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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My casually pictorial proposition with new terminology ;) The 185 most interesting players who participated in the main-tour events in the past 25 years. By "most interesting" I mean the most successful or worth mentioning due to different aspects of their careers.

I've divided them into two categories: Serve-and-Volleyers & Baseliners = eight groups, four adhere to each category. I've put to the list players seen by me in a full match at least once (Gomez for example), so in some cases fragments of different matches and info contained in articles made an impact on my decision. It's not statistical analysis, rather intuitive choices based on what I've seen & thought over 24 seasons. I'm fully aware that many of you don't agree with my selection - some players change their game-style through the seasons, sometimes changing it within a tournament - I've seen full "serve-and-volley" sets played by Moya, Furlan, Hewitt, Bruguera, Monfils & Murray, although they played plenty of sets not running to the net even once behind the serve. Therefore if we see different matches of the same player we may have divergent opinions about how he plays on a regular basis. A lot of depends on what have been seen, no-one saw everything...

Red - double-handed backhand (B.Black, Santoro, Gambill - both sides DH to be precise)
Blue - one-handed backhand, underlined - left-handers
Under the picture description of various groups




Atomers: players with atomic serve, running constantly to the net after 1st (and usually 2nd) serve, and often not playing a single winning volley in service games; these players won't surprise you from the back of the court, usually they're unable to play a backhand winner in a standard rally; quite limited repertoire of ground-strokes

Balancers: guys with pretty balanced skills, attacking players with solid ground-strokes off both sides, beside Forwarders they possess the biggest potential to get similar amount of points with volleys and baseline strokes

Deceivers: tricky group - they may surprise you with different tools than you expected from them; natural baseliners who developed serve-and-volley tactics either due to great serve (Ivanisevic) or successful career in doubles (Kubot); Deceivers are players with double-handed backhand, so obviously they rarely play cheap-and-charge and are more prone to make mistakes with backhand volleys/overheads than other three groups of S&V's; if someone plays double-handed BH and serve-and-volley it doesn't mean he is a deceiver (Woodforde)

Softers: I'd informally say "Australian school"; I bet so many Australians belong to this group because of the fascination of the wooden racquets time, when they were the leading force (Laver, Newcombe, Roche, Rosewall); in contrary to three groups above, Softers don't serve more than 20 aces in five-setters; the guys who play the most volleys during matches because they don't obtain too many points directly after serves and are more eager to move forwards in games as receivers, especially with slice backhand as an approach-shot; they don't hurt you from the back of the court with powerful winners so you can expect quite long rallies with them when they face baseliners of all sorts

***​

Forwarders: "French school"; usually known as all-rounders, agile, aesthetic players with good volley skills who don't like to be involved in long baseline rallies, they obtain many points in consequence of just 1 or 2 shots; their ground-strokes are quite flat, and their game-plan may vary in respect of opponents they play against (and surfaces)

N'Owners: "American school"; in terms of technique & strength it's the most diversified group - I feel we could divide them into 3 sub-groups; these guys obtain more points hitting from No-man's land than players of other groups; they are quite comfortable with hitting ground-strokes off both sides, don't like long rallies, don't like moving backwards, they usually take initiative during rallies and tend to approaching the net only on their own terms; the net clearance of their strokes is lower than in case of two categories beneath

Mixers: players with great touch, exceptional timing & anticipation, you may have an impression they play under different physical laws - the ball seems to slow down flying towards them; they can hit all accessible shots with different rotations whenever they want; like to change the pace, keep you guessing what's next, you can expect them being pushed to a deep defense and a moment later finishing point at the net with sublime volley

Defenders: "Latin school"; vast majority of them is the most efficient on clay-courts; their main purpose is to get points operating on the baseline or behind it because they aren't neither natural volleyers nor powerful servers; they hit the ball freely off both sides so they don't seek cheap points most of the time; they are patient, not afraid of long & draining rallies, usually they accelerate ground-strokes only when the opponent is outmaneuvered or eager to play at the net


Additional notes:

# Transitional players (*) - I'd include them easily to two different groups in regard of period of their careers or tactics they've adjusted to the surface they played on; I'd put Lendl even to three groups, because he was able to win Roland Garros as a Defender, US Open as a No-man's lander (N'Owner) & reach Wimbledon final as a Balancer (similar thing with Borg)... so the eventual alignment is consequence of my subjective outlook "what's the most natural for a player"

# Particular Mixers & Defenders are often mentioning as grinders, pushers & counter-punchers or more officially as Defensive Baseliners while Forwarders & N'Owners as ball-bashers, shot-makers (Offensive Baseliners / All Court players)

# Softers are potentially most prone to take part in entertaining matches with representatives of all other groups

# Atomers are weaker in doubles than other three groups of Serve-and-Volleyers

# Sub-group 'All-serve-players' consists of players derived from different groups - on a given day they may be involved in matches basically void of any rallies as they're serving, no matter who they play against; members of this sub-group play tie-breaks with much more higher frequency than an average pro-player; they win and lose more tight matches than others

# Atomers/Defenders (peripheral poles) - time relativeness
- when you see '7-6 7-6' scoreline produced by two Atomers/all-serve-players you can assume there's no break of serve
- when you see '7-6 7-6' scoreline produced by two Defenders you can assume there were 6-10 breaks of serve and the match was ~40 minutes longer

Extreme exemplification:
Sampras d. Ivanisevic 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 (Paris '91, 2:18)
Nadal d. Djokovic 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 (Madrid '09, 4:03)

# Taylor Dent - Lone Satellite, schizophrenia of the Australian/American schools ;) the most chaotic player I've ever seen; one of the fastest servers, yet rarely serving more than 20 aces; brilliant volleyer, yet poor in doubles; occasionally patient in rallies like a Defender, being able all of a sudden hit a ground-stroke winner off both sides comparable to the power of the best N'Owners; normally when you know a guy serving regularly 220 kph you can assume he wasn't broken prior to a tie-break - when you saw Dent in a tie-break, you could suspect he had been broken in that set twice...

My additional explanation

Allied thread
 

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Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

I probably have seen only a few hard-worked posts like yours since I joined this forum. Great work, I hope people from this forum appreciates it very much despite the fact that it can be some controversies between between different opinions about players game-styles. I will look at your post deeply when I have time.

Thank you very much :worship:
 

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Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

As always, amazing work :bowdown:

Just wondering if you're open to discussion about some of these? :D

One that sticks out to me is Florian Mayer as a defender instead of a mixer. He, in my opinion, fits the description of a mixer almost to a T. He mixes things up, goes on defense, can go to net, and can definitely keep an opponent guessing!
 

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Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

related thread by the great FiloV
 

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Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

Murray in the Mixers group?

 

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Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

How are Raonic and Isner not in the all-serve group? Do you even tennis?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

As always, amazing work :bowdown:

Just wondering if you're open to discussion about some of these? :D

One that sticks out to me is Florian Mayer as a defender instead of a mixer. He, in my opinion, fits the description of a mixer almost to a T. He mixes things up, goes on defense, can go to net, and can definitely keep an opponent guessing!
:yeah: asterisk beside him, I wondered whether him and Lapentti add to Mixers
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

How are Raonic and Isner not in the all-serve group? Do you even tennis?
Typical problem with complex pictures, they've been cut during the copy/paste process.

Corrected, no need to be sarcastic.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

Murray in the Mixers group?

I consider his technical skills (tactical too) above Djokovic & Nadal.
 

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Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

Why Clement the defender? Definitely more of n'owner or mixer.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

Why Clement the defender?
Due to his exceptional patience and inclination to play half-lobs during baseline rallies.

I think with bigger insight we can create more groups (16?), I know that O.Rochus may look ridiculously in one group with Anderson, Janowicz & Verkerk :shrug:

I've invented the picture today and took me many hours to make it. If I had better graphic tools, I would prepare something more ambitious (mathematical sets infiltrating themselves)
 

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Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

I consider his technical skills (tactical too) above Djokovic & Nadal.
I agree, but he rarely shows that and usually resorts to a more defensive game than both of them.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

I agree, but he rarely shows that and usually resorts to a more defensive game than both of them.
What can I say? With mathematical sets I'd emplace him in Mixers/Defenders while Djokovic & Nadal in Defenders/N'Owners, etc.
 

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Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

What can I say? With mathematical sets I'd emplace him in Mixers/Defenders while Djokovic & Nadal in Defenders/N'Owners, etc.
....
It's not statistical analysis, rather intuitive choices based on what I've seen & thought over 24 years
:confused:
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

Everything changes with time, new terms are required because everything becomes more & more complex.

I remember in the late 90s amazement how Marat Safin moves smoothly on court with 195 cm (6'4). Before him it was obvious that such a tall man must have been a S&Vr. Ten years later we have a similarly well-coordinated Janowicz at 204 cm.

Isner of course is a combo of Atomer & N'Owner, but I haven't included him to the Atomers because he uses S&V only as a surprising element.

Look like guys were playing with wooden racquets at the turn of 60s & 70s. Serve-and-volley style was the only serious one, and everyone was playing almost the same type of shots with just one grip.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Re: Game-styles: 185 players (2 categories, 8 groups)

I think you need to trust your intuition sometimes if your logical patterns are well developed.
 
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