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"5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
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El Dude Online
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"5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
From Bleacher Report. Here's the list:

They Hate Losing
They are Perfectionists
They are Mentally Tough
They are Multidimensional
They Play Big in Big Matches

These are obvious, of course, but I think are worth considering with regards to the "young guns." The author mentioned Grigor Dimitrov in the opening, and I think he's a good example of someone who a) doesn't seem to hate losing, b) might not be a perfectionist, and c) isn't mentally tough.

With Dimitrov, he actually is multidimensional and we don't know how he plays in big matches because he never makes it deep into tournaments.

Now if the author is correct, which of the younger players (say, age 24 and under) have a chance at greatness based upon those criteria? Anyone?

The only player that comes to mind is Jerzy Janowicz. He seems to have all of those qualities. Bernard Tomic could get there, but he needs to care more about the game - so the first couple qualities are lacking. Grigor...I just don't see him having those qualities, or at least he hides it. Ryan Harrison? Forget it. He's Donald Young II.
10-Jul-2013 04:23 PM
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GameSetAndMath Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
I have a feeling that most of the Bleacher Articles are written by quacks.
Am I the only one with such a feeling?
10-Jul-2013 10:31 PM
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johnsteinbeck Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
^ haha... you might be right, but i think ElDude has a point, that it's indeed worth discussing, as a small set of guidelines to judge our youngster chances by.

of course, they seem pretty obvious - but then again, are they? Hating to Lose is a big thing indeed. as Dude said, Grigor for one seems to lack it. it also seems to set the big four apart from the likes of Tsonga (i think Tsonga loves winning much more than he hates losing). or David Ferrer - here's a guy making the most of his career, and i'm positive that he absolutely despises losing.

and yeah, it's also true *jumpingonthebandwagon* - JJ seems to have showcased the most of this among the youngsters. versatility, maybe not, but he can always get there. i think that's something that can come later in the career (re: Rafa, also Murray in a way). i think it's the first two points that can be showcased early on, and JJ seems somewhat likely to fulfill those.
11-Jul-2013 02:42 AM
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El Dude Online
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
Yeah, I take Bleacher Report articles with a grain of salt and get annoyed that every article is a slideshow, but the point was not to discuss the article per se, but the "qualities of greatness" that, I think, are a good starting point.

johnsteinbeck, my only question when we question the drive, perfectionism, hating to lose etc of players is that we can't really know. I mean, maybe Grigor is just pretty self-contained? Or maybe he's a Zen master? (Can a Zen master be a great athlete?)

The thought comes to me that just to be on the ATP tour means that you love tennis, have put thousands of hours into mastering your craft, are a competitor, and want to win. But what I think the article points out is that there's another level that the great's attain in terms of their will and drive, and it might be this "extra something" that Grigor and Bernard etc lack.

I've also wondered about those kids born in the 90s and later who grew up with the internet, texting, Facebook, etc, and how that impacts them in terms of their drive and engagement. I mean, Ivan Lendl couldn't tweet his results after a match live Grigor Dimitrov does (I assume). And just the nature of the newer technologies - the quick fix, instant access that this younger generation takes for granted. Grigor might be frustrated that he can't "level up" fast enough, but is he doing the real life work to do so?
11-Jul-2013 09:24 AM
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johnsteinbeck Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
alright two points:

self-containment and how much we can know about the attitude - i hate to resort to Fed all again, but here's a guy who seems self-contained; and we all have heard the stories about how he got there, the extreme temper he learned to manage. Rafa, for all his outbursts, still is much better controlled with negative emotion than most are. still, i think that there's a visible difference between them, Novak and Andy, and the nonchalance that guys like Grigor, Bernie, or someone like Paire seem to exhibit at times. it's true - seeing where they are now, they must've put in the hard work (although their talent alone will carry them further than others), and surely they do care and they don't like losing. but still, i get the feeling that they don't quite have the attitude (yet), the will to win, that's needed to make a big impact.

as far as the internet/facebook etc - i don't think it's that at all. it's just a generation thing, that might seem new and different to (some of) us, but it's not like distractions haven't been here before. they keep evolving. as far as Laver or Borg are concerned, Fed is Generation Gameboy, and Rafa, Nole and Murray love their playstations more than their racquets. still, they found a way to true greatness. twitter won't distract a true champ from winning. in fact, Muzzah himself has shown that rather impressively, no?
(This post was last modified: 11-Jul-2013 09:59 AM by johnsteinbeck.)
11-Jul-2013 09:58 AM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
The temperament is the thing with great players: the ability to stay calm under pressure and reach for the best shots in the most squeezed and cramped psychological conditions. Some of them do it through inspired play - like McEnroe - who had adrenalin surges and played miraculously. Others play GS finals like they have no heartbeat, like Sampras. I always felt with Pete that he seemed to enjoy the pressure. Because it wasn't pressure. Pressure was early rounds versus some guy who had nothing to lose.

I still don't see it with Dmitrov, or JJ. I think JJ will be more like Goran, a totally erratic, easily distracted big-hitter who'll always face somebody with more smarts and a good radar for picking up his serve.

I don't know how computer games etc, affect players, but I know Lendl used to love video games when he was playing - and Borg was addicted to comic books. These things can be a release valve, when used properly, but of course, they also have adverse effects if you become addicted...
11-Jul-2013 03:03 PM
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1972Murat Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
Funny all my favorite players, with exception of JMac, were quiet types (Sampras, Roger, Edberg...). They did have earthquakes happening inside, but showing it to the opponent was never an option, negative or positive...at least very seldom. It is very tough to play against a guy that has the same expression after an amazing shot or a dreadful miss, in my opinion.

11-Jul-2013 03:09 PM
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johnsteinbeck Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
(11-Jul-2013 03:03 PM)Kieran Wrote:  I still don't see it with Dmitrov, or JJ. I think JJ will be more like Goran, a totally erratic, easily distracted big-hitter who'll always* face somebody with more smarts and a good radar for picking up his serve.

*ALMOST always. so you give JJ the potential of a slam win? Wink

it's funny, even a one slam wonder (although i wouldn't put Goran in that category) seems like an optimistic outlook for youngsters right now.
11-Jul-2013 03:12 PM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
(11-Jul-2013 03:12 PM)johnsteinbeck Wrote:  *ALMOST always. so you give JJ the potential of a slam win? Wink

If he gets the Buddhist of Monte Carlo in a final and crowd's on his side, yeah, I'd give him the win... Wink
11-Jul-2013 03:18 PM
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rafanoy1992 Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
(11-Jul-2013 03:03 PM)Kieran Wrote:  The temperament is the thing with great players: the ability to stay calm under pressure and reach for the best shots in the most squeezed and cramped psychological conditions. Some of them do it through inspired play - like McEnroe - who had adrenalin surges and played miraculously. Others play GS finals like they have no heartbeat, like Sampras. I always felt with Pete that he seemed to enjoy the pressure. Because it wasn't pressure. Pressure was early rounds versus some guy who had nothing to lose.

I still don't see it with Dmitrov, or JJ. I think JJ will be more like Goran, a totally erratic, easily distracted big-hitter who'll always face somebody with more smarts and a good radar for picking up his serve.

I don't know how computer games etc, affect players, but I know Lendl used to love video games when he was playing - and Borg was addicted to comic books. These things can be a release valve, when used properly, but of course, they also have adverse effects if you become addicted...

Just like Lendl, Murray also loves to play video gamesBig Smile

When Brad Gilbert was coaching Andy, he said that Andy would play video games for seven hours per day.
11-Jul-2013 03:56 PM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
I suppose it's a fruit of mental toughness, but great players can usually think very clearly on huge points. This isn't the same as playing inspired shots or their best tennis. It's the ability to focus on their strategy and even adapt it when it isn't working. They plot their course very well and construct points as if there was no pressure on them at all. Borg was great at this, Sampras and Nadal par excellence, and Roger had this against everybody but Nadal...
12-Jul-2013 05:59 AM
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El Dude Online
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
Perhaps another angle on this would be to compare David Nalbandian and Roger Federer. Both were/are immensely talented players, but one goes down as one of the greatest players ever and the other as one of the five or ten best of the Aughties. Even if we give Federer a strong edge in talent, the gap between their performance records is larger than their talent level and the difference in that gap is what defines greatness, in my opinion.
12-Jul-2013 07:10 AM
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Haelfix Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
(12-Jul-2013 05:59 AM)Kieran Wrote:  I suppose it's a fruit of mental toughness, but great players can usually think very clearly on huge points. This isn't the same as playing inspired shots or their best tennis. It's the ability to focus on their strategy and even adapt it when it isn't working. They plot their course very well and construct points as if there was no pressure on them at all. Borg was great at this, Sampras and Nadal par excellence, and Roger had this against everybody but Nadal...

I really do think there is a bit more to it than that. For instance, all things being equal, the guy with the simpler gameplan tends to perform better in crucial points. It's actually not so much that he performs better, its more that he performs closer to his usual level than the other guy, who might really get tight.

For instance, guys who are predominantly shotmakers like Mac/Agassi/Fed//Safin have a much harder time mantaining their games when points get tight, simply b/c its very hard to hit winners when you are tight. Contrast that with more defensive oriented players like Ferrer, or alternatively guys with huge serves or like one make or break weapon (like a big forehand). Typically these sorts of players live or die by those traits, and so it stands to reason that they mantain these edges all the more when things get tight.

A good example of this effect is to look at tiebreaker records on the ATP. You have a lot of big servers who do really well here (including Federer). John Isner has the 2nd highest career mark out of all active players. So its not necessarily mental perse that helps them in pressure points. Its gamestyle as well.
12-Jul-2013 09:16 AM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
That's good Haelfix, but it's not really what I'm saying. If a guy has a simple game plan but he crumbles, then simplicity or "gamestyle" helps him not at all.

I've also been thinking today of Mats Wilander's maxim that "great players find a way." I wonder if this refers to an ability to retool in a losing proposition, think clearly and dig their way out...
12-Jul-2013 12:01 PM
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shawnbm Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
(12-Jul-2013 12:01 PM)Kieran Wrote:  That's good Haelfix, but it's not really what I'm saying. If a guy has a simple game plan but he crumbles, then simplicity or "gamestyle" helps him not at all.

I've also been thinking today of Mats Wilander's maxim that "great players find a way." I wonder if this refers to an ability to retool in a losing proposition, think clearly and dig their way out...

I think that is true and one of the best testaments to that is being able to come back from two sets down in a slam to win in five (or even force a fifth), or come back from losing the first set to win in three sets at non-major events. All of the present greats (Fed, Rafa, Nole and now Murray) have shown an ability to do that over the years. Borg, Lendl, Connors and others did too. Without knowing the stats, I know Pete did it too. This is sort of like what you are talking about (I think)--having the mental strength to overcome the hot shot guy at the moment or a bad day "at the office". It is not just talent, as even talented players can and do have off days. The current crop of greats have had the something extra; just look at how often they have gone to finals and won. It is really something, and that something has a lot to do with great mental belief.

Virgil Cane is the name ...
12-Jul-2013 12:36 PM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
That's it, but not only this: the ability to plan in the heat. I think Nadal's rate of saving break points is a world record for a guy who has a WTA serve, and this is because he constructs the point so well: intelligently and with a clear mind. He corals the opponent and may take a rally to get it, but he's usually the one to strike.

I think "great players finding a way" covers a lot more than use of effective tactics under pressure, but the ability to think clearly when the options are slim is certainly an attribute of greatness....
12-Jul-2013 02:46 PM
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shawnbm Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
I agree with that although Nadal has a better serve than many give him credit for. I used to say, though, that were Connors to have merely Borg's serve, he likely would have been unbeatable. That was my mantra in the Seventies, as he got no free points and had to work like the Dickens for all he got. Borg (more on grass), Mac and Ivan won plenty of points on service and I won't even get to Boom Boom. That is why I admired Mats greatly and, to a large extent, Rafa--they all have to work like hell to win points. They are the great gladiators of the sport--not to say that Pete, Mac, Boris and Roger were not (they are too)--just different in the way they get it done.

Virgil Cane is the name ...
12-Jul-2013 03:38 PM
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
(12-Jul-2013 03:38 PM)shawnbm Wrote:  I agree with that although Nadal has a better serve than many give him credit for. I used to say, though, that were Connors to have merely Borg's serve, he likely would have been unbeatable. That was my mantra in the Seventies, as he got no free points and had to work like the Dickens for all he got. Borg (more on grass), Mac and Ivan won plenty of points on service and I won't even get to Boom Boom. That is why I admired Mats greatly and, to a large extent, Rafa--they all have to work like hell to win points. They are the great gladiators of the sport--not to say that Pete, Mac, Boris and Roger were not (they are too)--just different in the way they get it done.

I agree with the bold part, shawnbm. I always said that Nadal is the best at saving break points the hard way. What I mean is that he doesn't have the killer serve like Pete or Federer to easily erase break points. He has to work very hard just to win a point. In fairness, he has improved his serve over the years but it still not in the level of Sampras or Federer.
12-Jul-2013 04:10 PM
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
(12-Jul-2013 02:46 PM)Kieran Wrote:  That's it, but not only this: the ability to plan in the heat. I think Nadal's rate of saving break points is a world record for a guy who has a WTA serve, and this is because he constructs the point so well: intelligently and with a clear mind. He corals the opponent and may take a rally to get it, but he's usually the one to strike.

I think "great players finding a way" covers a lot more than use of effective tactics under pressure, but the ability to think clearly when the options are slim is certainly an attribute of greatness....

I find that 'great players find a way' is a simplistic hindsight talk. Its like if you win, you are 'great' and if you don't then you are NOT, regardless of circumstances. Look at Federer and Djoker, they have never found a way to beat Nadal at RG...by that definition they are not great clay courters, they simply haven't found that 'way' to get the better of Nadal who is an absolute monster and i doubt other 'great' clay courters could've done better.

IMO Fed and Djoker would've been absolute 'clay greats' in any era, and even if they haven't found a way. (of course Djoker will have good chance from this point on, as Nadal's physical prowess and health seems to be dropping).
13-Jul-2013 02:10 AM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: "5 Traits the Greatest Tennis Players Have in Common"
In fairness, players are only great in hindsight.

The idea of giving credit to players for things they couldn't do starts this era with Roddick and keeps on rolling...
13-Jul-2013 06:35 AM
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