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Discussion Starter #1
Back when tennis was a bigtime sport, they used to occasionally pit men against women on TV. The format was usually the men only got one serve, and the women got to hit in the doubles alleys. (Try it sometime. It's a scary equalizer.)

My question is this. Today's players, with today's rackets, vs the players at the dawn of the Open era, using wooden rackets. Today's players only get one serve, and yesterday's players get to hit into the doubles alleys.

Who wins?

(If you haven't played with a wooden racket, I know this is a tough question to answer.)
 

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Hmm, my guess would be that the modern player using the modern racquet would win, but I wouldn't bet my house on it.;)

What I would find even more interesting would be to have three tournaments, one on grass, one on clay and one on hardcourt where the current players would play with a wooden racquet. And how about the "oldies" from, say the 60's and 70's doing the same thing, but with a modern racquet? Who would be as effective against her contemporaries as she is/was with the material she is/was used to, and who wouldn't?
 

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Back when tennis was a bigtime sport, they used to occasionally pit men against women on TV.
I remember only two matches -- Margaret Court v Bobby Riggs ("Mother's Day Massacre") and the "Battle of the Sexes" (Riggs vs Billie Jean King) in the 70's (by the way, I don't remember there being a "handicap" in either the Court or the King matches). Then, Martina played Jimmy Connors sometime in the 90's in Las Vegas with the handicap that you describe.

Other than that, when did TV "occasionally pit men against women?"

The fact is, its a clearly known fact that men and women are different animals, and their games are different, and a great men's player can generally beat a great women's player because of the differences in size and strength.

So I beg to differ -- other than the few times -- that men and women were "occasionally" pitted against each other.
 

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I never played with a wooden racket. But, i did play with the Wilson T-2000 that Jimmy Connors used for so many years ;)
I tried that racquet, and it left me with 2 impressions:

a) I could understand why Jimmy couldn't serve worth a crap with it

b) I respected him more as a player that he was able to win anything with that infernal contraption

Ah, but that Head fiberglass model (used by Ashe at Wimbledon '75), THAT was a sweet racquet!

Speaking of Jimbo, he did not give Martina the doubles alleys, he gave her a couple of extra feet on each side, but nowhere near the whole alleys. (Not even half the alleys.) Jimmy was adamant about not giving up the whole alleys. Presumably because, meaningless exo or not, he wanted to win it. And he probably remembered--

1979, when Wimbledon champ Martina Navratilova played Wimbledon finalist Roscoe Tanner. Tanner was limited to one serve, and Nav got to hit into the doubles alleys. Result-- a routine straight-set win for Martina. Giving away the doubles alleys is too big a handicap, even for top pros.

Which gets us back to the subject of the thread. I'd have to give the nod to the older era players with wooden racquets. Whatever power advantage the modern players gain from the modern racquets will be negated by having to cover so much court. They'll rarely be set often enough to capitalize. And with the one-serve limitation, that would take away their other big advantage.
 

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I tried that racquet, and it left me with 2 impressions:

a) I could understand why Jimmy couldn't serve worth a crap with it

b) I respected him more as a player that he was able to win anything with that infernal contraption

Ah, but that Head fiberglass model (used by Ashe at Wimbledon '75), THAT was a sweet racquet!

Speaking of Jimbo, he did not give Martina the doubles alleys, he gave her a couple of extra feet on each side, but nowhere near the whole alleys. (Not even half the alleys.) Jimmy was adamant about not giving up the whole alleys. Presumably because, meaningless exo or not, he wanted to win it. And he probably remembered--

1979, when Wimbledon champ Martina Navratilova played Wimbledon finalist Roscoe Tanner. Tanner was limited to one serve, and Nav got to hit into the doubles alleys. Result-- a routine straight-set win for Martina. Giving away the doubles alleys is too big a handicap, even for top pros.

Which gets us back to the subject of the thread. I'd have to give the nod to the older era players with wooden racquets. Whatever power advantage the modern players gain from the modern racquets will be negated by having to cover so much court. They'll rarely be set often enough to capitalize. And with the one-serve limitation, that would take away their other big advantage.

That's one I don't remember. Can you post a link to an article, or scan one with the evidence? Because I find it very difficult to believe that a 1979 Roscoe would lose to Martina in that time period. Martina had not reached her zenith, and Roscoe still had a serve. Something had to be up with that...
 

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I remember seeing Ilie Nastase playing some women with the rules you describe. He treated it as a total goof, and barely lost. Only played one set. The woman beat him because the doubles alley let her do lots of drop shots at such extreme angles that even if you returned them you couldn't get back in position.

It is a scary equaliser if you're playing a better player.

I'd have to also say that having played with wood, that the modern player would win almost every time. Midsize and oversize rackets can just produce so much more power and the sweet spot is so big you have more room for error.

Above and beyond that, though, the modern players are generally much more fit and strong because training is so much improved.

I think the only advantage the old-timers would have is that they probably would have better tactics because you can't just blast your way to victory with wood.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
So I beg to differ -- other than the few times -- that men and women were "occasionally" pitted against each other.
I'll see what I can come up with. That was thirty years ago.

NOTE: It seems there was a previous thread about the Connors-Nav match, and quite a few examples of men-vs-women matches are mentioned in that thread. Tracy Austin vs Bobby Riggs (twice), Court vs Rosewall, Jack Kramer vs one of the 'Helens' (Wills and Jacobs)

While I'm doing research, could you explain the difference between "occasionally" and a "few times"?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
It is a scary equaliser if you're playing a better player.
I'm not sure I understand what you mean there. 'equalizer' pretty much implies that one player is better than the other.
 

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That's one I don't remember. Can you post a link to an article, or scan one with the evidence? Because I find it very difficult to believe that a 1979 Roscoe would lose to Martina in that time period. Martina had not reached her zenith, and Roscoe still had a serve. Something had to be up with that...
I think the source for this was a newsgroup, so you might be able to google it. (Not 100% sure though. My data accumulation often largely consisted of gathering the info itself. My results pages, for example, have been culled from literally thousands of books, magazines, and newspapers over the past quarter century plus, from many libraries, and space was at a premium.) It was a while back, though, so you might just wind up with a reference to it instead of the original. You could start with that one that used to post tennis news all the time (draws and results), whose name I can't recall offhand. (The new MSNTV browser doesn't support newsgroups, so I don't have access to all my old sources.) I think it had a ".ca" extension. Anyone know which one I'm refering to? (And thereby saving me trying to find it among thousands of pages of tennis information. :) )

My specualtion: Roscoe probably had a lot of early fault points lost, and had to resort to spinning the ball in. With one serve, it would largely negate his biggest weapon. And, let's face it, if Roscoe got into a rally, he was fair game, and that's just covering a normal court. And unless my memory is spotty, Roscoe wasn't a really fast runner around the court, by ATP standards of the day. And Martina's speed was one the most overlooked weapons she had. Even if he was a bit faster than her, it would be barely. When you weigh it as his speed covering the doubles court vs hers covering the singles court, that's a pretty big edge to Martina. And she was playing, and winning, a lot of mixed doubles matches, so returning a 3/4 speed or less Tanner serve wouldn't be a huge deal.

Again, this is just speculation, based on their demonstrated abilities, as I did not get to see the match itself. Apparently it wasn't considered a big deal or a huge surprise, or it might have been one of those matches that was just thrown together at the spur of the moment.

I do remember distinctly the remark from Connors, saying he couldn't even give his son the doubles alleys, when that proposal was made. It underscored his intense competitiveness. He just did not want to lose, even in an exo with handicaps against him, he wanted a realistic chance. Ironically, Martina hit maybe 2 shots the whole night into that extra space, so she wasn't capitalizing. She was very tight. (And not the good "tight" that you hear in recent slang.)

Volcana's remarks on older mixed singles matches reminded me of one between Tilden and Lenglen in the early 20's. (Reference to this is from Tilden's book, "Match Play and the Spin of the Ball".) To show how huge the gap was back then, Tilden says he played a practice set against Lenglen, and spotted her a 40-0 lead in every game, and still won 6-0.

Edit: remembered the name of one newsgroup last night-- clari.net. As an old orchestra member (who briefly played the instrument in question), I always used to chuckle a bit when I typed in the URL.
 
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