his career.
     
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  26. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    I wonder what happened to Milan Srjeber from the mid 80's? He had some promise but was prone to tank jobs.

    Petr Korda was tall I think, as was his wife, Regina Rjachertova who played in the early 90's before retiring to follow Petr.

    In the late 90's there was Ludmila Richterova who reminded me of Kohde and Sukova. She gave Steffi a tough match one year at Wimbledon.
     
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  27. fezer

    fezer Rookie

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    Slobodan "Bobo" Zivojinovic 1.98m (wikipedia) ,but i think he Belgrade native was over 2.00m.
     
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  28. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    Wow, you have a great memory.
    Regina is tall.
    Petr is about 6ft3 or maybe a fraction more.
     
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  29. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    well the 90s was THE tall player era in tennis history. I was talking more about pre 1980 or so.

    in the 90s there were tons of 6"3+ players, probably more than now.
     
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  30. despo

    despo New User

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    I see Stan Smith pretty much every day . he has not shrunk much with age, he's still really tall ! I need to hang upside down or something because I'm getting shorter by the day
     
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  31. smoledman

    smoledman Legend

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    So players are not bigger, just stronger and faster and get snowshoe racquets that generate ungodly amounts of spin.
     
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