Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
I think Graf's slice backhand became more of a weapon around 1994-95 after she'd worked with Heinz Gunthardt for a couple of years. She was able to keep it low and out of the hitting zone of her opponents thereby forcing them to often hit awkward, defensive shots. In some ways her loss in basic foot speed due to various injuries resulted in her defensive game getting better because she had to work the point to set up her forehand. In the latter half of her career, she became sort of like the baseline version of an attacking player. Instead of constructing a point with groundstrokes and approach shots to set up a winning volley at the net, she used roughly the same strategy to open up the court for her forehand. I remember discussing this with someone a few years ago and we agreed that Graf, in some ways, could play confidently because she knew that around 90% (if not more) of her opponents' shots were going to go to her backhand. At that level of the sport, it's a true luxury to be able to remove the element of surprise from one's opponent's game that regularly.
Best left-right combination by a German (and that includes Max Schmeling): Steffi Graf. All she did in 1987 was knock Navratilova out of #1 and try to knock Evert out of the sport. (Mike Lupica in "The Best and Worst of Tennis in 1987", World Tennis)
"A couple of years ago, we nicknamed Steffi Graf's forehand 'Jaws'. And that music would go perfectly when she starts running in to the net, swarming on that little ball." (JoAnne Russell, during the 1988 Wimbledon final between Graf and Navratilova)