Join Date: May 2010
For me, it's a myth that larger head sizes reduce shanking. They also can make you more tentative and fearful of hitting long, they don't get around as well; basically, every advantage is balanced out by an opposing disadvantage. Really, it just boils down to what you're comfortable with using. For Federer, an OS head would I think feel decidedly uncomfortable, and lead to more shanking if anything. If you're a bit tentative, you're simply going to be a split-second behind in your processing, your timing, your swing...it can lead to steering, which leads to less instinctive *movement* and play. It's a negative chain reaction. To me, players will use the general type of model that they've grown accustomed to, it becomes a comfort zone that's hard to shake once you've played awhile. It's more the strings that give you the confidence to swing out or not. A poly/gut hybrid offers to me a virtual night and day difference in terms of predictability and control...it's by far the much bigger factor in why players have gotten in the habit of just letting it all hang out, going for broke is just a much higher percentage play than it used to be. You can't steer the ball in tennis, the second you do, in particular at the higher levels; control goes out the crapper. Shanks increase, footwork positioning becomes self-conscious rather than fluid and adaptive, balls sail long. Basically, you take an "advanced" level swing, but make it tentative, and the shot ends up in racket speed no man's land. Swing speed even when reigning back in tentative at the last second, ends up much harder and swifter than a rudimentary, poke & push, player's stroke...you can poke a ball back into play, but you can't drive fast in a formula 1 race car, then pull back at the last second, asking for a Honda Civic...bad idea.
So, for me, I don't really see Agassi's use of an OS head as being a tremendous advantage as far as ball striking goes...when every advanced player has a choice, and many find OS heads to be a hinderance to their ball striking if anything.
Agassi was more dialed-in from the center of the court, he was more straight-forward. Far more predictable with spin, placement, and such; but this was also an advantage to some extent in that he did not have a lot running through his head...his game plan was generally pretty clear. Impose his groundies on you, stuff 'em down your throat until you drop, make you run more than him, and don't miss. An amazingly clean hitter on his best days, he hardly seemed to miss the ball. When he was fully locked in, he was a terminator, a battery and assault machine...but no magician. Federer wishes to dazzle you, hypnotize you, and *surprise* you with his ground attack. He likes to think of himself as more of a tennis artiste', both matador and bull at the same time. He wears both hats, whereas Agassi only wore one...that of the bull. But man, when he was on, that bull didn't miss very often with those horns.
Agassi was a *surer* ball striker, a cleaner one. His pure hand-eye coordination was equalled really only by peak Rios from his generation; but he was purer ball striker not concerned with suddenly taking the air out of the ball with touch shots, slice and dice tactics, cutesy finesse angles, and so forth. Everything Agassi tried to throw at you was hard, brutal, and clean...mercenary.
Federer is more a case of the sum of all parts coming together feeling overwhelming. He's got a vulnerable side in his backhand, it's still a good shot; but it's obviously a "confidence" shot for him. Not the kind of shot, you feel will always be there for you that day; it's a gone with the wind shot. Agassi's other great strength beyond his hand-eye coordination, was that he was rock solid *comfortable* off BOTH sides. He did not need to favor one side or the other, if Berastategui wakes up feeling pepless one morning, he looks like he's dreaming of Meg Ryan in Seatle...hopeless, clueless, like he's in search of some TRT and Rogaine shakes, a slurpee on the changeover, Hugh Hefner in his bag, anything to get him going. A step pepless and he's hopeless, he MUST get around to hit that forehand as much as humanly possible. I feel it's one of the less discussed reasons for Agassi's longevity. It's mentally far more fatiguing over the long haul when you're so dependent on a single weapon (other than the serve). It's exhausting, uninspired, and BORING to play to attack off your forehand, time after time, after time, trying to execute the same pattern to the same level of perfection for year after year.
Federer was a painter, a dab here, a bold stroke there, a honk on the nose here, drop his pants there, oh, no you looked! And lost the point, Fed makes it difficult to establish your "bashing rhythm" that so many pros are reliant on establishing. Agassi gives you rhythm, but he's flame throwing Bowser breathing down your throat from the word jump, rattle, and roll. He was not a jive dancer, he was just overzealous in his attack. On the run, though? A bleeting goat, "meh...meh...mehhh..." he was so-so. Fed on the run, was like Jim Carey taking the helms of an aeroplane...you're no, you're in for some zany, high-paced, creative, sometimes insane, sometimes surprisingly classy "genius," you know, a little bit of fun, grab the popcorn, and throw it in the air, whooo!!! Ric Flair style, prime FedEx was a unicorn on the run, how you Americans say, da bomb...and yet, from a strictly anaylical standpoint. A purer ball striker means your great hits are reliant less on your awesome athleteness, and more just on your wheel chair bound striking ability. From this perspective, Agassi at his best was as good as ever. He was truly special.
Fed's best hits, were a product of creativity moxy, and athleticism. He was not an in your face athlete, but he was always there. He covered the court with aplomb, loose and limber, not stiff and pigeon-toed like Agassi the hunchback of Notre Dame by comparison. It's safe to say, that Agassi was the better pure ball striker. In many respects, he had to be. To be an elite, he had to be extraordinary in this category to have a chance.