IF LLEYTON Hewitt was suddenly equipped with the divine powers to construct the perfect tennis player, only five men would be used as building blocks.
All of them have won grand slams.
All of them have beaten, and lost, to Hewitt.
Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Pat Rafter and Pete Sampras are the components in Hewitt’s world-beating prototype.
Tennis neophytes armed with shallow opinion rather than fact might question Hewitt’s qualifications to comment on Agassi and Sampras.
Hewitt defeated both men before the champion Americans won their final majors.
It is clear Sampras, Agassi and Rafter left a deep impression on Hewitt in the formative stages of the South Australian’s barnstorming career.
Just as Nadal and Federer have over the past five years.
“The serve. Pete Sampras would have to be up there when he was on, especially his second serve,” said Hewitt, winner of Wimbledon and US Open singles crowns.
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“Returns. Andre, he’s got to be up there.
“Forehand. It’s between Rafa and Roger. Totally different forehands, that’s the hard thing.
“Backhand. Rafa, at the moment, has got a pretty good backhand for his style of play.
“Volley. It’s probably between Pete (Sampras) and Pat (Rafter).
“Slice backhand. It would have to be Rog.
“There’s so much variation on his slice, he can use it as a defensive shot and an offensive shot extremely well.
He’s able to come into the net off it and he’s able to bring his opponent in on it.
”Top-spin backhand. Rafa or Agassi.”
There are two areas where Hewitt could easily have nominated himself.
Return of serve and movement.
Injuries to Hewitt and corresponding advances in fi tness and technique have seen Nadal and Federer take movement to new levels of excellence as Hewitt has been forced to cede his reputation as the fastest man in the game.
“In terms of movement, it’s Roger and Rafa in a lot of ways,” he said.
“Roger is a little bit more of a fluent mover, but Rafa gets to more balls by sort of grinding and standing a long way back and whatever.
“Whereas Roger’s movement is more like Pete’s. They were sort of like a cat, just sort of gliding across the court, cutting off angles extremely well. (Novak) Djokovic moves extremely well, (Andy) Murray moves well.”
Hewitt lost 15 matches in a row to Federer after winning seven of his first nine against the Swiss.
Apart from outrageous talent and textbook technique, Hewitt says Federer’s most bankable asset is intangible.
The X factor.
“Roger is the guy that’s been able to change his game up the most, purely because he doesn’t give you a lot of rhythm most of the time,” Hewitt said.
“He’s sort of changed tennis.
“There are a lot of guys out there now – (Tomas) Berdych, (Marcos) Baghdatis and (Fernando) Gonzalez – who can hit through anything, hit extremely hard. (Juan Martin) Del Potro, guys like that.
“But Roger is able to nullify their pace by using different shots, different shot selections and spin.
“Whereas Rafa has sort of got his A-game and sticks to it the whole time, Roger is actually able to do a lot of different things.”
Source: Herald Sun.
01-15-2011, 12:41 AM
These are all great players but if I could be given the ability to play like any player I'd still choose Jimmy Connors. You just don't see anyone excite the crowds like that any more.