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Old 09-29-2012, 07:45 PM   #27
Join Date: Dec 2006
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Originally Posted by Limpinhitter View Post
I think Riggs was a great player. But, I also think he benefited from Budge's shoulder injury which, from what I've read, permanently diminished Budge's game and prevented him from returning to his prior form. There's no doubt in my mind that peak Budge was the better player. Whereas Kramer could only beat Riggs on a regular basis from the net, Budge could overpower Riggs regularly from the baseline. And, I think Riggs acknowledges that in terms of their early 40's losses, although he seems to disregard Budge's injury when talking about his late 40's victories.
Riggs did mention at least once that Budge was a different player after the war. It was in his book, Court Hustler (1973):
Budge had turned thirty and had lost something of the greatness he had possessed before the war. I think he was less daring. He got smarter as he got older. He was more cautious and quit taking chances. When he was younger, he was reckless. He took chances -- but made them all. He had great shots. But after the war he took something off the ball and played his shots safer. I could play against that kind of game.
Originally Posted by Limpinhitter View Post
IMO, peak Budge played the highest level of tennis ever until Laver, possibly Gonzales.
I think there's some evidence for that. As you saw, Danzig was amazed at the number of winners that Budge made in that match against Riggs. I have winner counts for over 90 matches before the Open Era, and Budge's rate of winners is the highest: he made winners, not including aces, on 26.6% of all the points in the match.

In fact I don't know of any winner rate higher than that before 1988.

Budge made only 1 ace against Riggs (who out-aced him even in this blowout!), and if you include aces then Budge's rate of winners drops to #3 on my list of pre-Open Era matches: just slightly behind Budge's own performance against Bunny Austin in the 1938 Wimbledon final and Trabert's performance against Vic Seixas in the 1953 US Nationals.

R.N. Williams is another name high on the list, and he was known for being the best "on his day."

I have winner counts for Vines' two US finals, but his rates are not at the very top -- though they're very high. It's tough with Vines because it seems he improved after he turned pro, but stats for pro matches are harder to come by.

Anyway, there's no doubt that Budge could be a steamroller "on his day."

And Riggs in '42 was a quality opponent, so the winner count there is more impressive than Budge's count against Bunny Austin.

It's particularly impressive that Budge got so many winners past a defender of Riggs' quality.

Trabert got just about as many winners past Seixas, and Danzig said that "on this day [Trabert] measured up to a Donald Budge, a Jack Kramer in the fearful toll taken by his forehand and backhand, particularly the latter."

But Seixas was an attacker rather than a great defender. He came into net relentlessly against Trabert and was usually passed, so a great number of Tony's winners were passing shots.

What Budge did against Riggs was possibly more impressive because I get the sense that there were more baseline rallies in that match, going by what Danzig reports (by the way, I've expanded my excerpt from that article above - post 14).
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