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Old 07-12-2011, 08:57 PM   #15
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 9,278

Originally Posted by John123 View Post
Pc1 and Limpinhitter:

There's no question that the pro majors were significant tournaments, or that the pros were better than the amateurs. There's also no question that it was a very impressive feat for Laver to sweep those tournaments in 1967. The 1950s and 1960s produced fantastic tennis: I view Laver and Pancho as two of the greatest three players of the past 80 years.

But I started this thread to disagree with what I see a lot in this forum, which is the claim that pro majors were basically like starting a modern Slam in the quarters, with the top eight players. They most certainly were not like that. Just look at Laver's draws in 1967: he won 13 total matches to sweep the pro majors, and 5 of those matches were against guys who definitely weren't top-10 players in the world (most not even close), with another 3 matches against a guy who wasn't in the top 5. Of the five matches he did play against the best competition, three were against Gimeno, who is an analogue to Andy Murray: excellent, but never a guy who really challenged for #1 or won majors (excepting the 1972 FO over Proisy).

Still, it's a great feat. But not that great. Rosewall basically duplicated it in 1963, and Pancho would have done the same in the mid-1950s if the French Pro had been played on indoor wood (or maybe just played at all) then. It's no stretch to imagine Federer, Nadal, or Djokovic doing something like that at their respective peaks.

What no one else did, by contrast, is win the Grand Slam like Laver did in 1969. That was a much, much more important and difficult accomplishment.
But, it isn't just what Laver did that made him so great. It's the way he did it. Here is part of one of my posts from the "greatest backhand" thread that I think will explain what I'm talking about. As you read this, remember that Laver used a Dunlop Maxply Fort.

Originally Posted by Limpinhitter View Post

Here are some excerpts from Rod Laver's Tennis Digest (1973), from an article entitled "The Rod Laver Game," by Julius Heldman, pg. 149, which confirms everyting I witnessed when I saw Laver play on several occasions. I hope you find it interesting.

"He is the only man today who can go through the last rounds of a major international tournament without dropping a set because he is the only player who can literally crush the opposition with his power."

* * *

"Rod swings at everything hard and fast. His timing, eye and wrist action are nothing short of miraculous. On either side, forehand or backhand, he takes a full roundhouse-loop crack at the ball, which comes back so hard it can knock the racket out of your hand. [An example can be seen in the Laver/Roche match at the 1969 AO SF which can be found on YouTube]. I saw Rod play Osuna in the semifinal at Forest Hills in 1962. It was murder. In the last game, Rafe bravely served and ran for the net. Rod cracked a backhand back full speed, free swing, so hard that Rafe's racket wavered in his hand. Not so amazing perhaps, but, the same scene was repeated four points in a row. Rod literally knocked Osuna down with four successive returns of serve, and Osuna was one of the quickest and best racket-handlers who ever played." [As was Roche].

* * *

"On the backhand side, Laver often uses a heavy underspin. Most players who come under the ball slow it up. Not so Rod; he is always moving in and hitting so hard that the shot is deep and attacking and has unusual pace. He often takes high backhands this way, but, he is just as liable to come over the ball with a tremendous wallop, ending with wrist turning the racket head over and the ball going with incredible speed and accuracy."

"From the ground, about the only shot that Rod does not clobber is a forehand underspin chip. I don't recall his using the shot much or at all when he was younger, but, as he matured he began occasionally to hold the ball on his racket with some underspin and place it carefully while he ran for the net. But, the next time he would literally jump and throw his racket at the ball with all the force he could muster, wrist and arm smapping over at the hit. The shot is unreturnable. It always ends the point, one way or the other, and you can never predict when lightning will strike, although you know it will be often."

"Volleying in top international tennis is more than technical proficiency. Rod is not a great low volleyer, but, he is merciless when he gets half a chance. He is competent on low balls . . . but he will cream any ball at waist level or higher. As time goes on, Laver takes fewer unecessary big swings at set-up high put-aways; he taps or punches them away. But, if he needs to, he can and does hit high volleys with all of his might as swinging drives or, on his backhand, sharp underspin angles as well. It is hard to believe a ball can be hit that hard and with that much angle, but Rod does it. No wonder he is the terror of all opponents."

"There is not an Aussie netrusher who does not have a great overhead to back his attack. Otherwise he would be lobbed to death. Rod has one of the best, quite flat, angled to his left sharply by preference but capable of being placed anywhere. While Rod is not tall, he is agile and leaps well and is hard to lob over. What is worse, if you do get a lob over him, he will run it down and, with a powerful stiff wrist, rifle a full loop past his helpless opponent. This happens so often that players have begun to say that they prefer to lob short to Rod, at least on his backhand. Actually, if Laver has a weakness, it is on his backhand overhead, on which he does err, but in a way that is silly: how are you going to get in position to play that shot to Rod often?"

* * *

Last edited by Limpinhitter; 07-12-2011 at 09:00 PM.
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