The good lady makes so much sense…
…as always. So, Agassi retired yesterday. Not really my favourite player, nevertheless he was easily the most charismatic player of his generation, and the next, for that matter. Quite amazing, all that he brought to tennis, but he was truly the first of these “great baseliners” as Martina rather generously puts it. Baseline brutes is what I would call them. Simply watching guys like Fernando Gonzalez is like having your head pounded with an hammer.
Q. Are you disappointed in the players or coaches, in the decline of how women play doubles?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: Hmm. It’s not a decline really. It’s different strategies. It just goes to show you how much the racquets have changed the game. That actually players can win from the baseline in doubles, on the men’s tour and the women’s tour. You can be a great volleyer and still not be able to win on a slower court against great baseliners. Two people on the baseline, two people at the net, you should win every time. It does not happen.
The racquets help the groundstrokes so much more than they help the volley. If we were playing with the old wooden racquets, or at least smaller head racquets, you would not see doubles played the way it is now successfully. You would have the serve and volleyers very much more successful.
I am disappointed with the direction the game is going, period, not just in doubles but in singles. I’m disappointed that the racquet manufacturers are dictating what kind of tennis we’re watching. That’s who dictates, it’s the people who make the racquets.
They’re saying, Oh, this is the racquets we need to be playing with. The powers that be aren’t regulating it enough. I mean, you see in golf, you have so many rules and regulations as to the grooves, the size, the shape, the weight, everything, the length. We have so little on the tennis racquets. And the strings, as well.
I can do things with the ball now that I couldn’t have done 10 years ago, certainly not 20 years ago. I hit a shot in doubles the other day, I was back pedaling. I was about 15 feet behind the baseline in the left corner. I rolled a cross court forehand dipper into the other corner. I couldn’t have dreamt of trying to hit that shot 20 years ago.
So the racquets just really help the baseliner. You know, you’re not going to see serve and volleyers that are successful at this level playing with the racquets that we’re playing with, playing with the strings we’re playing with.
Q. What would you do?
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: What would I do? I would regulate it. I would put some kind of restriction on the strings, for sure. Because the materials are getting so much better. They bite the ball so much. It’s almost illegal spin that you can put on the ball. You can spin the ball so much.
If you want to put the spin, then you need to make the court bounce slower. You’ll be bouncing balls over people’s heads pretty soon the way the balls are going.
The racquets, I think they need to be smaller head so the sweet spot is smaller. You cannot anybody can swing and the ball will still go in because the spin brings the ball. So you can swing as hard as you want. You have a sweet spot this size, and the ball will still go in because of all the spin you put on the ball.
It takes less skill to hit great shots or to hit powerful shots because you just bang away. It’s almost like racquetball. Tennis used to be more like squash, now it’s more like racquetball. Hit the ball as hard as you can, it will still go in.