Great Return but mediocre ground game


Hall of Fame
Old-school doubles players were my first thought. During the '90s, Todd Woodbridge was often cited as one of the best returners in tennis, but his ground game was fairly ordinary - despite being only 5'10" he always served and volleyed in singles.

He only barely and briefly broke the top 20, but the big servers never liked playing him. He was 3-1 v Enqvist, 3-2 v Rusedski, 2-1 v Philippousis, 2-2 v Stich, 1-1 vs Larsson... even beat Sampras at Wimbledon once.

These days, Bruno Soares has a very highly-rated return.

You must be new here, it's a well known TW fact that Blake's backhand is technically flawed.
I wish my backhand was that technically flawed.
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Deleted member 22147

Hewitt maybe Had average groundstrokes in terms of power but he still was an excellent baseliner with his consistency and footwork. I don't think he is a fit here.

I think Björkman might be a good case, his ground game wasn't terrible but he wasn't a great baseliner (and often played serve and volley because of that).
Bjorkman was one of the first to spring to my mind. Stepanek is also a similar case, especially because both had weaker forehands than backhands.

Olli Jokinen

Agree! Everyone of his shots was a variation of a volley, which is great on return but when he had to generate pace on his own, his forehand was pretty ugly ( though the results weren't as bad as his form seemed).
(On Edberg) Just like McEnroe. Both got to French Finals, so they knew how to stay back when they had to – and still win. Both were S/V so you should not expect great groundgames, though.


Hall of Fame
Guess he made it to #1 for two years with the strength of his serve and volley game...

In terms of consistency, placement, ability to take the ball early Hewitt's groundstrokes are all very good, much better than average. The only way you could argue his groundstrokes were average or close to it is if you focus only on power. It should be obvious but you don't put up the kinds of return numbers he did without good groundstrokes, unless you think he had the GOAT return or something.
Hahahaha! Yes, excellent analysis. Only thing average about Hewitt's groundstrokes was power. Like the poster after you said, he was a baseliner who got to #1. The original poster asked about an "average ground game" not just the strokes. To say he had average "groundstrokes" but argue it was made up by speed and consistency is silly. You can't separate those things out from his groundstrokes. His ability to be consistent, his movement and ability to hit on the move IS his groundstrokes. If you focus only on how well he hits the ball standing in the same spot, I'm sure guys like Krajicek and Ivanesevic would outhit Hewitt. Make them move and suddenly their groundstrokes don't fare so well.

There's also a tendency to discount Hewitt's ground game by saying he was a good volleyer and won points that way too. Yes, he was a very good volleyer but NO, he did not win many points at the net. He was a pure counterpuncher. He didn't have the serve to come in often and didn't have the ground game to come to the net a lot. He was in many ways a refined version of Chang who was obviously a baseliner and a pretty competent one. There's also a problem of comparing generations. Hewitt's overall game was from a previous generation when pros believed they still needed a solid net game to reach the upper echelons. So he developed a good net game but this didn't make him any less of a baseliner. I think if you take a tennis fan of this generation and asked him/her to watch Borg or Connnors and never told them anything about their games, fans these days would think they were all-court players bordering on serve and volleyers. I don't think tennis fans these days realize how much players, even baseliners, went to the net.


Edberg did not have a powerful forehand but it was good enough to get him to a French Open final.
Exactly. Edberg had a mediocre forehand that is true, but he had a great backhand, both topspin and slice. So not sure he qualifies here as someone with a mediocre ground game...

Bjorkman too had a mediocre forehand, which could get hot, but had a great backhand.
(On Edberg) Just like McEnroe. Both got to French Finals, so they knew how to stay back when they had to – and still win. Both were S/V so you should not expect great groundgames, though.
Yeah those two probably didn't have a bad ground game (like say karlovic) but it also wasn't a big plus, so average (for a top50 player) is probably a good description for their ground game.


Hall of Fame
I think that you'll see this more often with doubles players, as someone mentioned Paes and Bryan (both, or Mike?)

Otherwise, because of how they played - and they retuned well - Edberg and Mac probably fit here. Santoro and Bjorkman may be better choices.
I'll stay on topic.

I suppose that Bruguera, Albert Costa, Carlos Moyà, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer can't judge a player's groundstrokes.