Paul Harhuis' secret...?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by !Tym, Dec 21, 2007.

  1. !Tym

    !Tym Hall of Fame

    May 6, 2004
    1,702 no big secret.

    Now, after having finally gotten the opportunity to watch the mighty senior wonder Paul Harhuis in action; I think I finally solved the riddle as to why this otherwise merely solid, above average tour player is doing so much more on the seniors tour.

    His big secret is simply that he's the only senior I've seen who doesn't look like he's put on an ounce of weight from his full-time playing days.

    Stich used to be a lean and graceful mover, but now he's just carrying around too much weight around the belly for his frame type (i.e. still has the same chicken legs and arms). The guy used to glide around the court like nothing, but now he looks like he lumbers and plods to the ball which has made his once deadly precise forehand and backhand quite predictable in landing a few inches wide, long, etc. His movement is more penguin than black cat now.

    Pioline used to be an athletic, dynamic mover for his husky frame; now it's like watching Al Bundy, fee-fy-foe-twinkie rather than bannana.

    Muster is an absolute shell of his former self. In contrast to many of the seniors, he still puts his game face on (i.e. Stich looks like he's having an extra-marrital affair with Daphne Deckers dressed as the tooth fairy every night judging by the wry grin he seems to flash after every point win or lose)...yet, it's just an act as all the guys know there's no longer any real bark behind the bite.

    To Muster's credit though, the man still winds up with intention. He hasn't gentrified his game any the way Bruguera has, he's a pretty-straightforward, meat and potatoes guy who only knows one way to play and that's hard and bullish. Too bad the bull, now has a pot belly. He's still a ton of fun to watch though. His biggest problem is that he's no longer that consistent, he misfires quite a bit more regularly now even on seemingly routine shots whereas before he really was machine like. I'm starting to think that there's a reason the other top guys didn't seem to regard him as being as talented as them. It's easier to tell who is more naturally talented in my opinion, by whose strokes go the most out of calibration when the constant drilling stops. Muster without the constant drilling seems to prove that he's really not a natural; but rather a guy who needs to ridden like a horse everyday in practice to be the best that he can be. He can't freelance it the way Leconte can, who even if he sat out a year, you feel like he'd somehow manage to buggy whip in a miracle game or two here and there.

    In my opinion, the reason Cash has managed to stay competitive on the seniors tour at his age is simply because the guy looks like he's still ready for a bar fight...he has to be to keep up with the younger (but fatter) guys.

    Back on point, looking at Harhuis now; I'd say he's playing closer to his prime level on tour than any of the seniors right now; or at least to me, it looks like his game has dipped the least ins so far as to me at least he looks like he's exactly the same player he was on tour whereas all the other guys have clearly lost a step...or two...or three. The interesting thing to me though is that his best level seems to be not THAT much better than guys who were better on tour than him but have now let themselves go a little.

    Another thing is simply that it just looks to me like when I look in Paul Harhuis' eyes; he just wants it more than these bloated "champions" of the "champions tour" or "legends tour" or what have you. In other words, you can tell that winning these matches means more to him than it does to the other guys who already know what it is to get all the glory from their days on tour. This is his chance and time to capitalize and shine in my opinion, and he knows it and he looks like he's loving and relishing this "second lease on life" he seems to have gotten. There's just this raw, school boy verve about him, a kind of hop in his step and an aliveness to his style, that just gives me this feeling that this all feels alive and well and REAL to him; whereas with guys like Stich and Muster and Pioline it's more a kind of I don't want to say fake banter, but rather something just feels a bit more hallow about them and other seniors. It's like they're the wives from The Stepford Wives now, it's something not quite real and when it's not quite real it's hard to take the matches seriously as anything more than glorified exhibitions, almost like a kind of travelinc circus show or "reunion tour." Of the seniors, I've seen the ones who make the matches feel less hallow and echoey are Cash, Courier, McEnroe, and Harhuiss.

    Final comment, is that Pioline to me looked a little nervous and timid in playing Harhuis. Like he would be more comfortable in losing and playing against a fellow "name" player than to him. I think these seniors know that the public expects them to beat the likes of "Dr. Who," a.k.a. Paul Harhuis...yet they know he's in better shape than they are and that there's a good chance they'll lose to him in their now slightly less than jockly state of yore.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2007
  2. joe sch

    joe sch Legend

    Feb 19, 2004
    Hotel CA
    !Tym, I agree with your point. Tennis at the higher levels depends soo much on conditioning and movement. Most players get heavier and slower in old age so the ones like Harhuis, who can limit these age handicaps while retaining the skills will be the most competitive in old age. McEnroe is another great example of a player still able to compete at the top levels near 50 year of age. He has not been handicapped with any major injuries, like connors, and can still play very close to the level he played when at the top of the tennis world.
  3. AndrewD

    AndrewD Legend

    Dec 11, 2004
    Where you drunk when you wrote that?
  4. CGMemphis

    CGMemphis Rookie

    Dec 10, 2007
    Memphis, TN
    Great points all around. I enjoy watching these guys still on the tennis channel.

    If my game is that good when Im near 50, I could only hope.

    They would probably wax 95% of this board toady regardless.
  5. wksoh

    wksoh Rookie

    Mar 21, 2006
    Yes yes... I noticed too... the rest looked overweight..
  6. Tyger4Tygers

    Tyger4Tygers New User

    Nov 9, 2007
    I guess his weapon must be his lovely racquet:

    A TYGER !!!

    BTW its Paul HAARHUIS

  7. theone

    theone Banned

    Sep 29, 2007
    How the hell did Rusedski lose though
  8. martin

    martin Banned

    May 6, 2004
    Rusedski lost twice actually. I think the level of these old guys is better than people think and certainly for two sets. Some are overweight but certainly not everyone. Bruguera is still in very good shape just like Haarhuis and a few others besides that Haarhuis is a better player than people realize. Haarhuis started to play seriously when he was already 24 years of age. Don't forget that Haarhuis had very good records against Sampras, Becker and Ivanisevic but could lose against more average opponents. I thought he was more inconsistent than people think.
  9. Legend of Borg

    Legend of Borg Legend

    Sep 13, 2007
    And speaking of the seniors tour, I have not seen Mikael Pernfors win a single match. Its always either Courier, Pioline, or someone else giving him a thrashing. He does have some pretty impressive shots thought, even for his age.
  10. mdjenders

    mdjenders Professional

    Sep 25, 2006
    A replay of Haarhuis crushing Stich was on tennis channel today, and this guy is pretty impressive. Would it be too much of a stretch to say that he might be the number one Dutch player at the moment?
  11. nickb

    nickb Banned

    Jun 23, 2006
    Make that 100% :)
  12. lordmanji

    lordmanji Guest

    well i play with a lot of 50 year olds despite being 26 and these guys are in very good shape and very consistent. i could easily see that theyd be even better if they were young, but the game is still pretty much there.

    regarding haarhuis, i dont know what shape he was in when he was playing so its hard to comment on anything absolutely. but to the extent of apperances, yes, he does seem to be in better shape, bring more fire to his game and revel in beating HOFers. you look at his career and he's purely a doubles player so its a good assumption that he's so motivated because he wants his singles career back.

    btw, his serve motion is strange. he takes his left footstep late and doesnt seem to be able to put all his weight on it as a result but still gets wonderful pop. imagine how much more pop he'd get with a normal motion.
  13. !Tym

    !Tym Hall of Fame

    May 6, 2004
    The 41-year-old Haarhuis, whose major successes during his playing career came in doubles, has carved out a new career for himself on the BlackRock Tour of Champions. With three successive BlackRock Masters Tennis titles, he is arguably the best 40+ year-old tennis player in the world. It is an achievement that he puts down to supreme physical conditioning.
    “I’m fit and I’m moving well and that’s the main ingredient. I work really hard on my fitness which is the key and I also still enjoy playing my tennis,” he said.
    He joins John McEnroe as the only other player to win three consecutive BlackRock Masters Tennis titles.
    “Winning three in a row is a great feeling because it was a real thrill to win here just the first time. Saying my name in the same breath as John McEnroe, well that’s amazing,” he said.


    The above is an excerpt I found from the official write-up on his third straight victory at the year ending championships.

    I think it pretty much sums up what I hypothesized. The guy just wants it more than the others. To him, this his chance at getting the SINGLES glory he never quite achieved on tour; while for others this is for the most part just for good fun at this point. They want to do well, but it's not like they're suffering from any mid-life crisis or anything and they need this to make them feel any better or different about themselves--why should they when they're content.

    Btw, I don't think I'm underestimating the caliber of Paul Harhuis' game. He was a very good player on tour, and considered a dangerous floater when at his best who could upset the very best on any given day if he was at his best. He was definitely a gamer, and was regarded as such; an extremely well-rounded and fluid hitter and mover from anywhere on the court, but he lacked and still lacks any single devastating weapon or extra gear. He only *seems* like he has an extra gear now, but that's because he's got the *mind*-set of a single, young man playing with married, old men; it's relative.

    The difference is that a guy like Courier more than just fitness, just doesn't have the same caliber of timing and alertness to the ball he used to. Before if Courier hit a big forehand and you spit it right back at him, he could reset and rebuild his attack all-over again mid-stream, right in the middle of a point. What I saw against Harhuis was if Harhuis got one of his big forehands back, his reaction times just weren't alert enough to the ball to regroup and rebuild the point.

    The thing about devastating weapons at the tour level is NOT that it's literally like a video game where if someone like Moya or Courier or Berasategui get a crack at their big forehand, bang, points automatically over; not at all. It's rarely just ONE shot ends it all when you have guys as fit and honed in and calibrated as full-time tour players are. What you find, and the primary difference between the seniors and the full-time guys is that, if a full-time guy like Moya hits a big forehand he's ALWAYS ready to expect the next ball. It's not just ONE forehand that'll do the trick most of the time, most of the time he better be prepared to hit not just one, but two-three, sometimes even four big forehands in a row to *for sure* secure the point.

    Against most of the seniors, Courier's just a little more intense and alert to the ball; he gets away with it. Harhuis, however, matches AND exceeds his intensity and alertness to the ball. It's far more than just fitness, in my opinion.

    Bruguera is still trim, but if you compare his build now to his peak; he looks markedly different. The bodily transformation is somewhat akin to Medvedev's where in the span of a few short years he became much heavier set. Bruguera plays close to tour level these days primarily because of his soccer playing though in my opinion. He still moves very nimbly, but the biggest difference to me is that he doesn't even come close to matching the intensity he showed in say the 97 Lipton semis against Sampras.

    Harhuis, in contrast, you can just tell from the look in his eyes in the Courier Dubai final, that it's a different kind of intensity from the other guys. He masks it well with the same grins and banter as the other senior guys, but underneath the surface the *twitchyness* in his step and most of all his ALERTNESS to the ball is what gives it away--that when he gets in position to steal the year ending seniors championships from the big names he really does look at it as this is my LAST chance to STEAL a little bit of their heavenly glory for myself.

    It's not just that he's trimmer and thus a half to three steps quicker than the other seniors these days, it's that he's more ALERT to the ball, CONSISTENTLY, by what seems like a few extra millaseconds *every* time.

    When Stich banters, then plays the point; it's not JUST that he's carrying a few extra pounds, but just as much and *more so* in my opinion that his alertness to picking up subtle ball cues just isn't as quick. That has nothing to do with fitness in my opinion, that has to do with the deep down kind of THIRST for winning that you can't fake like an actor playing to a script.

    Harhuis can banter, but bang as soon as the point start he picks up any subtle cue to give him the advantage in the point. Look at Muster, he had his game face on against Courier in the semis, but his reactions to even routine balls were one step behind even when he didn't have to run for the ball; that's what I'm talking about.

    I recently watched the entire 97 Bruguera-Rafter French semis, and it was amazing to see the difference. This was a nerve-filled matched from both, and the key is that you can tell this the SECOND you turn on the match just by the AURA of TENSION you can feel emmanating from their body. You turn on a seniors match, and you instantly know this is a seniors RECREATION match, not a HIGH-STAKES match where if you drew an imaginary line through the players it'd look like a stretched rubber band. THIS is the kind and degree of tension Bruguera was talking about when he said *only* the guys who've been to the top know what it's like.

    And while this kind of nervous tension can definitely lead to some baffling errors and games at pivotal parts of the match as both guys displayed, it also leads to an overall much more ELEVATED level of play throughout.

    Harhuis' biggest thing right now is that HE has that extra gear now relative to his "name" peers; whereas on tour it was they who had that extra gear.

    When everyone's in cruise-control, everyone's even; it's the extra gear, the ability to elevate that little extra when you REALLY need it (see the 4th set tie-breaker), that tour insiders look for when trying to assess which tour prospects have the potential to be top players and which ones don't.

    Even when Rafter was first coming up, he was picked to be a future top player by many; but Harhuis never was, and in my opinion, that was not by accident. You can clearly see in this 97 French semi, that even on his worst surface, Rafter just had that little extra gear in him that could push and FORCE other top players to HAVE to bring out their A game if they expected to win.

    Personally, I never saw that kind of potential in Harhuis. I saw a guy who could beat top players if they weren't at their best, but there are a lot more guys who fit that description than there are ACTUAL top players who win slams and that's for a reason.

    In my opinion, the slow court equivalent of a guy like Harhuis is someone like Fernando Meligenni, who was once a French semifinalist. This guy definitely had talent, and like Harhuis had very fluid movement and strokes which were ALMOST as good as the very best on his best surface...yet still not quite (and, hey, I really liked Melligeni too).

    Melligeni not surprisingly has made I believe two finals in a row when the Blackrock tour went to his home country Brazil.

    If Melligeni really decided that he wanted this VERY bad, and more importantly, was told organizers would even give someone with his name the opportunity to compete for the year ending championships; I have NO DOUBT that a TOUR-level intense and fit Melligeni would like Harhuis consistently appear as though his reactions and alertness to the subtle naunces of the ball and a point were that *extra* millisecond or two better than his opponents. This makes ALL the difference between being hand-cuffed by nice return from your opponent, and hitting a *good shot off a good shot*, which is what you MUST do at the tour level to survive consistently and what is NOT needed on the seniors tour to remain competitive. What is competitive anyway at this level? If you want to be JUST competitive is almost nothing for any of these guys. Almost any one of these seniors could still go on tour and put up games here and there if they wanted to prove they could do that; but actually WIN the match, let alone consistently, is a far different story and why they retired. The deep-down desire both carries you to victory and to defeat at this level, but even at their worst moments former top players who've lost their desire are still *competitive* and able to put up games and respectable scores.

    Just remember, at the world class level, *everyone's* sparring level is the same--no difference, none. Marat Safin loses to junior players in practice, it *means* nothing to him...and that is exactly the point.
  14. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

    Dec 27, 2005
    was just watching his match with Courier & they flashed an interesting graphic on Haarhuis: he was 19-39 vs top 10 players! I wonder if Gasquet, Blake, & Davydenko have 19 wins combined over top 10 players.
  15. ohlori

    ohlori Rookie

    Dec 13, 2006
    Haarhuis has more than 20 top 10 wins according to the ATP-site.

    They were against the following players:


    Doubles was his main profession, but he liked beating top 10 players as a hobby.
  16. ohlori

    ohlori Rookie

    Dec 13, 2006
    and Korda too :-|
  17. !Tym

    !Tym Hall of Fame

    May 6, 2004
    I agree with all of the above results, and yes he was a dangerous floater and he was known during his day to be an upset happy player (remember when he first became known was when he "upset" John McEnroe at the US Open who said who is this guy before the match, and automatically assumed easy match).

    However, there is a different kind of fact. The guy was never ACTUALLY a top player.

    I mean Fabrice Santoro has beaten the whose who list of the best players to ever walk the planet earth...he's never been considered anything more than a dangerous floater though. No one ever said based on the strength of his upsets, that he should be a top tenner for the simple reason that he's NOT a top ten caliber player.

    Fabrice Santoro will beat top players when they're not at their best, but a top player at his best WILL beat him. Just because he has Safin's number does not mean he's capable of winning let alone competing for a slam like Safin.

    Pioline and Rios were as flaky as they come mentally, but they made slam finals and semis before at least when they got their heads together. That's because they had an extra gear in them. The way Pioline raised his game in the semis against a completely game Stich motivated to go out with a bang at Wimbledon, the way Rios raised his game to embarrass Agassi after Agassi and Gilbert started mocking him in the locker room for being, "the little man," at the Lipton? THAT'S my definition of an extra gear, and projected top ten players have that. An extra gear is when you say hey if so and so top player is in the zone, they're going to beat everyone on the planet today. Alberto Berasategui may not have been as well-rounded as Harhuis, but he DID make the top ten in his career and he did reach a slam final, and he DID show that if he's on with his forehand he can beat ANYONE in the world that day, even on not his best surface and past his prime, as he showed in beating Rafter and Agassi back to back at the Aussie Open.

    Harhuis to me at least was never that kind of player who could go into "superman" mode the way Pioline occasionally could. He was to me rather more like Santoro, a TRICKY player for other top players to play, the kind of tricky player other top players don't generally like to play, because they know that if they lose to him it makes them look bad, hurts their rep, but know the guy's good enough to beat them if they're not on their game. Such players are a difficult mental matchup for top players, because from the top players perspective; it's hey, I have NOTHING to gain and everything to lose, but this very, very, very GOOD (*not great*) guy's got EVERYTHING to gain and nothing to lose.

    In all sports, when you have this mental dynamic going; it'll often times lead to subpar performances from the favored "name" player.

    Heck, you could even see something similar in Crocop's eyes when he lost to Chiek Kongo...a big, good kickboxer who Crocop is EXPECTED to defeat...yet poses enough threat to his manhood (plus the pressure of coming off the humiliating defeat to Gonzaga)...that he can't quite let loose and just let it all go and perform up to his full capabilities. If Crocop is mentally at peak and at full capabilities and confident coming in, he'd run through Kongo...but NOT on this day. That's just how it is in sports, when these sort of MENTAL matchups come up.

    Btw, if it seems like I have a tinge of bias against Harhuis, it's true. It's not because I didn't like rooting for him on tour though, it's because I don't think it's good for seniors tennis when a guy like Paul Harhuis walks in and mops the floor with everyone, and beats Courier in the year ending championships, of his OWN tour.

    Do you think the sponsors agreed to pay for the tour with the idea that Paul Harhuis would be making all their "legends" look positively amateur?

    I don't. It's just the bigger picture I see. I think that Harhuis comes in as a ringer, and has a decided mental advantage over the guys he's playing, and is taking advantage of it. He has nothing to lose by losing to them, "oh, hey, it IS John McEnroe after all," etc.; but they and the sponsors have everything to lose by losing to him. Who do you think was under the more disfavorable mental pressure and handicap in the finals, Courier or Harhuis? In my opinion, Courier by a long shot.

    Guys like Melligeni, Furlan, and Harhuis have all put up good to great showings here and there, when they were intended as filler. I understand why they're needed, but by the same token; this isn't a REAL tour. This is half-WWF pro wrestling where you NEED the big names to go the distance and seem larger than life. If one "jobber" guy comes in head and shoulders more motivated and fitter than the rest, and spoils the legends get together nostalgia royal rumble that right? The seniors tour is for nostalgia, it's *more* for the FANS than it is for the "legitimate" competition. Borg's popular return to the tour this year bears that out.

    Most fans would rather see Vilas out there than Harhuis, I know I would, not because Harhuis is the better player at this time, but rather because I know, hey, this might be my last chance to get to watch the wily old geezer before it's too late! (think Laver now)

    On the old Connors seniors tour, they once decided to have the novel, benign idea of having a local open invitational qualifying doubles tournament, where the winning team get to play with the "legends" in a "real" match in the actual event.

    UH-OH...BIG problem. The local doubles team comprised nobody A and nobody B actually BEAT one of the legends teams in the first round.

    Thus, what was designed to be a just in good fun little gimic, turned into a nightmare for the sponsors and the tour's image as after all they couldn't just let some unknown nobodies beat their legends, EVEN IF THEY COULD, or else, what would that say about their so-called "legends" everyone's paying the big bucks to come and see?

    Not surprisingly, after this fiasco, the organizers quickly decided to stop this whoe local qualifying tournament idea, which whilst more indicative of and in line with the spirit of "genuine" competition, is NOT what a seniors tour is all about (it's in reality, a traveling circus attraction, and NOT legit like the senior golf tour, which because golf isn't a true physical sport, is the ONLY "legit" senior sport in the world. Any activitiy based sport, will NEVER be able to hold a legitimate senior tour that would be received by the fans and media).

    When my friend and I who is only a casual fan of tennis decided to go watch world team tennis, believe me his consideration of which match to attend, was made VERY simple based on one single criteria: MCENROE.

    We BOTH wanted to see McEnroe for once in our lives before we thought it was too late. It didn't matter if McEnroe won or lost at that point in our minds, the point was to just see him (he lost by the way).

    Now, the thing is, I would watch anyway; but without McEnroe would the casual fan want to?

    No one can stop Harhuis from playing at this point, it's his right and he's earned it (I believe he was a substitute wild card the first time he won the event...and now what? You can't NOT have him be in it after just have to grit your teeth and hope he loses if you're a sponsor); but by the same token I can't help but feel his overzealousness in taking BOTH of the seniors event grand prizes hurts the tours overall. Yes, I know it's wrong of me to think this, but it is what it is.
  18. ohlori

    ohlori Rookie

    Dec 13, 2006

    I agree with what you say. It's difficult to sell *****house.
    This statistic of 1 ATP title (Jakarta) also makew you think of a one hit wonder. They always show this statistic at the BBC.
    His doubles partner, Jacco Eltingh, has 4 ATP titles, but Haarhuis played more finals and on a bigger stage.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2008
  19. Fearsome Forehand

    Fearsome Forehand Professional

    Aug 23, 2007
    Paul played his college tennis at a fine Dutch institution. Florida State University.

    He was a legitimate top twenty five singles player in his prime. No slouch by any means. Half of one of the best doubles teams ever.

    I don't think many of the seniors take those matches very seriously.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2008
  20. Jonnyf

    Jonnyf Legend

    Feb 28, 2005
    Scotland ;-)
    I've seen Paul play from a few feet twice and to me he just hits far more consistantly than the other senior tour players, he gets alot in, hits a high % of first serves (which he can knock around 130mph) and he's also really pretty quick. He just consistantly drills balls and get's into a position where he can win rally's he really shouldn't.
  21. ohlori

    ohlori Rookie

    Dec 13, 2006
    Blake: 13 wins over top 10
    Davydenko: 13 wins
    Gasquet: 7 wins

  22. 35ft6

    35ft6 Legend

    Feb 18, 2005
    The most out of shape player I've seen is Tim Mayotte. Not sure why they let him play.
  23. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

    Dec 27, 2005
    ^He was a last minute substitute for Wilander. I doubt he'll be playing any other event anytime soon. It must be pretty hard to find a former top 10 player to fill in at the last minute at these events. Its kinda a big ask, if you don't really play/train every day anymore.

    did you just do the research yourself or is there a way to easily find this stuff out? I must have mistaken Gasquet & Blake's records vs top 5 players with their records vs top 10.
    I recall seeing some stats on them on espn last summer, they were like 3-20 vs top 5 players in their career or something at the time.
  24. ohlori

    ohlori Rookie

    Dec 13, 2006
    I just browsed through the data on the ATP site.
  25. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

    Oct 4, 2004
    I guess some players just age better. It is like seniors golf where an okay player who can dominate as former star players diminish.

    Did you see the line up for next year - is there any way Henman should not win since he is fresh off the pro tour?

Share This Page