Archive for March, 2009
Look if you want to talk about male tennis players, I don’t know how anyone can compare to Rod Laver. One of his unique successes is that he is the first singles player to win a calendar year Grand Slam on all three types of court in the open era. That’s the diversity that makes him a true champion.
What I like most about Laver is his style of play. As his tennis career progressed, I watched his perfect volleys and powerful left hand serves improve to near perfection. Not to mention his incredible speed on the court. Even though he was shorter than most of his opponents, you wouldn’t know it. He could cover a court in seconds making any lob shots virtually a death threat for an opponent that tried to use it against him.
Laver’s amateur and professional records are incredible. Because he played before the open era, he spent several years making almost no money for the tournaments he would win. When the open era started, he continued his level of play and began collecting prizes from tournaments that let him live healthy living. I think his willingness to play before the treasures of prize money were expected shows that he truly loves the game of tennis. This integrity only adds to his greatness as a player.
Laver is one of the best male tennis players of all time. His spirit and record are evidence of this claim. He won over 150 singles titles during his 23-year tennis career.
If anyone is looking for one of the greatest champions of all time, I recommend looking up Bjorn Borg. Borg still holds the record of three consecutive years winning both the French Open and Wimbledon (1978-1980). Until recently, with the wins of Rafael Nadal in the 2008 season, no one has ever won both tournaments in the same year since Borg.
Borg had an early start to his career, entering the professional circuit at the age of 14. Immediately, he was a success. He spent years never losing to an opponent that was younger than him. For many years, he held the record for the youngest player (18 years old) to win several major professional tournaments.
His style of play is unlike any before his time. He used a two handed backhand and was one of the first players to use top spin as a consistent attack. His baseline game was incredible and I think that is why he preferred to play up his weak serve. A great first serve would send him to the net. If he played the second serve he was able to play at his most dangerous position on the baseline.
Borg was ranked the worlds No. 1 player for a total of 109 weeks throughout his career. This combined with his 77 singles titles earned him a spot in the tennis hall of fame.
Pete Sampras is one of the most aggressive tennis players at the net I have ever watched. When a player is that aggressive at the net, the results of his matches show it; he becomes unstoppable. Every match I watched with Sampras playing, I knew what he would do if his opponent gave him the opportunity, and they almost always gave him the opportunity. He will rush the net! In fact, Sampras creates the opportunities for himself with his devastatingly perfect first and second serves. His second serve is regarded as the best in the game. Rarely does a player come along that has an equally deadly second serve as their first. It was a great weapon in his game.
Once at the net, the advantage he has is fast placement. He can make the opponent rush forward to get a ball just barely over the net or he can make them dash from side-to-side retrieving baseline balls. And, forget it if you place a ball that Sampras can use an overhead stroke on. His placement of these powerful balls is beyond perfect. Mastery of this technique is few and far between in tennis players. Many are aggressive and hit powerful shots baseline to baseline, but few have the mastery of play at the net like Sampras.
His records show the success this technique has, he has won: 14 Grand Slam singles titles, 11 master series singles titles, and was ranked No. 1 for 6 consecutive years.
Roger Federer is without a doubt one of the best tennis players in the present, as well as the past. He is knocking records out of the park left and right, year after year. Currently he is ranked No. 2, but I have no doubt he’ll regain his No. 1 position in 2009. He was ranked No. 1 for 237 consecutive weeks until his dominance over rival Rafael Nadal finally slipped. He has won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year three times: 2004, 2006, and 2007. This is a new record for any tennis player male or female!
Federer’s greatness can be seen in his style of play. His movements are so fluid it is hard to believe that he is his own entity. His powerful forehand and one-handed backhand help him face opponents that are left handed like Nadal. His serves are wicked fast and because he tosses the ball in the same spot for every serve, his opponent cannot read where he will serve to. This is a deadly weapon. He also returns the ball closer to the net than most players; this gives his opponent less time to react. It really is a great strategy that clearly serves him well.
After years of watching men’s tennis, both singles and doubles, I am confident that the best doubles partner anyone could have is John McEnroe. The man is a genius when it comes to ball placement against his opponents. Not to mention his foresight into where the best ball should be played to capitalize on the opponents return.
Many of McEnroe’s partners have said that playing with him was incredible. In fact, they often attribute most of their success to McEnroe. His ability to play well in both singles and doubles is not easily matched. He has won 9 of the 12 men’s doubles tournaments entered, and all of the mixed doubles competitions. He has won 7 of the 11 singles tournaments.
He is an exceptional player that capitalizes on his left handed swings and one handed backhand. McEnroe’s love of the game is evident as he returned after retirement to win another doubles tournament as the eldest player to do so. He is of course in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Ivan Lendl was a dominant male tennis player in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. He set the stage for today’s greats like Pete Sampras, who without Lendl would have had to work significantly less to achieve world records. Lendl was ranked No. 1 for 270 consecutive months, this record was only recently broken by Sampras. In addition Lendl reached at least one Grand Slam final for 11 consecutive years, an all-time record since tied again by Sampras.
Most people say to me that he can’t be that great because he did not win at Wimbledon. I have a million reasons for his lack of a Wimbledon title, but the most obvious is his playing style. He is an incredibly accurate, and powerful baseline player. He uses a top spin on cross court shots that send his opponents into a fury. Wimbledon is played on grass and produces uneven bounces for baseline players. Lendl was not strong at the net and to win at Wimbledon, you need a strong net game due to the grass courts. Plain and simple.
It is still safe to say that Lendl set an example for the next generation of tennis players like Sampras. He was practically impossible to defeat and if a competitor did beat him, he made it his goal to train harder and conquer the competition the next time!
Don Budge was an amateur American male tennis player in the 1930’s. He had an incredible early career that set the stage for his professional career. He was voted America’s top amateur athlete.
Some of the most notable aspects of Budge’s game are his incredibly powerful serve and invincible backhand. He won many matches based on these two strokes alone. His least strong matches were played on grass courts which put him at a disadvantage for Wimbledon. After a year of specific training with a new coach, Budge’s grass court game significantly improved and he swept the Wimbledon title in 1937. He won the singles, men’s doubles, and mixed doubles tournaments that year. Another notable accomplishment is that he was the first person to win the Grand Slam in tennis. He accomplished all of these things before being considered a professional player. His professional career is just as accomplished!
Fred Perry is not your run of the mill tennis player. For instance, he didn’t even start playing tennis until the age of 18. Most tennis stars start to play at the early age of 3 or 4. Perry became an amateur British tennis player after he clinched a table tennis championship for his country. I can’t believe the switch was so natural, as Perry went on to have a very successful tennis career.
Perry became a tennis icon who has not been matched to this day. He was the last Englishman to win the Wimbledon, US Open, French Open and Australian Open men’s singles titles. Perry is also the last British player to win the Wimbledon men’s singles title, winning it three times in a row, becoming an English icon.
I wish another great British player would come out of the woodwork to give a challenge to Pete Sampras. There’s always room to hope!
If I could pick any male tennis player to play a doubles match with I would pick John Newcombe. He and his partner won 12 Grand Slam titles for men’s doubles. This is more than any other men’s team in history. In singles play, he was a two-time winner of the Australian Open, a three -time winner of Wimbledon, and won the US Open twice. He is one of the best men’s players of all time ranking with the best of the best. I cannot imagine having the honor to play with this tennis great!
Newcombe’s secret weapon was his powerful second serve. So many opponents were caught off guard by this serve that he has aced more people and is often regarded as having the best second serve in history.
In short, his record reveals his greatness. He has won seven singles titles, 17 doubles titles, and two mixed doubles titles.
If we want to talk about great tennis players let’s start with Andre Agassi. Agassi’s singles career is incredible and is not shy of accomplishment. He is the only male tennis player to have achieved a career Golden Slam. This means that he has won all four Grand Slam singles tournaments and the singles gold medal in the Summer Olympics in the same calendar year. The only other player to have achieved this title is Steffi Graf, a dominant women’s tennis player who is coincidentally his wife.
Agassi’s style of play is so much fun to watch because of how he breaks down his opponent. Agassi was well known as one of the fittest players on the circuit and it showed in his matches. He would basically wear his opponent out with long cross court baseline hits. By the end of the match his opponent was clearly out of energy while Agassi looked like he was just finishing a warm up. Any opponent that was worthy for Agassi had to be in good fitness condition and know how to return shots that would work in their favor. Agassi was a master of controlling the rally.