If Wimby21 was played on 90s grass...

Djokovic favorite at Wimby21 if the surface was 90s grass?


  • Total voters
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Jonesy

Hall of Fame
Would Djokovic still be the favorite? If not him, who?


According to this site, all Wimbledon tournaments of the last decade played a lot faster than any year of the 90s, even in what is supposed to be a slower grass.

Some reasons for that are technology evolved (balls, strings etc) and science around athlete's fitness was refined on the last 20 years. I'm not even mentioning how tennis strokes technique adapted to such changes.

So, the game is just more faster and dynamic than ever been. S&V is a rare find these days.

Plus, Djokovic just won the last AO in what was described as 'ice', a veteran player even described the courts as the fastest he ever played there.
 

HBK4life

Professional
If the grass fast as it used to be and strings and rackets of today were allowed I’d say the the over 6’6” club would serve their way deep into the tournament.
 

Kralingen

Legend
If not Djokovic, who exactly are you trusting on 90s grass? Remember that to win a match you have to win some points on return as well, lol.

I think the quality would suffer a lot and we would immediately be calling for the current grass back. A lot of servebotting, a lot of slipping, a lot of short points ending in errors or unconvincing returns.
 

Jonesy

Hall of Fame
The idea that only servebots would dominate on a faster surface these days is countered by the same modern technology, that in fact also helps the returns, thus creating a perfect balance.

The player at the top would still be Djokovic and baseline would still be dominant.
 

swordtennis

G.O.A.T.
As he improved his service game he will relish the faster conditions.
Might actually help him bag a couple more Wimbledon titles when he gets near 40.
Servbotovic.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
JFC the stats clearly show players holding serve with more ease than ever at Wimbledon but you jokers are still sticking to the "slow grass" nonsense? SMH

Anyhoo this is what I've been telling y'all for almost a decade now. To wit (again):

Surprised you don't already know that I don't buy the "slow grass" narrative. As I've pointed out a zillion times, 2001 was the 1st Wimby with the new ryegrass (contrary to Wiki, yes) and guess who made the SFs that year? That alone should've put an end to this court-slowdown-killed-S&V canard already.

Another oft-ignored fact: top players are in fact holding serve with more ease than ever. In '91-'00 there were only 7 (5 if you don't round up) instances where they won 90% or more of their service games on all surfaces, and only Pete did it multiple times (the other guys were Rusedski and Krajicek, both in '97). Then an almost triple leap from 7 instances to 20 (19 without rounding) in '01-'10, then a double leap to a whopping 41 (34 w/o) in '11-'20. "Slow" courts, my ass.

Turns out whatever "slowdown" effects on these new courts were more than mitigated by the "modern" poly racquets which have not only increased 1st-serve %s across the board (60%, roughly Pete's career average, would've been considered good in the '90s) but also more oomph on 2nd serves which has led to higher %s of 2nd-serve points won. Does anyone seriously think Sampras - you know, the guy who lived and died by uber-aggressive 2nd serves - wouldn't have reaped tremendous benefits from one of these new sticks?

Oh yeah, but you can't approach the net as indiscriminately now, you say? Setting aside the fact that Pete was a full-time S&Ver only on grass, I've been trying to gather official net stats from at least every QF up of the OE majors and I can tell you that conversion rates at the net haven't really changed a whole lot. If anything they might have gone up as well, and that's actually not so surprising when you recognize this: physics makes it practically impossible for anyone to convert more than half of his passing shots, yes even with poly. That's why Fed's % of net points won vs. Rafa has rarely dipped below 50% even on clay, and unless you're ready to argue that Pistol can't at least match that we're not really talking such big differences between his and Rafa's eras here.
And yes Fed and Novak would still clean up at SW19 today. Rafa would probably struggle a bit more in the early rounds but would gradually gain momentum and become more dangerous just like he did in his actual runs. Raonic and Anderson are closer to Martin and Rusedski than to Goran, Stich, Krajicek and even Philippoussis (all of whom had a better net game for starters) and would not be serious Wimby contenders in any era.
 

Red Rick

Bionic Poster
JFC the stats clearly show players holding serve with more ease than ever at Wimbledon but you jokers are still sticking to the "slow grass" nonsense? SMH

Anyhoo this is what I've been telling y'all for almost a decade now. To wit (again):



And yes Fed and Novak would still clean up at SW19 today. Rafa would probably struggle a bit more in the early rounds but would gradually gain momentum and become more dangerous just like he did in his actual runs. Raonic and Anderson are closer to Martin and Rusedski than to Goran, Stich, Krajicek and even Philippoussis (all of whom had a better net game for starters) and would not be serious Wimby contenders in any era.
It's always been poly strings that killed S&V. Now people keep clinging onto the idea that players who can literally only serve could go far at Wimbledon in the 90s, which makes me question why the **** would you go back to the 90s if you think Opelka would be great in that era?
 

Kralingen

Legend
Recent AO was 50 court speed - fastest for 10 years. Djokovic is modern day fast courts king
That's clearly Federer, without a shadow of a doubt.

But I agree that post-2018 resurrection Djokovic has actually been great on faster surfaces and the 'slow surface = good for Djokovic' is kind of a myth, or at least lacking context and nuance. His upgraded serve and use of variety helps him a lot here. You saw it in the AO final, with the depth Djokovic consistently gets, he can punish players with drop shots/volleys on these faster surfaces.
 

NoleIsBoat

Hall of Fame
That's clearly Federer, without a shadow of a doubt.

But I agree that post-2018 resurrection Djokovic has actually been great on faster surfaces and the 'slow surface = good for Djokovic' is kind of a myth, or at least lacking context and nuance. His upgraded serve and use of variety helps him a lot here. You saw it in the AO final, with the depth Djokovic consistently gets, he can punish players with drop shots/volleys on these faster surfaces.
Maybe in 00s but since 2011, Djokovic has been the man to beat on fast courts. 4 titles on faster AO surface since 2016. 5 Wimbledon titles, including 3-0 in finals over Fed. 5 Shanghai masters titles.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
It's always been poly strings that killed S&V. Now people keep clinging onto the idea that players who can literally only serve could go far at Wimbledon in the 90s, which makes me question why the **** would you go back to the 90s if you think Opelka would be great in that era?
It ain't poly. Like I said (a zillion times) S&V was already dying in the '90s and it takes more than a few years to develop pro players. Guys like Pistol, Boris, Edberg and Rafter could still make it work cuz of their athleticism and overall package, but real servebots like Arthurs, Karlovic and Opelka have too many glaring holes (none bigger than their crap return game) to ever become serious factors at SW19. I mean we're talking at least a 10% difference in RGW between these groups, which is a virtually insurmountable gap to close even on grass, and even Stefan and Pat made the SGW% top 10 routinely in their best years. Maybe a Wayne, Ivo or Reilly gets the luck of the draw and makes the SF a la '18 Isner, but that's most likely their absolute max ceiling.
 
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Red Rick

Bionic Poster
It ain't poly. Like I said (a zillion times) S&V was already dying in the '90s and it takes more than a few years to develop pro players. Guys like Pistol, Boris, Edberg and Rafter could still make it work cuz of their athleticism and overall package, but real servebots like Arthurs, Karlovic and Opelka have too many glaring holes (none bigger than their crap return game) to ever become serious factors at SW19. I mean we're talking at least a 10% difference in RGW between these groups, which is a virtually insurmountable gap to close even on grass, and even Stefan and Pat made the SGW% top 10 routinely in their best years. Maybe a Wayne, Ivo or Reilly gets the luck of the draw and makes the SF a la '18 Isner, but that's most likely their absolute max ceiling.
It was dying so hard in the 90s Agassi scored 0 wins over Sampras at Wimbledon/USO. It wasn't dying by a long shot on the fast courts.
 

Jonesy

Hall of Fame
Recent AO was 50 court speed - fastest for 10 years. Djokovic is modern day fast courts king
I think faster courts help his game these days, he doesn't need to use much energy to hit winners, he just places the ball on the right spots and the court does the rest for him.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
It was dying so hard in the 90s Agassi scored 0 wins over Sampras at Wimbledon/USO. It wasn't dying by a long shot on the fast courts.
Pistol is arguably the grass BOAT and one of the 3 joint USO leaders w/Jimbo and Fed. Hard to fault Dre or anyone else for failing to upset Pete there.

Better to look at the whole field instead. Octo made this nifty list for the '90s USOs earlier this year (my corrections/additions in bold):

Presenting 1990s USO as favouring s&v is terrible retconning. The USO was always the most neutral slam tournament since its switch to HC until the mid-00s slowdown. Sampras won as an all-courter except his last USO in 2002.

Let's look at the semis:

1990: Sampras, McEnroe, Agassi, Becker
all-court, s&v, baseline, serve-heavy all-court

1991:
Edberg, Lendl, Courier, Connors
s&v, baseline, baseline, baseline-centric all-court

1992:
Edberg, Chang, Sampras, Courier
s&v, baseline, all-court, baseline

1993:
Sampras, Volkov, Pioline, Masur
all-court, baseline, baseline-centric all-court, s&v

1994:
Agassi, Martin, Stich, Novacek
baseline, serve-heavy all-court, mostly s&v, baseline

1995:
Sampras, Courier, Agassi, Becker
all-court, baseline, baseline, serve-heavy all-court

1996:
Sampras, Ivanisevic, Chang, Agassi
all-court, serve-heavy all-court, baseline, baseline

1997:
Rafter, Chang, Rusedski, Bjorkman
s&v, baseline, s&v, mostly s&v

1998:
Rafter, Sampras, Philippoussis, Moya
s&v, mostly s&v, s&v, baseline

1999:
Agassi, Kafelnikov, Martin, Pioline
baseline, baseline, serve-heavy all-court, baseline-centric all-court

Incidentally the USOs with the greatest dominance of s&v were clearly the weakest in the 90s: 1993, 97, 98. All other editions had a strong baseliner presence in SF, except 1994 I guess but it was won by the lone baseliner semifinalist instead.
And I can tell you that tournament stats I've got for the USO show (or at least suggest) little change in court speed between the '90s and the more recent editions. If players held and broke serve at roughly the same overall rate in the '90s as they do today - that is, whatever upticks on serve have been mostly mitigated by downturns on return - how much of this to attribute to whatever factor (poly, courts, etc.) becomes rather moot, no?

Plus the fact that even Courier half-S&Ved his way to the '93 Wimby final shows just how widespread net play was in the '90s. Since we already know that breaks of serve have actually become less frequent it's safe to conclude that the S&V tradition - which was in fact a fairly recent phenomenon as Vines makes his disapproval of all-out S&V clear in his '78 book - was so strong most Wimbledon contestants took it as gospel before the turn of the century.
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
If Agassi could win it, why not Djokovic who is a superior player
Of course Djokovic is the superior player than Andre, but he's never in his entire life played on courts as fast as Andre did. Agassi played in an era of carpet, insanely fast grass and extremely fast HC's. The court index speeds at Bollietieri's Florida academy was 51.2. That's faster by far than any surface played today:

 

Martin J

Professional
Of course Djokovic is the superior player than Andre, but he's never in his entire life played on courts as fast as Andre did. Agassi played in an era of carpet, insanely fast grass and extremely fast HC's. The court index speeds at Bollietieri's Florida academy was 51.2. That's faster by far than any surface played today:

Djokovic is a better athlete than Agassi ever was and also moves quite better than him. Bigger server, about as equally good on the return. Agassi was a phenomenal ballstriker, but Novak is great ballstriker himself. I can't see why he wouldn't be at least as successful as Andre.
 
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Sunny014

Legend
Maybe in 00s but since 2011, Djokovic has been the man to beat on fast courts. 4 titles on faster AO surface since 2016. 5 Wimbledon titles, including 3-0 in finals over Fed. 5 Shanghai masters titles.
Djokovic has won Shanghai 4 times, not 5.
Shanghai started in 2009 when Fed's was ending, yet Fed has won it 2 times and once reached the final.
At his peak he would have had 4 extra Shanghais

Just like Cincinnati where he is the emperor with 7 titles.

Federer is still the champion of the fast courts even in old age, had he been he would have cleaned up everything.
 

Sunny014

Legend
Djokovic is a better athlete than Agassi ever was and also moves quite better than him. Bigger server, about as equally good on the return. Agassi was a phenomenal ballstriker, but Novak is great ballstriker himself. I can't see why he wouldn't be at least as successful as Andre.

Andre was lucky he won his grass slam before Peter touched his peak, once Peter touched peak it was game over for Andre.
Even Novak would have his bad days with the big server as he always has, Dr Ivo owns him you know, imagine what he would do to Novak on a faster grass ?
 

NoleIsBoat

Hall of Fame
Djokovic has won Shanghai 4 times, not 5.
Shanghai started in 2009 when Fed's was ending, yet Fed has won it 2 times and once reached the final.
At his peak he would have had 4 extra Shanghais

Just like Cincinnati where he is the emperor with 7 titles.

Federer is still the champion of the fast courts even in old age, had he been he would have cleaned up everything.
Since 2010:

AO(since 2016): 4 fast > 2 Fed
Shanghai: 4>2 Fed
Cincinnati 2<3 Fed
Wimbledon: 5>2 Fed
Paris: 4>1
Dubai: 4-4 (tie)

Peak Djokovic owns the tour in every faster court event except Cincinatti.
 

Sunny014

Legend
Since 2010:

AO(since 2016): 4 fast > 2 Fed
Shanghai: 4>2 Fed
Cincinnati 2<3 Fed
Wimbledon: 5>2 Fed
Paris: 4>1
Dubai: 4-4 (tie)

Peak Djokovic owns the tour in every faster court event except Cincinatti.
So called Peak Djokovic after 2016 is a vulture
 

Sunny014

Legend
Has wins over Federer, Nadal, Zverev, Thiem, Tsitsipas in some of these events. All top 5 calibre players.

Not like the fairytale era where you could land Bjorkman or Kiefer in a slam SF
Peak Fed would have eaten all these zverevs, thiems, tsitispas, nadal types (remember we are talking of slow nadal in 2010s, not peak one)
 

mtommer

Hall of Fame
The idea that only servebots would dominate on a faster surface these days is countered by the same modern technology, that in fact also helps the returns, thus creating a perfect balance.

The player at the top would still be Djokovic and baseline would still be dominant.
I'd disagree primarily because one has to be able to touch the serves of the servebots. While the overall speed of play may be faster, the bounce was still lower during the 90's, which means the ball slid more and that has a significant impact on returns. Where I will give credit if credit is due, is that IF anyone today would have a chance at breaking the dominance of serve bots, Djokovic would have the greatest chance.
 

Sunny014

Legend
I'd disagree primarily because one has to be able to touch the serves of the servebots. While the overall speed of play may be faster, the bounce was still lower during the 90's, which means the ball slid more and that has a significant impact on returns. Where I will give credit if credit is due, is that IF anyone today would have a chance at breaking the dominance of serve bots, Djokovic would have the greatest chance.
Dr Ivo Karlovic is 3-1 vs Djokovic

That 1 win for Novak on clay and 3 losses on Hard Courts

So much for breaking servebots, LOL, serve bots would OBLITERATE him on the fast grace

In the last 20 years only Federer can beat the greatest servebots using Poly on the old grass...... No one else

 

NonP

Hall of Fame
I'd disagree primarily because one has to be able to touch the serves of the servebots. While the overall speed of play may be faster, the bounce was still lower during the 90's, which means the ball slid more and that has a significant impact on returns. Where I will give credit if credit is due, is that IF anyone today would have a chance at breaking the dominance of serve bots, Djokovic would have the greatest chance.
But you see, when it comes to 1st-serve return points (where the vast majority of potential aces are dealt with) there's very little to choose on grass between Novak and the rather sizable (and motley!) crew of Agassi (when duplicate aces are removed from his stats), Edberg, Federer, Hewitt and Murray:


And Nole isn't quite tops in % of service games won, either:


Ignoring non-contenders like Black and Escude here are the #s:

4. Edberg (28.0%)
8. Hewitt (26.7%)
9. Murray (26.5%)
11. Djokovic (26.2%)
13. Agassi (25.8%)
24. Federer (23.9%)

So Fed's well-known weakness on 2nd-serve returns does hurt him, but he's really the only big-name returner since 1991 who's clearly inferior to Novak on grass. Even if you attribute Stefan's, Rusty's and Muzz's superior %s to lesser competition we're talking degrees, not tiers. Here's how often these guys had to face top 10ers on grass, calculated as # of matches vs. the top 10/total # of matches on grass:

Edberg - 16.7% (21/126)
Hewitt - 18.1% (31/171)
Murray - 15.2% (20/132)
Djokovic - 18.6% (21/113)
Agassi - 16.2% (11/68)
Federer - 14.7% (32/218)

So nothing so skewed as Karlovic's 12.1% which would have a noticeable effect on % of return points/games won. Not to mention the likely misleading #s from the '90s as Edberg's and Agassi's (both RGW% and frequency of top 10 matchup) are almost certainly diminished by the busload of times they had to pass their opponents at the net - even the very best passers are hard-pressed to connect on more than half of their passing shots - and the smaller # of seedings (16 vs. 32) which was less conducive to consistency and could leave a Stich or Rafter out of the top 10 if not knock him out early.

And let's not forget how much Djoko struggled vs. Roddick, Karlovic, Isner and other big servers compared to Murray. In short Novak is no doubt one of the greatest returners ever, but he's got stiff competition from Dre, Muzz and Jimbo and arguably several others, too. If it's neutralizing servebots you're after, I say Murray is a better choice.
 

zagor

Bionic Poster
Ehm yes, who else? He's still arguably the best athlete on tour with the best overall serve+return combo.
 

RelentlessAttack

Hall of Fame
if you suddenly changed the conditions back to 90s conditions (court speed, racquets, strings) without time for the tour to prepare you'd get 4 random journeymen in the semis. its not like 2002 when there were a bunch of good baseliners around to take advantage of the change at wimbledon
 

T007

Professional
Dr Ivo Karlovic is 3-1 vs Djokovic

That 1 win for Novak on clay and 3 losses on Hard Courts

So much for breaking servebots, LOL, serve bots would OBLITERATE him on the fast grace

In the last 20 years only Federer can beat the greatest servebots using Poly on the old grass...... No one else

Federer is a much better returner of Big serves. He usually breaks them more often than djokovic. Federer has special skills of chip and charge and block returns which makes him than djokovic.
 

T007

Professional
Would Djokovic still be the favorite? If not him, who?


According to this site, all Wimbledon tournaments of the last decade played a lot faster than any year of the 90s, even in what is supposed to be a slower grass.

Some reasons for that are technology evolved (balls, strings etc) and science around athlete's fitness was refined on the last 20 years. I'm not even mentioning how tennis strokes technique adapted to such changes.

So, the game is just more faster and dynamic than ever been. S&V is a rare find these days.

Plus, Djokovic just won the last AO in what was described as 'ice', a veteran player even described the courts as the fastest he ever played there.
If Federer wouldnot have been injured and had a 18 month break then he would have been the biggest favourite to win. Djokovic never really beat Federer onesidedly. Infact Federer used outplay him in most part of the 2014 and 19 finals. Djokovics clutchness helped him to escape the defeat. Considering how Fed was dominating djokovic from the baseline on slower grass in 2019.. it is not a rocket science that he would have done much better in 90s grass surfaces.
 

Kralingen

Legend
Still LOL at these poll results.

Tell me, all 20 of those who voted 'No' - who exactly do you think would be the favorite? Remember that this player has to be able to return Djokovic's serve to win a match vs. him.
 

vandre

Hall of Fame
If Agassi could win it, why not Djokovic who is a superior player
because agassi's knack for hitting on the rise helped him adjust to balls that skidded on the grass or bounced oddly. not only was the 90s wimbledon grass fast, the ball also didn't bounce as "true" as it does now.
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
Maybe "no" is a bit of a stretch but he'd certainly not be as overwhelming a favourite. One of the serve bots could have a Querry day.
 

tonylg

Legend
How about this for the novel idea, maybe someone with a decent net game?

Tsitsipas, Shapovalov, Hurkacz, Dimitrov, Humbert, Evans .. or maybe an old boy like Tsonga, Mahut, Ram or even old Fed?

If you're net game is weak on fast grass, you're going to struggle.
 

Sunny014

Legend
Of course Djokovic is the superior player than Andre, but he's never in his entire life played on courts as fast as Andre did. Agassi played in an era of carpet, insanely fast grass and extremely fast HC's. The court index speeds at Bollietieri's Florida academy was 51.2. That's faster by far than any surface played today:


@BeatlesFan - I have always wondered if these indexes on court pace is an indication of bounce or not ?

Does a fast court always mean low bounce ? I think not.....

Is there any stat on the low to high count stats court by court ???
 
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SonnyT

Hall of Fame
The fact is that the skills required to play on 90s grass simply don't exist any more. You're asking which elephant would win a gymnastics comp.
Let's not pretend like there's no downside to fast grass. Then you had players like Stich and Krajicek, who could only win on fast grass because they didn't have the game to win anywhere else.
 

smalahove

Hall of Fame
The big advantage of being #1 is that you get an easy ride to the QFs or SFs most of the time. This has helped all of the big three amassing their GSs.

If you look at Novak's wins in '18 and '19, it's pretty apparent the luck of the draw helped him avoid any good grass players until the final in ´19. I'm not saying he met a weak field, but he did meet good allround players, that are no better than him on grass and/or do not have grass as a favorite surface.

Now, meeting a good grass player in the second week is something completely different than the first. If Novak makes it to the second week, he's the favorite based on his latest performance. But if he gets a difficult draw, meeting players that thrive on grass and have a great serve, W is definitely the GS where he is most vulnerable to lose in the first week. And faster grass also means more skidding balls, lower trajectories, less foothold aso, which also doesn't work to his advantage. Based on that, I wouldn't put him as the clear favorite, but among a small group of favorites.
 

SonnyT

Hall of Fame
By design, there should be no difference between #1 and #2 seeds; no difference between #3 and #4 seeds. The only difference between them is luck of the draw, in principle.
 

smalahove

Hall of Fame
@BeatlesFan - I have always wondered if these indexes on court pace is an indication of bounce or not ?

Does a fast court means low bounce ? I think not.....

Is there any stat on the low to high count stats court by court ???
Fast court does means low bounce. The speed of the court is always a measured with some sort of ground friction metric. And the less the friction, the lower the bounce and the more energy is left for forward momentum.

Having played on wood floor and carpet, and I can assure you none of the surfaces the pro's play on today are particularly fast or low bouncing. Wood floor is practically unplayable, and training on (fast) carpet courts often ingrains very bad habits (btw. there are plenty medium-to-slow carpet courts as well.
 
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