The best backhand ever?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by theagassiman, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. BorisBeckerFan

    BorisBeckerFan Professional

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    Obviously I like Becker's backhand. I like Guga's back hand motion the best with Edberg, Laver and Lendl just trailing. Agassi and Nalbadian also have beautiful motions. Also noteworthy for me are Kafelnikov, Gasquet and Safin.
     
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  2. Kaz00

    Kaz00 Semi-Pro

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    Runnin round backhands
    Wilander!!
     
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  3. BorisBeckerFan

    BorisBeckerFan Professional

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    Very sturdy and reliable backhand on Wilander. Not just consistent but consistent in the clutch.
     
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  4. ricflair

    ricflair New User

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    1/edberg
    2/kafelnikov
    3/lendl
    4/agassi
     
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  5. Dino Lagaffe

    Dino Lagaffe Professional

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    #55
  6. Gugafan

    Gugafan Hall of Fame

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    I am pretty sure Agassi said Kuerten had the best backhand he had ever faced...This coming after the Masters Cup in 2000.

    LOL Laver and Budge!!...
     
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  7. Don't Let It Bounce

    Don't Let It Bounce Hall of Fame

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    No one's mentioned Paradorn Srichapan's one-handed spank-o-matic. I don't know about all-time (unless you disregard defense and rate only offense, maybe), but it was certainly one of the best when he was in his prime.
     
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  8. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    nalbandian,safin,kafelnikov* are CLEARLY better than anyone till no8 and edberg . kuerten is somewhat debatable , I'd put the 3 ahead of him

    edberg's BH is rated a bit too highly in here

    rosewall's was regarded as better than laver's

    I'd put connors at 1, agassi at 2, nalby and safin tied at 3 , I think these 4 are quite close ...

    * - You don't even have kafelnikov in your top 20 :shock:
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
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  9. OHBH

    OHBH Semi-Pro

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    Lubicic. that guys one handed is a winner spitting machine. If only his forehand were equally good....
     
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  10. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    connors is #1 IMO. Connors had the most versatile two hander I ever saw. Of course his flat one is what people will write about in history books, It was hard, deep and rarely errant a perfect offensive shot vs either S/V or baseliners. In addition he could impart moderate top for a rallying shot, underspin or sidespin. He could loop it for a lob and in later years he learned to take off pace and caress it softly with top for severe dipping angle. the only thing he never mastered was a great dropshot on the wing. He lost more points than he won trying that.
     
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  11. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    connors had a great backhand but i don't recall him hitting any topspin off that side.
     
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  12. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    One hander. I would probably take Fed's. Guga or Gasquet is also up there. Other one handers I've admired are those of Gaudio, Pavel, and Wawrinka. Among others.

    Two hander. Agassi or Nalbandian. Also up there, Safin, Kalfenikov, Coria, and Novak D.
     
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  13. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    He did not use it a lot. He far prefer to hit flat and deep but he did have a topspsin lob, and put a little top on some of his groundies occasionally for safety and and as a mix-up.
     
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  14. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    When you consider all time great forehands and then backhands, one thing that strikes me about Borg is that both his backhand and forehand are so lethal. His forehand was the very best in the game, while his 2 hander wasn't far back. He could hit it hard and flat, or very hard with lots of topspin, or well-sliced. His backhand was very hard, consistent, with tons of spin. The point is, his forehand is awesome, and so is his backhand.

    Imagine prime Borg, with his fitness, stamina, mental strength, speed and quickness as well as ability to generate power with 70 sq. inch wood frames, with a modern frame!!!

    He would be so tough from the baseline, having no weakness at all on either the backhand or forehand side, plus today's frames tend to favor baseliners vs. serve and volleyers. His backhand, though unorthodox, was quite formidable, but people still wanted to avoid Borg's forehand.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2010
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  15. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Connors had a great backhand and I agree that it was extremely versatile. There is no doubt about that but I do think this Laver's and Ashe's backhand were a bit more versatile than Connors.

    Ashe's demontrated how versatile his backhand was in the 1975 Wimbledon Final against Connors where he sliced, dinked and lobbed his way to victory against Connors.

    That being said, Connors clearly had a superior backhand to Ashe. I think Connors had the most solidly hit backhand of the Open era, bearing in mind Rosewall was at his peak prior to the Open era. He almost never mishit a shot on the backhand side. Everything was virtually perfect when you saw Connors hit a backhand.
     
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  16. BTURNER

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    I haven't seen as much of Borg as Connors but his two hander was certainly more consistent, very acccurate ,deceptive and hard. He did have an underspin version as well, but I do feel Connors use of slice and sidespin showed greater versatility, and was tactically rewarded. Its a very close call.

    edit pc1, You are right about severl onehanders Ashe, Rosewall and laver, having just as much versatility, but they did not have the deception, and sheer power, and as connors . His was the combination of the above attributes.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2009
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  17. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    #67
  18. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    connors backhand was much more penetrating than borg's. borg would often leave his backhand short which could get him in some trouble, though his foot speed and passing shots would generally bail him out. borg's backhand was more consistent than connors' but he didn't hurt his opponent with it as much.
     
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  19. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    I agree with you Rod99. I'd put Connors backhand slightly above Borg's but not by much. Yet, Borg's forehand was much more dangerous, which made for a lethal 1-2 combo from the baseline.

    Remember that what he like'd to do was hit short and often "bait" the opponent to try and hit an approach shot and charge the net. He loved a target for his laser-like and powerful passing shots. His footspeed would allow him to do this.

    So, yes, you are right when you say that his speed allowed him to do this, but at times it would get him in trouble. I wish we could have seen hit backhands with full graphite, 85+ sq. inch frames though!
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2010
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  20. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    You very well could be right. Connors' backhand had a unique combination of power, deception and touch. The other about Connors' backhand is that it had amazing depth. Very very hard to attack when a player can hit the ball with such power and depth. Connors was also amazing with his backhand passing shots on the run.

    I thought Borg could hit sharper angles than Connors because of his topspin but Connors actually hit fairly sharp angles on the backhand despite the fact he hit it so flat.

    The best shot I ever saw Connors hit on the backhand side was actually one handed. It was his one handed miracle shot against Panatta in the 1978 US Open. It may have been the shot that won him the tournament. Here's the miracle shot at around 48 to 50 seconds into the video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTIxobZMzBg&feature=PlayList&p=7D5BBB4874C684C4&index=0&playnext=1
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2009
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  21. lendlmac

    lendlmac Rookie

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    I gotta go with Ivan Lendl's topspin, backhand, cross court
     
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  22. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Connors hardly ever got topspin.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2010
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  23. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    1. Laver
    2. Budge
    3. Connors
    4. Rosewall
    5. Edberg
    6. Agassi
    7. Kuerten
    8. Vilas
    9. Gasquet
    10. Rios
    11. Lendl
    12. Becker
    13. Lacoste
    14. Ashe
    15. Borg
    16. Kovacs
    17. Safin
    18. Nalbandian
    19. Nadal
    20. Mancini
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2010
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  24. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,917380-3,00.html

    "Connors hated topspin." He hated returning that excessive stuff many swedes hit over and over and over. He used topspin on lobs and for angles and when he wanted some extra margin on clay.

    "My first instinct is to hit the hell out of the ball," says Connors. "I'm still learning to control that. If you're serving down 30-40, you don't play like it's 40-love. You just try to get the first serve in." On taking advantage of angles, Connors says, "You've got to use the open court. If my opponent and I are both at the base line, I'm going to hit cross court to his backhand, and if he hits back to my forehand, I'll go down the line. If he returns that, my next shot might be a short, top-spin drive back across court. That way I've always got him running."
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2010
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  25. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Connors? Topspin? I didn't think he could even say the word.

    Maybe he means it, but I would think that Connors could hit his most excessive "topspin drive," and we would look at it and think it's flat as a pancake.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2010
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  26. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Anaother one with a great deceptive twohanded backhand was Mecir (and before cliff Drysdale). His return and passing shot was almost unreadable, when he was really on. I saw him beating Lendl once at Key Biscayne, when he was sending Lendl the wrong way time and time again. He was also a master of alternating pace, mixing soft indifferent shots with sudden hard drives, from the same motion, which made the shots impossible to detect before impact.
     
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  27. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Very true. "Il Gatto" Mecir was amazing!
     
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  28. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    Yes, Mecir had a great backhand. He seemed to be a horrible match up for Lendl and he also gave Mcenroe fits. I do remember that he had great disguise with his backhand.

    See uploads from TW poster Krosero on YT:

    1987 Key Biscayne (Lendl vs. Mecir)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_34nkKIUXc

    (Mecir making fun of Lendl's complaint of scattered towels)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1zkNyxSrzE&feature=related

    (1987 Wilander vs. Mecir , QF-US Open)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2bzlj4ypvw&feature=related

    (1989 AO, Lendl vs. Mecir)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VtluetLotI
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2010
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  29. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I loved Mecir's backhand. It seemed that he was never late getting to any ball and even if he was late he could still hit a super sharp backhand crosscourt.

    Well Lendl gave a lot of people trouble. I do think that Mecir could be intimidated a bit by Lendl, his senior countryman. I don't think it was a horrible matchup if you look at the individual styles.

    To this day it saddens me to think about how Mecir's career ended so prematurely. For pure enjoyment Mecir was among my favorite players to watch.
     
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  30. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    Yes, Lendl was a tough matchup for anyone, but no, PC1, that's not what I was thinking in my earlier post. I was just wrong in thinking that Mecir had a favorable head to head record vs. Lendl AND McEnroe. It's probably ONLY against McEnroe, and NOT Lendl.

    I WAS thinking that Mecir actually BEAT Lendl the majority of the time, though Mecir used to play Lendl tough. I could be wrong about that. It just seems that Mecir's range/size, movement/fitness could neutralize Lendl's power baseline game well, but I need to check their head to head record and look at their results more closely.

    McEnroe HATED to play Mecir. I do see a web posting about Mecir upsetting Lendl in 1987. Perhaps that was the Key Biscayne upset that poster Urban was mentioning above. Yet, he got killed by Lendl in the 1989 AO Final, so perhaps the 1987 match was an anomalous match between them.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miloslav_Mečíř (wikipedia on Mecir)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ae7lyHnuOdw (1987 WCT Finals vs. McEnroe, Mecir won easily 6–0, 3–6, 6–2, 6–2, but McEnroe played very little that year in total)
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2010
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  31. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Mecir was nervous like heck, when it came to majors or DC matches. Against Lendl in big finals he got the yips, as it is called in golf. Maybe he saw in Lendl the big brother from the same country (Mecir is Slovak), whom he had no right to beat on the big occasion. Mecir blew it against Edberg at Wim 1988, when he returned like crazy for 2 sets and a half, and then meekly faded out. I saw him serve underhand from nerves, when he had a big lead against Connors in the deciding match in the World Team Cup. Still no one beat Wilander that bad, when he was on song, and it didn't matter, if it was on clay.
     
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  32. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    It's not often that I watch a player and say to myself (in any sport) how can a guy be that good? Sometimes in watching Mecir I would say that to myself.


    I think McEnroe's natural lefty serve went to the great Mecir backhand return. Now McEnroe was a bit over the hill when Mecir was at his best but for a little while Mecir was the best returner in tennis and that obviously would make it tougher for McEnroe.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2010
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  33. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    The Key Biscayne upset is the one you linked to, on YouTube.

    In the '89 match Lendl gave Mecir very few angles. At Key Biscayne when he gave him angles to work with, Mecir was deadly. That was largely due to his speed; I think Becker called him the fastest player he'd ever faced.
     
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  34. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    Yes, PC1, those are important factors to consider when looking at Mecir vs. McEnroe.

    Mecir had a great return and also McEnroe was definitely no longer in top form. His physical size probably gave him great range on that return vs. McEnroe, plus I'd submit that by 1987, Mecir was also helped as a big returner by a larger racquet face relative to returners from earlier years.

    So, by 1987, though McEnroe was using a Dunlop Graphite frame, he was not "prime" McEnroe any longer, plus he was facing a larger player, that could effectively reach his wide serves easily but then also, return his serves with a racquet with a larger sweet spot than just the old standard wood frame. Having said that, Mecir was still a better returner than most top players at the time, even those that were also enjoying larger, more powerful frames.

    I wonder when Mecir switched to a graphite frame (is that a Slazenger he switched to?), because he used a Head (enlarged wood racquet, a Vilas?) until about 1987 if I'm not mistaken (or was that also a oversized wood Slazenger)? I believe that he was one of the truly last guys still using a wood frame, but his control/placement game was conducive to that.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2010
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  35. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    At one point it was thought by many experts that Mecir could become the prime threat to Lendl. He had the ranginess/control and feel to absorb Lendl's power and turn it against him. But yes....Mecir seemed to have some choking problems, and that was the knock against him. His serve was also no great shakes...

    Today, I often feel that players like Nalbandian and Murray have some Mecir in them. Mecir was probably even more difficult in some ways because while he may have not had Murray's power, he sometimes used very irregular stances, and could use his great hands to redirect the ball at strange angles....but exactly where he wanted, and you didn't. Very tough to get comfortable against.
     
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  36. Federer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
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  37. rod99

    rod99 Professional

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    uh, no. not even close.
     
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  38. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    1. Rosewall
    2. Connors
    3. Laver
    4. Budge
    5. Edberg
    6. Agassi
    7. Kuerten
    8. Borg
    9. Lendl
    10. Vilas
    11. Rios
    12. Becker
    13. Lacoste
    14. Gasquet
    15. Ashe
    16. Kovacs
    17. Nadal
    18. Mancini
    19. Mecir
    20. Kodes
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2010
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  39. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Hoodjem,

    With all due respect I disagree with your selection of Budge as number one. Several factors here, first I don't think his backhand was that flexible a shot. Pancho Segura said he could NOT chip the ball on his backhand, only drive it. Second, while he was known for forceful backhand returns, he was aced fairly often. Even Bobby Riggs in the late 1940's was able to ace Budge fairly regularly and while Riggs had a good serve it was not of the level of a Sampras or a Gonzalez.

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,888246,00.html

    Players like Rosewall and Laver were rarely aced and could hit a number of return winners. There is an article written by Dennis Ralston on the best returns of serve and in discussing Rosewall's backhand return he wrote that as he wrote the article Rosewall had not missed a backhand return in two weeks!

    Also Rosewall and Laver had super offensive and defensive lobs on the backhand side which is far superior to Budge in that area.

    The flexibility of Rosewall and Laver I believe is better than Budge on that side. They could change pace, drop shot, lob, or drive the ball.

    I also believe Connors had a superior backhand to Budge.

    Rosewall in particular, along with Borg had perhaps the most consistent backhand of all time.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2010
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  40. matchmaker

    matchmaker Hall of Fame

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    Gasquet above Rios? No way, Gasquet's BH looks beautiful, but can break down. I have hardly ever seen Rios' BH brake down. I would reverse that order and more, I even think Becker had a better BH than Gasquet.
     
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  41. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I like the look of Gasquet's backhand but I can't imagine it being in the top ten.
     
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  42. Changmaster

    Changmaster Rookie

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    Nalbandian at 18, really? Not that I've studied their backhands extensively, but I find it hard to believe that backhands such as Rios, Lendl, and Becker are better than Nalby's. He also has more variety from that side than someone like Agassi. And most experts would say either Budge or Rosewall had the best backhand ever. Obviously Laver's backhand was excellent, but he doesn't really get mentioned when talking about the best backhand.
     
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  43. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    A lot of people mention Laver for best backhand. Arthur Ashe for example thought Rosewall's and Laver's backhands were about equal and he ranked them equal number one for the best backhand he had seen.

    Marty Riessen mentions Rosewall's and Laver's as the best backhands in the game.

    Jack Kramer mentions (and I do wonder if he meant it) in the part 1 of Borgforever's highlights of the Laver-Roche 1969 US Open final at just around the 4:04 mark of part one that if anyone had a better backhand than Laver that he doesn't know.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWMUMG3Xb6I

    Now in writing that I must add that Kramer did not say Laver's backhand was superior to Budge's later in his life.

    Laver's backhand has generally been recognized as of the best backhands ever for many years.

    Nalbandian has a wonderful backhand and I love his game when he is healthy and going well but since he does not stay in shape all the time I wonder how good his backhand is in those "down" period of his. A lot of players look invincible when they are doing well but how good are they when they are not playing as well. Jimmy Connors, even when he wasn't playing that well was generally very good and his backhand was always always great. Of course Connors was almost always terrific.

    So my question is this, how good is Nalbandian's backhand when he is not playing well? The same question can be asked about Safin. Just want to know people's opinions on this.

    Hoodjem, I haven't looked too carefully at the full list but I like the first few choices. Rosewall I believe had a slightly better backhand than Connors and Laver. He could hit it hard, great angles, great return, consistent etc. Here's a quote from Marty Reissen book on the Rosewall backhand-The backhand-No one hits the backhand as consistently well as Ken Rosewall. Laver may hit it harder and sometimes he has streaks when he is more dangerous with the stroke. But day in and day out, the Rosewall backhand has to be one of the greatest strokes in the game. Off the return of serve, both Rosewall and Laver like to chip--thus forcing the server to volley up--but on the next stroke of the rally they differ in that Rod opts for aggression with topspin while Kenny prefers solid placement with a shot that is hit almost flat.

    It you are looking for perfection in tennis, watch how many times Rosewall clears the net by no more than an inch off his backhand. He keeps the ball lower and hits closer to the line on a higher percentage of shots than any other player I have seen, and that is as near perfection as one is going to get on a tennis court.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2010
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  44. swedechris

    swedechris Banned

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    Gaston Gaudio.
     
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  45. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    QFT. putting nalbandian at 18 ( and safin at 17 ) is ridiculous !!!
     
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  46. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Nalbandian's and Safin's backhand is great when they are playing well but I find it hard to believe their backhands rank that high considering their overall records. I could be wrong.

    Frankly I love watching Nalbandian's backhand. I think it's a great shot but he's often out of shape and hurt so I doubt if his backhand is great during these times.

    Safin, where he is playing well is about as good as anyone in tennis today on many surfaces? Can any tell me if they wouldn't think that Safin at his best would have a super chance to beat Federer or Nadal for example at the Australian or US Open and perhaps even Wimbledon nowadays considering the great bounces and slower grass?

    That being said no one would rank Safin among the top twenty of all time because he took too many years off and wasted his great talent. I have a hunch his excellent backhand wasn't as consistently great also.
     
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  47. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    PC,

    Here's where the fun begins, otherwise known as the nit-picking.

    I would agree that Rosewall's backhand may have been the most consistent in the history of the game. Does that make it the best? Hmm, tough call.

    In my limited observation and knowledge of his game, he had only three backhands: a backspin slider slice (that Laver hated because it never bounced back up), a flat drive that cleared the net by inches at most, and a chip. (You could add a lob, but I consider lobs a totally different shot--whether forehand or backhand).

    Laver had all of these (maybe not as consistent, but almost), plus a huge topspin power shot that was considered his most deadly (point-ending) shot (and almost anything in between--remember that wrist.)

    So, in my opinion, I would call it consistency to Rosewall and versatility to Laver. Which would one pick: the shot that never misses or the shot that leaves you opponent uselessly standing there agape?

    Tough call. (Me, I'd take either one.)
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2010
    #97
  48. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    I would agree with that solution, Hoodjem. Better shot, greater shot, that sort of measurement is quite difficult, better to analyse the structure, the technical and tactical dimensions of a shot. One has also to considerate the historical dimension and long term impact. Budge's backhand may not have been the most versatile, but it was the first drive and real weapon from the backhand flank. Budge had a very heavy racket and he could certainly put weight on his backhand. Rosewalls backhand was great, although it was not particularly spectacular, versatile or deceptive. But it was heavy and precise. In the case of Laver, it can be said, that he was the first lefty, who developed a strong backhand (i don't know Larsen's backhand). Before it was common wisdom, that a lefty couldn't hit a hard backhand drive. People like Rose, Drobny or Fraser could only hack and slice on the backhand. Laver's mentor Charlie Hollis, taught him to roll it, and gave him a ball to squeeze, so that he could get a strong wrist. One writer compared Laver's rolling backhand to the motion "of someone, who throws rice on a wedding".
     
    #98
  49. lew.m.f.tennisfan

    lew.m.f.tennisfan New User

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    favourite backhand are james blake and roger federer
     
    #99
  50. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I feel the same way. I'd take either shot.

    You should check out the video of the highlights of the 1971 and 1972 WCT Championships. Some of the shots Rosewall makes with his backhand are unreal. I see the shots and I think "How does this guy make these angles on the backhand without topspin?" Yet he does it.

    Rosewalll's shot was always dangerous and it always kept coming back, often for winners but it was generally around the same level-Great.

    I think Laver's backhand was always dangerous too but it could dip below Rosewall's level and yet at times be more dangerous than Rosewall. His shot was always great but more prone to ups and downs.

    There are so many great backhands in history that it is easy to forget some. The ones that have stood out (notice I say stood out because it doesn't mean I think it is true that they are among the best but they may be) are Budge, Rosewall, Lacoste, HL Doherty, Tilden, Kovacs, Laver, Nusslein, Trabert, Art Larsen (some have said he had an even greater lefty backhand than Laver and Connors), Ashe, Borg, Connors, Don McNeill (Don Budge thought, of his opponents, McNeill had the best backhand), Roy Emerson, Manuel Santana, Jan Kodes, Guillermo Vilas, Nalbanian, Safin, Lendl, Edberg, Wilander, Mecir, Agassi. Gasquet.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2010

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