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Article - A look at the Best players never to win Wimbledon

laurie-1
06-18-2010, 01:19 PM
Hi. My articles are now published on two sites: The Bleacher report and an Australian website called the Big Tip

http://www.thebigtip.com.au/tennis/80-opinion/613-the-best-players-never-to-win-wimbledon

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/407812-a-look-at-the-best-players-never-to-win-wimbledon

Hope you like the article: Read on.....

With Wimbledon fast approaching, it would be interesting to take a look at some of the best players who excelled at Wimbledon but never managed to lift the trophy in the last 30 years

.

Ivan Lendl

Ivan had a very good grass court record. He made it to two finals in 1986 and 1987, plus the semifinals in 1983, 1984, 1988, 1989, and 1990.



You won’t get a much better record than that. Plus, there have been players who have won Wimbledon with nowhere near as good an overall record of wins. Lendl lost in straight sets to a brilliant Boris Becker in 1986 and Pat Cash in 1987.

Lendl had many attributes to win Wimbledon, including a big serve plus athleticism, but the criticism was that he changed his game for the grass by serving and volleying when he should have played his natural game instead.

This critique is tough because back then everyone came to the net, and the grass courts weren’t as playable for baseline tennis as they are now.



Pat Rafter

Pat Rafter did not have his best results at Wimbledon until towards the end of his career.

A contemporary of Sampras and Ivanisevic , Rafter took to the grass courts from 1998 onwards—up until that point, Rafter was a hard court player due to the big kick serve and even bounce hard courts offered his game.

One can argue Rafter was unlucky; in 1999 he lost in the semifinal to an inspired Andre Agassi.

In 2000, Rafter played the best match of his career beating Agassi in five sets in the semifinal but came up against Sampras in the final. Even though Rafter won the first set in a tiebreak, Sampras was always threatening to run away with the match by persistently returning well, and he eventually did after turning around the second set tiebreak.

In 2001, Rafter came from behind twice to defeat Agassi in a five-set thriller in the semifinal and then played one of the best matches of the Open era against Ivanesivic in an amazing five set final with both players desperate to win after Sampras’ demise.

Both players deserved to win, but Goran came through 9-7 in the fifth to avoid being included in this discussion.

Rafter had all the physical and mental attributes to win Wimbledon but maybe just didn’t have the little bit of luck needed at the highest level to pull it off.



Andy Roddick

Perhaps I’m too quick to include Andy here because he’s still on the Tour and not yet 30 years old.

But you wonder if his last chance has gone after blowing the second set tiebreak last year against Federer in the final.

Roddick has been to three finals, each time losing to Roger Federer, so one can argue that he has been slightly unlucky.

However, I can also argue that out of everyone in this list, Roddick is the least talented and relies too much on his serve. He doesn’t possess the athleticism of the other players mentioned, and his return game is the least effective.

The media is always focused on the serve, but if you cannot return serve well, winning Wimbledon is impossible.

As Sampras has always said, it’s the return of serve that wins Wimbledon—otherwise we would see Karlovic and Rusesdki win Wimbledon were it just about the serve.

Roddick still has time so lets see what happens.



Tim Henman

Henman is an interesting choice because he never actually made a final. But he did make it to four semi finals from 1998 to 2002.

Henman had a lot going for him. He was very athletic, he had fanatical home support, and had a very nice return game.

His best chance came in 2001 when he had Ivanesivic on the rack in the third set, but the rain came and changed everything.

He also gave Sampras a good match in 1999, taking the first set, but Sampras’ experience proved too much in the end.

In my view the reason Henman never won Wimbledon was he simply did not have the power to go with his athleticism.

His serve wasn’t strong enough consistently, and he was never able to serve many aces or unreturnables, so he always had to work hard, and eventually that takes its toll against the best players—in other words, Henman wasn’t able to intimidate the opposition into mistakes.



Mark Phillippoussis

Mark made it to the final in 2003, losing to Roger Federer, who won his first Wimbledon.

Roger was the better player that day, and even though there were two tiebreaks, Roger’s return game made the difference.

Mark had many gifts—he was physically imposing and had one of the biggest and best serves in the game.

Unfortunately Mark had many injury issues, and the word is that he didn’t have the discipline to work hard enough on his game to get the best out of himself.

Therefore you can argue that Mark was a wasted talent—unfortunately for him.



Justine Henin

Like Roddick, Justine is still on the tour, having come out of retirement with the goal of trying to win Wimbledon.

Justine has been to two finals and one semifinal, losing to Venus Williams in three sets in 2001 and Amelie Mauresmo in three sets in 2006.

Justine has a beautiful game for grass, she’s athletic, and she's not afraid to attack the net or serve and volley. Plus Justine can use the slice to keep the ball low against the many two-handers out there on the backhand side.

What has prevented Henin winning Wimbledon up to now?

In my view Justine has the same issue as Henman. Her lack of power so far has made the difference and prevented her from being able to able to conquer Wimbledon.

Lets see what happens this year.



Arantxa Sanchez Vicario

Arantxa has a record similar to Lendl—finalist twice and semifinalist on a few occasions.



Arantxa faced Steffi Graf in 1995 and 1996. In 1995, Arantxa gave everything, but there was an incredible ninth game in the third set which lasted almost 25 minutes, andSteffi was bale to eventually break and serve out for the title. In 1996 Steffi was always in control.

Arantxa was a crafty and intelligent player who was tactically aware. She won the French Open three times and the US Open once, beating Graf in a great final in 1994.

But again, at Wimbledon, Arantxa just lacked the power and athleticism of her rivals, including Graf, Novotna, and Navratilova.



I would like to finish the article with a few honourable mentions who had the game to win Wimbledon and managed to win after coming so close on many occasions.



Honorable Mentions (winners)

Goran Ivanesivic, Jana Novotna, and Amelie Mauresmo.

spencercarlos
06-18-2010, 02:02 PM
Hi. My articles are now published on two sites: The Bleacher report and an Australian website called the Big Tip

http://www.thebigtip.com.au/tennis/80-opinion/613-the-best-players-never-to-win-wimbledon

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/407812-a-look-at-the-best-players-never-to-win-wimbledon

Hope you like the article: Read on.....

With Wimbledon fast approaching, it would be interesting to take a look at some of the best players who excelled at Wimbledon, but never managed to lift the trophy in the last 30 years.

Ivan Lendl – Ivan had a very good grass court record. He made it to two finals in 1985 and 1986 plus semi finals in 1983, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1990. You won’t get a much better record than that plus there have been players who have won Wimbledon with nowhere near as good an overall record of wins. Lendl lost in straight sets to a brilliant Boris Becker in 1986 and Pat Cash in 1987.

Lendl had many attributes to win Wimbledon including a big serve and athleticism but the criticism was that he changed his game for the grass by serving and volleying and should have played his natural game instead. Tough because back then everyone came to the net and the grass courts weren’t as playable for baseline Tennis as they are now.


Pat Rafter – Pat Rafter did not have his best results at Wimbledon until towards the end of his career. A contemporary of Sampras and Ivanesivic, Rafter took to the grass courts from 1998 onwards – up until that point, Rafter was a hard court player due to the big kick serve and even bounce hard courts offered his game.

One can argue Rafter was unlucky; in 1999 he lost in the semi final to an inspired Andre Agassi. In 2000 Rafter played the best match of his career beating Agassi in 5 sets in the semi final but came up against Sampras in the final. Even though Rafter won the 1st set on a tiebreak, Sampras was always threatening to run away with the match with persistent good returning, which he eventually did after turning around the 2nd set tiebreak.

In 2001, Rafter came from behind twice to defeat Agassi in a 5 set thriller in the semi final and then played one of the best matches of the Open era against Ivanesivic in an amazing 5 set final with both players desparate to win after Sampras’ demise. Both players deserved to win but Goran came through 9-7 in the 5th to avoid been included in this discussion!

Rafter had all the physical and mental attributes to win Wimbledon but maybe just didn’t have the little bit of luck needed at the highest level to pull it off.

Andy Roddick – Perhaps I’m too quick to include Andy here because he’s still on the Tour and not yet 30 years old. But you wonder if his last chance has gone after blowing the 2nd set tiebreak last year against Federer in the final. Roddick has been to three finals, each time losing to Roger Federer so one can argue that he has been slightly unlucky.

However, I can also argue that out of everyone in this list, Roddick is the least talented and relies too much on his serve. He doesn’t possess the athleticism of the other players mentioned, and his return game is the least effective. The media is always focused on the serve but if you cannot return serve well, winning Wimbledon is impossible.

As Sampras has always said, it’s the return of serve that wins Wimbledon – otherwise we would see Karlovic and Rusedski win Wimbledon if it was just about the serve.

Roddick still has time so lets see what happens.


Tim Henman – Henman is an interesting choice because he never actually made a final. But he did make it to four semi finals from 1998 to 2002.

Henman had a lot going for him. He was very athletic, he had fanatical home support and had a very nice return game. His best chance came in 2001 when he had Ivanesivic on the rack in the 3rd set but the rain came and changed everything. He also gave Sampras a good match in 1999, taking the 1st set but Sampras’ experience proved too much in the end.

In my view the reason Henman never won Wimbledon was he simply did not have the power to go with his athleticism. His serve wasn’t strong enough consistently, he was never able to serve many aces or unreturnables, so he always had to work hard, and eventually that takes its toll against the best players – in other words, Henman wasn’t able to intimidate the opposition into mistakes.

Mark Philippoussis – Mark made it to the final in 2003, losing to Roger Federer who won his first Wimbledon. Roger was the better player that day, and even though there were two tiebreaks, Roger’s return game made the difference.

Mark had many gifts, he was physically imposing and had one of the biggest and best serves in the game. Unfortunately Mark had many injury issues, and the word is that he didn’t have the discipline to work hard enough on his game to get the best out of himself. Therefore you can argue that Mark was a wasted talent – unfortunately for him.


Justine Henin – Like Roddick, Justine is still on the tour, having come out of retirement with the goal of trying to win Wimbledon. Justine has been to two finals and one semi final, losing to Venus Williams in 3 sets in 2001 and Amelie Mauresmo in 3 sets in 2006.

Justine has a beautiful game for grass, she’s athletic and not afraid to attack the net or serve and volley. Plus Justine can use the slice to keep the ball low against the many two handers out there on the backhand side. What has prevented Henin winning Wimbledon up to now? In my view Justine has the same issue as Henman, her lack of power so far has made the difference and prevented her from being able to able to conquer Wimbledon.

Lets see what happens this year.

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario – Arantxa has a record similar to Lendl, finalist twice and semifinalist on a few occasions. Arantxa faced Steffi Graf in 1995 and 1996. In 1995 Arantxa gave everything but there was an incredible 9th game in the 3rd set which last almost 25 minutes, Steffi was bale to eventually break and serve out for the title. In 1996 Steffi was always in control.

Arantxa was a crafty and intelligent player who was tactically aware. She won the French Open 3 times and the US Open beating Graf in a great final in 1994. But again, at Wimbledon, Arantxa just lacked the power and athleticism of her rivals including Graf, Novotna and Navratilova.

I would like to finish the article with a few honourable mentions who had the game to win Wimbledon and managed to win after coming so close on many occasions. They are Goran Ivanesivic, Jana Novotna and Amelie Mauresmo.
Sabatini without a doubt should be up there. Gaby even has more SF (3-1) showings at Wimbledon than Sanchez Vicario, and was just 2 points away from winning it in 1991 in the final.. :sad:

I would not certainly include Philipoussis, the guy just reached past the QF round at Wimbledon just once. That would be similar to saying that Nalbandian should have a Wimbledon title by now. Hmm. Mark had the serve and power, he really lacked the physical atheticism to win at Wimbledon. He got to two slam finals though, probably i can understand why you choose him.

Nice work btw, great job!

laurie-1
06-18-2010, 02:25 PM
Spencer

Sabatini is a good choice.

I must admit I didn't think of Nalbandian because he got to the final in 2002 but never did anything at Wimbledon after that.

David should have done better everywhere than he has done, a pity but he still has time to make something happen.

spencercarlos
06-18-2010, 03:05 PM
Spencer

Sabatini is a good choice.

I must admit I didn't think of Nalbandian because he got to the final in 2002 but never did anything at Wimbledon after that.

David should have done better everywhere than he has done, a pity but he still has time to make something happen.
Actually Nalbandian reached QFs in 2005, much better than Mark´s post RU result at Wimledon. I choosed Nalbandian because he has a similar record to Mark.. 1 RU 3QFs to 1 RU 1QFs.

Sure David still has time it seems but at the same time, the clock is ticking we´ll see. I hope he wins any slam.

Mimi
06-19-2010, 03:45 AM
henin is not lack of power:rolleyes:

allpro
06-19-2010, 04:05 AM
Lendl - too bad he played on '80s grass and balls.

Rafter - too bad he played during the Sampras era.

Roddick - too bad he played during the Fed era.

Henman, Scud - too bad they played during the Sampras AND Fed era :sad: :sad:

Certinfy
06-19-2010, 09:40 AM
Great article :) :worship:

flip_fan
06-19-2010, 09:42 AM
Actually Nalbandian reached QFs in 2005, much better than Mark´s post RU result at Wimledon. I choosed Nalbandian because he has a similar record to Mark.. 1 RU 3QFs to 1 RU 1QFs.

Sure David still has time it seems but at the same time, the clock is ticking we´ll see. I hope he wins any slam.

I think you need to consider Mark prior success to 2003 at Wimbledon, not post 2003 because that's when he was healthy and active on tour.

2003 - Final
2002 - 4th rd
{knee surgery}
2000 - QF (andre)
1999 - QF (pete).. retired hurt
1998 - QF (pete)

I think overall Mark's results are substantially better then Nalbandian's at Wimbledon.

thrust
06-19-2010, 12:34 PM
Great article :) :worship:

Well, they forgot Rosewall who reached 2 finals before age 21 and 2 more after age 33. For 11 years before 33, he was banned from playing Slams because he was a Pro. He was a great grass court player, as he won 4 Aussie and 2 US championships on grass many years apart.

laurie-1
06-19-2010, 07:40 PM
Well, they forgot Rosewall who reached 2 finals before age 21 and 2 more after age 33. For 11 years before 33, he was banned from playing Slams because he was a Pro. He was a great grass court player, as he won 4 Aussie and 2 US championships on grass many years apart.

I didn't forget Rosewall but the article clearly states from the last 30 years.

laurie-1
06-19-2010, 07:45 PM
henin is not lack of power:rolleyes:

Precisely the opposite. A consistent lack of power due to her physical frame has so far prevented Henin wining Wimbledon. Grass is different to clay and Henin's serve is not big enough to win cheap points easily to conserve her energy for the big players in the later rounds. Henin admitted herself in interviews that she's intimidated by the power of Venus Williams on grass. Hard courts and clay courts are more of a leveller for her.

Its not a case of rolling your eyes, it's a case of explaining why you think Henin has the power on grasscourts.

Sean.
06-20-2010, 10:39 AM
Precisely the opposite. A consistent lack of power due to her physical frame has so far prevented Henin wining Wimbledon. Grass is different to clay and Henin's serve is not big enough to win cheap points easily to conserve her energy for the big players in the later rounds. Henin admitted herself in interviews that she's intimidated by the power of Venus Williams on grass. Hard courts and clay courts are more of a leveller for her.

Its not a case of rolling your eyes, it's a case of explaining why you think Henin has the power on grasscourts.

Because she's one of the few WTA players with the ability to hit 90+ mph ground strokes, her serve's never going to be consistent but she does get cheap points of it.

Watch her match against Sharapova at YEC 07, Justine overpowered her.

LeChuck
06-20-2010, 11:53 AM
With Justine, it's not that she can't generate power. It's that she's requires a considerable amount of effort and has to put her body under a lot of strain generate it, unlike the likes of Venus, Serena, Sharapova etc who can generate it more easily/naturally.

She has a very diminutive frame, not just height-wise but with her very thin and slender build, compared to the likes of Clijsters and Kuznetsova etc who aren't that much taller than her but have much bigger builds. Even players like Cibulkova and the recently retired Sugiyama who are shorter than her have bigger builds.

Selby
06-20-2010, 12:32 PM
Roddick's unarguably the best grass courter never to win one, at least in the modern era, anybody who says otherwise is an hater. Plus he's got the most finals out of those who haven't won it.
Obviously Lendl's the best player not to win one, but he wasn't a grass court specialist.

oranges
06-20-2010, 12:35 PM
Roddick's unarguably the best grass courter never to win one, at least in the modern era, anybody who says otherwise is an hater.
Obviously Lendl's the best player not to win one, but he wasn't a grass court specialist.

Ahead of Rafter, I don't think so.

Selby
06-20-2010, 12:44 PM
Ahead of Rafter, I don't think so.

OK, I'll give you that, it's a contest with Rafter but I think Roddick has the edge. And about Henman, I was a huge fan of him but the bottom line is he's never been past the semi.

coonster14
06-20-2010, 12:45 PM
As a HUGE Rafter fan back in the day, I was so disappointed that he lost to Goran in 2001 Wimbledon, he was the #3 seed and I really thought it was his chance to win Wimbledon, #1 seed Sampras lost to a 19 year old Roger Federer in the 4th round, one obstacle cleared, Rafter beat #2 seed Agassi in a thrilling 5 set SF, the other obstacle cleared.

And I do feel for Roddick, he played great in 2004 and 2009 finals (forget 2005 final, he was brushed off the court), hoping he somehow wins it this year.

Both Rafter and Roddick are so unlucky to have played in the Sampras and Federer eras respectively.

LeChuck
06-20-2010, 12:51 PM
Stefanki basically ruined Henman's serve by telling him to take some pace of it to get a higher first serve %, which was a disastrous move. From then on his serve lacked the power and bite needed for him to win Wimbledon. Even Hewitt clearly had a better serve than him in 2002 when he won the title. Hewitt did win a lot of free points on his serve during that tournament, and generally during his prime.

thrust
06-20-2010, 12:53 PM
I didn't forget Rosewall but the article clearly states from the last 30 years.

Sorry about that, I have to learn to read more carefully or get better glasses-LOL!! In that case, Lendl, Wilander, and Rafter would by my top players not to have won Wimbledon. Agassi was probably one of the luckiest to have won as his game was not really suited for grass, especially in his era.

thrust
06-20-2010, 01:06 PM
Roddick's unarguably the best grass courter never to win one, at least in the modern era, anybody who says otherwise is an hater. Plus he's got the most finals out of those who haven't won it.
Obviously Lendl's the best player not to win one, but he wasn't a grass court specialist.

Roddick's main asset on grass is his serve. He has a great serve, but is not a great volleyer. Rafter actually had the more natural grass game, however, IMO he came to the net too often especially on his serve. Pat actually had a good ground game, so should have been more selective with his net approaches.

LeChuck
06-20-2010, 01:09 PM
Lendl was before my time, but it would have been interesting to see if the slower grass used today at Wimbledon had been in place when he was on the active, how he would have fared against the likes of Becker, Edberg and Cash, and whether he would have won the title.

In the other hypothetical scenario, it also would have been interesting to see if he would have won the title if Tony Roche hadn't persuaded him to serve-volley there. A few years late Agassi showed that you could win the title there from the baseline. Am I right in thinking that Borg and Connors regularly came to the net when they won their Wimbledon titles though?

Sophocles
06-20-2010, 01:14 PM
Am I right in thinking that Borg and Connors regularly came to the net when they won their Wimbledon titles though?

Yes. They couldn't generate the kind of power you can get on your groundstrokes with today's racquets. Connors was a fine volleyer and is under-rated as net player. Borg wasn't as good but he was competent enough and had good reflexes.

oranges
06-20-2010, 01:27 PM
OK, I'll give you that, it's a contest with Rafter but I think Roddick has the edge. And about Henman, I was a huge fan of him but the bottom line is he's never been past the semi.

Henman gets a lot of pluses for his game, grass court lovers like him a lot. Results-wise, he was obviously not closer to winning one. (Or maybe, it just wasn't meant to be. I was always under the impression Goran would have lost that semi if it wasn't for the rain delay and then who knows how the final would have gone.) Either way, the topic lends itself to a lot of subjective views. Lendl, for instance, while indisputably he has his place in the list, I would never put among great grass court players. He was considerably worse on grass then anywhere else. Even though good enough to make the final several times, his game was not suited for grass all that well. Roddick is somewhere in between these two cases. It's not a typical grass court game (but then who's is these days), but it's obviously geared well for it and some of his best results have come on grass.

LeChuck
06-20-2010, 02:15 PM
Roddick played at a very high level at Wimbledon in 2003-2004 and 2009. I wouldn't say the same thing about him in 2005 though when he played pretty poorly. That year he struggled to beat Bracciali in 5 sets in R2, was taken to 5 sets by Grojsean in QF (as good a player as Seb was on grass, I think that the Roddick of 2003-2004 would have blown him off the court in straight sets), and played a tactically horrendous match against Federer in the final.

I've often heard the viewpoint (not in this thread but in several other threads in the past) that Roddick would have been an unstoppable terror at Wimbledon in the 90s with his serve. However I've always strongly disagreed with that notion.

Generally he has had pretty much no net game during his career. His volleys have improved under Stefanki, but they are still merely steady, and not up to scratch for 90s standards. As Sampras said the return of serve was more important in the 90s than the serve, and Roddick's returning is not exactly a strength. Players like Stich, Ivanisevic and Krajicek had excellent return games. Goran's returning was criminally underrated during his career. Just look at the clean return winners he was hitting against Sampras in the 1998 Wimbledon final, to break Sampras twice (Pete was only broken 4 times in his 7 Wimbledon finals). Players like Sampras, Stich, Krajicek, Ivanisevic etc were regularly hitting return winners, which Roddick would struggle to do.

His athleticism, which has also improved with him shedding some weight, is not at the same level as that of any of the 90s champions. Goran and Stich were excellent movers around the court for players of any height, let alone those who were 6'4'' tall as they were. Also his service motion isn't suited to serve-volleying as his finish doesn't allow him to be far enough up the court. He stands far too back for 90s standards.

Therefore I think that Roddick is far more suited to the current era and grass, than those in place in the 90s. He has always made it pretty clear actually that he prefers medium paced courts as they are more conducive to his groundstrokes and return game, and was very unhappy when the courts at San Jose were sped up in 2007.