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View Full Version : The Graf Backhand: Strength or Weakness? You judge with help of Youtube.


Steffica Greles
Sep 21st, 2008, 02:13 AM
Now of course this is the great Steffi Graf we're talking about: any weakness was relative to her strengths. Her forehand is still, to most objective observers, the mot mighty shot that has ever been hit in women's tennis. The sheer thrust and velocity of it from any depth, to all angles was nothing short of a wonder.

But there are two schools of thought as to her backhand side; that famous sliced shot which, except when called on to hit a topspin pass, Graf used in 99% of all her baseline rallies.

Weakness?

It is true that there were times when Graf's backhand, against opponents without her weapons or athleticism, could leave her vulnerable. Seles' success against Graf was largely down to her ability to hold Graf at bay by hitting all day to her backhand, before attacking the forehand corner when in position. Sanchez-Vicario would retrieve Graf's bludgeoning forehands to her backhand side and be back in the rally, ready to inflict a counter-punching sting from her nasty bag of tricks. Navratilova and Sabatini learned to approach the net on Graf's backhand side, with some success during the early 90s. Later in her career, Graf got a killing from Venus Williams in Miami, when her backhand in particular appeared innocuous against the sheer force of Venus' backhand. Venus had obviously practiced getting down low that morning, because on other occasions, as we will see, Venus struggled against that shot. Also, the technically perfect Davenport might have been outflanked by Graf's far superior movement, but she handled Graf's sliced backhand with decided ease.

Subscribers to this school of thought -- that her backhand was a weakness -- include none other than Steffi herself, who said on several occasions that, had she started from scratch, she would have used a double-handed backhand. Rumour has it that in c1991, with Seles on her case, Graf was seen practicing a double-hander (and doing it nicely) in training. But she obviously decided it was too great a risk to pursue at the age of 22.

But would Graf have really been a more formidable player with a double-hander, or even a Henin-esque topspun backhand?

Was the shot a strength?

First of all, Graf's backhand was a positional shot. She hit her sliced backhand as a precursor to that wallop which all her opponents dreaded - the forehand. Had Graf's backhand been more forceful, she might never have developed her forehand into the crushing shot that it was. She would have been more akin to Davenport, or Ivanovic, and thus many of her forehands would have been played safer, with more topspin, to temper the risk of her game. With a sliced backhand, Graf knew that with power hitters like Seles, Capriati and Huber emerging, there could be no compromise on her forehand. She simply had to dominate from that side to stay ahead. And to the end of her career, I never saw a player win against Steffi by attacking her forehand for an entire match. Seles and Pierce had the audacity at select moments, but all of the players knew, including a young Venus and Serena, that to try to outdo Graf on the forehand side was tantamount to suicide.

Furthermore, Graf's backhand was, in a subtle way, an extremely aggressive shot. She hit the sliced backhand harder and with more underspin than any woman I have ever seen. Most sliced shots float these days; Graf's seemed to reach her opponent's side in a straight line, skimming low over the net. On natural surfaces in particular, the spin on the ball practically burrowed a hole into the court. Her opponents almost had to use golf swings to dig the ball up, thus reducing the angle to which they could strike the ball without losing control, and in reducing the dimensions, the high percentage areas of the court were reduced. Often, her sliced backhand would produce a short ball from which Graf could climb round and fire her forehand; opponents dared not hit with power off her slice, such was the risk of hitting long. Thus, Graf was, to a very large degree, usually able to negate the power of a Venus Williams or a Monica Seles, because she did not offer shots which sat up, and technically they had to generate all of their own pace -- and most difficult of all, topspin -- from a very low centre of gravity. Players like Sharapova or Ivanovic would have struggled a great deal against Graf's backhand, such is their reliance on waist height balls.

Lastly, it must be remembered that Graf's backhand was her safe shot. When Graf lost, usually it was because her forehand misfired and the errors stacked up. Graf's forehand was usually 'hit', but sometimes 'miss'. In all of Graf's losses to Seles, Sanchez-Vicario and Sabatini, it was errors from her forehand side which caused her demise. It is arguable that it was her necessity to attack ferociously, due to her comparatively tame backhand, which caused her to over press on occasions. However, with a backhand of equal risk, Graf would have lost far more matches from unforced errors, as most players who forcefully hit double-handed from both sides are wont to do. A safer double-handed backhand, a la Capriati, would surely have left her more vulnerable to the likes of Seles, Hingis, Davenport or the Williamses, who would have gobbled up shorter or looping balls in their hitting zones.

Therefore, I argue that, all things considered, Graf's sliced backhand was actually a key part of her game, linked inextricably to the imperious might of her forehand. It is facile to argue that 22 slams would have been 30 had Graf hit a double-handed backhand; such a shot would have made her more vulnerable.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bYmsCGo56Q&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd7_hUhRRvA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8byglWSmxk&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiZk3epI1jY&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FlQrAHhkhM&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FlQrAHhkhM&feature=related (wind to 1m, 45sec)

treufreund
Sep 21st, 2008, 02:37 AM
I really really enjoyed what you wrote! So nice to read about some TENNIS on a tennis board!

Thanx4nothin
Sep 21st, 2008, 02:41 AM
I prefer, and rate higher Henin's slice, but I assume I'm in a minority there :lol:. I think Henin has more cut to her backhand.

Tennisstar86
Sep 21st, 2008, 02:42 AM
weakness.... In todays game it def would have been a weakness....If she had a top spin backhand to mix in, then the slice would have a great asset...

duhcity
Sep 21st, 2008, 03:08 AM
Of course, relative to the rest of her game, Graf's backhand was weak.

I still like it though. But I don't doubt she would've been a better player if she had a backhand on par with her forehand.


And I prefer Henin's backhand still. I've never been a fan of Henin off court, but I would love to watch Henin on court because of her backhand.

DaMamaJama87
Sep 21st, 2008, 03:09 AM
She was playing in a different era. That slice backhand would be a liability against today's power hitters. She could get away with just moving the ball around on the backhand side and using the forehand to unload and hit winners but these days you need to be able to hit winners off both wings. You just don't have the same amount to time to rally anymore.

treufreund
Sep 21st, 2008, 03:18 AM
I really really enjoyed what you wrote! So nice to read about some TENNIS on a tennis board!

Steffica Greles
Sep 21st, 2008, 03:32 AM
You just don't have the same amount to time to rally anymore.

Right. And that's because players hit flat, hard shots against flat, hard shots. No wonder.

Graf's slice (far, far superior to Henin's defensive slice) would cut down their angles, and they simply weren't able to hit with as much power from such low balls. And plus it gave her a split second more time to get into position.

I think it would be stuff of nightmares for a lot of today's girls. It certainly troubled Venus at Wimbledon '99.

Kworb
Sep 21st, 2008, 03:38 AM
Relative weakness. Check the 50 second long point from 2:37-3:27.

JvyEnVCEl9A

sammy01
Sep 21st, 2008, 03:46 AM
weakness. for me it was obviously weaker than her forehand but it also gave her trouble against seles on slower courts. if you watch some of the rallies between monica and steffi at the french or oz open you can see seles just constantly bombarded the backhand of graf. with seles being like a mirror image off both sides graf couldn't slice it back to seles 'weaker shot' so seles knew hitting to it meant she could gain the upper hand in many rallies, and wait untill the forehand side was totaly exposed before going to it, which she was highly capable off both wings.
against other players graf could chip or slice her backhand back to the weaker side of certain players to get a midcourt ball or a badly directioned ball which she could attack with the forehand. having said that her slice was amazing and could on its day keep seles at bay. on fastcourts (esp grass) it obviously came into its own and was so much harder to attack as the balls stayed lower off that side. hence the fact that graf won the most slams at wimbledon.
so to some up against most players she could use it to great effect, against seles it was a weakness on slower courts, but it also became a strength dependant on the speed of the court. i went with weakness as had graf had a more attacking backhand, it would have not given her opponents (especialy seles) a easy plan of attacking the backhand.

Apoleb
Sep 21st, 2008, 03:47 AM
It could be both a weakness and a strength, depending on the surface and on the opponent.

It was most definitely a point of strength on grass. On grass, it was more of an aggressive weapon that set up the forehand for her. She also used it to great effect on clay too because she moved her opponents around with it so well. She had such tremendous mix of shots on it. Forward, backward, dtl, cross court..etc. You also could never see a drop shot when there's one.

It was more of a weakness on rebound ace for obvious reasons.

For all of those who think she would struggle in the modern game against big hitters, they need to watch the Venus Wimbledom match and even the Key Biscane match. Her bh was working tremendously and Venus was finding it hard to make anything of it. She was hitting winners mostly on Steffi's forehands. It would wreck havoc for a lot of the big hitters.

DaMamaJama87
Sep 21st, 2008, 03:47 AM
Right. And that's because players hit flat, hard shots against flat, hard shots. No wonder.

Graf's slice (far, far superior to Henin's defensive slice) would cut down their angles, and they simply weren't able to hit with as much power from such low balls. And plus it gave her a split second more time to get into position.

I think it would be stuff of nightmares for a lot of today's girls. It certainly troubled Venus at Wimbledon '99.

Venus 99 was Venus at her most erratic, and that's saying something because Venus is erratic even at her best. She had Graf on the ropes that day and mentally was not able to keep up her level and Graf fought through. It's too much of a presumption to give the credit to Graf's backhand. There were many things at play that day. I could say that Graf's slice didn't give Davenport any trouble in the finals that year and Davenport isn't such a great mover. Don't even talk about low balls, Venus may be tall but she is awesome at hitting agressive shots off low balls. Same with Sharapova. It's not low balls that trouble today's best power hitters, it's consistent hard hitting from the other side. That's something Graf would not be able to maintain with her style of play. Yes she would win points by being creative and changing up the pace of things with the slice, but on a good day she would still face the potential of being hit off the court. She even got hit off the court by Pierce one year and Pierce was one of the prototypes of today's power hitters.

spencercarlos
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:48 AM
Blah blah blah about people asuming Graf's game was not going to be competitive against today's amazing power game. The same way they predicted Hingis's (more slower game than Graf) to be unsucessful with her comeback attempt.

Graf's backhand was perfect between 1994-1996 just after Graf changed to a newer racket, that definetly gave her more pop on that stroke.

Graf definetly would have been a top 5 with ease today, yet maintaining her same style and game. Her game had too much atheticism, speed, court coverage, power and mental strenght not to.

spencercarlos
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:54 AM
It could be both a weakness and a strength, depending on the surface and on the opponent.

It was most definitely a point of strength on grass. On grass, it was more of an aggressive weapon that set up the forehand for her. She also used it to great effect on clay too because she moved her opponents around with it so well. She had such tremendous mix of shots on it. Forward, backward, dtl, cross court..etc. You also could never see a drop shot when there's one.

It was more of a weakness on rebound ace for obvious reasons.

For all of those who think she would struggle in the modern game against big hitters, they need to watch the Venus Wimbledom match and even the Key Biscane match. Her bh was working tremendously and Venus was finding it hard to make anything of it. She was hitting winners mostly on Steffi's forehands. It would wreck havoc for a lot of the big hitters.
Hard to judge by the Key Biscayne 99 match as Steffi barely put balls in play, that was a terrible match. And the very few she could, Venus just jumped on her.

spencercarlos
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:59 AM
Venus 99 was Venus at her most erratic, and that's saying something because Venus is erratic even at her best. She had Graf on the ropes that day and mentally was not able to keep up her level and Graf fought through. It's too much of a presumption to give the credit to Graf's backhand. There were many things at play that day. I could say that Graf's slice didn't give Davenport any trouble in the finals that year and Davenport isn't such a great mover. Don't even talk about low balls, Venus may be tall but she is awesome at hitting agressive shots off low balls. Same with Sharapova. It's not low balls that trouble today's best power hitters, it's consistent hard hitting from the other side. That's something Graf would not be able to maintain with her style of play. Yes she would win points by being creative and changing up the pace of things with the slice, but on a good day she would still face the potential of being hit off the court. She even got hit off the court by Pierce one year and Pierce was one of the prototypes of today's power hitters.
Graf played a terrible final at Wimbledon 1999, from a strategic point of view.
She ran Lindsay off the court with her backhand at the French Open, just weeks earlier, using a lot of dropshots and in a court like Wimbledon where the dropshots could be lethal because of the low bounce, she opted not to use it. 1 miserable dropshot was the total for that final, in counter part with the at least 15 she used at Roland Garros 1999 against Davenport.. oh well.

die_wahrheit
Sep 21st, 2008, 07:21 AM
weakness, but against opponents like sanchez vicario or sabatini not a real problem.

laurie
Sep 21st, 2008, 10:46 AM
This is an interesting thread - and yes, you don't really see too many (actually hardly any!) threads analysing players and their games on Tennis Forum. I'm probably well known on other forums for just that but on Tennis Forum the threads don't usually demand that sort of analysis.

Well, could Graf dominate today? Hard to say, we will never know of course. I would think yes, when I look at Henin and Mauresmo, two players who are hybrids of Graf, combining athleticism with variety - they both didn't do too badly.

Mauresmo never had a great forehand but a fantastic topspin backhand and a great slice becakhand which she could use to stay in the rally, attack the net or chip and charge. Henin, again, fantastic topspin backhand and a reliable slice which she could also use to chip and charge. Both Henin and Mauresmo seem to be better volleyers than Graf, able to hit stretch stop volleys off hard hit shots etc. Maybe Graf was like Hewitt, who the experts and Aussies always said that he had great volleys but never used them enough in singles play - maybe Graf was the same.

So if we look at how successful Henin and Muaresmo have been this decade, I see no reason why Graf couldn't be successful too, in fact, Henin was domnating the tour regularly beating power players like Clijsters, Pierce, Ivanovic, Kuznetsova, even beat Serena in 3 straight slams last year. Henin was able to beat these players with her variety so it can still be done, plus Jankovic never beat Henin either and players like Vaidisova just self destruct with unforced errors, I don't see that Graf would have anything to be afraid of. In the last few matches they played, Mauresmo had the measure of Clisters because she would often slice low, making Clisjters constantly having to hit up, then using the topsin backhand which kicked up high, and Clisjters despite her two handed backhand didn't enjoy high balls above her shoulder, so it was great tactics by Mauresmo to keep Clijsters off balance, similar to tactics Sampras employed against Agassi in their matches in the past.

Maybe Graf fans can comment on this, but I found that in the late 1980s, Graf was developing a really good, deep topspin backhand, especially against attacking players like Navratilova, but when Seles came on the scene in 1990, Graf seemed to lose confidence in that shot and by the 1991 Wimbledon final against Sabatini, that shot all but disappeared from her repetoire for the rest of her career - which was a pity, it was a very nice shot when she had the confidence to use it and I bet she could hit them all day in training. I think Graf would have had to develop her topsin backhand more in today's environment if she had to do anything differently, and use it like Henin and Mauresmo, slice then topsin often - a great tactical comibination.

By the way, I think 15 matches between Graf and Henin would have been something special.

Matt01
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:06 AM
Venus 99 was Venus at her most erratic, and that's saying something because Venus is erratic even at her best. She had Graf on the ropes that day and mentally was not able to keep up her level and Graf fought through. It's too much of a presumption to give the credit to Graf's backhand. There were many things at play that day. I could say that Graf's slice didn't give Davenport any trouble in the finals that year and Davenport isn't such a great mover. Don't even talk about low balls, Venus may be tall but she is awesome at hitting agressive shots off low balls. Same with Sharapova. It's not low balls that trouble today's best power hitters, it's consistent hard hitting from the other side. That's something Graf would not be able to maintain with her style of play. Yes she would win points by being creative and changing up the pace of things with the slice, but on a good day she would still face the potential of being hit off the court. She even got hit off the court by Pierce one year and Pierce was one of the prototypes of today's power hitters.


1. Venus was not at her most erratic in 99.

2. Sharapova isn't "awesome" in hitting aggresive shots off low balls (especially slices).

3. You're all wrong.

Zhao
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:11 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCCxzmxuItc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bWQ7KP0kEw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHtoH8Txji4

this was her last "competitve" match (too competitve for an exhibition)... not too bad against a player who was still playing actively on the tour

i think it depends on the surface
her backhand will actually become an asset on clay on grass..especially on clay... i think if she decides to play next year she still can easily get into the semis of the French Open

Steff_forever
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:19 AM
her slice backhand was never a weakness -it's been one of the best adaptations to agressive players to get onto a forehand position/to attack

this backhand was the best thing she could do to cause weak strokes


therefore the deep slice bh was more a weapon than her huge fh

Lucemferre
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:35 AM
Weakness. It would make her look like a fool if she played today :lol: She is overrated anyway.

Mashafaaaaan
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:53 AM
Weakness. It would make her look like a fool if she played today :lol: She is overrated anyway.

Agreed

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 12:05 PM
She was playing in a different era. That slice backhand would be a liability against today's power hitters. She could get away with just moving the ball around on the backhand side and using the forehand to unload and hit winners but these days you need to be able to hit winners off both wings. You just don't have the same amount to time to rally anymore.

Graf still leads H2H against todays power hitters with that kind of slice Williams sisters together,Davenport,Mauresmo...not to mention her H2H against retired players who were number 1 and dominating in "power era" such as Seles,Hingis,Clijters...her H2H against them combined is 21:6

Not to mention her H2H combined together against other active players such as Sugiyama,Ruano-Pascual,Tanasugarn,Schnyder,Lucic,Schultz-McCarthy...She leads them 15:2

If we count just todays top 100 players she still leads them in H2H 19:11

That's how her slice was "in-effective"

MLF
Sep 21st, 2008, 12:14 PM
The Graf backhand was the side that bought you some time by hitting to it when playing her. However, indoors and on grass it would have been a nightmare to play against, she wouldn't hit winners with it but you couldn't get enough of a hit on the ball to do anything with it, unless you were a Navratilova, Novotna or Sabatini who was prepared to come in and force her to pass you.

People underrate a sliced backhand, Graf's was hit so low and deep that it was a very good shot.

Steffica Greles
Sep 21st, 2008, 12:59 PM
It's not low balls that trouble today's best power hitters, it's consistent hard hitting from the other side.
First of all, Venus was NOT more erratic in 1999. She was a much better athlete: more energetic, fitter, and more powerful. She lost a lot less often. She lost at Wimbledon 1998 and 1999 to two great grass court players playing well (Novotna and Graf); since those years, her only real opposition near her level has been Serena, which explains the five Wimbledon titles.

Secondly, let's address your above comment. If Ivanovic defeats Sharapova because 50% of Sharapova's 'hard hit' backhands, blasted at full pelt, sail long, or into the net, has she really had trouble with Sharapova's game, or has she been handed gifts?

Graf's backhand was her safe, positional shot. Rarely did it ever err. She produced it in such a way that the chances of hitting winners were considerably reduced, such was the biting underspin and depth to which her balls landed. And it had high percentages. Steffi never lost because her backhand gave points away.

Opponents facing Graf had a stark choice: technical nightmares hitting against slice, or playing to Fraulein Forehand's forehand.

Easy, you think?

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 02:21 PM
Graf still leads H2H against todays power hitters with that kind of slice Williams sisters together,Davenport,Mauresmo...not to mention her H2H against retired players who were number 1 and dominating in "power era" such as Seles,Hingis,Clijters...her H2H against them combined is 21:6

Not to mention her H2H combined together against other active players such as Sugiyama,Ruano-Pascual,Tanasugarn,Schnyder,Lucic,Schultz-McCarthy...She leads them 15:2

If we count just todays top 100 players she still leads them in H2H 19:11

That's how her slice was "in-effective"

And if I add Date-Krumm and Maureen Drake to her record against active players who were not number 1 at one point that makes her H2H against active players 24:3 which is very IMPRESSIVE!

24 wins and just 3 losses against 4 former top 10 players,one former top 20(today number 38 in the world) and others being as high as number 28,number 32 and number 47(all of them being in the top 50) in the world who are still active!

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 02:26 PM
Forgot to add Elena Likhovtseva to that list which makes 27 wins and just 3 losses against active players who were not number 1 at one point!

GrafMariaPetraK
Sep 21st, 2008, 02:59 PM
One of the best backhand slice shots in the history of the game,it was a strengh.Nobody hit a slice better than steffi.:bowdown:

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 03:09 PM
True,it was a biting low slice...today nobody plays slice like she used to...

Lucemferre
Sep 21st, 2008, 04:14 PM
Graf still leads H2H against todays power hitters with that kind of slice Williams sisters together,Davenport,Mauresmo...not to mention her H2H against retired players who were number 1 and dominating in "power era" such as Seles,Hingis,Clijters...her H2H against them combined is 21:6

Not to mention her H2H combined together against other active players such as Sugiyama,Ruano-Pascual,Tanasugarn,Schnyder,Lucic,Schultz-McCarthy...She leads them 15:2

If we count just todays top 100 players she still leads them in H2H 19:11

That's how her slice was "in-effective"

Williams sisters together :rolleyes: Shut up. They are two different players. Serena-Graf h2h is 1-1 with Serena winning the bigger match :kiss:

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 05:41 PM
Lucifer,H2H is 4:3 in Graf's favour against Williams sisters together wheather you like it or not...

The point of all those H2H's is that Graf on court was equal opponent to everyone...but statistics like all those H2H say even much better:

Monica 10:5
Serena 1:1
Venus 3:2
Hingis 7:2
Clijsters 1:0
Mauresmo 1:0
Capriati 7:1
Davenport 8:6

Where do you see her negative record against any of those "power" players who were number 1 in the world?P.S.And half of them is still active...she doesn't have any negative H2H against all number ones she played with...that's something!!!

Thanx4nothin
Sep 21st, 2008, 05:44 PM
Love how this thread has turned into a Graf versus current players thread.

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 05:52 PM
You r right...We schould name it "Slice Graf" against current players because it's about her backhand that many think it's a weakness...

My point was just that it's effective as a shot even against todays top players...

Lucemferre
Sep 21st, 2008, 05:57 PM
Lucifer,H2H is 4:3 in Graf's favour against Williams sisters together wheather you like it or not...

The point of all those H2H's is that Graf on court was equal opponent to everyone...but statistics like all those H2H say even much better:

Monica 10:5
Serena 1:1
Venus 3:2
Hingis 7:2
Clijsters 1:0
Mauresmo 1:0
Capriati 7:1
Davenport 8:6

Where do you see her negative record against any of those "power" players who were number 1 in the world?P.S.And half of them is still active...she doesn't have any negative H2H against all number ones she played with...that's something!!!


Graf was very good at beating teenagers and a stabbed nemesis :lol:

Did you read my post? Williams sisters are not the same person. Graf is 1-1 vs. Serena and Serena beat her in the more important match, indian wells final :hearts: ReeRee was only 17 :hearts::hearts:

DaMamaJama87
Sep 21st, 2008, 05:58 PM
First of all, Venus was NOT more erratic in 1999. She was a much better athlete: more energetic, fitter, and more powerful. She lost a lot less often. She lost at Wimbledon 1998 and 1999 to two great grass court players playing well (Novotna and Graf); since those years, her only real opposition near her level has been Serena, which explains the five Wimbledon titles.

Secondly, let's address your above comment. If Ivanovic defeats Sharapova because 50% of Sharapova's 'hard hit' backhands, blasted at full pelt, sail long, or into the net, has she really had trouble with Sharapova's game, or has she been handed gifts?

Graf's backhand was her safe, positional shot. Rarely did it ever err. She produced it in such a way that the chances of hitting winners were considerably reduced, such was the biting underspin and depth to which her balls landed. And it had high percentages. Steffi never lost because her backhand gave points away.

Opponents facing Graf had a stark choice: technical nightmares hitting against slice, or playing to Fraulein Forehand's forehand.

Easy, you think?


1.Venus did not come into herself until 2000. Everyone knows that. Let's not waste our time.
2. I said you need to be able to hit winners off the backhand. Sharapova can do that. Keeping the ball in play with a slice is a good strategy sometimes. That's undeniable. But you can't do that ALL THE TIME and get away with it nowadays. You need to be able to take risks and hit hard off both sides now. Your farfetched example is meaningless.
3. Camille Pin's serve is a safe, positional shot. Rarely does it ever err. It still sucks though.

Face it, today's game is much riskier and that's how you need to play to succeed.

hankqq
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:00 PM
It depends on who she was playing. If she played someone who was just too solid off both sides on the baseline, the backhand would be a weakness. If she played someone who didn't know how to deal with the spin, it would be a strength for Graf.

Some examples of power players adjusting to spin: Davenport used to lose all the time to Martinez. Once she became more consistent, Davenport stopped having problems with the junk baller.

Ivanovic initally had all kinds of trouble with Schnyder's spins. Now she has a win streak against her.

Regardless, Graf would be in trouble on the backhand side if she faced a net-rusher.

DaMamaJama87
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:00 PM
Lucifer,H2H is 4:3 in Graf's favour against Williams sisters together wheather you like it or not...

The point of all those H2H's is that Graf on court was equal opponent to everyone...but statistics like all those H2H say even much better:

Monica 10:5
Serena 1:1
Venus 3:2
Hingis 7:2
Clijsters 1:0
Mauresmo 1:0
Capriati 7:1
Davenport 8:6

Where do you see her negative record against any of those "power" players who were number 1 in the world?P.S.And half of them is still active...she doesn't have any negative H2H against all number ones she played with...that's something!!!

LOL your comparisons are moot. Graf played most of the current generation when they were just beginning on the tour. Serena was 17 for both matches and Kim was barely 16. :haha: Tim Henman has a great h2h with Federer too. That must mean he's unquestionably greater! :worship: :lol:

debopero
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:04 PM
WHy are we comparing Serena/Venus to Graf? They were teenagers when they played her. They are (arguably) better palyers now then they were in '98 and '99. There is so much more to their games now.

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:08 PM
True,but if you compare her H2H against EVERY generation of former world number 1 players she DOESN'T have negative H2H...just even with Navratilova,Austin and Serena...Graf and Serena won a Grand Slam in '99 which indicates that Serena was an excelent player even at that age...

Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon when she was just 17 and never again when she was "stronger"!

Nobody is saying that she would a 39 year old player beat all of them,but just that her slice was superb shot against EVERY generation of players!

Dave.
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:10 PM
Obviously relative to her game it was a weakness, but I think most of the top players now would do very well to have a shot like that. Graf's inability/reluctance to hit over the shot gave her opponents a chance to get in the rally, but very few could actually take advantage (Seles probably being the most effective in exposing it).

Graf's backhand slice was always deep and would skid through the court. Plus the fact that Graf nearly always tried to run around it meant that it was very hard for opponents to continually attack it. To really expose it over the course of a match you had to be constantly hitting hard, deep shots right into the corner, mixing up the pace, whilst continually scooping up the ball. That just spells unforced errors.

It may have been one of her weaker shots, but it was hidden so well and rarely exposed, so it's hard to say it was an actual weakness that kept her from achieving more.

debopero
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:10 PM
True,but if you compare her H2H against EVERY generation of former world number 1 players she DOESN'T have negative H2H...just even with Navratilova,Austin and Serena...Graf and Serena won a Grand Slam in '99 which indicates that Serena was an excelent player even at that age...

Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon when she was just 17 and never again when she was "stronger"!

Nobody is saying that she would a 39 year old player beat all of them,but just that her slice was superb shot against EVERY generation of players!

True but I think we both know that the Serena of say 2002 is better than the Serena of 1999.

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:13 PM
We are talking about the slice backhand and it's effectivnes on court...H2H just show how much in general!

Lucemferre
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:24 PM
We are talking about the slice backhand and it's effectivnes on court...H2H just show how much in general!

That's BS. H2H doesn't really tell anything about weaknesses. Tennis is all about match ups. Graf's backhand was her weakness.

pancake
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:31 PM
Stop comparing Graf with Serena or Venus already. None of them were at their peak when they met, stop saying oh Serena was still a teenager oh Graf was old blah blah blah. It's now about GRAF'S BACKHAND.

I believe Graf once said her backhand was a strength. She knows(or knew) her game best so I would say it was a strength.

Lucemferre
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:35 PM
I believe Graf once said her backhand was a strength. She knows(or knew) her game best so I would say it was a strength.

You're very dumb :lol:

pancake
Sep 21st, 2008, 06:47 PM
You're very dumb :lol:

And you're very rude and bigoted.
Can you prove what I say is definitely wrong? Can you prove Graf's backhand will be such a liability against powerful players now? Just because I have my own opinion about something that is open to discussion doesn't mean I am dumb. And I see nothing wrong in believing one of the greatest players' thoughts about her backhand.

But whatever, seeing your posts here I know you're probably just hopeless. I won't reply you posts anymore because as I say the thread is about Graf's backhand. If you don't agree with someone then leave them alone PLEASE.

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 08:28 PM
Whether you consider it a weakness or a strength it was effective against all kind of players which these H2H show...

LightWarrior
Sep 21st, 2008, 08:32 PM
I prefer, and rate higher Henin's slice, but I assume I'm in a minority there :lol:. I think Henin has more cut to her backhand.

Graf : 7 Wimbledon titles
Henin : 0 Wimbledon title

Statistics prove you wrong. Henin's backhand was more floating that Graf's. Graf's backhand was hugely effective on grass. I can't see how Seles could have ever won against Graf on grass.

hingis-seles
Sep 21st, 2008, 08:45 PM
Steffi herself said that if there was one thing she could change in her game, it would be to have a two-handed backhand instead of her slice backhand.

Matt01
Sep 21st, 2008, 09:01 PM
You're very dumb :lol:


No, you are :wavey:


Graf : 7 Wimbledon titles
Henin : 0 Wimbledon title

Statistics prove you wrong.


These stats prove nothing. Slices are not only used on grass.

Apoleb
Sep 21st, 2008, 09:06 PM
Are we really discussing whether Henin's slice is better than Steffi's? Please. And that is coming from a Justine fan. Graf's slice is arguably the best ever, among men and women. And Justine's doesn't even come close to it, hence the thrashing by Marion when she almost used it exclusively in the Wimby semi.

Steffica Greles
Sep 21st, 2008, 09:12 PM
Steffi herself said that if there was one thing she could change in her game, it would be to have a two-handed backhand instead of her slice backhand.
But that doesn't mean she'd have been right to do so.

To me, Steffi Graf with a double-handed backhand would not have hit her forehand as hard, and would have actually been more vulnerable from the backhand side because other players could have traded blows with her. Her slice negated their power and set up her biggest shot. And she'd have hit a lot more unforced errors.

DaMamaJama87
Sep 21st, 2008, 09:22 PM
But that doesn't mean she'd have been right to do so.

To me, Steffi Graf with a double-handed backhand would not have hit her forehand as hard, and would have actually been more vulnerable from the backhand side because other players could have traded blows with her. Her slice negated their power and set up her biggest shot. And she'd have hit a lot more unforced errors.

Now that we've established that you are the supreme authority on Steffi Graf's game and queen of backhand slice knowledge, knowing more about these two subjects than Steffi Graf herself, I can see that it would be futile to continue arguing.

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 09:39 PM
She could have used more spin to mix with that slice...

Steffica Greles
Sep 21st, 2008, 09:53 PM
Now that we've established that you are the supreme authority on Steffi Graf's game and queen of backhand slice knowledge, knowing more about these two subjects than Steffi Graf herself, I can see that it would be futile to continue arguing.

Of course outsiders can know better than the players. Heck, there are lots of things I've thought were right for me that weren't. Why else would players need coaches? Ultimately, Heinz Gunthardt probably felt that Steffi should give up the idea of a double-handed backhand. In fact, after she hired him in 1992, she used far less topspin.

So whatever Steffi thinks, she might have been wrong. With 22 slams, she might have been a little hard on herself in doubting the value of her backhand slice.

pov
Sep 21st, 2008, 10:22 PM
Any valid comparison with "today's power hitters" needs to factor in that Graf - playing now - would also be using today's raquets - which are a big part of the increased power in today's games. She would also be privy to current approaches to strength conditioning.

LDVTennis
Sep 21st, 2008, 10:43 PM
Graf is 1-1 vs. Serena.


Technically, Steffi's head to head with Serena is 2-1. Steffi also beat Serena in an exhibition match in Hong Kong in 1999.

LDVTennis
Sep 21st, 2008, 10:47 PM
WHy are we comparing Serena/Venus to Graf? They were teenagers when they played her. They are (arguably) better palyers now then they were in '98 and '99. There is so much more to their games now.

Now that is funny.

There is more to them all right, but it's not in their games. :lol:

Steffica Greles
Sep 21st, 2008, 10:55 PM
Any valid comparison with "today's power hitters" needs to factor in that Graf - playing now - would also be using today's raquets - which are a big part of the increased power in today's games. She would also be privy to current approaches to strength conditioning.

That's if you fully buy into the theory that the women's game is now the domain of fitter, faster players. Although true over all, I don't fully buy into it.

I see far more fat players at or near the top now than I did in c1999, or even in the top five in 1992.

Petrova this year has looked borderline obese. Kuznetsova, for all her athleticism, has in recent years looked too flabby, and still reached the number two ranking. Marion Bartoli is a porker, as we know, and she reached the Wimbledon final. Serena Williams, no less, is nowhere near in optimum shape, and she's number one in the world. Only recently, Ana Ivanovic was too big, and she was top 15. Dinara Safina has been top ten with weight problems.

Go back to 1999, or come to think of it, much earlier, and I can't think of as many players in the higher echelons who were overweight.

What posters on this board must realise is that when commentators or ex-players keep on saying the standard has gone up, the players are fitter, they hit harder, etc, they are selling women's tennis - it's either their job, or they feel duty bound, given the history of the game and how it is overshadowed by the men's game. So their views have no credibility because it's just rhetoric.

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:00 PM
Today,nobody has a footwork like Graf had...that was the main reason she had effective and low slice...she prepared for it very well

debopero
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:01 PM
So Serena and Ana are out of shape? Really? Hm.

Steffica Greles
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:06 PM
So Serena and Ana are out of shape? Really? Hm.

Ana hasn't been for the last year. Serena still is, but she's good enough to win a slam a year without being in optimum condition. And the standard is low at the moment, too.

debopero
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:09 PM
How in the world is Serena out of shape? Are we looking at the same person?

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:10 PM
Serena was in much better shape few years back...but this is not the thread about her shape!

LDVTennis
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:10 PM
But that doesn't mean she'd have been right to do so.

To me, Steffi Graf with a double-handed backhand would not have hit her forehand as hard, and would have actually been more vulnerable from the backhand side because other players could have traded blows with her. Her slice negated their power and set up her biggest shot. And she'd have hit a lot more unforced errors.

It is ironic to me that in the context of women's tennis Graf's game is so often criticized for that slice backhand.

The irony is that if she were a man with that forehand and that backhand she'd probably be as successful as all the great male players with just that combination of shots from the backhand corner. Compare her game to Federer's, Nadal's, Djokovic's, Sampras', etc... The foundation of all their ground games is the forehand, especially inside-out and inside-in. In all their games, the backhand is primarily a positional or defensive shot. Of the four, Djokovic's backhand may be stronger, but when push comes to shove he's running around his backhand to hit a forehand as much as the other guys.

In general, Graf's slice backhand is a beautiful shot, executed with as much precision, creativity and bite as Ken Rosewall's underspin backhand. That would be the Ken Rosewall whose backhand was deemed by ESPN tennis experts to be the best male backhand of all time.

Here are just a few examples of how beautiful, creative and powerful the shot could be:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvvF4qELOnI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYnv1uObV_Y
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd9_-57tjHA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RT7Lp8ZTXo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLYx5V122U0

The last clip is my favorite. That's beautiful shotmaking.

Tennisstar86
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:15 PM
Ana hasn't been for the last year. Serena still is, but she's good enough to win a slam a year without being in optimum condition. And the standard is low at the moment, too.

Serena is not out of shape. She may not be in the best shape of her life, and never will get back to that shape again.... but she most def. is not out of shape....

Anabelcroft
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:17 PM
Wow,I love slow motion replay of this shot...it just shows how low it goes!

LDVTennis
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:23 PM
Serena is not out of shape. She may not be in the best shape of her life, and never will get back to that shape again.... but she most def. is not out of shape....

It doesn't really matter. The impression is the same.

Tennisstar86
Sep 21st, 2008, 11:36 PM
It doesn't really matter. The impression is the same.

wrong..... She may not be in the best shape of HER life, but she is in far better shape than a lot of the other girls on tour.....

Anabelcroft
Sep 22nd, 2008, 12:50 AM
Like in '99 whe she played Graf..she was not in her best shape but still good enough to win a Grand Slam...

Marc23
Sep 22nd, 2008, 01:19 AM
Whitout the doubt the best slice in womens game ever.

Ciarán
Sep 22nd, 2008, 01:22 AM
Look at her career and whats shes achieved! A 'weak' backhand certaintly effect it :tape:

Yonexforever
Sep 22nd, 2008, 05:25 AM
Excellent article, but i was a Navratilova fanatic when Graf started to emerge.
Martina lost her edge over Steffi when Graf would roll over backhands past Martina.

While the slice was hit a majority of the time, as Graf got older she came over that backhand more especially on faster courts.

LDVTennis
Sep 22nd, 2008, 07:21 AM
wrong..... She may not be in the best shape of HER life, but she is in far better shape than a lot of the other girls on tour.....

And in the women's game of today, that's obviously a very high standard... :rolleyes:

Anabelcroft
Sep 22nd, 2008, 12:01 PM
Yes,that's why Graf was so able to be dominant over the years...with excelent foorwork,fast running and strong forehand...and that "weak" backhand which brought her 22 Grand-Slam titles!

Yonexforever
Sep 22nd, 2008, 01:47 PM
It is ironic to me that in the context of women's tennis Graf's game is so often criticized for that slice backhand.

The irony is that if she were a man with that forehand and that backhand she'd probably be as successful as all the great male players with just that combination of shots from the backhand corner. Compare her game to Federer's, Nadal's, Djokovic's, Sampras', etc... The foundation of all their ground games is the forehand, especially inside-out and inside-in. In all their games, the backhand is primarily a positional or defensive shot. Of the four, Djokovic's backhand may be stronger, but when push comes to shove he's running around his backhand to hit a forehand as much as the other guys.

In general, Graf's slice backhand is a beautiful shot, executed with as much precision, creativity and bite as Ken Rosewall's underspin backhand. That would be the Ken Rosewall whose backhand was deemed by ESPN tennis experts to be the best male backhand of all time.

Here are just a few examples of how beautiful, creative and powerful the shot could be:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvvF4qELOnI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYnv1uObV_Y
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd9_-57tjHA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RT7Lp8ZTXo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLYx5V122U0

The last clip is my favorite. That's beautiful shotmaking.

If you want to see a current male version of Graf, you have to look no further than Feliciano Lopez!

Dunlop1
Sep 22nd, 2008, 02:10 PM
Graf's backhand was definitely a strength. First of all the slice was world class. It had a lot of bite, skidded after the bounce and stayed very low. She could drive it deep or hit is short all with the same takeback so you didn't know what to expect.
It was very hard to be offensive off her backhand slice.
Most of the girls playing today haven't faced a slice like that and would most likely produce a bevy of errors trying to be aggressive off the shot.

Then there's the Graf athleticism, footwork and speed which allow her to cover 3/4 of the court with her forehand.

Dunlop1
Sep 22nd, 2008, 02:12 PM
If you want to see a current male version of Graf, you have to look no further than Feliciano Lopez!

Not really. Graf's athleticism, footwork and speed are relatively better than Lopez's.
Graf also was more of a baseliner, while Lopez likes to come in a lot. Graf's forehand is relatively miles ahead of Lopez's.
Lopez's serve is relatively better than Graf's.

Anabelcroft
Sep 22nd, 2008, 02:45 PM
And relatively bigger money account :-)

MistyGrey
Sep 22nd, 2008, 03:14 PM
Steffi's backhand was not a weakness. It was not a big weapon either, but she used it very very effectively. Actually, in today's game that backhand would be a huge weapon. If Steffi was playing today, she'd be using her top spin backhand a lot more than she did, but she would've stuck to that slice. She could really mix it up and set up points with her slice.

Anabelcroft
Sep 22nd, 2008, 11:05 PM
True,nobody today can play the slice like she used to...

Marc23
Sep 23rd, 2008, 01:36 AM
Even with that kind of backhand she won everything.I think noone will ever achive that.Just think how much hours she must have been practicing that bachand on court to win for example Golden Slam and how much will and work to mantain that kind of level of play and defeat world number 1 to win her last Grand Slam 11 years later and reach number 22

Philbo
Sep 23rd, 2008, 03:29 PM
It was a weakness. Navratilova's even head to head against her is a good indicator of how Martina had a useful game plan to attack whenever she played Graf. It wasnt a GLARING weakness as such, but overall, it was an attackable shot that wasnt really gonna ever win matches for Graf...

G-Ha
Sep 23rd, 2008, 09:52 PM
i wouldn't list steffi's backhand as one of her strengths, but it certainly wasn't a weakness. the backhand was the "weaker" part of her game, but only in comparison to her huge forehand. her slice was primarily a rallying shot and used to set up her kill shot - the forehand. the slice/big forehand was such a lethal combination because she really knifed the slice, keeping it so low to the court that opponents had to hit up on the ball, which often resulted in an easy put away for the forehand.

the slice could be vulnerable to attack when used as a passing shot, which is why steffi actually used the topspin backhand more frequently in the 80s than she did in the 90s. by the time the 90s rolled around she didn't need the topspin backhand as much because there were very few true serve and volleyers. and with all the two-handed backhands and extreme grips on the scence, the slice was actually much more effective.

navratilova did have a good game plan against steffi, but their head-to-head isn't particularly indicative of anything specific regarding steffi's backhand. and while the head-to-head is in fact even, steffi won the last 6 of 8 meetings, with all 8 meetings occuring on fast surfaces that favor martina's serve-volley game. imagine had they actually met on clay at some point during this last 7 year span...it certainly would have been an even greater ratio than just 6 of 8 wins for steffi...

Steffica Greles
Sep 24th, 2008, 12:22 AM
It was a weakness. Navratilova's even head to head against her is a good indicator of how Martina had a useful game plan to attack whenever she played Graf. It wasnt a GLARING weakness as such, but overall, it was an attackable shot that wasnt really gonna ever win matches for Graf...
Perhaps. There is no doubt that against Seles and Sanchez-Vicario, Graf's backhand was their sanctuary, the place they could return to when under attack. And it cost Graf four grandslam losses against each of those players - 8 slams lost.

But my point, which as usual most people seem to have missed, is that Graf's forehand would not have been the crushing shot that it was had her backhand not been an aggressive - and the slice certainly was aggressive - positional shot. The backhand was integral to the work she did with her forehand.

Graf never let up on her forehand because she knew that from that side, she had to remain supreme, being unable to drive from her backhand side. In training, that forehand supremacy is what she set about ensuring every single day of her career. Even Venus or Serena could not keep pace with Graf for more than one or two forehands at a time.

And yet when Graf lost matches, it was usually because she over-hit her forehands. She had days, rare though they were, when it would sail all over the place. With a backhand as risky, I think Graf would have lost far more matches. With an average topspin backhand, Graf would have had her shots gobbled up by Seles, or later Hingis or the Williams sisters. Look at Sabatini or Martinez's records against Seles, and they were thought to have the best topspin backhands of their time. Against Seles, for that matter, not many players with double-handed backhands were too successful either. Sabatini, Navratilova and Graf were her chief rivals.

The forehand-sliced backhand combination balanced out the risk level of Graf's game. The slice negated her opponents' power and constricted the areas of the court to which they dared hit, with inhibited ability to impart topspin; only the most skillful could hit with depth and angle from Graf's slice, and even those few were impaired. Thus, Graf was able to climb round far more backhands due to the effect of her slice from that side.

Yes the strategy caused her problems on occasions, but a Graf with a driving backhand would have inevitably let up on her forehand a little, perhaps like Ivanovic, who only occasionally goes for the kill. And she'd have been a less formidable player.

spencercarlos
Sep 24th, 2008, 12:23 AM
To sum it up Graf slice backhand was her great shot, when the had her oponnent pinning back to the baseline, but when her oponnent rushed the net and made Graf hit a passing shot with that bachand, either the topspin pass and backhand passing shots were a real weakness because she would make it or hit it out by a considerable margin or even find the net badly.

Want some videos LVD?

tonybotz
Sep 24th, 2008, 02:25 AM
it was an excellent shot. she was always able to hit it deep and with a real bite on the ball, forcing her opponents to hit up on the ball and giving them less pace. this would allow graf to run around her backhand and slam that huge forehand.

kiwifan
Sep 24th, 2008, 05:30 AM
It is touching to be zealous fans, but even Graf considered it her "weakness".

Now weakness is a relative thing, it doesn't mean that her backhand sucked or wasn't very good, it was just the worst part of her game.

The worst part of Graf's game was better than the best parts of almost all of her peer's games (Seles, Navrat, ASV were among the clear exceptions; of Graf's prime time as a player).

No sense in dancing around the obvious. :yawn:

Dunlop1
Sep 24th, 2008, 05:43 AM
It is touching to be zealous fans, but even Graf considered it her "weakness".

Now weakness is a relative thing, it doesn't mean that her backhand sucked or wasn't very good, it was just the worst part of her game.

The worst part of Graf's game was better than the best parts of almost all of her peer's games (Seles, Navrat, ASV were among the clear exceptions; of Graf's prime time as a player).

No sense in dancing around the obvious. :yawn:

I like that you use the word relative, because even though Graf considered that backhand a weakness, when comparing it to her peers and her record, one can see that that shot was not weak.
Weakest part of her game? I would say so.
But that is because every other part of her game is EXCELLENT. Athleticism, speed, footwork, power, mental toughness, serve, forehand all legendary.

Someone mentioned Navratilova. THe slice backhand is not a great shot against a net rushing player, but who plays like that today?? How many players today have good technique on volleys period?

99% of players sit on the baseline and grind from there.

LDVTennis
Sep 24th, 2008, 06:42 AM
This is what Heinz Gunthardt, Steffi's coach from 1992 to 1999, had to say about Steffi's slice backhand:

"For years, people have criticized Steffi for not hitting 'over' the backhand more, and they've criticized me for not trying to get her to do more of that," Gunthardt says. "But if you take Steffi's game as a whole, the slice backhand fits in perfectly, and it allows her to do things that she couldn't if she were hitting flat or with topspin" (Tennis Magazine Jan 1996)

Gunthardt made a number of technical and strategic changes to Steffi's game. It was he who got Steffi to hit more short slices as a way to make her opponents defend more of the court. It was he who devised the strategy that eventually gave Steffi the decisive edge in the rivalry with Seles. He even tinkered with her swing on the forehand outwide to the forehand corner. Yet, he never changed her approach on the backhand side.

Given what he did change, he had every opportunity to do so. He obviously knew better. Case closed.

G1Player2
Sep 24th, 2008, 06:57 AM
This is what Heinz Gunthardt, Steffi's coach from 1992 to 1999, had to say about Steffi's slice backhand:

"For years, people have criticized Steffi for not hitting 'over' the backhand more, and they've criticized me for not trying to get her to do more of that," Gunthardt says. "But if you take Steffi's game as a whole, the slice backhand fits in perfectly, and it allows her to do things that she couldn't if she were hitting flat or with topspin" (Tennis Magazine Jan 1996)

Gunthardt made a number of technical and strategic changes to Steffi's game. It was he who got Steffi to hit more short slices as a way to make her opponents defend more of the court. It was he who devised the strategy that eventually gave Steffi the decisive edge in the rivalry with Seles. He even tinkered with her swing on the forehand outwide to the forehand corner. Yet, he never changed her approach on the backhand side.

Given what he did change, he had every opportunity to do so. He obviously knew better. Case closed.

Steffi Graf publically said that she wished she had incorporated a topspin backhand in her game and I'll take what she says over her coach or fanatics on messageboards ANYDAY.

CASE CLOSED.

Anabelcroft
Sep 24th, 2008, 08:44 AM
Well,the truth is somewhere in between...if you try to type "Steffi Graf backhand" on youtube I am sure that many resulsts will come up and you could take a look and decide wheather it was a strength or a weakness...but for me,her results speak in her name...

Steffica Greles
Sep 24th, 2008, 09:08 AM
To sum it up Graf slice backhand was her great shot, when the had her oponnent pinning back to the baseline, but when her oponnent rushed the net and made Graf hit a passing shot with that bachand, either the topspin pass and backhand passing shots were a real weakness because she would make it or hit it out by a considerable margin or even find the net badly.

Want some videos LVD?

I actually think Graf hit the best topspin backhand pass in women's tennis, until Martinez played a blinder at Wimbledon '94. Watch some of the clips on Youtube of the French Open final of 87, or much later the pass she hit against Hingis when two points from defeat in the French final of '99. Or even her backhand passes against Venus Williams in Hannover '99. She finishes the Australian Open of '94 with a backhand, topspun pass up the line.
These are all on Youtube.

laurie
Sep 24th, 2008, 11:42 AM
I actually think Graf hit the best topspin backhand pass in women's tennis, until Martinez played a blinder at Wimbledon '94. Watch some of the clips on Youtube of the French Open final of 87, or much later the pass she hit against Hingis when two points from defeat in the French final of '99. Or even her backhand passes against Venus Williams in Hannover '99. She finishes the Australian Open of '94 with a backhand, topspun pass up the line.
These are all on Youtube.

That was the question I posed a few days earlier but no one answered I think.

Steffi's topspin backhand looked very good in 1987 French final, the 1988 and 1989 Wimbledon finals.

I'll ask again, why do you think Steffi lost confidence in the ability to hit that shot consistently at such a young age? (say 1990 onwards) I bet she could hit them all day in training.

doujyr
Sep 24th, 2008, 12:44 PM
very nice post.

I really really enjoyed what you wrote! So nice to read about some TENNIS on a tennis board!

doubt there's more than a handful of posters on here capable of writing such a nice piece! :rolleyes:

LDVTennis
Sep 24th, 2008, 04:19 PM
To sum it up Graf slice backhand was her great shot, when the had her oponnent pinning back to the baseline, but when her oponnent rushed the net and made Graf hit a passing shot with that bachand, either the topspin pass and backhand passing shots were a real weakness because she would make it or hit it out by a considerable margin or even find the net badly.

Want some videos LVD?

If this happened with the absolute regularity that you would like us to think, then, several things would also be true today: Steffi would have lost the 1988 and 1989 Wimbledon Finals against Martina N. Steffi would not have won 6 out of the last 8 matches she played against Martina N. Steffi would not have won her last 8 matches against Sabatini. Steffi would have lost the 1999 French Open Final because the topspin backhand she hit when Hingis was serving for the match would have gone into the net. By the same token, Steffi would have never made it to her last Wimbledon Final because de Swardt would have beaten her in straight sets in the second round.

Given that none of these events happened, it seems reasonable to conclude that her success rate on the topspin backhand was much better than you think it was.

(Wow, Steffi won her last 8 matches against Sabatini. I'd like to see some video of that annihilation. I hear it includes four 6-0 sets.)

Andy T
Sep 24th, 2008, 05:08 PM
As with all great champions, I think Steffi took what she had and made it as good as she could, learning to use it to her advantage and compensate for it when it worked against her. Truly great players don't just rely on their strengths, they work on their "weaknesses", be they related to one shot, an aspect of their athleticism or their mental approach. From Billie Jean through Chris & Martina and onto Steffi, that's what you can see as you watch matches from various parts of their careers.

G-Ha
Sep 24th, 2008, 06:29 PM
That was the question I posed a few days earlier but no one answered I think.

Steffi's topspin backhand looked very good in 1987 French final, the 1988 and 1989 Wimbledon finals.

I'll ask again, why do you think Steffi lost confidence in the ability to hit that shot consistently at such a young age? (say 1990 onwards) I bet she could hit them all day in training.

i think steffi lost some confidence on the topspin backhand beginning in the early 90s simply because she no longer needed to hit that shot as much. fewer players were consistently serving and volleying, so she wasn't required to hit as many backhand passes as she did in the mid to late 80s. from 1990 onwards, we saw the rise of pure baseliners such as seles, capriati, sanchez-vicario, pierce, etc., all of whom steered clear of the net (although arantxa started coming into net more later in her career). all of these players had extreme grips of some fashion, so steffi's low, skidding slice was actually more effective against them than her topspin backhand. also, while her slice was an excellent shot, i think her topspin backhand - although it had moments of brilliance - was a fairly mediocre shot in her arsenal. as a rallying shot, it sat up too much and the players listed above, particularly seles, capriati and pierce would have eaten it up.

during the mid 90s, steffi routinely hit the topspin backhand in practice and, according to reports, hit it beautifully. but when it came to actual match play, she'd resort back to the tried and true slice. again, i think this is primarily a function of the fact that she simply wasn't challenged on the backhand side (by net rushers) as much as she was in the past, so it wasn't needed.

Steffica Greles
Sep 24th, 2008, 08:07 PM
Steffi would have lost the 1999 French Open Final because the topspin backhand she hit when Hingis was serving for the match would have gone into the net.
Spencercarlos doesn't remember that; we've discussed it before. His background is in mythology ;) According to him, Hingis lost because of the bad line call and the French crowd. Oh, and the fact that she got in a temper because it affected her.

The fact that the bad line call happened at the beginning of the 3rd set, and Hingis played superb tennis for half a dozen hard-fought games thereafter to reach a point where she served for the match does not figure in his analysis. It therefore follows that Graf's superb topspin "do or die" pass is out of memory.

Steffica Greles
Sep 24th, 2008, 08:17 PM
i think steffi lost some confidence on the topspin backhand beginning in the early 90s simply because she no longer needed to hit that shot as much. fewer players were consistently serving and volleying, so she wasn't required to hit as many backhand passes as she did in the mid to late 80s. from 1990 onwards, we saw the rise of pure baseliners such as seles, capriati, sanchez-vicario, pierce, etc., all of whom steered clear of the net (although arantxa started coming into net more later in her career). all of these players had extreme grips of some fashion, so steffi's low, skidding slice was actually more effective against them than her topspin backhand. also, while her slice was an excellent shot, i think her topspin backhand - although it had moments of brilliance - was a fairly mediocre shot in her arsenal. as a rallying shot, it sat up too much and the players listed above, particularly seles, capriati and pierce would have eaten it up.

during the mid 90s, steffi routinely hit the topspin backhand in practice and, according to reports, hit it beautifully. but when it came to actual match play, she'd resort back to the tried and true slice. again, i think this is primarily a function of the fact that she simply wasn't challenged on the backhand side (by net rushers) as much as she was in the past, so it wasn't needed.
I think the reason is partly as you said. But I think it was also that in the early 90s Graf was facing a new type of challenge from the likes of Seles in particular but also Sanchez-Vicario and perhaps Capriati. They could drive the ball all day to her backhand and had the means to attack short balls. She lost a bit of confidence in her game full stop, no longer being number one and losing her fear factor. In the 1991 French Open semi-final she lost 6-2 6-0 to Sanchez-Vicario: the confidence on her forehand had also evaporated. She was even seen practicing a double-handed backhand, a sign if ever there was one of low confidence in her game.

Anyway, in c1992, she hired a new coach in Heinz Gunthardt, who saw the benefits of her sliced backhand against double-handers, as opposed to a topspin backhand which offered them shots of waist height and in their hitting zones.

Thereafter, she only used the topspin backhand on rare occasions: either in an early round when she was experimenting, or against a player at the net. When called upon, Graf's topspin pass was scintillating. But I think it was mainly Gunthardt's influence which saw her rein in the topspin backhands.

LDVTennis
Sep 24th, 2008, 08:20 PM
Steffi Graf publically said that she wished she had incorporated a topspin backhand in her game and I'll take what she says over her coach or fanatics on messageboards ANYDAY.


Another classic example of the idiocy that often pervades this forum.

Here is a person who has no relation to Graf contradicting a direct quote from Graf's coach and friend of 7+ years, with nothing more than hearsay.

I was at Steffi's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. I remember her acknowledging and honoring Heinz Gunthardt (her coach) for his wisdom and friendship. I don't remember her acknowledging GPlayer21.

Does it get any more stupid than this? :help:

LDVTennis
Sep 24th, 2008, 09:04 PM
As with all great champions, I think Steffi took what she had and made it as good as she could, learning to use it to her advantage and compensate for it when it worked against her. Truly great players don't just rely on their strengths, they work on their "weaknesses", be they related to one shot, an aspect of their athleticism or their mental approach. From Billie Jean through Chris & Martina and onto Steffi, that's what you can see as you watch matches from various parts of their careers.

All well and good.

Still, I wonder why it is Graf's game that is so often scrutinized for its shortcomings. This controversy did not start here. It was started by a group of catty commentators (e.g., BJKing, Martina, Pam) with a particular political agenda. Whatever that agenda was I can't say for sure, but this much is clear, the effect was clearly to diminish the perception of Graf's game and greatness.

Here is one of those commentators, BJKing, making the claim about Steffi's topspin backhand as late as 1999 --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXYBhSsk_XE.

You gotta wonder where Billy was in 1988 when Steffi hit this shot against Martina N. --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg-npl4Kjcs.

In 1989, BJK began coaching Martina N. At the 1989 US Open Final, Billy was in the stands supporting Martina N. Steffi hit a number of great topspin backhands in that match as well. You can see the entire match on youtube. Here is my favorite section of the match, including a topspin backhand that stuns Martina at the net with its power, two amazing forehands, one inside-in and one inside-out, and some wonderful volleying by Steffi, not Martina. You'll even get a glimpse of Billy in the stands: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdEvBcGIYpA.

As Andy T said, all great champions have "weaknesses." The curious thing is that over the years we heard more criticism of Steffi's weaknesses than Chris', Martina's, or Seles'. When Chris was getting thrashed by Steffi, you never heard how vulnerable Chris' serve was. When Steffi turned the tables on Martina at Wimbledon, you never heard how Martina's topspin backhand or forehand were so defensive. No, all we kept hearing is how weak Steffi's backhand was. Gotta wonder why?

joaco
Sep 24th, 2008, 09:12 PM
:worship::worship: excellent stuff... thank you very much. i agree pretty much with all said

G1Player2
Sep 24th, 2008, 09:13 PM
Another classic example of the idiocy that often pervades this forum.

Here is a person who has no relation to Graf contradicting a direct quote from Graf's coach and friend of 7+ years, with nothing more than hearsay.

I was at Steffi's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. I remember her acknowledging and honoring Heinz Gunthardt (her coach) for his wisdom and friendship. I don't remember her acknowledging GPlayer21.

Does it get any more stupid than this? :help:

Do you want me to find the quote and post it here? Steffi Graf emphatically said that the only part of her game she wished she incorporated was a topspin backhand. And Steffi's coach is not Steffi Graf. He is not on court with her. Sure, he can give her pointers on her technique and give her several different strategies but Graf publically saying that she wished she had a topspin backhand came directly from herself and not her coach. She knows her game and the feel of herbetter than her coach would. :weirdo: Although, her coach may notice things she doesn't see while playing.

When Monica Seles was asked her one weakness she said that she wished her volleys were better and that she worked on a better net game. So, what are you talking about? Graf and Seles give lots of credit to their coaches but this doesn't negate the fact that they have publically admitted to wishing they had worked on certain parts of their games to become more better and complete players. And like I said, I will take what the source says more than a coach, parent or an internet messageboard poster. Graf said it. Live with it. :)

Rollo
Sep 24th, 2008, 11:04 PM
Lets be clear about one thing-99% of the tour would have loved to have Graf's backhand in her heyday. Her slice was penetrating and bit into the court, especially on grass and other faster surfaces.

Having said that, there were 3 types of players who could exploit the Steffi backhand in certain situations:

A. Netrushers like Navratilova (and to a lesser extent Novotna) could charge the net to the backhand side. Steffi developed a great topspin backhand to counter this. She reversed her Wimbledon defeat to Martina in 1987 by changing her sliced backhands to toppers. Nonetheless the backhand was still the side to come in on-the forehand was suicide, and Graf's confidence with the topspin came and went.

B. The Retrievers-best represented by Sabatini and Sanchez. Both women on a good day could absorb Graf's forehand bullets and spit back enough shots to the backhand until Graf made an error.

C. The "Modern" Woman who hits hard off of both sides. This was how Monica Seles battered down Graf's backhand, by hitting offensively from two sides to Steffi's one. Davenport, Venus Williams, Serena, etc all fit this mould.

Graf's backhand sat up more on hard courts. Of course a slice sits up on clay too, but clay is perfect for drop shots, a shot Steffi doesn't get enough credit for IMO.

If we were to ask how Graf's backhand would look today I think the two women we can safely look at are Mauresmo and Henin. Both women have beautiful sliced and top backhands. Neither's slice is in Steffi's class, but without a regular topspin backhand Steffi would be a sitting duck on hard courts vs the top women like a Serena.

No doubt her backhand would be tough as nails.

But returning to how her backhand was, even at it's most exploitable the "weakness" couldn't have been that bad for a player who had wining or tied records vs all the women I've mentioned :)

spencercarlos
Sep 24th, 2008, 11:27 PM
Lets be clear about one thing-99% of the tour would have loved to have Graf's backhand in her heyday. Her slice was penetrating and bit into the court, especially on grass and other faster surfaces.

Having said that, there were 3 types of players who could exploit the Steffi backhand in certain situations:

A. Netrushers like Navratilova (and to a lesser extent Novotna) could charge the net to the backhand side. Steffi developed a great topspin backhand to counter this. She reversed her Wimbledon defeat to Martina in 1987 by changing her sliced backhands to toppers. Nonetheless the backhand was still the side to come in on-the forehand was suicide, and Graf's confidence with the topspin came and went.

B. The Retrievers-best represented by Sabatini and Sanchez. Both women on a good day could absorb Graf's forehand bullets and spit back enough shots to the backhand until Graf made an error.

C. The "Modern" Woman who hits hard off of both sides. This was how Monica Seles battered down Graf's backhand, by hitting offensively from two sides to Steffi's one. Davenport, Venus Williams, Serena, etc all fit this mould.

Graf's backhand sat up more on hard courts. Of course a slice sits up on clay too, but clay is perfect for drop shots, a shot Steffi doesn't get enough credit for IMO.

If we were to ask how Graf's backhand would look today I think the two women we can safely look at are Mauresmo and Henin. Both women have beautiful sliced and top backhands. Neither's slice is in Steffi's class, but without a regular topspin backhand Steffi would be a sitting duck on hard courts vs the top women like a Serena.

No doubt her backhand would be tough as nails.

But returning to how her backhand was, even at it's most exploitable the "weakness" couldn't have been that bad for a player who had wining or tied records vs all the women I've mentioned :)
B is completly wrong. Sabatini caused Graf's the most troubles when she attacked the net, not by retrieving.
Sure Gaby had a great backcourt game, but Gaby's best pushed Steffi back from the baseline and setting up her to come in rush the net. With great sucess a lot to do with that was Steffi's inability to pass in a consistent basis with her backhand.

1988 Amelia Island for instance was a clear example, Gaby dead tired and while down in the third set started to come in almost every point and that gave her the win.
Her 1990-1992 best ever for her was because she was coming in against everybody and at some point she got 5 straight wins over Graf, and Gaby holds the most wins over Graf (11).

spencercarlos
Sep 24th, 2008, 11:31 PM
I actually think Graf hit the best topspin backhand pass in women's tennis, until Martinez played a blinder at Wimbledon '94. Watch some of the clips on Youtube of the French Open final of 87, or much later the pass she hit against Hingis when two points from defeat in the French final of '99. Or even her backhand passes against Venus Williams in Hannover '99. She finishes the Australian Open of '94 with a backhand, topspun pass up the line.
These are all on Youtube.
I actually think you are deluded in many ways.

Graf came up with that amazing backhand against Hingis at RG 1999 no doubt was a sensational shot, but even in that match Graf missed a lot of backhand passing shots.

Graf could hit topspin backhands? Yes she could.. But how many of those went in? How many of the she would end up missing by meters or in the net badly?

And especially in comparisson to Sabatini's backhand she has really no business, Gaby could pass either way up the line, cross court, lob.. I don't really remmember Steffi ever hitting a topspin backhand lob :lol:

spencercarlos
Sep 24th, 2008, 11:41 PM
If this happened with the absolute regularity that you would like us to think, then, several things would also be true today: Steffi would have lost the 1988 and 1989 Wimbledon Finals against Martina N. Steffi would not have won 6 out of the last 8 matches she played against Martina N. Steffi would not have won her last 8 matches against Sabatini. Steffi would have lost the 1999 French Open Final because the topspin backhand she hit when Hingis was serving for the match would have gone into the net. By the same token, Steffi would have never made it to her last Wimbledon Final because de Swardt would have beaten her in straight sets in the second round.

Given that none of these events happened, it seems reasonable to conclude that her success rate on the topspin backhand was much better than you think it was.

(Wow, Steffi won her last 8 matches against Sabatini. I'd like to see some video of that annihilation. I hear it includes four 6-0 sets.)
As you know in a Tennis match there is more than one single shot in play.
Graf had many many weapons to hurt you with and even mentally she was the toughest one to face, and in even in both sides of the net you have strenght and weaknesses, so certainly trying to asume that Steffi had a great backhand passing shot (or the best like Steffica Greles said) just because she won this or that event is ridiculous.
Steffi's backhand was never going to win her the match, but she did the best and of course she had the best legs and athetical shape of all women that she could hide from her weakness as much as she could. How many times Steffi would go as far as the doubles ally in order to hit a forehand to avoid her backhand? You should know this better than me..

That being said i will support this with videos. Just know for today i will take my time to put you back from delusion.

LDVTennis
Sep 24th, 2008, 11:44 PM
And Steffi's coach is not Steffi Graf. He is not on court with her. Sure, he can give her pointers on her technique and give her several different strategies but Graf publically saying that she wished she had a topspin backhand came directly from herself and not her coach. She knows her game and the feel of herbetter than her coach would. Although, her coach may notice things she doesn't see while playing.

No, Steffi's coach is not Steffi Graf. But neither are you. So, stop pretending you know what she was thinking.

I've met Heidi Graf (Steffi's mother); I've chatted with Steffi Graf in person and online, but for all that you don't see me saying that I know more than Steffi Graf's coach.

What a joke you are!

spencercarlos
Sep 25th, 2008, 12:38 AM
No, Steffi's coach is not Steffi Graf. But neither are you. So, stop pretending you know what she was thinking.

I've met Heidi Graf (Steffi's mother); I've chatted with Steffi Graf in person and online, but for all that you don't see me saying that I know more than Steffi Graf's coach.

What a joke you are!
Actually what Gplayer21 says is true, Graf said not too long ago in an interview that she would have prefered having a better topspin backhand than then one she had.

LDVTennis
Sep 25th, 2008, 12:39 AM
I actually think you are deluded in many ways.

Graf came up with that amazing backhand against Hingis at RG 1999 no doubt was a sensational shot, but even in that match Graf missed a lot of backhand passing shots.

Graf could hit topspin backhands? Yes she could.. But how many of those went in? How many of the she would end up missing by meters or in the net badly?

And especially in comparisson to Sabatini's backhand she has really no business, Gaby could pass either way up the line, cross court, lob.. I don't really remmember Steffi ever hitting a topspin backhand lob :lol:

Let's turn your argument on its head and let's see if you can see why it sounds irrational to me.

Let's hold Sabatini's forehand to the standard you are holding Graf's backhand. Just how many times did Sabatini run around her forehand and hit inside-out and inside-in for a winner? Not many times, right? Or, at least not as consistently as Graf? Now, why didn't she? And, when she did, how successful was she? As successful as Graf? If not as successful as Graf, why is that? Because she hit it into the net, or long and/or wide most of the time? Beginning to get a clue.

Following your over the top logic, couldn't we say that Sabatini came up with one amazing forehand a match, but in most of her matches her forehand was just average or even a weakness.

Moreover, in comparison to Graf's forehand, Sabatini's forehand comes up quite short. Steffi could hit winners up the line, crosscourt, extreme crosscourt, inside-out, inside-in, etc.

Mind you, I am just using your logic to scrutinize Sabatini's forehand. If you don't like it, you only have yourself to blame for holding Steffi's backhand to the wrong standard.

Here is one more for you: Steffi hit a topspin backhand lob in the 1989 Wimbledon Final. It happens in the second set. You can find the match on youtube. Here is a link to the section of the match where she hits the shot. Virginia Wade points out the moment when it happens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UqI7i2PNnk.

LDVTennis
Sep 25th, 2008, 12:48 AM
Actually what Gplayer21 says is true, Graf said not too long ago in an interview that she would have prefered having a better topspin backhand than then one she had.

You don't get it either.

I've read the quote. I've also read the question which produced that answer. Yes, she did say something like that. I am not denying that.

But, what does that mean outside of the context of her tennis career? Nothing.

While Steffi was still playing, the only wisdom that mattered was the collective thinking of Steffi Graf and Heinz Gunthardt. We know what Heinz thought about the slice backhand in 1996. That is all that matters.

If you think you know better than Heinz did in 1996, then you are a fool because he was her coach and you were NOT.

spencercarlos
Sep 25th, 2008, 01:36 AM
Let's turn your argument on its head and let's see if you can see why it sounds irrational to me.

Let's hold Sabatini's forehand to the standard you are holding Graf's backhand. Just how many times did Sabatini run around her forehand and hit inside-out and inside-in for a winner? Not many times, right? Or, at least not as consistently as Graf? Now, why didn't she? And, when she did, how successful was she? As successful as Graf? If not as successful as Graf, why is that? Because she hit it into the net, or long and/or wide most of the time? Beginning to get a clue.

Following your over the top logic, couldn't we say that Sabatini came up with one amazing forehand a match, but in most of her matches her forehand was just average or even a weakness.

Moreover, in comparison to Graf's forehand, Sabatini's forehand comes up quite short. Steffi could hit winners up the line, crosscourt, extreme crosscourt, inside-out, inside-in, etc.

Mind you, I am just using your logic to scrutinize Sabatini's forehand. If you don't like it, you only have yourself to blame for holding Steffi's backhand to the wrong standard.

Here is one more for you: Steffi hit a topspin backhand lob in the 1989 Wimbledon Final. It happens in the second set. You can find the match on youtube. Here is a link to the section of the match where she hits the shot. Virginia Wade points out the moment when it happens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UqI7i2PNnk.
Both games are completly different, Gaby's fundamentals were spin, moving the ball around the court, finesse and coming into the net. Steffi's all about serve, forehand, slice backhand, power, explosive movement.

There is no way Sabatini would run around her backhand to hit forehands when she had an amazing backhand on her own? Thinking about that posibility would be silly.

And when able to Sabatini could hit out on her forehand way better than Graf could on her backhand. Very unlike Graf that could hit the balls METERS out and wild.

Don't worry videos of this coming.

lurker
Sep 25th, 2008, 01:36 AM
What an interesting thread, with replies that are actually for the most part readable and intelligent. Most Graf discussions here in the past have degraded into despicable messes.

While Graf did say something to the effect of wishing she had developed more of a topspin backhand in her game, this came at the end of her career in the context of a Q&A specifically about what she wished she could change in her game. It says nothing about whether her backhand is a weakness. That slice is definitely not a weak shot.

HOWEVER, when you are a pro player who is trying to come up with a game plan to beat her, you know her backhand is hit weaker than her forehand, and you know that if you rush the net and fear getting passed, you'd better keep the approach away from the forehand. So why would she wish for a better topspin backhand? It's for the more reliable pass against those net rushers. For crosscourt rallies, her backhand was good enough to keep her in rallies, her great footwork and athleticism no doubt helping there. Having the topspin would not have been much of an addition to her game there...in fact, as the OP pointed it, it may have weakened her resolve to hit out on her foreheand side.

When you compare her backhand slice to today's most preeminent players who use that stroke, hers is definitely superior. Both Mauresmo and Henin hit slices that sit way too far up. I've never seen Graf hit a floaty high backhand slice. It's always low, cutting and with such underspin. It looks quite nasty. Sure, it doesn't have the power of an aggressive backhand a la Henin, or two handers like the Williams' and such, but it still gets the job done, ie; it forces the error off the reply enough times, and it's certainly more reliably hit in the court than an aggressive shot. It's an often underappreciated part of her defensive game, which is just as important as the offensive game when you play in an era of attacking style players.

Actually, if I have to point out a weakness for today's game, it's her serve. It was big in her day, but mediocre now. But again, I think with Steffi's athleticsm and drive to succeed, she would have persevered in improving whatever aspect of her game she needed to in order to win against her given opposition, until her body broke down. And sadly, that is what exactly happened to her in 1999, the year she retired. Her left knee had been reconstructed and she had to recover for nearly 2 years to get back to a competitive position, then her back and hip? were not looking good. And she was getting older. She had enough to barely defeat Venus at Wimbledon that year, and Steffi herself had knowingly tipped Venus even then as a future great at Wimbledon. I beleive she even said something to the effect of Venus maybe being unbeatable there. She did not say the same of Davenport, whom she lost to in the final. Anyone who saw that final knew that Steffi was very flat and strategically just wrong (I agree, where WAS that drop shot?). I actually blame the weather, scheduling and a certain McEnroe for that flat performance in the final, but I won't beleaguer the McEnroe thing.

Apoleb
Sep 25th, 2008, 01:50 AM
What an interesting thread, with replies that are actually for the most part readable and intelligent. Most Graf discussions here in the past have degraded into despicable messes.

While Graf did say something to the effect of wishing she had developed more of a topspin backhand in her game, this came at the end of her career in the context of a Q&A specifically about what she wished she could change in her game. It says nothing about whether her backhand is a weakness. That slice is definitely not a weak shot.

HOWEVER, when you are a pro player who is trying to come up with a game plan to beat her, you know her backhand is hit weaker than her forehand, and you know that if you rush the net and fear getting passed, you'd better keep the approach away from the forehand. So why would she wish for a better topspin backhand? It's for the more reliable pass against those net rushers. For crosscourt rallies, her backhand was good enough to keep her in rallies, her great footwork and athleticism no doubt helping there. Having the topspin would not have been much of an addition to her game there...in fact, as the OP pointed it, it may have weakened her resolve to hit out on her foreheand side.

When you compare her backhand slice to today's most preeminent players who use that stroke, hers is definitely superior. Both Mauresmo and Henin hit slices that sit way too far up. I've never seen Graf hit a floaty high backhand slice. It's always low, cutting and with such underspin. It looks quite nasty. Sure, it doesn't have the power of an aggressive backhand a la Henin, or two handers like the Williams' and such, but it still gets the job done, ie; it forces the error off the reply enough times, and it's certainly more reliably hit in the court than an aggressive shot. It's an often underappreciated part of her defensive game, which is just as important as the offensive game when you play in an era of attacking style players.

Actually, if I have to point out a weakness for today's game, it's her serve. It was big in her day, but mediocre now. But again, I think with Steffi's athleticsm and drive to succeed, she would have persevered in improving whatever aspect of her game she needed to in order to win against her given opposition, until her body broke down. And sadly, that is what exactly happened to her in 1999, the year she retired. Her left knee had been reconstructed and she had to recover for nearly 2 years to get back to a competitive position, then her back and hip? were not looking good. And she was getting older. She had enough to barely defeat Venus at Wimbledon that year, and Steffi herself had knowingly tipped Venus even then as a future great at Wimbledon. I beleive she even said something to the effect of Venus maybe being unbeatable there. She did not say the same of Davenport, whom she lost to in the final. Anyone who saw that final knew that Steffi was very flat and strategically just wrong (I agree, where WAS that drop shot?). I actually blame the weather, scheduling and a certain McEnroe for that flat performance in the final, but I won't beleaguer the McEnroe thing.

Maybe you should post more and lurk less. ;)

LDVTennis
Sep 25th, 2008, 05:24 AM
Both games are completly different, Gaby's fundamentals were spin, moving the ball around the court, finesse and coming into the net. Steffi's all about serve, forehand, slice backhand, power, explosive movement.

There is no way Sabatini would run around her backhand to hit forehands when she had an amazing backhand on her own? Thinking about that posibility would be silly.

And when able to Sabatini could hit out on her forehand way better than Graf could on her backhand. Very unlike Graf that could hit the balls METERS out and wild.

Don't worry videos of this coming.

Save yourself the trouble. I think I am beginning to see the light.

You've claimed so far that Sabatini's backhand was better than Graf's backhand. And, according to this last tidbit of yours, we now learn that Sabatini's forehand was even better than Graf's alleged "weakness," her slice backhand.

So, my question for you, is this, What happened? If Sabatini was so superior, why is it that Steffi is the one with 22 major titles, one calendar-year grand slam, 377 weeks at No. 1, 186 of them consecutive, also a record, etc., etc., etc. Get the picture.

You like to call Graf fans "fanatics" for saying all these superlative things about Steffi. But, at least, Graf "fanatics" have the numbers to back it up. What do you have? One major and Zero weeks at No. 1?

What video is going to help you to explain that?

ROGERNADAL
Sep 25th, 2008, 05:37 AM
Save yourself the trouble. I think I am beginning to see the light.

You've claimed so far that Sabatini's backhand was better than Graf's backhand. And, according to this last tidbit of yours, we now learn that Sabatini's forehand was even better than Graf's alleged "weakness," her slice backhand.

So, my question for you, is this, What happened? If Sabatini was so superior, why is it that Steffi is the one with 22 major titles, one calendar-year grand slam, 377 weeks at No. 1, 186 of them consecutive, also a record, etc., etc., etc. Get the picture.

You like to call Graf fans "fanatics" for saying all these superlative things about Steffi. But, at least, Graf "fanatics" have the numbers to back it up. What do you have? One major and Zero weeks at No. 1?

What video is going to help you to explain that?

Graf had a backhand? :lol::lol::lol:

ROGERNADAL
Sep 25th, 2008, 05:42 AM
You don't get it either.


While Steffi was still playing, the only wisdom that mattered was the collective thinking of Steffi Graf and Heinz Gunthardt.

Fräulein Forehand, undone by Seles's ability to hit winners fore and aft at the German Open, was espied at Roland Garros using a two-fisted backhand, presumably to keep up in the arms race. In the head war between the two young women, Seles may have won the final then and there.


- Sports Illustrated, May 1990

ROGERNADAL
Sep 25th, 2008, 05:45 AM
All well and good.

Still, I wonder why it is Graf's game that is so often scrutinized for its shortcomings. This controversy did not start here. It was started by a group of catty commentators (e.g., BJKing, Martina, Pam) with a particular political agenda. Whatever that agenda was I can't say for sure, but this much is clear, the effect was clearly to diminish the perception of Graf's game and greatness.

Here is one of those commentators, BJKing, making the claim about Steffi's topspin backhand as late as 1999 --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXYBhSsk_XE.

You gotta wonder where Billy was in 1988 when Steffi hit this shot against Martina N. --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg-npl4Kjcs.

In 1989, BJK began coaching Martina N. At the 1989 US Open Final, Billy was in the stands supporting Martina N. Steffi hit a number of great topspin backhands in that match as well. You can see the entire match on youtube. Here is my favorite section of the match, including a topspin backhand that stuns Martina at the net with its power, two amazing forehands, one inside-in and one inside-out, and some wonderful volleying by Steffi, not Martina. You'll even get a glimpse of Billy in the stands: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdEvBcGIYpA.

As Andy T said, all great champions have "weaknesses." The curious thing is that over the years we heard more criticism of Steffi's weaknesses than Chris', Martina's, or Seles'. When Chris was getting thrashed by Steffi, you never heard how vulnerable Chris' serve was. When Steffi turned the tables on Martina at Wimbledon, you never heard how Martina's topspin backhand or forehand were so defensive. No, all we kept hearing is how weak Steffi's backhand was. Gotta wonder why?

remember, you've been debunked on all points related to this issue...

LDVTennis
Sep 25th, 2008, 05:48 AM
Actually, if I have to point out a weakness for today's game, it's her serve. It was big in her day, but mediocre now. But again, I think with Steffi's athleticsm and drive to succeed, she would have persevered in improving whatever aspect of her game she needed to in order to win against her given opposition, until her body broke down. And sadly, that is what exactly happened to her in 1999, the year she retired. Her left knee had been reconstructed and she had to recover for nearly 2 years to get back to a competitive position, then her back and hip? were not looking good. And she was getting older. She had enough to barely defeat Venus at Wimbledon that year, and Steffi herself had knowingly tipped Venus even then as a future great at Wimbledon. I beleive she even said something to the effect of Venus maybe being unbeatable there. She did not say the same of Davenport, whom she lost to in the final. Anyone who saw that final knew that Steffi was very flat and strategically just wrong (I agree, where WAS that drop shot?). I actually blame the weather, scheduling and a certain McEnroe for that flat performance in the final, but I won't beleaguer the McEnroe thing.

Steffi's mechanics on the serve are superior to everyone playing today and that includes Serena Williams. Steffi had great flexibility at the top of her service motion and a very live arm. She could hit every serve in the book, from slice to twist.

At Steffi's peak, the fastest, recorded speed on her serve was 107. That was hit with a narrow-beamed, midsized racquet. It would be interesting to see what she could do with today's racquet technology. Pete Sampras has been quoted as saying that the new racquets added 10-15 miles instantly to his first serve. You do the math.

Jankovic is No. 2 in the world today with a first serve that is truly mediocre and that she often hits at speeds well below 107. Dementieva got to a US Open semifinal with a first serve that is prone to major breakdowns and that she often hits at speeds well below 107. Because of shoulder issues, Sharapova has had to ramp down the pace on her serve, into Steffi's range and even below that range just to be consistent at times.

Give Steffi one of these new wide-beamed racquets with the Luxilon strings and Steffi would have a great serve even today.

ROGERNADAL
Sep 25th, 2008, 05:50 AM
This is what Heinz Gunthardt, Steffi's coach from 1992 to 1999, had to say about Steffi's slice backhand:

"For years, people have criticized Steffi for not hitting 'over' the backhand more, and they've criticized me for not trying to get her to do more of that," Gunthardt says. "But if you take Steffi's game as a whole, the slice backhand fits in perfectly, and it allows her to do things that she couldn't if she were hitting flat or with topspin" (Tennis Magazine Jan 1996)

Gunthardt made a number of technical and strategic changes to Steffi's game. It was he who got Steffi to hit more short slices as a way to make her opponents defend more of the court. It was he who devised the strategy that eventually gave Steffi the decisive edge in the rivalry with Seles. He even tinkered with her swing on the forehand outwide to the forehand corner. Yet, he never changed her approach on the backhand side.

Given what he did change, he had every opportunity to do so. He obviously knew better. Case closed.

Sad, even by "LdvTennis" standards.. Graf #1 only after Graf's German compatriot stabbed Seles.

LDVTennis
Sep 25th, 2008, 05:53 AM
remember

Oh, I do. That is why I reported your post.

Tick Tock... how long before you are...

ROGERNADAL
Sep 25th, 2008, 05:54 AM
Steffi's mechanics on the serve are superior to everyone playing today and that includes Serena Williams. Steffi had great flexibility at the top of her service motion and a very live arm. She could hit every serve in the book, from slice to twist.



yes, vs. horrid competition.

there's no doubt graf dominated the field of players she competed against far more than venus, serena, henin, sharapova, etc. have. but that's because graf played zilcho competition.

if Graf's career had started say in 1999, with the form she had in 1986 and then progressing onwards as it did, she'd have been lucky to have won more than 2 slams since then, and only when the top players of the past 5 years were injured or stabbed.

ROGERNADAL
Sep 25th, 2008, 05:59 AM
Oh, I do. That is why I reported your post.

Tick Tock... how long before you are...

Reported my post?:tape::lol:

Take away Graf's power advantage and you take away about 80% of her edge over most players. And since her power would be average at best these days, she'd do alot of losing unless the KNIFE ......:lol:

ROGERNADAL
Sep 25th, 2008, 06:04 AM
At Steffi's peak, the fastest, recorded speed on her serve was 107. That was hit with a narrow-beamed, midsized racquet. It would be interesting to see what she could do with today's racquet technology. Pete Sampras has been quoted as saying that the new racquets added 10-15 miles instantly to his first serve. You do the math.

Jankovic is No. 2 in the world today with a first serve that is truly mediocre and that she often hits at speeds well below 107.

Sans her power advantage, Graf would be largely weaponless.

spencercarlos
Sep 25th, 2008, 06:17 AM
Save yourself the trouble. I think I am beginning to see the light.

You've claimed so far that Sabatini's backhand was better than Graf's backhand. And, according to this last tidbit of yours, we now learn that Sabatini's forehand was even better than Graf's alleged "weakness," her slice backhand.

So, my question for you, is this, What happened? If Sabatini was so superior, why is it that Steffi is the one with 22 major titles, one calendar-year grand slam, 377 weeks at No. 1, 186 of them consecutive, also a record, etc., etc., etc. Get the picture.

You like to call Graf fans "fanatics" for saying all these superlative things about Steffi. But, at least, Graf "fanatics" have the numbers to back it up. What do you have? One major and Zero weeks at No. 1?

What video is going to help you to explain that?
Hmmm not really i am refering to Graf's top spin backhand and her passing shots of that side.. As i said before her slice backhand worked wonders when her oponnent was behind the baseline.

Anabelcroft
Sep 25th, 2008, 08:08 AM
yes, vs. horrid competition.

there's no doubt graf dominated the field of players she competed against far more than venus, serena, henin, sharapova, etc. have. but that's because graf played zilcho competition.

if Graf's career had started say in 1999, with the form she had in 1986 and then progressing onwards as it did, she'd have been lucky to have won more than 2 slams since then, and only when the top players of the past 5 years were injured or stabbed.

Competition was very equal at that time,except for Graf.If it wasn't Steffi at that time it would be like today in terms of first place.It's not her fault for beiing much better in allmost every aspect of the game which her results show!

Calypso
Sep 28th, 2008, 08:33 AM
Depends on surface. On grass, her slice really skids through the court and many players struggled with that. The single BH topspin seemed to be an effective answer to it on grass, as Nav and Gabby showed. Lindsay, though, seemed unbothered by it in the '99 final at Wimby, but she has such great technique.

On clay, it also looked effective, staying really low in the dirt. I remember Hingis saying how tough it was to play against Graf's slice at RG having to keep really low to dig it out again and again. I don't think her slice was as much of a weapon on hard courts, including Rebound Ace, where it was much more attackable.

And Graf is such a good player that its ridiculous to say she would struggle against today's players. I know she faced the sisters when they were still young, but still she did well against them. Plus she had a good record against eles, one of the biiger hitters the game has seen.

All in all , I'd say her slice = weapon on grass and clay, relative weakness on hard.

FrauleinSteffi
Oct 3rd, 2008, 12:11 AM
Steffi is.... was.... will always be the best ever until someone matches her dominance and wins more than 22 Slams in Singles & wins every slam at least 4 times...okay that will never happen again..todays players suck compared to her

metamorpha
Oct 3rd, 2008, 03:50 AM
Her slice can be a weakness or a weapon, depends on her conditions or court.

For some players it can be a safe haven or a nightmare, but it doesn't make any difference to many, not a weakness but not really a weapon.

Her slice is not average, though. It's just less dangerous. It has become her style and her game depends on it, too. So if you take away the slice and give her stronger backhand, it would affect other aspects of her game for worse or better...

But since she's a great athlete with excellent footwork, mental strength and dedication, I believe she would still win many many slams regardless the backhand issue. Even tho it's not wise to change it when you still continue to win, no one really threatened her except Monica and your age is already 22.

Philbo
Oct 3rd, 2008, 09:56 AM
This is what Heinz Gunthardt, Steffi's coach from 1992 to 1999, had to say about Steffi's slice backhand:

"For years, people have criticized Steffi for not hitting 'over' the backhand more, and they've criticized me for not trying to get her to do more of that," Gunthardt says. "But if you take Steffi's game as a whole, the slice backhand fits in perfectly, and it allows her to do things that she couldn't if she were hitting flat or with topspin" (Tennis Magazine Jan 1996)

Gunthardt made a number of technical and strategic changes to Steffi's game. It was he who got Steffi to hit more short slices as a way to make her opponents defend more of the court. It was he who devised the strategy that eventually gave Steffi the decisive edge in the rivalry with Seles. He even tinkered with her swing on the forehand outwide to the forehand corner. Yet, he never changed her approach on the backhand side.

Given what he did change, he had every opportunity to do so. He obviously knew better. Case closed.

Ive read an interview with Steffi where she herself says that if she was to have her career over again, the only shot she would change would be to switch to a double handed backhand because she knew that this was the one area of her game that opponents could exploit.

If Graf herself says that she would change the shot if she could, that ends this whole discussion..

Steffica Greles
Oct 3rd, 2008, 11:50 AM
Ive read an interview with Steffi where she herself says that if she was to have her career over again, the only shot she would change would be to switch to a double handed backhand because she knew that this was the one area of her game that opponents could exploit.

If Graf herself says that she would change the shot if she could, that ends this whole discussion..

Does it? I wish I was a better person, but I'm told I'm just fine...at least by most people.

My point? Sometimes players can be a little too critical of their own games. Oh, and hindsight is a wonderful thing.

If Steffi had needed a more forceful backhand that badly, she'd have developed one. As it was, there was not one player throughout her whole career who she could not beat.

irma
Oct 3rd, 2008, 01:41 PM
I remember reading that coaches wanted Steffi to change to a doublehanded backhand when Steffi was young but Peter Graf didn't want it. Not sure if that story is true though.

Philbo
Oct 3rd, 2008, 03:06 PM
Does it? I wish I was a better person, but I'm told I'm just fine...at least by most people.

My point? Sometimes players can be a little too critical of their own games. Oh, and hindsight is a wonderful thing.

If Steffi had needed a more forceful backhand that badly, she'd have developed one. As it was, there was not one player throughout her whole career who she could not beat.

You are a decent person, but doesnt mean there isnt room for improvement ;)

Relative to her overall game and other shots (forehand, volleys, serve), her backhad was RELATIVELY weak - would you agree with that?

To me, its still the 2nd best slice Ive seen in the womens game (Id give the nod for best ever to Martina because she also had to use her slice as an approach shot, not just baseline rally with it)... But relative to her overall game, it was her weakness..

Spencercarlos has summed it up for me perfectly earlier in the thread..

LDVTennis
Oct 3rd, 2008, 04:13 PM
Ive read an interview with Steffi where she herself says that if she was to have her career over again, the only shot she would change would be to switch to a double handed backhand because she knew that this was the one area of her game that opponents could exploit.

If Graf herself says that she would change the shot if she could, that ends this whole discussion..

Look. I suppose if you had asked Martina N. when she retired if she would have liked to have had a forehand like Steffi's, Martina would have said much the same.

But, it still makes no difference. Steffi's accomplishments are the result of the game she had. And, from 1992-1999, the only person with any real influence on that game was her coach Gunthardt. And, I've already cited what he had to say.

As to what her opponents did or did not do? In 1988 and 1989, Steffi beat Martina N. at Wimbledon with a backhand that could slice, chip, flatten, top, lob, and volley. No shot gets more complete than that. By comparison, Martina N. in both 1988 and 1989 had trouble on her backhand side slicing deep and hitting passing shots. Perhaps, you should stop worrying about Steffi's backhand and get on the case of the "weakness" that was Navratilova's backhand and forehand. Steffi exploited both those shots in winning 6 of her last 8 matches against Martina.

Steffica Greles
Oct 4th, 2008, 10:25 AM
You are a decent person, but doesnt mean there isnt room for improvement ;)

Relative to her overall game and other shots (forehand, volleys, serve), her backhad was RELATIVELY weak - would you agree with that?

To me, its still the 2nd best slice Ive seen in the womens game (Id give the nod for best ever to Martina because she also had to use her slice as an approach shot, not just baseline rally with it)... But relative to her overall game, it was her weakness..

Spencercarlos has summed it up for me perfectly earlier in the thread..

See, the main thrust of my argument is that quite apart from the fact that Steffi possessed a topspin pass of world class, which is so often overlooked (although there are many examples on youtube), Steffi's sliced backhand was inextricably linked to her forehand. Without a steady, positional backhand, Graf would not have thundered her forehand so (return to my initial post for further explanation). And while her backhand might have provided sanctuary for players like Seles or Sanchez-Vicario, it was usually errors from her forehand which lost her matches.

I think a double-handed backhand would have been gobbled up by the likes of Seles, Hingis, Davenport and the Williams sisters. If you look at the statistics, Seles rarely lost against any double-handers either, in her hey day.