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post #1 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-20-2005, 07:59 PM Thread Starter
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Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

I'm sure that this topic has been raised in the past on this board, but I'm curious having just transferred over from the ESPN Message Board with regards to how the majority feels on this topic of which of the 3 were the Greatest ever or in what particular order you would put them in ?

I'd say Laver, Borg & Sampras ...

Laver was the best all-around player, he had so much variety in his arsenal and what he'd be able to do with a racquet like Federer's would be plain scary. You're talking about a guy that had no help from mother nature, stood 5'8 and weighed 150lbs, collected slam after slam, conducted himself with class and I can't find a weakness in his game. He also had quite stiff competition.

Borg, I would put 2nd, he proved that he could win on all surfaces and the fact that he was always under control it seemed as if no matter what you did he refused to let you off the court with a win, also how impressive is it to win French Open & Wimbledon both the same in 1 year many have not been able to conquer clay even once but Borg did it how many times ?

Sampras I would say would be the first real product or result of technology, he had a great serve and was an above average volleyer; however, I feel as though his slams were achieved through longevity and not necessary his level of performance ... if you look at his career and see how each Slam is spread out other than Wimbledon he was never completely dominant ... he also was anemic on clay ... I don't think that you can ever consider him best all of time ... he simply could not make the adjustment to clay ... even Agassi has a career slam and Pete doesn't, despite his winning record over him ... in my honest opinion other than his dominance on Grass he's lucky to be mentioned in the same sentence as a Laver or a Borg... but you can't ignore his staggering numbers and statistics regardless how pathetic he was on Clay.
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post #2 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-20-2005, 10:12 PM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

Sampras. I only got to see Borg play when I was just a kid.

One thing that people forget to mention about Borg and especially Laver is their size. Borg was of medium size which wouldn't be that detrimental to him in today's game, but Laver was 5'8''. Do you think a player 5'8" would win 2 calendar year Grand Slams in today's game?
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post #3 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-20-2005, 10:31 PM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

How could you understate Sampras' career like that ?
I believe I can speak for most people and tell you that he's the greatest player of all time if you look at his career achievements. It is also difficult to compare players of different generations but from the post Lendl era , I would rank Pete as the greatest player . Borg and Laver are equal in my opinion .
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post #4 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-20-2005, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

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Originally Posted by wimbledonfan
How could you understate Sampras' career like that ?
I believe I can speak for most people and tell you that he's the greatest player of all time if you look at his career achievements. It is also difficult to compare players of different generations but from the post Lendl era , I would rank Pete as the greatest player . Borg and Laver are equal in my opinion .
If Sampras were the greatest ever he would have won on Clay, prevailed and conquered his inner-demons in Paris, instead he all but ran away from the F.O after 1998, while players like Borg dominated on all surfaces at the time.
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post #5 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-20-2005, 10:45 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

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Originally Posted by NYCtennisfan
Sampras. I only got to see Borg play when I was just a kid.

One thing that people forget to mention about Borg and especially Laver is their size. Borg was of medium size which wouldn't be that detrimental to him in today's game, but Laver was 5'8''. Do you think a player 5'8" would win 2 calendar year Grand Slams in today's game?
Sure, size has nothing to do with it ... it's all skill.

Lots of little guys have done big things.
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post #6 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-21-2005, 02:05 AM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

How about this:

Laver won the calendar Grand Slam in 1962, then turned pro so couldn't play any more Slams until 1968 when Open tennis started.

So he couldn't play any Slams for 5 years - that's 20 Slam tournaments. Then we won the calendar Grand Slam again in 1969.

What may else may have he achieved if he was able to play the Slams in those years.

Then again - other players like Rosewall and Gonzales would also have been eligible to play the regular tour as well during that period so that would have to be factored in.

I'm not quite sure what size has to do with the historical records. Laver's record should only be taken in the context of what he actually did - not how he might fare against today's players - I can't see the purpose of that.
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post #7 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-21-2005, 02:37 AM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

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Sure, size has nothing to do with it ... it's all skill.

Lots of little guys have done big things.
That was a different time. There is no way in hell anyone 5'8" is going to even win 4 slams let alone all 4 in one year twice.

Sampras could've won RG at least once if he actually put some effort into being a better clay player and was determined to win RG. As it was, there were a lot of players better than him on clay so he would need to play at his absolute best and get some help from his opponents. Tennis was also more departmentalized when Sampras played. There were players who were really good on clay and concnetrated on clay which made Sampras' task even more difficult.
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post #8 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-21-2005, 02:45 AM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

Good thread and all, but you forgot the greatest player in the game's history...

Agassi - The best hardcourter of all time, with record HC singles titles.
In an era when competition was at its heaviest, he became the only player to shine on all surfaces.
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post #9 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-21-2005, 02:52 AM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

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Originally Posted by NYCtennisfan
That was a different time. There is no way in hell anyone 5'8" is going to even win 4 slams let alone all 4 in one year twice.

Sampras could've won RG at least once if he actually put some effort into being a better clay player and was determined to win RG. As it was, there were a lot of players better than him on clay so he would need to play at his absolute best and get some help from his opponents. Tennis was also more departmentalized when Sampras played. There were players who were really good on clay and concnetrated on clay which made Sampras' task even more difficult.
Yep. I also think that the game is so much faster now. Although Borg and Laver were extremely talented, they had the luxury of time when they hit each ball. They could decide what to do with each and every ball, and hit almost any shot they want.

Now, players are limited in what they can do with a given ball because the game is so fast, and the spin people generate is incredible. For all the variety in the laver era, the different paces and spins people could put on the ball was limited. It was probably easier to establish a rhythm with the ball travelling over the net in a similar manner every time.
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post #10 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-21-2005, 02:54 AM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

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Originally Posted by NYCtennisfan
That was a different time. There is no way in hell anyone 5'8" is going to even win 4 slams let alone all 4 in one year twice.

Sampras could've won RG at least once if he actually put some effort into being a better clay player and was determined to win RG. As it was, there were a lot of players better than him on clay so he would need to play at his absolute best and get some help from his opponents. Tennis was also more departmentalized when Sampras played. There were players who were really good on clay and concnetrated on clay which made Sampras' task even more difficult.
Hi NYCtennisfan

Your point is relevant if you are discussing who could be competitive in today's game given the equipment that is available etc. It certainly does favour the players with brute power.

However, if we are discussing the greatest ever, then we should stick to the achievements of the players in their era under the conditions they played and against their opponents. Trying to consider how you think they may translate into another era is pointless really. Of course it can be fun and nothing wrong with it as long as you are not trying to suggest who is the best based on how they would go today. And if you are going to do it, then try the reverse point as well - how would today's players go in an era of wooden rackets and the game on predominantly 2 surfaces - grass and clay. Once again, it's all conjecture... I guess you have a bit of fun imagining it ... but it means nothing compared to the truth - which is how a player actually performed in their given reality.

Last edited by tennisvideos; 08-21-2005 at 02:59 AM.
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post #11 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-21-2005, 03:17 AM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

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Originally Posted by World Beater
Yep. I also think that the game is so much faster now. Although Borg and Laver were extremely talented, they had the luxury of time when they hit each ball. They could decide what to do with each and every ball, and hit almost any shot they want.

Now, players are limited in what they can do with a given ball because the game is so fast, and the spin people generate is incredible. For all the variety in the laver era, the different paces and spins people could put on the ball was limited. It was probably easier to establish a rhythm with the ball travelling over the net in a similar manner every time.
And your point is? Of course it is obvious to anyone who has followed the sport that the game has changed incredibly over the years ... especially since the introduction of large rackets with modern materials etc. These days people can generate all sorts of spin and power much more easily.

But does that mean that a player in today's conditions is any better than someone in a different era playing under their conditions? No. It's like comparing apples and oranges ... or a car racing driver in an old car from the 1920s vs a car racing driver in one of today's cars. The equipment is so different that you cannot compare them - doesn't mean the old car driver (or tennis player) didn't have any less skill and ability.

As for establishing a rhythm with the ball travelling over the net in a similar manner every time comment - to quote McEnroe "You cannot be serious!". In the 60s and 70s there was FAR MORE variety of play than there is today. In those days there were a lot more serve and volleyers in addition to clay court maestros. Just watch the 1969 Wimbledon Final between Laver and Newcombe as one example - big serves, spin serves, topspin drives, slice shots, dinks, drop shots, lobs, passing shots. A great example where every shot in the book was excercised. Just one example. Take a look at today's game and what do you have - except for one or two all court players - you have a bunch of guys bashing the ball from the baseline with their power rackets - largely with topspin. Some players slice the ball, but you certainly don't have anywhere near as much variety as you did 30 years ago - those guys knew how to break up a rhythm.
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post #12 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-21-2005, 03:31 AM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

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Originally Posted by tennisvideos
Hi NYCtennisfan

Your point is relevant if you are discussing who could be competitive in today's game given the equipment that is available etc. It certainly does favour the players with brute power.

However, if we are discussing the greatest ever, then we should stick to the achievements of the players in their era under the conditions they played and against their opponents. Trying to consider how you think they may translate into another era is pointless really. Of course it can be fun and nothing wrong with it as long as you are not trying to suggest who is the best based on how they would go today. And if you are going to do it, then try the reverse point as well - how would today's players go in an era of wooden rackets and the game on predominantly 2 surfaces - grass and clay. Once again, it's all conjecture... I guess you have a bit of fun imagining it ... but it means nothing compared to the truth - which is how a player actually performed in their given reality.
That is so well said, tennisvideos. I'[m going to copy this, so I have it in hand when folks make these conjectures of how a champion of the 60s would fare against today's champions. It's what someone accomplishes in their own time that tells you how good they are, not some meaningless comparison that can never be proven. To me, Sampras' ability to finish No. 1 for six consecutive years seals the deal. But Laver's two grand slams under such odd circumstances and seven years apart makes it a neck-and-neck race. I loved Borg, but can a non-U.S. Open winner really be the third best ever, even when he had three chances to win that title on his beloved clay? Hmmm. I'm not sure I have the discipline to do a top 10 of all time, but here goes my best shot at it -- open era only:

1. Sampras, 2. Laver, 3. Borg, 4. Lendl, 5. McEnroe, 6. Connors, 7. Agassi, 8., 9. and 10. you pick 'em: Edberg, Becker, Newcombe, Rosewall, S. Smith, Wilander, Nastase, Federer. Rosewall may be a sentimental pick here, but that WCT win over Laver was just phenomenal. And Smith and Nastase are also borderline.
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post #13 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-21-2005, 04:15 AM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

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Originally Posted by tennisvideos
How about this:

Laver won the calendar Grand Slam in 1962, then turned pro so couldn't play any more Slams until 1968 when Open tennis started.

So he couldn't play any Slams for 5 years - that's 20 Slam tournaments. Then we won the calendar Grand Slam again in 1969.

What may else may have he achieved if he was able to play the Slams in those years.

Then again - other players like Rosewall and Gonzales would also have been eligible to play the regular tour as well during that period so that would have to be factored in.

I'm not quite sure what size has to do with the historical records. Laver's record should only be taken in the context of what he actually did - not how he might fare against today's players - I can't see the purpose of that.

Had Laver and the other professionals been allowed to play the slams who knows how many he would have won. That he won on clay as well as fast surfaces is a testament to his greatness. He was the last man to win a grand slam. That to me says everything when talking about who was the greatest of all time.

Laver was cleaning up on the pro tour pretty regularly..... It would have been great to see him and Gonzales battle at the slams during the heart of their careers.
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post #14 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-21-2005, 05:09 AM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

Hi there tennisvideos. I think our definition of best ever is different. To me, someone with results and a more developed game is the better player, even if that gives someone further along in time an unfair advantage.

If we go by results, we can go all the way back to people like Tilden who hardly ever lost. I know that it is unfair, but the players of today are bigger, stronger, faster, better trained and can do more things with the ball. That's why someone like Sampras to me go go to any era and play with the while I don't think some of the players in the past could play now. Laver being only 5'8" could not dominate in today's game but a player from today could theoretically dominate in the past.

I'm probably older than most on this board and so I have seen the development of the game right in front of my eyes via the USO, the Forrest Hills tourny and the Long Island tourny. The game has changed so much and it is difficult for me to compare players only with their eras because today's game has so much more depth and quality.
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post #15 of 37 (permalink) Old 08-21-2005, 05:28 AM
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Re: Question regarding: Laver, Borg & Sampras

Easily, Laver has to be considered the best ever. His record speaks for itself.

Borg would easily be 2nd. His level of consistency on all surfaces. From 1978 to 1981, he made the finals of 11 of the 12 Grand Slam tournaments he entered, and won 7 of them. That, on top of the previous 4 GS titles he had already won prior to 1978, 2 on clay and 2 on grass. In addition to winning the indoor Year-end Championships during some of those years, too.

Personally, I hesitate to put alot of weight on total GS championships for any one individual when that # is skewed by a heavy amount of wins in one tournament or one surface. For Sampras, 50% of his GS titles came at Wimbledon. An impressive feat, but it only proves that he's probably the best grass court player ever. His remaining GS wins were on hard courts. He didn't even come close on clay, never even winning a single tournament, much less even being competitive at the FO. Similar can be said for Navratilova. 67% of her total GS titles came from Wimbledon or the AO (when played on grass). Again, only proving that she's no doubt the best grass court female of all time. To her credit, though, she did win other clay court tournaments.
I would still rank Sampras as a solid #3, with Connors, McEnroe, and Lendl as very close #4,5,and 6.

Last edited by senorgato; 08-21-2005 at 05:31 AM.
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