The best baseliners in history, my top ten

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Post by socal1976 on Tue 5 Feb - 10:41

First topic message reminder :

Now these rankings are based only on a narrow set of requirements covering baseline play. Of course serving, returning, volleys, half volleys, overheads, and drop shots are really not taken into account. That would be deemed outside of the criteria herein judged in the following list. What I did look at here is in forehand, backhand, defense, fitness, consistency, and ability to attack from the back of the court. Now please give your opinions really this a list of players I got a chance to watch so the old boys aren't included lets say circa 1980.

1. Djokovic
2. Nadal
3. Federer
4. Borg
5. lendl
6. Agassi
7. Sampras
8. Connors
9. Wilander
10. Murray


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Post by socal1976 on Wed 6 Feb - 5:20

Julius i am measuring them on effectiveness in their own time, not against the advantages that today's players have. For example even in his own day connors forehand wasn't one of the handful of most feared on tour. Neither was Pete's backhand. Pete never played on clay, being from southern california it would have been nearly impossible to have played on clay before becoming a pro. Plus he did win Rome on clay and reach the semis of RG, he was very effective from the back on a hardcourt or indoor court that is for sure.

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Post by invisiblecoolers on Wed 6 Feb - 5:23

Djokovic in my view hasnt done enough to merit a top 10 place among baseliners.

My list would be

Nadal
Federer
Lendll
Sampras
Agassi
Courier
Wilander
Borg
Guga
Brugera

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Post by JuliusHMarx on Wed 6 Feb - 5:28

Was Pete feared overall as a baseliner? Not really. Was Connors? Yes, very much so. Is Federer? Not so much - he's feared more as an all-court player.

Still can't see past Borg, Nadal and Agassi as the top 3.
I wouldn't put my favourite player (Connors) in the top 3. You put your favourite player as No 1 - That's a coincidence worthy of a draw-rigging scandal.

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Post by socal1976 on Wed 6 Feb - 5:31

invisiblecoolers wrote:Djokovic in my view hasnt done enough to merit a top 10 place among baseliners.

My list would be

Nadal
Federer
Lendll
Sampras
Agassi
Courier
Wilander
Borg
Guga
Brugera

Yeah Djokovic hasn't merited a place in the top ten but Guga and Brugera whose combined slam count doesn't equal Djokovic's and all of their slams are on one surface are better baseliners than Novak. Not to mention Courier being better than Djokovic from the baseline I don't even think Courier thinks that.

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Post by User 774433 on Wed 6 Feb - 5:35

InvisibleCoolers, I think that's a very good list clap

I'd have Djokovic in their though, that's one of the place where we differ. Also I'm not sure I'd include Sampras.

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Post by Born Slippy on Wed 6 Feb - 7:17

I'm not going to try going back beyond what I can remember watching plus I think trying to compare Borg's old school backhand would make it very tricky. Since the end 80s/start of the 90s I would say:

1. Agassi
2. Djokovic
3. Nadal
4. Lendl
5. Federer
6. Connors
7. Kuerten
8. Murray
9. Courier
10. Rios

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Post by LuvSports! on Wed 6 Feb - 7:49

As i only became a fan of the sport in 03 when i was 11, if i compiled a list it would go by what i saw from then onwards.
Are we talking about consistency? defence? ball striking of both sides? power? There are a lot of things to keep track of!

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Post by User 774433 on Wed 6 Feb - 7:55

Yes, astute points LuvSports OK

There are many different categories we could rank these players, even in the 'baseliner' category itself.

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Post by socal1976 on Wed 6 Feb - 7:55

Born Slippy wrote:I'm not going to try going back beyond what I can remember watching plus I think trying to compare Borg's old school backhand would make it very tricky. Since the end 80s/start of the 90s I would say:

1. Agassi
2. Djokovic
3. Nadal
4. Lendl
5. Federer
6. Connors
7. Kuerten
8. Murray
9. Courier
10. Rios

Well I think people are wrong to not put sampras there simply because my criteria is to look at how good they played from the back not necessarily in labelling the player as one type or another. Otherwise a very fair list BS, can't say the contenders aren't strong.

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Post by lydian on Wed 6 Feb - 8:23

Clay didn't expose Sampras ground strokes, it exposed his lack of stamina due to his thalassemia. Sampras beat Courier in 5 sets at RG but then had nothing left in tank vs his normal whipping boy Kafelnikov. He also won at Rome Masters on clay plus he often beat the guy we are all saying is at the top of the ground stroke list, Agassi, from the baseline. It's a complete fallacy that he was a poor baseliner. Earlier in the 90s when he played from the back of the court more he was very very difficult to beat.

Re. Wilander, he beat another baseline GOAT - Lendl in his prime - 4 times in grand slams, twice at French Open. You cannot just airbrush a 7 time slam winner out of the picture when he had good records against other all time greats. He wasnt powerless at all. He could play aggressive. For me he has to be high up the list given he won 7 slams in an ultra competitive era - he can't have been as bad as you say. I don't believe Djokovic has it anywhere near as hard with a 31 yo Fed. The strength in depth mustn't isn't the same IMO for 2010s vs the 80s...Lendl, Wilander, Mac, Mecir, Edberg, Becker, Connors and many others.

I discounted Fed and Pete because YOU put the word "baseliner" in the subject title. I class him as an allcourter...if the discussion is about who is the most powerful from the baseline which is what you seem to be angling at then we can bring all sorts of guys in like Fernando Gonzalez, etc...
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Post by socal1976 on Wed 6 Feb - 8:46

Yes that is my specific point, not the label on the player, but how good they are from the baseline. I stated it in the opening post. Wilander wasn't bad but it was a valid criticism of his game that he had difficulty finishing points from the baseline, I don't remember him being very aggressive that often from the baseline although in his 3 slam run season he did play more aggressively from the service line and that was what helped him, but in general lacks offensive punch to be better than djokovic.

As for beating goat or goat candidates I don't think Djokovic has a shortcoming with federer and Nadal in his era. Still haven't told me one thing wilander did better than djokovic from the back other than make fewer errors. No way his forehand even by his own era's standards is as good as Novak's or his ability to go up the line from either side.

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Post by socal1976 on Wed 6 Feb - 8:47

Lendl was beat by wilander but lendl beat wilander as well and I rate Novak better than both either way, speed from the back mixed with consistent power off both wings judged by the standards of his own period.

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Post by LuvSports! on Wed 6 Feb - 9:00

socal, you said you would give the nod to rafa if he was 2-3 behind feds for the goat tag. How many behind would novak have to be to be considered goat?
If you think hes better than lendl, 2 slams behind, does that mean you will given novak the goat tag if he finishes with 13 as lendl's tally doubles to 16 so double the 2 as well hmmmmm?

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Post by socal1976 on Wed 6 Feb - 9:01

LuvSports! wrote:socal, you said you would give the nod to rafa if he was 2-3 behind feds for the goat tag. How many behind would novak have to be to be considered goat?
If you think hes better than lendl, 2 slams behind, does that mean you will given novak the goat tag if he finishes with 13 as lendl's tally doubles to 16 so double the 2 as well hmmmmm?


You are trying to be silly luvsports, it is working I can't decipher what you are talking about?

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Post by LuvSports! on Wed 6 Feb - 9:02

te he maybe a lil Smile

but ok how many slams would novak have to get for him to be considered the goat?

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Post by Danny_1982 on Wed 6 Feb - 9:51

My top baseliners?

Well Agassi would definitely be first. The rest I'm not sure about the order but I would say Lendl, Sampras, Rafa, Novak, Courier.

I haven't included many older players because I simply haven't seen enough of them.

I personally don't think Murray has been at his current level long enough to be included, but Novak has. He is offensively and defensively solid and extremely consistent.

But Agassi is the man. If he had moved like any of the current top 4 he would have a ridiculous amount of slams, maybe close to or even more than Roger.

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Post by socal1976 on Wed 6 Feb - 10:17

LuvSports! wrote:te he maybe a lil Smile

but ok how many slams would novak have to get for him to be considered the goat?


It would take a totality of circumstances it is possible if he got within a couple of slams of federer with other things being in his favor that he could be considered goat. There could be a lot of other factors to consider, lets say number of total tournaments, h2h against top rivals, win percentage, win percentage against top 10, completion of career slam , or single year slam, etc. He would have to be I think within 1 or 2 to have an argument. But he could get as many slams and still not be the GOAT, as I said it depends on totality of circumstances with total slam count being the principal measure.

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Post by gboycottnut on Thu 7 Feb - 1:11

Sampras was an all-court player like Federer is, and the only 2 reasons I can give for him being able to live with Agassi is in the 1990's is that firstly Agassi in the 1990's wasn't as fit as he would late become from 2000 onwards, and secondly Sampras knew that he had other areas/weapons (his serve and volleys) to fall back on should the baseline rallies/battles with Agassi not work out as he hoped for during a match.

Also what about players who played in the 1960's such as Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Pancho Gonzales, Arthurs Ashes, Illie Nastase?

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Post by JuliusHMarx on Thu 7 Feb - 1:14

Arthurs Ashes - very good Smile

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Post by lydian on Thu 7 Feb - 3:37

It wasn't fitness gboycott...Sampras suffered from stamina issues himself. But he could blow Agassi away from the back as well as live with him in ralleys. You dont win 14 slams without being an exceptional mover...forwards or side to side. Fantastic ralleying is based around exceptional movement. Just watch some of their mid-90s ralleys.
However, I accept he's an allcourter and shouldn't really be considered here amongst the purer baseliners.

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Post by Jeremy_Kyle on Thu 7 Feb - 3:59

Folk, I have news for you: Sampras was a serve & volley player. Yes he had great shots, but this doesn't make him a baseliner. Not in the least. Do you know Boris Becker? Edberg had a terrific bh, does it make hi half a great baseliner? picard picard picard picard
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Post by lydian on Thu 7 Feb - 4:19

Can you read JK, no-one is saying he was a baseliner - we all know he was a fast court player - hence why he's not in my top 10 basliners...but the point is that Agassi didn't boss him around on the baseline particularly either.
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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 4:34

gboycottnut wrote:Sampras was an all-court player like Federer is, and the only 2 reasons I can give for him being able to live with Agassi is in the 1990's is that firstly Agassi in the 1990's wasn't as fit as he would late become from 2000 onwards, and secondly Sampras knew that he had other areas/weapons (his serve and volleys) to fall back on should the baseline rallies/battles with Agassi not work out as he hoped for during a match.

Also what about players who played in the 1960's such as Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Pancho Gonzales, Arthurs Ashes, Illie Nastase?

Just didn't see those guys play, if I did I would try to rate them. I watched all these guys play in their primes, borg I didn't watch to match but saw his contemporaries play and saw some of his matches on tape.

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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 4:39

Jeremy_Kyle wrote:Folk, I have news for you: Sampras was a serve & volley player. Yes he had great shots, but this doesn't make him a baseliner. Not in the least. Do you know Boris Becker? Edberg had a terrific bh, does it make hi half a great baseliner? picard picard picard picard


I don't know why you don't read the criteria I chose to limit this thread and instead want to get fixated on the label. I am talking about their ability from the back of the court not what label you would put on a player. IF you watched Sampras v. Agassi in their prime Andre even at his best had a tough time on a quick court living with Pete from the back. Of the two players if I had to pick a more explosive forehand it would be pete's. That was Andre's main problem after returning the Sampras serve. In fact, Sampras became a serve and volleyer and won most of his first US Open from the back of the court by the STANDARDS OF THOSE DAYS.

Analyze and come up with a list based on my criteria or based on your own I don't care, but no one is trying to argue that sampras was a baseliner, we want to measure all players and their ability to play from the baseline. Jeez, some of you do just like to argue, I told you this isn't about what you would label a players style this is about their abilities to play off the baseline no matter what their preferred game is.

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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 4:40

Less use of smileys and more use of your reading comprehension skillz would be appreciated.

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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 4:42

Lydian don't argue with my criteria, seriously just do the list the way I have outlined I would like to see how your list would differ, it is about their abilities from the baseline all these guys were at no disadvantage from the back, it is not about labelling someone a baseliner.

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Post by JuliusHMarx on Thu 7 Feb - 4:45

JuliusHMarx wrote:I wouldn't categorise Fed or Sampras as baseliners, so I'd leave them off my list.
My top 3 would be Borg, Agassi, Nadal, in no particular order.
Then Connors/Lendl
Then Wilander/Djokovic
Then Hewitt/Courier

If I include Sampras and Federer :-

My top 3 would be Borg, Agassi, Nadal, in no particular order.
Then Connors/Lendl
Then Wilander/Djokovic/Federer
Then Sampras/Hewitt/Courier

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Post by Jeremy_Kyle on Thu 7 Feb - 5:20

lydian wrote:Can you read JK, no-one is saying he was a baseliner - we all know he was a fast court player - hence why he's not in my top 10 basliners...but the point is that Agassi didn't boss him around on the baseline particularly either.

I can read. That's why I see that Sampras is in most people lists, Lydian.
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Post by Jeremy_Kyle on Thu 7 Feb - 5:26

socal1976 wrote:
Jeremy_Kyle wrote:Folk, I have news for you: Sampras was a serve & volley player. Yes he had great shots, but this doesn't make him a baseliner. Not in the least. Do you know Boris Becker? Edberg had a terrific bh, does it make hi half a great baseliner? picard picard picard picard


I don't know why you don't read the criteria I chose to limit this thread and instead want to get fixated on the label. I am talking about their ability from the back of the court not what label you would put on a player. IF you watched Sampras v. Agassi in their prime Andre even at his best had a tough time on a quick court living with Pete from the back.

So explain how Agassi could manage to win 14 of their 34 h2h matches. Sampras had the better net game and was twice as good in the serve departement.
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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 5:44

Because Andre had the greatest return and backhand in the game that is why Jk, and yes there was a reason why Sampras beat Andre the vast majority of times, he was just better in most phases of the game. Nothing in their careers really disputes that. I am an Agassi fan and religiously for long periods of time watched him play. He lost the majority of times he made the mistake of going to Pete's forehand. Best forehand in the game back then bar none. Andre's included, it was not far off federer's if at all. And pete was an athletic mover as well, not as fit as these guys due to a condition but you would be loathe to underestimate his ability from the back of the court, becker as well was another guy who could play from the back especially as an attacker he just didn't move side to side that well. Pete though was much better than that from the back of the court, he was very special.

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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 5:46

And by the way, Pete Sampras one of my least favorite players ever to watch so this estimation is purely objective, as an Andre fan I have little love for Sampras' game.

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Post by Jeremy_Kyle on Thu 7 Feb - 5:58

your maths isn't good, 20 vs 14 doesn't mean the vast majority of times. Agassi had a great return, true, but with the return you don't make 15% of the points you make with the serve. I am telling you now why Agassi was such a tough match for Sampras: because his baseline game was so much better. Simple.
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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 6:34

Did you look at my list I do believe I rated Andre better than Pete, but not by much because Pete had the better forehand and the speed, while Andre had the better backhand and was fitter. So I find it logical they should be close to each other in their rankings.

And you obviously misunderstand the relative value of returning in the modern game, I suggest you watch and isner match and then watch a Djokovic match. In fact an argument can be made that on a tour where basically all the top guys hold between 80-90 percent that the real differentiation comes in returning which varies from 20-to nearly 40 percent i terms of break percentage. So again you don't understand the importance of returning, that is why the best returners always do well regardless of any era.

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Post by Jeremy_Kyle on Thu 7 Feb - 6:48

Sorry Soc, but for today I have wasted enough time with this.......

Isner: yes true against him returning is lethal as the guy simply doesn't move.

I have been very generous in saying that Agassi made with the return 15% of Pete's points with the serve. And I include in this stat, obviously, not only the winners but all the points that have neatly determined by a good return.

Again, my suggestion is to go back to watch some real match, and then speak.
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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 6:52

OK JK, you have convinced me of your tennis acumen, with quotes that great returning can win you know more than 15 percent of the points. Like when you were telling us how players drive volley near the baseline, the only time I have ever drive volleyed from near the baseline is to keep the fat hacker across from me from hitting the ball out in warm ups. The famous Djokovic hit 4 volleys, then he hit 4 traditional volleys, then he hit seven or some number in single digits that we can not ascertain line. I trust my tennis knowledge over yours anyday of the week and twice on sunday.

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Post by bogbrush on Thu 7 Feb - 6:58

OMG I knew some can have delusions about their game but bringing a club hackers standard into a discussion on professional tennis really isn't the way to go.
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Post by lydian on Thu 7 Feb - 7:29

The Sampras vs Agassi thing is interesting actually. I watched a huge amount of their tennis back in the 90s vs each other, as well as other players.

Agassi could move people around on a court like no other. They went back and forth at the baseline as he angled them left and right...it was almost piteous to watch. No-one was immune to it...except almost just about one guy. Sampras.

Sampras nullified Andre's game like no other. It wasn't just about S&V or net play...he could soak up Andre's shots but then counter back brilliantly. Every shot he hit had a lot on it. Sampras probably had the best running and DTL FH the game has seen, as well as the running cross court FH which is a very hard shot to play. It was a pulverising shot due to the Eastern grip and the power/timing he had. Agassi would often be left floundering by his FH. When Sampras was younger he used to run around the BH more but as that wing got more solid he did so less. Sampras was also effective at hitting angles too, under-ratedly so on the BH side. Andre would hit great shots that hurt most other players but Sampras got to them and hit them back with even more power into the corners giving him an easy-ish put away. You rarely saw Sampras moving left and right like soap on a rope vs Agassi...he had the weight of shot to really hurt him. Later in his career his S&V play developed so he relied less on baseline play, plus his thalassemia kicked in more and he didn't have the stamina to last long at the back...hence poor clay results...but he had the game at the back no doubt.

So socal, if I was ranking Sampras on outright baseline ability based on his pre-97 years I'd probably put him 7-8. That doesn't mean he could ralley all day like Kuerten but he was damned lethal from the back within 4-5 shots...don't forget his BH slice is probably one of the best of all time too...a shot many clay courters or DHBHers simply don't have, and on the faster courts of yeateryear a low highly spun slice was a killer. After 96 he would drop down this baseline ranking because his game changed, his stamina suffered much more into his later 20s and I reckon he discussed this with Annacone to create a much heavier forecourt game. So on balance over his career he's probably just outside the top 10.

Agassi goes much higher up the chain because of his all round ground stroke game including returning, DHBH DTL and short angles,,,plus he had to rely purely on baseline. He also earns points because from 1988 to 2006 he was a killer hitter...even a prime Federer struggled with him in 2005 at USO, so we have to respect how good he probably was at his peak around 94-97 (with injuries notwithstanding) when he first got to #1.
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Post by Jeremy_Kyle on Thu 7 Feb - 7:54

I disagree with most of the above, but at least I can see some sensible observations, like when you highlight the wide gap dividing the baseline game of these two players. Sampras had a few technical flaws both on his bh and fh, which were powerful shots, but not very reliable and solid as they should for a pure baseliner. Sampras also was outplayed by Courier many times from the baseline. Do you see Courier above Sampras on this list? Was Muster a better baseliner? Vilas? Bruguera? Kuerten?


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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 7:55

So you basically agree with me on Sampras being able to live with the person that you deem the GOAT of baseline play? Lydian of course knows tennis and agrees with what I am telling you. Sampras would hold his own against Andre from the back and often best him, a remarkable forehand and he could just blast the backhand as well, but no he wasn't as good on a slow court.

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Post by JuliusHMarx on Thu 7 Feb - 7:58

'Many times' might be stretching it - Courier only won 4 of their 20 matches.

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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 8:01

bogbrush wrote:OMG I knew some can have delusions about their game but bringing a club hackers standard into a discussion on professional tennis really isn't the way to go.


What I said stands for all levels you do not drive volley near the baseline except in extraordinary conditions. Djokovic took all his drive volleys within a couple of feet of the service line, the only proper place for that shot, instead of giving the man credit for moving up in the court to hit so many drive volleys and overheads somehow it is turned into a negative.

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Post by JuliusHMarx on Thu 7 Feb - 8:02

I may be a club hacker but my forehand drive volley is a wonder to behold. I'm serious.

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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 8:06

JuliusHMarx wrote:I may be a club hacker but my forehand drive volley is a wonder to behold. I'm serious.

During the match do you ever hit from near the baseline? And would a pro ever do that either?

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Post by JuliusHMarx on Thu 7 Feb - 8:15

socal1976 wrote:
JuliusHMarx wrote:I may be a club hacker but my forehand drive volley is a wonder to behold. I'm serious.

During the match do you ever hit from near the baseline? And would a pro ever do that either?

With my judgement, I'd hit it from behind the baseline. I'm not serious Smile

I've only ever seen pros do it a couple of times - if you're talking about shots where you think "He got that wrong, he should have come in more or retreated, but not been standing there" i.e. desperation shots. I think I saw Fed do it once when caught out of position.

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Post by Jeremy_Kyle on Thu 7 Feb - 8:15

It can happen, and I made this example to illustrate how many dv are hit from near or behind the service line. Socal: get a grip.
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Post by JuliusHMarx on Thu 7 Feb - 8:22

What's wrong with hitting a drive volley from just behind the service line? The alternative is letting it bounce, which is surely a less aggressive move.
Drive volleys are really hard shot to do I reckon. I had to learn it 'cos my smash is so poor, but it's a high risk shot, even for the pros.*
I love playing them and I love watching them.

* Edit - if I get my footwork right, I reckon I make the shot 9 times out of 10. Sometimes it's too tempting though, especially if it's just a friendly and I try it when my head is saying "No, you'll never make it!"

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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 8:32

It is actually a difficult shot to drive julius and as I said it would be a most extraordinary circumstance to hit a drive volley from near the baseline. And it is actually a difficult shot to time, not so much in technique but in hitting it at the right time and getting in position.

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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 8:34

And you hit it within a few feet of the service line, not near the baseline unless you want to extend the common meaning of that term.

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Post by socal1976 on Thu 7 Feb - 8:34

I still don't see why you rate djokovic below wilander I don't see too many areas of baseline play as to how wilander is better than djokovic even considering current day technology.

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Post by JuliusHMarx on Thu 7 Feb - 8:35

Fed, Djoko and Sharapova are the ones I've noticed doing it well - nearly as well as me.

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