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Steffi Graf - An Unorthodox Player

1334 Views 50 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  alfajeffster
We all know that she takes her forehand waaaaayyy too late. And her ball toss was unbelievably high. And no one has hit more passing shots off the backhand with slice.

So, do you feel that Steffi Graf was the player she was because of her unorthodox play, or in spite of them?

Someone once said that steffi and monica are amazing because they are able to win although their play is not orthodox. but i feel that that's also the reason why they win so much.
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Steffi's game had both orthodox and unorthodox stroke production. Her serve, while hit with a high ball toss, was technically perfect. One thing that people usually didn't notice with Graf, or took for granted, was how fast she did everything. She is the fastest player to ever have played women's tennis (most of the all time greats will back me up on that), and with her serve, she snapped at the ball very quickly. To have a high ball toss and hit the ball while jumping up off the court and to be able to time that wrist snap took extraordinary talent, which she had in abundance. Holding 2 balls helps maintain the consistency of the ball toss- I recommend everyone try it for a few matches- you'll see!

Her backhand slice and topspin were classic strokes- probably one of the top 5 slice backhands in the history of the sport.

The Graf forehand is unorthodox, but that does not mean technically unsound or inconsistent. She hit it off her right hip, and in comparison to the conventional theory- it's late. This was one component of why it was so effective- she took the racquet back many times only at the last second, and then jumped up off the court and hit it like a sling-shot with extreme wrist snap- just like her serve. When you think about it, the serve IS a high forehand.

Her biggest weapon, the one that allowed her to produce all those great results, was her footwork. No one in the history of women's tennis has run around more backhands to hit a winner than Steffi Graf.

The true test, in my opinion, is whether a player using the new, bigger composite racquets could play and win with a wooden racquet. Steffi's game would be just as dominating. Monica Seles wouldn't have won a single major with a wooden racquet.
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"Her backhand slice and topspin were classic strokes- probably one of the top 5 slice backhands in the history of the sport."

I can't think of many slice backhands that were clearly better, especially on the womens side.

I don't know if i'd go so far as to say Monica wouldn't/couldn't win w/a wooden racquet. I think it would be great to see an exho. w/female players using wood.
It would be interesting. Steffi would be great- nothing missing. Monica would have alot of trouble with the small racquet face and she'd be an easier target as soon as an opponent got her on the move. Plus, with Monica, many people don't realize how extreme her grip changes are. She doesn't change her hands, but she does rotate the racquet quite a bit in her hands and with that oversized frame, generates a ping-pong like shot with a huge sweet spot close to her body. With wood- the sweet spot is half that size, and almost a foot out farther away from the body, with the flex of a wooden racquet. She'd have to learn one-handed shots and hit them all the time.

Other players who could play with wood: Novotna, Navratilova, Martinez, Sabatini, Davenport, Capriati, Henin-Hardenne. I think the Williams sisters would have trouble for a while, but their athleticism and drive would eventually produce results, but it would be very difficult for them. Venus would have to learn how to construct points and serve-and-volley.
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Oh so now Venus doesn't know how to construct points? The single greatest weapon Venus used to begin to turn her h2h around against Lindsay and especially Martina was her patience in setting up points, and incorperating more variety.

I do remember that year Monica played with that "hackers" racquet it was just inside the legal limits for size. I call them the point and click snowshoe. Kind of embarrassing and desperate looking.
Yes, Venus learned patience, and to not go for winners all the time, but with a wooden racquet, these qualities are requirements. She still does not know how to think 3 and 4 shots ahead and you NEVER see her moving to where her opponent is going to hit the ball. She simply covers the court and gets to everything no matter where it goes, and has become much better at hitting winners on the run. Her shakey forehand technique would be magnified with a wood racquet, as well as her less than par second serve. Any number of players would beat her with wood.
moby said:
and i maintain martina h. would still be a great player using a wooden racket.
Oh, I agree 100% Martina Hingis would be a pleasure to watch play tennis with a wooden racquet. I'd pay good money for that exhibition!
I disagree, and think Venus is and has shown herself to be a very adaptable player, and as you stated in a previous post would work her way into being a good wood racquet player. If any of the aforementioned players had Venus' court coverage they wouldn't have honed thier anticipation skills, Venus can pretty much stay in "mid-court" because she knows her opponent must hit something extraordinary to get a ball by her. If she were born in the wooden era, I'm quite sure w/her height and reach her game would have been based on s&v and not her groundies.
Yeah, you have a point- which brings us to that old argument about comparing champions- however, I'm not so sure previous eras would have tolerated Richard Williams at all, unfortunately. I wish Venus would have been brought up as a serve-and-volley player. It would have changed the course of tennis in the last 10 years- for the better.
I would have to agree, I think that would have pushed the game in more than the athletic relm. Perhaps that's what it will take for the next gen. to take it to the next level. We're already beginning to see players who have solid ground and net games even if they rarely venture forward. Mauresmo has the tools to chip and charge(US Open 02 v-Venus) but can she get her head/body together.
This also brings up an interesting observation: why don't today's players take advantage of past champions' experience with regard to training and career building? I remember a few years before the great Don Budge passed, he was interviewed in the stands at the U.S. Open, and was asked about Pete Sampras' problems at the French, etc. He made accurate, perfect observations that were right on point, and then noted that none of the top players had ever asked him for help. I felt saddened. All that knowledge laying to waste. :fiery:
UH...I was speaking of Martina Navratilova, Evert, not Steffi. Chris and Steffi weren't really considered rivals.

Needless to say it was mighty arrogant of Martina to state she has nothing to learn from a player who's won three times the number of slams.
Martina Hingis has always been an very opinionated young lady. She always gives good press. I think when she said that about Steffi, it was a reflection of her personal dislike of Steffi Graf, not necessarily her greatness. Martina is one of those people who simply can't stand Steffi Graf, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that she or Melanie may have been slighted by the Graf camp after requesting advice or a practice session very early in Martina's development, and they never forgot it, but that's just my hunch.
This may be true, but I was speaking about her comments about her WTA tour mentor Chris Evert. She said she there was nothing she could learn from her.
Really? I hadn't heard that comment. Ah, well, I don't think Martina Hings had too much respect for any other tennis player- which is what made her fun to watch!
irma said:
no according to him she didn't real talk to him for the first two years :eek:
No, he just moved around in the stands and the game was to see who could spot either him or Peter Graf giving signals- they were famous for this during matches, and Peter was spoken to about it on more than one occasion. Steffi is by no means the only one to have done this- it's been happening with all the top players for decades.
starr said:
One of the greatest things about Martina Hingis was that she didn't like Steffi Graf. It endeared her to me right away. :)
1999 French Open Women's Singles Final:
Graf def. Hingis 4-6,7-5,6-2

irma said:
martina didn't like steffi because steffi didn't give an autograph when she was 9

really this story is true, martina told it at least 10 times ;)
Ah, I knew I should have listened to Martina more often. At the time, I just wasn't interested, because I always had a Graf tape to watch- much more interesting.
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