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How Would Your Ultimate Tennis Player Look? What Pieces of Whose Game Would You Use?

Ever since most of us were kids we looked at the pros and emulated (or tried to) their games. Whether it was Rod Laver's approach shot or Suzanne Lenglen's flair, we wanted to be like them.
If you could build your ultimate player what would they look like? Whose forehand would you pick, whose volley? (of course we're picking the players for when they were in their prime)
Here's your chance, build your own and, after you're done, vote for the one someone else has built, that you think is the best. (you can't vote for your own. Extra credit if you vote for mine :)

Here's my Frankenstein;

1. Serve. Without a doubt, Pete "Clutch" Sampras. The biggest, nope. The greatest variety, nope.No one could (or can) hit his spots better. You can't read his serve. Even Aggasi said he couldn't read it, and Agassi's arguably one of the best returners ever (more on him later). Match point down second serve and Pete'll hit a huge bomb down the middle (he said after, "I just felt like I could hit it") now that's confidence and, most of all trust in your serve. He had the best second serve in the game too, by far the best measure of a great server.

2. Forehand. This is a tough one. My first inclination is to say Fernando Gonzalez. He definitely has the biggest forehand in the game but, with that big loop he mis-hits more than most. And he goes for too much sometimes but, hey that’s between the ears and we’re just picking a forehand here. Hmmm Djokovic and Fed’s are great too. I’m a leftie so I think what about Rafa? Man Fed sure doesn’t like it and, it’s really helped to propel him to the top of tennis especially, one of the best of all time on clay. But, after all that I’d have to go with Gonzo. He hit a 101 mph winner last week. Even if you were in position that’d be hard to deal with. He can hit more forehand winners from more places on the court than anyone and that, more than anything, is why I’ll take his forehand.

3. Backhand. I have a one hander so I’m going to start there. I like Kuertens so fluid and smooth and, with a Zen like grunt like his you couldn’t be anything but silky :) However, I’ll have to cross the gender divide and go with Justin Henin. No one in the game can produce, pound for pound, more power than her and she can handle more different kinds of balls than anyone. She deals with many shots with ease, that Roger F. struggles with. I know I’ll get heat for this but, just watch and you’ll see. Yeah I know, she doesn’t have to deal with Rafa’s top spin etc. but, if you watch her you will see the ease and offensiveness she can attack shots that others just get back. It’s probably because she never had a two hander even when she was four and just learning how to play. I'll still take guga's grunt though :))
If I had to pick a two hander, it’d definitely be Agassi’s. His backhand was better than most players forehand or even their weapon(s) and it was rock solid.

4. Volleys. It’s a choice between Leander Paes and Martina Navratalova, both great. I’ll have to go with Martina. Perfect form and, she rarely missed a volley. The true test of a good volly’er…never missing. Although Serena has a great swinging volley…hmmm…Nope! It’s Martina all the way.

5. Return. I like Hewitt’s consistency. Man! Can he get the serve back more often than anyone buuuutt…, Agassi could do more with his return. Agassi could get into an offensive position right off the first ball. This is another tough one. I’d have to say that I’ll go with Hewitt simply because with all the other weapons I’d have, getting the ball back more often would be more important.

6. Mental. I’d have to say that at their peak Pete S. and Roger F. are pretty evenly matched. Although, on clay Roger has gotten further, so, Rog. it is. :)

Well, it’s one AM so, I’m going to bed, I’ll add more later.

Feel free to add your views or comments.

Tags: all time, best, best ever, better, stroke

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Replies to This Discussion

One to add:

For speed, I'd have to pick Lleyton Hewitt (during his prime) or Steffi Graf. Or maybe Chang. But I honestly always thought Hewitt was faster than Chang.
1. Serve: Sampras, no brainer :)

2. Forehand: Federer. Most dynamic shot I've ever seen. Relatively conservative grip by today's standards ("modified" eastern) mixed with modern techniques (windshield wiper) gives him unique variety.

3.Backhand: Tough one. I think you have to go with a one hander because it's a more versatile / all-court shot. Kuerten is a pretty solid call. Can I take Ken Rosell's slice as well? :)

4. Volleys: John McEnroe. Crazy hands.

5. Return: Agassi. Able to turn this inherently defensive situation into an offensive one like no one else.

6. Mental: Another tough one. You can definitely go w/ either Peter or Rog. I think I might have to lean in Pete's direction because he was able to come up with huge shots -- specifically huge serves -- almost on command under intense pressure. I think Fed is also hurt by the fact that, because he is so good, he hasn't played as many close matches late in majors. Maybe a dubious reason to knock someone down :)

7. Movement: I think speed is only part of the equation here. And I think Fed takes the cake. One of the reasons everything looks so effortless is because he moves so well / is almost always in position. Borg also worth consideration.

What do you think Chris / Terence / others?
I have to agree with Will on the movement. Although Lleyton and, I would say, Blake are crazy fast, Fed is in better position and able to get to the ball as quick as them 95% of the time (anticipation?) and ,because he's to the ball with time to spare he can do more with the ball more consistently than anyone.

As far as McEnroe, I'd have to agree with the crazy hands part. It's like he's flailing at the ball but, at impact his racquet's in perfect alignment. He's lunging at the ball , body contorted backwards, racquet's behind his head and, somehow when the ball gets there he's lined up his strings perfectly for the winner.
But, having said that, consistency is the name of the game with volleys and, Martina rarely missed (at her peak).

No, you can't pick two backhands...That's cheating! ;) It'd be pandemonium if we did that! ;p

I thought about Federer's forehand a lot. You are right, it is very versatile. I would say that he also can hit winners from almost everywhere on the court but, I'd give Gonzo the edge in that category. If you had Fed's movement and forehand against Fed's movement and Gonzo's forehand, from all over the court? Gonzo's would win out, without a doubt. (rhyme, free of charge :) (it's all about being in your best position to hit your best shot)

Comments?
To simplify things, I'll limit my choices to players from the late 80s to the present which is when I started watching tennis (besides Borg who I've seen on tape). And I'll limit my choices to male players (maybe we should do a separate thread for women?). Although, I'd agree that Henin's backhand is the one I would want--male or female. She can do so much with it.

1. Serve: So many great servers to choose from: Stich, Roddick, Kraijeck, Ivanesivic, Becker, etc. I'd even throw in Guy Forget or Philippousis in the mix. But my choice would be Sampras too. His service motion was the same for every serve

2. Forehand: I'll have to agree and pick Federer too. So smooth and so powerful. Lendl or Sampras would be a close second. If Blake had a little more variety, his forehand would definitely be in my list for consideration.

3.Backhand: Agassi's was always great and I play with a two-hander. But in my ideal world, I'd pick a one-hander too. I might pick Gasquet because it sure does look nice, but I'll go with a Grand Slam champion. For this, I'll pick Lendl.

4. Volleys: As good as McEnroe's hands are, I'll pick Boris Becker. I wanna lunge like him.

5. Return: Agassi of course. Best returner of all time. Connors would be second choice for me.

6. Mental: I'd go with Borg. Courier would be a close second for me.

7. Movement: Federer probably does have the best movement. He never seems rushed. But I'll stick with Hewitt. I figure my ideal player will already have Federer-like skills everywhere else, and will use the extra speed to his advanatage. :-)

I'll add a category:

"Trick" Shots (angles, drop shots, etc): I'll say Federer. Some of his shots are just unreal. I've always heard Mecir was also like that, but I've never seen him play.
I just finished watching Gonzales play Canas at Miami. He may have lost but Gonzo's got one amazing forehand. I don't think anybody could watch that match and put anybody's forehand above his.
For example, Gonzo was standing behind the baseline when he got a heavy forehand down the middle from Canas. Canas was in great position for the next ball and Gonzo proceeded to hit a huge forehand to Canas' forehand corner and Canas couldn't even get his racquet on it... He was in good position and Gonzo wasn't. From several feet behind the baseline, in the middle Gonzo was able to hit a huge untouchable winner. Not many players can do that not even Fed.
It has taken me tooooooooo long to get to this thread (mostly because I think Chris nailed it on the first post, but I'll add mine for posterity.)

1. Serve. Pete "Clutch" Sampras.

2. Forehand. Federer, so powerful and versatile - he can hit it from any position.

3. Backhand. Well there are some beautiful one-handers out there (Guga, Henin, have you seen Wawrinka's? nice) but for me, I'll go with Safin. His jump backhand can finish a point off, and since we are eliminating his brain from the equation imagine the improvement.

4. Volleys. I heard yesterday that Llodra is among the best in the game for these - but I'm going to go with first hand experience and choose Stepanek. I saw this guy play singles and doubles at the Pacific Life Open and he was amazing - crisp, clean volleys to the corners - textbook and super quick hands.

5. Return. Agassi, 'nuff said.

6. Mental. I agree with Chris, Roger or Pete here and this is the most important factor of all. I'm going to go with ...... Samperer.

M
Ooo, very good. I like this one.

Serve - Federer. His serve will never blow anyone off the court, but it's consistent and deceptive.

Forehand - Fabrice Santoro. If you've never seen this guy play, it's a real trip. The guy hits a slice forehand and uses two hands off of both sides, using his left hand to lead on the forehand. If his game wasn't strictly novelty, he'd be top 10 for sure.

Backhand - Nadal. No question.

Volley - Venus. Sweeeeet!

Return - Tough one, but I like Mardy Fish's return. It's awesome because no matter how hard the serve, his returns have no pace, which frustrates opponents.

Mental - It was tough between Federer and Henin, especially considering both of them have been a little off since the beginning of the year, but I think my vote for mental game would have to go to Henin. I was going to say Sharapova, since she always looks so focused, but maybe that's just a blank stare.
Hi Rob - long time no see. Santoro? I love the Magician, but he has a defensive, and as you know very tricky shot, but with the forehand, you need a cannon that can simply blow right past people. My two cents. I'd put Santoro toward the top of the list in the "Mental Strength" catagory.

I forgot to mention movement which is ironic because that is one of the strengths of my game.... Nadal comes to mind.
M
Yeah, I've been in between jobs and have been working on that pretty much 24-7, but I'm back at work and back into the tennis scene. I watched Santoro pretty much break Lleyton Hewitt down a few months ago, so I would not necessarily agree with your assessment on the need to blow people away. I realize I may be old school, and the game has changed, but I seem to remember a guy named McEnroe who didn't have great power and he seemed to hold his own. Davydenko is also one of those whose lack of an overpowering forehand is more than compensated for by his ability to cover the court. I agree that Federer has a great forehand, but if it's out and out power you're looking for, I'd go with Blake.
Interesting discussion but I would have to go with...

Serve - Sampras
Volley - Mcenroe
Forehand - Federer
Backhand - Nadal or Henin
Return - Agassi
Mental game - Borg
Movement - Federer w Nadal on Clay

So many other options but this player would be really tough to beat.

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