Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by hoodjem, Dec 19, 2009.
Greatest Volleyers of All-Time
Tier-one: McEnroe, Edberg, Laver, Rosewall, Sedgman, Roche, Emerson, Gonzales.
Tier-two: Segura, Hoad, Newcombe, Panatta, Rafter, Henman, Cash, Kramer.
Tier-three: Ashe, Lutz, Stich, Becker, Sampras, Nastase, Borotra.
Tier-four: Krajicek, Perry, Gottfried, Gerulaitis.
i love krajicek. he was my favorite player in the 90s. but imo, he was good, but i dont believe he was at the same level of volleying as becker and stich.
Krajicek at his best could volley like the best. but day-in-day out, he is a step below. He didnt have the consistency that some of the other guys had at net. He was flubbing volleys at crucial stages in matches against many opponents.
i also think the bryan brothers are not tier III either. Volleying in singles is different to volleying in doubles. bryans have good reflexes and good technique, but i wouldnt put them at the level of becker / stich.
Also, i think rafter and henman should really be tier I volleyers. Rafter because of his amazing athleticism and henman had great technique. These guys also demonstrated great ability against some pretty brutal baseliners.
becker, stich and sampras are all around the same level imo in terms of techhnique. But pete was by far the superior athlete of the three. So he could compete very well with agassi who had a good record against net rushers.
- Emerson and Gonzalez were a better net players than anyone else in your second tier, as well as Newcombe and Kramer in your first tier.
- Kramer doesn't belong among the players in your first tier.
- Nastase, Henman and Borotra don't belong among the other players in your second tier.
- Lutz had a better net game than Perry, Gottfried, Krajicek and Gerulaitis who weren't at the same level as Ashe, Becker and Stich in your third tier.
- Doubles net play doesn't belong in a singles net play discussion. Two different things.
All JMHO, of course!
As in "John"...there is really nothing more to say...no one else stacks up...
There was a 1980 issue of WORLD TENNIS. Had a player poll of the best strokes. Brian Gottfried was voted to have both the best backhand and forehand volleys among the men.
I remember nothing else. Not how many players voted or who won any of the other strokes. I didn't buy the issue, I glanced through it in the store.
But 30 years later I still remember that one thing. I was so surprised by it. This was after Mcenroe's first US Open win.
I had expected to see him on at least one of the sides.
Brian, truly one of the great guys in tennis. You can still find Brian on the court every day. He looks 20 years younger than his age and he's still fun to watch. If there's such a thing as a tennis gym rat, it's him. Old school. Class act.
If the Bryan Brothers are even brought into this discussion, you cannot ignore other great doubles volleyers, eg. the Woodies, John Fitzgerald, Anders Järryd, Paul Haarhuis. In fact, a couple of them could be considered among the third or fourth tier best volleyers in singles, something the Bryan's certainly couldn't.
Good lists. I only started watching tennis in the mid-70's, so my 1st tier list ends at McEnroe and Edberg. So I'll take your word for the rest of the list (I barely remember watching some of Laver and Newcombe in the early 70's).
But I agree with you both that no one else belongs in the same category as Mac and Stefan since their time.
It's hard for me to think of anyone with a more devastating overall net game than Laver. He crushed anything above net level with a swinging wrist flick, and at the same time had great touch when needed. Although small, he was the quickest player of all time, he preferred to reach for his shots, and his vertical leap was untouchable. And there was never a better, more intimidating overall athlete at the net than the 6'3" Gonzalez, who was almost as quick and athletic as laver and 7 inches taller. Gonzalez' touch at the net was near equal to Mac, and he was bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic, and he was un-lobable. Pancho had the best smash of all time.
But, I will say that Edberg combined much of the best of both of them. He had very powerful, penetrating drive volleys similar to Laver even on low volleys. He got down to shoe-string volley's extremely well for a 6'2" player. And he covered the net as well as anyone short of Gonzalez.
PS: In respect to Hoodjem's tier 1 list, I have read that Sedgman was considered the greatest and best conditioned athlete in the game (pre-Rosewall, Emerson and Laver). I don't know if he taught Harry Hopman, or vise versa. But, Sedgman was probably the prototype for the Aussie tradition of separating themselves from the competition through superior training and conditioning.
According to Ellsworth Vines, he felt Sedgman was virtually unpassable at the net. Jack Kramer wrote that almost anything that Sedgman could get to at the net was a putaway. I've read Laver raving about the Sedgman volley calling it his best shot.
So it's apparent that people who observed Sedgman felt he was among the greatest volleyers ever.
I've read articles that described Sedgman's tactic of intentionally leaving passing allys open as a decoy, only to close the gap and pounce on passing shots when opponents took the bait. It takes a lot of self confidence in your athleticism to do that.
Awhile back, I saw a youtube video of him giving tennis instructions. Yeah, he looked a bit older, but like someone who had aged well.
There is a story, I don't know if it's true or not that Brian practiced tennis on the day of his wedding.
That looks like a true story PC1 (see the quote from A. Ashe below). Tennis pros used to mention how Gottfried would hit his volleys with great form. He's famous for his volley form especially. He always seemed ready/prepared and he did get to net often. I used to really enjoy watching Brian Gottfried and trying to learn from his form, racquet preparation and footwork. He just didn't have the firepower to deal with the likes of Connors, Vilas, and Borg. He was an especially dangerous doubles player.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFJy4rpu7X4 (vs. Vilas at the '77 FO)
See this excerpt from his ATP Page:
See some hard to find footage here of Sedgman in action.
Great resolution! Too bad the action is so fleeting.
Agree about Sedgman, especially on the forehand side he was deadly. I once read a register of the best strokes in the 50s: Best serve Gonzalez, best forehand Segura (onehanded Hoad), best backhand Rosewall, best forehand volley Sedgman, best backhand volley Budge Patty, best drop shot Drobny, best overhead Mervyn Rose.
I know LH. Glad you liked that. It's too bad really. I'd love to pull up say Sedgman-Rosewall matches, but I can't. We are constrained by technology. I'm firmly convinced that if we had the same quality/quantity of video/audio from the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's as we do of the 90's and past decade as well (with the TC, more Tennis coverage, etc.), that many would have much more appreciation for just how good past players were (especially at the very top).
Thanks for the information Urban. Great players from the 1950's!
Not only was Sedgman known for his great volleying but I understand he was one of the fastest men ever to play tennis.
Patty is an interesting character. I don't know, if he is still alive. He was the quintessential American in Paris, staying in Europe, to play the amateur circuit (for good appearance money and the adoration of nice women). Did the double Paris-Wimbledon 1950 (Sedgman always thought, that he should have won the final at Wim). Retired, he became a painter, who had some success on the art market.
Did you ever hear the story of Laver intentionally lobbing short to Roscoe Tanner baiting him to hit a smash. Laver would then rush to the net to take the smash in the air for a putaway volley.
Apparently it rattled Tanner so much that anyone would dare to challenge his smash, his game broke down and he lost the match fairly easily. (I think it was a California hard-court tournament in the mid-70s.)
Pretty amazing what Laver could do. I read what he was on his game in doubles, the other side would have to protect themselves and I assume this meant from physical harm.
Was it you told me about Laver and Newcombe beating Stan Smith and Erik van Dillen
6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in Davis Cup doubles in 1973 in Cleveland? And what Laver did to Smith's confidence?
(The Aussies beat the Americans: 5-0.)
Newcombe in his book refers to a point at 0-30 on Smith's first service game, when Laver stepped in and hit the "hardest backhand return, he ever saw" - right through the stunned van Dillen at the net. Newk writes, it was like a knock out blow, and afterwards the rattled Yanks only tried to hold their hands up high and to cover their heads.
I have never seen this done. I am trying to imagine how anyone can anticipate where the smash was going in time to be close enough to get a racket on it and do it two or three times in a match, let alone hit a volley back. Players just don't move forward to return a smash.
Those were the days of woodies not much pace and top on the ball so intentionally leaving passing allys and then closing them at the last moment do not come as a surprise to me, moreover 20-30 years down the line such things often tend to get exaggerated and interpreted by a tennis fan in his/her own way .
Let me guess, you've never seen the pros play with wood racquets!
On the ones that i have seen playing live:
Edberg the best BH volleys, Rafter, arguably the best FH volleys, McEnroe the best touch volleys, Sampras the best half volleys.
Overall, Pete Sampras.
Stefan Edberg. Period.
I have watched tennis since 1962. I have seen the entire open era.
This is how the list should read.
Tier 1= Macenroe, there is no one else in this tier, he is the greatest of all time.
Tier 2 = Laver, Sampras,Edberg and Nastasse. People have no idea what a genius Nasty was.
Tier 3 = Rosewall, Newcombe, Roche .
All of you enamored with Rafter...........please try and get real. He is not even in the conversation.
Nastase was a better volleyer than Rosewall, Newcombe and Roche? "UHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" - Lurch Adams
Yes............he was better. Have you ever seen him play live? Other than Macenroe he has the softest hands of anyone. His angles and drop volleys were amazing.
Sorry I have to disagree here. Nastase was a good volleyer and his quickness and anticipation at the net were excellent but Rosewall for example was just as quick and also had super anticipation plus he had more penetrating volleys.
Nastase had some problems putting volleys away.
Roche was renowned for his great backhand volley but his forehand volley was excellent also.
Newcombe in his prime had the best first volley in the game.
Difference between McEnroe and Nastase was that while McEnroe had the touch at the net as Nastase, he wouldn't give opponents additional chances to pass him that Nastase might. Nastase usually got away with it because of his great quickness and anticipation at the net but against guys like Borg and Rosewall for example, giving them second chances to pass often was fatal.
Bear in mind I think the world of Nastase as a player. He was truly one of the great wasted talents. I would pay a lot to see Nastase at his best against a Federer if it were possible.
PC1, good discussion of Nastase on the volley vs. Rosewall, Newcombe, and Roche. Perhaps Nastase was at his best volleying on clay, relative to grass courts, because of his excellent movement in the frontcourt. Would you agree?
So, overall, it appears that there is little doubt that McEnroe, Edberg, Sampras, and Laver are among the greatest volleyers ever. There's a slight disagreement at this stage around Nastase. We agree though that such players as Newcombe, Rosewall, and Roche are all fine volleyers as well. It's just that McEnroe, Edberg, Sampras, and Laver seem to be in a whole different league.
Al these guys mentioned are superb volleyers, especially compared to most of the players of today (although volleying in doubles among "specialists" is a different discussion, for example, how about the Bryan Brothers, Paes, etc.?).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Q13_STOUBc ( See some fine volleying here. Laver d. Newcombe 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the '69 W Final. Thanks to TW Poster Krosero)
(Roche imparting wisdom)
Yes, I've seen him play live, up close, in a WCT event. He was the #1 seed. I've also seen Rosewall, Emerson and Newcombe live. Nastase was a great athlete, with what seemed like effortless court coverage and great touch in all aspects of the game. But, no, Nastase's net game was not as good as theirs. Further, Nastase's net game wasn't as good as his backcourt game. Nastase's best surface was clay. Moreover, all 3 of them were better all around players than Nastase. JMHO, of course!
I agree with this! As for Federer, his forehand would be the difference, as usual. On clay, Nastase would probably be favored.
But wouldn't it be interesting. Nastase and his antics plus Nastase's forehand was also pretty great and his backhand had a million ways of confusing opponents. How would Federer handle the Nastase style and behavior?
Both guys can run like the wind so you figure the rallies would be out of this world.
^^^ I'm not that intriged by that matchup. I'd rather see Nastase against Ralph on clay. On grass, I'd rather see Laver, or Mac against Federer. On hard, I'd rather see Sampras or Agassi against Federer.
I agree LH. I'd take Federer over Nastase on fast surfaces. Yet, I'd take Nastase on clay. I had the chance to be a ballboy for a Nastase match in 1978 or 1979 (he was about 32-33 by then) . This was at a WCT-Birmingham, AL event indoors. He was still a great player and a very strong athlete. Noah was pretty impressive too, as were Teltscher, Amritraj, and especially Connors. Overall, I do tend to agree that Nastase was stronger off the ground than the net. Even though Nastase was a great mover, in my opinion, Federer is quicker/faster than Nastase. Yet, Nastase has incredible hands.
I'm not sure if Federer is quicker than Nastase was. It's hard to tell. Neither seem to ever exert themselves when moving on the court. One thing I have to say about Nastase is that he never seemed to be out of position or rushed to set up for a shot. What Federer is, is a more focused, more dedicated, tennis player, with the best forehand of all time.
From my read of the thread, little doubt about McEnroe, Edberg and Laver among the greatest. Many have placed Sampras down a tier from those.
As mentioned previously, or perhaps in another thread, if you introduce doubles players to the discussion, you have to consider many more than the Bryans and Paes.
Susan DK, maybe. One would have to argue that Sampras was not the volleyer that the "big three" were, and that he was really no better volleying than Newcombe, Rosewall, Roche, and others. That's a tough one. I wouldn't argue too much if one chose to put him in a second tier, along with Rosewall, Roche, and company. On doubles players, yes, when you bring in doubles, there are tons of really good volleyers out there besides the Bryans and Paes, that's true. The dynamics are just so different than singles. Yet, when we are discussing volleying, it's hard to overlook some of the volleying you see in the doubles game. Incredible reflex volleys for one thing.
Yes PC1, I'd love to watch that too. Federer vs. Nastase on red clay would be interesting. I'd take Nadal vs. Nastase as well. I suppose Federer would just try to be serious and steamroll Nastase. Nastase may very well try and frustrate Federer, but with Borg for example, he was pretty tame and well behaved. Beating Nastase on clay would not be very easy for anyone. Nastase could be a handful on red clay especially. He relished it. He's another guy who I think would be great with any type of frame, wood or otherwise.
Nastase against either Nadal or Federer would be interesting in that you know Nadal and Federer has ever faced a player quite like Nastase. I'm not just talking about his antics but his unique style of spins, touch, angles, volleys and power. How would they handle it? I would tend to favor Nastase over Federer on red clay and I would favor Nadal over Nastase on red clay. However Nastase was a very strong slow clay player and I think the rallies between the very swift Nastase and the super fast Nadal would be something.
I have a hunch Nastase would get under Federer's skin with his behavior. Somehow I don't see Nadal being affected that much.
I agree. I'd take Nastase over Federer on red clay, more often than not, and with Nadal, I'd have to pick Nadal on clay. Yes, the rallies would be amazing. Check this out. Nastase and Connors in 1981 at RG practicing, from the documentary, "The French" by William Klein. Nastase was about 35 here.
and in this more extended clip with Borg included: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vPWLylD7Yg
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