Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

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Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Guest on Wed 08 Jun 2016, 12:29 pm

Bjorn Borg won the French Open six times and Wimbledon five times in the period 1974 to 1981.  It seems to me he was going from the slowest surface to one of the fastest surfaces - yet he was able to cope.  Moreover during that period he got to four finals at the US Open and was only beaten by other all time greats - Jimmy Connors twice and John McEnroe twice.  How did he do it?  The US Open had been clay between 1975 to 1977 but changed to hard court from 1978 onwards and Borg made the US Open final in 1978, 1980 and 1981.  

This was an era of wooden rackets (?) & small racket heads (?) which didn't favour the returners nor the top spinners compared to the racket technology of today.

So how did he do it?

Or was the surfaces more homogenised during that period too?

Apologies if this has been explained somewhere else before - a link to the explanation would be much appreciated.

ps: Apart from 1974 - he skipped the Australian Open (as many others did during that era).

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Guest on Wed 08 Jun 2016, 12:58 pm

Looking at Matts Wilander we have:
Australian Open W (1983, 1984, 1988)
French Open     W (1982, 1985, 1988)
Wimbledon      QF (1987, 1988, 1989)
US Open         W (1988)

Apart from someone needing to work on his Wikipedia page:  Here we have someone doing great on the slowest surface French Open and presumably the fastest surface US Open.  But limited success at Wimbledon.


In 1986 - 1987  Ivan Lendl wins the French Open twice, the US Open twice, and gets to the final at Wimbledon twice (beaten by Boris Becker & Pat Cash:  Becker was a great of the sport of tennis but Pat Cash wasn't).

1991 -1993 Jim Courier wins Australian Open and French Open twice, makes a Wimbledon final and a USOpen final.


Focus on French Open Winners 1993 - 2004
Sergi Bruguera wins French Open 1993 - 1994.  Never gets beyond fourth round of other slams.
Thomas_Muster wins French Open 1995: One slam wonder.  Doesn't do much else - a few semi-finals.
Yevgeny_Kafelnikov wins French Open 1996.  Wins Australian Open 1999.  Patchy record.  At best QF at Wimbledon, SF US Open.
Gustavo_Kuerten: French Open winner 1997, 2000, 2001 ... not much else.  At best QF at Wimbledon & US Open,
Carlos Moya: French Open winner 1998: one slam wonder ... not much else ... a final at the Australian Open
Andre Agassi: French Open winner 1999.  Also won Australian Open, US Open, Wimbledon in his career (How was he able to get this success across surfaces during this period of non-homogenisation?)
Albert Costa: French Open 2002: one slam wonder.
Juan Carlos Ferrero: French Open 2003: one slam wonder but got to US Open final in 2003.
Gastón Norberto Gaudio: French Open 2004: one slam wonder.
Rafael Nadal .... King of Clay.


It seems to me that the odd period in the history of tennis was 1993 to 2004 where there were quite a few one slam wonders at the French Open and a few "clay court specialists".  Although during that period JC Ferrero, Carlos Moya,  Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Andre Agassi had some success across surfaces.

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by barrystar on Wed 08 Jun 2016, 1:51 pm

There's no doubt that the differences between the surfaces are less extreme than they used to be.  Wimbledon has a higher, less uneven and less skiddy bounce.  But one important thing that has happened also is that the players are better all-rounders than they used to be.  All top players need to play an awful lot of HC tennis - it's no longer possible to stick about on clay for almost 8 months of the season if your ranking is high enough to qualify you for Masters Series tournaments.

There are always exceptional players of course..

Wilander's first two wins at the Aus Open were on grass - although bone dry baked hard, whether it was faster than the USO where he won in 1988 I don't know.

Connors is the other player who won slams on all surfaces despite having only won at three out of the four slams, because he won the USO on grass in 1974, on green clay in 1976, and on hard in 1978 and subsequently.  He did not play RG for 5 years between 1973 and 1979 because of some contractual difference, when arguably he was at his peak.

Borg was obviously a one-off and a pioneer - he played s&v behind his heavy first serve, and he therefore knew how to volley when he had to.  He was pretty much the fittest guy on tour, and I read somewhere that he was the first guy to use shoes with dimpled soles on grass which gave his baseline game a much more secure footing and quite an edge until others followed suit.  I heard that his racquets were strung incredibly tight, and when his racquet stringer got the racquets back after a match they had a worn patch in the sweet spot about the same size as a tennis ball.
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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by dummy_half on Wed 08 Jun 2016, 3:27 pm

It's less about purely homogenisation of the surfaces than it is about how certain playing styles fit on the surfaces, and how these styles have evolved with the changes to both the surfaces and to racket technology.

No doubt Borg was a freak, in being able to produce wins on very slow clay and pretty fast grass courts. However, he did change his style, playing a lot of serve-volley on grass. Obviously he was a fabulous returner and passing shot player, so had a good chance of breaking serve playing mostly from the baseline on either surface. This wasn't though (really) the era of the mega-server, which really came in with Becker and reached its peak with Sampras.

Given how difficult it became for anyone but the huge serve-volley players to compete on grass in the 90s, it puts Agassi's win into an almost unique position...

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Henman Bill on Wed 08 Jun 2016, 3:53 pm

I'd say in Borg's time the French Open and Wimbledon were very different, and it was more of an achievement to win them both.

He was just good enough, and more of an all rounder, to win them both anyway.

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Guest on Wed 08 Jun 2016, 3:55 pm

I haven't look much into it - but following barrystar's comment of some sort of parallel clay court tour - it seems to me that the 1993 - 2004 period was the "odd period" in which perhaps the "tour"  was splitting into two tours one clay court based and one grass / hard court based --> and professionals could make a living focusing on one or other of the parallel tours   This period saw the evolutionary development of the huge serve and volleyers focussing on the grass / hard court tour and clay court specialists focusing on the clay court tour.  But there were some players during this period that showed they could compete on both circuits.

This period perhaps also saw the Australian Open beginning to be taken more seriously.

Ps Again following on from Barrystar: Jimmy Connors winning the US Open on clay plus him skipping the French open for a number of years suggest he was another one able to cope with all surfaces.

PPs So perhaps the post 2004 period rather than a "transitional period" was a period where the diverging tours were stitched back together again: maybe with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as being special trailblazers of that period.

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by summerblues on Thu 09 Jun 2016, 3:36 am

Nore Staat wrote:it seems to me that the 1993 - 2004 period was the "odd period" in which perhaps the "tour"  was splitting into two tours

Nore Staat wrote:PPs So perhaps the post 2004 period rather than a "transitional period" was a period where the diverging tours were stitched back together again [...]

Yes, that is not too far from the way I see it.  1993-2004 was almost breaking into two separate tours, unlike before then.

What make the biggest difference to me between "pre 93" and "post 04" periods is how they achieve the "unity" of the whole tour.  Pre-93 conditions differed from surface to surface, and so did playing styles.  However - mostly because service was not as dominant - players of all styles were able to have at least some chance outside of their preferred surface.

Post-04 the unity is achieved mostly through homogenizing conditions - and playing styles.

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by lydian on Thu 09 Jun 2016, 5:44 pm

There's actually a lot of similarity to Wilander winning at AO on baked grass. If you watch most of those 76-80 Wimbledons the weather was unrecognisable from what it is these days...long hot summers and the courts were bare dust bowls by the time the finals came. That certainly helped Borg in my opinion.

Otherwise he was supremely talented, the quickest player I've ever seen and had true all court skills. If anyone is goat it's him in my book...had he bothered going to AO and extended his career beyond 25 then he would have likely finished on 16-20 slams. However unlike other players he wasn't a slam numbers chaser.
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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by lydian on Thu 09 Jun 2016, 5:55 pm

No exactly the lush green grass you see these days...





http://i35.servimg.com/u/f35/18/11/57/32/image11.jpg

http://i35.servimg.com/u/f35/18/11/57/32/image12.jpg

http://i35.servimg.com/u/f35/18/11/57/32/image13.jpg
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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by lydian on Thu 09 Jun 2016, 6:03 pm

Can someone fix the above lol...
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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Guest on Thu 09 Jun 2016, 6:09 pm





okay format is
[img]page link to image [backslash img]

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by bogbrush on Thu 09 Jun 2016, 6:13 pm

Where does Borg fit in?

Answer is he's hard to overrate.. The guys potential was never truly explored. His most dominant French Open was ridiculous even by Nadals standards; losing 29 games in the whole tournament one year is mind boggling. That's between 6-1 & 6-2 every single set.

He skipped a French at the height of his powers, he didn't bother with Australia, retired at 25 yet got 11 Slams.

Incredible.
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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Guest on Thu 09 Jun 2016, 6:14 pm

What was it about the rise of the "huge" serve volleyers of the "1990s", where did they come from and how did they develop this huge hitting ability.  

Was there just a lot more people getting into the sport because of television and money - different training regimes developing upper body strength - bigger people getting into the sport?  

Pete Sampras (6'1") and Andy Roddick (6'2") were noted for their big hitting, yet they didn't look to be particularly huge in their physical appearance.  6 foot 1" seems to be the ideal height no matter what period of the sport one looks at.

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by lydian on Thu 09 Jun 2016, 9:25 pm

Its all about timing NS...no one has ever hit the serve before/after like Sampras...140mph (in modern 'money') with 5000rpm on the ball. That's a ridiculously "heavy" ball. Roddick was sheer racquet head speed. Thanks for amending the pics above too.

Yep BB re: Borg...skipped 1977 due to his status with WTT...crazy...then won it next four years.
In 1977 he won all clay tournaments before and after RG...he was 22-0 in matches. So he would have won 1977...that's 12 slams.
In 1982, after retiring in 1981, Mats Wilander worked out with Borg and reported that Borg easily beat him in practice regularly. Mats of course went on to win Roland Garros. So that's #13...and I reckon he'd have got 1-2 more before 1985...so that's 14-15. He could have 10 RGs...
He also missed 7 x AOs during his prime. I reckon he'd have won at least 5 of those because it was baked grass...semi-clay...perfect for a guy who won RG/Wimb every year. That's 19-20 slams. And maybe another Wimbledon before 1985...when he would have still been only 29yo. That's 20-21...

Yes its ifs and buts...but this is why its why counting slams is pointless...there are other subjective measures of greatness.

He will always will be my #1 tennis idol...got me playing the game and no-one has been as effortlessly cool as him since either. An icon and such a loss to the game @ 26yo...barely anywhere through in his prime years. All I know is that I reckon Borg was/is the greatest player of all time. Arthur Ashe said of him...

"I think Bjorn could have won the U.S. Open. I think he could have won the Grand Slam, but by the time he left, the historical challenge didn't mean anything. He was bigger than the game. He was like Elvis or Liz Taylor or somebody."


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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by bogbrush on Thu 09 Jun 2016, 9:35 pm

When I started playing seriously I used his Donnay. Oh my God, did you need timing to play with that! A sweet spot about the size of the ball - another reason you can't compare players across eras. Imagine trying the retrieval based game of today with that? Completely impossible.

After that I switched to the Dunlop Max 200G and felt like a God because it seemed impossible to mistime a ball, and the easy power was incredible. Until, that is, I became sloppy, abused the sweet spot and became a different player who probably couldn't have played with the old Donnay.

When I hear people criticising the old professional game for lacking power I wonder whether they really know anything of the talent it took to deliver that game with that equipment.
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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by lydian on Thu 09 Jun 2016, 9:44 pm

Hear, hear...and you had to rely on incredible talent back then to shine through, no short cuts with racquets, strings and homogenised surfaces meaning no changes of strategy. Borg had to go from uber-baseliner at RG to S&Ver almost every point just 2 weeks later...all with 75 sq in racquets. We haven't seen the like before or since IMO. Given he could have won 20 slams (or was in that league) you can see why McEnroe, a star himself, was in complete awe of Borg and felt bereft after his retirement. Borg defined the tennis landscape and Mac felt like he had no-one to look up to after that...
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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Henman Bill on Fri 10 Jun 2016, 1:57 am

Borg could have been greater, had he gone for it, but he didn't so he wasn't.

I just wonder if we are fitting the theory to the data too match - was there really more difference between surfaces in the 1990s and less in the 70s and 80s - or are we just saying that because Borg was able to win Wimbledon and Sampras didn't win the French Open.

I mean, I don't know, I started watching Wimbledon in 1991/1992 and other tournaments later than that, and haven't researched anything relevant, but I just wonder.

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by barrystar on Fri 10 Jun 2016, 9:28 am

Henman Bill wrote:Borg could have been greater, had he gone for it, but he didn't so he wasn't.

I just wonder if we are fitting the theory to the data too match - was there really more difference between surfaces in the 1990s and less in the 70s and 80s - or are we just saying that because Borg was able to win Wimbledon and Sampras didn't win the French Open.

I mean, I don't know, I started watching Wimbledon in 1991/1992 and other tournaments later than that, and haven't researched anything relevant, but I just wonder.

I started watching Wimbledon in 1980, and as I see it the serve was not the weapon it became towards the mid 1980's; the guys with big serves would be up there but you expected the overall top players to beat them in the end - I am thinking in particular of Roscoe Tanner at the time.

For my money the dominance of the big-serving grass court specialists really started with Becker in 1985 - we went from Mac's year of years in 1984 to 1985 when Edberg/Becker won on grass, Wilander at RG, and Lendl at USO; I reckon that it was the racqet frames as much as anything else - then Wimbledon was dominated by big servers for 20 years or so. Things like heavier, fluffier balls, more abrasive hard surfaces, and re-seeding Wimbledon with tougher grass have had their effect, but I wonder if what really swung things back more in favour of returners was the new strings?

I know that each player has to deal with the equipment and conditions of his era, but I can't help wondering if Lendl's peak had been in 1980-1985 or some time after 2002 he would have had a better chance of winning Wimbledon.
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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Guest on Fri 10 Jun 2016, 10:08 am

He doesn't fit anywhere in the homogenization argument.

His FO/Wim doubles were out of this world. The talent it requires as BB alluded to with the old Donay racquets and re-adjust timings to your swing to hit balls coming at different heights and speeds. Ridiculous talent!

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Born Slippy on Fri 10 Jun 2016, 12:03 pm

barrystar wrote:
Henman Bill wrote:Borg could have been greater, had he gone for it, but he didn't so he wasn't.

I just wonder if we are fitting the theory to the data too match - was there really more difference between surfaces in the 1990s and less in the 70s and 80s - or are we just saying that because Borg was able to win Wimbledon and Sampras didn't win the French Open.

I mean, I don't know, I started watching Wimbledon in 1991/1992 and other tournaments later than that, and haven't researched anything relevant, but I just wonder.

I started watching Wimbledon in 1980, and as I see it the serve was not the weapon it became towards the mid 1980's; the guys with big serves would be up there but you expected the overall top players to beat them in the end - I am thinking in particular of Roscoe Tanner at the time.

For my money the dominance of the big-serving grass court specialists really started with Becker in 1985 - we went from Mac's year of years in 1984 to 1985 when Edberg/Becker won on grass, Wilander at RG, and Lendl at USO; I reckon that it was the racqet frames as much as anything else - then Wimbledon was dominated by big servers for 20 years or so.  Things like heavier, fluffier balls, more abrasive hard surfaces, and re-seeding Wimbledon with tougher grass have had their effect, but I wonder if what really swung things back more in favour of returners was the new strings?

I know that each player has to deal with the equipment and conditions of his era, but I can't help wondering if Lendl's peak had been in 1980-1985 or some time after 2002 he would have had a better chance of winning Wimbledon.

Ive posted this elsewhere before but it's pertinent to the bit in bold. Where is the evidence that things have swung in favour of receivers?

Service Games won on grass (over 100 games played):

2015

Ivo - 97%
Fed - 96%
Muller - 95%
Novak - 95%
Isner - 94%

1995

Forget - 95%
Sampras - 93%
Ivanisevic - 93%
Matsuoka - 92%
Frana - 90%

There is a bit of variation in the 90s but at no stage are the 2015 stats exceeded that I can see.

If you run it down to the 10th highest % then 2015 has Gasquet on 90% and 1995 has Brett Steven on 83%. Its harder to break on grass now than it was in the mid 90s - and that's despite the fact I'm sure we can all agree that the average returner now is far more competent that 20 years ago!

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Henman Bill on Sat 11 Jun 2016, 12:03 am

Is there an argument that the servers still win the same % of games but require longer points so not winning them on serve.

However this is another argument that I don't have particular evidence for, so just musing. Some stats could disprove.

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by summerblues on Sat 11 Jun 2016, 2:09 am

Nore Staat wrote:So how did he do it?

Or was the surfaces more homogenised during that period too?
He was special.  But also, it was easier to do well across surfaces in the 1970s/80s, then in the 1990s.  The following table that I initially put together a few years ago lists the players that made QF of both RG and W in the same year.

It is clear from the table that the feat was most rare in the 1990s where it would be quite typical to have no intersect between the two sets.

From 1997-2003 only three players managed to do it:  Agassi (2x) and young Fed (in 2001) who are both all-time-greats, and Kuerten once.  Both before then, and after, many more players were able to do so - including many second-stringers.


YearPlayer1Player2Player3Player4Player5
2015DjokovicFedererMurrayWawrinka
2014DjokovicMurrayRaonic
2013DjokovicFerrer
2012DjokovicTsongaFedererFerrerMurray
2011NadalMurrayFedererDjokovic
2010FedererBerdychDjokovicSoderlingNadal
2009MurrayFederer
2008FedererNadal
2007FedererDjokovicNadal
2006FedererAncicNadal
2005Federer
2004HewittHenman
2003
2002
2001FedererAgassi
2000
1999KuertenAgassi
1998
1997
1996SamprasKrajicek
1995AgassiKafelnikov
1994SamprasIvanisevic
1993SamprasCourierEdberg
1992AgassiSamprasIvanisevic
1991EdbergCourierStichAgassiBecker
1990Ivanisevic
1989BeckerWilanderEdberg
1988LendlWilander
1987ConnorsWilanderLeconte
1986LendlBeckerLeconte
1985McEnroeConnorsLeconte
1984McEnroeGomezConnorsLendl
1983LendlMcEnroe
1982GerulaitisConnors
1981BorgConnorsMcEnroe
1980BorgFibakConnors
1979BorgConnors
1978BorgRamirez
1977DentNastase
1976RamirezVilasBorg
1975RamirezVilasBorg
1974
1973Kodes
1972SmithMetreveliKodesOrantes
1971Smith
1970
1969LaverNewcombeOkkerRoche
1968Laver

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Henman Bill on Sat 11 Jun 2016, 3:04 am

I think I see 3 periods here in this interesting data (thanks).

1997-2003 (below average "intersect")
2010-2015 (above average)
all other periods (average, about the same)

The data suggests the real homegenous era began in 2010.

It's interesting that the data does not support the first half of the 90s as being harder to do both tournaments, that was well I remember the most boring serve fests at Wimbledon, with some better matches in the late 90s (e.g. Rafter-Agassi semis 1999-2001 or so). So why is 1997-2003 lower.

Maybe 2000-2003 being because no great players at their peak at that time. And the late 90s the feat being less done than the early 90s. Not sure if similar logic works there. Some of that could be coincidence. I can't think of a good reason to fully explain it anyway.


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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Born Slippy on Sat 11 Jun 2016, 1:48 pm

I think the interesting point is that the players who appear on the above chart tend to be players I would regard as more suitable for fast surfaces, when it should be the other way around given the argument that grass has slowed. Ive taken the big 4 out as falling within SB's ATG category:

Fast:

Hewitt
Henman
Ancic
Berdych
Tsonga
Raonic

Slow:

Soderling
Ferrer

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Guest on Sat 11 Jun 2016, 1:50 pm

Interesting QF data thanks.  Note for the 1974 - 1978 period Connors missed the French Open and for the period 1975 - 1977 the US Open was held on clay.  

For the 1970 to 1980 period the US Open went from grass (up to 1974) to clay (1975-1977) to hard (1978 onward).  Focussing on the US Open Connors won on grass in 1974, won on clay 1976, won on hard 1978.  Weird.  So looking at the 1972 to 1980 period we get an opportunity to see how players fared on three different surfaces at the same tournament.  

It seems to me that tennis players played pick and mix when it came to playing or skipping grand slam tournaments to a certain extent in the period before 1979.


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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Guest on Sat 11 Jun 2016, 2:21 pm

Nore Staat wrote:... It seems to me that tennis players played pick and mix when it came to playing or skipping grand slam tournaments to a certain extent in the period before 1979.

The Australians
There is an interesting period 1962 to 1969 when Australians won the mens French Open seven out of eight times with five different players.  The period 1962 to 1973 saw Australian women winning the French Open eight out of twelve times with three different players.

If we look at the Australian Open, Australians essentially won it nearly every year from inception to 1976 for the men (and not since). For women Australians won it nearly every year from inception to 1978 and not since. Hence it seems to me that before 1979 at least, the Australian Open was skipped by most northern hemisphere tennis players.

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Henman Bill on Sun 12 Jun 2016, 2:11 am

Born Slippy, you could even argue that Soderling could be in the fast list. His RG finals were something of an anomaly, and other results in his career did not show a tendency to do better on slow. Most of the tournaments he won were fast surfaces, typically indoor.

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Re: Where Does Bjorn Borg Fit in When it Comes to the Surface Homogenisation Debate?

Post by Born Slippy on Sun 12 Jun 2016, 9:35 am

Agree HB but as he made two RG finals I thought it fairer to put him in the slow list.

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