Who was the first great athlete in tennis?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by dominikk1985, Jul 6, 2012.

  1. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    obviously any good tennis player is a decent athlete but if you watch old time tennis it is more static and slow (although some might have been those old cameras).

    and really great athletes like lebron james, willie mays or muhammad ali are rare in any sport.

    so who was the first really great athlete in tennis?
     
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  2. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    The first who trained methodically with football teams (the Arsenal team was the best of the day) was Fred Perry. In the pre WW2 era, he probably was the man with the best stamina, especially in 5 set matches. Prior to him, players like Borotra often lost middlle sets to love, to save energy. After the second War, the Australian school under Hopman, brought physical training to new heights. The first who relied heavily on this training regimen was Frank Sedgman, who opened a fitness club in Melbourne. Margret Court later trained there.
     
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  3. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    It's tough to go back too far because no one around today has seen players from before the 40's play live. But, based on what I've read, what little video I've seen (amazing serve and huge buggie whip forehand), and that he was a professional two sport athlete, I'm going to go with Ellsworth Vines. After Vines, the earliest I can speak about is Pancho Gonzales. I'm sure Kramer was also a great athlete, but, I haven't read much about that aspect of his game.
     
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  4. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    as great as they are, I wouldn't be surprised if quite a few of todays pros throw like a girl. all they do is play tennis from birth, not competing in other sports like was so common in the past. who knows, this guy may well have been a better athlete than anyone on tour today.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Trabert


    due to the financial demands that tennis requires, it doesn't draw from the largest pool of athletes. Fed & Djokovic come from very well off families, as does most of the tour.
     
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  5. NonP

    NonP Professional

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    Somewhat off topic, but rather than LeBron I'll second his lapdog... uh, teammate Wade's pick of Westbrook as the best athlete in the NBA today. The guy's absolute lightning on the court, and may well be the only guy that can make Parker look heavy-footed by comparison. I'm really not sure if I've ever seen a more explosive speed demon in basketball. His leaping ability is nothing to sniff at, either (I actually thought he had the best dunk in the last All-Star Game, not LeBron). Now if the Thunder can get a true PG and assign Westbrook where he belongs....

    That's true, but as they say tennis rewards skill more than pure athleticism.
     
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  6. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    I didn't know Djoko came from a very well off family. My understanding is that he spent several years living with his family in a basement during the war.

    PS: Pancho Gonzales didn't come from a well of family.
     
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  7. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    If good athlete means good in other sports, i would nominate Lottie Dodd, Jaroslav Drobny and Ellie Vines.
     
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  8. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    yes. we have seen some very good athletes. fed, novak and nadal are certainly very good athletes.

    but I wouldn't put them into the "elite athlete" category of super athletes like bo jackson, MJ...

    would be funny to see a true super athlete (who can standing jump 3 feet, run like a running back and has power like an olympic shot putter) while still having very good tennis skills.

    maybe we will see such a guy in the future I think tennis while it made big jumps in the athletiv department still hasn't reached the level of basketball or football.

    otherwise it wouldn't be dominated by white guys.:)
     
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  9. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    good athlete usually means that you are good at other sports but the definition of "athlete" like it is used in the NBA means skills in jumping, sprinting, power, reactions...
     
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  10. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    How about balance, timing and coordination?
     
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  11. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    larry bird was great at these, but how many times have you heard about him as being a great athlete:)?
     
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  12. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Wasn't court the first woman to take weight lifting seriously in training. Of course Martina made athelticism and conditioning paramount in her quest to move past Evert.
     
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  13. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Larry Bird was a great athlete.
     
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  14. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    I agree with you that those things actually count it's not the classic defitnition of athletics. In NBA circles larry bird was respected as a great player but he was often called unathletic.

    When NBA reporters talk about athletes they talk about guys like dominique wilkens, michael jordan or lebron james and not larry bird or dirk nowitzki.
     
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  15. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    Wasn't arthur ashe considered a great athlete? Or do I just think that because he was black?:) (never seen him)
     
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  16. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

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    I guess it depends on how you would define great athlete. In line with what you said about good tennis players being decent athletes, I think that great tennis players have to be considered great athletes.

    Maybe the first era or two of tennis players didn't have to be exceptionally athletic. It's hard to say when real athleticism became a prerequisite for success at the highest level of tennis. My guess is that it was sometime before I started watching the game in the early 60's. The best tennis player in our high school (who comes to mind when I watch guys with games like Tommy Robredo and Philip Kohlschreiber) was also the best basketball player.

    Here's a video of Ashe vs Nastase from about 40 years ago. I think one has to concede that these guys were both superior athletes who happened also to have learned superior skills wrt stroking a tennis ball:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf4wrrpzdYc
     
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  17. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    The tread is about "the first great athlete in tennis." Ashe was a great athlete, but, there were several before him who were even greater athletes. Pancho Gonzales for one.
     
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  18. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Lewis Hoad was, maybe, the greatest ever athlete.
     
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  19. tennishotdog

    tennishotdog Rookie

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    first great athlete i saw in tennis is gael monfils...hes african, they genetically have more of those fast twitch muscles...
     
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  20. Mig1NC

    Mig1NC Professional

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    King Henry VIII
     
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  21. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Possibly. Some of Urban's choices were excellent also. Of all the athletes I've seen in tennis I would go with Borg but Yannick Noah was super also. If we talk about pure athletic ability John Lucas who was a top NBA player and top tennis player would be there also.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
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  22. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Oscar Robertson
     
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  23. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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