Match Stats/Report - Muster vs Becker, Monte Carlo final, 1995

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Thomas Muster beat Boris Becker 4-6, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(6), 6-0 in the Monte Carlo final 1995 on clay

It was the 2nd of Muster's eventual 3 titles at the event. He'd go onto win Rome and the French Open shortly after. It was the third and last of Becker's finals at the event

Muster won 167 points, Becker 144

Becker serve-volleyed off all but 2 first serves and most off the time second serve

(Note: I'm missing serve and corresponding return data for 1 Muster service point. The ending of the point has been recorded

Missing point - Point 1, Game 12, Set 2)

Serve Stats
Muster...
- 1st serve percentage (109/160) 68%
- 1st serve points won (74/109) 68%
- 2nd serve points won (31/51) 61%
- Unknown serve point (0/1)
- Aces 3
- Double Faults 6
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (43/161) 27%

Becker...
- 1st serve percentage (90/150) 60%
- 1st serve points won (63/90) 70%
- 2nd serve points won (25/60) 42%
- Aces 16 (1 second serve)
- Double Faults 8
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (48/150) 32%

Serve Patterns
Muster served...
- to FH 20%
- to BH 68%
- to Body 12%

Becker served...
- to FH 49%
- to BH 51%
- to Body 1%

Return Stats
Muster made...
- 94 (51 FH, 43 BH), including 7 runaround FHs
- 6 Winners (3 FH, 3 BH)
- 32 Errors, all forced...
- 32 Forced (15 FH, 17 BH)
- Return Rate (94/142) 66%

Becker made...
- 112 (34 FH, 77 BH, 1 ??), including 14 runaround FHs & 13 return-approaches
- 6 Winners (4 FH, 2 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 40 Errors, comprising...
- 34 Unforced (13 FH, 21 BH), including 1 runaround FH & 6 return-approach attempts
- 6 Forced (3 FH, 3 BH)
- Return Rate (112/155) 72%

Break Points
Muster 7/11 (8 games)
Becker 3/17 (8 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Muster 36 (13 FH, 20 BH, 1 FHV, 2 OH)
Becker 45 (14 FH, 4 BH, 7 FHV, 7 BHV, 13 OH)

Muster had 27 passes - 5 returns (2 FH, 3 BH) and 22 regular (6 FH, 16 BH)
- FH returns - 1 cc/longline (that Becker left) and 1 dtl
- BH returns - 2 cc and 1 inside-in
- regular FHs - 2 cc, 2 dtl, 1 turnaround inside-out and 1 lob
- regular BHs - 11 cc (1 net chord flicker), 2 dtl, 1 inside-out/dtl, 1 lob and 1 running-down-drop-shot dtl at net

- regular (non-pass) FHs - 4 dtl (1 return) and 1 inside-out
- regular BH - 1 cc

Becker had 22 from serve-volley points -
- 9 first 'volleys' (5 FHV, 2 BHV, 2 FH at net)
- 11 second 'volleys' (1 FHV, 4 BHV, 5 OH, 1 FH at net)... the FH at net can reasonably be called a running-down-drop-shot at net
- 2 third volleys (1 FHV, 1 OH)... the FHV was a lob
- 1 fourth volley (1 OH)
- 1 fifth volley (1 OH)

- 1 from a return-approach point, an OH on the bounce

- FHs - 1 cc pass, 2 dtl (1 pass), 1 runaround return dtl/longline, 1 runaround return dtl/inside-out, 5 inside-out (2 returns) and 1 inside-in/cc
- BHs - 2 dtl (1 return), 1 inside-in return and 1 running-down-drop-shot cc at net

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Muster 45
- 15 Unforced (6 FH, 9 BH)
- 30 Forced (12 FH, 18 BH)... with 2 FH running-down-drop at net & 1 FH at net pass attempt (that can reasonably be called a running-down-drop-shot)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 49.3

Becker 80
- 60 Unforced (18 FH, 29 BH, 3 FHV, 9 BHV, 1 OH)... with 2 FH at net
- 20 Forced (5 FH, 3 BH, 5 FHV, 1 FH1/2V, 2 BHV, 2 BH1/2V, 1 BHOH, 1 Over-Shoulder)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 47

(Note 1: All 1/2 volleys refer to such shots played at net. 1/2 volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke numbers)

(Note 2: the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index is an indicator of how aggressive the average UE was. The numbers presented for these two matches are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Muster was...
- 11/22 (50%) at net, with...
- 3/7 (43%) forced back/retreated

Becker was...
- 90/145 (62%) at net, including...
- 65/110 (59%) serve-volleying, comprising...
- 47/73 (64%) off 1st serve and...
- 18/37 (49%) off 2nd serve
---
- 10/13 (77%) return-approaching
- 1/3 (33%) forced back/retreated

Match Report
An odd match in terms of prospects springing from how play goes. On 1 end, Becker serve-volleys behind a big serve leaving Muster to return-pass. On the other, there are would-be gritty rallies. Only they're not 'gritty' - Muster comes out on top so regularly that he's able to hold as comfortably and regularly as any big server could hope to

Consequently, match isn't competitive on the level of games and points as tends to be on slow clay. Rather, prospects for breaks come up against runs of normal play of server holding comfortably. The dynamic is un-clay like, despite the breadstick and bagel. And before the bagel, Boris has 2 match points in a thrilling 4th set tiebreak - 1 of them on his serve (he double faults) - so match could clearly have gone the other way just as readily

For Muster to break, he'd either have to return and pass phenomenally well, or have Boris mess up on the volley. He ends up doing so more by the former and Boris does well against low-ish returns to hold as regularly as he does for 3/5 sets. Some faltering on the volley by Boris too. Against what he's up against, it'd be a good bet that he'd falter some eventually... lots of not-easy to not-practical-to-putaway first volleys faced by Boris and Muster's on to anything not putaway in a flash to throw follow up strong passes after the return. Or excellent lobs - mostly defensive, but a few offensive ones too

Mostly credit Muster for his return and passing, especially the latter. Boris handles himself in forecourt just fine on the whole

For Boris to break, he'd either have to step up and hold steady from the baseline to the tune of winning his share of 50-50 rallies or have Muster loosen up and makes the errors. And basically, neither happens

Plenty of credit to Muster for being rock solid, while hitting firmly to hard. Some discredit to Boris too - the extent to which he's outlasted from the back is a bit surprising. The gap in consistency or ability to keep ball in court between the two is like a Borg - Gerulaitis encounter, with harder hitting. Trading groundies obviously favours Muster, but I wouldn't have expected it to be to the extent it ends up doing

The cincher is in Boris' returning. Muster's serve is average at best, similar of force to his groundstrokes (that are superbly, probably perfect balanced in consistency and firmness for his opponent) but Boris misses a huge lot of regulation or even simple returns all match. It gives Muster a cushion for his superiority from the back and allows him to hold still more comfortably. A big black mark against Boris' returning than

How does it play out in stats?

Muster's serve games
Average serving from Muster. Early in the match, he tries banging down the odd huge serve about as fast as Boris', but misses them all. And sticks to regulation serving. Hefty at most, virtually never powerful. Boris is able to spontaneously runaround to hit FHs against a few first serves

In that light, 27% unreturned rate is flattering to him and blackmark against Boris' consistency on the return for it. 34 of Boris' 40 return errors have been marked unforced... he gives up far too many freebies. Given comparative strength of the serves in question and Boris serve-volleying almost always, his having just a 5% lead in unreturned rates reflects a poor job on the return

The figure is helped by choice, extreme aggressive returning. Boris with 6 return winners and 13 return-approaches (winning high 10 them). The latter are hard hit shots he follows to net, not chips
Return rate of 72% with constant aggressive returning would be good. A good figure for consistent, orthodox returning would be around 80%+. Boris mostly returns orthodoxly, randomly throwing in the uber-aggressive stuff or in particular games. He has his moments as the winners and success return-approaching indicates, but on whole, this would qualify as not a good job by Boris on the return in normal context

Context isn't completely normal though. It often isn't with Boris. He's playing a look-for-1-break type game, so his throwing away returns wouldn't matter if he could hold serve regularly. Its not a good approach because his serve is regularly under threat and even when holding, he has to volley particularly well, to an extent that it's unlikely he can keep doing it indefinitely

Its a normal, slow clay court, Muster's serve isn't strong. A normal strategy would involve getting returns in consistently and taking chances in 50-50 baseline rallies after that. Even trailing from the baseline, breaks are likely to come eventually

Instead, Boris return strongly aids Muster's ability to hold, leaving prospects of snatching the odd break with particularly aggressive, low percentage play

After the return is made, they rally from the baseline

Off the ground, Muster has 15 UEs, Boris 45. Dynamics in play are something in between 'beat-down' and 'out-last'... almost perfectly in the center of the two

Either Muster's groundgame is perfectly suited to taking down Boris' or he's hit the perfect balance between hitting force and consistency. With just 15 UEs in 5 sets, obviously he misses very little, but he hits just hard enough to keep Boris mildly pressured. Not much and it wouldn't pressure a stronger hitter, but it succeeds against Boris' showing

If Muster hit any harder (or wider), his errors would likely go up, letting Boris off the hook some
If he hit any less hard, Boris would likely be able to step up to attack from the back or come in or have sufficient hitting advantage to win a larger share of points ending with errors (which is overwhelming bulk of baseline points)
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
He has it just right. He thumps the ball firmly off both sides, with bias to towards aiming for Boris' BH, which he finds with both FH cc's and BH longlines and doesn't go attacking wide. Doesn't take too long to draw the errors. Boris' hitting strength is fine too, but just doesn't have the consistency to cope with an opponent who misses so little

Baseline to baseline, UEs read -
- Boris BH 29
- Boris FH 16
- Muster FH 6
- Muster BH 9

Particularly in first two sets, Boris tries to use short slices or pseudo-drop shots a bit. It doesn't work... he still makes errors and the balls that land in leave Muster with time to reach ball and slap them hard from well inside court. He drops the attempts (and he didn't try much to begin with) and plays a reactive game for most of match, to the tune of the UE counts shown above

Muster's hitting is just enough to discourage Boris from coming to net too. Just 22 approaches from rallies by Boris, good lot of them on his serve (where, because he's serve-volleying so often, he has little scope to do so)

Very little coming to net by Muster. Early on, he comes in behind strong strokes to force a couple of passing errors. After that, hardly at all. He's just 11/22 at net and about half those approaches are to deal with Boris' drop volleys

In nutshell, near perfect balance of consistency and force in hitting off the ground from Muster, who does just enough and not a bit more to win very large majority of baseline points against an outmatched Boris. All the missed regulation returns from Boris helps in giving Muster safety net on top on his baseline superiority. And random, choice aggressive returning from Boris being potential bug for Muster

Becker's serve games
Boris serve-volleys 97% off the time off first serves (all but twice) and 73% off the time off second serves. Early on, he stays back more often than not off 2nd serves, but by second set, is almost always following it to net too. Essentially, Boris serve-volleys all the time for bulk of match

Excellent serving all around. Some very big serve, but not overdone and first serves are well placed wide with something taken off them or hit very hard but closer to returner. 60% first serves in is good figure for this type of serving - particularly given how good the returning is

Excellent returning too by Muster. Lots of low-ish returns struck firmly. regulation, under-net returning is a great starting point for testing the volleyer in general and especially on clay, where such balls won't get dispatched immediately even with top class volleying

Boris' volleying quality varies a bit over course of match. Early on, he's excellent at making the not-easy volleys and rarely misses. He leaves Muster running passes and Muster runs to everything, including drop volleys. When he can't get the powerful pass off, he throws up defensive lobs superbly

Even when winning first 2 sets, it doesn't seem likely Boris can maintain volleying this well indefinitely. Its normal to miss tricky to not-easy volleys, Muster is superb on the follow up pass and even his lobs aren't gifts. He'd need Muster's standard on the return and pass to drop to be confident of holding regularly - and that doesn't happen. Very even standard by Muster throughout the long match

And switching to playing from baseline isn't a good option for Boris either, as what happens in Muster's service games demonstrate. So he's more or less compelled to keep at serve-volleying

22 winners serve-volleying (including 3 FHs at net) and 27 volley/OH winners in all by Boris, while Muster has 27 passing winners... is not likely to end too happily for Boris unless he can force, hard passing errors regularly. Which he can't. Against the returns he's faced, it'd be very, very difficult to and Muster has (or to be more accurate, makes) reasonably good chances on the follow up pass - and passes superbly

Nothing too fancy on the pass from Muster. Boris mostly volleys to his BH and cc accounts for 11 of Muster's 15 BH baseline-to-net passing winners. Muster sticks to basic cc passing off both sides

Eventually, Boris' volleying drops of quality. A bit unusually, its Boris BHV that falters more. He has 9 UEs on that side, to 3 on the FHV. Usually, FHV is Boris less dependent side

The Muster lob vs Boris smash is a great battle. When he has no other options, Muster throws up the defensive lob. Plenty of stellar, back-pedalling shots among Boris' 12 OH winners and he sometimes needs multiple OHs to finish a point. He's got a 3rd, 4th and 5th volley winner on the OH. Just the 1 UE and he's forced into a very difficult BHOH error against an offensive lob too

8 double faults form Boris doesn't help, but he's often under a lot of pressure with Muster hammering returns. In the bagel and breadstick sets, Boris wins a total of 2/19 second serve points

In nutshell, strong but smartly tempered serving from Becker, behind which he serve-volleys almost always met by hefty returning, often yielding tricky or not-easy to putaway volleys. Boris' volleying quality varies some, Muster's passing is at least good all through and he runs down everything possible

Match Progression
Match starts with a bang, Muster smacking 3 strong passes (1 of which Becker leaves) to break to love. And a odd point the game after, when after making a flub volley, Muster turns his back and starts walking away having given up the point. Boris misses the BH though and Muster grins at the call, without turning back. Its even odder because Muster gives up on nothing otherwise, chasing down drop volleys and running to corners to make improbable passes (almost always unsuccessfully)

Boris has better of rest of the set. Copes with tricky volleys and drops them. He's irregular on the return and off the ground, but successful enough in odd, low-percentage aggressive shots to be a threat.

He breaks back to even and ends the set with another break, in a game filled with aggressive returns. An under pressure Muster double faults on set point

Play picks up in the 2nd set. Boris starts serve-volleying more regularly off 2nd serves and Muster beefs up his serving. Set goes on serve to the end when its decided by 2 tough games. Boris survives a 16 point hold (saves 2 break points) before breaking to 15 to finish. The only game in whole match where Muster is sloppy, with 3 groundstroke UEs

Third set isn't too one sided for a breadstick. Muster starts dominating baseline rallies and they start to look more like a mismatch then earlier (a trend which continues for rest of match). Some very good return and passing, coupled with Boris dropping a bit on the volley sees the breaks come too. Still, Muster has 10 and 8 point holds where he has to save a break point each

4th set is complete mismatch from the back. Muster is hard hitting and consistent and Boris can't keep the ball in court. Boris holds comfortably too

The ending of the set is fantastic. Becker ups the ante as he so often does at tail end, with a furious display of aggressive returning. Muster manages to hold from 15-40 down with some superb groundstrokes and passes.

Boris starts the tiebreak in same vein, smacking a runaround FH winner to go up 1-0 and following with a 2nd serve ace. A sharp volley to a low return sets him up for a 2nd volley winner to go up 3-0. Muster has to throw up a 1st class lob to keep from going down more mini-breaks. Then gains the mini back with a return to the feet followed by a FH dtl pass winner

With his 2nd serves having gotten pounded (and Boris having made 2 errors trying), Muster double faults to go down 4-5. A good serve-volley point later, Boris has 6-4 and 2 match points. He double faults to make it 6-5. And then, goes for the FH dtl winner on the move, which he misses to make it 6-6. Muster attempts a rare, attacking approach but is forced back by a defensive lob the point after, as Boris takes the chance to steal in to net. Muster hits the perfect turnaround, FH inside-out winner to bring up his first set point

Boris misses an above average of pace, but essentially, regulation 2nd FHV and Muster pinches the set

5th set is glorious stuff from Muster, barely missing a ball while hitting powerful returns and passes. Boris wins just 8 points as Muster completes the bagel

Summing up, good match in all, if a bit unusual. The highlight of play is the contest between Becker's serve-volleying and Muster's return-passing, with both players playing well. Muster gets low-ish returns in often enough that Becker has to volley very well to keep holding, and occasionally, he falters a bit, but more credit to Muster on the return and his follow up passing, the willingness to run down every ball and to throw up tough lobs when he has no other option all being excellent

On other side, average serving from Muster, lots of regulation returns missed by Becker but also, good lot of selective, unplayably strong aggressive returns. On whole, a few too many routine misses stands out a bit more than the successful, damaging ones. A mismatch from the back - Muster hitting firmly and virtually never missing a ball, Becker giving up the errors

Prospects probably favour Muster slightly, but Becker is in his element amidst that status quo: Come the choice game, and he can (and does) play particularly well and aggressively to keep matters in his hands, to the tune of coming very close to breaking at end of fourth set and leading the tiebreak that follows. Muster steps to clutch out both games before sweeping through the decider with an outstanding display

@Drob
 
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BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
27 passing winners is not bad given that this was seen as a very weak shot of Muster and the reason for his career long problems against serve and volley players.
 

Drob

Professional
He has it just right.

@Drob

Well, another Becker clay match I need to watch. It is interesting that in your account of Boris' MC final vs. Bruguera, Boris is trying to grind it out from the baseline and almost completely eschews the net, or at least the S/V, do I remember correctly your post on that one? Here Boris is trying to win a "Clay Major" w his S/V. It appears he never found a "happy medium." I will get back to this idea of "happy medium" below.

First, in Boris' own words, from his autobiography The Player, "At the main entrance of the Monte Carlo Country Club, my name is engraved in grey stone with the date: 1984. So does this mean I did win on clay? Yes! But only at a youth tournament . . . In 1995 I led against Thomas Muster in the final . . and had two match points in the fourth set. I lost. Heaven knows why in all my years as a professional player I never managed to win on clay. That defeat gave me physical pain: I was desperate. It was probably the toughest defeat of my career. I was a failure in my own eyes and in the eyes of my Monesgasque friends. Perhaps it was a sign from above that I had my limits. a victory might have made me lose my humility completely."

Relatedly, he writes in another portion of the book about Roland Garros: "I reached the semi-final three times, playing on a surface on which my main opponent was always myself. My game plan has always been to attack; that's in my nature. On clay, however, the aim is to make fewer mistakes than your opponent. Paris is won by those who minimize risks and who hang on in there for four or more hours . . ."

Regarding one early-round RG loss, he relates that, "I looked to the sky and wailed, 'Someone up there doesn't want me to win on clay!' Over the next few years I had to cancel Paris again and again due to injury." Speaking of "injuries", Boris also says that in exchange for a French Open championship he would give an arm or a leg - "almost".

Those three SF losses were to Wilander, Edberg, Agassi . . . well?

In fact, Becker was in some of the toughest, deepest draws of clay-court masters in the history of game - Lendl, Wilander, Bruguera, Courier and Muster, plus Agassi, Gomez, Noah and Chang, et al. And Edberg for that matter. And, did anyone beat Muster in 1995? Seriously?

Of note, as part of Boris' 38-3 DC singles record (best in history), is 8-1 on clay.

This isn't meant as apologia. But it seems like it is setting up a kind of "double riddle". I am going to rely mostly on your accounts, although I will watch a few of his big clay matches. The double riddle is, it seems (1) Boris grew up on clay and at times professed to love the surface; (2) why couldn't this master of match improvisation ever figure out how to win at least one M 1000 on clay, or even a lesser clay title?

And this brings up the "happy medium". And I will try to post my idea about this over the weekend.
 
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Drob

Professional
This is that legendary match where Becker was so frustrated after the loss that he publicly implied that Muster was juicing.

I like your moniker - Musterterrific. Even more because in my other mother tongue, Spanish, terrific ("terrifico" commonly, or "terrorifico" by Real Academia standards) means terror, or to cause intense fear. I think the Latin root word also carried the "fear" meaning. It is also a little funny to me because my short chapter on Muster is titled simply "Courage". But he seems at his peak to have put some "terror" into other players.
 
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Waspsting

Hall of Fame
It is interesting that in your account of Boris' MC final vs. Bruguera, Boris is trying to grind it out from the baseline and almost completely eschews the net, or at least the S/V, do I remember correctly your post on that one?
He serve-volleyed very little against Bruguera but I wouldn't say he tried grinding it out either

He threw in a lot (and I mean, a lot) of drop shots and short slices to drag Bruguera forward... mixed in with the grinding stuff. Also a lot of top notch, ground clinging slices that had potential to draw weak balls or curb Brug's hitting or even draw errors, only Brug was flawless in just hitting them back normally

Also good amount of draw short ball and approach off it... but not many short balls coming from Brug

Could have done with more serve-volleying, but I'd say he hit a good 'happy medium'...

- doing decently grinding (given he's likely to - and ended up - getting shorter end of stick at that)
- mixing in the short slices/drop shots to go with the grinding
- and approaching

Not a strategy problem, Bruguera just a bit better. Serve-volleying a bit more might have helped. Brug tends to push back FH returns

It appears he never found a "happy medium."
In this match, no. Grind from baseline on return, serve-volley on serve

Predictably get short end of stick grinding from baseline and mostly hold serve-volleying

With Boris, happy mediums or trends in play count for less than most players. He's quite capable of doing next to nothing on return for extended periods... and then throw out a random, brilliant return game to break

And he's very close to it in this match.

Stunning game at 5-5 in the 4th with 3 successful return-approaches giving him 15-40. Muster pulls off an excellent running FH winner against a strong FH inside-out to save the 2nd break point

Bold runaround FH return winner after that to bring up another break point. On which he misses attempted bold return-approach against a normal first serve

2 superb winners form Muster to wrap up game - the second a pass against another return approach

Tiebreak is similar - brilliant bold play from Boris (with few misses trying) and he leads it comfortably. Muster just edges him out

The last part of 4th set looks very much like a typical Boris, last minute pinch with brilliant, daring play... only Muster holds him off, all credit to Muster for it

Also, I believe Boris' game underwent significant changes from '91 to '95.

In '91, he still seems to fancy himself an all courter and happy to trade groundies with the big boys at that sort of thing
By '95, he's usually 'botting

At least on faster surfaces, that's the trend. Don't have enough matches to judge what he was doing on clay, but these 2 finals (and I have a couple others on clay from '91 period) are along those general
----

Back to the 'happy medium' thought

I don't think Boris is likely to outlast top clay courters like Bruguera or Muster from the baseline. At best, he can keep the UE gap down to small amount

So he needs something to compensate for that. What are possibly options?

- Big serving and large lot of unreturned serves? - possibly. I'd guess that got him through many an earlier round. Possible to get it out of even good clay courters on a good day, but the day would have to be just so. Guys like Bruguera and Muster didn't miss many returns on clay, even against the big servers

- Serve-volleying? - possibly. Tries it here. Think he does pretty well on whole... the kinds of volleys he gets would be very difficult to have to deal with successfully over 5 sets. Nothing overwhelming like a slew or return winners or balls to his feet, but not-easy volleys or volleys that can't be putaway and so on

Making even the volley vs pass battle a bit of a 'grind'

- approaching from rallies? optimally, he'd have to have hitting advantage to draw short balls to come in off. Doesn't get many in either of these matches

- alternative to coming in off short balls is to come in off neutral ones, where passer has better prospects. The kind of thing Edberg or McEnroe did. Haven't seen Boris go in for it much (I'm sure he has... he's done pretty much everything there is to do in the game), but I don't think he's good enough volleyer to come in off 50-50 balls and win the bulk on clay against good passers

- overpowering opponent from the back? difficult on clay against these guys. Tries a bit in both matches, without much success. Makes more errors than is worth it. predictable outcome

- and he does some random stuff, outside obvious options, like all the drop shotting and short slicing. And does it extremely well - much better than I would have expected in the Bruguera match. Works well too, just not quite well enough... and that's with him over-performing in the area

Those three (French Open) SF losses were to Wilander, Edberg, Agassi . . . well?
I did the Agassi match too, which was same year as the Bruguera Monte Carlo one

Similar play by Becker, with short slices and drop shots. Again, pulls it off very well with very few errors and manages to catch Agassi out. Difficult, given that Agassi plays from on the baseline

Very little net play and next to 0 serve-volleying

Think he errs playing too close to lines in that one. Without hitting hard enough to actually force errors out of Agassi (who was still quick of foot in '91), all it does ends up doing is creating an angle for Agassi to use. And Agassi does, of course

Also, Boris' errors go up for going that close to lines

In short, down side of going close to lines (making more errors) is there, but potential upside (drawing more errors) not only isn't, but actually reversed (Agassi being able to use the angle created to be more attacking still, on top of being heavier of shot)

Heaven knows why in all my years as a professional player I never managed to win on clay. That defeat gave me physical pain: I was desperate. It was probably the toughest defeat of my career. I was a failure in my own eyes and in the eyes of my Monesgasque friends. Perhaps it was a sign from above that I had my limits. a victory might have made me lose my humility completely.... Boris also says that in exchange for a French Open championship he would give an arm or a leg - "almost".
I've also heard him respond to matter of never having won a clay title with along the lines of "I won the titles that I really wanted to!" - presumably, meaning Wimbledons

He's one of those guys whose words I take with a pinch of salt... he speaks dramatically and is apt to contradict himself
 

Drob

Professional
He serve-volleyed very little against Bruguera but I wouldn't say he tried grinding it out either

He threw in a lot (and I mean, a lot) of drop shots and short slices to drag Bruguera forward... mixed in with the grinding stuff. Also a lot of top notch, ground clinging slices that had potential to draw weak balls or curb Brug's hitting or even draw errors, only Brug was flawless in just hitting them back normally



He's one of those guys whose words I take with a pinch of salt... he speaks dramatically and is apt to contradict himself
You covered it. I remember now you talked about drop shots and soft angles in your Bruguera-Becker report. Sounds like Becker was looking for something akin to a happy medium, and that he was certainly trying to be creative. So no need for me to go back over some rather superficial ideas I had about how certain attacking serve-volley champs charmed the clay w a few adjustments, particularly Laver.
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
...some rather superficial ideas I had about how certain attacking serve-volley champs charmed the clay w a few adjustments, particularly Laver.
I'd be interested in hearing about it and its something I've wondered about

As far as I know, pre-Borg, serve-volleying and net play was still big winning strategy on clay(?)

Clay might be hardest to finish volleys on, but passing is so difficult with those wooden racquets that I'd think a good volleyer at net is still more likely than not to win big bulk up there

So I've wondered about how those guys played - far as I know, Rosewall, Laver, Kodes, Nastase etc. came to net a fair bit?

How/when/why did things change from net play being important on clay to the Borg/Vilas/Wilander who- blinks-first-from-the-back style dominating?

Would like to hear your thoughts
 
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Drob

Professional
Lots of questions there. We will have to get into them gradually (or, rather I will).

Re. Laver, I was simply going to briefly describe how he dialed it back a little bit in 1969 QF vs. Gimeno. It is an interesting mix of strategies. But, of course, he was playing a guy who:

a. is an all-courter
b. he has met in maybe 70 matches or more
c. beat him at a clay slam final (1966 Barcelona Pro - a one-off World Pro Clay Court Championship, with the Fred Perry Cup to the winner)

So, that particular match might be particular-ish.


Cannot say agree w your gen. observation that the Big Game-type players dominated clay until the late 1970s.


Post-War

Amateur RG, 1946-73 (Pre-Borg)


Bernard, baseliner, 1 RG
Parker, baseliner, 2 RG
Rosewall, baseliner at time he won his amateur RG (1953); all-courter when he won his Open RG
Pietrangeli, baseliner primarily w all-court overlay, 2 RG
Santana, baseliner primarily at the time he won his 2 RG (developed into all-courter)
Kodes, baseliner w all-court overlay, 2 RG
Trabert, all-courter, 2 RG
Drobny, all-courter
Gimeno, all-courter, 1 RG
Nastase, all-courter, 1 RG
Laver, s/v emphasis but all-courter, 2 RG
Emerson, ditto, 2 RG
Roche, famous s/v player but very strong groundstrokes for his time
Hoad, all-courter w s/v emphasis
Rose, s/v, 1 RG
Davidson, all-courter, 1 RG
Stolle, essentially s/v w adequate perhaps baseline skills.
Patty, all-courter w s/v emphasis


I think that is everyone:

4.5 baseliners (dividing Rosewall)

3 baseliners w all-court overlay

5.5 all-courters (dividing Rosewall)

6 s/v preference/emphasis but great all-court skills

1 s/v


Out-and-out "Big Game" players?

Kramer - deliberately ducked both the 1946 and 1947 RG for fear of losing, as he admits in his autobiography
Sedgman - failed to win RG, losing final to Drobny. However, beat Drob at finals of Italian and Monte Carlo.




Very superficially, the switch in mid 1970s to a long succession of baseliners winning RG occurred because the top baseline players were now more aggressive and much harder-hitting than previous baseline champions, and, also, there was a huge dip in quality of the "Big Game-type" of player. Once Newcombe, then Ashe are over-hill (and neither was ever a threat to win RG IMO, although they did win clay tournaments of note) there is only McEnroe for about nine seasons as a legitimate historical serve-volleyer w/in the entire game of tennis.

Stop there. Let's get back to it in greater depth if it merits more research and thought.


Fall of serve-volleyers, rise of baseliners, here is an interesting example:

Watch here match bet. Laver and Borg at a 1977 Invitational for big bucks, played on Har Tru™, which is kind-of, sort-of a bit like real clay. Laver is two months short of 39 and all-but retired from regular tour tennis. How do you think it might go between a 1971 Laver (World Clay Court Champion of 1971 (Italian Open) at just shy of 33 years of age) and this 1977 Borg?

 

Drob

Professional
I'd be interested in hearing about it and its something I've wondered about

As far as I know, pre-Borg, serve-volleying and net play was still big winning strategy on clay(?)

Clay might be hardest to finish volleys on, but passing is so difficult with those wooden racquets that I'd think a good volleyer at net is still more likely than not to win big bulk up there

So I've wondered about how those guys played - far as I know, Rosewall, Laver, Kodes, Nastase etc. came to net a fair bit?

How/when/why did things change from net play being important on clay to the Borg/Vilas/Wilander who- blinks-first-from-the-back style dominating?

Would like to hear your thoughts

Lots of questions there. We will have to get into them gradually (or, rather I will).

Re. Laver, I was simply going to briefly describe how he dialed it back a little bit in 1969 RG QF vs. Gimeno. It is an interesting mix of strategies. But, of course, he was playing a guy who:

a. is an all-courter
b. he has met in maybe 70 matches or more
c. beat Laver at a clay slam final (1966 Barcelona Pro - a one-off World Pro Clay Court Championship, with the Fred Perry Cup to the winner)

So, that particular match might be particular-ish.


Cannot say agree w your gen. observation that the Big Game-type players dominated clay until the late 1970s.


Post-War

Amateur RG, 1946-73 (Pre-Borg)



Bernard, baseliner, 1 RG
Parker, baseliner, 2 RG
Rosewall, baseliner at time he won his amateur RG (1953); all-courter when he won his Open RG
Pietrangeli, baseliner very primarily w all-court overlay, 2 RG
Santana, baseliner primarily at the time he won his 2 RG (developed into all-courter)
Kodes, baseliner w all-court overlay, 2 RG
Trabert, all-courter, 2 RG
Drobny, all-courter
Gimeno, all-courter, 1 RG
Nastase, all-courter, 1 RG
Laver, s/v emphasis but all-courter, 2 RG
Emerson, ditto, 2 RG
Roche, famous s/v player but very strong groundstrokes for his time
Hoad, all-courter w s/v emphasis
Rose, s/v, 1 RG
Davidson, all-courter, 1 RG
Stolle, essentially s/v w adequate perhaps baseline skills.
Patty, all-courter w s/v emphasis


I think that is everyone:

4.5 baseliners (dividing Rosewall)

3 baseliners w all-court overlay

5.5 all-courters (dividing Rosewall)

6 s/v preference/emphasis but great all-court skills

1 s/v


Out-and-out "Big Game" players?

Kramer - deliberately ducked both the 1946 and 1947 RG for fear of losing, as he admits in his autobiography
Sedgman - failed to win RG, losing final to Drobny. However, beat Drob at finals of Italian and Monte Carlo.
Schroeder - like Kramer, avoided RG when he went over for Wimbledon
McGregor - two semifinals
Cooper - one semifinal
Anderson - zilch
Fraser - two semifinals
Newcombe - 2 QF
Smith - 2 QF
Ashe - 2 QF


Note - you could argue that a few of these fellows were more of the s/v emphasis all-court variety, like Newk and Arthur.




Very superficially, the switch in mid 1970s to a long succession of baseliners winning RG occurred because the top baseline players were now more aggressive and much harder-hitting (and mostly better conditioned) than previous baseline champions, and, also, there was a huge dip in quality of the "Big Game-type" of player. Once Newcombe, then Ashe are over-hill (and neither was ever a threat to win RG IMO, although they did win clay tournaments of note) there is only McEnroe for about nine seasons as a legitimate historical serve-volleyer w/in the entire game of tennis.

Stop there on that issue for now. Let's get back to it in greater depth if it merits more research and thought.


Fall of serve-volleyers, rise of baseliners, here is an interesting example:

Watch here match bet. Laver and Borg at a 1977 Invitational for big bucks, played on Har Tru™, which is kind-of, sort-of a bit like real clay. Laver is two months short of 39 and all-but retired from regular tour tennis. How do you think it might go between a 1971 Laver (World Clay Court Champion of 1971 (Italian Open) at just shy of 33 years of age) and this 1977 Borg?

BTW, notice Richard Gonzalez as play-by-play and analyst (and he wants to be the linesman also). Richard so superior to anybody commenting today on TV, stream or radio.



I have a comment or two on the pro game and clay (Post-War) also. Will send along later
 
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