Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the Change One Thing exercise as much as I have. Now it’s time for our final installment.
As is the case with much of Bleacher Report's contributions (mine included), the submissions received so far have fixated on the men’s game. With Part IV, however, a pair of ladies who left the game early come around for their share of recognition: Martina Hingis and my personal fave, Justin Henin.
As before, click on the person’s name to go to his/her Bleacher Report profile. Leading the way will be:
Long John Silver
I guess I have always had a soft corner for grace, dexterity and counter-punchers.
If there was one thing I can change in both my top favorites—the two H’s (Hingis and Hewitt), is their first and even more importantly … their second delivery. Serve is by far the most important tool in a tennis player’s arsenal because it’s the first hit and you can control the point right from the get–go.
It also would have extended their shelf life … because what they lacked in serve they had to make up with their odometer and retrieving abilities. I still will not completely accept that their games are predicated on defense … it absolutely is not. It is predicated on counter-punching, which is the mean of the bell curve between someone like Chang and Philippoussis.
What they lacked in serving, Hewitt made up through sheer doggedness, Hingis made through sheer dexterity and by possessing every shot in the game. Hingis’ second serve was even worse than Hewitt’s …but both possessed a more than a solid volley game. I think a heavier hit would have decreased the stress exerted on the other parts of their game, and increased their shelf life at the top.
But here is the caveat: Unlike someone wanting Safin to be more level-headed by working on his psychological mindset, it is not like Hewitt and Hingis could have possessed a great first serve if they wanted to–they both weren’t the biggest of blokes going around either. It’s genetic … and you can’t simply change that. That’s why I respect and love them even more … they took an initial endowment and maximized its return on investment (Lagrange multiplier is through the roof ….). Cheers.
If I could change one thing about Roger Federer ... I wouldn't. Everyone will jump to Wimby 2008, and Ozzie 2009, but you know what? What happened, happened. I love the guy and accept his painful loses, I hope people don't jump on those finals.
However, if I could change one thing about Bill Tilden, the man with six U.S. Opens in a row and 10 Grand Slam titles, it would be that he never got those prison sentences that kept him from the grand slams for over a year and a half. The poor man missed out on those years and that massively affected his grand slam count.
''Big Bill'' might even be considered the greatest now if not for that; He could have had 15 grand slams! I like looking up this guy as it is the history of the game I love also, and you know, he was number one for seven years!
The other thing is Big Bill had an unbelievable serve, which was recorded back in his days of the 20s and 30s to have been 163.3 miles per hour. If I could change one thing, I would give him a modern tennis racket of today to serve with!!
The other one is Laver. If I could change one thing I would ask him to reconsider his seven-year break!!!! The man is going down in history as the greatest of all-time; that would be unchallenged if he had not taken the break.
And OK fine, I'll say something about king Rodge. If I could change one thing I would take away his nerves and I would take away the fickle media!
If I could change one thing about Wimby 08, it would be that it had fifth set tiebreakers; that in my opinion would have been won by Fed as he has better serve and better tiebreak record against Nadal.
If I could change one thing, I would have the media swing their attention away from the two greats, Roger and Rafa, or even the top four, and focus more on that band of players at the next rung—Simon, del Potro, Tsonga, Davydenko, or even the next, players like Gasquet, Berdych, Ferrer, Nalbandian, Gonzo, who are always hovering in the top 20 but can’t quite get past the Big Four.
I believe in sharing of the limelight. It takes a lot for these players to struggle to stay where they are and they deserve a bit of attention too.
Also, I would have David Nalbandian exorcise the demons in him that stop him from playing consistent great tennis. On song, he is a beauty to watch, and he could beat and has beaten the top players but it frustrates the hell out of me following his career as it goes up and down like a yo-yo.
I miss my thunderbolt: Justine Henin. If I could change just one thing about Justine, and you mentioned changeable qualities like approach to game or personalities: I would change Justine's steeliness off court. She was beloved by many fans of course for her on-court mental toughness but off court, before her reuniting with her family, she was distant.
She should have said something about raising her hand at FO 2003 against Serena and many more fans might have come her way. I have read many awful comments about that moment and I'm saddened by them. I wish she was more like her compatriot Kim Clijsters in this aspect.
That’s the end of our Change One Thing series. Many thanks to all who’ve contributed to the project and all who’ve furthered the discussion on the message boards. I also thank community leader Long John Silver for advertising this project on the community message board and encouraging others to take part.
Collaborations by the Bleacher Report tennis community haven’t been as frequent as they maybe could’ve been, but hopefully this segment will do its part to bring us closer together.
Until next time …