Underrated part 1: John Newcombe

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by kiki, Feb 4, 2012.

  1. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    He is underrated while he has one of the best records of the open era and is the last " Emperor" of the Australian Reign ( 1950´s to 1970´s).

    Took 7 slam titles + 1 WCT title ( beating in 5 sets finals guys like Kodes,Smith,Rosewall,Connors and Borg)

    He was known as the " player of the fifth set" ( not a Borg or a Connors would like to play a peak Newc in a fifth set)

    The guy had one of the best Serves and Volleys and S&V mechanics of any time, one of the most feared FH shots and yes, a tinny but effective sliced BH and a great lob, that he practiced a lot in doubles.His OH ranks among the all time best, too.

    He took doubles to a new dimension, along his old time buddy and friend Tony Roche, himself one of the greatest, if not the greatest underachiever ever ( due to injuries).Both have been considered by many, the best ever doubles team, although this can be subjective.

    And, he was one of the funniest, likeable guys ever, from Japan to California loved by peers and people who met him.No one could talk BS about him, not even a guy like Connors, who sought his help for a while long after Newc had retired an open up a very succesful tennis ranch in Lakeway,Texas.

    This is a post, obviously adressed to seasoned TT posters who watched him live or on TV during Newc´s glorious years ( end 60´s to middle 70´s).

    I´d like to share your experiences about this guy, one of the greatest players anytime and one of the greatest characters ever.
     
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  2. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Okay I'll take a shot. Newcombe was one of the best players I've seen with one of the best forehands ever. It was arguably the best forehand of his day and his day included players with super forehands like Laver, Okker, Gimeno and Nastase. It is comparable with any player's forehand including Lendl and Federer. I am not saying it was better but certainly close to that level. His forehand volley was fantastic with a solid backhand volley.

    For players I've seen in their prime (bearing in mind I saw Pancho Gonzalez past his prime) he was the prototype of the serve and volley game. His first serve was arguably the best in the game and his second serve is, along with Pete Sampras and Jack Kramer been called the best in the history of tennis. I've never seen a player with better strokes for the serve and volley game bearing in mind that John McEnroe wasn't a typical serve and volleyer.

    If you compare his serve and volley game to Edberg, his serve was much better but his volley was somewhat below that of Edberg's. His serve was very close in level to Becker's and overall I think it may have been better plus his serve was superior. His serve was also superior to Laver's plus his volley was probably as solid as the Rocket's. Laver was probably a bit quicker at the net.

    His serve was also comparable to Sampras' serve, both first and second but I tend to think Pete was slightly superior there. However I thought Newcombe had a more solid volley.

    Newcombe also won on all surfaces, grass, clay, indoors. He was not the fastest nor the most agile player. Sampras, Edberg, Laver and McEnroe were clearly faster than Newcombe.

    He was a great player for the big occasion like Wimbledon and the US Open. He had a knack for winning five set big matches like his great win over Stan Smith at Wimbledon plus the 1973 Davis Cup and his win over Jan Kodes at the 1973 US Open.

    To show how high a level John Newcombe could reach I saw Newcombe play Jimmy Connors at the 1973 US Open (which in retrospect was in some ways almost the final) and Connors was fantastic. He played at what I recall (and the crowd I believe at the time) was a super high level. Newcombe defeated Connors in three straight sets with only one service break for the entire match. Newcombe also defeated Connors in the final of the 1975 Australian Open in four sets after defeating Tony Roche in a long five set match the previous round.

    He was known as a power player but he had surprising touch. He could dink, lob and play a decent touch game. According to Vainqueurs, Newcombe won 66 tournaments in his great career but I would not be surprised if he was over 70 in tournaments won. He also had a solid baseline game.

    In his prime (and if he was in shape) he would be dangerous against any opponent that ever lived on any surface. He really didn't have a stroke weakness but his mobility was not that of a Laver, Rosewall, Nastase, Connors or Borg.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2012
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  3. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Good descriptions. As a young kid, i saw Newcombe first at Rothenbaum. He married a German tennis player from Hamburg, Angelika Pfannenberg. My first full match with him, i can somewhat remember was the Wim final against Wilhelm Bungert in 1967. Bungert was fine player with good touch and a dangerous early taken return (and a stiff back). He runs now a tennis ranch near Duesseldorf. But Newk, who made his breakthrough, overpowered him. A pc 1 writes, his best shots were his second serve, his forehand volley, often hit as drive, and his forehand return. He often ran around his backhand on the return, and took it on the forehand. This won him a tough five set quarter vs. Emerson at Wim 1970. Others like Ashe had so much respect for this forehand return, that they made a double fault anyway. He had strong weapons and a strong will and winning mentality, a typical captain or leader (his father was a Cricket captain i think). He also had a shreed tactical brain. He played Laver in the Wim 1969 final the same way, Ashe later played Connors - with dinks and slices and lobs. What he lacked against someone like Laver, was the imagination and creative power.
     
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  4. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    We should not overlook his great, great doubles record.
     
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  5. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Great description of Newcombe´s game.I agree on almost everything, and I consider as well his mobility as his weakest point, that wouldn´t let him brighten on a slow surface.I don´t remember if he ever won the IO, but he certainly felt short at the FO, and never got beyond the last eight round.

    On grass, however, he is certainly one of the top 5 players of the open era ( better than Smith,Kodes,Agassi, even Connors and at the same level as Laver,Borg,Becker,Edberg,Sampras and Mc Enroe)
     
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  6. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    In an era of sensational teams like Fleming-Mc Enroe, Lutz-Smith,Hewitt-Mc Millan, Rosewall-Stolle,Okker-Riessen,Gottfried-Ramirez and so forth, they outstood as the most solid and winning combination.I´d have loved to see Newcombe-Roche vs Sedgman-Mc Gregor and Bromwich-Quist for the challenge of GOAT doubles team.
     
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  7. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Incidentally in that description I meant to write Newcombe's volley was superior to Boris Becker's volley.
     
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  8. Frankc

    Frankc Semi-Pro

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    Yes, all agreed. Remembered all the above and especially noted the fifth set victories. Fine young memories of Newcombe & Kodes , 1973, and the later encounters with Stan Smith which I believe Newcombe dominated.

    Ashe called Newcombe a very sharp mental competitor and that always struck me. I remember a gesture of "hands covering his eyes" as a quick response to Kodes "out of mind" serving at Forest Hills. Kodes fell off later with his first serve. I just felt that he knew tactics and how to gain an edge at key moments - like the forehand run around or that superior lob ( What a dramatic encounter with Connors at the Australian - i'd love to beam back in time for that day) or that second serve that Kramer and others saw as the best ever.

    I think we see some of his mental sharpness when did commentary for TV. He seemed to sneak in those key observations or questions that centered on the slightest momentum shifts or mental aspects in play. Often, for me, the other commentator would react vaguely to the question rather than seeing the tactical significance.

    That distinctive, smooth service motion will always stay with me...
    Great post - one of my favorite players to watch of all time (Now to somehow beam back to that Aussie final with Connors.. what a day that musta been...)
     
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  9. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

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    Don't know how you can say he is underrated........in any tennis conversation or in books from greats like Kramer he is always regarded highly and he was one of the first to really market himself. In Australia he's a living legend and so popular he's like a movie star in the states.....and by the way Newks ranch is in New Braunfels - about 70+ miles away from Lakeway Resort which is on Lake Travis in Austin.
     
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  10. timnz

    timnz Hall of Fame

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    Newcombe a great barometer for how good Emerson was

    Newcombe was 24 at the dawn of open tennis after an excellent amateur career. Emerson was 31 - past his peak, hence we never saw how good he really was in the open setting. Now what earlier posters have said is true newk was a great player. But emerson was even greater. He had a dominant head to head against newcombe. Hence, given newcombes later successes we can inter that if emmo had been younger he would have been right up there. He beat laver in straight sets quite a few times in 1968.
     
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  11. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Does anyone know his lifetime record vs. John Lloyd? I once heard Lloyd interviewed and he was surprised that more people didn't regularly beat the Newk as he supposedly did by serving out wide in the ad and coming in all day, he mentioned that he didn't think Newcombe's slice backhand return could break an egg.
     
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  12. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I disagree with a few points. Newk was much more of a touch player than a power player. Most of all, he was a masterful tactician who knew how to make the most of what he had. He had a great forehand, but, hitting power forehands was not a primary tactic for Newk. This becomes abundantly clear when he played against true power players like Laver and Connors. Both Laver and Connors were more powerful off of both sides. Rather than try to match their power, he played dinks, lobs and angles. I would also say that his serve was a little bigger than Edberg's, but only slightly better, if at all. I think you underestimate Edberg's serve. I consider Edberg's serve to be one of the best S&V serves of all time. But, I also think you underestimate Newk's volleys and net game. IMO, they were nearly as great as Edberg's, and probably as great as Laver's and Rosewall's.
     
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  13. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I agree! Emerson is definitely badly underrated on this forum! The problem is that most haven't seen him play, and there is very little online video to look at.
     
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  14. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Yup! Becker was very athletic at the net. But, his volleys were not quite as good as Newk's, IMO.
     
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  15. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I wrote Newcombe's volley was slightly below Edberg's net game so I agree with you there. No I don't underestimate Newcombe's net game which I think was fabulous but it's just that I don't rank his net game as high as Edberg's. Edberg's net volley is arguably the best ever in my opinion.
     
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  16. Tshooter

    Tshooter Hall of Fame

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    I don't think he is underrated (or overrated.)

    His game would never play today. He had something not uncommon among early-mid 70s players. No topspin backhand. His backhand was weak. He used it like Shriver. As a tool to get to the net.

    I remember that huge "buggy whip" forehand and solid serve that he often sliced.

    The thing I most remember though is not really his game but his commentary on the Jmac/Connors semi at W the first year JMac played and went through qualies to the semis. He didn't like JMac volley technique because he "stood up on the volleys." He thought it was poor technique which, with hindsight, is quite a statement as many consider JMac one of the best ever in the volley department. Yes, it was unorthodox but it was very effective.
     
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  17. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Good point about the backhand. I've thought about that several things and I believe he would have had a solid backhand today, especially with the larger frames we have now. It wasn't a weak shot but it wasn't a great weapon. He was a good baseliner. The backhand was not a great passing shot but he could lob with it and dink it at people's feet to set it up for his forehand.

    The comment Newcombe made about McEnroe has been said quite often. It actually makes sense when you considered it was in 1977 and no one knew what a brilliant player and volleyer McEnroe would be. I don't think even John McEnroe would say that he has great classic technique in volleying but it works for him.
     
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  18. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Newcombe, despite being basically a fast courter, had a quite good record on European clay (especially in his younger years), better than Connors, Mac, Edberg or Becker. In 1968, he was finalist at the French pro at RG, beating Rosewall in the quarters and losing the final to Laver. Also in 1968, he won Hamburg over Drysdale. In 1969, he won Rome over Roche, and he beat Kodes at RG in a tough 5 setter, before losing the quarterfinal to Okker. He also won the Canadian open on clay in 1971.
     
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  19. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    A more solid volley, not so flashy as Becker´s ( which was very steady, too) but more complete and reliable.I remember that the Newc-Roche combination worked wonders because Newc provided the steady return, steady serve and steady volley ( in doubles you need to play 3-4 volleys to win the point), while Rochey was the flasier guy, the one with killing volleys and OH.What a sensational pair¡¡¡

    A bit like another great ( but inferior, no doubt) pair like Lutz and Smith.Smith played the same way as Newcombe ( big steady serve and volley and forehand), while Lutz was the killing volleyer and killing returner off the backhand.By the way, in terms of raw talent, Bob Lutz equals Roche,Okker or Kodes, and was even a better player.He maybe one of the greatest underachievers anytime ( he was one of my favs of the early 70´s).
     
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  20. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Oh¡¡ the great John LLoyd, mostly known as one of Chris Evert´s " has been" says so???
     
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  21. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I agree.Edberg´s serve is one of the best ever for S&V, although I think Newk´s was a bit better.And while Edberg or Mac had a slighty more varied volleying touch, Newk´s is just as good as Laver,Hoad or Rosewall.I think Roche´s was just as good, too.
     
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  22. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I saw Emmo and I´ll take my shot on him:

    He just lacked the bright of a Laver or a Rosewall and was less appealing than Ashe or Newcombe, or even Santana.But he certainly had a very very complete and solid game.Good BH return, extremely steady volleying ( he was the first guy to succesfully volley many times between his legs), good deep first serve ( not as hard as Fraser´s, tough) and one of the greatest athletes int ennis history.He was also a great fighter, that is why he beat almost all top amateurs when it mattered (Mc Kinley,Santana,Stolle,young´s Newcombe and Roche, young Ashe...).

    and he was a hell of a party soul and beer drinker¡¡¡¡ in his book, Laver destiles sympathy for Emmo, who was possibly his closest friend ever on tour.
     
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  23. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    BTW, Emerson was very succesful in doubles with Stolle and, also, with Fraser and Laver.He was adapting to different partners and was succesful¡¡¡.He also won the French with Santana.
     
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  24. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Yea, I thought it was a rather arrogant comment at the time for what he personally had achieved but then again, maybe he did have a strong head to head with Newk and could in fact justify the proclamation? Still don't know.
     
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  25. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    From the ITF website it seems John Lloyd had a 3-0 record against John Newcombe. However Newcombe was just about ready to retire at that point. The matches started in 1977.

    NEWCOMBE, John (AUS)

    Versus John LLOYD (GBR)
    Year Tournament Round Surface Winner Score
    1977 Australian Open QF Grass (O) J.LLOYD 6-3 3-6 5-7 5-7
    1978 World Team Cup Clay (O) J.LLOYD 6-7 2-6
    1978 Queen's 16 Grass (O) J.LLOYD 4-6 4-6
     
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  26. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    LLoyd´s best - and single- performance came during the 1977 AO, reaching the finals and losing a hard 5 setter then.I have a few memories of LLoyd, who wasn´t a bad player and had a pretty good BH return, low and deep.Possibly, this was his greatest shot and fit in badly for Newcombe ( who was well past his prime, anyway)
     
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  27. BeHappy

    BeHappy Hall of Fame

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    One player who is massively under rated in my opinion is Emerson. Yes he wouldn't have won as many slams if he'd turned pro, but he was just as good as all the pro's, and his game was very impressive when you watch his matches.

    To my eye I think he was a better player than Rosewall was (albeit he didn't have his freakish longevity so by the time open tennis came about he was starting to get slightly over the hill at 31). Big booming flat and very consistent groundstrokes and just as fast and fit as Rosewall.

    People say Rosewall's backhand slice was so amazing, when you watch his matches people were approaching his backhand all day. He only got away with it because he was so incredibly fast, although he could drive it well when it was above chest height. Nevertheless everyone's game plan against him seems to have been to approach it low so he'd have to lob or dink it.
     
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  28. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I have watched closely and live both guys and, believe me, from the technichal point of view, there is no colour...Rosewall was far a better player although Emerson was pretty steady and had no weakness ( but no major strength , too).

    But I agree that Emerson, as I posted a few times is underrated here.It is just that 95% of TT posters know tennis from 1990´s on.Few watched 1980´s tennis and even less 1970´s or even before.

    BTW, to say that Rosewall´s BH was weak proves you have no idea about his game and you probably watched it on some bad quality tapes.I watched it meters away from him...
     
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  29. BeHappy

    BeHappy Hall of Fame

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    Rosewall is so far before my time it's ridiculous, I have only seen his RG final against Laver, some other early 70's tournament final against laver, and the matches where he was annihalated by Connors. Still, in all those matches players were serving to his backhand and when they sliced their approaches low he seemed unable to respond with anything other than a lob or a dink because he couldn't hit it with topspin.
     
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  30. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Ask some of the greatest servers anytime, Tanner,Smith and Newcombe about that sliced BH return that killed them in the 1974 year.Connors never was a good server so he didn´t have the same problem to face.
     
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  31. BeHappy

    BeHappy Hall of Fame

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    Watching those matches, Connors serve and forehand were great, they both seemed to get worse and worse and worse until 1982 where they recovered somewhat. He was hitting great big flat serves against Rosewall in the USO and Wimbledon finals.
     
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  32. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Muscles, errr I mean Rosewall had such a deceiving backhand. It looked like a slice the way he would strike the ball but he didn't float it, it really was a stinging slice and if you watch enough of his old matches you will see he surgically dissected his opponents with that thing. His margin for error was nil.
     
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  33. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    IMO, Roche was the best volleyer of all time. His serve and groundies were great too. I would also say that, had Roche remained healthy, he would have been the next Laver, and Smith, Nastase and Connors may never have been #1.
     
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  34. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I wouldn't say that. IMO, there is no one in the history of tennis who was "far greater" than Emerson. He was a great shotmaker in every respect. He was supremely confident, considered himself to be a champion and expected to win every match. He had one of the best 1hb's of all time, and was one of the greatest athletes to every play, he won 12 major singles titles and 14 major doubles titles.

    BTW, my recollection is that Emmo had a huge H2H winning record over Newcombe.
     
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  35. Frank Silbermann

    Frank Silbermann Professional

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    What made his backhand great is that you could rally all day against it and never get a short ball (unless he wanted to tease you with a sharp cross-court dink). And if you were unlucky enough to hit short to his backhand, well, even though he couldn't put it away, what he _would_ do is take it on the rise to make it even shorter and be in position at net before the ball even bounced on your side. And Rosewall had an _incredibly_ good net game. (In the days of standard-sized rackets, being able to take the ball on-the-rise was a major big deal even at tennis' highest levels.)

    Back then, when players were said to have better backhands than forehands it meant that their backhand slices were steadier, more accurate, and more consistent. As most pupils tended to hit harder then they were able to control the ball, teaching pros emphasized that power was of little importance -- accuracy and control were everything.

    Of course, in top level tennis _everyone's_ strategy against everyone else was to approach low to the backhand and take the net. Even if you had a topspin backhand, a third of the time it would likely result in an unforced error. (Backhand topspin may come naturally if you use a semi-western grip, but with the correct technique the shot becomes extremely difficult.) You'd just hope that you could gather a few successful passes together to break serve once each set while you held your own serve playing S&V.
     
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  36. WCT

    WCT Rookie

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    Yeah, from what I've seen, it's not just a defensive slice. Sometimes it's flatter and very penetrating. It could be just as offensive as defensive.
     
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  37. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    When Tony was playing his best, only the best Laver or Hoad had enough inside to beat him.But Roche never achieved what his talent demanded.

    I liked a lot his duels with Newc, plenty of passion, schrewdness and tactics.Almost all of them went to 5 sets.
     
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  38. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Rosewall´s slice was really a semiflat shot disguissed into slice because of the hand paralel to the racket and retroimpulsion, finishing with the racket completely paralel to the floor and at the knees level.

    Coming back to topic, Newcombe´s last 2 big titles were dallas 74 and Melbourne 75.Beating in 4 sets the two players that would dominate the tennis world in the next years.That proves that his game was equally efficient vs old school guys like Rosewall or Roche or Ashe as with the modern guys.I am not sure he had a good HtH with Vilas, tough.
     
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  39. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    BTW, is there anybody with the tape of the 1974 Newcombe/Borg final? Thanks a lot¡¡¡
     
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  40. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    The WCT Final in Dallas? I'd love to see that again.
     
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  41. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Borg defeated Okker and Kodes to reach the F, that he lost in 4 sets to Newcombe ( after winning the first).

    WCT had a thrilling cast every year.
     
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  42. gino

    gino Hall of Fame

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    Would love to bump this discussion. I read recently that Newk thinks todays aggressive players aren't able to get to the net effectively. Anyone here have insight as to his tactical play and strategies for setting up easy volleys?....
     
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