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-   -   Did Wilander have an under utilized serve? (http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=401472)

Limpinhitter 10-23-2011 11:56 AM

Did Wilander have an under utilized serve?
 
I've seen Wilander play several times and I always thought that he had excellent serve technique and could really bring it when he wanted to. The problem is that he almost never wanted to.

It's funny because, in the era that was in transition from the big game to the backcourt game, I've knew a lot of very good players who were primarily backcourt Bjorn Borg clones who could really crank their serves "when they wanted to," But, it seemed that they almost never did. I've written about this before, and I wonder to what extent their reluctance to hit the big serve and finish the point quickly was just a part of a grinder's mindset.

It would also seem that Wilander suffered from the same grinder's mindset. Wilander was a pretty big guy at 6'1" but he played like a little guy. He had a serve that could be a big weapon, but, he rarely employed it as such. Check out this clip from his 1987 US Open QF match against Mecir in which he hits some huge service aces. Clearly, Wilander could bring the heat when he wanted to. Then listen to Mary Carillo's commentary in which she alludes to Wilander's lack of a big serve when referring to the need for a big serve to win the USO.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGlvP...eature=related

Nathaniel_Near 10-23-2011 05:52 PM

Wilander was 6'1''?

I'm sure I just saw him do an interview with Sampras and he looked at least 3 inches shorter than him.. You don't lose 3 inches in peak height by his age. He was 6'1''???

Nathaniel_Near 10-23-2011 05:57 PM

I'm finding 6 foot exactly from a variety of sources online but yeh..

Anyway, sorry that I can't contribute more to this thread in terms of the question. When I watch the numerous highlights of Wilander on youtube I do feel that he sometimes more or less serves to start the point and that this may well indeed be linked to his tactical grinding mindset. With that, he probably didn't take as full an advantage from his serve as he could have done but then, I'm only echoing what you've already opined.

Datacipher 10-23-2011 06:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nathaniel_Near (Post 6078716)
Wilander was 6'1''?

I'm sure I just saw him do an interview with Sampras and he looked at least 3 inches shorter than him.. You don't lose 3 inches in peak height by his age. He was 6'1''???

He was always listed at 6'0 from what I recall.

I also noticed that he appears quite a bit shorter than Sampras when he interviewed him, but note that Mats tends to stand with his head slumped forward quite a bit...(sort of like pete ON court! lol). Also, though Wilanders shoulders are much lower than Pete's, his head and and neck are longer. It seems to me that if he stands himself up completely straight, he's still probably within a couple inches of Sampras, which would make perfect sense. He may have shrunk a tad, and just because he was listed as 6'0 doesn't mean he wasn't actually say...5'11 and 1/2.

Limpinhitter 10-23-2011 07:24 PM

I could have sworn I'd seen him listed as 6'1". Oh well, I'm an inch off.

Anyway, I don't want this to go to far askew. 6' is still plenty tall enough to hit a huge serve if you want to, and he could. But, it seems he just didn't want to very often, and I just don't understand why a champion would just leave points on the table like that.

pundekman 10-24-2011 08:23 PM

i could have swore during the 80's i remembered that he was listed as 5'10" or 5' 11" max. Mcenroe was 5'11" and connors was 5'10" while lendl was 6'2"

scotus 10-24-2011 08:50 PM

He is probably 6'0 on his tippy toes ... with shoes on ... right after a good night's rest.

Limpinhitter 10-25-2011 06:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pundekman (Post 6080679)
i could have swore during the 80's i remembered that he was listed as 5'10" or 5' 11" max. Mcenroe was 5'11" and connors was 5'10" while lendl was 6'2"

Quote:

Originally Posted by scotus (Post 6080711)
He is probably 6'0 on his tippy toes ... with shoes on ... right after a good night's rest.

Fascinating!

Any insight as to why he didn't bring his serve more often?

Datacipher 10-25-2011 06:56 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Limpinhitter (Post 6081034)
Fascinating!

Any insight as to why he didn't bring his serve more often?

I suspect it was largely mindset Limpin.

I recall in the late 80's when Wilander really started popping his first serve, particularly the flat one down the middle for the occasional ace. It was said he had "added" that to his game....now commentators are always making things up like that (Agassi had a "brand new" huge first serve...about a dozen times over his career....unfortunately for Andre it didn't stick around very regularly ;-). Still, it may well be that Wilander wasn't too consistent or comfortable flattening it out before.

Also though, Mats grew up with that emphasis on grinding on clay...he was such a high percentage player...remember what he did to Leconte with serve percentages?! I also recall that in the early 90's he publicly marveled at some of the younger players....he couldn't believe how the guys would hit such an incredible shot, but then hit the next one 10 feet long. As I recall, he made a similar comment about Sampras after losing to him at the open....

Like many players from previous eras, I think Mats had much more of a manage your serve percentages wisely mentality...I think he was of the old school of thought that you shouldn't just go after aces...heck....remember that even some of the biggest servers of the eras just before him thought that way eg. Tanner, Gonzalez!

Mat's second serve wasn't spectatcular, so maybe he was smart to think that way...after all...he had a pretty "decent" career ;-)

But when you saw that he could hit a pretty good heater up the middle, indeed, one wonders if he shouldn't have done that more.

Limpinhitter 10-25-2011 08:10 AM

But, Mats' serve technique was impeccable. It just seems to me that an athlete of his caliber could have learned to maximize the benefits of a big serve. If he could win on the soft, fast grass of Kooyong Stadium with his strokes, I imagine he could have won a Wimbledon title (with the slower, firmer, higher bouncing grass), or two if he had dared to serve big. He was a better volleyer and net player than Lendl, IMO.

PS: As for Pancho, his serve was stunningly consistent, especially his first serve, and big at the same time. Yet, he seemed to be able pull a Sampras and serve up a game of aces to dig out of a hole when needed.

kiki 10-25-2011 08:24 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Limpinhitter (Post 6078293)
I've seen Wilander play several times and I always thought that he had excellent serve technique and could really bring it when he wanted to. The problem is that he almost never wanted to.

It's funny because, in the era that was in transition from the big game to the backcourt game, I've knew a lot of very good players who were primarily backcourt Bjorn Borg clones who could really crank their serves "when they wanted to," But, it seemed that they almost never did. I've written about this before, and I wonder to what extent their reluctance to hit the big serve and finish the point quickly was just a part of a grinder's mindset.

It would also seem that Wilander suffered from the same grinder's mindset. Wilander was a pretty big guy at 6'1" but he played like a little guy. He had a serve that could be a big weapon, but, he rarely employed it as such. Check out this clip from his 1987 US Open QF match against Mecir in which he hits some huge service aces. Clearly, Wilander could bring the heat when he wanted to. Then listen to Mary Carillo's commentary in which she alludes to Wilander's lack of a big serve when referring to the need for a big serve to win the USO.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGlvP...eature=related

Being an european clay court born player, in the late 70īs or early 80īs, they never minded about their serves.Borg needed Nastase ( whom, along Panatta was the last big clay court european server of his era) to learn how to serve.Lendlīs serve, in 1980-81 was not the booming serve he developed when he settled himself into an indoor player, which happened from 1982-83 on...and so forth.

Itīs not they couldnīt serve well, but the serve was, for almost all of them a mere " put into play" shot.

As I said, of all the clay court specialist of that time, the only ones with really great serves were Panatta,Pecci,Noah and later on Gomez.Even US players like Dibbs,Arias,Krickstein,Teltscher,Solomon had weak serves.... were they small? yes, they were pretty small, but in the 1990īs, guys like Chang or Rios, samll too, had a much better serve.Menthality is wwhat counts.

pundekman 10-26-2011 08:20 AM

i remembered him serving like 100% first serves for a whole set! i think i saw it twice in French final and in the US Open final in 88. And he had aces too!

Limpinhitter 10-26-2011 09:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pundekman (Post 6082896)
i remembered him serving like 100% first serves for a whole set! i think i saw it twice in French final and in the US Open final in 88. And he had aces too!

I can see Mats not wanting to exert too much effort, or waste first serves, on big serves that will be largely neutralized on red clay.

BeHappy 10-26-2011 10:02 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nathaniel_Near (Post 6078716)
Wilander was 6'1''?

I'm sure I just saw him do an interview with Sampras and he looked at least 3 inches shorter than him.. You don't lose 3 inches in peak height by his age. He was 6'1''???

I'd say 5'10'' max.

hoodjem 10-26-2011 10:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Limpinhitter (Post 6078293)
Wilander was a pretty big guy at 6'1" but he played like a little guy. He had a serve that could be a big weapon, but, he rarely employed it as such. Check out this clip from his 1987 US Open QF match against Mecir in which he hits some huge service aces. Clearly, Wilander could bring the heat when he wanted to. Then listen to Mary Carillo's commentary in which she alludes to Wilander's lack of a big serve when referring to the need for a big serve to win the USO.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGlvP...eature=related

Wilander was 6' 1"!??

You coulda fooled me. I would have guessed he was 5' 11" or six feet.

Is this like Hoad being 5' 8" and Laver at 5' 7"?

Colpo 10-26-2011 11:53 AM

The stat that puts this conversation into perspective is that Mats missed only 2 first serves the entire '88 French Open final. I'm not talking double faults, I'm talking serving only 2 second serves the whole match (he made both). The issue of potential serve bigness, in Mats's case, is apples and oranges. Not part of the game plan.

Datacipher 10-26-2011 01:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BeHappy (Post 6083056)
I'd say 5'10'' max.

Geez....I told you guys, he's a slumper. A SLUMPER. LOL

It seems to be exacerbated now by age, he clearly cranes his neck forward a lot, looking almost like he has no neck, from the front. As a resutl, he looks smaller than Mcenroe a lot of the time now, but he was clearly taller when they played in his prime. Saying he was 5'10 max....come on...are you guys on crack?? Do you not remember Mats??

Here, watch him shake hands with Sampras, he was NOT 5'10.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-amqD...eature=related

krosero 10-26-2011 05:58 PM

Wilander could get a lot of "free points" with his serve, meaning all unreturned serves including aces.

For example, against Lendl, who obviously had a bigger serve:


83 AO final -- Wilander's rate of unreturned serves was 30%, Lendl's 23%

85 RG final -- both men were at 12%

87 USO final -- Wilander at 23%, Lendl at 18%
(Wilander made 66% of his 1st serves)

88 USO final -- Wilander at 14%, Lendl at 16%
(Wilander made 87% of 1st serves)


In that last match Wilander did not go for any big serves, so he got fewer "free points." But Lendl hardly saw any second serves. I think that's the key: Wilander got fewer free points, but that didn't matter much because his first serve, even at lower speeds, was safe from being attacked. His second serve, on the other hand, was slower and sat up more. Lendl could attack it when he could return it with a FH.

And all it takes is for the second serve to be attacked a few times, or maybe just once, and you're broken.

Lendl attacked Wilander's second serve very well in the '87 RG final. And he saw more second serves than usual from Wilander. We don't have the exact figure but after two sets Wilander was serving at just 57%.

Compare that to the '85 RG final, where Wilander served at 76% and won the match.

I do think some of Wilander's edge over Lendl in "free points" is due to the fact that Wilander had a better return of serve than Lendl (IMO). But I think the numbers show that Wilander was not just putting the ball in play.

krosero 10-26-2011 06:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Limpinhitter (Post 6081231)
But, Mats' serve technique was impeccable. It just seems to me that an athlete of his caliber could have learned to maximize the benefits of a big serve. If he could win on the soft, fast grass of Kooyong Stadium with his strokes, I imagine he could have won a Wimbledon title (with the slower, firmer, higher bouncing grass), or two if he had dared to serve big. He was a better volleyer and net player than Lendl, IMO.

PS: As for Pancho, his serve was stunningly consistent, especially his first serve, and big at the same time. Yet, he seemed to be able pull a Sampras and serve up a game of aces to dig out of a hole when needed.

I agree that's important, to be able to lay down some aces or service winners when you're in trouble. I think Lendl's big serve is really what won him the '87 USO final. Wilander got more free points than he did, but he had to induce return errors sometimes by coming in behind his serve. So he wasn't getting return errors merely with the skill of his serve. Sometimes it's just useful if you can put the ball past the opponent entirely and win the point outright.

Lendl did that constantly in that match. Wilander had double set point in the third set, and Lendl put in four strong serves in a row to hold.

Agreed that Wilander was better at net than Lendl.

BTW during that final Newk was in the CBS booth, and he said it was strange that Wilander had never done as well at Wimbledon as he had at the AO. He thought maybe one reason was that the bounce was a little higher in Australia.

That was due to the dry climate, as I understand it -- compared to the wet conditions in England which would make the turf soft, and bounces lower.

Benhur 10-26-2011 06:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by krosero (Post 6083743)
Wilander could get a lot of "free points" with his serve, meaning all unreturned serves including aces.

For example, against Lendl, who obviously had a bigger serve:


83 AO final -- Wilander's rate of unreturned serves was 30%, Lendl's 23%

85 RG final -- both men were at 12%

87 USO final -- Wilander at 23%, Lendl at 18%
(Wilander made 66% of his 1st serves)

88 USO final -- Wilander at 14%, Lendl at 16%
(Wilander made 87% of 1st serves)


In that last match Wilander did not go for any big serves, so he got fewer "free points." But Lendl hardly saw any second serves. I think that's the key: Wilander got fewer free points, but that didn't matter much because his first serve, even at lower speeds, was safe from being attacked. His second serve, on the other hand, was slower and sat up more. Lendl could attack it when he could return it with a FH.

And all it takes is for the second serve to be attacked a few times, or maybe just once, and you're broken.

Lendl attacked Wilander's second serve very well in the '87 RG final. And he saw more second serves than usual from Wilander. We don't have the exact figure but after two sets Wilander was serving at just 57%.

Compare that to the '85 RG final, where Wilander served at 76% and won the match.

I do think some of Wilander's edge over Lendl in "free points" is due to the fact that Wilander had a better return of serve than Lendl (IMO). But I think the numbers show that Wilander was not just putting the ball in play.

I believe in the 88 USO final Wilander went a whole set (I think the 5th) without missing a single first serve.


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