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Old 08-28-2012, 03:48 AM   #45
Join Date: Jul 2009
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Originally Posted by Limpinhitter View Post
Huh? When it comes to beating net rushers, Borg was in a league of his own. He had the greatest passing shots of all time, on both sides, he hit the heaviest topspin with the sharpest angles in the history of tennis with a wood racquet (except for Laver), he was one of the fastest moth athletic players of all time, he had one of the great returns of serve of all time.
Limpin, as I told pc1 I know Borg was no slouch. At the same time he often had more trouble against net rushers than against other players of a similar caliber. See posts #6 & 15 for more details.

Originally Posted by krosero View Post
I agree with you that Borg's passes in the rallies were better than his return -- in some circumstances, particularly on cement (more on that below) -- but the Panatta matches don't really show that. If Borg's return was significantly weaker than his passing shots in all circumstances, it's strange how Panatta chose to play him -- staying back often on his serve, coming in behind approaches and successfully picking off the passing shots.
OK, then maybe I underrated Borg's return and/or overrated his passing shots. Still we agree that, relatively speaking, the latter was stronger than the former, which is good.

31% of Tanner's serves did not come back, but that's hardly a devastating stat. There are a good number of higher stats from other players of that era, and I don't mean huge servers like Victor Amaya. Borg himself had an unreturned rate of 34% in that '79 final against Tanner. Newcombe achieved 33% against Connors -- the best returner of the era -- in their AO final. About 33% of Laver's serves went unreturned against Ashe in the '69 Wimbledon semi. Etc.
Of course it's important to keep in mind that 31% of unreturned serves was a pretty good number back then, and comparable to about 40% today. As has been pointed out a zillion times in this forum, the modern racquets don't allow the player to serve harder per se in terms of maximum speeds, but they do help increase the average speeds, and probably the 1st-serve %'s as well. For all the talk about the slowing down of surfaces and the return of serve revolutionizing the game (which is tiresomely regurgitated by the pundits that should know better), holding serve has arguably never been easier.

At the USO, though, Borg seems to have had more trouble returning Tanner's serve (as well as McEnroe's). In '79, under the lights, he said he just couldn't read Tanner's serve. In '80 Borg beat him in the quarters, but Tanner had 19 aces and 26 service winners (those stats look even better than what he had in '79). Borg came close to losing, and he was described as "receiving from somewhere around the 50-yard line in nearby Shea Stadium."
Do you happen to know the %'s of unreturned serves for these matches? Borg's attitude toward the lights and the NY crowd is well known, but it just sounds a little too easy to point to these external factors as the source of his troubles. If there's one thing I've learned after all these years it's that one should always be skeptical of conventional wisdom, as we've seen in this very discussion (regarding Panatta and the return of serve).

Yes that's what I was getting at: we assume that standing back will allow you to get more balls back; and then we weigh that benefit against the drawbacks (and I agree with you that the benefit is not worth the cost, looking at it that way). But I'm questioning whether you even get that benefit, when you're facing a SVer. If your windows have shrunk in all the ways I described, you will actually be making a lot of errors on the return. So the assumption that standing back gives you a chance to return more balls may not be valid (except, I think, against another baseliner).
Yes, it's quite debatable whether you enjoy the benefit at all. That's why I said I wasn't sure if I even factored all of the possible errors into the unreturned serves.

Well I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, either here or elsewhere (not sure it's a separate topic since we're discussing how to handle net rushers; the lack of net rushers today is just the other side of the coin).
You mean my thoughts on today's lack of net rushers? That's slightly different from what I had in mind, and it's a huge topic to explore in detail, but I will make a few quick points:

1) We know that net rushers were already becoming a rare breed before the supposedly systematic slowdown of the early '00s.
2) We also know that, contrary to what the wannabe experts say, it takes many years to develop a professionally viable style of play.
3) And as I just noted, players are holding serve today with more ease than perhaps ever, and at the very least as well as their '90s predecessors. Mind you, this despite the so-called slowdown of the courts and the improved return of serve.

There are plenty of other dots you can connect to see what a farce the whole thing is about today's (lack of) net rushers, surfaces, equipment, etc. It's not a simple matter of racquets or courts. The real game-changer has been the players, and their evolution dates back well over a decade.
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