Was Pat Rafter a luckier Tim Henman?

Arzivu

Rookie
Watching these two serve & volleyers from the past, I cannot say that Pat was such a superior player or he had a more complete game from Tim. In fact, I think that Henman had a better forehand and was equally good at the net. So, Pat went ont winning two slams and reaching two wimbledon finals while Tim made six semifinals. Do you think Rafter just had easier draws and on his path he met the "right" opponents or he made the extra step and found another gear in the clutch moments?
 

NedStark

Semi-Pro
Watching these two serve & volleyers from the past, I cannot say that Pat was such a superior player or he had a more complete game from Tim. In fact, I think that Henman had a better forehand and was equally good at the net. So, Pat went ont winning two slams and reaching two wimbledon finals while Tim made six semifinals. Do you think Rafter just had easier draws and on his path he met the "right" opponents or he made the extra step and found another gear in the clutch moments?
Rafter had better serves.

Tim Henman had very inconsistent and unreliable serves, which were not big enough to begin with. This led him down very often.
 

tonylg

Legend
Probably a combination of Pat being a little bit better and a little bit older. Tim hit his prime around the same time and the courts were all slowed. The Brits in particular sabotaged their own man.
 

Gizo

Hall of Fame
Rafter had better serves.

Tim Henman had very inconsistent and unreliable serves, which were not big enough to begin with. This led him down very often.
Yes for much of his career, especially after he started working with Larry Stefanki, Henman's serve was nowhere near good or powerful enough to win Wimbledon (or a hard court major), and he was basically a serve-volleyer without a particularly strong serve.

In early round matches at Wimbledon against 'lesser' opponents', he wasn't able to cruise through as many of his service games compared to other top players, and as a result he had quite a few 5 set struggles and tense 4 set matches en-route to his semi-finals (in 2002 for example most of his matches en-route to his SF defeat by Hewitt were a real struggle).

Henman generally played very well during their Wimbledon 4th round match in 1998. I remember he played an especially high quality game to break Rafter in the 1st set, allowing him to serve for it.

During their 2001 Australian Open 4th round match in 2001, Rafter produced one of very best and most flawless performances of his career. Certainly I have very rarely seen a player serve-volleying so well behind their 2nd serves as Rafter did that day, and Henman just couldn't deal with his 2nd serve kickers, plus he was hitting his forehand returns so well.
 

NedStark

Semi-Pro
Henman generally played very well during their Wimbledon 4th round match in 1998. I remember he played an especially high quality game to break Rafter in the 1st set, allowing him to serve for it.
And the grass was actually slowed down after 1998. It was slower from 1999 onwards. The extreme fast grass in 1998 and before did not really suit Rafter's kick serves well.
 

Crazy Finn

Hall of Fame
Rafter was a better Henman, and Henman was good.

A better serve, a little more clutch, a good competitor. Henman was a bit up and down in terms of his level.

Rafter was both fortunate and unfortunate in his career timing. His peak was during the end of Pete's dominance, a bit unfortunate. A few years later there would be a more open field. But, the conditions were still good for his style of play, the courts were often relatively quick, grass was still fast grass, USO and AO hardcourts weren't slow, yet. Also, it's wasn't a poly string tour, yet.
 

BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
Rafter had the better serve and while both were superb volleyers, Pat was still a little better here as well (he is actually up with Edberg and Mac in my opinion). Baseline game, returns and passes, both Rafter and Henman were equally average, so his better serve and slightly better volleys made Pat an overall better player.
 

Gizo

Hall of Fame
Rafter was in the hunt to overtake Sampras and finish as the year end no. 1 ranking in 1998, when he won 6 out of his 11 career titles including the Canada-Cincy-US Open treble. But unfortunately he had to shut down his season prematurely and miss the YEC due to a knee injury.

There were injuries galore at the end of 1998. Rios withdrew from the YEC after losing his opening match against Henman, due to a back injury that had plagued him for a few weeks, with Costa replacing him - that withdrawal meant that Sampras was guaranteed to finish as the year end no. 1. Krajicek had also qualified for the YEC, but also had to withdraw and shut down his season early to undergo knee surgery, after winning the Stuttgart Masters in stunning fashion, and then retiring when one game away from victory against Rosset in Paris, as he knew he wouldn't be able to play on in the tournament the next day. And like Rios, Agassi also withdrew from the YEC after his opening match due to a back injury, which allowed Rusedski to get in and replace him. That meant that 6 different players took part in matches in one RR group, and instead of Rios and Agassi facing each other in their scheduled RR match, it was Costa vs. Rusedski.

Another notable Rafter win / serving performance was when he beat Agassi at Rome in 1999, a few weeks before Agassi's memorable triumph in Paris. Agassi only had one break point in the match (which he converted), but he was otherwise powerless against Rafter's serve that day. A rare occasion that Agassi looked almost powerless against his opponent's serve on clay (or a slowish surface in general).
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
I saw both of them many times and Rafter was head and shoulders above Heman in every department (not sure of their head2head). Went to quite a few UK tour events and saw Tim to lose to absolute nobodies.
Rafter had the better serve and while both were superb volleyers, Pat was still a little better here as well (he is actually up with Edberg and Mac in my opinion). Baseline game, returns and passes, both Rafter and Henman were equally average, so his better serve and slightly better volleys made Pat an overall better player.
Tiny Tim was actually the superior returner (one of the most underrated/underappreciated, in fact), but yeah, Pat had the edge in just about everything else. As I've pointed out before Rafter made the top 10 in % of SGW on all surfaces every year from '96-'01 (plus '94), while Henman was able to make the grade just once in '00. And y'all know the chestnut about Pat being one of the few tennis studs who'd excel in other sports. Can't imagine/recall Tim getting similar raves ever.

I enjoyed how Rafter gave Agassi absolute nightmares.
I saw him as a reincarnation of Edberg - who Agassi usually defeated - coming back to take his revenge.
Anyway, yes, everything Henman did, Rafter did either a little bit or a lot better.
Stronger mentally too.
Or maybe the Deity took pity on Dre and decided to throw him a bone... but it turns out he needed a new pair of legs instead. :happydevil:
 

Dolgopolov85

G.O.A.T.
Rafter had a bigger heart and more hustle. All this whining about Henman being robbed by AEC when they slowed it down...well, duh, Henman was 24 in 1998 when he pushed Sampras to 4 at Wimbledon. Did it again in 99. And then what does he do in 2000? Loses to Scud in the 4th and Scud, another one with all talent and little heart, folded in straights to Agassi. So...was he going to hit his peak at the sprightly age of 28?? Is he a Lost Boy born in the wrong generation?

No, sorry, Henman had his chances, at least as many as Rafter himself. It was tough alright with King Pete on top at Wimbledon. But that was the same as everyone. Henman was hoping to prey on a weak field with Sampras in decline and Rafter injured beyond repair after the 2001 final. Wasn't to be and he whined against Wimbledon.

Another thing, Rafter's two slams came at the USO. Henman was all grass, he never made a semi off Wimbledon until 2004. In his best years, when, ermm USO did play fast, he kept losing in R3/R4.

No, Pat wasn't luckier than Tim. Pat was a lion hearted warrior, Tim was a whiner propped up by Britons who badly wanted to see a grand slam champion again.
 
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NedStark

Semi-Pro
Krajicek had also qualified for the YEC, but also had to withdraw and shut down his season early to undergo knee surgery, after winning the Stuttgart Masters in stunning fashion, and then retiring when one game away from victory against Rosset in Paris, as he knew he wouldn't be able to play on in the tournament the next day.
Boy, I feel bad for Krajicek in 1998. He was in a strong form in mid-to late-1998. He could have well won Stuttgart (already), Paris and the YEC that year - that would have been a great run. Earlier that year, he was also forced to withdraw against Thomas Johannson in US Open - a tourney where he could have well reached the final.
 

Gizo

Hall of Fame
Boy, I feel bad for Krajicek in 1998. He was in a strong form in mid-to late-1998. He could have well won Stuttgart (already), Paris and the YEC that year - that would have been a great run. Earlier that year, he was also forced to withdraw against Thomas Johannson in US Open - a tourney where he could have well reached the final.
Agreed.

The tennis that he played to win that Stuttgart title was arguably the best of his career, better than when he won Wimbledon in 1996. Beating Norman, Agassi, Ivanisevic, Sampras and Kafelnikov to win any title is an incredible effort, and on top of that he was only broken twice and didn't face a single break point against Agassi and Sampras and Kafelnikov.

In Paris when he was clearly struggling with the knee injury, Rosset was angry and thought that he was faking it and time wasting when he took a MTO during the final set. Despite Rosset acting like a jerk towards him, Krajicek resisted the temptation to finish him off and then immediately withdraw from the tournament to stop him progressing. However he did take some revenge when he mocked Rosset afterwards for not being able to beat him even though he was playing on one leg.

I really wish that we could have had an exciting race to the finish between Sampras, Rios and Rafter for the year end no. 1 ranking in 1998. I would have loved to have seen Rafter toppling Sampras (and Rios) there.

I agree with the comments that Rafter was technically a better player overall than Henman, mentally tougher and also the better athlete.
 
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aussie

Professional
Agree with the majority of the comments here. I'll add that it is well documented that as a junior Pat realised that his groundstroke mechanics were never going to cut it as a tennis professional so he persevered with developing a serve/volley game combined with a high level of fitness and foot speed.

He openly admits that it took time for him to develop a high level s/v game and through juniors and in his early tour days he copped some awful beatings. However he stuck with it and became as we know a very competent and successful player.

I also recall that Sampras thought very little of Rafter's game and there was some bad blood between them. Hard to imagine anyone not liking Rafter but apparently Sampras didn't.

I'd like to add that Rafter's serves, both first and second, while not as quick as some, were incredibly well placed and enabled him to get to the net very quickly and finish the point. His athleticism and quick reflexes at the net really negated his rather weak groundstroke game.

To put it in one line, if Rafter was Sampras lite, then Henman was Rafter lite.
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
Rafter was a miles better player in every department despite having a career crippled by injury.

Losing the 1995 season to a wrist injury probably cost him two years at the top, and IMO he would never have lost both those Wimbledon finals if he hadn’t destroyed his shoulder at USO 1999.

Great player, deserved more than two Slams.
 

Gizo

Hall of Fame
I really liked Rafter's slice as well. On hard courts I remember it was very effective against Agassi when he went 2 sets to 1 up in their 2001 Australian Open SF, before he cramped up and increasingly struggled during the last 2 sets. Agassi definitely lived up to his 'punisher' nickname that day !

In their 2000 Wimbledon SF, Rafter hit his slice to try and keep Agassi off balance and tempt him towards the net, but Agassi would refuse that invitation though and try and blast winners off those slow balls. Quality-wise that was a much better match than the 2001 Wimbledon SF (which I think Agassi probably should have won and blew - he struggled to control his temper that day), though the 2001 match was of course more dramatic.

If there is one grand slam final on the men's side that I wish could be replayed with 2 separate endings and both players holding up the trophy (if that makes sense), it is the 2001 Wimbledon final. Given that Rafter had his US Open titles in the bank and considering what Ivanisevic had been through at Wimbledon during his career, I did lean towards Goran and support him though (I'm sure most people in the crowd really liked both finalists and in-fact all 4 semi-finalists). Another defeat for Goran in a Wimbledon final, especially in a 5th set, would have just been too much, plus it was a sporting fairytale.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
People tend to underrate the impact of athleticism on the outcome of a tennis match.

Henman had a better forehand, better backhand, and cleaner technique than Rafter.

But Rafter was a much superior athlete compared to Henman. Faster, more agile, taller, longer arms, better leverage on serve.
Rafter had elite ability to impose his athleticism over his opponent, something Henman couldn’t do nearly as well.
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
Agreed.

The tennis that he played to win that Stuttgart title was arguably the best of his career, better than when he won Wimbledon in 1996. Beating Norman, Agassi, Ivanisevic, Sampras and Kafelnikov to win any title is an incredible effort, and on top of that he was only broken twice and didn't face a single break point against Agassi and Sampras and Kafelnikov.
I saw the Sampras-Krajicek Stuttgart match some years ago.
Krajicek was better in the Stich Wim 96 match by a clear distance and even more so vs Pete in Wim 96.
In particular, Krajicek's returning in Wim 96 was clearly better. In Stuttgart, K's returning was below par except for couple of games/TBs where he connected and won those sets.
Sampras was playing better at Wim as well.
 

Crazy Finn

Hall of Fame
People tend to underrate the impact of athleticism on the outcome of a tennis match.

Henman had a better forehand, better backhand, and cleaner technique than Rafter.

But Rafter was a much superior athlete compared to Henman. Faster, more agile, taller, longer arms, better leverage on serve.
Rafter had elite ability to impose his athleticism over his opponent, something Henman couldn’t do nearly as well.
Basically describes Sampras and Agassi as well.
 

BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
Tiny Tim was actually the superior returner (one of the most underrated/underappreciated, in fact), but yeah, Pat had the edge in just about everything else. As I've pointed out before Rafter made the top 10 in % of SGW on all surfaces every year from '96-'01 (plus '94), while Henman was able to make the grade just once in '00. And y'all know the chestnut about Pat being one of the few tennis studs who'd excel in other sports. Can't imagine/recall Tim getting similar raves ever.
While I agree Tim was an underrated returner I think Rafter was so as well. His 4th round match against Becker at Wimbledon 99 was one of the finest return performance I have ever seen. He hit something like 17 or 18 direct return winners. Also against Sampras and Agassi I have seen him putting up some very good performances. I would see him on par with Henman here.
 

vive le beau jeu !

Talk Tennis Guru
2 amazing players... who bring back great memories :)

the only area where henman may have a significant advantage is probably the return: he's a bit underestimated in this department, as mentioned by @NonP ... a bit as edberg was (by non-hardcore fans) ;)
(but maybe he was just more regularly efficient at returning than rafter?) :unsure:
peak rafter was a physical beast at the net... my favorite volleyer along with edberg (albeit in a very different style) :)
 

NedStark

Semi-Pro
A stark difference between Rafter and most other serve-and-volleyers is Pat's regular use of drop volleys and short slices to deny the likes of Agassi opportunities to hit powerful passing shots. Boris only discovered this approach during his match against Agassi in Wimbledon 1995 after 10 straight losses.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
People tend to underrate the impact of athleticism on the outcome of a tennis match.

Henman had a better forehand, better backhand, and cleaner technique than Rafter.

But Rafter was a much superior athlete compared to Henman. Faster, more agile, taller, longer arms, better leverage on serve.
Rafter had elite ability to impose his athleticism over his opponent, something Henman couldn’t do nearly as well.
Quite true. Those return stats are indeed suggestive of Tim's superior groundies (though Pat's are being rather underrated here), but which of these two made would you say got more out of their slice alone?

While I agree Tim was an underrated returner I think Rafter was so as well. His 4th round match against Becker at Wimbledon 99 was one of the finest return performance I have ever seen. He hit something like 17 or 18 direct return winners. Also against Sampras and Agassi I have seen him putting up some very good performances. I would see him on par with Henman here.
Pretty much any Slammer (well, except maybe Roddick) has put together a similar returning exo if you look hard enough. Just saying Henman was better day in and day out.

Of course I understand stats aren't everything. Safin's return #s were never all that either but you underrated that shot at your peril.

2 amazing players... who bring back great memories :)

the only area where henman may have a significant advantage is probably the return: he's a bit underestimated in this department, as mentioned by @NonP ... a bit as edberg was (by non-hardcore fans) ;)
(but maybe he was just more regularly efficient at returning than rafter?) :unsure:
peak rafter was a physical beast at the net... my favorite volleyer along with edberg (albeit in a very different style) :)
I hate to sound like a broken record but Stefan has gotta be the most underappreciated returner of the OE. It seems his famous S&V game has so completely overshadowed everything else people just can't think of him as anything other than net-hugging daredevil. How else can you explain his near complete absence from GROAT discussions when he happens to be the only one since '91 who ranks in the top 10 of 1st-serve return points won on every surface?

Mind you I still put Edberg below Connors, Agassi, Murray and Djokovic, yes largely due to that FH (which, for the record, was a lot better than it looked), but he belongs in the next tier at the very least. That's the difference between his six majors and Rafter's two.

Of course Pat was no chopped liver himself. It's become fashionable to say he and Stefan would struggle to win a single major today with their old-fashioned S&V, but I say hogwash. As I'm wont to point out % of net points won hasn't changed much at all, which makes perfect sense when you realize that practical physics makes it virtually impossible to pass your opponent more than half the time in every match. There's not a single player past and present who wouldn't have his hands full with an Edberg or Rafter swarming the net, and I'm sure both would have similar success today with only slight modifications, as Stefan himself said not long ago.
 

mike danny

Bionic Poster
Rafter had a bigger heart and more hustle. All this whining about Henman being robbed by AEC when they slowed it down...well, duh, Henman was 24 in 1998 when he pushed Sampras to 4 at Wimbledon. Did it again in 99. And then what does he do in 2000? Loses to Scud in the 4th and Scud, another one with all talent and little heart, folded in straights to Agassi. So...was he going to hit his peak at the sprightly age of 28?? Is he a Lost Boy born in the wrong generation?

No, sorry, Henman had his chances, at least as many as Rafter himself. It was tough alright with King Pete on top at Wimbledon. But that was the same as everyone. Henman was hoping to prey on a weak field with Sampras in decline and Rafter injured beyond repair after the 2001 final. Wasn't to be and he whined against Wimbledon.

Another thing, Rafter's two slams came at the USO. Henman was all grass, he never made a semi off Wimbledon until 2004. In his best years, when, ermm USO did play fast, he kept losing in R3/R4.

No, Pat wasn't luckier than Tim. Pat was a lion hearted warrior, Tim was a whiner propped up by Britons who badly wanted to see a grand slam champion again.
USO was still pretty fast in 2004 when Henamn reached the semis.
 

big ted

Hall of Fame
I hate to sound like a broken record but Stefan has gotta be the most underappreciated returner of the OE. It seems his famous S&V game has so completely overshadowed everything else people just can't think of him as anything other than net-hugging daredevil. How else can you explain his near complete absence from GROAT discussions when he happens to be the only one since '91 who ranks in the top 10 of 1st-serve return points won on every surface?
i think a good reason for his return game was he didnt have to worry about changing grips for any of his strokes?
he must have been the last player to play that way :)
 

CyBorg

Legend
I just rewatched the 2001 Ivanisevic-Henman Wimbledon semi and Henman's serve definitely let him down. It was just not good.

A great serve leads to freebie points, which make all the difference in big matches. Especially late in a match, when you're tired and not moving well anymore.
 

B-Line

Rookie
I just rewatched the 2001 Ivanisevic-Henman Wimbledon semi and Henman's serve definitely let him down. It was just not good.

A great serve leads to freebie points, which make all the difference in big matches. Especially late in a match, when you're tired and not moving well anymore.

That match came down to heart and Ivanisevic had plenty of it. I thought the Rafter/Ivanisevic final was brilliant.
 
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abmk

Bionic Poster
Pretty much any Slammer (well, except maybe Roddick) has put together a similar returning exo if you look hard enough. Just saying Henman was better day in and day out.
Roddick's returning in Wim 04 final > any returning Ivanisevic has put on grass IMO. Broke fed 4 times and the only time fed's 1st serve win% has gone below 70% in a Wimbledon final.
Better returner than Goran in general.
 

andreh

Professional
It seems his famous S&V game has so completely overshadowed everything else people just can't think of him as anything other than net-hugging daredevil.
Well said of Edberg. Like most no 1s who managed to stay there for a while, he was really a complete player. You don't get to the final of RG in 89 and win 3 clay court titles without a ground game.
 

B-Line

Rookie
Well said of Edberg. Like most no 1s who managed to stay there for a while, he was really a complete player. You don't get to the final of RG in 89 and win 3 clay court titles without a ground game.
Saw Edberg hitting with Cash@Queens Club when I was 16 (1988) I didn't get on a Grandstand Court, but just to see those two hit was a real eye opener and worth the £16 admission.
 

urban

Legend
Rafter was clearly better. He was underrated at the begin of the career, Becker called him a jouneyman, but he made the most of his abilities, by hard work and athletic regimen, and a simple, but strict match plan, to come to the net and crowd the net all the time. He was in the eyes of many the best player of 1998, including the people of Tennis Magazine, who included Davis Cup results and named him player of the year. Without the injury-stop late in the season, he might have ended as formal ATP Nr. 1 on points. Was utterly dominant on American hardcourt that year, and had a 2-0 lead over Sampras, who played good, maybe not the best tennis. His kick serve worked well on hardcourt, it kicked so high, that all had problems to keep the return in play. The kicker wasn't as effective on grass, it stayed too low, and so incoming Rafter had to volley more from his toes. His volley was good, especially his forehand volley, albeit imo not in the class of the volley of prime Pat Cash, who hit cleaner volleys from a straight back.
Henman had a textbook style, maybe too textbook. He lacked the overall Whumms, the dangerous weapon and the real penetration of his shots, although the Brits always seeded him pleasantly at Wimbledon. In that department, he was like other textbook players like Charlie Pasarell, Woitek Fibak, who had an even more fluid allround game, or Jacub Hlasek.
 
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