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

timmyboy

Professional
POGO said:
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.
I think safin is a bit overhyped. no offense or anything, but i don't find anything special about his game. also, he's been out first round for like all three other slams.
 

cadfael_tex

Professional
I liked to watch Conners but he was more heart than talent - not that he didn't have talent. I'd call him a scrapper. Borg was truly amazing looking at the types of groundstrokes he was hitting with a little wooden racquet. I like to watch the S+V's so McEnroe was my all time fave to watch. His groundies were ugly but it was such a pretty volley that he has to be on the list. Sampras had the whole package imho so he has to be at the top of the list. Edberg was smooth so I'd put him on my list. There were several aussies in the 50's and 60's that weren't bad either - ahem Laver (grand slam).
 

Thunder

New User
Agree with Will888. Sampras and Federer. Both are like poetry in motion. McEnroe also had amazing feel and touch.

Ivo Karlovic is not far behind
 

monfils

Rookie
timmyboy said:
I think safin is a bit overhyped. no offense or anything, but i don't find anything special about his game. also, he's been out first round for like all three other slams.
Thats not true. He has not lost in the first round of any slam this year.
 

35ft6

Legend
cadfael_tex said:
I liked to watch Conners but he was more heart than talent - not that he didn't have talent. I'd call him a scrapper.
This is interesting because Connor's had a whole different kind of natural talent. First off, I heard that he was the hardest hitter on tour early in his career, like in the early and mid 70's. But the natural talent that set him apart IMO is his ability to play the right shots at the right time. By the time of his amazing run to the semi's of the US Open, his groundstrokes were probably slightly below average in terms of pace amongst the top 100, and his serve was probably one of the very slowest on tour. But he beat people by playing the right shots and employing the right tactics at the right time, which is an incredible natural talent. It's not like Agassi where he was simply playing the percentages; Connors was progressive rock out there, changing time signature, tempo, and key all over the place.

Just imagine what Safin could accomplish with Connor's fight and mind.
 

callitout

Professional
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.
Very interesting stuff. But Fed took 5 weeks off after Wimby. I guess these sort of things just show that if your a great player whose been playing since age 2 you probably dont much off your stroke by not playing every day. If your gonna ace the Bar, its not about studying the day before the Bar Exam; the works been done years and weeks before.

As to Sampras decline many attributed to his losing a step and therefore having a slightly worse position for first volley, rather than a decline in his strokes.
 

urban

Legend
It may be interesting in this context, that in the book of Richard Evans, Nastase,1978, some contemporary players stated, that in regard of tennis specific abilities, Connors was more talented than Nastase. Nastase was a great natural athlet, fast, lean and well coordinated in his movement. But in terms of stroke production, pure hitting etc. Connors was seen as the better of the two.
 
random1 said:
John McEnroe
Good choice. Some say that McEnroe's movements are mechanical and awkward. I think it's natural. It seems as though he just gets the job done and cares less if some of his traits are non-textbook-like. Natural! It all comes down to execution and winning. Things don't always have to appear fluid and natural in order to be natural. Also, opinions are thoughts that are influenced or decided upon accordingly to each individual in their own way how they chose it to be.
 

Virus

Rookie
I would have to say that Ivan Lendl's swing seemed perfect in every aspect. I loved watching him play. I discovered my server after mimicing him.
 

cadfael_tex

Professional
Agree on Conner's insticts. He was probably the most natural all court player I've seen. Watching a few of his matches could be worth of year of lessons on tennis tatics.
 

donnyz89

Hall of Fame
WAIT WAIT WAIT...

no one mentioned AGASSI!?!?!?!?!

his ability to hit the ball is phenomenal!!! none of that topspin loopy bull crap. just straight up, deadly, clean BALL STRIKING. watching him play is like NO OTHER, everyone else could be imitated, he CANT. HES AMAZING! talent, YES! no one can play at 36 w/out talent.

and pete sampras?
 

callitout

Professional
umm, donnyz. About 4 pages ago people were discussing Agassi. And Sampras was mentioned too. Its a pretty long thread so im not surprised you missed it.
 

AndrewD

Legend
Just to throw a cat amongst the pigeons, in a recent interview Ivan Lendl said that there were many kinds of talent. Among the types he listed were 'willingness to work hard'.

If you accept that and say that the greatest pure talent was also the most driven to succeed (which includes their desire for off-court work) then it excludes quite a number of the players we've mentioned earlier and all of the ones I suggested -Mandlikova, Mecir, Goolagong, McEnroe. It also elevates players like Federer, Laver, Hoad, Navratilova and Agassi (in his later years) who left, or are leaving, no stone unturned in their drive to succeed.
 

cadfael_tex

Professional
AndrewD said:
Just to throw a cat amongst the pigeons, in a recent interview Ivan Lendl said that there were many kinds of talent. Among the types he listed were 'willingness to work hard'.

If you accept that and say that the greatest pure talent was also the most driven to succeed (which includes their desire for off-court work) then it excludes quite a number of the players we've mentioned earlier and all of the ones I suggested -Mandlikova, Mecir, Goolagong, McEnroe. It also elevates players like Federer, Laver, Hoad, Navratilova and Agassi (in his later years) who left, or are leaving, no stone unturned in their drive to succeed.
And it also elevates Lendl and eliminates (from what I've seen) all the up and coming American men.
 

zorroman

New User
I would say that Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Marat Safin are most talented players I have ever seen. I would say that Stefan Edberg was playing his best serve-and-volley game, he was smoother than any of the names above. Unfortunately, I can't the same about his forehand!!
 

Aykhan Mammadov

Hall of Fame
FEDERER
FEDERER
FEDERER
FFFFFFFFFFEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Absolute genius of tennis. Doctor of arts after turning tennis into art. Nobody is even close. Only Federer.
 

Yours!05

Professional
AndrewD said:
Just to throw a cat amongst the pigeons, in a recent interview Ivan Lendl said that there were many kinds of talent. Among the types he listed were 'willingness to work hard'.

If you accept that and say that the greatest pure talent was also the most driven to succeed (which includes their desire for off-court work) then it excludes quite a number of the players we've mentioned earlier and all of the ones I suggested -Mandlikova, Mecir, Goolagong, McEnroe. It also elevates players like Federer, Laver, Hoad, Navratilova and Agassi (in his later years) who left, or are leaving, no stone unturned in their drive to succeed.
Don't have time to look up specifics, but I suppose partying till 5 AM before finals doesn't necessarily preclude a willingness to work hard.;)
 

donnyz89

Hall of Fame
but... another thing. HOW MANY OF THESE player are not talents?

we all play tennis, we all get lessons, we all know the steps. some players fail some players succeed, there are players who was great as a junior but did not make it. great instructions? lack of talent? maybe, i think ANYONE who made it to the ATP and was wellknown should deserve the talented award.
 

jhhachamp

Hall of Fame
donnyz89 said:
but... another thing. HOW MANY OF THESE player are not talents?

we all play tennis, we all get lessons, we all know the steps. some players fail some players succeed, there are players who was great as a junior but did not make it. great instructions? lack of talent? maybe, i think ANYONE who made it to the ATP and was wellknown should deserve the talented award.
Obviously every professional tennis player has a lot of athletic talent to make it that far, this thread does not debate that. It is simply asking who is the most talented. So if someone says this guy was not that talented it means relative to other pro players, not the general population.
 

AndrewD

Legend
Yours!05,
Not if you're willing to get up early and work it off. I think Emmo was the best example of that and they didn't call Fred Stolle, 'Fiery' because of his temper LOL.
 

timmyboy

Professional
monfils said:
Thats not true. He has not lost in the first round of any slam this year.
even if not, he didn't make it very far. at all. i haven't heard of him since australia.
 

cadfael_tex

Professional
RF is Swiss, SE is from sweden - that is if the SE in question is Stephan Edberg. If is Sam Eschenfelder I think he lives in Hackensack. Boy that Sam could serve and volley.
 

killer

Semi-Pro
Let's talk about hands. 'Hands' are what separate the truly willed from the truly talented. There is no way to mistake the ability to hit particular shots as a result of hard practice from the ability to make impossible shots seem effortless. There is no amount of practicing that can make a running backhand dropshot any easier, nor is there any way to make hitting a perfectly placed reverse-twist serve any better at match-point down.
It's court-sense mashed in with an ability to make the unexpected happen, and it doesn't result from spending hours on a practice court, even if you're working on the particular shot, as Lendl did (rather successfully with mid-court approach shots).
There are too many variables within a point, a game and even a match that are primarily based on strategy; shots result from careful construction. But the truly talented make odds-defying shots happen with an element of grace that elevates tennis into an artform.

Edberg's backhand, for example, is beauty to watch. Becker's serve is the most concise, effortless way to deliver a ball into the service box ever known, and probably the most effective: if you imagine it, compare Sampras' serve delivery to Boris'...BB wins hands down.

'Hands' will always separate the good from the great; court geometry allows those who have a muscular understanding of physics to excel where others hope to succeed through force of will.

The choice has to be McEnroe. Fed comes close, but his crosscourt bh passing shot is becoming predictable. With Mac you can watch the same match over and over again, and still not quite remember where he's going to hit the ball. Though he may not be the most complete player ever, his ability to take an over-weighted racquet (the Dunlop 200G) and turn it into an instrument of random artistry and RIDICULOUS shots deserves much credit. His game never looks conventional, nor should it. His forehand looks like a 2.0 player would thrash it, yet he took an antiquated (continental) grip and placed tannis balls in corners that didn't even exist before he came along.

Federer, Edberg, Grosjean et al owe John McEnroe much credit; without his style of play there would never be room for people who believe that this lovely game we love so much is not about power and muscles, but rather about the hands.

Cheers.
 

35ft6

Legend
killer said:
'Hands' will always separate the good from the great; court geometry allows those who have a muscular understanding of physics to excel where others hope to succeed through force of will.
I consider Lendl a great player and I don't think he had great hands. Heart/will also separates the good from the great.
 

urban

Legend
Hoad was the only guy, who won the final of Roland Garros after being heavily drunk the night before. That story is true, because it is told by his wife Jenny.
 

killer

Semi-Pro
I fully agree with you, 35ft6...heart and will and marks of a champion in any sport. You can't succeed without them. I also think that Lendl's talent for the game is underrated too. But this thread is about pure talent, not the other ingredients that make for a superior player...perhaps I'm splitting hairs here though...
 

35ft6

Legend
killer said:
I fully agree with you, 35ft6...heart and will and marks of a champion in any sport. You can't succeed without them. I also think that Lendl's talent for the game is underrated too. But this thread is about pure talent, not the other ingredients that make for a superior player...perhaps I'm splitting hairs here though...
This is sort of related: I've always thought inconsistent players were too often automatically labeled talented in sort of the same way eccentric people are often mislabeled as being exceptionally intelligent.

Inconsistent meaning they'll occasionally hit a great shot, but then miss the next 10, and people will assume that that one great shot was somehow a truer representation of his potential, completely disregarding all the horrible shots in the process. Maybe it wasn't talent -- maybe he got lucky?

What I'm getting at is that people like Lendl, who was incredibly consistent, are almost penalized for being consistent, labeled as being a hard working overachiever. He hit incredible forehand after incredible forehand, and was never praised, whereas if player X hit one Lendl-like forehand, but his forehand was just more flamboyant looking, people talk like Player X has way more talent than Lendl but he doesn't (insert reason here).

Does anybody understand what I'm saying? I'm not saying this is always the case as nobody will deny that Mac and Federer are insanely talented, and their results speak for themselves. But I think a lot of times some very mediocre players are labeled talented because occasionally they're able to pull a great shot from out their bu tt. I saw this happen on my college team as well. There was a guy who really couldn't beat anybody but everybody talked about how talented he was, an assessment I didn't agree with.

I think this might apply in most other areas, too. Extreme inconsistency comes off as being talent unrealized.
 

cadfael_tex

Professional
I see what you are saying 35ft6. Some players you are waiting to just 'get it' and they never do. Is it because they didn't meet their potential or is it because they never had any. Arias being an example.
 

AndrewD

Legend
killer said:
Federer, Edberg, Grosjean et al owe John McEnroe much credit; without his style of play there would never be room for people who believe that this lovely game we love so much is not about power and muscles, but rather about the hands.

Cheers.
Mac wasn't the first to play that way, not by a long shot. Bromwich and Larsen were playing that style of game 40 and 20 years prior to McEnroe. That's not even mentioning Ken Rosewall whose nickname tells you exactly what he didn't have but whose major titles let you know what he had in abundance. Then there's Goolagong and Mandlikova who were smooth as silk but not overly powerful.

Anyway, 'hands' aren't the be all and end all. Leconte had the fastest hands Ive ever seen but, like someone else said, 'a ten cent head' to go with it.
 

ctbmar

Semi-Pro
JMac has some crazy talent...I don't know how he can jump up to a head high ball that was hit hard towards him, and then hit the ball at high chest level, do a dead stop volley just over the net without the ball bouncing by much...
I have not seen anyone since hit this kind of dead stop volley at upper chest level and pop it silently dead-kill inches from the net.

Federer's backhand block-slice return serve is really an art, super talent...I don't think even Sampras did it. Federer is able to practically full lunge on the backhand return, block-slice the return back deep and controlled to the opponent's AD court or center baseline-mark and then within split-seconds get into GOOD position to await for his opponent's reply, bouncing on his feet, very ready to dash in either direction. And he does it quite frequently against big servers like Roddick and other 130++ mph serves.

Edberg's low backhand volley is a dream, really artistic talent. He can take the ball at his shoe laces, racket almost scrapping the tennis court surface, either using perpherial vision to glance at corner of his eyes or really without looking where his opponent is or where the court is, hit volley with side-spin, depth, skidding low, away from his opponent's deuce court, blond hair flowing freely and retained neatly, in the same motion, running closer to the net to anticipate for the 2nd volley, followed by a stutter step, a mild pump fist and pouting lip gesture, and finally ending of with small forward & backward skips to return to the baseline to serve another super-kick serve for the next point.

Chang's running forehand hook shot is also a rarity now. The opponent just hit a ball to his forehand and he is still far away on his AD court. Chang makes a mad dash to chase down this ball...ball is almost going to land its 2nd bounce...Chang does an accelerated aggressive forehand vertical hook shot, follow through straight behind his head, at the same time using his huge thigh and calf muscles for his built to generate a upward leap action to give this hook shot further spin, net clearance, power and medium depth, passing his opponent down-the-line or cross-court at the net...
 

Kevin Patrick

Hall of Fame
I think Lendl's "lack of talent" has been blown out of proportion, primarily due to the fact that Mac was playing at the same time as he was. In comparison he wouldn't look as talented(he didn't glide on his feet, have great volleys, but outside of Mac who did- to that extreme?)

If Lendl played today, he would be considered very talented. He had great hands from the baseline(I've seen him make half-volleys drives off balls that were crushed by Becker & Agassi)
He had great variety on all groundstrokes. He was on of the hardest hitters of all time, but only let it rip at crucial monents. His normal rally shots were only hit at 60% of his ability, but they still had great depth & spin.
 

Tenez

New User
If we're talking vollleying talent, I have to bring up some of the "oldie" greats. I remember watching one of the many re-runs of the classic 1969 Gonzales-Pasarell first round match at Wimbledon. Pancho Gonzales' volleying in that match was just divine. There were drop volleys he hit, where it seemed as though he was literally putting on a show of skill for the audience -- from a few feet near the net on his ad side, he would hit an angled drop volley that would land on Charlie's ad side of the court, inches from the net. I haven't watched any other matches of his (perhaps they showed some other footage in the recent TV documentary on his life?), but if that's what Pancho Gonzales was capable of in that match, he must have been an awesome talent. And, oh, by the way, Pancho was in his forties at the time of that match, which he won 11-9 in the 5th set after saving 7 matchpoints. Until not so long ago, that match was the longest Grand Slam match ever played.
--Tenez
 

GotGame?

Rookie
Another similarity among some of these players that amazes me is the age that they took up tennis. I can relate to it and it gives me hope since I started playing when I was 12 yrs old, and I am now 15. What company I would be in if my dream was fulfilled!
 

killer

Semi-Pro
Santoro is a dream to watch; highly unorthodox, great sense of the court, good humour...but he's also a player playing up to his full potential. He's not that consistent, and certainly doesn't have the 'knock-out punch' that characterizes many of the game's great players.
Mind you, i can't recall JMac having that either; his whole game was precision, not power. but therein lies one of his strengths; he didn't have an obvious weakness, and he could hurt you with his touch from anywhere on the court.
I like the fact that Lendl is in this discussion, because (as was stated earlier) his talent for the game is often overlooked. He didn't play a 'touch' game to be sure, but he did have enough ability to make the running forehand passing shot a 'must-have' for today's game. You just knew that whenever he was stretched wide on the fh side that he was going to hit a winner, regardless of where he made contact...a great shot to watch.

Though he's already been mentioned, I'll reiterate that Federer has a lot of talent as well. Not because he doesn't have a day-to-day coach, not because he has incredible defense, but because he finds angles in the court where most players just don't see them. His smooth movement is a direct result of his court sense and ability to 'feel' where hisopponent's next shot is going.
 
Maureen Connelly (Brinker)

No one, male or female, took to the game so young and so dominantly. She had it all, and if she never had the horseback accident might be considered the best ever.

If I had to choose a man, Nastase, hands down. The guy never really practiced and still could make the ball do whatever he commanded it to do.
 
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