I think a good comparison to give some clay-court background to Tracy Austin's game would be to look at both Lindsay Davenport and Billie Jean King (among many other Californians). They were brought up on southern California hardcourts, and moulded their games to hit hard on that surface. It's just not the same as being raised on Ft. Lauderdale clay, no matter how their strokes compare. Clay court tennis takes a lot of experience and hitting of balls on that surface before a player excels on it, and for some (like Austin, King, Davenport and most notably Pete Sampras), it was just never a surface they felt comfortable with. Good enough efforts to have a handful of significant wins (and in King's case, to take a French title), but never was going to be a factor on the surface from the get-go. You could say the same about many more players and grass, if you stop and really think about it.
Firstly, I would like to say that I have enjoyed reading the posts in Blast from the Past for years. It's a pleasure to know other people who remember how wonderful the game truly was.........................and who can actually recall the very different feel of playing with wood. I so miss it! Let me know if any of you still play with it, and if you do..................let me know where!!! LOL!
But anyway, my 2 cents.....I can't see including Austin here in this group at all. They used to say that Steffi Graf tosses the ball too high on her serve..............................well, not too high for her! The same goes with Tracy. Yeah, she had stiff movement, but it is what worked for her.....................it was natural for her to play this way...it enabled her to be the hard-hitting precision player that she was. And I'm sorry, but not a clay court player? The only thing that counts in the end are results not form, and snapping Chrissie's streak at the Italian, especially giving her very limited competitive experience on red clay up to that time, is enough for me! Even Chris said that she knew eventually it would probably be Tracy who would be the one to end it.
What everyone seems to forget in these conversations is the fact that Tracy's career was over at 21, and also that she didn't play the french in '79 & '80............when she might have won those titles. She had to be in science class instead!!! Chris and Martina had major-injury free careers. If she had never gotten hurt, I think she would have been the main threat to Navratilova from '82-'86. Martina was blowing away Chrissie in every match in 1983. She wasn't even getting close to winning a set that year from Navratilova. Tracy came back from injury and lost in 3 sets to a then rampaging Martina, taking the 1st set 7-5, and then just couldn't continue the form. I just don't think she gets enough credit, that's all.
Pam Shriver said at the end of her career that Tracy may have been the toughest competitor she ever played against.
On another note, I've lately been thinking about how women's tennis in particular was robbed over the years of so many potential blockbuster rivalries because of the refusal to have open tennis and of course also injuries as well. Wills-Lenglen, Jacobs-Lenglen, Wills-Marble, Betz-Connolly, Connolly-Court & King, Bueno-Evert & Goolagong etc. Have you guys ever done a thread on this? I think it would be interesting to speculate on it.