The speed of the game - old vs. new

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by NLBwell, Dec 6, 2009.

  1. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    While watching 2008 Aussi semis of Fed. vs. Djokovic on the TV and watching Laver vs. Roche on the computer (yes, I'm crazy) I was struck by how much faster the old grass-court game was than the modern game. With players serving and volleying, the distance between the players is much shorter (even more so when both are at the net). The old game is much quicker with players having to react and move faster. The position of the player at the net takes the time away from the opponent instead of the velocity of the ball.
    Though tall guys could be very successful because of big serves and reach at the net (Smith, Newcombe), smaller guys could use their quickness around the court to get to the volleys and pass, as well as get to the net quickly to volley and back to retrieve lobs. Even though there were guys in the old game 6'7" or so with big games, their effectiveness was limited by their relative lack of quickness. People these days talk about how fast the ball moves, but the game today is much slower.
     
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  2. timnz

    timnz Hall of Fame

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    Correct -Today's game is much slower than previously

    Yes, you are correct. The common myth is that the modern game is so much faster that in the 'old days'. Actually it is completely the opposite. The biggest part of slowing the game is the court surfaces. Witness the near extension of indoor carpet and the considerable slowdown at Wimbledon. If you go back to the 50's and 60's you had laid canvas surfaces that were superfast.

    I wonder if current players could have handled the old timers if they played them with the rackets of the period. I highly doubt it.
     
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  3. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    When people say the game is faster today they're talking about the mobility of the athletes and the speed of their shots. Surfaces seem much slower, that's for sure.
     
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  4. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    Then they are horribly ignorant. The mobility of the athletes hasn't changed at all at the top of the game, though it might be a TINY bit faster on average. Speed of shots is also about the same, though, there is more spin now on average: in this sense the average shot is more powerful.
     
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  5. dropshot winner

    dropshot winner Hall of Fame

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    The balls are heavier and bigger than before, so even if the shot itself is traveling at the same speed and spin compared to a ball of the 60/70s, it is tougher to controll.
     
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  6. fps

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    what data do you have to back this up? i see players now hitting the ball harder than ever from the ground, despite the heavier balls.

    and i doubt tennis is the only sport on earth where the players haven't become fitter, faster and more mobile.
     
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  7. Blade0324

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    Sorry but I have to disagree with the OP in all aspects. The speed of the ball is substantially faster today than it was in the older days. Serves are faster on average as are groundstrokes. Also the players are generally across the board a bit faster today than they used to be. There were some very quick players back in the day but on the whole players today are in better shape and faster. The speed of the courts today is a bit slower than it used to be and I feel like this is due to the fact that players hit the ball harder today so the court speed has slowed a bit to level the playing field so to speak.
     
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  8. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    And it's also horribly ridiculous when claiming something you don't have any evidence to backup. How often you see players in the past hit 130+ mph first serve? How often you see a 100+ mhp forehand in the past? How often you see players hitting winners from both wings from the baseline in the past? And there's a reason for players are cautious to rush the net today.
     
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  9. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    So fitness experts have learned nothing in the past 30 to 40 years?
     
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  10. NamRanger

    NamRanger G.O.A.T.

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    Radar guns today measure much more "accurately" than they did in the 1990s. Pretty good example is Agassi who in a decade added 10+ mph on his serve on average. Now, I know Agassi's serve got better, but let's be honest. I'm pretty sure Agassi didn't add 10+ mph on his serve from 95 to 2005.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2009
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  11. kishnabe

    kishnabe G.O.A.T.

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    Laver vs Roche on the aussie open was awesome, it was fast and entertaining. I have seen Borg Vs John McEnroe wimbledon 1980 and I don't feel the same. Maybe in the 1960's and 70's it was faster than the 80's. Then 90's and 20's were faster than 80's. Im just guessing. I still think the serve and volley game is better than today's modern game. Maybe federer wins to much really gets annoying. Watching edberg,becker,borg,lendl,McEnroe, connors, laver,roche and rosewall is pretty fun.
     
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  12. Chadwixx

    Chadwixx Banned

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    He physically got alot better which would explain his bigger serve. Look at pics from 1995 and compare them to 2000+. Its night and day.

    Players hit harder and the courts are slower.
     
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  13. NamRanger

    NamRanger G.O.A.T.

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    I'm not sure if he could add 10 mph on his serve purely from strength though. That kind of an increase in speed should constitute some kind of technique improvement.



    Even Agassi said he was surprised that his serve was measured so high.
     
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  14. Chadwixx

    Chadwixx Banned

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    He got alot stronger, he was scrawny until around 1998. Take a look at him in like 1993 when he was wearing the pink spandex under the denium, he had tiny arms and a gut.

    He was hitting everything harder, not just the serve.

    Ive been doing a few bench press's and it does help your serve alot, at least it does me.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2009
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  15. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Quickness is not the same as ball speed.
     
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  16. AAAA

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    I've seen matches between Goran, Becker, Sampras, Federer on grass and they were much faster than this

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHaN2h21ANs

    Also how is comparing a serve volley match on old grass vs a modern baseline match on a slowish hard court comparable?
     
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  17. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Over time, the players have become a lot more athletic. So I disagree with you. And really, maybe you're one of those dudes who become even more of a devil's advocate as the consensus grows, but commentators, players, trainers, and coaches agree.

    The differences become more striking the farther back in time you go. Roddick in a recent press conference said that the game now is more about "legs" and less about ball striking. Maybe an overstatement, but I understand what he's saying. Not long ago, can't remember which tournament, but male players were skidding and falling all over the place. Never in the 80's did I see anything remotely close to that. It was a hard court tournament. And everybody keeps saying the courts are being slowed down, so that must mean a grittier surface with more bite and traction, but guys were falling down left and right. The commentators were talking about how they hoped no major injuries were caused, how it was an alarming thing. Guys are just running harder, having to change directions quicker, moving more aggressively.

    Maybe tennis is attracting better athletes, or maybe they're just training better. When Lendl cross trained and did tons of off court work, people constantly went on about that. Now it's the norm. What we're seeing now is a generation of players who grew doing extensive footwork, strength, agility, flexibility, reflex, etc, drills since they were young. It's applied science. You can bet McEnroe wasn't doing the stuff Fed was doing...

    Trying to find that video of Fed and that Asian junior being put through the paces.
     
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  18. President of Serve/Volley

    President of Serve/Volley Semi-Pro

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    Faster Speed: The older generation would have a field day vs today's crop if you put them on carpet. Put Stefan Edberg vs Rafael Nadal on carpet, boy that won't be fun to watch.

    Naturally, today's tennis, Nadal would likely dominant him. I actually miss the old mixed up styles of super quick tennis.
     
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  19. fps

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    so basically, the courts are slower, the balls are designed to be slower, the players are on average more athletic and the players are hitting harder.

    done.
     
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  20. kOaMaster

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    there is one point I certainly agree:
    serve & volley does make it look faster. you don't have 25-30 meters to react but maybe only 15 (plus the ball is slowing down). but so it was in the 90s.

    now you don't want to tell me that a) fitnes, b) the technique and c) the technology didn't improve in the last 40 years?
    you've got to be kidding me. try hitting a 240km/h serve with a wooden racket + the ball from 40 years ago. and I think all the athletes got A LOT fitter than those days - like in maybe all sports.

    the only ignorant or naive person in here @ datacypher....
     
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  21. rocket

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  22. rocket

    rocket Hall of Fame

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    There's a good reason why.


    And no, it's not just for Nadal & the likes.
     
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  23. NamRanger

    NamRanger G.O.A.T.

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    Yes the players are on average more athletic and hit harder, but not to an extent that people make them. The elites were clearly just about as fast as one another and hit as hard as one another. Now from the wood to graphite era that's too hard of a comparison. However the players from the 90s I think on average were just about as athletic as the guys today; the only difference is IMO the technique on average is better overall.
     
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  24. President of Serve/Volley

    President of Serve/Volley Semi-Pro

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    They should mixed it up... More shots with serve and volley.
     
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  25. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    In general, yes, guys are more "athletic" and fit relative to the players of yesteryear, from about 1980 back. Yet, let's not put Borg in that category, because not many players of today if any are any more athletic than he was.

    Racquet changes and string changes have made more of an impact in recent decades when making comparisons as to overall pace.

    Yet, what the previous poster said about net play cutting down on the "ability to react" is true. Matches such as this Laver vs. Roche match illustrate that quite well.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHaN2h21ANs

    Which player today could hit these shots and win these points with a wood frame? Name one for me please. No, not even Federer.

    Players of today, playing with wood frames, would get blitzed trying to play points like these, because many do not have the same level of pure "tennis skill" as some players of old. Players say during the 50's all the way till about 1980 had to depend primarily on the talents of their arms/hands. Of course, legwork and their footwork was still very important, but placement was the key, in that you had to really work to get the ball by someone. It often required several shots to accomplish, and not just one or two.
     
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  26. Sartorius

    Sartorius Professional

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    This is the umpteenth time I've read something like this and it always makes me giggle.

    Of course if you hand a player of today a wooden frame, he wouldn't start hitting winners tomorrow. They are not trained to play with a wooden frame. But if you let them train to play with a wooden frame (or more specifically, train children to play with wooden frame), they can hit those shots. Also, if you quicken up the courts, players will start to come to the net more. The latter is perhaps my opinion and may be arguable, but the firmer seems painfully obvious to me.

    And that second comment, "No player can have the skills of the old masters!"... Well, it just makes me giggle... Because, yes it is true that years ago there were players with outstanding tennis skills. But news flash, friend.. There were players with outstanding tennis skills 10 years ago. And there are actually players with outstanding tennis skills today (people argue, you know, perhaps one of them is the best). And probably, there will be great tennis players in the future as well.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2009
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  27. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    I don't disagree with any of that, and I don't need any "news flashes", as I know exactly how the game has evolved decade by decade. Let's not overlook at how complex it was to hit shots like the guys from especially the 50's and 60's. Now, by about the late 1970's, you had increased physicality combined with great shotmaking, hence the "golden era" of tennis, with Connors, Borg, and McEnroe. Since then, we've been searching for the right formula, and tweaking surfaces, and racquet technologies, and string changes. From the 90's until now, besides racquet advancements, the changes in strings with the ability to hit a lot more spin more easily has been a huge factor in fostering the tennis style that is primarily played these days, on somewhat slower surfaces relative to the 90's and prior to that.

    My main point is, though most players of yesteryear could not match the legwork of players of today, they certainly could hit shots with great pace, especially with modern frames. Players that have only played with modern frames would have a much more difficult time mastering wood frames (and their games would be COMPLETELY different), yet, it's easier to go in the OTHER DIRECTION (we've seen it time after time), as players successfully adapt from wood frames and find it quite easy and "cushy" hitting with modern frames. It's like shooting baskets in basketball into a tiny basket and THEN shooting baskets into a regular sized basket. Once you master a more complex skill set, going to what's "normal" seems almost effortless. The tiny sweet spot of old frames is the primary reason, besides how difficult it is to hit extremely hard shots over and over.
     
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  28. Changmaster

    Changmaster Rookie

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    If today's players had been trained from a young age with wooden rackets, then yes, I think at least some of them, especially someone like Federer, would be able to play a high level S+V game (although on faster courts) with old-school frames.

    It seems like you're suggesting that players from the wooden age had much more tennis skill than today's players. How can you even say that? It's just that the game is so much different today than back then. If today's players were transported back to the old days, they would have trouble S+Ving with wooden rackets. By the same token, if you transported the players in the wooden age to today, they would have trouble hanging from the baseline with modern rackets, because the slower courts today would obviously discourage S+V.

    Borg#1, it's clear that you have much respect for the players of the past, but it seems like you're making them out to be almost magical, and greatly exaggerating their skills, when it's really just as simple as the fact that they learned the game under different circumstances.
     
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  29. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    No, I wouldn't go that far. I agree that in general, the players of today are fitter and faster. Also, in general, the players of the past, especially 1980 and before had more pure shotmaking skill (by necessity), because of the technology they had to use. Players of today do have great skill, don't get me wrong, they do, no doubt. It's just that, unless you've played with wood racquets (as I have when I was 9-11) and then played with graphite frames, as I have from about 1980, and also played with the newest frames, it's hard for someone to appreciate how different the racquets are by decade.

    I learned to first hit the ball with a Jack Kramer Autograph and played 12 and under tournaments, and got to #1 in Alabama with that racquet.

    By 14 and unders, we moved to Texas, and I was playing with a Wilson Graphite and able to almost OVERNIGHT hit the ball much harder and the sweet spot seemed HUGE. I played with graphite frames through juniors, and played Nationals, as well as some Division 1 tennis my freshman year in college (I was on the practice team and would have been playing top 6 singles by sophomore-junior year at UT, which was top 5 in the country at the time. I chose school instead and stopped playing after my freshman year, no scholarship, but went on to grad school/law school to earn a real living instead of slugging it out on the tour).

    I have also played several pro satellite tournaments with graphite frames back then (late 1980's-early 1990's). Now, I have changed frames consistently since then and now use a Fischer 95 square inch frame strung at near 60 pounds. I can hit the ball harder TODAY and it's much easier for me now, at age 41, compared to when I was say 18-20. Racquets make a huge difference, because I'm probably not any stronger now than I was when I was 20. Believe me, hitting with say a wood Jack Kramer is no joke. People do not appreciate how hard it is to hit hard shot after hard shot, going for winners with one of those.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2009
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  30. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    By the way, I know the ITF regulates tennis balls, and that they do tend to vary in weight even from Slam to Slam, but where is the evidence as to the changed WEIGHT of the ball from say 1970 through today. When were they lighter and how much and when were they made heavier, and by how much? Thanks in advance.
     
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  31. Blade0324

    Blade0324 Hall of Fame

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    Yep it would be fun to see Nadal Pown Edberg over and over again. Edberg would not have much chance to be honest. There is a reason that players are so hesitant to come to net against him even indoors.
     
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  32. Blade0324

    Blade0324 Hall of Fame

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    Umm, NO, S&V is gone and we don't want it coming back.
    Serve, return, volley, end point. Yawn!!!
     
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  33. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Wooden rackets were used for a long time, for most of the 20th century. Do you think the level of play improved at all during that time? Did technique change?
    [​IMG]
    How would Lacoste do against Laver? Also, Borg used a wooden racket... could he volley as well at Roche?
     
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  34. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    ^
    From the picture above, I don’t think any player today can compete by wearing slack and a dress shirt. It’s just to show how much tennis has changed and the players are always getting better.
     
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  35. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    No, Borg could not volley as well as Roche, but his groundstrokes were far better, and his serve was quite good as well. His first serve was one of the best in the game, especially during about 1978-1981.

    The game slowly evolved with wood racquets, overall till they were phased out in the early 1980's. The players overall were more athletic and fit, generally, with each successive era. So, no Lacoste probably could not compete well vs. Laver and Roche. Yet, I think Borg and Laver would be quite a tough match up, and I think Borg may very well have come out on top more often than not (Peak Borg vs. Peak Laver).

    I would say the same applies for both McEnroe and Connors, but I don't think they would have fared as well against Laver as Borg. Then, you had the sea change in racquet technology, especially starting in about 1982 or so, and the increased athleticism continued as well.

    So, IN GENERAL, the athletes of today are superior to the players of both the 1990's, 1980's and 1970's. Yet, they are not necessarily superior to those players as far as pure shot-making ability. Yet, I would not say the players of today are more athletic than Borg. No way, he could definitely "hang" with players of today in all athletic "departments", ESPECIALLY speed and stamina.

    The thing that makes Borg stand out, in my opinion, is his nearly unparalleled athleticism (Nadal, Sampras, and Federer are in his league but not many others) , also combined with top-notch shotmaking ability with wood/wood + slight graphite inlay frame that was about 70 square inches (Donnay wood and then Donnay Borg Pro).

    Now, put a modern frame in his hands (Head/Babolat/Wilson), growing up especially, and THEN add that to his quickness, speed, stamina, ability on all surfaces, upper and lower body strength, and mental toughness (clutch play) and you have in my opinion, the greatest player of all time, in terms of peak performance overall.

    Now, as far as hard courts go, he did win about 9 hard court tournaments during his career, while losing 3 US Open finals on hard courts. Yet, he won a ton on Red Clay, Grass, and Indoor courts also, so he was a extreme threat on every surface, and every tournament. He won 11/27 GS tournaments played (best in the Open Era) and he won nearly 90% of his Grand Slam singles matches. Both are Open Era records.

    Those are the reasons why, in my opinion, he is ever so slightly ahead of Laver, Sampras, and Federer. Yet, you can make plausible arguments for all four of those guys that are in my opinion, at "the top of the mountain": Laver, Borg, Sampras, and Federer.

    I reiterate, you can make arguments for all 4. It's too bad we missed out on seeing him play from age 26-28 or so, when a player is still very fit and strong, but also has all that experience to draw from. But he made his choice to stop playing. He would have won more GS tournaments, in my opinion, but of course that's hypothetical. To say he WOULD NOT have won more I think is a less convincing argument to make, in my opinion.

    When Borg retired, he had won 3 of 6 big slams, and McEnroe had won the other 3 (Borg won 2 FO's and a Wimbledon during 1980-1981, while McEnroe won 1 Wimbledon, and 2 US Opens). His WORST head to head record against ANY PLAYER was 7-7 vs. McEnroe, and guess what? That was ONLY on hard courts, grass courts, and indoor courts, with NO CLAY COURT matches.

    Borg retired as the reigning FO champion, so he was easily still the best clay courter around. Plus, he would have still been a big threat at Wimbledon especially. In addition, he won the last 2 YEC tourneys he played in New York, beating both McEnroe and Lendl INDOORS. That was, in effect, the 4th major back then, since the top players did not play the AO during that time.

    Basically until about 1980-1981, you have "apples to apples" pretty much, even though wood racquets SLOWLY evolved, some, they were still WOOD, and the tennis balls didn't change that much, and of course the courts were the same dimensions, although you saw a shift away from just grass/clay.

    So, until 1981-1982, the 2 greatest players, in my opinion were Borg and Laver. Post 1981-1982, you had 2 other HUGE greats emerge in the Game, namely Sampras and Federer. That's how I arrive at my "top 4" male players in history.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2009
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  36. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    Wow. I've posted extensively on this before. Without getting into volumes of detail. NO. Our "modern" training accounts for little, other than hype. Though steroids and other drugs have made real differences in performance. Ironically, much of the current trend is to dig up old-school training techniques and promote them as "new". LOL

    Second, you simply can't give a person world-class speed. Laver wouldn't be any faster doing some dinky plyometrics. (actually, he and others under Hopman, did plenty anyways, and in some cases far more intensely than most of the players today). Mcenroe, did almost nothing, but was gifted with fast feet.

    This kind of reasoning is actually a combination of a few of the ridiculous myths that go around tennis/athletics today. Sad ...it's almost like being in a new dark ages.
     
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  37. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    UGh. I have posted extensivly on this before, but can't bring myself to write another comprehensive discourse on it. Again, I disagree, and it does irritate me that yet more fitness/tennis myths are getting more and more extensively propagated. Though as, I said, I do think the AVERAGE level of athleticism has improved slightly, as has the average level of fitness. Maximal speed, power, footwork, timing, etc. NO CHANGE.NONE.
     
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  38. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    First, just b/c there’s a few bad apples on the tour who takes steroids doesn’t mean the entire playing field are on steroid either.

    2nd, drug tests are common today, which is easy to get caught. 30-40 years ago, how much drug test was practice? There could be many drug abusers back then but they don’t get caught since no one care .

    3rd, more athletes are competing than 30-40 years ago. Logic would say more athletes would produce more talented/better players given a greater sample of athletes. Not to mention greater diversity that comes from more countries competing.
     
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  39. kOaMaster

    kOaMaster Hall of Fame

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    how do you want to prove this fact?
    I mean, in almost every sport, especially those where you need to be really fit, had a lot of improvements. not only because of new techniques, but also because they train harder, longer, the competition is bigger and so on.
    why shouldn't that be in tennis?

    I mean it's not just a "gift" that federer has good footwork. that is hard training.
     
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  40. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    Not just by me, but by players, former players, commentators, coaches, and trainers.

    And it will continue. We still haven't seen NBA quality athletes on the tour. Imagine a Del Potro who can move faster than Nadal. Basically, a Lebron James or Kobe Bryant who grew up playing tennis.

    And it's not just the guys. The women have become a lot more athletic as well.
     
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  41. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

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    This is the kind of stuff players weren't doing even in the 80's. I've read stories of guys in the 60's drinking after matches, eating steaks and drinking lots of milk to fuel up for matches. Things have progressed. That's no knock on the old timers, they did the best they could with the knowledge of diet, off court training, and technique of their day, and with the equipment they had.

    I don't think today's player could even last a tournament wearing Stan Smiths or whatever shoes they wore in the 70's and probably some of the 80's.
     
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  42. nCode2010

    nCode2010 Banned

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    Hi, I'm new here. Regarding this topic I believe that the current top players are the best athletes this sport has ever seen. Just watch the balls they get to on defense - it's amazing.
     
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  43. Changmaster

    Changmaster Rookie

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    Having extreme athleticism wouldn't necessarily translate to being the best tennis player. I'd say Monfils is pretty similar to James or Kobe in terms of size (slightly smaller) and strength, and he's probably faster. Monfils can hit harder than Nadal, and he's arguably faster, but Nadal is clearly a better tennis player. So incredible athleticism by itself isn't enough to be the best.

    But seeing an athletic beast like Monfils playing tennis today, almost proves that on average, players have become much more athletic than in the old days.
     
    #43
  44. Toxicmilk

    Toxicmilk Professional

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    I'd say that Nadal is pretty athletic as well. though.
     
    #44
  45. Cantankersore

    Cantankersore Semi-Pro

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    Ivo Karlovic: 6'10" 230
    LeBron James: 6'8" 250
    Kobe Bryant: 6'6" 205
    Juan Martin Del Potro: 6'6" 180
    Gael Monfils: 6'4" 180

    I'd say LeBron would be more comparable to a stronger, much more athletic Karlovic. Tennis does take natural skill though, so it wouldn't be automatic that he would a good player. Still, his size and movement would definitely be dangerous. Similarly, size wise Kobe is closer to a stronger, more athletic Del Potro.

    Let's be honest too; as much as I like tennis, they're much better athletes.
     
    #45
  46. tlm

    tlm Legend

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    Have any of you claiming the game of old was faster watched any of that slow motion era lately? If you had you would not be saying that it was faster back in the day.This is so far from the truth it is hilarious.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2009
    #46
  47. TennisLurker

    TennisLurker New User

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    I think you are overrating NBA athletes.

    Football (I mean what americans call soccer) is by far the most popular sport in the world, all other sports are midgets when compared to football, it is played by the majority of european and latin american males, and the athletes are not NBA size. It is the sport with the most depth, and the best players tend to be around Federer height, with some exceptions like Messi who is Coria Chang size.

    NBA athletes are successful because of the particular demands of their sport, perhaps they would also be successful in tennis because a big serve is such a huge advantage, but then, they would struggle with low shots.

    Players who are six feet 1 or 2 like Fed are the best, they can have the best of both worlds.
     
    #47
  48. nCode2010

    nCode2010 Banned

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    I think the Federer/Nadal AO final was proof enough of how the modern tennis players are the best athletes that have ever played. Did you see the amazing defensive gets from both guys?
     
    #48
  49. Toxicmilk

    Toxicmilk Professional

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    I think he was talking more about the level of athleticism rather than their height or w/e. When people talk about the NBA players being tall AND quick/fast...it's mostly cause tall people aren't usually like that.
     
    #49
  50. TennisLurker

    TennisLurker New User

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    I also understood that, I just disagreed with the notion that NBA athletes are all that, or would dominate tennis if they had chosen tennis as a sport when they were kids.

    Do you think Ginobili is a more gifted athlete than Del Potro?
     
    #50

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