There is this fantastic scene in Top Gun, just after the best fighter pilots in the country arrive in Miramar, where Chief Instructor Mike “Viper” Metcalf explains the objective of the Top Gun program. Essentially, with the advent of heat seeking missiles, fighter pilots lost touch with the nuance of flying jets. They let the technology do all the work and, as a result, U.S. fighter pilot records dipped sharply during the Vietnam War (or so says the film). Top Gun was created to train pilots in the art of dog fighting, shifting the emphasis back on individual performance. Success rates (again, according to the movie) radically improved.
Remarkably, men’s professional tennis has gone through a similar transformation. If you’ve never had the chance to YouTube tennis highlights from the early- and mid-1980s, I highly recommend you try it soon. It will startle you how different the game is. Points last two or three strokes — serve, return, volley off the side of the court. Rackets of this era are indistinguishable from badminton rackets, and provide almost no pace to groundstrokes. It’s all about technique — a chess game, or an episode of cat-and-mouse.