Originally Posted by NonP
Data, I know you aren't that old yourself, but do you have any observations you could share about these old-timers and lesser-known servers? One reason why I opened this thread was to get some detailed input from the more experienced posters so I could perhaps rank some of these players properly, and so far I haven't gotten it.
Well nonp, not sure what to tell you. Tilden had a minimalist motion with a low toss, it was absolutely fluid however, and relaxed. One nice thing about it was that even though so simple, the linkage of his body-parts was perfect...and that is the key to power. Not wild knee bends, or back arches, or huge grunts. Tilden of course, had to leave one foot down, but he did get all his weight behind the serve, and even the best of jumps probably only add about 10mph max. (and I tend to think that generous) to the serve. (and in the case of many amateurs, probably causes a bit of loss from other links, that might even result in a wash!)
Ellsworth Vines, the next big server after Tilden, thought Sampras (89,90ish Sampras....note this his motion did change a bit around 1991 and again, around 1994/5) motion was just like his. He thought the arm motion, body movement etc were the same! From the footage I've seen, it's not, but Tilden sees something, probaby in the looseness of the arms, and the rhythm, as well as their general build!
In any case, I"ve studied all these servers to the best of my ability, but not sure that there is any way to place/rank them with any certainty.
I would say, that their biomechanics, as well as the speed ratings we do have, and the fact that a good wood server can come within a few mph's of what he can do with graphite convinces me that, while they may not have had such an aggressive (ace on every first serve) mindset, they could bring the heat, in a way very comparable to today's players, when they wished. Don't let the hype about improvements in mechanics fool you. It's largely unscientific gibberish. The really important fundamentals haven't changed...they're a function of the human body....and the greatest servers always had them. In fact, if anything, I think efficiency has gone downwards, as we went towards more of a big knee bend, pause, big leap phase, rather the continuous, relaxed motion. The former is more efficient in terms of energy used, though ultimately the outcome is probably almost identical when maximized! Some players, like Vijay Amitraj, thought that players of his era, who tended towards low ball tosses with quicker motions were more deceptive (he compared it to Krajicek in one interview), and of course, Goran, arthurs, Tanner, Curren, and many others have been among the most difficult to read. I recall even Agassi saying Leconte's low ball toss, quick motion was hard to read. But again, I think ultimately a great outcome can be achieved with any of these styles....as the varied greats demonstrate!