Hingis vs. Seles - Why was power a lesser factor? - TennisForum.com
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2004, 09:32 PM Thread Starter
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Hingis vs. Seles - Why was power a lesser factor?

Always been perplexed by this question. So, I'd like to know what everyone else thinks.

If Graf could outhit Hingis, why wasn't Monica able to do the same?

My database on Monica's head to head encounters with Hingis is sparsely populated. So, I am really hoping that some of you with a better grasp of the facts can help me answer this question.

The answer could help to clarify what was the real source of the trouble Graf had with Seles in the early 90's.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 25th, 2004, 10:09 PM
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The problem for Monica, not to dismiss Hingis' talents out of hand, when she played Martina that Monica very rarely was in the kind of shape needed to beat Martina who was able to keep the ball on the move so that Monica rarely got a "static" hit on it. In fact I'd only say Monica was ever in good physical condition to play Martina Hingis twice, and she won both those encounters at the French Open '98 & Canadian Open '98.

Despite her injury problems Graf always maintained top notch movement which meant she had the athletic ability to stay in the rallies with Hingis until she got the shortball to punish with her forehand.

Last edited by MirjanaLfan; Oct 26th, 2004 at 01:28 PM.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 2004, 01:24 AM Thread Starter
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Here is the problem I have with your theory, Mirjana L. Fan.

I recently saw a Seles' match from the 1998 Kremlin Cup on the Tennis Channel. I was quite surprised to see that contrary to what I remembered Seles was actually in pretty good shape. I'll concede that from '95 to '99 Seles' fitness could be a volatile thing. It could almost vary from tournament to tournament. But, at least in that one match, it appeared to me that she was moving to the ball and striking the ball quite well. She displayed that same kind of form in the year-ending championship, at least for the first set and a half against Graf in the QF.

I think I next saw her play against Graf in the Semi's of the '99 French. According to Tracy Austin who was working the match for USA Network, Monica was in much better shape than she had been the year before. Up to that point, I hadn't really noticed. Upon Tracy's prompting, however, I did note that Seles' legs seemed more toned.

Here is the point. If Tracy Austin's observations in '99 are correct and if my observations about '98 are correct, then, I don't think we can blame Monica's physical condition pro forma for her losses against Hingis in at least late '98 (around the time of the Kremlin Cup match) and all of '99 (when according to Tracy she was in much better shape). In which case, we really haven't come close to answering the question yet.

Your comments about Hingis' tactics against Seles, however, are promising.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 2004, 01:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MirjanaLfan
The problem for Monica, not to dismiss Hingis' talents out of hand, when she played Martina that Monica very rarely was in the kind of shape needed to beat Martina who was able to keep the ball on the move so that Monica rarely got a "static" hit on it. In fact I'd only say Monica was ever in good physical condition to play Martina Hingis twice, and she won both those encounters at the French Open '97 & Canadian Open '97.

Despite her injury problems Graf always maintained top notch movement which meant she had the athletic ability to stay in the rallies with Hingis until she got the shortball to punish with her forehand.
Do you mean French Open '98? I've had the good fortune to see almost all of the Hingis-Seles encounters (yay for buying tapes+espn classic). Monica wasn't always in the best of shape, but she wasn't often in BAD shape. Hingis just knew how to play Monica like a violin. She moved her back and forth, exploiting Monica's poor movement. In the AO '02 semifinal Hingis wrongfooted Seles many times, and varied her shot placement constantly. Its almost as if Hingis had the mental edge too. Seles was the one power player Hingis felt she owned and that gave her LOTS of confidence going into her matches against Monica.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 2004, 11:51 AM
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First off, let me start by saying I think your premise for starting this thread is a very thinly disguised attempt at repeating (however softly or eloquently) what has always been a sore spot for many Monica Seles admirers- her lack of movement. "the real source of trouble Graf had with Seles in the early 90s"? Okay, since it is the time of year when the veil is thinnest between the living and the dead, I'll bite (again). Steffi Graf didn't have trouble with Monica Seles on any surface besides red clay or rebound ace, the two slowest surfaces they ever played on- even in the early 90s when Monica was the top player in the world. This came down to movement, and on the slower surfaces, not only were Graf's shots slowed down, and the rallies longer, but the bounces were higher, and the surface afforded Seles more time to get into adequate striking position to be able to control the points- often times right from the return of service. Martina Hings, in direct comparison to Graf, not only had more options on the backhand, but also on the forehand, mid-court balls, and at the net. Her game was more completely rounded than Steffi Graf's game, and she had just as much control, if not more, over her intelligent shot selection in any given rally. Her mental fortitude and stamina was what Graf preyed upon, and while many of their matches were close, Graf could also wear Hingis down through superior fitness on any surface. Hingis' own comments after losing to Graf at the 99 French bear this out "you're always so tough". Monica Seles was usually not able to wear down Hingis because, as many people have noted throughout her career, she never really had a plan B to resort to- she played each match the same way, regardless of the opponent. Hingis could not only wear Monica down, but usually get her moving and out of her strike zone with a tactical arsenal greater in scope than Steffi Graf's.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 2004, 01:43 PM
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I think Alfa nailed it pretty much...it´s just that simple. Monica wasn´t the best mover to begin with and her being a double-hander restricted her reach even more and against a player like Martina who thrives on getting her opponents out of position that was calling for doom.

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 2004, 03:46 PM
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Martina Hingis was the greatest strategist of recent years. The players who beat her and brought her career to an end were dominating power players (Davenport, Williamses... even Pierce, Hantuchova). Seles also fit this vein, but I think she lost for 2 main reasons. 1 - Monica's lack of mobility kept her from getting into position to power through Hingis and 2 - Hingis just got into Monica's head. Monica always looked like she questioned her ability to hit winners against Martina. Monica was at her best when she didn't play head games, she just blasted the ball. She never looked like she was loose at all against Martina. The exceptions to that were the '98 FO (she had nothing to lose and just hit away) and the last few matches they played (Monica was more confident based on her success and Martina's confidence was waning.) On paper, Monica should've beaten Martina regularly.

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 2004, 06:17 PM
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It makes me think of the lopsided record Seles has against Sanchez Vicario.
I think Seles did so well against Arantxa because, while she could reach an amazing number of hard shots from Monica, she couldn't really do much with them, they would sit up just waiting to be pummelled again by Monica. Against most players Arantxa could use this tactic and cause a hard hitter to crumble under the mental pressure of having to hit one great shot after another just to win a point.

Hingis reminds me a lot of Arantxa, in terms of being able to get realy tough shots back into play, but it just seemed that as well as simply getting them back, she was also able to do more creative things with the ball at the same time. Every time I watch the Hingis Venus qtr final from Wimbledon 2000 , right from the first game, it is evident just how Martina got to number one and stayed there, by scrambling back what would normally have been winners and hitting a shot that would cause Venus a lot of trouble, like wild croscourt lunge or low low finesse shot. Even though she lost the match I still think she played excellently.

I guess Monica wasn't able to deal with the way Martina dealt with her best shots, but she wasnt the only one!! Hell, Martina if she were playing now would surely have racked up a few more victories over the Williams sisters using the same tactics! Her game was built to last,,,off days didnt affect her as much as they do risky players like Venus and Serena and Monica. She must be gutted not have been around these past two years, surely she has winnning records against most of the recent grand slam winners?
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 2004, 06:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesuk
It makes me think of the lopsided record Seles has against Sanchez Vicario.
I think Seles did so well against Arantxa because, while she could reach an amazing number of hard shots from Monica, she couldn't really do much with them, they would sit up just waiting to be pummelled again by Monica. Against most players Arantxa could use this tactic and cause a hard hitter to crumble under the mental pressure of having to hit one great shot after another just to win a point.

Hingis reminds me a lot of Arantxa, in terms of being able to get realy tough shots back into play, but it just seemed that as well as simply getting them back, she was also able to do more creative things with the ball at the same time. Every time I watch the Hingis Venus qtr final from Wimbledon 2000 , right from the first game, it is evident just how Martina got to number one and stayed there, by scrambling back what would normally have been winners and hitting a shot that would cause Venus a lot of trouble, like wild croscourt lunge or low low finesse shot. Even though she lost the match I still think she played excellently.

I guess Monica wasn't able to deal with the way Martina dealt with her best shots, but she wasnt the only one!! Hell, Martina if she were playing now would surely have racked up a few more victories over the Williams sisters using the same tactics! Her game was built to last,,,off days didnt affect her as much as they do risky players like Venus and Serena and Monica. She must be gutted not have been around these past two years, surely she has winnning records against most of the recent grand slam winners?
A good observation JamesUK, and the other thing that bears comparison between Arantxa and MartinaH is where they positioned themselves throughout most rallies. Arantxa was often 20 or more feet behind the baseline scrambling to run down balls, and while she was one of the fastest players to turn a defensive position into an offensive one, she was more often not in the natural position to take advantage of mid-court balls. The Sanchez Vicario forehand was also much more of a liability than Hingis' who could and did hit outright winners and offensive shots. Martina Hingis had much more compact, yet complete strokes than Arantxa, who brushed up the back of most forehands, hitting loopy shots on that side, and even though her backhand was her best shot, I can't tell you how many times I saw her just block the ball on that side instead of really hitting it. I think the one thing that gave Seles trouble with Hingis was that as soon as Monica started to open up the court with her terrific angles, Martina could not only get there, but send it back with an even more creative angled reply that Seles simply couldn't prepare for.

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 2004, 07:23 PM
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Martina seemed to be able to read Monica just incredibly well and I think that was the key.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 26th, 2004, 10:24 PM
 
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Graf did not win her matches against Martina by out hitting her.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old Oct 27th, 2004, 04:32 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alfajeffster
First off, let me start by saying I think your premise for starting this thread is a very thinly disguised attempt at repeating (however softly or eloquently) what has always been a sore spot for many Monica Seles admirers- her lack of movement. "the real source of trouble Graf had with Seles in the early 90s"? Okay, since it is the time of year when the veil is thinnest between the living and the dead, I'll bite (again). Steffi Graf didn't have trouble with Monica Seles on any surface besides red clay or rebound ace, the two slowest surfaces they ever played on- even in the early 90s when Monica was the top player in the world. This came down to movement, and on the slower surfaces, not only were Graf's shots slowed down, and the rallies longer, but the bounces were higher, and the surface afforded Seles more time to get into adequate striking position to be able to control the points- often times right from the return of service. Martina Hings, in direct comparison to Graf, not only had more options on the backhand, but also on the forehand, mid-court balls, and at the net. Her game was more completely rounded than Steffi Graf's game, and she had just as much control, if not more, over her intelligent shot selection in any given rally. Her mental fortitude and stamina was what Graf preyed upon, and while many of their matches were close, Graf could also wear Hingis down through superior fitness on any surface. Hingis' own comments after losing to Graf at the 99 French bear this out "you're always so tough". Monica Seles was usually not able to wear down Hingis because, as many people have noted throughout her career, she never really had a plan B to resort to- she played each match the same way, regardless of the opponent. Hingis could not only wear Monica down, but usually get her moving and out of her strike zone with a tactical arsenal greater in scope than Steffi Graf's.
Alfa, there was nothing thinly vieled about my question. How could there be? I gave you my ulterior motive. And that motive is not to rub salt into any wound. I actually think by reflecting on Hingis' success against Seles we can get a more scientific grasp of the Seles-Graf matchup over the years.

I'll advance that project now by saying that I recently saw a tape of the '93 AO Open Final, part of an attempt on my part to figure out what edge Seles had against Steffi in the matches Seles won. It became quickly apparent that Seles knew what Steffi's hitting patterns were. By '93, they had become quite repetitive, especially when Steffi shyed away from hitting the forehand dtl from the backhand corner. Consequently, Seles didn't need to defend the entire court. She could just camp out in the Ad court.

So, I don't think it is as simple as you make it seem. The surface may not have made that big a difference. Had Graf patterns not been as predictable as they were in that '93 AO Final, she would have won the third set.

Given the emphasis I am placing on shot patterns, I hope you see the logic now of asking how it is that Hingis overcame Seles' power. You've given me quite a good answer. Hingis did so by varying her patterns. By design, her game was more capable of doing that because she understood the strategic advantage of hitting the ball short, as well as deep, slow as well as hard, crosscourt as well as dtl without establishing any transparent pattern.

In that '93 AO final, Graf displays none of that understanding. This would not always remain the case. By 1996, I would argue that she had a better understanding. Review your tape of the '96 US Open Final. The short slice backhand made a big difference. Graf was learning.

I think Graf next played Seles at the '98 Tour Championships. For that first set, Steffi was back to her old, predictable ways. Then, it must have dawned on her what she was doing wrong. The change was subtle, but it nevertheless worked well. Even Virginia Wade who was working the match for MSG sports noted the difference. The slice was still going crosscourt most of the time, but Seles just couldn't favor that side from the second to the third sets because Steffi began hitting her forehand dtl from the backhand corner. Another subtle, but significant change is that Steffi began shortening the length of her slice backhand crosscourt, angling it wider, giving it some really wicked spin, but placing it shorter.

I think by the time Steffi met Seles in the semis of the '99 FO Seles was searching for a new strategy that would work against Graf. She could count on Steffi hitting her slice backhand crosscourt most of the time, but she could no longer count on Steffi's forehand from the backhand corner going to the same place, the AD court. If that turned out to be the case, then Seles was going to be forced to play Steffi straight, a difficult proposition for Seles given her lack of speed. On top of everything else, of course, Steffi did something different with her forehand that day. On the inside-out forehand from the backhand corner, she took some pace off the ball in order to place the ball shorter in the court and at a wider angle. How very Hingis-like of her, don't you think?

So, here is my new theory: When Graf settled into a pattern of hitting her slice backhand and inside-outside forehand (deep, but not really wide) to the AD Court, Seles knew how to beat Graf as she did in the '93 AO. When Graf moved her forehand from the backhand corner around the court, as she did some in her early career and much more in '96, '98, and '99, Graf had the edge. That edge became more definitive when Steffi began hitting a short slice backhand and a dropshot off of her slice backhand takeback after a series of crosscourt backhands. In a way, the more she varied her patterns like Hingis the more of an edge she gained on Seles.

As to edge that Steffi had on Hingis, I don't agree with you that it was just a question of mental fortitude and stamina. Some of Hingis' cuter shots just didn't work against Graf because she moved so well to the ball and she was a magnificent low ball hitter. Graf could also do what Venus and Davenport did to overcome Hingis. When Graf, Venus, Davenport hit the ball into the open court with power and precision, Hingis' options diminished exponentially. In order to do that, of course, they had to play ping pong with Hingis until they got the right ball.

Last edited by LDVTennis; Oct 28th, 2004 at 05:12 PM.
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