Tennis in the days of yore

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by ATXtennisaddict, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. ATXtennisaddict

    ATXtennisaddict Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Messages:
    4,278
    I was watching a show on TTC called "davis cup history" or something like that. Anyway, they had video clips of players from WAY WAY back in the day playing in the grasscourts with their wooden racquets. I'm talking early 1900s through the 1950s and 60s.

    What struck me was how good they were. I mean, I thought tennis back then would be pretty unskilled and very unlike the modern game. But the shots are pretty similar to current tennis. It wasn't as fast but the game was similar. Not many baseline batttles, lots of S&V though.

    What i'm saying is, I think those players back then could come in today's game and play a heck of a match against current players.

    Opinions?
     
    #1
  2. retrowagen

    retrowagen Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2006
    Messages:
    1,909
    I'd agree. Those players really understood how to hit the ball.

    As a developing junior in the 1980's, I had the opportunity to hit with a couple players who, in their prime in the 1940's or 1950's, were quite good at the game.

    One was the dad of my then-best friend and doubles partner who had been a county champ in Wales in the 50's. He was an absolute backboard and was particularly adept at subtle spins, even with his old Dunlop wood racket. He could drive a down-the-line slice approach off either wing that was positively stunning in how consistently deep and slinky it was. He also could hit any sort of spin form virtually any part of the court, as required, and was always keen on tutoring us on strategy and thinking about when to hit what, where, and why.

    Another such guy had been a "pro" back in the 40's, traveling and playing the traveling tennis circus with Bobby Riggs, among others. I met him at the local public courts where I used to find pickup hits. He'd take the bus over from the retirement home, where he lived after his wife died. He was short, bow-legged, and rather crabby, but when he got out on court, he could diffuse any power I threw at him and place the ball where I wanted it least. I benefitted from his tutleage and colorful stories for a full summer (he even sat in my corner for a tournament as an ad hoc coach, sort of against his wishes at first, but later joyfully), when suddenly one day he didn't show up for a hit. Nobody answered at his apartment. Further inquiries at the retirement home confirmed that he had passed away quietly in his sleep.

    I learned more about good tennis form and strategy, not to mention sportsmanship, from these two "classic" players than any other coaches I'd have subsequently in the following ten years of competitive play.
     
    #2
  3. chaognosis

    chaognosis Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2005
    Messages:
    694
    Location:
    Chicago
    Yes -- most of the evolution in tennis shot production and technique ended with Tilden (some even say with the Doherty brothers), but for the revolution of Kramer and Percentage Tennis in the 1940s. Most of the developments in the game since then have been technological (balls, rackets, court surfaces, and also clothing) with some smaller advances in basic physical conditioning in the 1980s (Navratilova and Lendl being the figureheads of this "movement"). Really though, I am in 100% agreement that the pre-Open Era players could hold their own against those of today in virtually every respect. In fact, I think the players of the '30s were perhaps the best pure shotmakers the game has ever seen. Vines, Perry, and Budge had the advantage of starting where Tilden left off, but they also didn't rely on Percentage Tennis tactics. Their technique, developed with those tiny rackets, remains unparalleled, and their precise, clean groundstroke production would put Nadal (or even Agassi) to shame.
     
    #3
  4. Exactly. This is the point so many young people fail to understand. It seems most people seem to think "I'm so impressed with people in my age, before my period these same things must have been terrible." It's an incredibly narcissistic view.

    I have observed the same things both in my memory of the 80's and 90's tennis (born in 1980, early favorites were Lendl and Becker, probably around age 6 if I remember correctly. Been playing since I was a toddler, and with a wooden racquet!) and also watching classic and REALLY classic matches. In my opinion the quality of play today is far inferior compared to pretty much any previous era. The over reliance on power as a "tactic" has pretty much flushed the game down the crapper. Both the mens and womens tour is a joke. Still love to play it though.
     
    #4
  5. prostaff18

    prostaff18 Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    May 13, 2006
    Messages:
    567
    Location:
    USA
    That has to be the most intelligent thing that anyone has ever said on these forums. TennisandMusic well done!! You hit the nail on the head. As a college player right now I notice that kids at the highest level are just out hitting the ball hard and have no reason for their shots at all. Kids today aren't learning strategy, they are taught how to hit winners and how to stand 5 feet behind the baseline and have no purpose for the shot that they hit. They find themselves just hitting and not worrying about what they are doing as long as they can hit the ball hard. I mean if you watch a college doubles match you will see points where the serving team stays back as well as the returning team and they will try to pound winners from 5 feet behind the baseline with two players at the far baseline. Also when hitting with juniors I find that hardly no one has a solid groundstroke. All they know is winner pace and they cant rally the ball more than 5 shots if they try because they have no solid groundstroke; on those 5 shots they hit 5 different shots. I mean I love tennis today but I think that we need to teach the kids coming up today to play a more all court game and teach them the basics before we try to teach them the spectacular winner. It just seems like to many people today rely on spectacular shot making rather than a solid game to win matches.
     
    #5
  6. Clecwm

    Clecwm Rookie

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2006
    Messages:
    139
    Tennis is the earlier days were amazing. technology was not advanced then. equipments were very basic. the pros relied greatly on their skills. tt is why, if they play now, they would be great game makers.
     
    #6
  7. dump_can

    dump_can New User

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2005
    Messages:
    28
    You Are Wrong!!!

    Today's players would destroy ANYBODY pre-eighties.
     
    #7
  8. retrowagen

    retrowagen Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2006
    Messages:
    1,909
    Spoken with the true authority and insightful maturity of someone who's probably never even used a record player, reel-to-reel, 8-track, or cassette player...:-?
     
    #8
  9. theace21

    theace21 Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2004
    Messages:
    3,263
    Can't compare athletes from different era. Training, competition, coaching all have improved. A great player of his era, would still be a great player if they had the benefit of the above. Laver would still be awesome, Vilas would kick Nadal *** on clay, Pancho Gonzalez, John Newcombe, Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe - all would top players.

    It is the same for all sports. Training, competition, coaching and in many sports technology have given the current athletes a huge advantage...
     
    #9
  10. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2004
    Messages:
    1,063
    Not if they were made to use wood racquets. They'd have to re-learn the game, switch to correct grips instead of western.
     
    #10
  11. classic tennis

    classic tennis Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2006
    Messages:
    606
    it would be great if there was a wooden racquet club event somewhere (or even a series) I grew up learning with wood then progressed up to todays racquets.
    I would be the first to sign up.
     
    #11
  12. atatu

    atatu Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    3,341
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Generally speaking I tend to agree that todays players would beat players from eariler eras and it doesn't all have to do with technology. Players today are generally better athletes, you have to be an incredible athlete to make to to the top these days. Having said that, there are some players that transcend time, i.e. Kramer, Laver, Gonzalez, in the same way the Jordan was ahead of his time in basketball. Having seen them both, would you take Dwayne Wade or Michael Jordan ? That's a tough call.
     
    #12
  13. jackcrawford

    jackcrawford Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Messages:
    836
    #13
  14. andreh

    andreh Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Messages:
    1,089
    #14
  15. Sagittar

    Sagittar Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2006
    Messages:
    1,692
    Location:
    center of the world
    i can't see honestly any player from this old era that can compete nowadays , tennis today not only implies high talent but also very high physical competition which old players can't compete in ...
     
    #15
  16. ATXtennisaddict

    ATXtennisaddict Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Messages:
    4,278
    I guess the big point i wanted to make when I started this thread was that tennis in those days was better than I thought it would be. There seemed to be an air of grace in the game back then.
     
    #16
  17. tennismike33

    tennismike33 Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2005
    Messages:
    409
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    I would put my money on Rod Laver against any of today's players. His skill and shot making would frustrate ANYONE playing today.
     
    #17
  18. triodes2002

    triodes2002 New User

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2007
    Messages:
    5
    You Guys Had Me...

    ...until the Wade / Jordan comment. ANYONE that would take Wade over Jordan (I assume you meant when he was in his prime, not NOW) would be NUTZ.
     
    #18
  19. Joe Average

    Joe Average Rookie

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2004
    Messages:
    199
    I treated tennis as a spectator sport early in my life. I didn't learn play until much later. But I saw Laver, Ashe, Newcombe, Connors, McEnroe, Borg, Court, King, Evert, Navratilova ... all in their prime. But not being a player, I probably wasn't aware so much then of things like technique and playing skills. One sleepless night, recently, I flipped on the TV and watched this HBO documentary on Billie Jean King. I have a fuzzy memory of King, but seeing the old footage, and being able to gauge her skills as a player, I realize now that her strokes were awfully good. She had a one-hand backhand as beautiful as I've ever seen. And she had more confidence at the net than just about anyone playing today. She was doing all this with a wooden racquet no more than ... I don't know ... 70 sq. inches (?). These players may not be able to beat the players of today. But they created today's game. You can argue that today's players are better athletes, but that doesn't mean they're better tennis players. One comparison I can make is with baseball. Back in the olden days, every ballplayer could bunt. That was fundamental. Nowadays, only one or two people on a team can do it. Similarly, I don't think you can compare the volleying skills of the older players with the players of today. It's just an indication of what a different game tennis has become.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2007
    #19
  20. Voltron

    Voltron Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2006
    Messages:
    3,906
    Location:
    Pffft, like I'd know

    What the hell is an 8-Track? ;)
     
    #20
  21. vudal

    vudal Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2007
    Messages:
    61
    To be honest, I think I can beat any of those players back then using any raquet. They hit the ball 2 miles an hour. I can go grab a quick sandwitch... eat it.. , take a dump, and come back and kill the ball for a winner. Im sick of people saying that the oldtimers are skillfull as todays players. I would rate them 4.5 - 5.0 at best. But thats just my opinion.
     
    #21
  22. VGP

    VGP Legend

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2005
    Messages:
    6,311
    Location:
    Location: Location
    Uh, ok.

    enjoy your dump.
     
    #22
  23. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2004
    Messages:
    10,031
    I'm just glad you know your way around a sandwitch.....and can spell well.

    Hey guys, I don't normally do this, but I've got to tell you about this dream I had. It started off pretty nice, like at a family reunion at a park or a suburban club or something. Then my main man vudal mouthed off to Don Budge down by the tennis courts. That ni99a Budge broke a branch off a tree and kicked vudal's little ass 2 and 1...all the way to the port-a-potty.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2007
    #23
  24. Young Pete

    Young Pete Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Messages:
    904
    Location:
    nor cal
    LOL!!!!!! VUDAL JUST GOT OWNED!!!!!!!!!!
     
    #24

Share This Page