John McEnroe Says Stan Wawrinka Has The Greatest Shot In Tennis History, Brad Gilbert Responds No Way [Video]

by Tom Gainey | July 1st, 2015, 10:37 am

On Monday during ESPN’s Wimbledon coverage, outspoken John McEnroe declared Stan Wawrinka’s backhand the greatest shot he’s ever seen in tennis. Today, while seated next to McEnroe on the set, Brad Gilbert revealed his best shots in the history of the game.

Gilbert says Pete Sampras and Boris Becker have the best serves and shots ever in the game. He rates Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Ivan Lendl’s forehands as tops in that category.

Former pupil Andre Agassi, Gilbert said, had a better backhand than Wawrinka. He also tabs Novak Djokovic’s return of serve and McEnroe as the best volleyer the game has ever seen.

Do you agree or disagree? Is Wawrinka’s backhand the single best shot ever in tennis?

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24 Comments for John McEnroe Says Stan Wawrinka Has The Greatest Shot In Tennis History, Brad Gilbert Responds No Way [Video]

Humble Rafa Says:

It’s definitely the best in his country…that neutral one.

skeezer Says:

Some may have others in mind about the top servers, but Boris and Sampras didn’t just have a that first big serve. They had a big 2nd serve also, and great direction and control of both serves. J-mac’s serve should be up there too, the best lefty can opener serve in the business.

M Says:

I am starting to wonder about Johnny Mac.

He was a great champion and I love his commentary & interviews generally … but he said nearly the same thing the year Rafa won his 7th RG and outpaced Borg, about his FH, and I can’t imagine at some point he’s said the same thing about Roger’s serve & FH.

It just feels a bit … star-chasing?

Emily Says:

Considering his commentary during the FO final, which I could barely stand b/c he was so pro-Nole and dismissive of Stan, he is definitely a star-chaser.

Sometimes I wonder if he has any idea what’s happening in tennis, b/c he makes comments that are so out of the loop. He talks about how he liked that Stan stood back to return the 2nd serve in the final, but if he had watched him play ever, he would know he always does that. He didn’t change his tactics, he just played his best game.

I’ve heard him be complimentary of Stan’s BH before, but if he was watching the match, it was the forehand winners that allowed him to dictate. His BH can make your mouth drop, but it is not as consistent as it should be. That shot was just really clutch at certain moments in the final. However, it’s great he’s complimentary of Stan right now, but I don’t really expect it to last.

Hippy Chick Says:

Emily thanks for your post to me on the other thread ;)….

Emily Says:

HC, no problem, I respect sticking w/ your fave and I don’t understand why people feel the need to attack the other guy or revel in their struggles. It’s why I stayed clear of the Andy vs. Stan thread.

My advice, don’t let some of these posts get to you, just focus on supporting Rafa b/c his ranking is going to go up and he’s one of the greats, no matter what

chris ford1 Says:

Sometimes a non-star may have an incredible skill, like the Isner serve or the Tomas Muster backhand, but they are not in the discussion because they are not in the dozen “stars” the announcers are most familiar with and can talk on and on about.

That said, there are skills used for different things. Federer has a superb serve. But his approach to it is not about getting a high ace count to help him win, but to use pinpoint placement to get opponents off balance and out of position. Djokovic’s and Borg’s backhand was not about the power of Stan – or the prettiness to the Gasquet and Fed one-handers. It was about helping them win position and get the angles they wanted.
The Agassi return of serve is almost as, if not better than Nole’s. Djokovic has better stats, but he didn’t have to face Sampras or the faster courts Andre did.
And since the players almost all say the usual factors that decide the edge against the creme de la creme of talent is about conditioning and mental strength, who leads there? Yes, sometimes all that is negated by a power game like Stan or del Potro being “on”, but who is tough? Who hangs tough and never quits? Jimmy Connors. Nole 2.0. Lendl. Fed when he is confident. And maybe toughest of all, Rafa and his OCD.
Speed. Laver was fast. Sampras was deceptfully fast. But who used the top speed they were blessed with best to be able to get to a ball and consistently do something with it on defense? That would be Borg. Along with Rafa, Nole, and Andy. Love to add Monfils but he is not a consistent wizard.

Last and not least, who puts all their skills together to be a week in and week out pro who is always there, almost always showing consistent excellence? Lots of wins and going deep?
Federer with his ironman record as #1 for 3-2 weeks. Connors, MacEnroe, and Lendl who had tougher competition than Fed did in his early years. Sampras. Now Djokovic. Who will soon pass McEnroe and be 5th on the list of most weeks as top rated player..

Tennisfan Says:

McEnroe and Wilander are always spouting non-sense. They should definitely stop hiring them as tennis “experts.” Being a past-champion won’t always translate well into having a depth of knowledge about the current tour and game.

jane Says:

wilander is annoying. i have mixed feelings about j-mac; sometimes he is awesome and other times he rambles too much.

Wog Boy Says:


Agree, he rambled to much last night in Nole’s match, the point well on the way and he talks and talks…

roy Says:

nalbandian, djokovic, murray, all better backhands than agassi. the first two EASILY better backhands in terms of offensive capability.

the best way to see that is compare how federer and nadal handled the backhand of agassi compared to those other three (or even davydenko, safin and more).

nadal and federer both acknowledged the nightmare of nalbandian’s backhand and both have struggled big time against novak’s. agassi’s backhand never cause them too many problems, however.

madmax Says:

Depends on the time of day with John McEnroe. The mood that suits; I hear him say a lot of tripe at Wimbledon right now. He really does bask in his own glory on TV and Radio. Like Boris too.

These two would do well to give it a rest, I think.

Stan has a beautiful backhand, but then so does Fed. He raved about Fed’s backhands, he has raved about Stan’s back hand, Cilic’s backhand, Dimitrov’s backhand. Then Bang. Depending on his favourite at that time, it’s them!

Pat Cash, listening to him I think has become so bitter about Federer and dismissive too.

Did Pat Cash and Johnny Mac ever like each other?
Does anyone know?

madmax Says:

An interesting article on the one handed back hand.

The one-handed backhand drive—hit with topspin, rather than sliced defensively—is perhaps the most elegant shot in tennis. Mr Wawrinka’s is a model of the genre: a flowing, full-blooded sweep of the racquet that marries power and timing. Yet despite its appeal to purists, the one-hander is unpopular with professional players. It is more difficult, with a much smaller margin for error, than its two-fisted counterpart. Most prefer the more compact and clinical two-hander. Of the 50 top-ranked men players, only 12 use one-handed backhands. In the women’s game, only three players in the top 50 hit one-handed.

madmax Says:

jane Says:
wilander is annoying. i have mixed feelings about j-mac; sometimes he is awesome and other times he rambles too much.

July 1st, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Wog Boy Says:

Agree, he rambled to much last night in Nole’s match, the point well on the way and he talks and talks…

July 1st, 2015 at 8:27 pm

Jane and Wogboy,

I am finding a difference in J Mac’s delivery of Wimbledon this year, more than ever.

I completely agree with you both about his rambling.

He just doesn’t stop. He really doesn’t.

elina Says:

Before Nadal’s first round match, j-ma was still making the argument that Rafa is the greatest player of all time while he is No. 10 in the world.

Hardly star-chasing.

SG1 Says:

I’ve come to expect this kind of Flavor of the Month stuff from McEnroe. It’s annoying and flawed but at least it’s expected. Clearly, Sampras’ serve and Ivan Lendl’s forehand are better shots. Their major total, title total and place in tennis history were built on those weapons. Stan’s best shot hasn’t brought him that level of success. But, if Mac had said Stan has the best backhand ever (one handed or two), I could buy that. I’ve never seen a better one (though Justine Henin’s is close).

The guy I have an issue with is Brad Gilbert. He is such an Agassi proponent that he can’t see pretty much anything else. Agassi’s backhand better than Stan’s? Puhleeeze! Don’t get me wrong. Agassi’s backhand was excellent and one of the better one’s ever. But I’m sorry…Stan’s is better. It’s so much more explosive than Andre’s was and just as consistent.

So to conclude…both Brad Gilbert and Mac are out to lunch here.

SG1 Says:

Gilbert’s still trying to convince anyone who will listen that Andre was better than Pete. Completely laughable!

SG1 Says:

And here’s hoping the one-handed backhand makes a comeback. It’s so much nicer to watch and provides a player with more reach. It also promotes more feel and touch when a shot has to be improvised.

Madmax had indicated that a very small % of today’s top 50 use the one hander. Statistics being what they are, I propose that if you want to be an all-time great, you’re better off with a one hander. Sampras, Federer & Laver vs. Borg and Rafa. I don’t think that anyone would argue to excessively with those being the Top 5 Open Era players ever.

Cena Says:

I knew there was a reason I always agree with Johnny Mc. He’s sharpe, fair, calls it as he sees it–correct, and knows his tennis. You are so right J Mc, Stan’s backhand is a thing of beauty!

Miles Says:

Elina, and at the end of the Dustin Brown match, suddenly Nadal was only one of the two greatest players of all time! If Federer wins this Wimbledon, you can bet your bottom dollar that McEnroe will say that Federer is the greatest ever!It really does depend what mood J Mac’s in!

Fedal Says:

Federer forehand
Wawrinkas Backhand
Sampras Serve
Edberg Volleying
Djokovics Sliding
Nadals topspin forehand
Agassi return
the list goes on…

eric Says:

Id say Wawrinka doesn’t have the best shot in history. In order for that to be true he would need to win a lot more tournaments. Its not just about having a great shot but doing it over and over in matches and slams.

MMT Says:

I’m with Skeezer – McEnroe comes up with a new “greatest” every other month, and earlier in that segment, he begins to explain to his colleagues that basically sometimes he has to fill the air time.

I think the next time someone uses John McEnroe to support an argument, you should remember this and all the other “greatests” he’s come up with over the years. Frankly, I don’t take him seriously any more, when it comes to these discussions.

He still makes sense tactically and technically from time to time, but those occasions are few and far between for my liking. I much prefer technical and tactical analysis, which is really lacking these days on ESPN.

BTW, has anyone else noticed they’re bringing Nick Lester into the studio to do technical and tactical analysis? Tacitly I think they’re conceding that the guys they have aren’t doing that well enough, and I would agree wholeheartedly with that.

MMT Says:

Madmax – interesting article – of course I disagree that it is a question of strength with the 1-handed backhand. I’ve seen children no taller than my hip hit effective 1-handed backhands with the proper technique, the problem is that nobody wants to concede competitiveness while the proper technique is learned. The only ones willing to do this are the most talented players at an early age that make up for their lack of mastery of the technique with innate hand-eye coordination.

That’s not to say that the only talented players are those that hit a 1-hander, but those players that do, tend to be exceptionally talented because of what they would otherwise normally have to give up in order to employ that stroke during their developmental years.

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