How would Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg and the rest of today’s players stack up against their predecessors as stars in men’s tennis?
Not very well, if the matches were played under the old conditions, Ellsworth Vines said.
Today’s players have a real edge, not only in equipment, where composition rackets hold an obvious advantage over wooden ones, but also in the serve, Vines said.
“It’s an entirely new ballgame now,” Vines said. “First off, there is no foot-fault rule, or at least they don’t call it. They can jump off the ground. They can toss the ball inside the court and follow it in. They’ve got a whole step on us at least.
“And the equipment now is much better,” he said. “I would think if they were playing under the same rules and conditions under which we were playing, we could beat them.”
Here are Vines’ choices as the top five men’s tennis players of all time and his comments about them:
1. Bill Tilden--He was just the best. He could play all the shots. He moved well, he won just about everything and was way ahead of his time.
2. Fred Perry--The thing I remember most about his game is that he was very quick on the court . . . very fast. He covered the court just so well. He didn’t have tremendous speed on his shots, didn’t hit them real hard, but he got them all back. He also had a marvelous forehand drive.
3. Don Budge--He had an all-court game and a marvelous backhand, which was his bread and butter. He could do most anything with it, (but) most of the time, he hit it down the line. He also had a real will to win.
4. Jack Crawford--He could play on any court. You couldn’t get a shot past him. He didn’t have any particular overpowering weapon, but he could hit from either side and hit winners. He was underrated for what he could really do.
5. Jack Kramer--He could beat any of these younger players. He had a fine serve and was an excellent net player. His best shot was a forehand drive to the backhand. That gave the other fellows problems, and how!