Who is the best, when their game wasn't?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by vwfye, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. vwfye

    vwfye Semi-Pro

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    Who was the best player to find a way to win when his/her game obviously wasn't it's best in the moment?
    Completely subjective, I know, but I'm curious to see who you would put there.
    Another way to ask would be, "Who was the best at winning ugly?"

    My pallet of players isn't vast enough to give an answer.
     
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  2. forzamilan90

    forzamilan90 Legend

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    Brad Gilbert?
     
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  3. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    Federer is pretty good at it. Hence the quarter final and semi final streaks.
     
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  4. vwfye

    vwfye Semi-Pro

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    No, no, no! I've been using that term since before that clown used it for his memoirs.
     
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  5. TennisFan436

    TennisFan436 Rookie

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    On the WTA tour: Serena Williams

    ATP: Djokovic.
     
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  6. M Dean

    M Dean Rookie

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    my pick is sampras!
     
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  7. Carsomyr

    Carsomyr Hall of Fame

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    I don't consider Sampras particularly stellar in this regard. That's not to say that every five-set or tough four-set match he ever won was him at his best. Far from it. But there was always the possibility when plan A wasn't working, for him to stick to his guns and lose, even against far lesser opponents. This was most evident on clay, but happened elsewhere occasionally too.
     
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  8. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I think the better question is who maintains a strong level of play consistently. Players like Tilden, Rosewall, Borg, Pancho Gonzalez, Jack Kramer, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Riggs, Budge, Nusslein are among the players of the past who kept a very high level almost all the time. In recent times of course you would have to say Nadal and Federer. And in recent years you would add Novak Djokovic to that list.

    Ellsworth Vines was known to be erratic at times as an amateur but in the pros his record indicated that his level of play was consistently high.
     
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  9. vwfye

    vwfye Semi-Pro

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    Actually, that is not at all the question I wish answered, but thank you.
     
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  10. Lavs

    Lavs Professional

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    +1 for Fed. He is brilliantly able to win when his game is off
     
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  11. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Okay I guess you mean who is the best which they are at their worst. Billie Jean King once said that she's seen Laver play just terribly and the next day play out of his mind. What that meant to me is that he won when playing badly. So I guess Laver is a possibility here.

    I've seen Connors pull out matches on sheer determination like his famous match against Pernfors in 1987 at Wimbledon. Connors was being slaughtered 1-6 1-6 1-4 and won the match.

    Agassi once said essentially (not the exact words) that Sampras can play badly for most of the set, stay even because of his serve and then play good tennis for a little while and win the set.

    I'll go with Sampras.
     
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  12. zagor

    zagor Talk Tennis Guru

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    In this regard the best I've seen by far is Federer because of his balance between offense and defense, reliable serve and excellent slice.
     
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  13. magnut

    magnut Hall of Fame

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    Its usually the better all court players of any era. The real fighters are good as well.

    Ill say Federer, Sampras, Nadal, Lendle, Wilander, Chang.

    There are a lot for sure but those guys seemed to find ways to win when they were not playing there best.
     
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  14. galain

    galain Hall of Fame

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    Courier used to be able to scrap his way out of a bad day when he was at the top.

    I like Chang for this as well. I think it's more of a baseliner thing. If you're serve is off and you're coming in all the time you don't really get a lot of chances to stay in the match.
     
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  15. Flash O'Groove

    Flash O'Groove Hall of Fame

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    Maybe the defensive players have an edge in that department because their strategy is simpler: if they are in a bad day, they can stick to chasing down every balls back, as good as they can. On the other hand, an offensive players have to take a lot of decision regarding shots selection.

    In both case, the players have difficulties to execute correctly their shot. But in the second case, they have also some difficulties with their game plan, which is more demanding.

    Overall the player who win the most when he plays the worst is the one who has the greatest margin against his opponent.
     
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  16. robbo1970

    robbo1970 Hall of Fame

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    I think Navratilova.

    I recall a comment made by Chris Evert, saying that Martina's best was better than hers and Martina's worst wasnt as bad as her worst.

    I just think in terms of dominance, no-one can have good days every day, so my vote is Navratilova.
     
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  17. zagor

    zagor Talk Tennis Guru

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    Well yes but if the opponent gets hot they get blown off court.

    I still think that players that are balanced between defense and offense like Federer and Borg (along with having excellent serves) are the best in this category.
     
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  18. Blocker

    Blocker Semi-Pro

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    There you have it.
     
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  19. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    I always liked Pernfors and his craftiness, his big windshield wiper forhand, lobs, dropshots, fast feet and retreiving ability. But, how in the heck did he get up 6-1, 6-1, 4-1 on Connors? It's not so much the result - I'd accept that Pernfors at that time could pull an upset - but he was destroying him.
     
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  20. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Borg.he was nearly unbeatable even if not 100%.Specially on clay.
     
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  21. NadalAgassi

    NadalAgassi Guest

    Chris's overly generous humility aside, Navratilova's slam losses to the likes of Sukova and Kathy Horvath in her 2 best years ever in contrast to Evert's historic semifinal streak, historic stretch of winning atleast 1 slam per year, and 12 years ranked #1 or #2 every week, suggest otherwise.
     
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  22. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    I agree with zagor on this : federer, borg ...

    /end thread :)
     
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  23. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    I wonder when Chris said this, and in what context. I think there was certainly a period when in the course of their head to head rivalry it was true, and it may have been true in general for that period from 83-87. Martina's loss to Horvath was an obvious anomaly, considering the streaks on either side of it. Sukova was a semifinal loss, not a 2nd rounder.

    As for their careers, definitely not. Martina's highs were higher and her lows were lower. As you said, Evert was the most consistent champion of all time. In part because so little in her game could go so very far south. It was a basic machine with very few complicated or intricate parts. The gears were always well lubricated with perfect fundamentals and technique from the footwork to the stroke production so that even if her confidence was off or she was distracted, a chunk of errors or problems just could not contribute to losses. The space between Evert's very best tennis and her very worse was the smallest of any champion's until very late in her career.

    But the Op asks a slightly different question than cannot be answered by consistency alone. It presupposes a style that can and will go off kilter periodically, either because of the timing required by the stroke production, or the margin of error in them, or the complicated tactics or patterns or concentration lapses or fitness issues. It then asks the question how well can the player fix the problems or right the ship in time before sinking. It does not speak to losses that will come even when your game is sound, but your opponent is playing the best stuff they have played all year. Those occasions when you are playing someone on a hot streak.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
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  24. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Evert was incredible even if not playing well.Like Borg, her consistency won her 90% of matches.
     
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  25. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Most champions had a range from A+ to C or on their report cards. Of course there were a hell of a lot more A+'s than C's. Evert's was more like an A to a B -, if that makes sense. You had to bring an 'A' game and pray, she brought her B game, assuming you weren't a Navratilova or Mandlikova with the capacity for A+ tennis for two full sets. With Martina, if you were very lucky she might bring her C+ game or revert to one somewhere in the match for a while. With Chris she was more likely to start with 'B' tennis, but the GPA only ever went up in a second set. Very depressing reality, if you saw either of them in your draw.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
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  26. chandler bing

    chandler bing Rookie

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    I would agree with this. It's much more difficult for attacking players to win when they are not playing well. I think Jana Novotna once said that it was a difficult way to play as attacking players have to be creative while defensive players just have to get the ball back.
     
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  27. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    For Borg and Evert, their lows were closest to their highs - just tremendous consistency and mental strength. Hard to tell when they were having an off day.

    (Maybe you could say for Brad Gilbert it was hard to see if he was having a good day?)

    For people who you can tell were having an off day, I'd go with Federer because of his streak of finals and semifinals.
     
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  28. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    I'm not an Evert fanatic in any sense of the word. But I vote for her. It was so rare that she took a bad loss. Her bad losses are to solid players like Diane Fromholz Ballestrat or Rafaella Reggi or Sandra Cecchini. All of those players were solid journeymen type that were smart and dangerous on their day. These were exceptionally rare days.
     
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  29. PDJ

    PDJ Hall of Fame

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    I agree. Evert was a supreme competitor and would find away to win more often than not when her back was against the wall.
    Also, re an earlier point i thought it was navratilova that actually said her best was better than Evert 's best?
     
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  30. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I think, and I have seeen it so many times, women ( except Goolagong,King,Navratilova and Austin for a while) entered the court almost beaten before their match vs Chris.Same happened for men ( other than Mac,lendl and Connors for a while) when they had to play Bjorn.
     
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  31. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I think that happens in a lot of sports. That just comes with the game when you're a great player. I think Arthur Ashe mentioned a couple of players just had an aura (not sure if that was the exact term but the general meaning is the same) about them when they played and that was Borg and John Newcombe. Ashe mentioned he didn't feel that way about Laver and Rosewall but perhaps they were so good they didn't need it.
     
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  32. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    True, I remember how Ashe described Newcombe with admiration.I think he geniunely liked Newc ( Arthur,Newcombe and Roche being the leaders of the next generation as opposed to Laver and Rosewall) and he had some hard feelings against Laver.In any case, Newcombe was very intimidating.

    I remember Jimmy Connors first words after being - in a way,surprisingly I´d say- beaten by Newcombe at the 1975 Australian Championshp." I underrated him and he gave me a lesson.Newcombe is a man that has great pride in his game but, more than that, he´s got great pride in himself".

    Coming from 1975 Connors, that is as big an statement as any other else.
     
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  33. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I've written this before but I saw Newcombe play Connors at the 1973 US Open. It was a fantastic match if memory serves. Connors played great but Newcombe played better. The match scores were 6-4 (one service break) 7-6 (Points were 5-4 in tiebreaker so it was double set point in those days) and 7-6 in the third and against it was 5-4 in points in the tiebreaker.

    So if Connors won two points he would have led two sets to one. There were no service breaks except for the first set. Newcombe served well even for him and that's saying something. As you know Newcombe went on to defeat another favorite of yours Jan Kodes in the final. It does say a lot for Kodes to play an in form peak Newcombe and take him to five sets. Very few could do that, especially on the fast grass of the West Side Tennis Club.
     
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  34. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Kodes was always very very tough for Newcombe.They played a gruelling five setter at the 1969 RG event which could have gone either way, but Newcombe survived ( Okker beat him handily in the quarters due to Newcombe´s tiredness) and they also had a great DC match, I think also in 69.of course, Kodes beat Newk at Forest Hills in 71.Newcombe ( as all top players of that era) had the greatest respect for Kodes.

    I think Newcombe is one of the most charismatic and legendary players of the Open era and still, so much unknown over here.But he´s an all time great and, as you said earlier, no single ever player in tennis history would like to play a hungry, fit Newcombe, and specially on fast grass.
     
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  35. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    I would, but she did not really have many days when her 'game' was off in the first place, until 1986. Her losses or close matches had less to do with her screwing things up with lots of UE's or bad tactics, and more to do with her opponents like King Goologong, Austin, Navratilova or Jordan playing cleaner and bolder tennis than was their norm. The trouble did not come from her racket in the first place. Of course as I said she find ways of winning anyway because her game always got better in the second set. She doesn't fit this category well.
     
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  36. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    I think Kodes led 4-1 in the fifth in that French before Newcombe won.
     
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  37. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Thanks.I always enjoyed NewcombeçKodes rivalry due to their contrasting styles and personalities (Kodes was himself a humorous and well spirited guy but sometimes looked too cold).

    I always enjoyed the fierce rivalry that the two new Golden Boys of Australian tennis had, since their chilhood: Newcombe and Riche.All of their matches, lot of them in major semis, went to five sets and the winner couldn´t win the final in most cases...They had a very very torrid rivalry that one can compare, only, to their ancestors in the 50´s Hoad and Rosewall.

    Maybe that´s why they were so much close on and off court...
     
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