Complete match of Borg and Laver

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by Gary Duane, Feb 16, 2017.

  1. Gary Duane

    Gary Duane Legend

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    @-NN- posted this full video. I had only seen highlights in the past.

    I want to put it where it can be discussed...
     
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  2. Gary Duane

    Gary Duane Legend

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    Some observations:

    Gonzalez announcing is fascinating by itself.

    At one point he says: "I think these players are trying to figure out who can hit the ball the hardest."

    By 2017 standards nothing looks like it is hit very hard. That's how much the change in rackets and strings has altered the game.

    Watching Laver you get an idea of what the pros got used to. He serves with two balls in the hand. Then there is the right foot on the serve, planted, with the left foot swinging across the service line.

    In contrast, Borg pushes off with the front foot and lands in the court as players do today, though it's not a big movement. Players who grew up not being able to jump over the line serving were stuck with that technique when the rules changed.

    Gonzalez is very clear about stating Laver's height as 5'8'.

    Very interesting commentary by Gonzalez at just past 45 minutes.

    I wish people commenting about these old players would spend more time studying how they actually played, and Gonzalez's comments are pure gold.
     
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  3. Gary Duane

    Gary Duane Legend

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    One other important point: Take a look at the very end of the match, where Borg walks to the net and then when both players walk off together.

    I've heard Laver described of as short as 5'7". Borg is listed as 5'11". But doesn't it look like they are MUCH closer in height than that? More like 5'9' and 5'10". So many height and weight stats are unreliable.
     
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  4. -NN-

    -NN- Hall of Fame

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    Laver is far removed from his best state here, and it's blatantly apparent. Nonetheless, the match is fascinating to watch. I get more enjoyment out of watching Laver than Borg, but generally, Laver lacked a certain freshness in this match.

    I'm tempted to say Borg outright gave him a game at the beginning of the second set (well it looked like he tanked that last point and wasn't focused) and that Borg was in effortless control of the match in reality. The best moments of shot-making inspiration came from Laver IMO, probably through trying to survive the match half the time.

    For anyone interested in a very long and tactical rally, go to 31:30.

    Prime against prime, this match-up would have been legendary. Laver was trying all sorts to break the defences of Borg but lacked the freshness and vigour to put it all together consistently on the day.

    If we assume Borg is 5'11, Laver looks at least 5'9. When looking at height, I tend to judge by the shoulders more than anything else, and try to gauge wingspan.. things like that.
     
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  5. -NN-

    -NN- Hall of Fame

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    Laver and Borg played in the round of 16 in the 1975 USO with Borg winning in 4 sets. That's a match I must see...

    I've seen bits of the 1975 WCT Dallas match, which went the full 5.


    Laver also pushed Borg VERY hard in a losing effort in Palm Springs 1976, which is not far removed at all from the match presented here. So it's weird to me that this match seems so relatively comfortable for Borg, in that he looks so at ease whereas Laver looks like he's lacking energy and lacking confidence.

    I have to imagine that there was a greater intensity in their 1975 WCT and USO matches.

    ***

    Laver talks about Borg's perfected top spin and how it's difficult for him to penetrate with his shots on the clay against the heavier top spin. He stated that his game was a little bit below par but was happy with his form to some extent given the circumstances (amount of tennis played leading in).
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2017
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  6. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    thanks to the both of you for posting this video. i have also only seen highlights before.

    i have to watch the whole video before commentating too much, but i think you make a good point concerning changes in the game.
    whether it´s the serve rule, or changes in equipment. it´s generally the next generation that is able to profit from these changes. very hard for
    seasoned pros to change their game.
     
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  7. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    i think many people don´t realize how often the "clay court specialist" Borg went to the net and how good his volleying skills where.
     
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  8. thrust

    thrust Rookie

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    Laver was 5'9" or 10, Rosewall was 5' 7"
     
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  9. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I got these match stats some years ago.


    Borg d. Laver 6-3, 7-5, on October 11, 1976, on clay at Hilton Head.

    Borg was 20, Laver 38.


    By my count:

    Borg made 12 clean winners: 5 FH, 5 BH, 1 FHV, 1 BHV.

    Laver made 20 clean winners: 7 FH, 2 BH, 7 FHV, 2 BHV, 2 overheads.


    Apart from double-faults, Borg made 11 unforced and 18 forced errors. (These errors included 5 on the service return; I didn't credit Laver with a service winner on any of these). He made 5 unforced backhand errors, 5 on the forehand.

    Apart from double-faults, Laver made 40 unforced and 13 forced errors. (These errors included 9 on the service return; I credited Borg with service winners on 3 of these). He made 22 unforced backhand errors, 12 on the forehand.


    Borg had 0 aces and 1 double.
    Laver had 5 aces and 2 doubles.


    Borg served at 55%, making 32 of 58 first serves.
    Laver served at 61%, making 39 of 64 first serves.


    Borg won 36 of 58 points on serve, Laver 33 of 64.

    Borg won 67 points overall, Laver 55.



    Borg won 22 of 32 points on first serve (69%) and 14 of 26 on second (54%).

    Laver won 22 of 39 points on first serve (56%) and 11 of 25 on second (44%).


    Finally, Borg won 5 of 9 break points, Laver 2 of 4.

    Borg got his first serve into play on all 4 break points that he faced, Laver on 6 of 9.


    ABC presented stats for the first set. According to them, Laver had 1 ace and 2 doubles, Borg 0 and 0. Borg was serving at 54% (with 14 of 26 first serves), Laver at 64% (with 16 of 25). Borg had 3 passing shots, Laver none. Borg had 8 groundstroke errors (4 off each wing), Laver 24 (with 16 off his backhand side).
     
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  10. Gary Duane

    Gary Duane Legend

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    In this match I agree. To me the important thing is that Laver, obviously not at his best and logically way beyond his peak, was not exactly just an old guy out there to make an appearance without having game.

    It's not red clay, but anyone against Borg, on clay, was at a similar disadvantage to what anyone would face against Nadal on clay.

    The lack of delays, quick play, is amazing. Connors and McEnroe were both slow and would have been called for time violations with today's rules.

    Also, no grunting. That alone made watching a pleasure.
    Borg never seemed pushed, but by that time he was the best in the world, and Laver gave away 18 years. I'd wager peak Laver would have been a handful on clay, and I think he was at least the match of Borg on grass.
    I judge by shoulders too, and wingspan, because the real advantage is on serve, and it is total reach, contact point, that is the real issue. Old people shrink in height, but not to the same degree. I think Laver has lost at least a couple inches of height, and that is not at all unusual for people nearly 80.
     
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  11. Gary Duane

    Gary Duane Legend

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    I think you may have been one who pointed out that the ratio between winners and UEs was smaller in the wood days. To me that seems logical. But UEs for Laver were very high in that match, and to me that indicates a bad day for him.

    The serve was impressive on clay, and for me that answers some questions about how such a small man could have had such a strong service game. To me it is obvious that Laver is NOT as small as the stats we read for him. He was simply too close to Borgs height, and I looked at them together several times, even walking in slow motion.

    I think a lot of our assumptions about serving our skewed because we have not seen smaller people with great serves for some time. If Nadal - a guy who frankly serves more like a shorter man - was able to get up to winning 89% of his service games on HCs at his absolute peak, I don't see any reason why a guy a couple inches shorter but with a much better serve couldn't do the same thing.

    Along with recency bias there is also are lot of recency assumptions.

    Does it also strike you that Laver's backhand was probably way over 50% slice shots? It felt to me that he was hitting perhaps 3 slices for every topspin backhand, and maybe that ratio went up on grass, but at the moment I'm doubtful.
     
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  12. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Hard to say whether this was a bad day for Laver relative to his '76 level, but when I did the stats it did strike me as a lot of unforced errors from his BH. That stood out the most for me, going from watching the highlight film to watching the whole thing.

    I think @urban has posted before that in the 70s Laver sliced his backhand more than he used to, partly due to loss of footspeed, partly to back problems.

    Forgot these stats:

    When facing break point, Borg won 2 of 4 on first serve (50%).
    When facing break point, Laver won 2 of 6 on first serve (33%) and 2 of 3 on second (67%).

    Borg served on 58 points and 9 serves did not come back: 15.5%
    Laver served on 64 points and 10 serves did not come back: 15.6%

    Borg's first-serve percentage of 55% was low for him on clay, as I found out later in doing other matches for him. Against Pecci in the 1979 RG final he made 99 of 107 first serves. His percentage was 67% on Har-Tru in the '76 USO final vs. Connors. He tried, especially on clay, not to let attacking players get a chance at his second serve.

    He didn't follow that strategy at all in this Laver match, maybe because this Hilton Head event had an ace competition (though in the end Borg didn't make any clean aces, while Laver got 5).
     
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  13. The Green Mile

    The Green Mile G.O.A.T.

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    Yeah, it looked quite suspicious to me also. Maybe more so because you had pointed it out. No footwork at all, and just a terrible backhand well long, for Laver to break to love.

    Definitely. Way over 50%. More like 80-85% IMO. I've just finished watching, and that's the impression I got. Borg really going after Laver's backhand with that relentless topspin forehand, Laver forced to employ the slice a lot more. Whether that's due to the difficulty, confidence, or age difference, I'm not so sure. Probably a mixture of all. Not exactly an expert when it comes to Laver. I also suppose chip approaches were the way to go back then also, but he rarely came over the backhand at the back of the court either. Thanks for the upload though. Cool to watch.
     
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  14. Gary Duane

    Gary Duane Legend

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    Interesting about Laver lowing the % of topspin backhands in the 70s. For now I'll assume that was more from the back (perhaps) than speed because I saw him slicing the backhand when he was in position to "top" it.

    The lack of modern statistics in those days is exasperating. I don't know how you have the focus and patience to get all those stats - or how anyone else does. But without them we are solidly in the Fact Free Zone, always a huge problem in those earlier time periods.
     
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  15. Gary Duane

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    We go so much on impressions, often coming mostly from writers of the time, and we also hear about recollections of people who saw these great players play. But in so many cases we don't have videos to check.

    I can't say that there was not another player who most hit the backhand with topspin before Borg, but I've never seen it. Borg's change to topspin was huge, and there were people like Vic Braden who commented on his "rainbow" shots at great length, explaining how he did it. I was a huge fan of Borg, but even so I find that when watching videos today my memory of his play is faulty. I remember him hitting harder than he did (recency distortion), and I remember him being in longer rallies on average than what is fact.

    It pays to do reality checks.

    There is one thing I'd like a 2nd opinion on. To my eyes it appear to me that Borg used his left hand/arm to back up what he did with the right on the backhand, but it also appears to me that it was essentially a right-handed shot, very different from the modern 2HBH. On that basis I'm thinking that he contacted the ball more in the position of a good 1HBH, more out in front. He certainly stepped into the shot very much like a 1HBH and released the LH to finish with the RH.

    I'll bow to other people if they say I'm wrong, but to my eyes it looks more as if he used the LH more to throw the racket into action as a huge assist, but that the RH was essentially guiding the shot, almost as if the LH helped throw the whole thing into action and just went along for the ride before letting go.

    I always loved the look of that backhand, and I've never seen anyone else use that technique.
     
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  16. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    Borg´s backhand was definitely right-hand dominated. imo you describe it well. not at all what is taught today.
    Federers old coach Peter Lundgren used very much the same technique a decade later. he was well known as a copy of Borg.
    the same way Dimitrov is known as a Federer clone nowadays.
     
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  17. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    This is an excellent video. I much prefer the court level perspective of this recording compared to the usual cheap seat perspective. Even though Laver was not as fit or match tough as in his younger, pre-injury days, you can see the kind of shot making that both Laver and Borg were capable of. I wish there were more such recordings of past greats.

    Laver's dilemma in this match was that, as he described it, he couldn't hit through Borg with his high looping shots (and his outstanding court coverage), from the ground, and he wasn't going to just "roll the ball" back and forth with Borg, although on several occasions he showed that his ground game was still easily up to the task. Obviously, Laver understood that he wasn't fit enough to beat Borg with a long, drawn out, grinding approach to this match. So, he opted be aggressive and try to end points early. But, I have never seen anyone ever beat Borg on clay with that approach. So, Laver was just trying to be as competitive as he could be. Even the commentators were semi-apologizing in advance for the fitness that Laver might show up in. Laver himself said that he was pleased with his play considering how little he had been playing.

    However, 2 years earlier, Laver did beat Borg on red clay at Houston, and, as I recall, he did it by being more patient, "rolling the ball," with Borg until he had a better, high percentage, opportunity to attack. Watching that match on TV, I was surprised at what I considered a much more conservative gameplan than Laver was known for. Although Laver was known for his hyper-aggressiveness, he also knew that that was not a winning approach against Borg on clay. In this match, however, patience was not an option for Laver, and you can see him trying to end points quickly on numerous occasions, forcing his way to net, going for big, low percentage shots from the ground, and as a result, making more than his usual number of unforced errors.

    Gonzalez observed that Laver had some trouble timing Borg's high looping, heavy topspin shots. But, if you notice, that's when Laver is trying to move in and attack. When he stands back and rallies, it wasn't any more trouble for Laver than it was for Borg.

    Regarding Laver's backhand, I think this video is pretty representative of his mix of slice and topspin when rallying from the backcourt - mostly slice, and some topspin when he saw an opportunity to attack. However, he hit mostly topspin backhands on passing shots and a pretty even mix on returns of serve.

    Once again, thanks to NN for finding this video. I had posted a YouTube link to it several months ago but it was taken down and I wasn't able to find it after that.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2017
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  18. Fedfan34

    Fedfan34 Professional

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    This match was on clay, was it not?
     
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  19. Gary Duane

    Gary Duane Legend

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    This is very interesting to me because I don't know anything about Peter Lundgren. But I think that Borg's backhand was more flexible than the 2HBH we see today, and I think that Borg got more topspin on it than anyone else so it probably would be even more effective with the modern rackets and strings.
     
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  20. Frankc

    Frankc Semi-Pro

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    This series was fascinating (especially so, looking back) - at slack times in the season, TC has replayed these. In the same year, I remember Gonzalez commenting that Laver was nursing a bad arm - that was in the doubles match. Try and see the Nastase-Borg match and the Ashe-Nastase match - the Laver/Ashe vs Borg/Nastase is far too much fun...
     
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  21. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    That must have been after this match. Laver was still hitting some pretty big serves in this match. But, watching it again, it appears to me that Laver's wrist injury may have been hampering his backhand a bit. Notice Laver shaking out his wrist after missing a big serve at about 14:45, and again at about 37:50.
     
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  22. treblings

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    good analysis of what Laver tried to do tactically in this match and why, imo.
    agree about the court level perspective.

    it´s a pity we don´t have more videos available, like for example the match in Houston that you mentioned.
     
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  23. treblings

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    the Laver/Ashe against Borg/Nastase doubles had a bit of an exhibition character, imo.
    but it´s hard to tell from the video that´s available online

     
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  24. treblings

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    Lundgren started playing on the ATP tour in 1983, about ten years later than Borg. He reached a high of no. 25 in singles, and beat a lot of good players like Lendl.
    here´s a short video of him. i can still see the similarities, but he´s playing with graphite racquets and i think that makes a difference.

     
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  25. Gary Duane

    Gary Duane Legend

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    Some similarities for sure. I know the name, never paid attention to him as a player. What in heaven's name happened to him physically? You'd never know now that he was once a fine athlete - not by looking at him.
     
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  26. treblings

    treblings Hall of Fame

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    it can happen to athletes once they stop. Kafelnikov and Muster are other examples of ex-players who gained a lot of weight after their pro career.
    Musters comeback attempt in 2010 was at least influenced by his decision to get fit again.
     
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  27. Gary Duane

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    I suppose it comes down to body type.

    Guys like Becker are big at a very young age. Becker never had to work to put on muscle, and of course that explains why he was so strong and dominant at such a young age. Djokovic will most likely be fairly fit looking for the rest of his life.

    I expect Fed to put on a good deal of weight when he stops playing, but you never know. On the other hand, it appears to me that McEnroe right now is very close to the weight he as at in his prime. I know he has worked to stay fit, but I think it is largely genetics.
     
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  28. -NN-

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    52:50 -53:16

    Tony Trabert suggests Gonzalez had the perfect tennis build at about "6'2/6'2.5.. 180lbs.. could move like a cat..."
     
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  29. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    I saw Lundgren play a match against an older Jimmy Connors. He looked like a clone of Borg, the hair, the walk, the stroke production. And, he was a damn good player. He had Connors on the ropes but eventually lost. I guess he had everything but Borg's self confidence.
     
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  30. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

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    I've read descriptions of Gonzalez at 6'3" even 6'4". Anyway, here's a great pic capturing Pancho's massive service pronation, which explains a lot about his great serve.

    [​IMG]
     
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  31. Gary Duane

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    I can't tell about comparative height because it is split screen. I'd have to see them shake hands. ;)

    @pc1 I think has information that suggests that Pancho was a bit taller, but I really think we need to see these players standing next to each other, and that information has to trump a lot of the data we read.

    Another factor - some players stoop. That might affect height measurements but doesn't tell us about reach, which is the key factor.
     
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  32. muddlehead

    muddlehead Rookie

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    Re: Laver and Borg height. Look at the two post match interviews with both players. Each is standing similarly slightly slouched (say that three times fast) next to a standing straight up interviewer. Borg seems considerably taller. As for the match, good visual clarity makes it a good watch. But, obviously, the made for TV nature of these events mean they are just glorified hitting sessions with a tinge of financial incentive thrown in. There are enough Laver and Borg HQ real matches out there to relegate this to "B" movie status.

    I've been watching these 2 vids of Laver-Ashe recently to get my Laver (and Ashe) on:



     
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