Most talented player of all time

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
There is a c. 2010 video somewhere (that may have been removed by now), in which someone gave wooden racquets (I think Dunlop Maxplys and Wilson Jack Kramers) to a bunch of today’s pros and asked them to hit with them. I think the group may have included the Bryan brothers, but it did include Djokovic.

They all said they didn’t know how the pros in 60s could hit with these racquets, because the heads were so small. To them, it was amazing.
I think that Djokovic in particular, with his two-handed and special hand grip, would have enormous trouble with the old wood racquets. I doubt that Djokovic's or Nadal's two-handed backhands would work at all with the older racquets. They rely on the lighter weight and larger hitting area from the new racquets.
 

Olli Jokinen

Semi-Pro
What happen to Azzuri? I liked the guy. He was helpful in a number of thread and he amused me.

Revised possible most talented list

Tilden
Vines
Budge
Kramer
Riggs
Gonzalez
Kovacs
Hoad
McNeill
Nastase
Borg
Connors
McEnroe
Okker
Kodes
Sampras
Federer
Leconte
Mecir
Korda
Nalbanian
Nadal
Djokovic
Murray (Sorry but I think he's gifted)
Laver
del Potro
Newcombe
Ashe
Vijay Amritraj (one of the smoothest players I've ever seen)


My definition of talent is at their peak level-how strong is their play? A lot of it has to do with their offensive firepower and defense.

An NFL coach once said that if he scouted a player making an incredible play just once, he saw no reason why it couldn't be repeated. I can see that as a definition of talent in tennis. All of these players could be fantastic when in the zone.
No Edberg? That guy was insanely talented.
 

thrust

Hall of Fame
No Edberg? That guy was insanely talented.
Tennis was much less athletic in Tilden's day, which did not take as much physical talent as later, or especially today. Vines, seems to me to have been an inconsistent talented player. Whether his problem was more physical or mental, I do not know. He seems to have been an underachiever. From what I have read, Budge was a very talented all court player who unfortunately, was injured in WW2 which hampered his tennis after the war. Still though, he was a top player despite his injury.
 
Agassi as most talented? IF he was so talented, how come he won 8 slams to Pete's 14. One YE #1 vs Pete's-6, weeks at #1- Andre-101, Pete-286. Yes, Andre was very talented but not nearly as much as Pete.
They both were equally talented. But Andre won all the big trophies while Pete wasnt good enough to win the French or a Gold medal. Also Andre was under 6 ft tall, so he overachieved.
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
If I believe the very old witnesses, Joshua Pim was the very talented one in those days . Here are some extracts that I listed in another post :

About Joshua Pim, Hillyard wrote in 1924-1925 : "Dr Pim then, at his best, was one of the greatest players (some think the greatest) ever seen. /.../ Complete master of every stroke on the court, there were two in particular I have never seen equalled. Indeed one of these I have never seen attempted by any other player. This was a drop volley made from any point between the service and base lines. / ... in a back of the court rally his opponent would drive a ball ... But the "Doctor", on occasion, did not let it bound. A rapid step or two forward, a snap of the wrist, and behold he had drop volleyd that ball short over the net, and left his antagonist stranded and staring, yards and yards away ! It was an amazing stroke, and one that only an absolute master fo the game could hope to bring off. Try it for yourself and see ! The other stroke I refer to was his lob ..."

Later probably Malcolm Douglass Whitman who had a very short career but seemed almost invincible.

Norman Brookes who was a very crafted serve and volley player (in 1924-25 still thought that Brookes' serve was better than Tilden's) but had no stamina at all.

Tilden naturally.

Cochet who made Tilden crazy for 3 consecutive years and in particular in the 1929 Davis Cup Challenge Round when Tilden said "Cochet plays a game I don't know".

Vines of course.

If some (Hopman, Kramer, ...) considered that Budge was the best day in day out and had a very complete game then he was probably very talented.

Frank Kovacs also was very talented. In particular in his opening match against Budge in the 41-42 pro North American tour the gallery expressed his Kovac's game admiration (the best backhand after Budge in those times). In 1952 he was still able to beat Gonzales (in one of their two matches played at Philadelphia) and in 1955 he had still match points against Gorgo.

Gonzales hadn't very efficient groundstrokes however he was such a competitor that he was talented.

Hoad of course (I don't think as you suggest that Rosewall considered Laver more talented but at the time of Rosewall's comment, around 1972 (or a few years before ?)? Laver was Ken's main opponent while Hoad was retired since many years).

Laver naturally

In late 1974 Robert "Bob" Anthony John Hewitt (not to confuse with Lleyton Hewitt) considered that the best two players he had faced were Laver and Hoad but in terms of talent he seemed to favour Nastase instead of Laver and considered that when Nastase was hot he could reached summits as high as Hoad.

Borg was probably much more talented than many thought (but it is true that he worked very hard : 5 hours a day and even 7 hours to prepare the Slam tournaments).

Mac of course (he was told as not training more than a hour a day).

Henri Leconte (not "LeConte" or even "Le Conte") though I don't think he was as talented as it was claimed. To give you an example, he never beat Becker except during one month in their whole careers : at Hambourg in May 1988 and a few weeks later at Roland Garros on clay each time, the worst surface of the German. Very often on fast surfaces Leconte could take a set from Boris but couldn't make better.

Becker naturally : once I watched him on TV stating that in terms of talent he was between Lendl (the less talented) and McEnroe (the more talented) but I think he was very close to Mac and perhaps even superior to John.

Mecir's performance at Key Biscayne against Lendl in 1987 seemed to have been great (I haven't watched the match)

Sampras not bad at all : his Asian and MSG exhibitions against Federer after an almost 5-year retirement speak for themselves. In the summer of 1999 between Wimbledon and Cincinatti he "walked on water" as stated Agassi.

Agassi also apparently didn't train hard in his early career (it seems that his 1997 decline has changed his train habits.

Stich's win at Wimby has perhaps demotivated him afterwards.

Possibly Philippoussis : I watched the whole 2000 Paris-Bercy final he played against Safin and until Marat slightly injured himself (the match was stopped a few minutes), Philippoussis was overwhelming, dominating Safin from head to foot. But when play resumed, Mark had lost some of his impetus and Safin came back to eventually lift the trophy. And before at Wimby 1999 he led Sampras 6-4 1-2 before retiring but he proved that he could have seriously threatened the great Sampras that day. And the same year on indoor clay in the Davis Cup final many observers thought that no one could play better than Philippoussis did against Grosjean and Pioline.

Safin's performances at the 2000 US Open final and the 2005 Australian Open final rounds were superb.

Federer of course.

Nalbandian whose play in particular on medium fast indoor carpets can be absolutely amazing : remember his performances at Madrid and Paris in 2007 when he clearly dominated Federer and crushed Nadal both times.

Nadal impresses me more and more : he never ceases to improve technically so he must have a certain amount of talent. Perhaps he is underrated as Borg was in his time.

Wait and see for Tsonga.
Another great who seems to get overlooked in historical terms was Richard Williams, whose style of play influenced the young Vines, who played in a very similar fashion. Williams career was interrupted by WWI, and he won a bunch of medals in that war, which may have taken something out of him physically. He seemed to get tired in long matches after the war.
 
Pure physical talent? IMHO, Agassi. Never have seen such a clean/pure ball striker at court level, and that includes the big 3, etc. Mentally though, he was far from the best.
 

GameSetR

Rookie
Pure physical talent? IMHO, Agassi. Never have seen such a clean/pure ball striker at court level, and that includes the big 3, etc. Mentally though, he was far from the best.
I think Agassi was too slow to be considered the most talented ever, if we combined all aspects of what talent is. Too slow, and with highly mediocre touch around the net.

I think Connors was a lot more talented than Agassi.
 

socallefty

Legend
We could measure talent by who wins tennis matches the most - everything else seems totally subjective and some play styles look more effortless than others. Some say that baseliners are not talented because they play long points and have to work hard for their points. Then are servebots the most talented as they play the shortest points? No, the same people exclude servebots from the talented player discussion and pick other guys who play longer points than them, but tend to finish points at the net,

Djokovic leads the career winning stats at 83.2% and Nadal is 2nd at 83.1%. Federer is 4th (behind Borg) at 82%, but it is more impressive considering that he played till 39 while Borg retired at 25. The Big 3 not only won more Slams than anyone else, but won matches at a higher rate than everyone else, period. They are all immensely talented in their own way.
 
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skaj

Legend
Pure physical talent? IMHO, Agassi. Never have seen such a clean/pure ball striker at court level, and that includes the big 3, etc. Mentally though, he was far from the best.
How is clean/pure striking physical talent? You should see people like Davenport and Nalbandian, if you haven't seen as pure striker as Agassi.

As for his mentality, I think he was among the stronger players mentally(in matches, consistency in terms of dedication to tennis is another thing).
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
We could measure talent by who wins tennis matches the most - everything else seems totally subjective and some play styles look more effortless than others. Some say that baselines are not talented because they play long points and have to work hard for their points. Then are servebots the most talented as they play the shortest points? No, the same people exclude servebots from the talented player discussion and pick other guys who play longer points than them, but tend to finish points at the net,

Djokovic leads the career winning stats at 83.2% and Nadal is 2nd at 83.1%. Federer is 4th (behind Borg) at 82%, but it is more impressive considering that he played till 39 while Borg retired at 25. The Big 3 not only won more Slams than anyone else, but won matches at a higher rate than everyone else, period. They are all immensely talented in their own way.
Weak field era.
This idea of "most talented" goes beyond who wins the most whatever. It is about who developed the highest level of play.

Some of the leading candidates for "most talented" or "highest level of play" did not receive the most ink over ratings or achievements. Williams, Vines, Kovacs, Hoad, Safin, did not usually get much recognition for their achievements.
 
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Drob

Professional
Weak field era.
This idea of "most talented" goes beyond who wins the most whatever. It is about who developed the highest level of play.

Some of the leading candidates for "most talented" or "highest level of play" did not receive the most ink over ratings or achievements. Williams, Vines, Kovacs, Hoad, Safin, did not usually get much recognition for their achievements.

Hey Dan, I haven't read this entire thread. Did you pick Hoad as most "talented" in history? :unsure:
 

Drob

Professional
I vote either Pancho Gonzalez or John McEnroe since both had the talent to beat anybody in the world till about 40 years of age and both were able to keep playing at world class levels till about 50 years old. Mac is still going. Both also dominated the world for atleast 5 years.
Interesting. There is much to be said in favor of each for most talented - more for "most talented" in favor of Mac. Richard was a warrior. He could sweat it out. I wouldn't put him top-five or even top-10 most "talented" I very much doubt. But would probably put him top-five most outstanding, "greatest" overall. So it is interesting to see you emphasize his sheer talent, whereas to me he is incredibly high talent (but not top-five, and probably not top-10) combined with top-five or 10 heart and top-10 cunning.
 

Frankc

Professional
There is a great book where the classic tennis greats were interviewed - wish I could remember the name. Many interviews - very interesting. Mac was mentioned by several. Mako, who was respected by all the other greats for his talent and mind, flat out stated that Mac was the distinctive Tennis genius. No doubt in his mind...
 

CHillTennis

Semi-Pro
Just curious about your opinions on who is the most talented player ever. It doesn't necessarily mean achievement but you can for example name a player like Safin if you think he's the most talented ever. It's all subjective and I'm curious about people's thoughts here. You can name the most talented male player and the most talented female player. No such thing as wrong answer here.
Federer
Sampras
McEnroe
Djokovic
Agassi

Those would be my top 5.
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
Hey Dan, I haven't read this entire thread. Did you pick Hoad as most "talented" in history? :unsure:
I would have to review the thread to find out...I don't think that I would be blunt enough to settle on one particular player.
But the main point is that the group of super-talents I mentioned above, Williams, Vines, Kovacs, Hoad, Safin share a similar under-appreciation by the print media for their achievements.
 

Antónis

Professional
JMac for the best hands for touch shots, specially at net.
Marcelo Rios for baseline rally's, he could hit angles like nobody from both wings
RF for all court shots: he can do magic from nowhere. And this comes from a guy that never was a fan of him
 

Drob

Professional
I would have to review the thread to find out...I don't think that I would be blunt enough to settle on one particular player.
But the main point is that the group of super-talents I mentioned above, Williams, Vines, Kovacs, Hoad, Safin share a similar under-appreciation by the print media for their achievements.
I did not see that post you mentioned - only read first 2-3 pages of the thread. Can you repost or give me the number?
 

urban

Legend
Williams, Kovacs, Hoad and Safin also had the good looks of filmstars, which also is a natural given talent. Tilden wrote a lot of story tales, where the hero always was built and named after Dick Williams. Adonis Hoad looked like a younger version of Bob Mitchum. And people adored Safin, he was popular in France because of Marat. I tthink, the new villain in the new Bond Movie is called Safin.
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
I did not see that post you mentioned - only read first 2-3 pages of the thread. Can you repost or give me the number?
The designation "most talented" allows us to highlight certain players who would otherwise be underrated or ignored, such as Kovacs, whose great talent did not result in great records in majors.

Or Vijay Amritraj, or even Nastase, whose major record should have been greater.
It looks like I mentioned Kovacs as an example of "most talented", and suggested that "most talented" were not necessarily the most highly rated on career achievements.
 

skaj

Legend
JMac for the best hands for touch shots, specially at net.
Marcelo Rios for baseline rally's, he could hit angles like nobody from both wings
RF for all court shots: he can do magic from nowhere. And this comes from a guy that never was a fan of him
Rios also had a great touch for the volleys and delicate shots. Nalbandian was another one who had a great control from the baseline off both sides, plus a superb touch for fine shots(drop shots, volleys, half-volleys, lobs...).
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
You are, of course, right. But then the implicit question becomes what did Vijay achieve compared to Connors or Borg?

Yes, absolutely.

These names implicitly corroborate my point. Kovacs, Amitraj, even Nastase never achieved what was suggested by their displays of talent.

In its way, "most talented" is certainly a compliment, but it is--what we call in English--a "backhanded compliment".
Vijay was lifetime 5 wins 6 losses against Connors, not bad. He let both Borg and Connors escape from big leads at Wimbledon.
 

GameSetR

Rookie
Big serve and showboating is not talent.
I agree. I'm so sick of people hyping that journeyman's talent.

Nick Krybaby dreams that he had the natural talent of a Mac, Sampras, or Borg.

Safin was a good mention though. I do believe Safin was among the most talented players ever.
 

GameSetR

Rookie
Federer, love him or hate him, is probably the guy who's talent just jumps off the screen the most of any player, even if you were a casual observer.

With Nole and Nadal, it takes a more nuanced approach to realize how good they are. Prime Federer, the talent is just readily apparent. So yeah, I think he has as good a case as any as the most talented ever.
 
How is clean/pure striking physical talent? You should see people like Davenport and Nalbandian, if you haven't seen as pure striker as Agassi.

As for his mentality, I think he was among the stronger players mentally(in matches, consistency in terms of dedication to tennis is another thing).
Posting this so people can remember how good Davenport was at ball striking
 

R. Schweikart

Professional
Just curious about your opinions on who is the most talented player ever. It doesn't necessarily mean achievement but you can for example name a player like Safin if you think he's the most talented ever. It's all subjective and I'm curious about people's thoughts here. You can name the most talented male player and the most talented female player. No such thing as wrong answer here.
It has been settled now (2021).
Federer and Graf.
 

Drob

Professional
There is a c. 2010 video somewhere (that may have been removed by now), in which someone gave wooden racquets (I think Dunlop Maxplys and Wilson Jack Kramers) to a bunch of today’s pros and asked them to hit with them. I think the group may have included the Bryan brothers, but I am certain it did include Djokovic.

They all said they didn’t know how the pros in 60s could hit with these racquets, because the heads were so small. To them, it was amazing.
You are absolutely correct. It was Nile, The Bryans and 2 or 3 others and your paraphrase of Dojkovich is almost exactly his words
 

Drob

Professional
Huh? Sorry, just uh?, no, well "u"? does not make sense, maybe "what"? No. Lots of h words.

Let me try something and see what happens to my post.

Lew Hoad is the most talented, powerful, deadly player of All-Time. Hoad, Hoad, Hoad. Gonzalez said Hoad was the best . . . and Gonzalez was the best so he should know. Laver still thinks Hoad is the G.O.A.T., but does not wish to be impolitic. Even Kramer indicated that Hoad had the most talent. Hoad is the most talented of all-time and the G.O.A.T.


;)
 

mental midget

Hall of Fame
JMac for the best hands for touch shots, specially at net.
Marcelo Rios for baseline rally's, he could hit angles like nobody from both wings
RF for all court shots: he can do magic from nowhere. And this comes from a guy that never was a fan of him
these are my three as well. it's a squishy subject because how do you leave out pete, borg, laver, etc? my definition is heavily weighted towards guys who just plain had the touch, who make it look like, to used a clichéd expression, the racket is an extension of their arm. by that metric, hard to top these gentlemen.
 

Boubi

Semi-Pro
Huh? Sorry, just uh?, no, well "u"? does not make sense, maybe "what"? No. Lots of h words.

Let me try something and see what happens to my post.

Lew Hoad is the most talented, powerful, deadly player of All-Time. Hoad, Hoad, Hoad. Gonzalez said Hoad was the best . . . and Gonzalez was the best so he should know. Laver still thinks Hoad is the G.O.A.T., but does not wish to be impolitic. Even Kramer indicated that Hoad had the most talent. Hoad is the most talented of all-time and the G.O.A.T.


;)
None of those guys played McEnroe or Federer
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
Maybe I have an odd idea about talent. Could be.
I believe it means natural aptitude or skill, that is an unlearned and untaught, unpracticed, innate ability.

When it comes to tennis, I think of "most talented" as being part of an inverse relationship between accomplishments and learned abilities, hardwork, and daily practice.
Meaning that the most talented player is the one who was little taught and practiced little but still manages to achieve much.

Here is a hypothetical example to help suggest my point--
Two players each win three slams and the same number of lesser tournaments.
One was taught tennis from age two years, practiced a lot every day for decades, came up through the juniors, and has a whole team coaching him all the time.
The other player picks up a racquet at age 17, gets a few lessons, and miraculously starts winning tournaments.

These players are equally accomplished, but I conclude that the second player is more talented.
 
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