Comparing the past to the present. - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 17th, 2005, 05:11 PM Thread Starter
 
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Comparing the past to the present.

I am a 16 years old boy, fortunatlely as I will be able to watch many more generations of this amazing sport and unfortunately as I would give so much to watch the "oldies" play live (I never even watched Evert playing).

I trust my own judgement more than any one else's, but seeing as I was never to watch tennis back in the Navratilova-Evert days and not even in the Graf-Seles days, I can't make this comparison myself.

Obviously, racket technology made this sport so different - I cant imagine anyone with a wooden racket playing like Federer - but still, as great fans of this sport whose opininons I respect hugely - do you think the sport developed as much as people say it has? Are the women hitting the ball THAT much harder then before? Are they more athletic? More intelligent on court?

I honestly don't think that even Evert at her best, but playing with a wooden-racket, could beat a Sharapova at her best (which is obviously not quite amazing), playing with a modern racket, but has the game itself, the tactics of it and the demand for none-stop practice increased?

Are the injuries really only due to the added-power, or are they also related to the fact that today's players train more?

I know you probably discussed this many times before, but I haven't found a recent thread debating this. Please, do give me your thoughts on this.
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post #2 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 05:16 PM
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Nimi,

You are a 16 years old boy, which means you joined the forum when you were 12. Thats amazing. I work with a teen program here at the museum so I am going to answer this. As you can probably see, you are already correct in your first guess, which is that this is a tiresome subject for blasters, especially since the regular group here has run through the issues already on a number of threads...and thats why i tried to at least dig up a good one for you. But, no luck.

I actually did try to search for you because there have been a number of long and extremely helpful threads on this topic with much thought from many with a lot of information I am sure you'd find valuable in assessing these issues. I even looked at my own 'started threads' about a wood racquet era issue but I guess it was just a little further back than the memory allows on the site...it went only back to march 04.

Anyway, firstly, it is a bad idea to say things like "I cant imagine" that a chris evert could stay on court with a maria sharapova after saying you have "never seen her play". On what could you possibly base your imaginings?? (And as the old saying goes, "when you ass-u-me it makes an ass out of u and me") One reason it is complicated to compare eras is because the things that made you great in one era is often not fully applicable to another era, just as musicians who were great for what they did 30 years ago would be lost in a world of today that has different ideas about what music is, how it should be played, and even what its social purpose is.

In this, you sometimes have to look at the spirit of people to know their power across many fields of comparison, and there would be little doubt among any serious tennis historian, that especially given the wood racquets, that chris evert was monsterously more formidable than maria sharapova will likely ever be. she is a queen in every sense of the word, and sharapova at this time still a secretary in the Royal office, albeit a high ranking one who does more than order coffee. She's due for a promotion in coming years.

There is also little doubt the game was more complex back in the wood days...it is a harder tool to use, harder to be consistent with, harder to generate power with, smaller head to find the sweet spot--or even the ball on the strings--with. You had to use your head to win more, and there are still many many people, despite the trends, who believe that was a BETTER way to play the sport and what tennis brought out in people with those challenges actually enhanced better parts of the human spirit. But thats a whole other topic. But the point is there is NO WAY the players today are more intelligent on court. I would go so far as to give the fortune of every family I know as a cumulative bet that the players were smarter players then than now. Smart is not a word used for todays tennis. Demanding is a better word.

The players ARE more athletic today, yes. It is more of a business and the players more like CEOs than just athletes...whether thats good or not is another story...and they hit harder but in part because the ball was made to go faster through higher compression than even in the 80s and the racquets are more "advanced" at producing advantages for the players...again, is making it easier for a pro BETTER? or should they have to work for advancement through skill levels and not from racquets?? Just another question. Today's players are without question highly skilled, but greater tests would bring about the development of greater skill.

so maybe the question should nt be one of HITTING harder, but do the players WORK as hard? Physically, its more demanding today and they work much harder, all in all, on fitness and stamina. But mentally, they dont work nearly as hard. (If someone never falls riding their bike with training wheels on, its easy to say, "Look how they used to fall before! They never fall now!" But looks are deceiving for many reasons. And the media of any time is invested in the hype of the 'now'--that is what makes people buy tickets, not to mention racquet brands. But as always, dont believe the hype.)

Injuries have many causes, and some of it is the increase in hard court tournaments, the de-valuing of clay court events (the US Clay Courts used to be a major event, now gone, and the Family Circle cup was a giant for the ladies, but now is just another tour stop), but OVER-TRAINING (too much focus on physical) is definitely an issue. The truth is NO ONE knows why there have been so many injuries...it has never happened before. But I would bet that switching to wood racquets would eliminate them all, because my pet theory is that the constant strain of a ball hit harder than it should be cumulatively wears the body down. Hitting harder doesnt prove you're better, it just means you have the quicker instincts against being hit. I'd prefer a pace where the thinking player has time to think and not just react. I thnk that would make tennis a greater challenge as a sport and more honorable.

And lastly, Borg is a man with a wooden racquet who played very much like federer with similar dominance, but federer would also play as well as he does with wood. Wood helps touch & finesse players...its not as bad as you are thinking. I really would (wood) suggest you go and find a wood racquet that you feel comfortable with when you hold it. Then go find yourself a nice clay court. Then hit. You will find you have to watch the ball more, and may find that is a GOOD thing. And you will find more respect for the players who used that wood racquet to compete at the highest levels of the sport. For pure enjoyment, you might even find you prefer it.

By the way, it is relatively easy to find a copy of the 1980 Wimbledon final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. (If you can find the 1980 masters match with them, all the better!) Check it out. I dont think you'll be complaining about the experience in comparison to what you see today. But I warn you, that eras tennis can be quite addictive!!

Last edited by daze11; Oct 18th, 2005 at 07:26 PM.
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post #3 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 07:34 PM
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Wonderful post, daze- thanks for taking the time to respond. I wanted to yesterday, but just couldn't organize my thoughts clearly enough on a Monday morning to do it justice. I currently have the 1976 Philadelphia final between Goolagong and Evert in my VHS, and have been watching portions of it over the past few days. Quite a few of those points qualify for consideration of some of the greatest ever played. They make the infamous Connors "around the net post" point look simple in comparison to how both Evonne and Chris use every single facet and every part of the court. It's breathtaking, and makes me want to get out there and play every time I see it. That's why the classic game of tennis is so intriguing- the things that are possible with a standard size frame instead of the limitations that actually come from using oversized equipment designed to make striking the tennis ball easier.

One thing I do slightly disagree with is that wood is easier on the body- specifically the arm. Playing 4 hours with a wood racquet (or any of those heavy steelie or aluminum frames) most definitly gets the attention of your arm a lot more than the lighter, more maneuverable oversized things of today- last time I played that long (doubles) I felt like my arm was going to fall off, and didn't play again for at least a week!

There is nothing more beautiful than Evonne Goolagong in full flight moving across a tennis court.
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post #4 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by alfajeffster
Wonderful post, daze- thanks for taking the time to respond. I wanted to yesterday, but just couldn't organize my thoughts clearly enough on a Monday morning to do it justice. I currently have the 1976 Philadelphia final between Goolagong and Evert in my VHS, and have been watching portions of it over the past few days. Quite a few of those points qualify for consideration of some of the greatest ever played. They make the infamous Connors "around the net post" point look simple in comparison to how both Evonne and Chris use every single facet and every part of the court. It's breathtaking, and makes me want to get out there and play every time I see it. That's why the classic game of tennis is so intriguing- the things that are possible with a standard size frame instead of the limitations that actually come from using oversized equipment designed to make striking the tennis ball easier.

One thing I do slightly disagree with is that wood is easier on the body- specifically the arm. Playing 4 hours with a wood racquet (or any of those heavy steelie or aluminum frames) most definitly gets the attention of your arm a lot more than the lighter, more maneuverable oversized things of today- last time I played that long (doubles) I felt like my arm was going to fall off, and didn't play again for at least a week!
cuz you're not used to it! how many arm injuries were there in the 70s? its the prolonged attack of the vibration at swifter intervals and from more compromised positions that i am referring to, though. the whole body is effected. with a wood racquet you would never even attempt some of the fool hardy acrobatics we see now, as the racquets can turn a defensive shot into an offensive shot, which of course continues the cycle of body mis-management plaguing the top players.

are you sure you're not watching LA?? i dont recall philadelphia being a barn burner of sustained quality. i even think ted tinling was in philadelphia, talking about it not being so well played.

besides, im sure thats not a vhs tape you're talking about... you have a good memory though.

Last edited by daze11; Oct 18th, 2005 at 07:55 PM.
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post #5 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by daze11
cuz you're not used to it! how many arm injuries were there in the 70s? its the prolonged attack of the vibration at swifter intervals and from more compromised positions that i am referring to, though. the whole body is effected.

are you sure you're not watching LA?? i dont recall philadelphia being a barn burner of sustained quality. i even think ted tinling was in philadelphia, talking about it not being so well played.

besides, im sure thats not a vhs tape you're talking about... you have a good memory though.
It's definitely the green carpet at the Pallestra in Philadelphia with Tony Trabert and (I think) Julie Heldman in the booth, although I could be wrong about that. You're right though, the match on the whole is less than sparkling (not like the 74 USOpen Goolagong/King classic), however, there is a series of points when Evonne is coming back from a deficit in the second that are spectacular. Both players running their opponent not only side-to side, but approaching, hitting lobs, drop shots, everything imaginable (and the crowd does oooh and aaaah quite a bit during this series). The LA match wasn't as good quality video, so I don't watch it much even though it is a better match- plus (I think) LA was played on the blue supreme carpet, which makes it very difficult to see the ball IMO.

There is nothing more beautiful than Evonne Goolagong in full flight moving across a tennis court.
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post #6 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by alfajeffster
It's definitely the green carpet at the Pallestra in Philadelphia with Tony Trabert and (I think) Julie Heldman in the booth, although I could be wrong about that. You're right though, the match on the whole is less than sparkling (not like the 74 USOpen Goolagong/King classic), however, there is a series of points when Evonne is coming back from a deficit in the second that are spectacular. Both players running their opponent not only side-to side, but approaching, hitting lobs, drop shots, everything imaginable (and the crowd does oooh and aaaah quite a bit during this series). The LA match wasn't as good quality video, so I don't watch it much even though it is a better match- plus (I think) LA was played on the blue supreme carpet, which makes it very difficult to see the ball IMO.
you know its a good era of tennis when i could say "i 76 philadelphia" in a match when miss evert doesnt achieve a set.
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post #7 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 08:00 PM
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Is this the 1976 Slims match that Evonne won over Chris? It sounds delicious! I can recall how thrilling the LA finale match was, but have no memory of the Phillie final. Weren't many of the finals on CBS on saturday afternoons?
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post #8 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by daze11
you know its a good era of tennis when i could say "i 76 philadelphia" in a match when miss evert doesnt achieve a set.
There's one point in particular where Chris hits a lob over a charging Evonne, who scampers back and retrieves it (where was Chris- at the baseline of course- this is the one thing both she and Graf did that always frustrated me- they rarely followed a good lob into the net for the easy put-away), and starts the point all over with a loopy forehand to give her time. Then Chris steps in and nails a two-hander cross-court so deep the crowd thinks it might be out, but Evonne gets to that and slices a backhand just as deep, which draws a short ball from Chris, which Evonne approaches with, and Chris hits a really good cross-court forehand that Gooley just barely got her racquet on, but did something with- nailed it back into the forehand corner. Chris has to stop and change direction, but miraculously gets to it and drives a flicking forehand down the line, which Evonne has to acrobatically stretch in full flight, actually hitting the backhand drop volley a little behind her. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it!

There is nothing more beautiful than Evonne Goolagong in full flight moving across a tennis court.
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post #9 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 08:13 PM
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It sounds simply fantabulous, alfa.
Any more descriptive tidbits appreciated.
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post #10 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Mark38
It sounds simply fantabulous, alfa.
Any more descriptive tidbits appreciated.
i agree, that was pretty fabulous color commentary. i doubt trabert's skill was even close.

if we ever did a string of color commentary from the los angeles final, it would be dizzying. but philly had its golden moments, thats for sure.
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post #11 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 08:36 PM
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Evonne also hits the absolute best serve/forehand volley in this match that I have ever seen, and that covers quite a few players, both men and women. She serves a hard, flat first serve out wide to Chris' ad court, and just about floats into exactly where Evert cracked the two-hander, which was pretty close to the body and down the center of the court, taking Evonne's angles away from her. Well, she found one- studder stepped just enough to her side to get out of the path of the ball, and absolutely stuck a perfect volley, cupping it with the racquet face as if it was the palm of her hand. The ball landed so fast and tailed away inside the ad court service box right near the line. Even (I think) Julie Heldman prounounced it "a perfect volley".

I'm running out of color. Somebody else's turn. This is fun actually.

There is nothing more beautiful than Evonne Goolagong in full flight moving across a tennis court.
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post #12 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 09:35 PM
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Thanks so much. It's quite colorful and I can actually see it in my minds eye. Those were the days my friend...
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post #13 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 10:05 PM
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It's interesting, but when I first started playing tennis, I played with the over-size racquets used today. When I was 17, however, I decided to play with a wooden racquet on a hardcourt. I wanted to hit with it to get a feel of playing with wood. I have a two-handed forehand and a one-handed backhand and I usually just try and bash the ball. The wood racquet didn't allow me to do that. I actually felt silly playing like that because I wasn't doing anything or making anything happen. So, I took one hand of my forehand, and played the single-handed forehand and backhand and stopped stressing on hitting the ball with pace. The wood racquet forced me to start thinking. As absurd as this may sound, I actually felt more liberated playing with the wooden racquet. I was trying all sorts of things; coming into net to finish off points, using different heights and placements. The tennis court really has a lot of nooks and crannies that I wasn't aware of before. It felt great. I have to say, I'm not a very good tennis player, and I haven't set foot on a tennis court since losing my opening round match in the nationals in 2002. Posting all of this makes me want to grab my tennis gear and go out for a hit.

FUCK YOU, SEWTA.
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post #14 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 10:06 PM Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the response, daze, I appreciate it.

I'd love to put my hands on some match from the 70's.
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post #15 of 47 (permalink) Old Oct 18th, 2005, 10:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hingis-seles
The wood racquet forced me to start thinking. As absurd as this may sound, I actually felt more liberated playing with the wooden racquet. I was trying all sorts of things; coming into net to finish off points, using different heights and placements. The tennis court really has a lot of nooks and crannies that I wasn't aware of before. It felt great.
i am so glad to hear that, you just made my day.
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