Who is the purest natural talent ever to swing a racquet?

Will888

Semi-Pro
has anyone said Andre Agassi??? He is pretty darn pure of a player, and i think his strokes are better looking then safins.
 

andfor

Legend
Will888 said:
has anyone said Andre Agassi??? He is pretty darn pure of a player, and i think his strokes are better looking then safins.
Yea, but then some guy said his genius was merely the product of being the ultimate practiced player. Like no other pure talent ever practiced.
 

GregOz

Rookie
I really think if we're talking about the purest natural talent, as in the most unencumbered by anything other than natural talent, we've got to go back, way back to a few players who lived solely on their talent for the game and lacked the very high intensity coaching of more recent prospects.

That being the case, my first vote goes to the American, Art Larsen, whose temperament and talent were destroyed by the war (although, to his credit, he still managed to win matches after). An absolute genius with the kind of touch that makes McEnroe look ham fisted.

Second would be the Australian, Rex Hartwig, who never lived up to a talent that could, on his day, see him wipe the court with the world's best. If anyone thinks you can't hit winners from behind the baseline with a wooden racquet then Hatwig would make you change your mind. Unfortunately, his talent was the on-off kind and you just never knew when he was going to turn it on (he didnt either) or when it was going to run out. There wasn't anything he couldn't do except be consistant which is why we loved watching him.

Third would be Lew Hoad (see Hartwig but with consistancy).

Then there would be the French player, Henri Leconte, who played as though he was channeling Hartwig as a lefthander. Definately some of the quickest hands Ive seen but, unfortunately, the million dollar left arm was attached to a ten cent head and he never took the opportunities he should have.

McEnroe would be my last pic. Like all of the others he wasn't over-coached so retained the purity of his genius. Less powerful but softer hands than all the others except Larsen. I've always genuinely thought that Mac was born 20 or 30 years too late. If he'd played in an era (and society) that just wouldn't tolerate his carrying on and against a group of players who would have ensured he knew how to behave (they tolerated Bob Hewitt because he wasn't that good) then this question might be entirely moot. Taken in hand at a young age (as a child, not a young man) he could have rivalled Laver's career. Left to do as he pleased his record embarrasses his talent.

Of course, that's all just my opinion.
 

jings

Professional
Random1 agree 100%. Agassi a schooled player - enormous talent but he hit dustbin after dustbin of tennis balls growing up so the "natural" epithet doesn't fit I would say. Names that spring to mind Mecir, Bahrami, Leconte - all here so far. Borg I'd also include, sure he trained but that good that young that dominant ... no shortage of talent there. Brings me to my top pick Vitas Gueralitis ... to do what he did and play the way he did, wow that's talent. he makes Safin look like a monk.
 

andfor

Legend
jings said:
Random1 agree 100%. Agassi a schooled player - enormous talent but he hit dustbin after dustbin of tennis balls growing up so the "natural" epithet doesn't fit I would say. Names that spring to mind Mecir, Bahrami, Leconte - all here so far. Borg I'd also include, sure he trained but that good that young that dominant ... no shortage of talent there. Brings me to my top pick Vitas Gueralitis ... to do what he did and play the way he did, wow that's talent. he makes Safin look like a monk.
..........and none of the guys you mentioned hit dustbin after dustbin of tennis balls?
 

BaseLineBash

Hall of Fame
How do some of you guys think Agassi made it the first half of his career? Practice? Physical fitness?...nope pure talent! No one in tennis has a better ground game or return except for maybe one other guy.
 

mellofelow

Semi-Pro
Gotta be Agassi.

In his early years he was all rock-n-roll and a fast-food junkie. I remember years ago when Agassi rise to stardom, McEnroe couldn't believe he has no concept of warming up and stretching.

When you consider talent, you have to take 'passion' as part of the package.

BTW, isn't Agassi the last male to own all 4 grand-slam titles?
 

killer

Semi-Pro
Let's not stray into the numerics of balls hit...let's be clear: EVERY player who has been or is a professional has hit MORE TENNIS BALLS than you or I could imagine. This whole 'dustbin or not' argument is moot.

That being said, I think this thread is asking about abilities on the court, during matches. Mac had the best hands of anybody i've ever seen play. I am surprised noone said Martina; granted she trained like noone else in history, but watching her destroy opponents 1985-1988 was amazing.
 

35ft6

Legend
jings said:
Random1 agree 100%. Agassi a schooled player - enormous talent but he hit dustbin after dustbin of tennis balls growing up so the "natural" epithet doesn't fit I would say.
IMO you guys are wrong. Agassi IS naturally gifted. I don't recall ever hearing about him hitting endless balls over and over again. I think his hitting ability is pretty innate (not saying he didn't refine it with drilling the way all players do...), he had a lot of natural talent which might be part of the reason why he underachieved so much early on. He was known to scarf fast food and not practice much.

He always had the hands, what made him great later in his career is his dedication to fitness and a high percentage strategy. If he didn't have the natural talent those two things wouldn't suddenly allow him to win several Grand Slams.

I saw him and Martin warming up for the US Open. Todd Martin went out there and did a comprehensive warmup. Everything. Groundstrokes, volleys, returns, etc. A good 75 minutes or so. I think he was hitting with Jose Higueras.

Agassi came out with Brad, took off his shirt, and pounded balls for 20 minutes at most. Hit a few overheads. Maybe 8 serves.

I heard Sampras was the same way. They just went out to make sure nothing was wrong, not to work on anything.

Agassi's game has evolved into the ultimate high percentage baseline game, almost workmanlike. But if you saw him 10 or 15 years ago, the natural talent is more blatant. Pure instinctual shotmaking with the confidence of knowing that up to that point you were hitting the ball harder and earlier than anybody before you.
 

jings

Professional
So Bollettieri had no bearing on Agassi's career at all? His image when first on tour was exactly that he didn't practise and was an unfettered talent, could break all the rules, wear whacky clothing, prompting Lendl's forehand and haircut comment. But what got him there in the first place? Is it any coincidence that once Agassi rededicated himself to practising and training later in his career that he topped the rankings once more? He's one of the greats so of course he's got talent, it's how it's focussed and honed that has made him great. They're all pros so of course they've hit bucket after bucket. My point is that there was far more practise in the young Agassi than people think, as indeed there is generally speaking for modern players vs those of older vintage. What is "talent"? They're all pros, they've all got talent. imo players of yesteryear displayed more natural talent, call it raw if you like, simply because training, lifestyle, equipment was so much more straightforward.
 

bcaz

Professional
Sampras, Federer, Navratilova, Graf, McEnroe, Pioline, Nastase, Laver, Goolagong, all great talents ... four pages of posts and no one has mentioned BORG?

I've seen Rios, and he was pretty good, but nowhere near all the others mentioned. I'm lefty, too, and I recognize lefty cheese when I see it -- it goes a long way. And while Mac had plenty of lefty cheese (Mac & cheese?), he was a savant with a racquet in his hands. Unothodox in every way; can't be copied. Continental forehand? Dropping the racquet head and running through volleys? Who had better hands and a softer body at that level? What would he have accomplished without running around all night with Vitas, Patti Smith and Tatum?
 

AndrewD

Legend
Id have to say Hana Mandlikova and Evonne Goolagong on the women's side
plus Leconte, Mac, Mecir and Arazi on the men's.
 

jings

Professional
bcaz check my fiirst post ~#50 or so Borg is there. As he whacked Vitas all over the place it would seem strange to say that Vitas was more talented but Borg had the advantage of playing sober more of the time!

35ft6 we're splitting hairs, I say he's got enormous talent you say he's natutrally gifted ... not much there. 8 slams endless titles, the kid can play. i'm not knocking andre, if anything it just says more about the guy. stories of agassi hitting dustbins full of balls all day in his court at home ... Dad picking them up ... Bollettieri acadamy ... he practiced plenty. As to what a pro does 20 minutes before a match ... not much bearing on how many countless hours they've spent drilling behind the scenes. I'm sure Sampras switched from a 2 fister to a ohbh overnight ...
 

Rob_C

Hall of Fame
35ft6 said:
IMO you guys are wrong. Agassi IS naturally gifted. I don't recall ever hearing about him hitting endless balls over and over again. I think his hitting ability is pretty innate (not saying he didn't refine it with drilling the way all players do...), he had a lot of natural talent which might be part of the reason why he underachieved so much early on. He was known to scarf fast food and not practice much.

Agassi's dad had him hit against numerous ball machines when he was a kid. So he did hit alot of balls endlessly.
 

urban

Legend
Tennis-related talent is a complex thing, which contains 3 different ressorts: technical, athletic and mental abilities. All these skills have to be molded by training and coaching. We tend to reduce talent to something called touch, a natural given hand-eye-coordination. While Borg, Emerson or Nastase were natural athlets, Becker or Gonzales were mentally awfully strong. But we are fascinated by the true technical artists like the mentioned Art Larsen or Henri Cochet. Sometimes 'talent' seems a bit negativ connotated: We see players with great potenial, but underachievers, who were hampered by mental lapses, injuries or both. In this department, we have some players of the highest order like Vines or Hoad, in modern times Leconte, Mecir (who was the last to play with a wooden racket) and Rios come to mind.
 

Yours!05

Professional
urban said:
Tennis-related talent is a complex thing, which contains 3 different ressorts: technical, athletic and mental abilities. All these skills have to be molded by training and coaching. We tend to reduce talent to something called touch, a natural given hand-eye-coordination. While Borg, Emerson or Nastase were natural athlets, Becker or Gonzales were mentally awfully strong. But we are fascinated by the true technical artists like the mentioned Art Larsen or Henri Cochet. Sometimes 'talent' seems a bit negativ connotated: We see players with great potenial, but underachievers, who were hampered by mental lapses, injuries or both. In this department, we have some players of the highest order like Vines or Hoad, in modern times Leconte, Mecir (who was the last to play with a wooden racket) and Rios come to mind.
Comprehensive assessment.
 

35ft6

Legend
jings said:
So Bollettieri had no bearing on Agassi's career at all? His image when first on tour was exactly that he didn't practise and was an unfettered talent, could break all the rules, wear whacky clothing, prompting Lendl's forehand and haircut comment. But what got him there in the first place? Is it any coincidence that once Agassi rededicated himself to practising and training later in his career that he topped the rankings once more?
I think the fitness and Brad Gilbert made the biggest difference. He used to play almost like Fernando Gonzalez, an ad hoc style of going for broke.
He's one of the greats so of course he's got talent, it's how it's focussed and honed that has made him great.
But this thread is about the most naturally gifted. Which I consider him to be one of.
My point is that there was far more practise in the young Agassi than people think, as indeed there is generally speaking for modern players vs those of older vintage. What is "talent"? They're all pros, they've all got talent.
Yes, but the context of this thread is who are the most talented among the most talented. Agassi's natural talent, in conjunction with this vomit inducting workout schedule, allows him to kick butt at 35, but in the early years his talent was more obvious to the casual fan. Now he's so disciplined that people might almost think he's like Lendl out there.

People keep bringing up how the most talented players also seem to often be the most mentally shaky players. Agassi was once like a Rios or Safin, a supremely gifted ball striker with a scrambled brain, but unlike those two he reprogrammed his brain to play smart tennis. I wish Rios could have had the same epiphany.
 

35ft6

Legend
jings said:
35ft6 we're splitting hairs, I say he's got enormous talent you say he's natutrally gifted ... not much there. 8 slams endless titles, the kid can play. i'm not knocking andre, if anything it just says more about the guy. stories of agassi hitting dustbins full of balls all day in his court at home ... Dad picking them up ... Bollettieri acadamy ... he practiced plenty. As to what a pro does 20 minutes before a match ... not much bearing on how many countless hours they've spent drilling behind the scenes. I'm sure Sampras switched from a 2 fister to a ohbh overnight ...
Splitting hairs is what TW forums is all about. ;) I'm just saying I don't think Agassi deserves to be singled out as a pro who's exceptional for the number of balls he's hit. As people have said, all pros hit a lot of balls, so when somebody says Agassi hits a lot, I assume they mean it in terms of "more than the normal pro."

Or as others have suggested, that repetition is the reason why he's such a clean striker of the ball, more so than natural talent. I disagree with those two comments quite strongly, but as for the rest, yeah, it might be semantics.
 

innocent

Banned
Kevin Patrick said:
Remove Safin & put in McEnroe.
Safin is just a pure power player.
There is no artistry/feel in his game like the other names mentioned.
Are you trying to tell me that McEnroe is more talented than Safin? Are you crazy man?
 

joe sch

Legend
innocent said:
Are you trying to tell me that McEnroe is more talented than Safin? Are you crazy man?
I think that Mac may have been the most talented player ever.
Safin is a better athlete with more natural power & size.
Mac could have won alot more slams if he trained harder and did not party.
This is why Lendl won soo many titles from '85..'90, he out trained everbody and won matches on power and conditioning, not talent. Same goes for a play like Vitas G., he had tons of talent, could out play Bjorn in thier training session but he also out partied all of the other players also :)
 

joe sch

Legend
joe sch said:
Ellsworth Vines .
He was the best tennis player and got so bored he decided competed with the best on the golf tour. There was never another pro athlete this talented.
Ok, Back to Elly Vines ...
There has never been another dominant tennis slam champion and #1 player that has gone on to win pro golf titles. Lendl is now trying to win some senior titles, after tennis retirement ... Elly played both pro tennis and golf, at the same time and still dominated tennis. This is the period when Don Budge, another alltime tennis great, still had trouble beating Elly, when he would come off the greens to play tennis. Tennis and Golf both require soo much natural talent that I think this is the best argument for this topic. Even Jack Kramer, who is one of the greatest tennis players ever claimed that Elly was the "greatest player who ever lived."
 

Rabbit

G.O.A.T.
Tappy Larsen - a player from the 50s who used to tap things with his racket as a superstition. He'd tap the net post when ever he changed ends, he'd tap the court, he'd even tap his opponent. Tony Trabert told a story that Larsen and he were playing doubles in the Italian Open. Match point came and the last ball, Larsen flipped his racket around and volleyed it over for a winner, holding the head of the racket and hitting the ball with the grip. He used to also consistently hit drop shots that bounced back over the net. Oh yeah, one of his other quirks was that he constantly looked back over his shoulder...he was looking for eagles. I don't remember why.

Nastase was probably blessed with the best sense anticipation I ever saw. He was the first player to hit topspin lobs off both sides, and on the dead run. He did this with a wood frame. The guy was a head case, but he was unbelievable.

McEnroe - everybody knows Mac.

Rios - simply irrestible on court when he was on.

Agassi - best hand/eye ever.
 

@wright

Hall of Fame
If that is true about Rios starting tennis at age 9, then that is incredible. The guy played like he was holding a racquet when he came out of the womb.
 

LendlFan

Semi-Pro
It seems most of the POST refer to male players but I would submit to you that Jennifer Capriati entering Pro Status at age 14 could easily be considered a real natural talent. Don't remember what age she was when she took on Monica Seles at the USO in the Semis and had match point at one moment.
 

POGO

Hall of Fame
I would say the Williams sisters have tennis talent, and are naturally athletic. The sisters did not have the luxury of having any formal tennis training for the most part when they were learning tennis, but mostly taught tennis by tennis illiterate parents. They did not even play juniors but rather went straight to the pro women circuit. It was mostly tennis talent that got them to the pros.
 

@wright

Hall of Fame
Pogo, I would have to say that I thilnk athletic prowess is what carried the Williamses to the top more than tennis talent. It seems that if they were truly talented in tennis, they would have developed more fluid strokes for efficiency, instead they whale at the ball with ugly forehands. I think athletic ability is the only reason they are where they are today.
 

LendlFan

Semi-Pro
GotGame? said:
My votes go to Nastase, Safin, Federer, and Rios. Too difficult to decide between them, but am I missing anyone?
Ok, it appears some people are submitting names of their fav Players. So let me ask this, what criteria are we talking here?

Are you wanting to know which Players demonstrate the purest natural form in Tennis? Or are you looking for the Players that came out of the blocks achieveing the best results?

I suppose if you really look at it, Andre Agassi & Jennifer Capriati both hit the ball the cleanest of all Players and displayed the ability to adapt to the changing of times. Many people claimed Borg should be on the top of the list but I would not include him since from my perspective, when he was King, he was the greatest but when he tried to make a Come-Back, he couldn't adapt his game to the climate of the day. To me, that doesn't constitue a natural, it only means he was the best player of his day.

Whereas, Andre Agassi & Jennifer both were able to climb to the top after extended time off and compete with the current field of talent.
 

Rabbit

G.O.A.T.
POGO said:
The sisters did not have the luxury of having any formal tennis training for the most part when they were learning tennis, but mostly taught tennis by tennis illiterate parents.
That's not exactly true. They worked with some very prominent pros, Rick Macci and Nick B. to name a couple. They've had their share of formal training.
 

POGO

Hall of Fame
@wright said:
Pogo, I would have to say that I thilnk athletic prowess is what carried the Williamses to the top more than tennis talent. It seems that if they were truly talented in tennis, they would have developed more fluid strokes for efficiency, instead they whale at the ball with ugly forehands. I think athletic ability is the only reason they are where they are today.
Yes, the Williams sisters do have some glitches in their tennis mechanics, specially on footwork, but I think this is alot to do with not establishing a sound foundation due to the lack of formal tennis training/teaching early on. But, IMHO, their stroke mechancis are quite good, and often used and credited as examples in tennis books, articles and even at tennis instructional websites.

For them to even make it to the pros and winning grandslams is certainly something considering their lack of formal tennis instructions.
 

NoBadMojo

G.O.A.T.
I think the Wiliamses footwork is a strongsuit of theirs..their footwork is good for their size and the fact they never seem to be in top physical condition. Also they both exhibit most excellent early racquet prep....then it seems the whole thing breaks down as i think ther stroke mechanics are really bad and that is one reason why they are oft injured. I think Richard Williams gave them the good attributes (footwork and early prep) and the Academies may have given them the rip it as hard as you can with the lightest racquet you can find mentality and the really crappy ugly strokes)..the grunting was thrown in at no extra charge........
 

Kevin Patrick

Hall of Fame
Re Agassi's talent:

He won '92 Wimbledon by practicing on hardcourts of Vegas the week before(& was in a pretty bad slump that year as well)

Made the finals of '90 & '91 French, arrived at event day before it started. Hardly played on clay in preparation as well.

Won US Open as unseeded player in '94.

Dropped to #141 in '97 at the age of 27. No one gave him any shot at coming back, he was too old, too many big servers in the game, etc. He finished '98 in the top 8 & '99 at #1.

Won '99 French. Played only one clay event in preparation. Considered withdrawing due to shoulder injury.

What other player could do all this? Mac never recovered from his break of '86. Borg retired at 26. Sampras dropped considerably in late 20s.
 

Rabbit

G.O.A.T.
Kevin Patrick said:
Re Agassi's talent:

He won '92 Wimbledon by practicing on hardcourts of Vegas the week before(& was in a pretty bad slump that year as well)
Actually, according to Nick Bollitieri's book My Aces My faults, Agassi practiced for one hour on a hardcourt in Boca Raton. He told Nick "well, the court was green".
 

innocent

Banned
joe sch said:
I think that Mac may have been the most talented player ever.
Safin is a better athlete with more natural power & size.
Mac could have won alot more slams if he trained harder and did not party.
This is why Lendl won soo many titles from '85..'90, he out trained everbody and won matches on power and conditioning, not talent. Same goes for a play like Vitas G., he had tons of talent, could out play Bjorn in thier training session but he also out partied all of the other players also :)
Ha Ha Ha dont make me laugh. McEnroes talent is nowhere near Safin. The only thing he can do better than Safin is volley. Safin has a much more beautiful groundstrokes. Infact safin has the best two handed backhand and has the record for the fastest serve on the ATP tour(even faster than roddicks). To prove it there is an interview below:

Q. There was a serve that it was 255 kilometers per hour, but I don't know ‑‑ well, I saw it on the screen, so I'm not sure. Well, it's not a consolation, I know, but...

MARAT SAFIN: It doesn't help me much, but now at least I am gonna be the fastest server on the ATP Tour, which is also not bad.

On top of all of this Safin parties, drinks, sleeps with women before his matches and never practices. Despite all this he has won 2 grandslams 2 grandslam finals, been number 1 in the world, finished in the top ten for 4 years and 5 masters series titles. He is one of the only few players who can go toe to toe when federer is playing at his best. In my view federer was playing at his best the the semi of australian open 2005 and safin beat him.
he has achieved so many thing so effortlessly, now thats talent.
 

FormerPro

New User
McEnroe-- for sure! His strokes are so unorthodox and you wouldn't teach them to anyone but he was all natural and had unbelievable hands.
 

LendlFan

Semi-Pro
Kevin Patrick said:
Re Agassi's talent:

He won '92 Wimbledon by practicing on hardcourts of Vegas the week before(& was in a pretty bad slump that year as well)

Made the finals of '90 & '91 French, arrived at event day before it started. Hardly played on clay in preparation as well.

Won US Open as unseeded player in '94.

Dropped to #141 in '97 at the age of 27. No one gave him any shot at coming back, he was too old, too many big servers in the game, etc. He finished '98 in the top 8 & '99 at #1.

Won '99 French. Played only one clay event in preparation. Considered withdrawing due to shoulder injury.

What other player could do all this? Mac never recovered from his break of '86. Borg retired at 26. Sampras dropped considerably in late 20s.

My point exactly ! What do you think about JenCap?
 

Camilio Pascual

Hall of Fame
I'm pretty sure the best case can be made for Richard "Pancho" Gonzalez.
He did not start to play tennis until he was 12 and look at how far he went. There wasn't that much time to drill the natural talent out of him and replace it with trained talent.
 

Kevin Patrick

Hall of Fame
Capriati can win majors without being in great shape, talented for sure. If she's healthy next year, she will be in the top 10.

Not in Agassi's league though. That hand-eye is insane. His 'strike zone' is wider than anyone I've seen, he can hit the ball cleanly on high balls, low balls, junk balls, etc.
 

joesixtoe

Rookie
agassi says he doesnt have to go out and hit a bunch of tennis balls everyday, he says he just needs the match play to be ready for tournys.
 

DashaandSafin

Hall of Fame
See the thing holding Agassi back is he cant volley...i always thought he could at least put the ball away decently...but in the USO and Montreal he really BRICKED some volleys.
My vote still goes to Safin, who hated tennis when he was young.
 
For pure athletic talent, my vote goes to Safin. For someone who looks like they were born to wield a racquet, Federer and Mac. I can't recall enough to mention Nastase or Rios.
 

POGO

Hall of Fame
Safin is such an incredible player. If he can only get his head straight, I believe he can be Federer's only Nemesis. Safin's win over Federer at the Australian Open was a classic.
 

35ft6

Legend
Kevin Patrick said:
Re Agassi's talent:

He won '92 Wimbledon by practicing on hardcourts of Vegas the week before(& was in a pretty bad slump that year as well)

...
Right on! That's a pretty compelling argument you put together.
 

NoBadMojo

G.O.A.T.
you're right..agassi really cant volley but he does take it early from the backcourt and hits it clean as we know, and richard pancho gonzales didnt even posess a topspin backhand i dont believe....when i think of most talented, i think of those who posess all of the shots
 
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