Who are the best players in handling net rushers?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by pc1, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    We have a nice discussion about passing shots in another thread so I figured it may be interesting to start an individual thread for this.

    By this I don't always mean passing shots but also lobs, topspin or slice, chips crosscourt angles, blasts at the net player etc. What players were able to handle net rushers the best and how?

    There have been a lot of greats who had to develop ways to handle great net rushers. Some names that come to mind are Borg, Rosewall, Laver, Connors, Lendl, Tilden, Budge, Agassi, Wilander, Riggs etc.
     
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  2. Andres

    Andres G.O.A.T.

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    In my opinion, the best guy in handling net rushers annd serve and volleyers was Lleyton Hewitt. His returns were nightmarish, always at their feet, and his passing shots were top notch.

    He loved having a target.

    And who can forget his lobs? That takes some serious skill ;)
     
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  3. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Returns are obviously important and Lleyton Hewitt was one of the best plus his speed was fabulous. He certainly handled Sampras well in that US Open final they played.

    Actually that's another important point, many of the top players in handling net rushers had excellent speed like a Borg, Nastase, Lleyton Hewitt, Rosewall, Chang, Wilander, Connors and Laver.
     
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  4. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    That's a pretty good list, PC1. I'm not sure I can add anyone. Maybe Nastase because of his great topspin lobs on both sides, his masterful touch, and his speed.
     
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  5. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Nastase's a great choice. He had a great running forehand pass. Plus as you mentioned, his speed was incredible so he could get to many volleys that most players couldn't reach.
     
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  6. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    I'm not sure I'd put Borg in there. OK, against net rushers maybe, but not against serve-and-volleyers, because if there was one type of players he struggled against it was those relentless net attackers.

    Cases in point:
    - Ashe in fact ended up with an edge in their H2H (yes, I know most of their matches took place before Borg's heyday, but Ashe gave him fits even in later matches, including one he won on HC in '76).
    - The one and only guy he ever lost to at RG was Panatta, the S&V clay-court specialist.
    - Pecci also troubled him with plenty of net play at the '79 FO.
    - Though Borg does lead the H2H against Tanner by a fair margin (11-4 by the official ATP count), the scores indicate that most of their matches were quite close, including an upset by Tanner at the '79 USO. By contrast Tanner was miserable against Gerulaitis (0-5 in official matches, 1-5 if we include their '77 meeting at Hilton Head), while Borg thoroughly owned Vitas (of course).
    - And we all know about his rivalry with Mac.

    So I'd say Borg wasn't the best at handling net rushers, or S&Vers at least. Not bad, mind you, just not among the very best.

    BTW this is also why I can't second the opinion that Borg was a returner on par or nearly in the same league with Connors and Agassi. It's generally agreed that his passing shots are among the very best ever, so if his return was similarly great, then why the struggles against net-rushers/S&Vers? (Again this is all relative. I'm not saying Borg was a mediocre returner.)
     
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  7. Orion3

    Orion3 Semi-Pro

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    PP - Borg returned serve from way behind the service line. In his book he discusses that the reasons.

    The problem with returning serve this way (against S&V's) is that by the time you hit the return, the server is closer to the net than they would be if you could return early like Agassi/Connors or current players like Joker or Murray.

    Against an incoming net rusher during open play - Borg was deadly.
     
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  8. NonP

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    Of course Borg's aim was "to get every single service return back so as to pressure the net man into missing" (from his book). It's certainly arguable whether it was the right strategy against the guys I just mentioned above.

    And as a pure shot I don't think Borg's return was as deadly as Agassi's (Connors is a bit before my time, so I'll refrain from that comparison), but that's a separate topic.
     
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  9. Orion3

    Orion3 Semi-Pro

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    Difficult to compare. I was lucky enough to see them both play at Wimbledon with a decade or so in between. In that time the court bounce had improved (a bit) but racquet technology was like night and day.

    Given the equipment of the day I'd favour Borgs ability to pick a pass from play but would favour Agassi's service return every day of the year.

    Borg and Agassi rank as my all time tennis heroes - never cared for Connors, but I did see him. At the time in 1980, his returns were unreal. I couldn't understand how anyone could return so quickly... And then a young Agassi turned up.
     
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  10. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    A lot of things to take into account here, first Pecci was in the zone during that French Open, crushing Connors and Vilas before the final. He played Borg and was getting crushed before he rallied to win the third set. Bud Collins said Borg had backhand passing magic in that match.

    Roscoe Tanner had one of the biggest serves in history and if he was serving well, which was quite often, it would be very hard to beat him easily if you could beat him at all.

    Ashe and Borg eventually ended up (according to the ITF) tied at eight wins apiece. Many of these matches were played before Borg reached his peak and yet despite that a young Borg gave Ashe problems. I think the main reason Ashe gave Borg problems was simply because at the times they played, Borg and Ashe was of a similar level and not just because Ashe was a great serve and volleyer.

    If you check Panatta against Borg, Panatta did not beat Borg when Borg reached his peak. The 1978 Italian Open was actually in my opinion a match in which Borg clearly outplayed Panatta. The linemen in that match were incredibly, ahem, a bit partial to Panatta. The line calls was very poor. In that particular match objects were thrown at Borg like coins.

    Jose Higueras was leading Panatta 5-1 in the second set and eventually walked off in that tournament.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/writers/jon_wertheim/05/05/best.court/index.html

    http://blogs.tennis.com/thewrap/2012/05/catching-the-tape-before-seppi-there-was-adriano.html

    Anyway to get back to topic, Borg in my opinion got the serve back far more than Agassi and he also hit his share of winners. Whether that's more effective is debatable.

    Thing is how many players could do well against top serve and volleyers like Ashe, Tanner and McEnroe? They were just plain tough players.

    Borg did well against Nastase, who regularly served and volleyed at Wimbledon, Brian Gottfried, Tanner, Gerulaitis, Dick Stockton, Tom Okker, Laver (past his prime but still terrific until 1975). His record against McEnroe and Ashe were even. Ashe played Borg many matches before Borg reached his peak.

    We could argue that Connors didn't do well against these serve and volleyers too. Tanner gave Connors fits (didn't beat him often however) as did McEnroe. Borg could serve and volley at Wimbledon, especially in the 1978 Wimbledon final and crushed Connors. Stan Smith, until his decline after 1974 was 4-4 with Connors. Nastase was way ahead of Connors in head to head until Connors dominated the later years. These guys were top players who were tough against anyone. I won't count guys like Becker, Sampras and Edberg since they played Connors late in Connors career but these guys would be problems for Connors even at Connors' peak because they were great tennis players, not just great serve and volleyers.
     
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  11. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    There was a story that John Newcombe gave about a tournament in the early 1970's in which he was playing Laver. Laver won the first two sets and Newcombe won the next two. It was close in the fifth set. Newcombe was serving and having a lot of success volleying to Laver's backhand and smashing away Laver's backhand lobs. So Newk served to Laver, hit a volley to Laver's backhand and shifted his weight back to prepare for what he thought was a lob by Laver. Laver brought his racquet back like he was about to lob then hit a crosscourt chip to Newcombe's forehand! Newcombe realized that he was moving backwards so if he attempted a volley it would not be penetrating and Laver would move in, hit his great forehand and probably pass him. So he figured (all this in a fraction of a second) that he would just hit the ball back deep and start the point over again. Newcombe hit the ball out by a fraction. He give Laver and look acknowledging what a brilliant shot it was. Newcombe thought the crowd didn't even know what a brilliant shot Laver made. Laver broke Newcombe's serve and won the match.
     
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  12. Arafel

    Arafel Professional

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    The best at handling net rushers was Chris Evert. Deadline backhand passing shots, both cross-court and down the line, amazing lobs, an excellent forehand passing shot, and fantastic return of serve. She played a lot of net rushers and serve and volley players, including Hana, Martina, Margaret Court, Pam Shriver, Evonne Goolagong, Billie Jean King, etc., and she has dominant head to heads over all except Martina, with whom she was virtually even.
     
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  13. Loose Cannon

    Loose Cannon Rookie

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    Agassi...............Vicious FH and Great Top spin Lobs
     
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  14. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Well you can't win 90% of your matches lifetime (amazing to write that when you consider greats like Sampras and Agassi never did that in one single year and Evert did that for her whole career) and 154 tournaments unless she had the goods to handle net rushers during her time. She may very well be the best among the women ever.
     
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  15. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    pc1, of course none of those guys I mentioned were slouches, S&Ving or not. The bigger point I was trying to make, though, was that Borg had a harder time against these net rushers than against other players of a similar caliber.

    Let's take a closer look:

    - As I said in my earlier post, Borg thoroughly dominated Gerulaitis but often struggled against Tanner, though Vitas himself led a convincing 5-0 or 5-1 against the big-serving American.
    - While Borg led Nastase 10-5 who in turn led Ashe 4-3, Borg also trailed Ashe 8-9 in their extensive H2H (more on this in a bit). And Ashe won 5 of their last 8 matches in '75 and '76.
    - Borg was also troubled by Panatta even in his peak years, the extenuating circumstances of the '78 Rome final notwithstanding, while Connors had Panatta's number from the get-go but was eventually forced to play 2nd fiddle to Borg.
    - Mac was a thorn in Borg's side from the very beginning of their rivalry, winning 3 of their first 7 matches (and once leading 3-2) in '78 and '79 when Borg was at the peak of his powers while Mac was still a relative newcomer.

    Now it's true that these guys' primes didn't always overlap, but these stats still show that Borg had more difficulties against the net-rushing daredevils than against other top players with a less aggressive game. So the question remains, why these struggles against the net rushers/S&Vers when his passing shots are justly celebrated as among the very best ever? That's why I think it fair to say that Borg's return of serve, great as it was, wasn't quite in the same exalted league as his passing shots, and probably a notch below Connors' or Agassi's.

    As for the Borg-Ashe H2H, Arthur came on Charlie Rose's show shortly before his untimely death, and during the interview he said that he played Borg 17 times and won 9 of them (though he was careful to add that many of those matches took place before Borg's heyday). Not sure where that last missing (unofficial) match is from, or whether Ashe was just having a memory lapse.

    BTW that was indeed a good interview with Ashe, and you can still watch it in full online. Besides discussing his background and physical condition he also comments briefly on his rivals and the American upstarts. I still have a transcription of those comments saved somehwere, some of them quite interesting (if not exactly news to us seasoned fans). Will post them when I have time.
     
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  16. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    These guys would all be on my list...plus Lendl. He could just hit right through a net rusher if the serve/approach was not top notch.
     
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  17. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    Yeah, she was amazing. Martina had to produce her best stuff against her on serve, otherwise she'd get smoked by the pass. That final backhand pass by Chris in the '85 RG final between them is an all time classic....
     
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  18. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    Correct; Borg was more effective against the net rushers during a point than on the actual return of serve. He was much further back than a Connors/Agassi would be. Those guys had impeccable timing and reflexes, getting the ball back so fast (Connors) or so hard (Agassi) that you were handcuffed immediately.
     
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  19. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    Connors first played Becker when he was 34/35yrs old, I think. Usually close matched, but never a win for Connors. He did quite well against Edberg tho'...Jimmy was a bad match up for him. I think he only played Sampras a couple of times when he was nearly 40.
     
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  20. Arafel

    Arafel Professional

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    I love watching that shot over and over again. Earlier in that set, she hit a buggy whip cross-court forehand pass on the run to break for 5-3 that was amazing. That whole match had so much drama. Evert saved like six break points, including coming back from 0-40, when she was serving at 5-5. It took tremendous mental fortitude to hold that off, especially after she was broken when serving for the match at 5-3 and then Martina held at love.

    While I think Evert is the obvious choice for the women, some other contenders would be Steffi Graf, though she didn't have to face nearly as many net-rushers as Evert, as well as Tracy Austin. Andrea Jaeger was also pretty good at hitting passing shots, though she never won a major. I always thought of her as the female equivalent of Aaron Krickstein, a player who basically didn't come to net except to shake hands.

    For the guys, I think the best players to handle serve-volleyers and net rushers were, in order: Borg, Connors, Lendl, Agassi, and Wilander. After that, I think Hewitt and Safin need to be in the conversation. Federer is good too, but really, the only player who comes to net against him is Roddick, and Roddick is undone by his horrible approach shots more than Federer's ability to pass at will.
     
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  21. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    Notice how easily she handled Novotna in her last tournament. Chris could've kept going had tennis styles and equipment not changed the way that they did.
     
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  22. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    When he pushed Borg to five sets in Rome, Panatta rarely came in directly behind his serve. He got in behind approach shots almost exclusively. I haven't seen their FO meetings but the press described Panatta playing much the same way in those matches: approaching rather than SVing.

    I think Panatta had great success against Borg by drawing him in and passing him. He did a lot of that to take the fourth set in Rome.

    Vitas gave Tanner a lot of trouble with off-pace chip returns, when he beat him at the 79USO. Possibly he did so in all their matches. Borg's returns were more powerful but Tanner seems to have had less trouble with them.

    Borg did write that, but his return stats don't always show that kind of consistency. He made 64 return errors against McEnroe in the 1980 USO final, an awfully high number. He also passed McEnroe cleanly with 17 returns, which is also a high number -- but these stats are not exactly what you would expect from someone whose highest priority is to get the return back consistently. They look more "volatile", for lack of a better word; more hit-or-miss.

    Hit-or-miss was not Borg's temperament, so when I look at those return stats I always come back to his habit of standing 20 feet behind the baseline to return. I wonder if that actually increased the number of errors. I mean, I know, the point of standing back is to buy time, to get a good read on the incoming ball, to make sure you put the ball back in play. But I wonder about the geometry.

    As a returner facing a serve-and-volleyer, you have certain spaces in which to drive the ball. Certain "targets." But if you move 20 feet away from your target, your target is now smaller.

    Also, if you move 20 feet back, you've now got to drive the ball essentially straight ahead if you want to put it back in play. Your crosscourt angles have decreased.

    On top of all that, with the receiver so far back, the server has more time to close off the angles at net. Which further reduces the narrow windows into which the receiver can drive the ball.

    Standing far back does give you more time to get a read on the ball, no doubt. Against another baseliner it shouldn't be a problem. But against a net-rusher, I'm not sure it gives you any kind of safety margin, to stand back there. It just seems to shrink the receiver's windows, which will force him into trying to make very difficult, "spectacular" shots. Borg pulled off a lot of great return winners but, at least against McEnroe, it came with a steady stream of errors.
     
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  23. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    It would be interesting to see service break stats for matches in the 60's/ and early 70's to compare how Bueno, Court and King handled the problem. 3 of 4 majors were on grass and s/v tennis was topdog providing targets constantly against the best volleyers we could ask for. There were a lot of chip angle backhands and follow-up slice or flat passes/ lobs. The style of their defense game may have looked different from the mid eighties, but nevertheless effective. We tend not to credit them as quickly as we do the Everts, Austins etc, for what they did to break each other. Bueno had to pass Darleen Hard, Court and King, King had to pass Bueno, Court, Casals, Wade even Martina, who had to pass King, Goolagong, Turnbull, Hana, Sukova. You get the idea. Not to mention women who had to break Gibson, Marble or those American netrushers like Dupont, Brough, Hart and Hard.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2012
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  24. Arafel

    Arafel Professional

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    She also beat Seles pretty convincingly in that tournament, one year before Seles started winning multiple Slams. I don't think it was the change in styles as much as Evert wanted to have kids, and she was 34 going on 35 when she retired, so she had a limited window available to her.
     
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  25. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    I stand corrected, though I wanna add that I meant to say "S&V/net-rushing" there, not just "S&V." I hadn't expected to get into this much detail, so it was hard to keep track. :)

    BTW do you know if Panatta purposely avoided S&V vs. Borg in particular or was that his general strategy on clay? This 10-minute clip shows him S&Ving quite a bit:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaI3zr_YJSI

    That was probably the biggest reason, since Borg was at least Vitas' equal in court coverage and his superior in pretty much everything else but the volley.

    You don't need to tell me that Borg didn't always go by the book (in this case his own, funnily enough). I once had a long discussion with another poster who kept quoting that passage from the book to describe how Borg returned serves in his heyday, while I tried many times to let him know that, as you suggested, Borg took more risks on his return than he realized. And I'm sure you know that on fast surfaces Borg stood closer to the baseline than is commonly thought.

    Quite true, and this is why we need to be more careful accepting the conventional wisdom about an aggressive returner like Agassi against big servers. Yes, you're gonna get aced more often if you stand in close to the baseline, especially if you stand so close like Agassi, but what about the majority of points when you do get the ball back in?

    Maybe this simple example will help. Let's say you're playing a Sampras/Goran/Karlovic/Krajicek/fill-in-the-blank and he brings his usual big serve to the match. As we've seen on the GSOAT thread a server of this caliber routinely wins 40-45% of his service points on freebies (read: unreturned serves). And that's what's likely to happen if you choose to be aggressive on your returns a la Agassi.

    But now let's say you choose to stand further behind and block the ball back as your main strategy. Since this is a monster server we're talking about (or even a crafty one like Mac) you're still looking at 35% of your return points lost at least, 30% if we're being very generous (which is rare, again as we've seen on the GSOAT thread). At any rate it's unlikely that you'll connect on more than 10% of your returns than you would standing closer to the baseline.

    That leaves you with 60-65% of return points to work with. Now if this opponent is a S&Ver/net-rusher you'll have to do more with the ball than just block it back. And like you said this is a tough task if you're standing far behind, as the targets or windows are now smaller. And you're gonna take at best 10-15% of these points with outright or virtual return winners. That still leaves you with about half the return points to win from a neutral position.

    Of course tennis isn't quite this clear-cut, but the percentages shouldn't be that far off. So the question remains, is it really worth that extra 10% of your return points (which, I should emphasize, is a high estimate) to have to work harder on your returns? I'd say no. To reiterate your earlier comments, when you're playing a S&Ver/net-rusher you want to keep your returns deep and low, to drive through him or have the ball drop at his feet, and that's just harder to do farther behind the baseline due to the loss of angles, which forces you to go for more and in turn draws more errors. In fact I probably didn't even factor all of these errors into the % of unreturned serves earlier.

    And much of this is true even if you're playing a baseliner, as you wanna keep him honest with occasional big, deep returns that win you the point outright or at least allow you to take control. Otherwise the best you can hope for is that you'll be playing your opponent "from scratch," which is still not advisable if he is the better player apart from the serve and the return. (BTW this is one of the real reasons why today's Big 3 or 4 have been so dominant and consistent even by historical standards, but that's a separate topic.) So even here I'd say the benefits of standing in closer outweigh the costs except on clay.
     
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  26. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    No doubt she was ready for the next part of her life. But I did notice how in the last 2 to 3 years Evert played less and less on clay and became more vulnerable to players like Sanchez, Maleeva, and Paulus. Players that she used to relish engaging in trench warfare with she simply didn't have patience and concentration to deal with.

    Its always been assumed that power players like Graf and Seles pushed Evert and Mandlikova out of the game at virtually the same time. But I think, from purely a tennis standpoint, that it had more to do with the fact that both had such clean flat strokes that required such precision with even mid size racquets. The late 80's ushered in an era of larger and far more forgiving racquets that made fair players good and good players into better ones. Especially on return of serve ....its amazing how the new racquets improved the average player's return.
     
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  27. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    So true about not giving enough credit to SVers themselves in how they handled each other. I always loved watching players try to use other parts of their game. I loved watching Chris' very solid forehand volley or Andrea's sneaky backhand volley and overhead. Likewise, it was a pleasure to see Hana's variety of paces and slices in negotiating a Martina service game
     
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  28. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    BJK was fun to watch against Martina. She could literally tie her in knots on the return. When I watched Novotna beat Martina in the 1993 Wimbledon semis I noticed a similarity to the way BJK played Martina in the 1980 QF. Lots of down the line chips from both courts cutting down on the time that Martina had to react. Both induced a lot of first volley errors or caused Martina to volley up allowing the other to close in and volley back down at Martina. Lovely, lovely chess -like tennis to watch.

    BJK was perhaps the best player ever at exposing your weaknesses for all the world to see and mercilessly targey them over and over until you cracked. She was such a *****! :twisted:
     
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  29. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I haven't see Billie Jean play in decades so I forgot some of her style of play. I do remember her variety of shots, especially off her backhand. Watching her and Goolagong play was a treat even though Billie Jean won the majority of the matches.
     
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  30. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Just a wild guess, but BJK was probably obliged to break more often than Court or Wade, considering how much of their game was built on a huge first delivery. The difference in King's height from Court would subtly alter their respective skills on defense. KIng had great anticipation on where the volley was likely to go, and she moved beautifully into position. I know Court could place that slice backhand return / pass very accurately and her height gave her extra purchase to cut it lower with power. As for Court's forehand, I wouldn't want to come in on that side too often.
     
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  31. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    So who do you think of the trio of the 1960's, Bueno, King and Court had the best skills to handle net rushers?
     
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  32. jaggy

    jaggy G.O.A.T.

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    Safin held on to his bh until so late it was a mare for net rushers
     
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  33. BTURNER

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    Not really, because while that was a huge part of grass tennis and grass tennis was king with 3 of four majors, they did not need those skills to hold serve, like Evert did. Rushing Evert on second serve, or short balls was no news flash of Martina's. it was the way to play baseliners on any fast or moderately fast surface. Evert literally made the first half of her career on dicing up 2/3 of the tour both on serve and return. She was on constant pressure from the moment she walked on any fast court until Austin, Jaeger and Maleeva clones took over.

    I guess my point is that we really do forget how much of of what made those women of the 60's 70's effective, was their return game and passes. The style of the defenders game was not dissimilar to a Laver or a Rosewall, or Ashe or Newc well analyzed here. but we never discuss how Bueno or Court or King accomplished it on this forum. They returned/ passed their way to Wimbledon glory as much as they served/volleyed there. But when was the last time anyone discussed Court's backhand pass or Goolagong's forehand lob on this forum?
     
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  34. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Huh? When it comes to beating net rushers, Borg was in a league of his own. He had the greatest passing shots of all time, on both sides, he hit the heaviest topspin with the sharpest angles in the history of tennis with a wood racquet (except for Laver), he was one of the fastest moth athletic players of all time, he had one of the great returns of serve of all time.
     
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  35. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Can't really speak to his general style, although that clip shows that SV on clay was completely natural to him.

    I've seen most of the '78 Rome final, and Panatta rarely came in directly behind his serve.

    In the '76 upset at RG, the Chicago Tribune wrote: "The 25-year-old Panatta, who kept the pressure on Borg throughout the match, built his victory by coming to the net behind deep and well-placed approach shots." And the LA Times: "Panatta played to Borg's weaknesses-rushing to the net and picking off his passing attempts on the rise."

    When Borg beat Panatta at RG in '75, he threw in some great lobs on critical points.

    Again, not having seen the RG matches, I can't rule out that Panatta did a lot of direct SV. But the press described his success by pointing out his approach shots, and his ability to pick off Borg's passes in the rallies.

    I agree with you that Borg's passes in the rallies were better than his return -- in some circumstances, particularly on cement (more on that below) -- but the Panatta matches don't really show that. If Borg's return was significantly weaker than his passing shots in all circumstances, it's strange how Panatta chose to play him -- staying back often on his serve, coming in behind approaches and successfully picking off the passing shots.

    Borg was far more dangerous on the return than the description in his book suggests. On grass I think he was particularly effective, and he did not seem to stand so far back on the return. Tanner pushed him to five sets in '79, but I never thought that Borg had exceptional trouble with Tanner's serve in that match -- not more than anyone would have had. He seemed to wait patiently for his chances to break.

    31% of Tanner's serves did not come back, but that's hardly a devastating stat. There are a good number of higher stats from other players of that era, and I don't mean huge servers like Victor Amaya. Borg himself had an unreturned rate of 34% in that '79 final against Tanner. Newcombe achieved 33% against Connors -- the best returner of the era -- in their AO final. About 33% of Laver's serves went unreturned against Ashe in the '69 Wimbledon semi. Etc.

    At the USO, though, Borg seems to have had more trouble returning Tanner's serve (as well as McEnroe's). In '79, under the lights, he said he just couldn't read Tanner's serve. In '80 Borg beat him in the quarters, but Tanner had 19 aces and 26 service winners (those stats look even better than what he had in '79). Borg came close to losing, and he was described as "receiving from somewhere around the 50-yard line in nearby Shea Stadium."

    Then there was the loss to McEnroe in the final, in which he made 64 return errors. In that match the CBS cameras had trouble keeping him in the frame, when he was receiving.

    Yes that's what I was getting at: we assume that standing back will allow you to get more balls back; and then we weigh that benefit against the drawbacks (and I agree with you that the benefit is not worth the cost, looking at it that way). But I'm questioning whether you even get that benefit, when you're facing a SVer. If your windows have shrunk in all the ways I described, you will actually be making a lot of errors on the return. So the assumption that standing back gives you a chance to return more balls may not be valid (except, I think, against another baseliner).

    Well I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, either here or elsewhere (not sure it's a separate topic since we're discussing how to handle net rushers; the lack of net rushers today is just the other side of the coin).
     
    #35
  36. powerslave

    powerslave Rookie

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    I am forced to bring up Fed here too; his wins against Sampras, Scud, Ivanesivic before even he hit his prime show how comfortable he was against the net rushers. Even today he can pass anyone at the net even when stretched on his either flank . Bet it the backhand flick pass, BH slice lob he has got those shots as for the FH side I needn't say anything.
     
    #36
  37. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    pc1,

    You ask about the best against net rushers.

    My answer (great surprise!): K.R.Rosewall.

    Laver was also fantastic there but he was more a net rusher himself.
     
    #37
  38. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Borg for top spin counterattack, Evert for flat and Rosewall for half sliced, half flat returns at the oncoming guy´s feet.

    peak Rosewall made the best volleyers ( and duringb his peak he played the best ever ones) feel ridiculous, quite often.

    There is no s&V since early 2000´s.Hewitt must have been the last great returner.

    Connors in the 70´s and 80´s and Agassi in the 90´s were just as good.Peak Laver could place the most difficult return in the most unexpected spot of the court.
     
    #38
  39. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki,

    Excellent analysis of Rosewall, Laver, Connors and Agassi.
     
    #39
  40. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Overall I think Rosewall and Laver were close against net rushers with Rosewall in my opinion having a slight edge over the long run. It's close.

    Borg of course was fantastic with his great angle topspin passing shots off both sides and his great mobility.

    Connors of course was great also. I think Pancho Segura and Bobby Riggs should also be mentioned. Both were fantastic at lobbing plus excellent passing shots.

    Lendl was fine but I think his backhand return while very good left him a little more vulnerable. His normal backhand passing shot was great.

    Actually the thought just occurred to me that Miloslav Mecir was unbelievable against net rushers. I think he was one of the best of the Open Era.
     
    #40
  41. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Earlier I misread this question and answered one you did not ask. I try to READ IT first and see it it works out better. I just don't know enough about Bueno's game to respond intelligently. here's my guesswork otherwise. Court had superior physical attributes. Better reach on the backhand to get to a wide volley and slide it either way with control, and she could put more pace behind those forehand passes and that stronger arm and wrist meant better control if the ball got slightly behind her. Court lacked the variety and imagination that King had, so the patterns were more predictable but there was no glaring weakness to send that volley to.

    Billie jean could anticipate with unnerving accuracy where the serve, volleys or overheads were likely to go, and had the edge in mobility to get to drop volleys and wrong footing volleys. From what I saw of her, she was remarkable at providing her opponent with exactly the shot/ dink that would make her hit the most uncomfortable volley, and then another gaining more advantage with each exchange.
    The problem was that her forehand pass was suspect, so she go for the lob on that wing a bit more frequently. It wasn't as deceptive as her backhand lob/ passes were.

    In the end, i'd give the edge to - drumroll - Court
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2012
    #41
  42. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Thanks. I might give it to Court also.

    The drumroll was dramatic. :)
     
    #42
  43. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Against Rosewall ( like against Connors although with different technical approach), the fastest the serve, the fastest the return, even if it was an off pace, dink, at the voolleyers feet.That reutn in doubles, meant that Rosewall´s doubles mate ( say Stolle or Hoad) just had to knock down the volley.
     
    #43
  44. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    #44
  45. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Limpin, as I told pc1 I know Borg was no slouch. At the same time he often had more trouble against net rushers than against other players of a similar caliber. See posts #6 & 15 for more details.

    OK, then maybe I underrated Borg's return and/or overrated his passing shots. Still we agree that, relatively speaking, the latter was stronger than the former, which is good.

    Of course it's important to keep in mind that 31% of unreturned serves was a pretty good number back then, and comparable to about 40% today. As has been pointed out a zillion times in this forum, the modern racquets don't allow the player to serve harder per se in terms of maximum speeds, but they do help increase the average speeds, and probably the 1st-serve %'s as well. For all the talk about the slowing down of surfaces and the return of serve revolutionizing the game (which is tiresomely regurgitated by the pundits that should know better), holding serve has arguably never been easier.

    Do you happen to know the %'s of unreturned serves for these matches? Borg's attitude toward the lights and the NY crowd is well known, but it just sounds a little too easy to point to these external factors as the source of his troubles. If there's one thing I've learned after all these years it's that one should always be skeptical of conventional wisdom, as we've seen in this very discussion (regarding Panatta and the return of serve).

    Yes, it's quite debatable whether you enjoy the benefit at all. That's why I said I wasn't sure if I even factored all of the possible errors into the unreturned serves.

    You mean my thoughts on today's lack of net rushers? That's slightly different from what I had in mind, and it's a huge topic to explore in detail, but I will make a few quick points:

    1) We know that net rushers were already becoming a rare breed before the supposedly systematic slowdown of the early '00s.
    2) We also know that, contrary to what the wannabe experts say, it takes many years to develop a professionally viable style of play.
    3) And as I just noted, players are holding serve today with more ease than perhaps ever, and at the very least as well as their '90s predecessors. Mind you, this despite the so-called slowdown of the courts and the improved return of serve.

    There are plenty of other dots you can connect to see what a farce the whole thing is about today's (lack of) net rushers, surfaces, equipment, etc. It's not a simple matter of racquets or courts. The real game-changer has been the players, and their evolution dates back well over a decade.
     
    #45
  46. Alchemy-Z

    Alchemy-Z Professional

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    Hewitt- Seemed like the best for variety of options
    Agassi- Returns always came in low good passing shots
    Nadal- When someone comes to net if they haven't hit a perfect deep shot to put rafa on defense you can see the passing shot about to happen. He seems as consistent on these as he is on his overheads.
     
    #46

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