Greatest Tennis Player of All-Time (Men)

BGB.CA

Rookie
If they are both using wood, my money is on Laver or Rosewall (or for that matter Budge) - definitely NOT Federer or Sampras. It seems you are more interested in comparing racquet and string technologies, rather than the abilities of the players themselves. FYI, playing with wood requires greater skill.
Racquets have nothing to do with it, it's because todays athletes are faster, stronger, more powerful, and have more endurance than in the past. Knowledge of human kinetics, athletic training and nutrition have gone ahead light years since Laver's time. If you give the player from the past these advantages and let them train with it their entire career then you could argue that they would win, but saying a guy from the 1960's could beat todays greatest players is like saying that the fastest 100m runner from the 60's could outrun Usain Bolt.
Laver is listed as 5'9" and 150 lbs, how many top 50 nevermind top 10 players are that size today? Compare him with Sampras who was 6'1" 175lbs and had the vertical jump of a basketball player or a player like Nadal who seems to be able to sprint at full speed and hurl himself at the ball hour after hour and the 1960's players look like children playing.

I've watched video of Laver playing and while his skill and pedigree are undeniable the power and the athleticism is nowhere near the level of todays top tennis players. They've even done tests to compare serve speeds with wood and graphite racquets and there is less than a 5% difference, I think Tennis Magazine published one of these tests w/Phillipoussis in it. If we can say for certain that the technology in this element of the game is negligable so then why when watching video of past players does the ball appear to be going so much slower on the serve?

No matter how great of a champion someone is time and human physiology are going to catch up to them. I'm sure even Laver himself accepts this you guys should too.
 

urban

Legend
Bob Hayes run 10.00 in 1964, on a clay surface, soaked with rain. He still would give Bolt a run for the money. I always read this Philippoussis thing about his test with wood. His hit maybe ten to twenty serves with wood. But nobody says that he couldn't move his arm the next morning. Of course, the technology matters. And i think, the athletic fitness of current tennis players is way overrated, see Nalbandian, Murray, Djokovic, or Fish. Even Federer is not built like a muscular quarterback with a six-pack.
 

thalivest

Banned
And i think, the athletic fitness of current tennis players is way overrated, see Nalbandian, Murray, Djokovic, or Fish. Even Federer is not built like a muscular quarterback with a six-pack.
Physicality is overrated in tennis IMO. I am not saying it isnt important but it isnt the "be all and end all" some make it out to be. You mentioned Federer, he works very hard on his fitness I think, but his build is very slight and he is actually quite frail looking. When he has his shirt off you can really see it.

Lots of people use examples like the Williams, but they are insane tennis talents, not just physical talents. Other people point to Hingis, but if she worked as hard as equally small Justine Henin she would have held up alot better.
 

JoshDragon

Hall of Fame
Thank you. What JD is saying is CSI today would be a better criminalist than a CSI in the '60's as today's criminalist have the benefit of using DNA. Put a modern day CSI in the 1960's and how do they fare?? What about giving CSI's from the '60's the beneift of using DNA, and other forenzic advancements.

It's not a slight on one or the other, but with the DNA and modern science readily avaiable CSI's from the 1960's would have been moulded with a different approach, likewise if modern day criminalsts did not have modern science they'd approach the science of criminalogy differently. If these things aren't considered what's the point of discussing this, whoever is the most recent will just end up being the greatest based on evolution.

You have to somewhat level the laying filed. Put a Babolat in Tilden's hands, a Wilson in Gonzales' hands, or a head in Laver's hads and how do they fare?? Put wood in Federer or Nadal's hands and how would they fare.

Note: Sampras is somewhat of a unique case cuz though he's from the graphite era, his game from a young age was moulded by wood due to the designings of Pete Fischer, According to Pete he didn't use graphite unil he honed his strokes and technique with wood.

What JD is doing is not logical. Take to trained marksmen. Give one a modern day Sig Sauer 380 and the other a Derringer form the 1930's, and let then have a shootout, without question the one with the 380 will win. Does that mean he's the better shooter?? maybe, maybe not. But all this illustrates is that he was equipped with the better firearm. JD is equating haveing the better firearm as being the better shooter. Havein access to better and modern science as the better criminalist.

So Chaog I'd have to agree. His comparison is invalid, as the playing level are clearly not even.
If you put a wood racquet in Federer's hands his game would not be as good because he is unaccustomed to playing with wood. The same goes for Laver or Tilden if you gave them a graphite. It would be too much to ask them to make a switch from graphite to wood or vice-versa.

Wood racquets, are not as good as graphite. They lack the power and I believe they also lack some of the spin of the racquets today (partly due to the stringing.) The smaller head size also makes leaves room for a smaller sweet spot and margin of error.

To be honest. It's more than just the technology that makes me convinced that Laver would not stand a chance against Federer if they were to play a match. It's the average physical capabilities of the players today over the players back then.

Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall were both very small guys and yet both of them were able to dominate the sport during their time periods. Today the top players (for the most part) are much taller.

Nadal 6'1"
Federer 6'1"
Djokovic 6'2"
Murray 6'3"

The strength of the players today is greater as well. You just didn't see guys like Nadal, Gael Monfils, Roddick or Robby Ginepri, back in the 60s. There's no question that Nadal is fitter than Laver just look at these pictures.











Bill Tilden, played Tennis into his 40s, he was ranked #1 when he was 38. Connors, Laver, and Rosewall all played until either their late 30s or early 40s. Today the top players are lucky if they make it to 35 before retiring. Tilden, Connors, Rosewall, and Laver were all able to hang around because the game was less physical when they played. The rallies were slower and the serves weren't as powerful.
 
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treblings

Hall of Fame
There´s a difference between being the Greatest and being the Best.
If you want to determine who is the Greatest you look at the results of the players in their respective careers. You don´t let them play a fictitious tournament against each other.
Players like Rosewall, Laver or particularly Emerson were extremely fit, but the character of the game was different back then.
Matches were longer so endurance was more important.
 

CyBorg

Legend
Guys played up to 150 matches a year and many more five-setters than today. I don't know where this nonsense about endurance comes from.
 

BGB.CA

Rookie
To be honest. It's more than just the technology that makes me convinced that Laver would not stand a chance against Federer if they were to play a match. It's the average physical capabilities of the players today over the players back then.

Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall were both very small guys and yet both of them were able to dominate the sport during their time periods. Today the top players (for the most part) are much taller.

Nadal 6'1"
Federer 6'1"
Djokovic 6'2"
Murray 6'3"

The strength of the players today is greater as well. You just didn't see guys like Nadal, Gael Monfils, Roddick or Robby Ginepri, back in the 60s. There's no question that Nadal is fitter than Laver just look at these pictures.

Thats what I was trying to get at. Take away the wood vs graphite debate and tell me that Laver or anyone of his era could move as fast or hit with the pace that any of the aformentioned players could. Today players uncoil there entire bodies into just about every shot, watching Laver play he had basically an all arm swing on his groundies with minimal shoulder rotation.
Do the math: a 6'2" 200ish lbs guy like Roddick or Monfils throwing all his weight behind the ball and a tiny guy like laver stroking it with his arm even with his greater touch/feel I can't see how Laver would win.
 

JoshDragon

Hall of Fame
Thats what I was trying to get at. Take away the wood vs graphite debate and tell me that Laver or anyone of his era could move as fast or hit with the pace that any of the aformentioned players could. Today players uncoil there entire bodies into just about every shot, watching Laver play he had basically an all arm swing on his groundies with minimal shoulder rotation.
Do the math: a 6'2" 200ish lbs guy like Roddick or Monfils throwing all his weight behind the ball and a tiny guy like laver stroking it with his arm even with his greater touch/feel I can't see how Laver would win.
Laver, wouldn't be able to beat Federer or Roddick. Nor would Tilden despite his height advantage. Tilden, was into his 30s before he hit his prime and he wasn't exactly a graceful mover. Just good enough to win 10 amateur majors.
 

380pistol

Banned
If you put a wood racquet in Federer's hands his game would not be as good because he is unaccustomed to playing with wood. The same goes for Laver or Tilden if you gave them a graphite. It would be too much to ask them to make a switch from graphite to wood or vice-versa.

Wood racquets, are not as good as graphite. They lack the power and I believe they also lack some of the spin of the racquets today (partly due to the stringing.) The smaller head size also makes leaves room for a smaller sweet spot and margin of error.

To be honest. It's more than just the technology that makes me convinced that Laver would not stand a chance against Federer if they were to play a match. It's the average physical capabilities of the players today over the players back then.

Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall were both very small guys and yet both of them were able to dominate the sport during their time periods. Today the top players (for the most part) are much taller.

Nadal 6'1"
Federer 6'1"
Djokovic 6'2"
Murray 6'3"

The strength of the players today is greater as well. You just didn't see guys like Nadal, Gael Monfils, Roddick or Robby Ginepri, back in the 60s. There's no question that Nadal is fitter than Laver just look at these pictures.











Bill Tilden, played Tennis into his 40s, he was ranked #1 when he was 38. Connors, Laver, and Rosewall all played until either their late 30s or early 40s. Today the top players are lucky if they make it to 35 before retiring. Tilden, Connors, Rosewall, and Laver were all able to hang around because the game was less physical when they played. The rallies were slower and the serves weren't as powerful.
Ok it's become clearer. If you took Federer present day put him in the 50's and 60's with wood, he gets destroyed. Now make him a product of that era, and things would more than likely be different. The same way I'm putting graphite in past players hands, and I'd have to give Federer the chance to hone his game with wood and to the climate back then as well. It has to go both ways.

As far as physical abilities it's tough. Naturally the athletes today are better than they once were. Kintecs, biology, human nature, evolution all attest to that. So if Laver was born in 1978 he may somehwta of a different athletic specimen than the one we know that was born in 1938. Federer may be a different athletic specimen if born in 1941, than the one we know born in 1981.

Laver's physical stature at 5'9" 160lbs is something I question. But Hoad(5'8" 175 lbs) and Rosewall 5'7" 142lbs) were able to hang with Gonzalez (6'2" 180lbs). Think basketball, back when Wilt dominated a 7 ft center was the exceotion, and now it's the norm. The avg height has grown. Even MJ was considered a big guard at 6'6", but now it has become the norm. How this would effect Laver, I cannot honestly say as I'm no scientist, but I can see where you're coming from.

Yes Nadal is fitter, and generally a better athlete than Laver. But switch them around and would stay that way??? Not likely.

The pictures don't mean much as it's evolution, it would be the same in many different sports. Gretzky was greatest and he was 6'1", 170lbs, far too small today, so he's not great. It's difficult to compare different eras, cuz a lot of "what if's" come into play.

Honestly I agree with you I don't see Tilden, Rosewall and even Pancho being as effective in their late 30's toady as they were in their time. I also see stronger players at the top, than there is today, today may have more depth. There are a lot of things to condsider, that when this issue is brought up, many overlook,
 

urban

Legend
Pistol makes some sensible points. The average high of men, as measured for instance by army checks, had grown from 1,75 to 1,82 over the last 30 years. Consequently in many sports, athletes are taller than in previous eras. In soccer, classical strikers like Pele, Mueller, Greaves, Seeler or Puskas were all around 1,70. Tall men became defenders. Today the standard striker like van Basten, Drogba, Ronaldo or Adriano is a muscular guy over 1,90. But there are always small, but successful top players as Maradona, Romario or Rooney, or actually Messi, who looks like a school boy.
From the pictures i cannot say, that Roddick looks more athletic than Laver or Rosewall. There are simply better, more close up pictures. Laver and Rosewall like Borg and Edberg had muscular structures on the right place, on the underarm and upper leg. And i never saw a more muscular player than Vilas in his prime. He had the same biceps as Nadal but also legs like trees, which he couldn't close. Nevertheless, he always lost to the more agile and nimble Borg.
 
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CyBorg

Legend
Seriously, Roddick? What makes him more physically impressive than, say, Roscoe Tanner?

Thanks for the laugh though.

Nadal's photos get nicely airbrushed and plucked out too.
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
I never saw a more muscular player than Vilas in his prime. He had the same biceps as Nadal but also legs like trees, which he couldn't close. Nevertheless, he always lost to the more agile and nimble Borg.
Don't overlook Laver's left arm: enormous.

(I wonder if it was even bigger than Nadal's?)
 

urban

Legend
The strange thing with Laver's arm was, that, while he had small shoulders and normal biceps, his underarm had Popeye's size - the same size from the elbow to the wrist.
 

JoshDragon

Hall of Fame
Ok it's become clearer. If you took Federer present day put him in the 50's and 60's with wood, he gets destroyed. Now make him a product of that era, and things would more than likely be different. The same way I'm putting graphite in past players hands, and I'd have to give Federer the chance to hone his game with wood and to the climate back then as well. It has to go both ways.

As far as physical abilities it's tough. Naturally the athletes today are better than they once were. Kintecs, biology, human nature, evolution all attest to that. So if Laver was born in 1978 he may somehwta of a different athletic specimen than the one we know that was born in 1938. Federer may be a different athletic specimen if born in 1941, than the one we know born in 1981.

Laver's physical stature at 5'9" 160lbs is something I question. But Hoad(5'8" 175 lbs) and Rosewall 5'7" 142lbs) were able to hang with Gonzalez (6'2" 180lbs). Think basketball, back when Wilt dominated a 7 ft center was the exceotion, and now it's the norm. The avg height has grown. Even MJ was considered a big guard at 6'6", but now it has become the norm. How this would effect Laver, I cannot honestly say as I'm no scientist, but I can see where you're coming from.

Yes Nadal is fitter, and generally a better athlete than Laver. But switch them around and would stay that way??? Not likely.

The pictures don't mean much as it's evolution, it would be the same in many different sports. Gretzky was greatest and he was 6'1", 170lbs, far too small today, so he's not great. It's difficult to compare different eras, cuz a lot of "what if's" come into play.

Honestly I agree with you I don't see Tilden, Rosewall and even Pancho being as effective in their late 30's toady as they were in their time. I also see stronger players at the top, than there is today, today may have more depth. There are a lot of things to condsider, that when this issue is brought
up, many overlook,
I agree with your post and you're correct it's very easy too overlook something. I wrote two posts on my blog comparing Federer and Rod Laver and I still felt that I left out quite a bit. Tennis is very complicated especially when comparing different eras. It takes allot of reading just to stay on top of today.

Bill Scanlon wrote a book called Bad News for McEnroe. It's one of my favorite tennis books and was helpful for understanding the game back in the 70s and 80s.
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
Pistol makes some sensible points. The average high of men, as measured for instance by army checks, had grown from 1,75 to 1,82 over the last 30 years. Consequently in many sports, athletes are taller than in previous eras. In soccer, classical strikers like Pele, Mueller, Greaves, Seeler or Puskas were all around 1,70. Tall men became defenders. Today the standard striker like van Basten, Drogba, Ronaldo or Adriano is a muscular guy over 1,90. But there are always small, but successful top players as Maradona, Romario or Rooney, or actually Messi, who looks like a school boy.
From the pictures i cannot say, that Roddick looks more athletic than Laver or Rosewall. There are simply better, more close up pictures. Laver and Rosewall like Borg and Edberg had muscular structures on the right place, on the underarm and upper leg. And i never saw a more muscular player than Vilas in his prime. He had the same biceps as Nadal but also legs like trees, which he couldn't close. Nevertheless, he always lost to the more agile and nimble Borg.
The "experiment" of tennis has also been altered significantly via many changes outside of "human evolution" some seem to allude to. There was a belief in Laver's era that 5'9" or so, was the "ideal" height for tennis primarily due to being smaller made it easier to get down for the lower stike zones provided by low bouncing grass. Hoad had stated that if a human being's eyes were mounted in their abdomen he would never have missed a shot. There was a belief that they, the 5'9"ers, held an inherent advantage over their taller adversaries, the Ashes, Smiths, Newcombes, etc. The ability to force taller opponents to "get down" for low ball after low ball, was then viewed as a constant advantage.

The slower higher bouncing surfaces, combined with larger head sizes and polyester string are now advantaging those with inherently higher strike zones today, making it conversely more difficult for shorter players to compete. A quantum shift.

5
 
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CyBorg

Legend
The "experiment" of tennis has also been altered significantly via many changes outside of "human evolution" some seem to allude to. There was a belief in Laver's era that 5'9" or so, was the "ideal" height for tennis primarily due to being smaller made it easier to get down for the lower stike zones provided by low bouncing grass. Hoad had stated that if a human being's eyes were mounted in their abdomen he would never have missed a shot. There was a belief that they, the 5'9"ers, held an inherent advantage over their taller adversaries, the Ashes, Smiths, Newcombes, etc. The ability to force taller opponents to "get down" for low ball after low ball, was then viewed as a constant advantage.

The slower higher bouncing surfaces, combined with larger head sizes and polyester string are now advantaging those with inherently higher strike zones today, making it conversely more difficult for shorter players to compete. A quantum shift.

5
Excellent post.

I should also point out that weight training was often discouraged. I recall Ken Rosewall mentioning this somewhere.

Now, this doesn't mean that guys weren't fit. Of course they were extremely fit, but packing up muscle was seen by many as a negative. Being light on one's feet was vital and getting heavier didn't necessarily make sense.

Even in the more contemporary times we've seen some negative effects of weight training on some players. Michael Chang, for example, bulked up and it stunted his progress.

I think it's quite likely that contemporary training methods are hurting the progress of many younger, smaller players.

I'm really becoming a big-time cynic and particularly unoptimistic about where the game is going. It's too corporate, too homogenized. Tennis was once art. It was often in the same sentence as chess. It was a strategic art of sorts. Not anymore.
 

380pistol

Banned
Pistol makes some sensible points. The average high of men, as measured for instance by army checks, had grown from 1,75 to 1,82 over the last 30 years. Consequently in many sports, athletes are taller than in previous eras. In soccer, classical strikers like Pele, Mueller, Greaves, Seeler or Puskas were all around 1,70. Tall men became defenders. Today the standard striker like van Basten, Drogba, Ronaldo or Adriano is a muscular guy over 1,90. But there are always small, but successful top players as Maradona, Romario or Rooney, or actually Messi, who looks like a school boy.
From the pictures i cannot say, that Roddick looks more athletic than Laver or Rosewall. There are simply better, more close up pictures. Laver and Rosewall like Borg and Edberg had muscular structures on the right place, on the underarm and upper leg. And i never saw a more muscular player than Vilas in his prime. He had the same biceps as Nadal but also legs like trees, which he couldn't close. Nevertheless, he always lost to the more agile and nimble Borg.
Thank you. Just to touch on the pictures, today with better cameras, digital etc. they may look better than a 30 year old oic. But the general consensus, is thata modern day athlete would be fitter and moore athletic. I can't see Ellsworth Vines being as strong as Nadal. With modern day science, nutrition along 70+ years of human advancements I just don't see it. No if Vines played today, it would be different. He could quite possiby be the strongest hardest hitter on tour. Although he'd need 10-20lbs on his 6'2" 155lb frame.
 

urban

Legend
Interesting points by FiveO. Indeed on the older grass courts, lower bounces were much more frequent. People played much more slice, and, with their serve and volley style, had to hit many shots from around the ankles. In today's game, shots like the underspin approach (also on the forehand) or the half-volley from the T are virtually extinct. Topspin shots from the baseline now are the theme of the day.
Medium built players like Rosewall, Hoad or Laver were masters of that "short game", which was played on all parts of the fore-court. They made the court smaller, by forcing shots (not piti-pati-shots) from low volleys or half-volleys. Their position play and solid overhead made them dangerous for high balls, too. And they were fast and could run back and hit counterpuches. On the other hand, even then many top players were tall guys around 1,90 like Gonzales, Ashe, Smith, Savitt, Falkenburg, Stolle, Gimeno, Mackay, Buchholz, Pilic and many others.
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
The "experiment" of tennis has also been altered significantly via many changes outside of "human evolution" some seem to allude to. There was a belief in Laver's era that 5'9" or so, was the "ideal" height for tennis primarily due to being smaller made it easier to get down for the lower stike zones provided by low bouncing grass. Hoad had stated that if a human being's eyes were mounted in their abdomen he would never have missed a shot. There was a belief that they, the 5'9"ers, held an inherent advantage over their taller adversaries, the Ashes, Smiths, Newcombes, etc. The ability to force taller opponents to "get down" for low ball after low ball, was then viewed as a constant advantage.

The slower higher bouncing surfaces, combined with larger head sizes and polyester string are now advantaging those with inherently higher strike zones today, making it conversely more difficult for shorter players to compete. A quantum shift.
Yes, I agree: excellent post.

It makes me wonder if Wimbledon switched back to a faster lower-bouncing grass, then would smaller and leaner players would have more advantage?

And would they then get more respect from the newbies who claim that the Schwarzeneggers of the game are the greatest??
 
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CyBorg

Legend
Interesting points by FiveO. Indeed on the older grass courts, lower bounces were much more frequent. People played much more slice, and, with their serve and volley style, had to hit many shots from around the ankles. In today's game, shots like the underspin approach (also on the forehand) or the half-volley from the T are virtually extinct. Topspin shots from the baseline now are the theme of the day.
Medium built players like Rosewall, Hoad or Laver were masters of that "short game", which was played on all parts of the fore-court. They made the court smaller, by forcing shots (not piti-pati-shots) from low volleys or half-volleys. Their position play and solid overhead made them dangerous for high balls, too. And they were fast and could run back and hit counterpuches. On the other hand, even then many top players were tall guys around 1,90 like Gonzales, Ashe, Smith, Savitt, Falkenburg, Stolle, Gimeno, Mackay, Buchholz, Pilic and many others.
One of Boris Becker's best strengths on grass was getting to the low bouncing ball and hitting it back with power. In fact, Becker often delayed his move and then surprised the opponent by hitting the ball from his ankles for a passing shot. That took tremendous strength.
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
One of Boris Becker's best strengths on grass was getting to the low bouncing ball and hitting it back with power. In fact, Becker often delayed his move and then surprised the opponent by hitting the ball from his ankles for a passing shot. That took tremendous strength.
Yep. I saw Becker live (in doubles with Mike Leach) at Wimby in '85 against Wilander-Nystroam on an outer court. I'd never seen a player hit with such a combo of power, pace, and topspin. Becker's ball was incredibly fast and hard but only 3 feet above the net, and always in. It was amazing example of low-to-high hitting starting at his ankles.

I daresay neither had Wilander and Nystroam, who kept shaking their heads and mumbling in disbelief.
 
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urban

Legend
On the forehand, Beckers volley and half- volley could be a bit shaky. I think, he hit it too flat, without much underspin. His grip was not ideal for the forehand volley. In his 1987 book (togehter with his Coach Günther Bosch) he confessed, that he had a problem with the forehand volley.
 
Becker was an amazing talent and determined competitor but I often wondered how coachable he was given his personality. Perhaps a coach pointing out a glaring technical flaw in something would set him off the wrong way. His stubborn and proud persona could be shown in his attempt to beat Agassi from the baseline everytime they played for awhile and losing 8 in a row.
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
On the forehand, Beckers volley and half- volley could be a bit shaky. I think, he hit it too flat, without much underspin. His grip was not ideal for the forehand volley. In his 1987 book (togehter with his Coach Günther Bosch) he confessed, that he had a problem with the forehand volley.
Agreed. Edberg was a better volleyer.
 

Azzurri

Legend
There's no way the greatest player today would lose to the greatest player of the 60s who played with a wooden racquet. Sorry, but there's no way that would happen.
Josh, you are being unfair to Laver. Put wood in Federer's hand and he would get smoked by Laver. Put graphite in Laver's hand..Fed would probably smoke him. The point is its not a valid arguement either way.:)

edit: I see you explained yourself.
 
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Azzurri

Legend
The excellence of your logical argument leaves me speechless. The evidence you offer is irrefutable.


And by extrapolation, there's NO WAY a player with all Luxilon strings would lose to a player with a gut-poly hybrid. "Sorry, but there's no way that would happen."
he is just a kid (but he is a good poster). I believe he just did not think before he typed. he is usually well aware.

edit: posted this before I read entire thread. seems as if Josh offered his reasons. good enough for me.
 
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FiveO

Hall of Fame
Thanks =D.
Here's another thing you should factor into your equipment adaptation beliefs.

Note the questions about Djoker changing frames as he approached the elite status level.

Remember too that Safin "switched" from Head to "Dunlop" to a Head painted to look like a Dunlop and back to Head because he couldn't make that transition.

Blake's Dunlop>Prince(I think)>Dunlop and so on. And all their and other guys difficulty in adapting to frames of the same materials and very similar characteristics.



Well as far as Laver his contemporaries and successors and their wood using limitations go.

In 1970 Laver, Roche and Margaret Court switched from wood to aluminum Chemold sticks.

Newcombe to a Rawlings aluminum. Ken Rosewall to a Seamless aluminum.

Stan Smith later switched from his woodie autograph to aluminum as did the rest of that generation.

All remained at or very near the top of the game after that transition, against the next generation many who had been playing with metals since the juniors.

Later came Connors, McEnroe and Lendl all of whom stuck around long enough to transition from steel or wood, respectively, to graphite composites and remained at or very near the top of the game.

There is evidence as to who would adapt better using the other generations equipment and that, while not nearly quite as simple as it seems to be presented here, is much more likely to be a one way street with the later generation being far more limited as to what equipment they could successfully switch to.

5
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
And your point is . . . ?

It was in response to JD's post stating outright that one generation could not adapt to the other's more or less equally. I think that is flawed in that the next generation of equipment has been adapted to by those who played with the earlier version over and over. If anything there is evidence that it is more likely that those moving from older to newer equipment could make that transition much easier than the reverse and actually did.

5
 

No Knees

New User
I believe that it is not a question of which generation could adapt to another generation's equipment, but which "players" could adapt/benefit from another generation's equipment.

I will use Borg as an example as he was my boyhood hero and I still have a Borg Bancroft sitting in my bookshelf behind me...therefore, it hurts me to say this.

Borg's game was based on precision and patience. Outlast the opponent with consistency and fitness and if required, pass him with precision. Would he adapt to today's game with today's equipment ? Unfortunately, I don't think so.

A more powerful racquet would serve him no better. He played with a great deal of clearance over the net....hard flat shots were not in his game plan. His volleying was capable at best, but he certainly couldn't be considered an instinctive volleyer like McEnroe.

So I now place Borg on the other side of the net to one of today's modern players and they both have latest generation equipment.

Roscoe Tanner used to send heaps of Aces flying past Borg when Borg was considered one of the fastest players ever and even got voted as the World's finest Athlete on at least one occasion. If Tanner could fire down Aces with an older racquet, what chance would Borg have against players of today....would his reaction time be so much better today, or the wider head of the new racquets help him ? (probably not).

Borg was capable of getting his racquet onto the attempted passing shots while at the net....but how would he cope with the speeds that passing shots are now hit at in today's game.

So in my opinion, Borg would not cope in today's game with today's equipment. Having said that, some of this generation's players (where power is their main advantage), would have the same difficulty in Borg's era.
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
I believe that it is not a question of which generation could adapt to another generation's equipment, but which "players" could adapt/benefit from another generation's equipment.

I will use Borg as an example as he was my boyhood hero and I still have a Borg Bancroft sitting in my bookshelf behind me...therefore, it hurts me to say this.

Borg's game was based on precision and patience. Outlast the opponent with consistency and fitness and if required, pass him with precision. Would he adapt to today's game with today's equipment ? Unfortunately, I don't think so.

A more powerful racquet would serve him no better. He played with a great deal of clearance over the net....hard flat shots were not in his game plan. His volleying was capable at best, but he certainly couldn't be considered an instinctive volleyer like McEnroe.

So I now place Borg on the other side of the net to one of today's modern players and they both have latest generation equipment.

Roscoe Tanner used to send heaps of Aces flying past Borg when Borg was considered one of the fastest players ever and even got voted as the World's finest Athlete on at least one occasion. If Tanner could fire down Aces with an older racquet, what chance would Borg have against players of today....would his reaction time be so much better today, or the wider head of the new racquets help him ? (probably not).

Borg was capable of getting his racquet onto the attempted passing shots while at the net....but how would he cope with the speeds that passing shots are now hit at in today's game.

So in my opinion, Borg would not cope in today's game with today's equipment. Having said that, some of this generation's players (where power is their main advantage), would have the same difficulty in Borg's era.
In today's conditions, i.e. court speeds, Borg's ability to return would only be enhanced. After the bounce most of the biggest serves are coming off the court slower than in Borg's day. Arm him with a 98" hoop instead of the 65" hoop he played with then and it makes the task even easier.

Borg's patience and consistency was predicated on topspin. Harold Solomon described the experience of playing Borg as feeling like he was combing his hair for over two hours, meaning that the ball was above his shoulders the entire match. Borg accomplished that with a 65" hoop, a dense gut string pattern strung like a board, 70+ lbs. Let's see, 98" and poly who does Borg start sounding like?

Remember, marketing hype aside, when Moya showed up with a Granny Stick it was a Babalot and the Babalot was first marketed as a game improvement frame with the idea to make the game easier and more accessible to the masses. Lighter, larger, more powerful was and remains "easier" to play with than smaller, less powerful and much, much heavier. Who would transition easier? Especially a player whose game was markedly different than his contemporaries in that it was so based on topspin?

Now give Nadal Borg's 65" hoop, weighing 14-15 ounces, strung with gut. Who's impacted more?

So IMO.....

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Rabbit

G.O.A.T.
So, FiveO, if I may be so bold....

What you're saying is that we have proof positive by results logged of those who grew up using old gear that they could play with new gear. But, there is no proof that the current iteration of the game would be backwards compatible?

I agree with this. The game's technique has become more and more extreme and I don't think the technique today's pros use would translate very well. Neither would their stratgy. I think we've seen with Sampras playing Federer that a pro employing an attacking S/V strategy who knows what he's doing can do so successfully.

Also, if Borg was playing today, his game would be different than it was. Borg's game and tactics, as with any pro, evolves as his abilities evolve. Borg started off as a retriever. He depended on his foot speed and just got everything back. He won through attrition. As he became stronger, his game developed into more of an attack. His forehand became a weapon from anywhere on the court and his serve particularly his first serve became as powerful as anyone's (except Tanner?). Borg's serve was the big factor in his continued success at Wimbledon IMO.

Regarding speed of ball, I think there are a couple of mitigating points. First, if it is true that the speed of ball coming to Borg is faster today then it would also be true that Borg would hit with more pace given today's equipment. Second, Borg's tactics would not be the same today as they were then. The surfaces are more equitable. i.e. the clay is faster and the grass slower, so Borg would have altered his game to fit.

The truth about Borg is that he would have been a champion in any generation. He is of good size, strength, and at his peak, his footspeed was unrivaled by anyone of any time.
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
So, FiveO, if I may be so bold....

What you're saying is that we have proof positive by results logged of those who grew up using old gear that they could play with new gear. But, there is no proof that the current iteration of the game would be backwards compatible?

I agree with this. The game's technique has become more and more extreme and I don't think the technique today's pros use would translate very well. Neither would their stratgy. I think we've seen with Sampras playing Federer that a pro employing an attacking S/V strategy who knows what he's doing can do so successfully.

Also, if Borg was playing today, his game would be different than it was. Borg's game and tactics, as with any pro, evolves as his abilities evolve. Borg started off as a retriever. He depended on his foot speed and just got everything back. He won through attrition. As he became stronger, his game developed into more of an attack. His forehand became a weapon from anywhere on the court and his serve particularly his first serve became as powerful as anyone's (except Tanner?). Borg's serve was the big factor in his continued success at Wimbledon IMO.

Regarding speed of ball, I think there are a couple of mitigating points. First, if it is true that the speed of ball coming to Borg is faster today then it would also be true that Borg would hit with more pace given today's equipment. Second, Borg's tactics would not be the same today as they were then. The surfaces are more equitable. i.e. the clay is faster and the grass slower, so Borg would have altered his game to fit.

The truth about Borg is that he would have been a champion in any generation. He is of good size, strength, and at his peak, his footspeed was unrivaled by anyone of any time.
May you be so bold? Of course, my learned friend. Need you ask?

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No Knees

New User
...Also, if Borg was playing today, his game would be different than it was. Borg's game and tactics, as with any pro, evolves as his abilities evolve.
If I may be so bold....I don't think that it is that easy to evolve one's game plans. Tennis History will confirm that. Lendl tried unsuccessfully to develop a Serve/Volley game under one of the greatest Serve Volleyers around (Tony Roche). Steffi Graf tried to develop a topspin backhand which looked good in the hit-up but when the game got close, went back to her trusty slice backhand. Look at Hewitt now, everyone is telling him that his game of defence and attrition won't work anymore....so why doesn't he change ? Because he won't...or because he can't ?

Borg was quoted in training magazines (who knows how accurately), that he considered players that hit the ball on the rise and at a flat trajectory over the net, took too great a risk. He played a game that involved low risk....high shots over the lowest part of the net.

Would his game change today ? Could his game change today ?
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
If I may be so bold....I don't think that it is that easy to evolve one's game plans. Tennis History will confirm that. Lendl tried unsuccessfully to develop a Serve/Volley game under one of the greatest Serve Volleyers around (Tony Roche). Steffi Graf tried to develop a topspin backhand which looked good in the hit-up but when the game got close, went back to her trusty slice backhand. Look at Hewitt now, everyone is telling him that his game of defence and attrition won't work anymore....so why doesn't he change ? Because he won't...or because he can't ?

Borg was quoted in training magazines (who knows how accurately), that he considered players that hit the ball on the rise and at a flat trajectory over the net, took too great a risk. He played a game that involved low risk....high shots over the lowest part of the net.

Would his game change today ? Could his game change today ?
By this last post I would suspect you're too young to have seen Borg play and to see how he played on grass, fast grass, from the time he joined the tour. I saw him at the US Open at Forest Hills and he was the first player I saw hit 4 straight aces to win a game w/o surrendering a point. By the time he was winning Wimbledon he was serving and volleying a ton.

He adjusted and expanded his game to fit the conditions and the opponent, to intimate he didn't reveals you didn't watch him play. I think you need to acquire some Borg DVD's at Wimbledon to appreciate how much Borg adjusted his defensive game to fit grass and carpet. He adjusted and won with those adjustments rather than merely giving those types of changes lip service like many top players have done since that time.

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No Knees

New User
Five0....I wish I was too young :). I spent many late nights watching Borg / McEnroe Finals Live on Tele....and was devastated when he lost that last one.

I saw him Live in Sydney when he played Lendl in the "Gold Racquet" challenge at the Horden Pavillion...so yes, I've seen him play.
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
Five0....I wish I was too young :). I spent many late nights watching Borg / McEnroe Finals Live on Tele....and was devastated when he lost that last one.

I saw him Live in Sydney when he played Lendl in the "Gold Racquet" challenge at the Horden Pavillion...so yes, I've seen him play.
Apologies.

I don't understand how you reached your conclusions about Borg's adaptability in particular, but apologies just the same.

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No Knees

New User
No offense taken.

I remember the constant remarks from commentators over the years when Borg was in his prime, that he was not a great volleyer (which is not to say he was a bad volleyer). I'm hoping you will agree that his volleying "style" while suited to the grass of Wimbledon, did him no favours on other surfaces. While you may see this as proof of his adaptive skills which depended on court type and opponent, I use this same argument when wondering why he couldn't adapt to the courts used in the US Open.

I guess it's open to interpretation and we express our views in the full knowledge that we can never be proven right (or wrong for that matter). But like you, I base my views on what I believe and don't expect everyone to come up with the same conclusion as mine.
 

CyBorg

Legend
The thing about Borg going for safety with a loopy topspin strokes over the net mostly applies to the style he brought to the clay courts.

On faster courts like hard and carpet he flattened out his strokes considerably.

And, even as to his style on clay, we look down on 'safety' now, because in light of the way the game is played the approach no longer appears to make sense.

But it did then - it takes a lot of skill and mental toughness to always hit the right spot on the court and when your opponent isn't equipped with a nice juicy graphite, the best he can normally do is to hit the ball back with placement.

Whether Borg would or wouldn't be able to adjust to the style of now really doesn't matter. He played the game in a way that was great for the type of game it was.
 
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