Hall Of Fame
Join Date: Apr 2005
When i read several German and British accounts of von Cramm, i got the impression, that he was heralded as a sort of gracious loser, a man with an elegant game and courtly manners, but without killer instinct, who always lost the big matches to the more battle hard anglo-american tigers Perry and Budge. But his superb 5 set record indicates, that he was in truth a tenacious, resilient fighter, who battled through many long, tough matches and tournaments (at RG 1934 he seems to have won at least 3 straight 5 setters). Also his serve was not mentioned as a special weapon, while these accounts often referred to Tilden's cannon ball serve.
The statement of von Cramm, which Krosero cites, regarding the surface specifics of his twist serve and his long backswing, surely makes sense, but cannot explain the swift in clay and grass results completely. The kicker certainly works better on harder court, when it bounces really high. So von Cramm could ace Perry 4 straight times at RG, while on grass the serve wasn't as effective. Rafter, who had a big kicker also, was more effective on hard courts than on grass, where the kicker was easier to return (he was also no slouch on clay courts). On the other hand, Edberg, who had a similar kicker, was very effective on grass.
The longer backswing gave von Cramm on grass a distinct disadvantage against Perry, who was famous for his early taken, short forehand drive out of a crouching position (not unlike Connors), which opened the court for him. Perry copied this crispy forehand after Cochet, who had developed it earlier, although he grew up on clay courts. On the other hand, seeing pictures and films of Budge, i always thought, that Budge had a long backswing, too, on both flanks; he even hit his volleys with a quite long backswing. In the 30s, grass tennis was foremost baseline tennis (like today), maybe the short, low forehand gave Perry some advantages here.
Watching Pathé clips from some Australian matches of early 1938, with von Cramm and Budge and some doubles play, on this forum side above, von Cramm looked - even on grass - the most natural player to me, with an easy, fluent, smooth style, with decent volleys especially in doubles, a sort of early forerunner of Edberg without the cramped forehand.
Maybe i am contradicting myself a bit, but so is tennis, it's never easy to understand - as is life.