Most influential matches for the game of tennis -
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-25-2005, 11:41 PM Thread Starter
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Most influential matches for the game of tennis

Now I am going to ramble for awhile about some things, so forgive me for lack of puntuation etc.

When I think of tennis as a history in a broad scope, I come to the belief, that tennis as a game doesn't evolve at a steady rate, but that it can jump in a sort of "punctuated equilibrium" manner. The stimulus for these periodic jumps is most often a monumental match between two evenly matched tennis greats showcasing the tennis of the future. After each of these important matches, the tennis world is conizant of the limits of brilliance one can aspire to at the moment.So this got me to thinking about which matches have been the impetuses for tennis's metamorphosis over the years. I believe that someone should describe tennis history in these terms, much like how Garry Kasparov is describing the history of chess in his "My Great Predecessors" series.I think that both Borg-McEnroe matches at Wimbledon were a paradigm shift in the upper hand between the baseliner and the serve-volleyer. One of Borg's best attributes was his ability to hold his passing shot for an extra instant in order to wrong foot the serve-and-volleyer on the other side of the net. Because of his unorthodox net play McEnroe was the first player to be able to "outwait" Borg and this factor rapidly accelerated the decline of Borg's career. Until then, Borg was able to impose his game on a less than ideal surface. With McEnroe,an attacking player, the detrimental characteristics of fast-court play finally caught up with him.
I think several of Lendl's matches with serve-volleyers were very integral to tennis's development. The sheer pace that Lendl could muster on his strokes threatened to grab the initiative back to the baseliner. We now saw the destructive power of the one-handed backhand as swung in the eighties, rather than in the Rosewall, Laver era. The tennisworld witnessed the benefits of super-fitness in his play as they had seen in Navratilova's several years earlier.
As tennis entered the nineties, we were still wondering how to utilise the benefits of the graphite racket. Becker was a nineties player playing in the eighties in this respect. He was an anomaly, a player before his time. People were wondering if there was a way to synthesize the big backcourt hitting and hard serve of lendl with forecourt skills. Becker was the prototype, but he lacked mobility. Sampras was the true creation like Mega Man to Mega Man X.
With matches including Courier, and Agassi, we witnessed how the potential of the graphite racket allowed players to "specialize" and play their way into the top-ten with a far less varied and strengthened repertoire than was previously thought possible. The arrival of Guga signalled the end of "negative tennis" at Roland Garros used by people such as Thomas Muster. Finally the clay-court player utilised the power of the graphite racket to play an offensive game based on hard, extremely angled groundstrokes and deft finishing play at net.

I believe that the Safin-Federer match at the Aussie Open in january is one of the aforementioned matches. Finally we witnessed the limits of backcourt hitting at the dawn of the new millenium. The sustained depth and pace of the shots during the match was almost unprecedented. The match also made a leap in the development of the half-volley. Both Safin and Federer, were forced to take the ball on the rise ridiculously early, as a result of the depth of each other's groundstrokes(especially Safin's).

I forgot to mention borg's influence on topspin groundstrokes, and on the Swedes as an influential group in the eighties but I am running out of gas.

I was wondering if you guys could compile a list of the influential matches in tennis history, that pushed the game forward, so I could see your opinions. Thanks if you actually manage to slog through this post.
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-25-2005, 11:48 PM
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Re: Most influential matches for the game of tennis

Battle of the Sexes

King df. Riggs 6-4 6-3 6-3
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 10-25-2005, 11:49 PM
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Re: Most influential matches for the game of tennis

Off the top of my head, and this may seem rather arbitrary, I would mention Curren thrashing McEnroe in straight sets at Wimbledon 85 when Mac was defending champion - modern racquets and power tennis completely overwhelming the touch and versatility of the McEnroe game. The latter said in his autobiography that was something of a turning point because it foreshadowed the dominance of big servers and power baseliners in the late 80s/90s, the kind of game that would prevent him from winning any more major titles.

The Wit and Wisdom of the Tennis Journalist, Indian Wells 2004

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I remember this one time when I went on a vacation on the Maldives. That was in the year 2001, I think. I went to this spa. I went to walk around with my girlfriend. I walk in, and we want to book a spa. This guy goes, "AHH, I remember you. You beat Sampras. I saw you on TV." That was like, really, how can you remember me? This guy has probably never been off his island and still knows me. I was a little bit shocked. Then I went to play tennis with him because he was actually the tennis teacher. It was nice.

Q. Were you naked at the time in the spa?

ROGER FEDERER: No. It was at the front desk. I didn't walk in naked.
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