Who was better in their prime, Steffi Graf or Martina Hingis?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by Tennis_Maestro, Apr 30, 2007.

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Who was the better Tennis Player both in their primes, Graff or Hingis?

  1. Graff

    91.1%
  2. Hingis

    8.9%
  1. Egoista

    Egoista Professional

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    graf by far
     
  2. Mike Bulgakov

    Mike Bulgakov Semi-Pro

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    I often had the chance to see Graf and Hingis practice and play up close in the 1990s. Graf was an incredible athlete, and moved so fast in every direction.

    From courtside, Graf's movement was what really caught my eye. One of my favourite tennis moments was watching her glide across an empty area of Wimbledon practice courts early in the morning mist before her first round match.

    The first time I saw Hingis play in person was in Oakland when she was young. I was amazed at how supple her hands were, and the way she could take a crosscourt shot and redirect it down the line.

    Graf was a much better athlete and player, but Hingis had a great court sense and amazing hands.
     
  3. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Truth is that Graf´s game was based on two weapons, but those happen to be two of the biggest weapons a man or a woman ever displayed on a tennis court: Her Footwork and her Forehand...and a third one, her menthal strength.
     
  4. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    One F: Graf.
     
  5. robertharris

    robertharris Banned

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    Is this thread a serious thread, or was it started by a troll of some kind? I love to watch Hingis play, and never particularly liked Graf's "everyone revolves around setting up the forehand) game; but 1997 was one of the worst fields in womens tennis history, and she still didnt come close to Graf's 4 or 5 years. She could only sustain dominance for a single year. She also lost a good portion of her matchs to a well past her prime, during her own peak.

    Graf was alot less fun to watch, but in the end alot more effective. Hingis was a super talented player, but she was a victim of her own arrogance, laziness, too much too soon, and ultimately too not being quite top level in the most important traits of modern tennis- power, athleticsm (very good athlete and mover but still not on par with Venus, Serena, Henin, Clijsters, here), and most of all mental fortitude. Graf had a simple and mind numbingly dull game, but few could counter it.
     
  6. robertharris

    robertharris Banned

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    I agree with this completely. Graf was indeed like a bulldozer. You couldnt do anything to stop it, but it was never alot of fun. The most beautiful thing about Graf's game was her in full flght sprinting for all and showing off her marvelous athletic ability, and also her service action which was very fluid and nice. Her very ugly forehand which was probably the best weapon ever (other than maybe the Serena serve) was also not enjoyable to watch being hit.
     
  7. helterskelter

    helterskelter Professional

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    Judging on records alone, you could certainly argue that hingis's 1997 was better than any of graf's years bar 1988 and 1989. The Graf of 1995 and 1996 may have been at the highest level of any woman before Serena, but she didn't play the Australian open in either year, while Hingis made the final of Roland garros. Even for a 3-time slam champion, making the final of the other to complete the annual set is meaningful. And a large par of success is showing up.
     
  8. robertharris

    robertharris Banned

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    I would rate Graf's 1995 and 1996 as easily better years than Hingis's 1997. 3 slams and the WTA Championships is better than 3 slams and a 4th slam final for starters. Winning the 4 biggest events you play, and the biggest event on every surface both years is way better than winning only 3 of the 5, and losing both the years biggest clay and biggest indoor event. Graf also had a better W-L, especialy in 95 where she only lost 2 matches. I would never choose a year where I lost a slam final to Iva Majoli (something Graf of 95 and 96 would have never done), crashed out early at the WTA Championships, and went one stretch winning something like 1 out of 6 tournaments to end the year, over Graf's 95 or 96.

    Heck I would probably take Graf's 93 over Hingis's 97. Just like Hingis of 97 she did win 3 slams and reach the final of the other. Lost to Seles in 3 sets, not Iva Majoli in 2 easy set; and won the WTA Championships. This probably already makes it superior to Hingis's 97, regardless of anything else. The only downside was it coming directly after the Seles stabbing.
     
  9. The Isomotion31

    The Isomotion31 Semi-Pro

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    Definitely Graf....However, I voted for Hingis for memories and fandom.
     
  10. helterskelter

    helterskelter Professional

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    I agree that winning the WTA Championships is a big deal, but you're making the mistake of thinking that not playing a major is better than being runner-up in it. It's just not.

    In 1997, Hingis won 12 tournaments. Graf won 10 in 1993, nine in 1995, and only seven in 1996. Graf lost five matches in 1996, six in 1993, and just two in 1995. Hingis lost five in 1997, but she played a lot more. Graf's win-loss record was impressive but she didn't play as much, and you shouldn't get credit for not playing. The WTA title may well put Graf's 95 over Hingis's 97, but that's not without dispute, and the 93 and 96 are much more questionable.

    I also don't think that losing in two sets versus losing in three sets is relevant. A win's a win.

    BTW, I don't know why you think Hingis only won one of her last six tournaments. She only lost five matches all year. Given that she played more than Graf in any of those years, I think that makes Hingis's win-loss percentage higher than Graf's was in either 1993 or 1996 [I haven't done the maths or checked how many matches they each won, so I can't say for sure]. Hingis did only win two of her last five tournaments, but that's a much better winning ratio than one of six. Anyway, in 1993, Graf won only two of her first six tournaments.

    I would say: 1) Graf 1995; 2) Hingis 1997; 3) Graf 1996; 4) Graf 1993. I agree that it's all arguable, but it's not as clear as you suggested.
     
  11. robertharris

    robertharris Banned

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    For me any year with 3 slams + YEC title is over any year with 3 slams and no YEC title, so already on that alone, Graf's 1995, 1996, and 1993 are superior to Hingis's 1997. Meanwhile if you are giving Hingis alot of extra credit for reaching a 4th slam final, then ironically 1993 would be the last year of those of Graf's you could ever place below Hingis, as she won the YEC, plus winning 3 slams and reaching the finals of the other like Hingis.

    The only exception to that would be if Hingis was far more dominant overall, had a much better W-L, won many more tournaments (which are the reason for instance Graf's 87 was superior to Martina's 87, and possibly Henin's 2006 superior to Mauresmo's) which is not the case here. Graf was 76-6, 93% win percentage, and winning 10 titles in 1993. She was 47-2, 96% win percentage, and winning 9 titles in 1995. She was 54-4, 93% win percentage, and winning 7 titles in 1996. Hingis was 71-5, 93% win percentage, and 12 titles in 1997. So Hingis didnt have a better win percentage than Graf had any of those 3 years, although she did win a few more tournaments due to playing more. Still nothing that would overcome Graf winning the YEC plus her 3 slams, and going undefeated in the biggest events for the year. The only year I could possibly see placing below Hingis's 1997 is Graf's 1996 as she only won 7 titles vs 12 for Hingis.

    So my order would be:

    1. Graf's 1995, 2. Graf's 1993, 3. Graf's 1996 and Hingis's 1997 tied, although as far as level of tennis Graf's 1996 was the highest of all those, followed by Graf's 1995, and Hingis's 1997 and Graf's 1993 tied for third.
     
  12. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Graf could beat any WTA player.
    Hingus waited for her opponent to miss while trying to beat her.
     
  13. struggle

    struggle Hall of Fame

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    Graf and who????
     
  14. helterskelter

    helterskelter Professional

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    I would say that winning the Year-End Championships is about on a par with being runner-up in a Slam. It might be slightly higher, but not much. Given that, and given the identical win percentages between Hingis in 1997, Graf in 1993, and Graf in 1996, I think that Hingis's extra titles are significant.

    Why is Graf's level of tennis in 1996 higher than in 1995? I'd say they were about equal, but that her consistency in 1995 would put it slightly higher.

    About Graf in 1993: I just find it hard to stick to records in that year when those records are so obviously dubious. As I said yesterday, when talking about the Seles stabbing, the long-term ramifications are so much murkier than the short-term ones. Who knows what would have happened over time? Perhaps Seles would have put weight on anyway. Perhaps she'd have lost focus when her father got sick. Perhaps she couldn't have coped with the new breed of power hitters. And Graf clearly did play much better in 1995 and 1996 than she did in 1992 and, especially, 1991. But in 1993, Graf played no better than in 1992. Her performance at Roland Garros just wouldn't have got it done, and even at Wimbledon her play was so poor that if there was ever a year when Monica could challenge, it was that one. (Novotna won 10 games out of 12, and even aside from the epic choke from 4-1 40-15 in the 3rd set, also basically choked the first set. Had Monica played, and had the draw worked out differently, then Novotna might have played Graf in the semis, might not have choked, and then played Monica in the final, and choked.) Graf was a little better at the US Open, but not wonderful. She did play very well indeed in Australia in 1994, but that was her worst surface and either Monica's best or second best, so while that would have been a great match, I wouldn't say it was a guarantee for Graf.

    I suppose that on results, Graf's 1993 is roughly on a par with her 1996, (though not with her 1995) but I just can't look at it that way.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2013
  15. robertharris

    robertharris Banned

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    Not for me it isnt. If that were the case nobody would be saying Seles should have been #1 in 1990 with way worse slam results (W, quarters, 3rd round, DNP vs Graf's win, final, final, semis), a worse W-L, less tournament wins. All because of the WTA Championships, and her Miami title which back then wasnt even close to the YEC in importance. If the YEC was perceived to be roughly equal with a slam final, Seles would be viewed as miles behind Graf that year even with her YEC, yet I have seen many arguing she was the real #1 that year.

    As for level of play I think Graf was much harder to beat in 96 than 95. In 95 she nearly lost to Conchita Martinez at RG, and Conchita even played poorly about 70% of the match. She nearly lost and lost a bagel set to an extremely unfit and injured Seles in the U.S open final. She would beat her pretty routinely in their 96 rematch, and unlike 95 where she looked mostly on her heels, she pretty much dicated and dominated the 96 final. Sanchez Vicario on her worst surface- grass nearly beat her in the Wimbledon finals, although it was still an excellent match. Amanda Coetzer beat her, and nearly beat her at the U.S open, the only year outside 97 she gave Graf any trouble. She went to 5 sets in the WTA Championships with Anke Huber, who is not a great player. In 1996 she dominated all her slams, minus the incredible RG final with Sanchez Vicario; but was at no other point seriously threatened other than the 1st set of the U.S Open semis with Hingis. WTA Championships went to 5 sets with Hingis, but Hingis was on a tear and crushing people in late 96, foreshadowing her 97 dominance, and it was really quite a convincing win for Graf anyway despite going 5, with two bagel sets. Yes stats wise her 95 year was the better year and I rated it so, but her level of play in 96 was her highest, along with 88 and 89 I believe. She lost more matches? Maybe more other people just stepped up or closed out matches they failed to close out vs her in 95. Thinking of her 96 losses to Davenport, Date, Novotna (where she only played the 1st set), and Hingis, her level of play was only poor in 1 of them, the Hingis loss. Her level of play was very poor in both her 95 losses to rather weak opponents too. Stats dont always reflect how well someone played. Most people agree Serena in 2002 was the highest level of tennis every by a women, but statistically it is barely a top 15 year in the Open Era.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2013
  16. robertharris

    robertharris Banned

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    Also if we enter subjective territory, the 97 field was absolutely awful. Far worse than any year from 93-96 despite people believing the womens field was weak those years too. All the people who were strong in 94, 95 and 96 were gone- Graf injured, Seles in her worst shape ever even during her post stabbing career, Sanchez burnt out and on the fade, Martinez also burnt out and on the way down, Pierce still in a slump, and nobody replacing them and filling their shoes yet. Davenport wasnt that good a player yet, she rose to #2 and #3 due to the very weak field, not really any noticeable improvements yet. Novotna was still good in 97 and 98, but she was always a mentally fragile surface specialist who was never close to a #1 caliber player. Coetzer, Majoli, Spirlea, are not top class players.

    While you are right we have no idea how Seles would have been playing by 97, but we do know Hingis was very lucky Graf went down with injuries too, or she would have never dominated 97. Best case is she would have battled closely with Graf, but more likely case is Graf would have retained the upper hand and remained the top player that year.
     
  17. helterskelter

    helterskelter Professional

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    I know most people would agree with you about the Year-End Championships win being far greater than a Slam runner-up, but I still disagree. I'd say a Slam runner-up is on a par with winning a Masters 1000 event. The Year-End Championships is undoubtedly bigger than that, but the difference between it and a Slam title is in my view as big as the difference between it and a Slam runner-up. When I used to post on Worldcrossing, I became convinced by one of the posters there that one of the great things about tennis was that each match was like a mini-tournament and that it's a mistake to think that only winning the whole thing matters, even at the highest level.

    There was a poster on this board a month or so ago who insisted that she'd prefer a 6-0 record in Slam finals over a 6-6 one. I couldn't agree with that.

    You may be right that Graf's level was higher in 96, although it's worth mentioning that Seles played much better at the US Open 1995 than at the US Open 1996, so that was a factor, too. I think that, when she first came back she thought that her fitness would improve quickly and wouldn't impede her. When neither of those things turned out to be true, she quickly lost confidence. In 1996, she even struggled to beat Conchita Martinez in the semi-finals. (I know the score was 6-4 6-3, which seems not that much tougher than the 6-2 6-2 of 1995, but the matches were poles apart in closeness).

    A couple of us discussed recently whether the future of Seles and Graf might have turned out differently had Seles's serve on set point in the first set tiebreak in 1995 been called in, thus giving her the set with an ace.

    Anyway, even if Graf's level was higher in 1996, her results were marginally better in 1995.

    On Serena's 2002 (related also to the topic of who was #1 in 1990): part of what's going on there is that people seem to me to have a tendency to think of the Australian Open as part of the previous year's results because of the temporal proximity. If the year had started in March 2002 and ended in February 2003, then Serena's year would indeed be one of the best of the Open Era. If the year had started in March 1990 and ended in February 1991, then Seles would indeed have been the worthy #1. Because the Australian Open is so much before the heart of the tennis season, I think we have a tendency to discount it somewhat. Much as I wish I could say Seles should have been #1 in 1990, I can't do so.

    BTW, I'm glad you agree that Serena in 2002/3 was at a higher level than Serena today. I'm perpetually surprised when the commentators continue to argue that she's even better now. I just don't see that at all. Her game is tidier. But it's less explosive, and her movement isn't quite as good. The field is very much easier now than it was then, and Serena still lost in two Slams.
     
  18. Fedinkum

    Fedinkum Hall of Fame

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    I liked them both.
     

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