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Old Mar 19th, 2007, 09:36 AM   #1
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How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

ChrissieFan's mention of Tracy Austin snapping Chris Evert's winning streak on clay made me wonder how good a player Austin was on the surface. I know she won the Italian Open once and the Family Circle Cup a couple of times and that she was considered the best of the Evert clones. But at the same time, Evert grew up playing on clay and knew how to move on the surface whereas Austin was raised on the hard courts of California. How well did Austin move on clay? Did she appear comfortable on the surface at all or was it merely a matter of her applying her effective baseline game to a surface that was conducive to her playing style?
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Old Mar 19th, 2007, 09:07 PM   #2
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

lets ask tracy herself!! http://tracyaustin.com/

says tracy, "I'm passionate about alternative health, alternative parenting, organic foods, rainforest preservation (I find oxygen so useful), and not returning to a job now that I have 2 little ones."

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Old Mar 19th, 2007, 09:45 PM   #3
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

Quote:
Originally Posted by samn View Post
ChrissieFan's mention of Tracy Austin snapping Chris Evert's winning streak on clay made me wonder how good a player Austin was on the surface. I know she won the Italian Open once and the Family Circle Cup a couple of times and that she was considered the best of the Evert clones. But at the same time, Evert grew up playing on clay and knew how to move on the surface whereas Austin was raised on the hard courts of California. How well did Austin move on clay? Did she appear comfortable on the surface at all or was it merely a matter of her applying her effective baseline game to a surface that was conducive to her playing style?
Well, she has a career record of 51-13 for claycourt matches which is simillar to how she did on other surfaces (grass 53-14, hard court 115-25 and carpet 122-32).
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 04:50 AM   #4
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

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Originally Posted by daze11 View Post
lets ask tracy herself!! http://tracyaustin.com/

says tracy, "I'm passionate about alternative health, alternative parenting, organic foods, rainforest preservation (I find oxygen so useful), and not returning to a job now that I have 2 little ones."

WOW- for a second there a thought that the photo on that tracyaustin.com page was of Coria.

Then, I thought, oh, don't be silly, nelslus- coria isn't THAT pretty.
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 04:25 PM   #5
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

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Originally Posted by Chrissie-fan View Post
Well, she has a career record of 51-13 for claycourt matches which is simillar to how she did on other surfaces (grass 53-14, hard court 115-25 and carpet 122-32).

I think Tracy's biggest strength was her determination and mental prowess. That transcends surface specific issues for many of the top women. Just look at Chris' Wimbledon record and Martina's French Open record. Both could win big on their worst surface, except against each other. Tracy had some of that and probably would've been a consistent threat on any surface.

The couple of times that I remember seeing Tracy on a clay court, it didn't look like her preferred surface. But her tenacity, no doubt, made up for whatever adaptations that she had to make with movement, tactics, etc.
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 10:16 PM   #6
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

Quote:
Originally Posted by nelslus View Post
WOW- for a second there a thought that the photo on that tracyaustin.com page was of Coria.

Then, I thought, oh, don't be silly, nelslus- coria isn't THAT pretty.
......

ok, maybe i should have answered the question instead of dunkin' tracy in granolaville.

yeah, she hits a good ball on clay... not nearly as well as on hard court because the clay takes some of the sting out of those shots, but in addition to her aggression, she does keep the ball in play and force the opponent to hit the extra shot or two, and that obviously helps you on clay.

but i dont think she ever created a clay-game, per se, just an extension of her same baseline routine on hard court. In fact, I think she played the same on grass...which may account for why her two slam titles are hard court.

She had the upperhand in the rivalry with evert for a year starting in that 79 uso final, but I am not too sure she WOULD have beaten chris in rome in may of chris hadn't gotten married in april. she was spent & distracted & it still could not have been closer than 7-6 in the 3rd... Then, they never faced each other on clay again so it sure is hard to compare them on that surface.

But tracy was very controlling, as we remember, from crowd noises to camera movements to weather conditions...blowin' air in the hand, blowin' air in that hand, pullin' back the hair, pullin' back that hair... and i theorize clay was just too unpredictable for her to love it. Not just that you get funny bounces, but that you have to slide with your feet--Austin was so much about precision. Of course, Evert was about precision too, but we can all see she was a more fluid graceful player; Tracy was rigid with her body and didnt seem to take to sliding ... with effervescence.

Last edited by daze11 : Mar 21st, 2007 at 02:08 AM.
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Old Mar 21st, 2007, 02:00 AM   #7
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

Tracy entered the tour at a time when clay court tennis wasn't at its highest. I think playing on hard courts and indoor carpet was a higher priority. It wasn't until '81 that the French had regained its Slam-significance. The Family Circle Cup was more significant than any European clay court event in the mid to late 70's. So, I don't think Tracy ever really settled in to a real focus on clay court tennis. I do believe with her great groundies that she would've been a force on red clay had her body held up.
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Old Mar 21st, 2007, 03:52 AM   #8
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

I think daze brought up a great point regarding her movement. Tracy's footwork along with every other aspect of her game, save her backhand were just too mechanical, there was absolutely nothing fluid in Tracy's game which I think is an essential element to being strong on clay OR grass. That being said, I think that she was good enough to have taken a couple of French Open titles had she remained healthy and had the event been a more prominent part of the tour between '77-'81, her prime years. Still, she would not have had nearly the success that Chrissie did, because there was nothing natural about her game. Chrissie's groundstrokes are the model of technical proficiency, but they are also incredibly smooth, incredibly natural strokes. There is nothing natural looking about Tracy's forehand or her footwork, just watching Tracy, full body clenched, shoulders tensed and hovering, jerking up and down on the balls of her feet exhausts me. Her injuries are usually blamed on growing up on hardcourts, but I think it has more to do with her physical makeup and her game as a whole. As I believe Chrissie herself once said about Tracy's forehand, "something that mechanical is bound to break down under pressure" I would add that might as well be the epitath on her entire career.

But I cannot say enough how much I loved her obscene competetiveness. I can really only compare her tenacity to that of the alien in the "Alien" films. As unflattering as that may sound, I think that Tracy would appreciate the comparison.
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Old Mar 21st, 2007, 01:01 PM   #9
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

I think a good comparison to give some clay-court background to Tracy Austin's game would be to look at both Lindsay Davenport and Billie Jean King (among many other Californians). They were brought up on southern California hardcourts, and moulded their games to hit hard on that surface. It's just not the same as being raised on Ft. Lauderdale clay, no matter how their strokes compare. Clay court tennis takes a lot of experience and hitting of balls on that surface before a player excels on it, and for some (like Austin, King, Davenport and most notably Pete Sampras), it was just never a surface they felt comfortable with. Good enough efforts to have a handful of significant wins (and in King's case, to take a French title), but never was going to be a factor on the surface from the get-go. You could say the same about many more players and grass, if you stop and really think about it.
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Old Mar 21st, 2007, 05:57 PM   #10
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

I always thought Tracy had good movement myself-but I don't recall if she could slide or not-does anyone know?

Quote:
Posted by Alfajeffster It's just not the same as being raised on Ft. Lauderdale clay, no matter how their strokes compare.
So true!

Quote:
Posted by Pam Shriver I think daze brought up a great point regarding her movement. Tracy's footwork along with every other aspect of her game, save her backhand were just too mechanical, there was absolutely nothing fluid in Tracy's game which I think is an essential element to being strong on clay OR grass. That being said, I think that she was good enough to have taken a couple of French Open titles had she remained healthy and had the event been a more prominent part of the tour between '77-'81, her prime years. ....................
But I cannot say enough how much I loved her obscene competetiveness. I can really only compare her tenacity to that of the alien in the "Alien" films. As unflattering as that may sound, I think that Tracy would appreciate the comparison.
Well put Pam, and LOL at the Aliens comparison~! The Aliens series is a fav of mine.

If Tracy had only know she'd have 1979-1981 then maybe she could have gotten her tush over to Roland Garros. I'd like to point out that Trasums
also won all her matches in 79 at the Fed Cup on red clay.

Did she have a clay streak until her defeat at the 1981 German?
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Old Mar 21st, 2007, 07:18 PM   #11
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

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Originally Posted by alfajeffster View Post
I think a good comparison to give some clay-court background to Tracy Austin's game would be to look at both Lindsay Davenport and Billie Jean King (among many other Californians). They were brought up on southern California hardcourts, and moulded their games to hit hard on that surface. It's just not the same as being raised on Ft. Lauderdale clay, no matter how their strokes compare. Clay court tennis takes a lot of experience and hitting of balls on that surface before a player excels on it, and for some (like Austin, King, Davenport and most notably Pete Sampras), it was just never a surface they felt comfortable with. Good enough efforts to have a handful of significant wins (and in King's case, to take a French title), but never was going to be a factor on the surface from the get-go. You could say the same about many more players and grass, if you stop and really think about it.
Firstly, I would like to say that I have enjoyed reading the posts in Blast from the Past for years. It's a pleasure to know other people who remember how wonderful the game truly was.........................and who can actually recall the very different feel of playing with wood. I so miss it! Let me know if any of you still play with it, and if you do..................let me know where!!! LOL!
But anyway, my 2 cents.....I can't see including Austin here in this group at all. They used to say that Steffi Graf tosses the ball too high on her serve..............................well, not too high for her! The same goes with Tracy. Yeah, she had stiff movement, but it is what worked for her.....................it was natural for her to play this way...it enabled her to be the hard-hitting precision player that she was. And I'm sorry, but not a clay court player? The only thing that counts in the end are results not form, and snapping Chrissie's streak at the Italian, especially giving her very limited competitive experience on red clay up to that time, is enough for me! Even Chris said that she knew eventually it would probably be Tracy who would be the one to end it.
What everyone seems to forget in these conversations is the fact that Tracy's career was over at 21, and also that she didn't play the french in '79 & '80............when she might have won those titles. She had to be in science class instead!!! Chris and Martina had major-injury free careers. If she had never gotten hurt, I think she would have been the main threat to Navratilova from '82-'86. Martina was blowing away Chrissie in every match in 1983. She wasn't even getting close to winning a set that year from Navratilova. Tracy came back from injury and lost in 3 sets to a then rampaging Martina, taking the 1st set 7-5, and then just couldn't continue the form. I just don't think she gets enough credit, that's all.
Pam Shriver said at the end of her career that Tracy may have been the toughest competitor she ever played against.
On another note, I've lately been thinking about how women's tennis in particular was robbed over the years of so many potential blockbuster rivalries because of the refusal to have open tennis and of course also injuries as well. Wills-Lenglen, Jacobs-Lenglen, Wills-Marble, Betz-Connolly, Connolly-Court & King, Bueno-Evert & Goolagong etc. Have you guys ever done a thread on this? I think it would be interesting to speculate on it.
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Old Mar 21st, 2007, 08:09 PM   #12
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

I think the probably with Tracy is that she was America dependent when she got on the court. You had the feeling of this "brat on the warpath" that she felt that alienated in Paris or London compared to New York. She played with more confidence in America than other places where she played like a foreigner with a shell in her head and couldn't come out.
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Old Mar 21st, 2007, 11:07 PM   #13
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

Quote:
Firstly, I would like to say that I have enjoyed reading the posts in Blast from the Past for years. It's a pleasure to know other people who remember how wonderful the game truly was.........................and who can actually recall the very different feel of playing with wood. I so miss it! Let me know if any of you still play with it, and if you do..................let me know where!!! LOL!
Welcome to our corner of the Board --Realtennis, it's a pleasure to have you here with all the other new faces.


Quote:
And I'm sorry, but not a clay court player? The only thing that counts in the end are results not form, and snapping Chrissie's streak at the Italian, especially giving her very limited competitive experience on red clay up to that time, is enough for me! Even Chris said that she knew eventually it would probably be Tracy who would be the one to end it.
What everyone seems to forget in these conversations is the fact that Tracy's career was over at 21, and also that she didn't play the french in '79 & '80............when she might have won those titles. She had to be in science class instead!!!
Great points. I do agree with Alfa about the disadvantage of growing up in Cali, but Tracy had at least a 30 match win streak on clay from 1979-1981.

After losing to Evert at the 1978 Family circle she won

1979
1. Rome
2. Fed Cup-Madrid
3. Wightman Cup

1980
5. Family Circle
6. Fed Cup-Berlin

1981
Two matches at the German before falling in the QF.

Like you wrote, because of her injuries we'll never know how good Tracy "Awesome" could have been on clay-or any surface for that matter.



Quote:
Wills-Lenglen, Jacobs-Lenglen, Wills-Marble, Betz-Connolly, Connolly-Court & King, Bueno-Evert & Goolagong etc. Have you guys ever done a thread on this? I think it would be interesting to speculate on it.
Great idea for a thread-start it and we'll join in

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Old Mar 22nd, 2007, 11:08 AM   #14
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

[quote=Realtennis;10335565]Martina was blowing away Chrissie in every match in 1983. She wasn't even getting close to winning a set that year from Navratilova. [quote]

Hey, welcome. Chris actually won the first set against Martina in the 83 Canadian Open final, and was reasonably confident going into the US Open- but I think, like the 84 French Open final, when expectation was high, Martina had a confidence that she never had before, and blew Chris off the court- maybe Chris expected too much of herself in both of these finals, and folded under the pressure of her own expectation.

I agree with a lot of what you say about Tracy's claycourt abilities. We can analyse how mechanical she was, and how it would not have suited clay until the cows come home, but the proof is in the results. You could take the same logic about Chris's game, and how unsuited it was for grass- yet she had great success on that surface. And, as you point out, Chris herself had a feeling that Tracy would be the one to snap her winning streak.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2007, 11:14 AM   #15
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Re: How good was Tracy Austin on clay?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rollo View Post

After losing to Evert at the 1978 Family circle she won

1979
1. Rome
2. Fed Cup-Madrid
3. Tampa (I'm pretty sure this was on clay in 79)
Not sure. Tampa ("The Florida Federal Open") was on hard courts in 1982, but the event held in Largo in the late 80s ("The Eckerd Open") was on green clay. Does anyone remember if Tampa was on clay in the 70s?
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"A couple of years ago, we nicknamed Steffi Graf's forehand 'Jaws'. And that music would go perfectly when she starts running in to the net, swarming on that little ball." (JoAnne Russell, during the 1988 Wimbledon final between Graf and Navratilova)
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