Top Ten ALL-AROUND ATHLETES to play Womens Tennis - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 01:42 AM Thread Starter
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Top Ten ALL-AROUND ATHLETES to play Womens Tennis

Getting away from results and winning percentages for the time being, I am wondering about the best athletes to play the sport, which I will end in 1999, because the athleticism now has blurred the distinction between tennis talent and results altogether, and they are too fit to compare historically, at least for me.

Margaret Court was a remarkable athlete; Billie Jean King probably even more so. Martina N. possibly and probably more than Billie Jean, but comparing eras with those 2 in particular is tough. Not fair to put Martina's specialized trainers and equipment up against BJK's natural ability athletically.

Hana Mandlikova may indeed be in the top ten, as may Evonne Goolagong and Maria Bueno.

Chris, Monica, Steffi, Maureen C., Tracy, and Hingis are not. Andrea Jaeger was probably deceptively athletic, and more-so than those in this paragraph, but still not of the type I'm thinking about. Bettina Bunge and Betsy Nagelson were more athletic than anyone in this bracket for instance, and depending on who we think of, they may or may not make our top ten best athletes category.

Zina Garrison was a better athlete than Pam Shriver, and Althea Gibson was super-heralded for her athletic play. Davenport is HERALDED as athletic but I see her as being too clunky a bruiser to join the elite 10.

In the opposite direction, Suzanne L. MAY be in this category but somehow the footage I've seen leads me to more quickly identify her as a ballerina, closer to grace than athleticism. Grace can produce fantastic results in tennis. Goolagong may lean in this direction to some degree, but I think she was an official card carrying athlete.

Some will be tempted to put some of our foot-speeded players in this category, since track & field is athletic, but...being quick of foot is not a full-bodied display in all the ways that tennis can extract athletic dynamism from a player.

Any thoughts??

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post #2 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 06:17 AM
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"Chris, Monica, Steffi, Maureen C., Tracy and Hingis are not."

Them fighting words

Ok, I'll be serious for a moment and nominate athlete extraordinaire, Besty Nagelson - perhaps someone else here recalls her pre-injury career...after her freak accident unfortunately she was never quite the same player/jockette
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post #3 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 10:37 AM
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Maybe Novotna?
Still I would rather call it "people who used their full athletic abilities in their games" in sense that people who go to the net a lot probably need it more then baseline tennisplayers which often only requires speed and power (pure talking about athletics here)

I mean you can't call somebody who was invited for the olympic team in athletics to not be athletic since that would be a bit weird. but when you include jumping, reflections etc. etc. etc so all the things that excellent net players probably need too then I agree.
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post #4 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 12:33 PM
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Bearing in mind that classic tennis, especially women's tennis (I know, shoot me, but I'm a realist) played with standard size frames, quite often transcended the athlete's surge to dominance. That said- my list attempts to quantify what I know so far, and admittedly, it's not much about pre-1950s "athletes", and has no bearing on actual results, just who I think were the greatest athletes:

1. Steffi Graf
2. Margaret Court
3. Martina Navratilova
4. Althea Gibson
5. Alice Marble
6. Serena Williams
7. Pauline Betz
8. Lori McNeil
9. Virginia Wade
10. Jana Novotna
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post #5 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 12:52 PM
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Steffi definitely deserves a place. She isn't as multi-faceted as a Navratilova or Court, but her speed and power are in a class by itself.

Kathy Jordan maybe. Didn't see her play much.
Gigi Fernandez
Arantxa (never a better retriever of the ball -- that takes athleticism)

Definites: Navratilova, King, Court, Graf, Goolagong, Mandlikova, McNeil
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post #6 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 02:25 PM
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My Picks:

1. Martina Navratilova
2. Althea Gibson
3. Steffi Graf
4. Margaret Court
5.Alice Marble
6. Pauline Betz
7. Serena Williams
8. Lori McNeil
9. Zina Garrison
10. Mary K. Browne---Like Althea she became a top golfer after tennis. Of course that's before she took up the Billie Jean King diet and balloned in her later years.
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post #7 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 03:14 PM
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I think that Steffi was definitely a great athlete. After all, she achieved olympic qualifying time for the 800 meters sprint
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post #8 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 03:28 PM Thread Starter
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Roan & Alfa, how can you leave Billie Jean King off your lists? This is not a personal likes list, but about athletes.

Santorofan, I DID list Betsy Nagelson, who WAS and IS a better athlete then steffi. I doubt highly steffi would contest that herself. An athlete does NOT equal a great tennis player. In fact, as many of you know, this is WHY i like tennis so much; a librarian can beat an athlete. Steffi is very athletic. She's not among the top ten athletes to play this sport. Not more athletic than mandlikova. She is not on the same planet.

I mean, I am not the holder of the truth, but I can't in my wildest imaginings think you guys could seriously rate her and not billie jean king.
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post #9 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 03:30 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrantyBoy
I think that Steffi was definitely a great athlete. After all, she achieved olympic qualifying time for the 800 meters sprint
As I specified, and which irma saw my poiint in saying...

"Some will be tempted to put some of our foot-speeded players in this category, since track & field is athletic, but...being quick of foot is not a full-bodied display in all the ways that tennis can extract athletic dynamism from a player."
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post #10 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 03:31 PM Thread Starter
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AndyT, where are you? I need an ATHLETE appreciator here!!
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post #11 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 03:33 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alfajeffster
Bearing in mind that classic tennis, especially women's tennis (I know, shoot me, but I'm a realist) played with standard size frames, quite often transcended the athlete's surge to dominance. That said- my list attempts to quantify what I know so far, and admittedly, it's not much about pre-1950s "athletes", and has no bearing on actual results, just who I think were the greatest athletes:

9. Virginia Wade
also, love of my life... ...when you speak to her, ask virginia if she thinks she was a better athlete than billie jean king. you know what she'll say.
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post #12 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 03:41 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by irma
I mean you can't call somebody who was invited for the olympic team in athletics to not be athletic since that would be a bit weird. but when you include jumping, reflections etc. etc. etc so all the things that excellent net players probably need too then I agree.
exactly what i am saying...chris once mentioned that barbara potter was a better athlete than most of the top ten players, including herself, but i dont think it has to be a serve&volleyer, though they tend to be this dynamic all-strengths athletic personality. Sukova was a better athlete than kohde-kilsch as a serve & volleyer, but i wouldnt put a basketball in kohde-kilsch's hands either. I wouldnt rate her a great athlete.
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post #13 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 04:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daze11
AndyT, where are you? I need an ATHLETE appreciator here!!
You called, Sir!

You supply the athletes (please? just one?) and I'll appreciate them, Daze .

Athleticism is hard to define. Speed, strength and stamina all play a part and then there's that big fuzzy area of technique which in tennis is one of the crossover points between mind and body (timing, movement, placement, etc). What are we focussing on here? Power comes not just from strength but from technique, for example.

Is an attacking game intrinsically more athletic than a defensive game or are different forms of athleticism needed?

If we mean those players whose athletic skills would have enabled them to excel at other sports apart from tennis, then Graf, Court and Navratilova spring to mind as three great tennis-playing athletes of recent times.

I don't know!



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post #14 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daze11
also, love of my life... ...when you speak to her, ask virginia if she thinks she was a better athlete than billie jean king. you know what she'll say.
I think she might actually say yes, and everyone here (just ask AndyT) knows how much I think of Billie Jean. In terms of pure athletic ability, she wasn't the fastest player, nor the most powerful, nor the most versatile with her physical abilities- especially from the back court. Billie Jean King is in the top 3 of all time in mental capacity- and while she was fit and played an aggressive "man's game" in the traditional Alice Marble style- she struggled with weight right throughout her career, at every stage, and weight coupled with a car accident in the mid-60s that left her with a debilitating succession of knee injuries, and in her own words- knees that rolled over in their sockets laterally too easily- no, I don't think she was one of the 10 best athletes- Virginia Wade was quicker with her reflexes, faster, more powerful, and moved better and had more versatility and athletic prowess. Billie Jean King had some of, if not arguably the best hands at the net- better even that Navratilova's in my opinion, but in terms of the athletic frame that propelled those hands and that brain to the net, there is no comparison.

P.S.- I do think it is a measure of a great athlete if she could have been successful in virtually any other sport she played. You CAN say that about Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Althea Gibson, Alice Marble and a few others on my list. Billie Jean King might have been a good girls softball player, but can you imagine her playing basketball, running track, soccer (futball), skiing, or anything else beyond high school girls field hockey? Think about it.
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post #15 of 50 (permalink) Old Nov 5th, 2004, 05:53 PM
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Steffi is the best athlete...Martina N a distant second...Court & King there too...Williams sisters.....Capriati.....Chris Evert maybe she too good not to be.....
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