Originally Posted by JohnYandell
There are many teachers and teaching methodogies. What to call "modern" is an argument that has many sides and has provoked a lot of disagreement here.
Everyone has the right to believe as they wish and follow what ever approach works for them. And to state their opinion as well.
There is too much made of the distinctions between classical and modern. The word classical is often used as an insult or a sign that a coach doesn't understand what is "really" happening.
The fact is that in the history of tennis all the things we now associate with "modern" tennis--more underneath grips, open stances, heavy topspin, windshield wiper finishes, reverse finishes--all those things were used by the great players of the past. They weren't "invented" in the modern era.
What has changed is the frequency and predominance of shots and technical elements that were more the exception in the past. Borg started this change probably.
But interestingly, huge flat groundstrokes dominated the era after Bjorn. Agassi and Sampras and before them Connors. Well into the 90s serve and volley tennis was equally viable: Edberg, Becker, and McEnroe were truly dominant players.
The guys of that era who played what we think of as "modern" style--heavy topspin, deep court positions, long grueling attrition driven matches--these guys while obviously great were the second tier players except on red clay.
Guys like Bruguera, Muster, Courier.
The graphite rackets were obviously universal at this point but what really changed it for good was the combination of the rackets and poly string. They killed serve and volley.
So that's one thing that is important to understand. But does that mean there is one thing that is "modern tennis?"
Is Federer for example, a "modern" player technically speaking? He has an eastern grip on his forehand--and combines that with more wiper finishes than anyone. He can hit heavy spin, but really he wants to stand in, take the ball early and just crush people by attacking the open court. Really the player he is most like in this sense is probably Connors. And like Connors he mixes in the net. Unlike the vast majority of modern players he has a one-handed backhand with a classic eastern backhand grip and hits a much higher percentage of slice than any top player. Is that modern or some hybrid?
Is there a quintessential modern player? Nadal? Is anyone really surprised at his injuries and mental exhaustion considering his style? If that is modern extreme is it in any way a model for even a very small number of players?
Is it Novak? What is fascinating is he has taken the baseline war of attrition to a new level by playing it from nearly as close in as Fed. His spin rates are almost indentical to Fed and 20% less than Nadal. And the arc of his ball is also much flatter than Nadal--more like Fed.
Murray? Delpo? JoWillie? How about Raonic? OK we can keep going down the list. All these champions play differently.
The point is I don't think we can say that there is some unitary entity called modern tennis. There are too many complexities and variations to say there is one way to play the "modern" game.
Which leads to the next questions: how do "modern" teaching methods actually correspond to the variety of things modern players do? And which of them are applicable to whom at what level and with what result?
Here are my observations. Let me know what you think.
IMO, there are two fundamental differences between the two styles of hitting. Both of these differences are made possible by the size of modern tennis racquets which have much, much bigger sweet spots than wood racquets allowing players to swing with more racquet head speed and a much steeper angle of ascent to contact, and still consistently hit the ball in the sweet spot. Players like Hoad, Laver, Vilas, Borg, Okker and Nastase were so frikkin' talented, that they could hit with some measure of these modern characteristics with 14oz+, 65sq.in., wood racquets, and still hit cleanly, most of the time. But, they were the exceptions.
The two big differences that I see are: (1) the change from linear to angular momentum, and (2) the WW swing. These two characteristics of the modern swing work best together.
Angular momentum is achieved through the rotation of the body from the legs and hips, to the shoulders, arm and racquet, commonly referred to as the kinetic chain. Angular momentum generates more RHS than linear momentum which results in more power, and more spin if you combine it with the WW swing (described below). Such a kinetic chain and upper body rotation is easiest to achieve with an open stance, unless you pivot on your front foot after contact and bring your back foot forward. It also recqires that contact be made futher forward, closer to the target, in order to hit at the peak of acceleration, which in turn requires either a SW grip, or a laid back wrist ala Federer, so that the racquet face is facing the target causing the ball to travel to the target even though the circular swing is across the target line.
I use the term "WW swing" rather than WW finish just to make the point that a true WW finish starts before contact in the supination part of the forward swing where the racquet head drops well below the hand and the ball. Without that drop, the WW finish is meaningless. From there, the steep ascent of the racquet through contact into the familiar WW finish is what generates the heavy spin that characterizes the modern forehand and what controls the additional power of both the longer strings of modern racquets, the extra force generated by angular momentum, and the additional racquet head speed of the WW swing itself. But, this technique only works with the forward contact point associated with the upper body rotation described above.
This technique, which has evolved gradually over the past 30+ years, was just not accessable to most of the wood racquet era players.