Was Andre Agassi a better pure ball striker than Federer?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by Down_the_line, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. Down_the_line

    Down_the_line Legend

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    What do you guys think? Federer is undeniably the GOAT, but in terms of pure ball striking ability, I have to say it's Agassi. His ability to hit the ball so early and hit it as flat as he did was otherworldly. I don't think Federer - even in his prime - punished opponents and fired the ball from one side of the court to the other as well as Agassi.
     
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  2. Devilito

    Devilito Hall of Fame

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    It's close but as Agassi got older it almost seemed like he hit the ball harder. It helped him compete at the top of the game with guys like Federer at age 35. As Federer hits his 30s his aggressiveness and ball speed has extremely dissipated. However I will say that it seemed like something was clicking for him at this years US Open and he’s trying to go back to the way he used to play.

    So I will say Agassi was a better ball striker which also made him a better returner. Not by much though. What Federer has over Agassi is a more well rounded game and better footwork / speed / defensive capabilities.
     
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  3. Datacipher

    Datacipher Banned

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    Depends on what you mean by "pure ball striker".

    He was much much better at taking the ball early, and pounding it with power and control...part of that is due his magnificent 2 handed backhand....big contrast with Fed's one hander.

    In that sense....taking the ball very early...being able to control the point offensively..yes Agassi was ahead of Fed. Even in their US open matches when Andre was half in the grave, you could see that at times.

    I usually think of "pure ball striking" as the ability to consistently hit the sweet spot with perfect timing of the acceleration of the swing. All pros do this inhumanely well compared to amateurs...but some are way ahead and here as well Agassi is way ahead of Fed. Though Fed is absolutely outstanding at times, his shanking puts him way behind Agassi. (Maybe Andre's big racquet helps a bit with the outright shanks, though if you shank the ball with a 90, it wasn't going to be a good shot by pro standards with any racquet).

    On the other hand, in terms of spectacular shotmaking, Fed may be ahead of Andre, in that when everything was flowing for him, his more improvisational style of swing, allowed him to come up with unpredictable and devastating winners from all over the place.
     
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  4. scotus

    scotus Legend

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    Fed shanks the ball far more than Agassi, if that's what you mean.

    Maybe the oversize racquet did give Andre an advantage in this regard.
     
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  5. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    That's what I think of as well, and saying that, I put Jimmy Connors at the top of the list. And he did it for years with his T-2000.
     
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  6. chandler bing

    chandler bing Rookie

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    I always found Agassi a bit over rated.

    Connors and McEnroe (among others) did it better.
     
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  7. Torres

    Torres Banned

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    Not even close.
     
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  8. BeHappy

    BeHappy Hall of Fame

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    much better off the backhand, about the same off the forehand.
     
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  9. TennisLovaLova

    TennisLovaLova Hall of Fame

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    agassi a bit overrated?
    wtf u talkin about?
     
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  10. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Can't disagree with anything written here.

    I would also add that Federer is so much more mobile than Agassi that he could reach shots that Agassi could never reach.

    Just off the top of my head I would say Connors, Agassi, Rosewall were some of the best pure ball strikers I've seen.
     
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  11. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I can't recall a singe time that Agassi shanked a ball except when he was on the dead stretch and couldn't reach the ball without framing it. IMO, Agassi hit harder, cleaner, earlier and more consistently that Federer on both sides. Having said that Federer's forehand was so versatile, and his movement so great and efficient, his forehand, on balance, was probably the greatest shot tennis has ever seen. Can't come close to that about Fed's bh.
     
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  12. Down_the_line

    Down_the_line Legend

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    Thanks for the responses, guys. Yeah, I guess by "pure ball striking ability" I didn't necessarily mean shotmaking, but rather the soft hands and ability to hit the ball cleanly and consistently, wherever you choose to put it.

    I was watching Agassi's 2000 Australian Open semifinal match against Sampras and I wondered if I don't actually enjoy watching Agassi at his best more than Federer!
     
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  13. Magnetite

    Magnetite Professional

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    I would say Agassi. If you've ever watched any interviews with other players and coaches most of them seem to give it to Agassi as well.

    That being said, I think his oversized racket did help him out a bit.
     
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  14. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    if hitting the sweet spot precisely is the definition, then, sure Connors was one of the best, if not the necessarily the hardest of hitters.
     
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  15. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    Fed is a better mover than Agassi, as were Rosewall and Connors, I think. But, Andre hit a very "clean" shot as they way....Fed shanks a lot more. But, I too thought he played very, very well at this year's USO
     
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  16. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    If andre was a better ball striker than fed he would have a much better career, especially when many fans believe he was a better player in his 30.
     
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  17. NadalAgassi

    NadalAgassi Guest

    The village idiot strikes again. There are many factors that can go into a better career than just ball striking. Overall athletic ability, overall court movement, overall defense, mental toughness, fitness, serving, all court abilities, knowing how to use your weapons, quality of competition, circumstances.

    Also if you are insinuating Federer faced the best of Agassi then you are delusional. Agassi won his last slam in January 2003. That also briefly had little to do with Federer who made it past the round of 16 of only 1 slams in 2003, and didnt even win a Masters title (other than the TMF at years end) that year. Most believe Agassi's best ever tennis was in 1994-1995 and in 1999-early 2000 at ages 24, 25, and 29. Some at a stretch have said 1999-2002, but then again 32 year old Agassi was still dominating 20 year old Federer in 2002. Agassi being a later bloomer won only 2 slams after turning 30, and his 2nd last ever slam was at age 30, while Federer did not begin beating him until he was nearly 34.
     
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  18. Joe Pike

    Joe Pike Banned

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    What's a "pure ball"?
     
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  19. accidental

    accidental Professional

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    I remember Agassi saying in an interview once when he was asked about how he hits the ball so cleanly, he said that he hits most of his shots slightly off centre on his racket and only rarely hits the sweet spot, but he just trusts his strokes so much that it doesnt matter if he hits the sweetspot or not, if he executes his stroke properly and pursposely its going to be a good shot.

    I thought it was interesting he would say that, since it seems he's either a perfectionist when it comes to timing the ball or his stroke mechanics were so solid that they produce an excellent ball even off centre
     
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  20. Iron Man

    Iron Man Rookie

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    Federer is better but Agassi was good too ( especially at the backhand )
     
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  21. Satch

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    better ball striker doesnt mean the better player, tennis is much more complex than that.
     
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  22. ClairHarmony

    ClairHarmony Rookie

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    For me, it's a myth that larger head sizes reduce shanking. They also can make you more tentative and fearful of hitting long, they don't get around as well; basically, every advantage is balanced out by an opposing disadvantage. Really, it just boils down to what you're comfortable with using. For Federer, an OS head would I think feel decidedly uncomfortable, and lead to more shanking if anything. If you're a bit tentative, you're simply going to be a split-second behind in your processing, your timing, your swing...it can lead to steering, which leads to less instinctive *movement* and play. It's a negative chain reaction. To me, players will use the general type of model that they've grown accustomed to, it becomes a comfort zone that's hard to shake once you've played awhile. It's more the strings that give you the confidence to swing out or not. A poly/gut hybrid offers to me a virtual night and day difference in terms of predictability and control...it's by far the much bigger factor in why players have gotten in the habit of just letting it all hang out, going for broke is just a much higher percentage play than it used to be. You can't steer the ball in tennis, the second you do, in particular at the higher levels; control goes out the crapper. Shanks increase, footwork positioning becomes self-conscious rather than fluid and adaptive, balls sail long. Basically, you take an "advanced" level swing, but make it tentative, and the shot ends up in racket speed no man's land. Swing speed even when reigning back in tentative at the last second, ends up much harder and swifter than a rudimentary, poke & push, player's stroke...you can poke a ball back into play, but you can't drive fast in a formula 1 race car, then pull back at the last second, asking for a Honda Civic...bad idea.

    So, for me, I don't really see Agassi's use of an OS head as being a tremendous advantage as far as ball striking goes...when every advanced player has a choice, and many find OS heads to be a hinderance to their ball striking if anything.

    Agassi was more dialed-in from the center of the court, he was more straight-forward. Far more predictable with spin, placement, and such; but this was also an advantage to some extent in that he did not have a lot running through his head...his game plan was generally pretty clear. Impose his groundies on you, stuff 'em down your throat until you drop, make you run more than him, and don't miss. An amazingly clean hitter on his best days, he hardly seemed to miss the ball. When he was fully locked in, he was a terminator, a battery and assault machine...but no magician. Federer wishes to dazzle you, hypnotize you, and *surprise* you with his ground attack. He likes to think of himself as more of a tennis artiste', both matador and bull at the same time. He wears both hats, whereas Agassi only wore one...that of the bull. But man, when he was on, that bull didn't miss very often with those horns.

    Agassi was a *surer* ball striker, a cleaner one. His pure hand-eye coordination was equalled really only by peak Rios from his generation; but he was purer ball striker not concerned with suddenly taking the air out of the ball with touch shots, slice and dice tactics, cutesy finesse angles, and so forth. Everything Agassi tried to throw at you was hard, brutal, and clean...mercenary.

    Federer is more a case of the sum of all parts coming together feeling overwhelming. He's got a vulnerable side in his backhand, it's still a good shot; but it's obviously a "confidence" shot for him. Not the kind of shot, you feel will always be there for you that day; it's a gone with the wind shot. Agassi's other great strength beyond his hand-eye coordination, was that he was rock solid *comfortable* off BOTH sides. He did not need to favor one side or the other, if Berastategui wakes up feeling pepless one morning, he looks like he's dreaming of Meg Ryan in Seatle...hopeless, clueless, like he's in search of some TRT and Rogaine shakes, a slurpee on the changeover, Hugh Hefner in his bag, anything to get him going. A step pepless and he's hopeless, he MUST get around to hit that forehand as much as humanly possible. I feel it's one of the less discussed reasons for Agassi's longevity. It's mentally far more fatiguing over the long haul when you're so dependent on a single weapon (other than the serve). It's exhausting, uninspired, and BORING to play to attack off your forehand, time after time, after time, trying to execute the same pattern to the same level of perfection for year after year.

    Federer was a painter, a dab here, a bold stroke there, a honk on the nose here, drop his pants there, oh, no you looked! And lost the point, Fed makes it difficult to establish your "bashing rhythm" that so many pros are reliant on establishing. Agassi gives you rhythm, but he's flame throwing Bowser breathing down your throat from the word jump, rattle, and roll. He was not a jive dancer, he was just overzealous in his attack. On the run, though? A bleeting goat, "meh...meh...mehhh..." he was so-so. Fed on the run, was like Jim Carey taking the helms of an aeroplane...you're no, you're in for some zany, high-paced, creative, sometimes insane, sometimes surprisingly classy "genius," you know, a little bit of fun, grab the popcorn, and throw it in the air, whooo!!! Ric Flair style, prime FedEx was a unicorn on the run, how you Americans say, da bomb...and yet, from a strictly anaylical standpoint. A purer ball striker means your great hits are reliant less on your awesome athleteness, and more just on your wheel chair bound striking ability. From this perspective, Agassi at his best was as good as ever. He was truly special.

    Fed's best hits, were a product of creativity moxy, and athleticism. He was not an in your face athlete, but he was always there. He covered the court with aplomb, loose and limber, not stiff and pigeon-toed like Agassi the hunchback of Notre Dame by comparison. It's safe to say, that Agassi was the better pure ball striker. In many respects, he had to be. To be an elite, he had to be extraordinary in this category to have a chance.
     
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  23. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Actually, Agassi had superb touch, a deadly dropshot and more than competent volleys! His only weakness, IMO, arose out of his congenital back injury and the effect that it had on his serve, mobility and his ability to hit on the stretch in the second half of his career.
     
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  24. FiveO

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    AA was the better "pure ball striker" the way I understand the description. He centered the ball more often and markedly so for how close to the bounce he would take the ball on the rise.

    That isn't to say that AA is the better player or even better, overall, off the ground than Fed. You can't view the two players being compared in a vacuum. Fed did and does attempt far more varied shots, in terms of speed and spin, off the ground than AA ever did, from the far greater amount of topspin off either wing to the severe chop backhands he mixed/es in to his shot choices. For what he attempts and succeeds in accomplishing off the ground Fed truly can't be expected to center the sweetspot nearly as often as AA did.

    5
     
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  25. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    AA did hit the ball more cleanly but that doesn't mean he was a better ballstriker.

    He just used a quite moderate swing while federer swings really wristy and spinny. that means he has much less margin for error. the more spin and wrist action you have the less margin for error you have because your swing plane doesn't match the ball plane but intersects it steeply meaning you have a short time window to hit the ball.

    Extreme spin always means some framing and shanking it's much easier to strike the ball cleanly flat. no coincidence that all the flat hitters look like they hit it always cleanly (davydenko, agassi, Delpo).
     
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  26. MarinaHighTennis

    MarinaHighTennis Professional

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    Well I like watching Agassi, Sampras better than today bc it seems the ball moves faster and such. More fun but thats what I think.
    For someone at 35 to hit so cleanly without shanking much I think hes crazy good.
     
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  27. Raphael

    Raphael Semi-Pro

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    Agassi was also REALLY good in adverse conditions...lots of wind, for example.
     
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  28. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    This thread starts off with a failed premise.

    Lots of deniability and debate, here in particular.
     
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  29. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    Really? Guess I was watching some other Andre Agassi... the one I remember had terrible volleys....no real sense of what he was doing in the forecourt.
     
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  30. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    That's a good point. Federer plays closer to the boundry between extreme shotmaking and mis-hitting than pretty much anyone else. He has some of the wrist-i-est groundies I've ever seen which helps him generate power and spin, but, also results in less consistent ball contact. So does Ralph, as could be seen in his numerous fh shanks in the USO final against Joko! Obviously, Ralph wasn't at his best that day, and that's what happens when you live by the sword, so to speak.

    Laver's game and attitude was exactly the same. He had very wristy, high power, heavy topspin, groundies and preferred to go for more and risk a few more errors. For example, on one hand, Laver was criticized for hitting too many double faults, and on the other hand, he was praised for the power, depth and kick (and alternatively slice), he got on his second serve.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2011
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  31. Tagg

    Tagg New User

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    yes, agassi had superb timing and hit the ball extremely early and cleanly

    his best on hardcourts in 95 shows this. pure power, struck cleanly, often down the line, off both wings

    federer is a great shotmaker, but a lot of his 'wow' shots can be attributed to his footspeed and reflexes

    look at federer now he has aged somewhat. the winners out of nowhere just don't happen

    his technique has certainly not gone down. if anything, his backhand and serve have improved

    again, it's federer's speed and reflexes that allowed him to make those shots

    someone like agassi was not a natural athlete, and relied on pure hand to eye co-ordination
     
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  32. Sabratha

    Sabratha G.O.A.T.

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    I would say so yes
     
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  33. BauerAlmeida

    BauerAlmeida Semi-Pro

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    I think so, yes.
     
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  34. Devilito

    Devilito Hall of Fame

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    he was an 8 time slam champion that i would consider an underachiever that had the potential to win much more. To say someone like that had terrible ANYTHING is a complete joke. Were his volleys as good as his ground game? of course not, but his volleys were not terrible. Plus he knew when to come in on the right shot and was good as sneaking in behind a tough shot
     
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  35. World Beater

    World Beater Hall of Fame

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    agassi was more reliable because he hit his ball pretty much the same way all the time.

    but ive never seen a player handle pace better than federer.

    federer hits with more spin, and thus will mishit sometimes. But i dont think he mishits at a rate higher than his peers. Agassi probably did not hit the frame as much as fed but this has so much to do with their technique and the angle of the racquet.

    Federer just does more with the ball than andre and takes more risks.

    But in terms of hitting a flat ball...a train was more reliable.
     
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  36. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Bottom line: Fed shanks more balls in two games than AA did in a season. Seriously!
     
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  37. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    well fed owned agassi not because of his ballstriking but because he was better in:
    -serve
    -shot making (angles, slice, dropper, net game, overhead)
    -speed
    -footwork
    -agility

    (just some minor details:D).

    I would say agassi was a cleaner ballstriker than fed but you have to consider that fed is an extreme topspin player. we always consider the flat hard strikers like agassi, davydenko, davenport, del potro and so on and cleaner ballstrikers but they do also have an "unfair" advantage:

    when you hit flat your racket moves relatively parellel to the ball flight giving you a large zone to hit the ball while the topspin player hits in a steep angle towards the ball. that means your racket and ball move in different directions only giving you one possible contact point.

    in baseball players thus try to match the plane of the pitch with their swing to have a higher chance of hitting it cleanly. hitting heavy top is the opposite of matching the plane.

    if agassi tried to swing as spinny (and wristy) as fed does he would shank a whole lot more. so comparing flat hitters with heavy spin players is kinda unfair in that regard. and the one handed BH also is more shank prone than a two hander.
     
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  38. adista4

    adista4 Semi-Pro

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    agassi is the cleanest ballstriker of all time IMHO
     
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  39. Sabratha

    Sabratha G.O.A.T.

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    The only thing Agassi lacked was mentality.
     
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  40. Kalin

    Kalin Professional

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    Agassi at his best was the best ballstriker I have seen, including Fed whom I personally consider the GOAT, by the way. When Andre was still young (his long hair and fluorescent spandex 'image is everything' years) he could hit every shot in the book with winners out of nowhere no less outrageous than the ones Fed is known for. But it didn't win him many tournaments so he toned it down a notch going for the extra consistency.

    During his most successful years Agassi had perfected his tactics to a point where his game was indeed quite boring to watch- heavy serve intended not to hit an outright winner but to pull the receiver out of position and then take him apart with precision groundies. During this period you always had the feeling that Agassi still had an extra gear which he very seldom used rather preferring to stay in the zone of utmost control. He would still hit the occasional out-of-this-world return when he was himself out of position but he always chose to stay in balance whenever possible and make the opponent run instead.

    Needless to say, I much preferred watching the young Andre, that was so much more fun.

    On a side note, yes, his volleys always looked a bit awkward compared to the supreme stylists like Edberg and Boris and even Pete but he had excellent hands, good coverage and the luxury of being able to come back behind the best groundstrokes in the game :) This helps a lot!
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2012
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  41. Tennis Dunce

    Tennis Dunce Semi-Pro

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    best ballstrikers Ive ever seen are Agassi, Nalbandian, Baghdatis, and on the ladies side definitely Lindsay Davenport, Capriati and Zina Garrison.
     
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  42. mental midget

    mental midget Professional

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    glad you made this point so i didn't have to. agassi and connors, everyone's top-of-the-heap ball strikers, both had exceedingly compact strokes with fairly flat swing planes. Connors in particular has mentioned he has what amounts to a 'woman's game,' imparted by his mother: very simple strokes, straight back, straight through.

    you can add guys like petr korda and berdych to the 'ball strikers' list, which we might rename 'guys who hit flat and are good at it.'
     
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  43. vandre

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    if i could bronze this post i would and hang it in my home next to my agassi shrine :)!!!!

    what you said about agassi in his early (i.e long hair) days was dead on the money! you didn't dare take your eyes off one of his matches for a second because you might miss aa hitting the most insane winner ever (until the next time he did it :))! didn't win a whole lot of titles those days but it was alot of fun to watch. back then, his groundies where his whole game. his serve wasn't a weapon itself, he just used it to start the point on his own terms. i remember he used to like serving wide in the ad court to open up the court for a crosscourt forehand. his volleys might have been uglier than roddicks but the difference is aa only came in on sitters and would usually end it with a swinging forehand volley.
     
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  44. corners

    corners Legend

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    Agassi hit flatter than Fed, which is both easier (less chance of clipping the frame or near it, producing a weak shot) and harder (less net clearance). But flat shots fly faster for a given swingspeed. I would guess that Fed's average RHS is faster than Agassi's was, so he's hitting nearly as fast a ball as Agassi but with more spin. What's pure ball striking anyway? A fast, flat ball? A heavy, accurate ball?

    The question of flat vs. spin is also relavant to the baseline half volley. Yes, Agassi pretty much invented, and was master of that shot. But he hit it flat with an oversize frame, which is easier to time than grinding it with topspin like Fed does with a midsize.

    When watching highlights of matches like the 04 US Open final vs. Hewitt, it's tough for me to think that Agassi ever struck the ball better, cleaner or more fearsomely than Fed does there. On the other hand, Agassi could bash! Here's a great match vs. a prime Becker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXQJK8P9bHU
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
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  45. sabala

    sabala Semi-Pro

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    I wanna see an exo with Federer and Agassi - and they have to switch rackets!
     
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  46. magnut

    magnut Hall of Fame

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    Andre was a great athlete. The problem is people only remember him from his last years on the tour when he couldnt move. He was quick as hell. Watch some of his matches from his 94 US Open run. He a speed demon. Check out the match where he played Chang in the round of 16. As quick as Chang was Andre was right there with him.

    People think Pete was slow too which is a laugh. Pete was like a cheeta on court in his prime.
     
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