How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate? - MensTennisForums.com
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 07:34 AM Thread Starter
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How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

How much do longevity and sheer numbers (of titles/grand slams etc etc) matter in the debate over who is the greatest of all time? This seems to me to be pertinent in regards to players like Borg who did not let their careers linger on very long. Borg could have won more than 11 grand slams. He retired instead of continuing to play while slightly past his prime.

Should he be penalized greatly for not sticking around for as long? That makes him a less accomplished tennis player, but does it actually make him a worse player? One could argue it doesn't, as it doesn't really affect whether a prime Borg would beat prime Federer or Laver or Sampras.

How long someone sticks around does not affect how good they were in their prime. Which I guess leads to the point. How much do you guys value peak skill level, and how much do you value longevity?




Let me give a scenario to illustrate this:

Imagine a player named John Smith. He goes pro at age 18.

His first two years, he wins the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open both years. He wins the Masters Cup both years, and takes an Olympic Gold Medal during one of the years. He sweeps every single Masters 1000 event in those two years.

Basically, the guy is unbeatable for those two years. He then either gets in a major accident that stops him from playing tennis ever again, or he gets injured and has to retire.

Is he the greatest player of all time? He would only have 8 grand slam titles. Plenty of players have as many or more than that. However, the dominance of this guy would be unparalleled. His peak would undoubtedly be the highest the sport has ever seen.

Personally, I would call this guy the best player ever. I guess I value peak level a lot. This is why I thought Federer was the GOAT before he won the French. His peak 4 years were unreal and unparalleled.
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 07:42 AM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

numbers are all around us...

from the volume of water in our coffee, to how many steps you might have in the run up to kick the neighbours dog...

yes... numbers are very important...
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 07:47 AM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

Imo, longevity is overestimated in Goat debate.

Then some numbers also are in a way.

I think especially of Borg, and, in the opposite, of Rosewall and Agassi (Connors is another debate : people remember too much his longevity and not enough his youth achievements).

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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 03:55 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

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Imo, longevity is overestimated in Goat debate.

Then some numbers also are in a way.

I think especially of Borg, and, in the opposite, of Rosewall and Agassi (Connors is another debate : people remember too much his longevity and not enough his youth achievements).
Though I never really cared for him, I do think Connors is underrated by many. He won more tournaments in the Open era-109 than anyone, 8 Slams- as many as Lendl and 1 more that McEnroe winning the USO on three different surfaces and an AO. Borg and McEnroe only won two different Slams. He also has more weeks at number than anyone except Sampras and Lendl who has two more. He was a great player into is late thirties. Only Rosewall is his superior in that regard.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 03:57 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

Connors is rated where he should be, he won a lot of clown events, where he only needed 3 matches to win the title.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


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I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 03:59 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

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Though I never really cared for him, I do think Connors is underrated by many. He won more tournaments in the Open era-109 than anyone, 8 Slams- as many as Lendl and 1 more that McEnroe winning the USO on three different surfaces and an AO. Borg and McEnroe only won two different Slams. He also has more weeks at number than anyone except Sampras and Lendl who has two more. He was a great player into is late thirties. Only Rosewall is his superior in that regard.

for sure it's always funny for me to see that Agassi is rated by many as superior to Connors

Both of them had longevity, it's true, but Connors had far more successes when he was young.

Problem : the ones who remember when he was young are very very rare.

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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 04:33 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

The only standard that may unify criterions is that of quantity and number. If you take quality as a standard, you are dividing opinions. On Lessthanjackets´ scenario the ratio of victories per year is a qualitative standard, the which becomes debatable at once. Better than John Smith would be a guy that played for only one month and won a slam tournament. That makes 12 slams per year. No GOAT could compete with this achievement. That´s why longevity should be taken out of the equation. As longevity is a merit in itself, let´s forget it, and take absolute numbers to decide who´s the GOAT.
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 05:56 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

longevity is generally overrated. dominance is more important.

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Armstrong says in-competition testing will never catch anyone, only out-of-competition testing and the blood passport can.

Tennis has no blood passport system, and does basically no out of competition testing.

The methods and drugs used by Armstrong in 1999 would work in tennis right now, with zero chance of being caught (not slightly surprising to anyone familiar with the topic, btw).
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 06:03 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

longevity is highly overrated. Domination comes first, that includes how much you dominated and for how long you were able to dominate. Versality comes 2nd to domination, beeing able to adapt to the different conditions which together makes tennis the sport it is. Longevity comes only 3rd and sometimes it doesnt matter at all.
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 06:48 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

I value peak first and foremost, however what separates some great ones from others is the way they respond to challenges from a younger generation of opponents. This is the true great test of one's mettle.

A lot of guys in history dominated their own generation - with the true legends, this typically lasts about 3-4 years. What happens after this varies from player to player. Sometimes it isn't the fact that the player begins to lose something physically or mentally. What perhaps happens is that fresh challengers emerge, hungry to beat the top dog, which puts pressure on the top dog to make adjustments. The more he's at the top, the more familiar and predictable his game is. If he doesn't make adjustments, he will drop. This happened to Federer. It happens to all of them.

I've become more fascinated than in the past with this stage in the player's career. Some guys lose their dominant standing and relinquish it forever. Some fight to get it back and a few succeed. Laver is particularly impressive here, because despite the onslaught of younger challengers in the early days of the open era, he maintains his standing as the best in the game for at least three years. Rosewall, at one point the #1, becomes #2 when Laver emerges, remains #2 for many years and then even manages to best Laver in the early 1970s by winning several top-level titles (including those two Dallas WCT's).

So, my answer in short is that the peak is not enough. Tennis is an evolving game of adjustments.

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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 07:05 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

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Originally Posted by marcRD View Post
longevity is highly overrated. Domination comes first, that includes how much you dominated and for how long you were able to dominate. Versality comes 2nd to domination, beeing able to adapt to the different conditions which together makes tennis the sport it is. Longevity comes only 3rd and sometimes it doesnt matter at all.
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Originally Posted by CyBorg View Post
I value peak first and foremost, however what separates some great ones from others is the way they respond to challenges from a younger generation of opponents. This is the true great test of one's mettle.

A lot of guys in history dominated their own generation - with the true legends, this typically lasts about 3-4 years. What happens after this varies from player to player. Sometimes it isn't the fact that the player begins to lose something physically or mentally. What perhaps happens is that fresh challengers emerge, hungry to beat the top dog, which puts pressure on the top dog to make adjustments. The more he's at the top, the more familiar and predictable his game is. If he doesn't make adjustments, he will drop. This happened to Federer. It happens to all of them.

I've become more fascinated than in the past with this stage in the player's career. Some guys lose their dominant standing and relinquish it forever. Some fight to get it back and a few succeed. Laver is particularly impressive here, because despite the onslaught of younger challengers in the early days of the open era, he maintains his standing as the best in the game for at least three years. Rosewall, at one point the #1, becomes #2 when Laver emerges, remains #2 for many years and then even manages to best Laver in the early 1970s by winning several top-level titles (including those two Dallas WCT's).

So, my answer in short is that the peak is not enough. Tennis is an evolving game of adjustments.
You guys have such keen fingers. I knew you'd save me typing time.

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Originally Posted by philosophicalarf View Post
Armstrong says in-competition testing will never catch anyone, only out-of-competition testing and the blood passport can.

Tennis has no blood passport system, and does basically no out of competition testing.

The methods and drugs used by Armstrong in 1999 would work in tennis right now, with zero chance of being caught (not slightly surprising to anyone familiar with the topic, btw).
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 10:30 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

Like CyBorg said, longevity takes into account a player's versatility and abiliy to change his game when tennis evolves. OTOH I think it might be an false indcation of that if a weak generation comes along. IMO the really weak generation, which both the previous and next generations of players have capitalized on, are the ones born around 1975. Had these been stronger, I think neither of Sampras and Agassi would have had so many slams - and Fed a few less as well.

Compare Greatest Of 90s (Sampras) with GO80s (Lendl). Lendl has 6 slams less but he had Borg and Connors before him, Mac same age as him, and Becker/Edberg/Wilander after. IMO he actually belongs to the GOAT candidates even though he has fewer amount of Slams, since he dominated a very competitive era.

Also, staying around for long makes you look worse if the following generation is strong - Connors lost tons of times to Lendl, Mac et al, so some may say he is a worse player for that reason only. And who would be judged better in the long run - Fed with 12 Slams and a h2h 6-8 vs Nadal, or Fed with 14 Slams and career GS but h2h 7-13 vs Nadal? Depends on who you ask...


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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 11:14 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

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IMO the really weak generation, which both the previous and next generations of players have capitalized on, are the ones born around 1975. Had these been stronger, I think neither of Sampras and Agassi would have had so many slams - and Fed a few less as well.
I agree with nearly everything you say (not completely for Lendl's competitors though),

but it's strange that you say that this generation might have prevented Fed from winning slams.

Fed won his first slam (and only one, next one in 2004) in 2003 : these players were around 28 years old, that's quite old, they should have been not only better but really great to win slams against Federer at that age.

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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 11:19 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

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I agree with nearly everything you say (not completely for Lendl's competitors though),

but it's strange that you say that this generation might have prevented Fed from winning slams.

Fed won his first slam (and only one, next one in 2004) in 2003 : these players were around 28 years old, that's quite old, they should have been not only better but really great to win slams against Federer at that age.
Ok, give or take 2 years. A first rate player born in 77 would still be only around 26 years old in 03-04, so Fed's tally would (at least could) have suffered.


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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-14-2009, 11:22 PM
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Re: How much do longevity and numbers matter in GOAT debate?

Well what else defines a GOAT other than these two factors?

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