Article in tennisweek comparing the greats (including pre open era) [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

Article in tennisweek comparing the greats (including pre open era)

marcRD
09-16-2007, 12:00 PM
Althought I dont agree the way they value small tournaments and winning % as much as grand slams in their statistical comparasion of greats, it is a great article for those unsure about the talent of the old greats compared to the open era greats and how to compare their achievments:

1st you have the statistical

table:http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=17412




http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=17405&bannerregion=



Greatest Player Of All Time: A Statistical Analysis

I have been watching and reading about tennis players and following the history of tennis for many years now. The question that come up every year without fail is "Who is the greatest player of all time?" Since the Open Era began in 1968 there have been many World Champions.

The first recognized World Champion of the Open Era was the Australian, Rodney George Laver popularly known as "The Rocket." After his Grand Slam in 1969 which was the first "Open Grand Slam" (major tournaments open to amateurs and professionals) many called Laver the Greatest of All Time.

A few years later, in 1974 Jimmy Connors came along and dominated the game with one of the most incredible years a player has ever had, winning three out of three majors entered (he was banned from the French Open because he dared commit the sin of playing World Team Tennis) and 99 of 103 matches played. Connors was called by many to be the Greatest of All Time. Succeeding Connors as number one was Bjorn Borg, who dominated tennis for many years with his seemingly infallible baseline play and passing shots. Borg was also called the Greatest of All Time. Later in the 1970’s came John McEnroe with his great serve and volley and fine touch game. He had a year in 1984 which was something to be believed, winning 13 of 15 tournaments and two of the three majors entered and in the one major he lost that season, Roland Garros, McEnroe led Ivan Lendl by two sets to none in the final. Guess what McEnroe was called by many? The Greatest of All Time! What a surprise!

The same is true for Pete Sampras and currently Roger Federer. They each has been widely extolled as, the You-Know-What of All Time. Well doesn’t it seem strange to you that we have so many players who have been crowned "The Greatest Player of All Time?" Thus far I have only gone back only as far as the year 1968 and it seems that everyone, including your little sister's 2-year-old son has been the crowned the You-Know-What at one time or another.

Tennis has been around way before 1968 so you would think that perhaps some of the top players before that must have been pretty good also. Tennis is a wonderful sport, with a long and glorious history. One of the problems with researching tennis history is that we have very few numbers to back up many of the stories and information that the old players and tennis historians have spoken and written about over the years. The numbers we do have are basically since 1968 and those numbers are often inaccurate. For example Rod Laver has been cited by different sources to have earned 39, 47 or 54 total tournament victories. Those numbers don’t count tournaments before 1968 and don’t include his Grand Slam of 1962 as part of his total tournament victory total. Yet these same sources admit he won the four majors in 1962! Think about this, they don’t count the Australian Championship, French Championship, Wimbledon or the United States Championship (all four major tournaments) in 1962 as one of his career tournament victories but they do count each as one of the majors he won. The players who played before 1968 don’t have any of their tournament victories counted in their records, even if they won majors. All of that is unusual bookkeeping to me and frankly not logical! What the records tell you is that the players pre-1968 didn’t exist and yet on occasion existed! Sounds silly but true nevertheless. Perhaps some scientist who understands Quantum Physics may understand this but I fail to comprehend it.

Since we are not privy to all the tennis records as is the case in many other sports like the NBA or Major League Baseball in the United States we don’t know who is the best statistically. Because of that we often rate players by how smooth their strokes are or how powerfully they can hit the ball. But think about it: It is not how good the player looks, but the results that count. Some players may be beautiful-looking ball strikers but never win anything and some players can have some ugly strokes but they can win majors.

The equipment we use to play tennis has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Today we have super large rackets constructed with space age materials filled with polyester string that allows players to rip the ball as hard as the can and still generate the necessary topspin to keep the ball in the court. With the larger hitting surface there are far fewer mis-hits and it makes it much easier to hit with great spin, especially topspin. The lightness of the materials of these new rackets allow for greater racket head speed which also helps with power and spin. People marvel at Roger Federer’s wonderful shotmaking and are stunned at the angles he can hit. We are amazed at the power of the wonderful female players like Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Justin Henin and Maria Sharapova and how they hit the ball perhaps even harder than the male players of yesteryear! Gee, I wonder what the reason could be?

I’m sure most of the seemingly magical shotmaking is due to the players, but a good percentage of it is owed to the new hi-tech rackets. These rackets even allow a hacker like me to mi s-hit less and that’s saying something! Many of the players of the past would do quite well if magically they were allowed to play with the current rackets in their physical prime. I’m sure Pancho Gonzalez would be able to hit a topspin backhand much more efficiently if he had the rackets of today! But does anyone think that another Gonzalez — Fernando Gonzalez would be able to hit 42 winners and have only three unforced errors in a match several months ago without the current super rackets we have today? I don’t think so.

Rod Laver with his massive left arm and wrist (his left wrist was measured to be as large as the world heavyweight boxing champion) produced topspin off both sides with the small wooden racket-face he used and probably would produce more power and sharper angles than in his best years if today's equipment was available to him in his prime.

One thing that often bothers me about people giving reasons for why they say one player or another is the best ever in tennis history is when they give the amount of total majors won without giving the amount of majors a player has entered. For example Pete Sampras holds the current record for total majors won (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, United States Open) with 14 but they never say how many of the majors he has entered. Sampras entered 4 majors a year, the maximum possible for a calendar year for the majority of his career. He entered 52 majors and won 14. This is superb but hardly superhuman. It’s just the law of numbers and probability that Sampras, considering he’s great player would win a lot of majors if he entered enough majors. Of course this is assuming he maintains his talent and skill level.

To put it into perspective, Don Budge entered only 11 majors in his entire career, winning 6. Jack Kramer entered only 9 majors in his career, winning 3. They both entered fewer majors than Sampras won! Combined they entered less than half the majors Sampras entered (granted the fields they faced were not nearly as deep as the depth of the game in recent years).

Conditions affecting tournament tennis and the importance of the major tournaments have differed over the years. For example many players in the 1970’s to early 1980’s did not want to play the Australian Open. The reason for this was because while it technically was a major the players did not think it was an important tournament. The other reason was the timing of the event. It was often played toward the end of the year during major holidays in which the players wanted to relax and be with their families. I’m sure if Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe entered the Australian in those days, they would have picked up a few more Australian titles. Borg probably would have won at least three Australian Open titles in my opinion if he played in it from 1976 to 1981, even if all the best players entered. The event was played on grass in those days and Borg was the dominant player on grass for most of that time.

Nowadays with airplane travel the players can easily enter every major tournament with no problems. In Bill Tilden’s, Ellsworth Vines’, Fred Perry’s and Don Budge’s day they would have to travel by boat and lose many weeks of time in travel. Most players did not want to do that at the time because not only would they lose the time but it would affect their play. By affecting their play I mean by travel lag, loss of training time and tournament play because of the lost time spent on a boat to get to the destination.

So a player like Bill Tilden only won 10 majors but he easily could have won more majors if he was able to play in more major tournaments during his peak years.

Here’s a list of the top players we will compare statistically and what type of players they were in their day.

* Bill Tilden — The first major superstar in men’s tennis. He was primarily a baseliner as most were during his day. Tilden had wonderful forehand and excellent backhand. He was considered to be the best server of his time. Tilden was not a “natural” at the game. His backhand was a very poor shot (relatively speaking of course) until he worked on his offensive backhand during the winter of 1919-1920 in Providence, Rhode Island. Once he mastered his offensive backhand he became virtually unbeatable and was the best player in the world. He was a very versatile player who could hit with a variety of spins and angles as well as great power. While he was not an exceptional net player he was good enough. Tilden was a brilliant student of the game. His book “Match Play and the Spin of the Ball” is a classic. Generations of tennis players studied and grew up on this book. Tilden was named the “Player of the Half Century” by an Associate Press poll in 1950. Will he still be the Greatest up to now in the 21st century? Perhaps.
* Ellsworth Vines — is considered by many to be one of the hardest hitter of the ball in tennis history. Many people including Jack Kramer (who may be a bit partial since he and Vines were good friends and he admits that Vines was his idol) and the noted tennis writer Allison Danzig believe that when Vines was on that he was the best player ever. Legend has it when Vines served his final ace on match point of the 1932 Wimbledon final against Bunny Austin that the ball was hit so hard that Austin did not know which side the ball aced him on. Frankly I find it a bit hard to believe but I suppose it was to make the point about how hard the ball was hit on that match point. Vines was known for his huge serve and his very powerful flat forehand. The forehand had to clear the net by a small margin or else the ball would go out. The backhand was good and Vines had an excellent net game and overhead.
* Fred Perry — The top British player of all time. The British have been trying for over 70 years so far to find a replacement for him. It’s almost an impossible task since Perry won Wimbledon three years in a row from 1934 to 1936 and won every major tournament over the course of his amateur career. Perry was extremely fast with seemingly unlimited stamina. He had a consistent backhand and was a good volleyer, but he was known for his strong continental forehand that was hit on the rise. It has been rated by some as one of the best forehands of all time. In "Tennis Myth and Method" by Ellsworth Vines and Gene Vier., Bobby Riggs described Perry as "The most ruthless player who ever walked on a court. An inexorable determination which even outdid Kramer’s or Gonzalez’s. Not only did Perry have the ultimate in competitive spirit but a stamina which was a constant source of awe to opponents. Such a big edge it’s unbelievable."
* Don Budge —The first Grand Slam winner. Budge won the Australian, French, Wimbledon and United States Championships in 1938. He had an excellent serve, but he was known for his consistent and powerful groundstrokes and his amazing return of serve. It was said that no one could serve and volley against him and win. His stamina was only average but few players could last long enough to wear him down. There was really no such thing as a "Grand Slam" before Budge won it. His goal was to win the tennis championships of the four top nations, Australia, France, England and the United States but there was no name for it. He put the pressure on himself to win it but it was termed a "Grand Slam" later by a writer. While I’m sure Budge had enormous pressure on him to win the tournaments, I can’t imagine it being as much pressure as Hoad, Laver, Connolly, Court or Graf had when they attempted to complete their Grand Slam attempts with all the people watching and knowing the significance that they could make history. Budge was famous for his fantastic backhand that destroyed net rushers. It was a consistent and powerful shot that he often hit on the rise to pressure his opponents. It has been called the greatest backhand in the history of tennis. Tilden said of Budge, in a comment published in Bud Collins' Tennis Encyclopedia: "I consider him the finest player, 365 days a year, who ever lived."
* Jack Kramer — The man who popularized the serve and volley game and percentage tennis. Kramer arguably had the best total serving game in tennis history. They said he was a master of all the different types of serves and could place them anywhere. His second serve was possibly the most effective of all time. This was combined with a powerful volley and overhead made it incredibly hard to break his serve. People have said that Kramer won more sets on one service break than anyone they have ever seen. Kramer had excellent groundstrokes with a very powerful forehand that was somewhat modeled after his idol and teacher Ellsworth Vines. Unlike Vines, Kramer was a very consistent groundstroker and did not make the errors that Vines often did in attempting to hit a winner. Kramer had a solid slice backhand for ground stroking rallies. He was not the quickest player and while his backhand was solid, he could not pass with it as well as his forehand but that of course would be true of a lot of players.
* Pancho Gonzalez — Gonzalez was one of the top athletes of all time in tennis and during his prime one of the most natural athletes competing in any sport. Gonzalez probably had the most powerful single weapon in the history of tennis, his awesome serve, which was hit incredibly hard with a smooth effortless motion. Because of that Pancho could serve as hard in the fifth set as in the first. Pancho was particularly good in getting his first serve in on pressure points i.e., break points etc. Gonzalez had an excellent forehand and a good consistent backhand for backcourt exchanges. He usually sliced the ball on his approach shots on his backhand but in the backcourt he varied his shots on that side, slicing it, top spinning, and hitting the ball very flat. He usually did not drive the ball back on his service return but tended to block the ball back softly against the powerful serve and volleyers of his day. He had an awesome net game with tremendous reach. Gonzalez was not generally a hard volleyer in the style of a Sampras, Edberg or Becker, but he tended to angle his volleys away which was also extremely effective. Gonzalez was not a true power player like an Ellsworth Vines or a Don Budge even though he could play that way. Gonzalez was more of touch player who could rally with you with a variety of spins and angles. Many people including Bobby Riggs, Jimmy Connors and Bud Collins have said if they had to pick a player to play one match for their life, they would pick Pancho Gonzalez.
* Ken Rosewall — The Doomsday Stroking Machine also nicknamed "The Little Master." Rosewall had groundstrokes that he could hit until Doomsday, or so they say. Rosewall was known for his incredible slice backhand which he never seemed to miss and with which he could hit with great power and accuracy. It is possibly the best slice backhand ever. The Little Master’s forehand was not on the level of his backhand but it was a good consistent shot. Rosewall’s lob was particular tough on the forehand side, which was disguised well. To paraphrase a bit, one player said "That by the time you figured out Rosewall has lobbed on the forehand side, the ball is bouncing on the baseline." Ken’s volley was one of the strongest of all time. It was a consistent penetrating volley on both sides. Despite the fact he was relatively small, he could blanket the net because of his amazing quickness. Rosewall’s speed and footwork was about as good as any player that ever lived. He always seemed to be in the right position to hit the right shot at any time and never seemed rushed. Rosewall was also known for his methodical return of serve. The ball always seemed to come back, often at unusual angles that bothered his opponents. He did not hit winners on the return as much as a Connors or an Agassi (even though he hit more than his share) but he used the return to set up his second shot on the return, much like a Federer does today. Because of his amazing reflexes and quickness Rosewall was rarely aced. It was clearly the outstanding return of his time and possibly of all time.
* Rod Laver — The Rockhampton Rocket. The only two-time winner of the Grand Slam which he won in 1962 and 1969. He was a lefty serve and volley player whose had an left arm that was compared to King Kong’s. With the incredible strength in that arm and wrist, he was able to flick winners at astonishingly high speeds. From the baseline Laver usually hit his forehand with topspin but his usual shot from the backhand side was a heavy underspin that was deep with excellent speed. Laver could also hit an incredible amount of topspin winners from that either side when he was on. Laver had enormous speed and stamina. His footwork was exemplary and he was so fast that he could hit winners when the ball seemed out of human reach. He was an excellent volleyer with a great backhand volley hit at sharp angles and great pace. The forehand volley was similar but he could net it at times. Like many players on this list Laver was very versatile and capable of playing many different ways.
* Jimmy Connors — The master of the service return. Arguably the best service return of all time. Connors is a lefthanded groundstroker who hit with unbelievable depth, accuracy and power. While Connors had moderate spin on his serve, his strokes were basically flat. His lefty backhand is one of the great shots of all time, but his forehand was also excellent. His only major weakness was a short low no pace ball to his forehand which he could net or over hit at times. Connors did not have an overpowering serve but he moved the ball around and served at a very high percentage. His approach shots were generally so good that he was often left with an easy volley put away. Connors was one of the top competitors of all time. He never gave up on a point and often made astonishing gets like his mind boggling shot against Panatta in the 1978 U.S. Open in which he made an amazing return of a sharp angled Panatta volley on his backhand side and hit it around the net post passed a stunned Panatta. That shot helped Connors win a close match and he went on to win the tournament, beating a young John McEnroe and later Bjorn Borg in the final. Connors had such solid strokes that he rarely mis-hit the ball. He hit the ball more in the center of the racket than just about any player I have ever seen. Connors was possibly the outstanding pure ball striker in tennis history, on a short list that would include several others in this article. He was a consistent player that always played at a high level. He rarely had a bad day and before of that was rarely upset by inferior players.
* Bjorn Borg — The Swedish Assassin and the Iceman. Bjorn Borg is possibly the top baseliner of all time. Borg had a two handed backhand usually hit with heavy topspin and a very powerful forehand also hit with heavy topspin. The man seemed to make an error every decade and yet if you rushed the net against him he could pass you with a sharp angle passing shot. Despite the fact Borg is remembered as a baseliner he also backed it up with one of the best serves in tennis. The way he was able to bang service winners or aces on crucial points reminded one of Pancho Gonzalez. He was able to serve and volley effectively if he wanted to. Borg wasn’t the volleyer that McEnroe was (few are) but he was a good volleyer, when moving in off a good approach, and could set himself up for the volley with excellent approach shots. For example Borg charged the net often and effectively in his crushing victory over Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon in 1978. Despite the fact he was facing a man with some of the greatest passing shots in history in Connors, Borg was able to win the huge majority of points at the net. Borg won that match 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. People often mention the McEnroe victory over Connors in 1984 as one of the greatest performances ever at Wimbledon by a player but I think this victory ranks right up there with McEnroe’s. The reason is that in 1984 Connors was over the hill, still good but over the hill. During the 1978 Wimbledon Jimmy was 25 and at the peak of his powers. Connors with the exception of double faulting more than usual played very well and still only won seven games in three sets. Borg seemed to own the French Open, winning there six times and losing twice, both times to the gifted Adriano Panatta. Borg was born for the red clay surface which was slow and allowed him to hit his infinite groundstrokes. With his superhuman speed and stamina (his pulse was measured at 35 beats per minute) he could beat anyone on that surface. People talk about his now legendary victory over John McEnroe in the 1980 Wimbledon final. It was an unbelievable match of course but the match I almost rate on par with that was Borg’s victory over Adriano Panatta and the Italian fans in the 1978 Italian Open final. Panatta, to be honest should not have even been in the final if his opponent, the excellent clay court player Jose Higueras (who was leading by 6-0 5-1) didn’t have coins and cans thrown onto the court when he (Higueras) was playing. Higueras, obviously disturbed by the events, lost the second set, left the court and was defaulted. In the final Borg also had coins and cans thrown at him. The calls were to be nice, a bit dubious. Borg has all this, the crowds was screaming at him and he had a terrific opponent in Panatta to play. How could anyone win under those circumstances? Well Borg calmly picked up some of the coins and put them in his pocket. This lessened the amount of debris being thrown at him because the coins did not have the desired effect of disturbing Borg. Borg won the match in the fifth set. It might have been won in straight sets by Borg under normal conditions. Considering everything, it was one of Borg’s greatest performances. He never played the Italian Open again. Borg accomplished the great feat of winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year 3 years in a row from 1978 to 1980. To switch from a slow surface like red clay to an extremely fast surface like grass in a short period of time is amazing. Bjorn Borg was a unique talent the likes of which we may never see again.
* John McEnroe — One of the most gifted players of all time. A lefty serve and volleyer who was a superb touch player. That is such a unique combination. He didn’t have the power of an Ivan Lendl for example off the ground but it was good enough. He had an amazing variety of shots and unbelievable versatility. His net play was second to none. In 1984 he had possibly the best year statistically of the open era, winning 13 of 15 tournament, 2 of 3 majors with a 82-3 won-loss record. That’s great but the numbers don’t truly do justice on how wonderfully McEnroe played that year. Observing him that year was like watching a great artist at work. There seemed nothing he couldn’t do. Difficult shots were seemingly made so easily and he seemed to turn screaming passing shots by his opponents into delicate angled drop shot winners at will. His serve was invincible that year but in his prime years it was at worst one of the best if not the best serve in tennis. In the Wimbledon final McEnroe only made two unforced errors in the entire match on grass against Jimmy Connors! McEnroe crushed him by a score of 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 and he didn’t even think it was the best match he played that year.
* Ivan Lendl — Lendl was the consummate professional. He was not a natural in the manner of McEnroe or a Gonzalez but he was extremely talented and had a great work ethic. He had the best forehand of his day. It was a terrifyingly powerful shot that was extremely accurate and consistent. His backhand was also extremely strong in backcourt exchanges and very consistent. However he tended to vary his shots more on the backhand side, slicing the ball, top spinning the ball etc. One of his few weaknesses, if you can call it that was that his backhand return was not of the level of a Borg, Connors and a few others. It was not a bad backhand return but it could be attacked. His volley was not at the top level although it was adequate enough for his few attempts to go to the net. Lendl’s serve was very fast but I believe the strength of his serving game was that he had a nice variety of serves which he also placed very well. His second serve was top caliber and was very hard to attack. Being a player who trained constantly, his stamina was excellent and it helped him in long grueling tournaments like the French Open. Lendl was best on surfaces that allowed him to use his consistent and powerful groundstrokes. Grass was probably his weakest surface but he reached the Wimbledon final twice, losing to Boris Becker in 1986 and Pat Cash in 1987. It is a tribute to him that he did so well on grass despite the fact the surface did not suit him.
* Pete Sampras — The current holder of the title of most majors won in a career with 14. Pete Sampras is a powerful serve and volleyer with such a very powerful forehand and a good backhand. His volley was excellent but his serve clearly stood out above anything else. Sampras dominated the serving statistics in the 1990’s, winning the most important category of percentage of holding serve in most years. Some players may hit more aces, some may hit the serve a bit harder but no one in the 1990’s backed up his serve better. Sampras also had perhaps the best second serve in the game in his time. People currently are talking about how Roger Federer may eventually break Sampras’ record seemingly unbreakable record of 14 career majors. Well to be honest while it is great that Sampras won 14 majors I don’t think the record for majors would have been at 14 if tennis allowed the players to play in the majors once they turned pro in the Pre Open days prior to 1968 and travel conditions were the same as today. Bill Tilden for example may very well have won over 20 majors if open tennis was around in those days and if he could have traveled on modern airplanes.
* Roger Federer — The current number one player and the current candidate for mythical greatest of all time title. Federer is a classical player with a one handed backhand and an awesome forehand, considered currently to be the best in tennis. Roger has an excellent serve with a good volley. In watching Federer nowadays people raved about his ability to seemingly hit winners out of nowhere but I believe the strength of his game is his ability to win points when he is in a defensive position. He has the ability, like many great players to prolong the point and win so many points when it seemed like a lost cause. One of his most underrated shots is the sharp crosscourt slice backhand hit relatively softly. The current players are often puzzled whether they should come in or just move back to the baseline and more often than not, they seem to lose the point. While that shot is a wonderful shot for him, I often wonder how an Edberg, McEnroe or a Sampras, with their great approach shots and net play would have handled that shot. Federer has great movement and anticipation. He is a great player and potentially, if he keeps it up for many years can possibly have the finest record in the history of tennis.

The rating system is similar to the one in which I rated the greatest players of the open era. As in the past I used the following criteria to evaluate the champions with a few minor differences:

1. Career won-loss percentage
2. Best won-loss percentage for a five-year period
3. Career tournament titles
4. Tournament titles won in a best five-year period
5. Career percentage of tournaments won
6. Percentage of tournaments won in a best five-year period
7. Career Grand Slam titles
8. Slams won in a best five-year period
9. Career Grand Slam winning percentage
10. Percentage of Grand Slams won in a best five-year period

The one problem I had was with the older players like Tilden, Budge, Kramer and Gonzalez who played a high percentage of the time on tours against other all-time greats like Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Frank Sedgman and Tony Trabert among others. I finally decided to put the tours in a separate category and rate them often on the strength of the opponent at the time they played. The other thing I decided to do was to add some points for special achievements like a traditional Grand Slam (winning the Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open) or a Pro Grand Slam.

Some players like Ken Rosewall for example won the Pro Grand Slam (Pro Grand Slam is winning all the top three major pro titles — French Pro, Wembley Professional Championships and the U.S. Pro Championships) in 1963 which was amazing considering the unparalleled competition he faced with all time greats like Anderson, Hoad, Trabert, Laver, Gimeno and Segura among others. These players were all champions. Budge and Laver got credit for Grand Slams also.

One other problem was the timeline problem. In general players are bigger today and may be better athletes today than the players of yesteryear. It stands to reason that the players in general may be somewhat better today than years ago. The depth of the game today is better also in that there are more good players. The top players cannot breeze through the early rounds like they used to in the past. However I believe the top players are no better today than they were years ago. Players like Gonzalez or Hoad, given the equipment of today would do quite well against the top players of today.

One major exception concerning the level of play may have been those players who played in the Professional Tours in the late 1940’s to the late 1960’s. The level of competition at that time in the pro ranks may have been superior to what it was today by a good margin. The reason is that in the Pros in those days, only the top players would turn pro to earn a living. So you would have the top players turning pro like Lew Hoad, Tony Trabert, Ken Rosewall etc. All of these players are major tournament winners, often former World number ones. So if you are playing in the pro ranks, you are playing the best of the best all the time. Many of these players were all time greats. These players had to improve even from their amazingly high levels just to be competitive. My opinion is that the level of play in those days may have been the highest of all time.

If you take into account the amateur player then perhaps the level of play today may have been better but the players in the pro circuit those days never played the amateurs and therefore never had a breather. For example Rod Laver won a small round robin tournament in 1964 in Australia. It doesn’t seem like a big deal except he beat Frank Sedgman, Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall! All of these players have been on top ten lists as far as tennis all-timers are concerned. All were still excellent players at that time. In another tournament that year Pancho Gonzalez defeated Mal Anderson (former winner of the United States Championship), Rod Laver (one of the all time greats and at that time a Grand Slam winner with a Grand Slam coming in the future), Lew Hoad (multi winner of Grand Slam titles) and Ken Rosewall, also one of the greats with many victories in the majors. This was not unusual. The level of competition was that high.

So because of what I consider the general improvement of the tournament players I awarded some extra timeline points for the players playing in more recent times as opposed to for example, Bill Tilden in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Federer and Sampras would get more timeline points than Tilden and Budge for example.

I also had some problems with some percentages concerning some players because while we were able to find more tournaments victories than the "official" records we were not able to match the exact percentages after we added the additional tournaments. In this case we simply pro rated the percentages and assumed they were about the same as before.

The other problem were the tournament victory totals. For example we know Rod Laver won at least 188 tournaments but he may have won more. In certain cases we estimated the amount of career tournaments won by a player.

Without further delay I will announce the all time tennis champion. That player is Rodney George Laver aka Rod Laver!
To view the statistical table please click this link:

Greatest Of All Time Statistical Table

Laver’s accomplishments needs no introduction, he is the only person to ever win the Grand Slam twice! He also won a Pro Grand Slam in 1967 for a total of three Grand Slams in his career. The Pro Slam in 1967 was interesting in that while Laver won the three Pro majors that year, Laver also won the first Pro Tournament at Wimbledon that year over Rosewall in straight sets. The Wimbledon World Pro was perhaps the most important Pro Tournament that year even though it wasn’t a Pro major. In a way you can argue that Laver won five straight Wimbledons if you count the Wimbledon World Pro. The Wimbledon World Pro was so successful that it paved the way for Open Tennis at Wimbledon the next year.

Many people assume Laver was at his peak in 1969 when he won the first Open Grand Slam but Laver was 31 that year and already on the decline. He just was so great that even after the decline he was still by far the best in the world in 1969. I believe Laver was at his best from about 1964 to 1967. These were the years he and Rosewall dominated pro tennis. The level of competition there was extremely high.

2. (tie) Bjorn Borg — Borg was astonishing in this study considering he basically retired at age 25. Borg finished second in the study, tied with Tilden. People are now talking about how Roger Federer today is the greatest of all time and how Federer is tracking ahead of all the old timers like Borg. Frankly that is so wrong. Federer as of September 9, 2007 has won 51 tournaments. Federer is 26 now so a comparison at about the same age between the two is quite appropriate. Borg won 77 tournaments by the time he retired at age 25, which is 26 more than Federer had done at this present time at the age of 26. Borg won 11 majors in 27 attempts. Federer has won 12 majors but in 5 more attempts. Borg has a lifetime .855 winning percentage and Federer as of now has a .803 lifetime winning percentage. How can Federer be called the greatest of all time right now if he’s not even the best player of his own age. This is not meant to downgrade Federer but it’s to show the greatness of Borg that he can leave a great player like Federer in the dust. The competition during Borg’s playing career was excellent. Borg played among others McEnroe, Connors, Vilas, Laver, Rosewall, Ashe, Nastase, Orantes, Newcombe, Tanner all while they were in their prime or at worst still excellent players. Borg can be argued to be the greatest player of all time and is clearly by a decent margin the best of the Open Era.

2. (tie) Bill Tilden — The Legendary Bill Tilden finished tied for second. Tilden is amazing in his almost unreal domination of men’s tennis. It’s a pity he was limited by the lack of plane travel in his day. He was truly a genius of the game. Tilden had an exceptionally long career and was still a competitive World Class player into his 50’s! For example he almost defeated Bobby Riggs in 1946 (when Riggs was Pro Champion) in a match losing only after leading 5-2 in the fifth set.

4. Roger Federer — The current candidate for all time number one. Roger has had an incredible record the last few years. He has an outside chance to make it to number one but it will be extremely hard. He is 137 tournaments away from Laver’s all time tournament victory record so I can’t imagine him breaking that record. He is 11 away from Rosewall’s all time major’s record (including pro majors) so reaching that is a possibility but it won’t be easy. The mere fact that Federer even has an outside chance to reach number one on this study speaks of his greatness. He has to do it quickly however because at 26 years old he’s no youngster. You figure there will be inevitable decline so he must strike now while the window of opportunity presents itself. Federer finished fourth in this study but as I wrote earlier he can move up a bit if he can continue his incredible pace of the last few years.

5. Pancho Gonzalez — The magnificent Pancho Gonzalez finished fifth in the study. Gonzalez was tough to rate since he played a great portion of his career on tours. Gonzalez defeated so many all time greats and his record is one that you can’t help but be stunned at how great it was. Gonzalez defeated players like Tilden, Budge, Kramer, Segura, Laver, Rosewall, even a promising left hander called Jimmy Connors. But his most legendary matches were those against Lew Hoad. Many people feel Lew Hoad was, when he was playing well, the best of all time. Hoad’s downfall was the injury problems that undermined his career or else he would have easily made this list. On that tour against Hoad, Hoad led early 18 matches to 9 but Gonzalez eventually caught up and defeated Hoad by a score of 51 to 36. The level of play on that tour was perhaps the highest ever between two players. It is unfortunate so many people have forgotten about Pancho Gonzalez nowadays and many don’t even rate him in the top ten. He is a legend and the only reason people don’t mention him is his lack of majors because he turned pro early.

6. Ken Rosewall — Another player that people rarely mention when they talk about the all time greats. Ken Rosewall was the top player in tennis for many years but this fact was hidden in the old pro days. Rosewall was far superior to players like Roy Emerson who is often placed ahead of him because he won more majors than Rosewall. That is just a number because if Rosewall was allowed to play the majors at the time Emerson did, Emerson wouldn’t have too many majors and Rosewall would probably have the all time majors title even now. One problem Rosewall had in this study is that while he was an excellent player even at the end of his extremely long career, his numbers are lowered a bit because he did not win too many tournaments toward the end. Yet at the same time he was very competitive and went deep into tournaments like the 1974 Wimbledon and U.S Open in which he reached the final. Another thing people mention was that Rosewall didn’t have enough power to handle the players of today. That doesn’t make sense since Rosewall could hit as hard as anyone when he was number one and with the rackets today he would hit with great power. He was a great pure ball striker who almost never mis-hit the ball. In that way he was similar to Jimmy Connors except he was faster than Jimmy when he was in his prime. If you combine all this with his great touch you had a very tough player that is an all time great. Rosewall finished sixth in this study.

7. Don Budge — When I was young reading about Budge I got the impression he was this awesome player that never lost a match. He was awesome and his record in finishing seventh in this study proves it. What surprised me was that he didn’t win nearly as many tournaments as I expected but he was clearly a great player.

8. Ivan Lendl — With his amazing 143 tournament victories and great consistency Lendl finished eighth in our study. He could have done much better if he won a higher percentage of finals in the majors he played in. Lendl lost 11 of 19 finals in the majors. Of course many of his opponents in finals were all time greats like Borg, McEnroe, Connors, Becker, Wilander etc. Lendl had some major back problems that led to his early retirement. We added 49 victories to Lendl’s official total of 94. This is because of many invitational and tournaments missed by the ATP but nevertheless were true tennis tournaments. Lendl finished eighth in our study.

9. Jimmy Connors — Jimmy Connors is the official ATP all time tournament victories champion with 109 however we found 12 more tournament victories for Jimbo which makes his career total 121, the second highest of the Open Era next to Lendl. He was a super consistent player that rarely had bad days and on some days he could play at inspired levels. That plus the fact he had as great a will to win as any player make him one of the great players of all time. Jimmy finished ninth in the study.

10. Pete Sampras — Sampras is no doubt an awesome player. He is arguably the best grass court player of all time and the number 1 Wimbledon player ever! However he never really had the super dominant year or series of dominant years that people like Tilden, Borg, Laver, McEnroe, Connors or Federer have had. For example Sampras never had a year which he won over 90 percent of his matches. Sampras never won more than two majors in a year. He only won 64 tournaments in his career that while that’s good it doesn’t compare to Connors’ 121, Rosewall’s 130 among others. Sampras has had a Hall of Fame career and his matches and courage under pressure are etched in our memory. Despite all his excellent results he finishes tenth in our study. It was still very close to many of the other players. It’s actually very good considering the legends he was competing against. Sampras’ results in finishing number one six years in a row shows his greatness as a player. It was a tremendous accomplishment against tennis superstars like Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Lleyton Hewitt, Michael Chang, Gustavo Kuerten, Goran Ivanisevic, Patrick Rafter and Jim Courier.

11. John McEnroe — If I had told you that after John McEnroe’s awesome 1984 season, one of the most dominating seasons that any player has ever that John McEnroe would never win another major, people would have thought I was nuts and understandably so. McEnroe has a series of injury problems that contributed to his decline. It’s a shame. It’s quite possible that when McEnroe was playing his best, his level of tennis was better than anyone that ever played the game but you can say that of a few others in this study and a few players not in this study. McEnroe finished eleventh in our study.

12. Jack Kramer — There is no doubt Kramer was a superb player but he didn’t play enough to rate any higher. Kramer only won about 35 tournaments in his career. Many of the points he accumulated in the study was due to the many tours he played. One thing should be mentioned, Kramer crushed a young Pancho Gonzalez on tour by a score of 96 to 27. If you just look at the names you would think it was a great victory for Kramer but if you look at full picture, you realize while it’s good result, it’s just not that impressive. First of all Kramer was a veteran of many tournaments and was seven years older than Gonzalez. Second Gonzalez learned tennis rather late in life and also delayed his tennis development by joining the Navy at age 17 and being in the Navy for 2 and a half years. Gonzalez won the United States Championship and was signed to a contract to play the World Champion Jack Kramer. For all intents and purposes Gonzalez was a rank amateur with very little playing experience. Gonzalez won the U.S. Championship because of his amazing talent and at this point sending Gonzalez to play Kramer was like sending a lamb to the lions to be slaughtered. Considering all of this I think the 27 match wins by Gonzalez on that tour speaks more of Gonzalez’s greatness than Jack Kramer’s dominance. Aside from that Kramer’s victories on tour were legendary. He destroyed Bobby Riggs to win the title of Pro Champion by 69 matches to 20. He defeated Pancho Segura 64 matches to 28 and Frank Sedgman by 54 to 41. I already wrote about the Gonzalez tour which was still a very good accomplishment. Kramer never lost a tour and retired unbeaten in tours, an excellent accomplishment under any rating system. Kramer’s tennis career declined because he developed a case of severe arthritis was he was 29! This led to an early retirement from active play a few years later except for filling in occasionally when people couldn’t play. Otherwise it’s possible he would have gone on to a much better tennis career than he had. After Kramer’s tournament career as a true competitor was over he devoted himself into promoting Professional Tennis. He also became a very well respected broadcaster and analyst of the game. Kramer finished twelfth in our study.

13. Ellsworth Vines — Vines was amazing in Big Tournaments with the best percentage record of all the top players. He became more consistent and was a better player as a pro. Vines had some back problems and with his increasing interest in Professional Golf led to his decline and retirement from tennis at a very young age. Later he became an excellent Pro Golfer. Vines finished thirteenth in the study but he may be the best combination tennis/golfer in history.

14. Fred Perry — The Royalty of British Tennis. Perry was outstanding in the area of career percentage of tournaments won, finishing second only to Tilden and he was also very good in percentage of tournaments won over a best five-year period. Other than that his career was not up to the level of many of the top players. A lot of it had to do with some major injuries Perry suffered and never could quite recover from. Perry finished 14th in our study.

As always I couldn’t do this without the tireless help of the incredible Robert Geist. He is the seeker of the truth in tennis. Much of the information was from "The History of Professional Tennis" by Joe McCauley, and "Bud Collins Total Tennis."

Conclusion: Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Bill Tilden, Roger Federer, Pancho Gonzalez and Ken Rosewall are clearly the class of the All Time Field in this study.

Laver’s 188 tournament victory total and three total Grand Slams may be the Mount Olympus of tennis records. Tilden’s total dominance of tennis in the early to mid 1920’s has rarely been matched. Bjorn Borg is clearly the class of the players who played their entire careers in the Open Era but Federer has a chance to surpass him. Still considering that he basically retired from tennis at 25 what Borg accomplished at such a young age may never be surpassed.

Consider this, Tilden didn’t start winning majors until he was 27 and by 27 Borg was retired, already considered an immortal of tennis. In most of the percentage numbers Borg was at the top or close to the top. Borg winning the French and Wimbledon in the same year three years in a row (1978 to 1980) is one of the legendary accomplishments in tennis history and can be rated as high as a Grand Slam, perhaps higher!

You can easily make a case for Borg as the best player in the history of tennis. The two players who deserve considerable respect should be Pancho Gonzalez and Ken Rosewall. It is unbelievable how these two dynamic players have been forgotten when people mention the all time greats. They were a threat in every tennis competition they played in. Both of these two should always be in the arguments when you talk about the all time best. Gonzalez and Rosewall, while their style of play was very different were very much alike in the fact they played for an exceptionally long time at a very high level. Both were top world class players who were a threat in majors into their 40’s. If they did not win the tournament they often were in the semifinals or finals.

Here’s a list of the records of the top players on this list and how often they reached the semifinals, finals or won the title in Big Tournament events. Rosewall (52 times), Tilden (35 times), Laver (32 times), Connors (31 times), Gonzalez (29 times), Lendl (28 times), Budge (23 times), Sampras (23 times), McEnroe (19 times), Borg (17 times), Perry (17 times), Federer (16 times), Vines (11 times), Kramer (7 times). In this case it shows that generally if Rosewall did not win the tournament he always was deep in the Big Tournament and was a threat to win the title.

The records of Tilden, Laver, Connors and Gonzalez are also exceptional in this area. Rosewall for example reached the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1974, the year he turned 40. He lost to Jimmy Connors in both finals but defeated top players like Stan Smith, Roscoe Tanner and John Newcombe in these tournaments. Newcombe was defeated in both the 1974 Wimbledon and the 1974 U.S. Open by Rosewall. Even in this study Rosewall may be vastly underrated. These players are the Super Six of Tennis.

marcRD
09-16-2007, 12:10 PM
Oh and there is a wonderful little article making a case for the forgotten Lew Hoad who could have been the greatest talent tennis has seen together with Roger Federer, but he was a wasted talent mainly because of injury problems:

http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=17414&bannerregion=

rwn
09-16-2007, 01:13 PM
Oh and there is a wonderful little article making a case for the forgotten Lew Hoad who could have been the greatest talent tennis has seen together with Roger Federer, but he was a wasted talent mainly because of injury problems:

http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=17414&bannerregion=

He isn't the only one who had injuries. Bad luck for him.

marcRD
09-16-2007, 01:42 PM
He isn't the only one who had injuries. Bad luck for him.

No, but I have heard many people claim that he was the most talented player of the Laver and Rosewall generation, he did beat Laver all the time in the pro tour when Laver 1st joined in the early 60s and he did was the only one to challenge Pancho Gonzalez when he was young in he 50s. So I think there is reason to think he could have been the greatest.

marcRD
09-16-2007, 02:27 PM
I thougt about this great table for some time now:

http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=17412

I think it is great, but I think it forgot that Sampras 14 grand slams are worth more than Connors 120 titles (we should multiply that value by 3). Or that total number of years as nr1 is worth just as much as winning % and also I would like to give some extra special poins for special achievments like Borgs incredible Wimbledon-RG dominance, or Federers 10 straight GS finals or Rosewalls, Gonzalez and Connors longevity.

CmonAussie
09-16-2007, 04:30 PM
.................
Thanks so much markRD<:)

The best article i`ve read on the GOAT topic so far!!!

hra87
09-16-2007, 04:39 PM
Thanks a lot, that was great.

MrChopin
09-16-2007, 06:01 PM
It's good study, but I think it errs on the side of trying to be too statistical and then breaks down in the face of its own strictness. I'll argue in favor of Federer (whom I feel, Laver aside, is already the best we've seen--you could just as easily pick your favorite and probably still make a claim against their faulty numbers).

It faults Federer for not having done what Borg had done, at 26, when it had previously said Laver's best years were 64-67 (when he would have been 25/26 - 29). Yes, Federer hasn't done these things yet, but is seems quite shortsighted to argue Borg over Federer at a specific age when they admit that different players peak at different ages. If you take Federer's four best years and compare them to Borg's, Federer wins. And this is discounting the fact that Federer may well have another 3-4 great years in him.

It also chooses random length scales for categories. It chooses 5 as an arbitrary number of years to measure "peak." However, everyone is aware of the fact that Federer has had 4 great years thus far, most likely to have a much better year in 2008 than he did in 2003. If we cut this down to 4, Federer appears more dominant, relative to the others.

Further, it awards players that play less (Borg being a prime example) by using stats like W-L % over career. They argue that Sampras has more majors, but this is statistically more possible because he played in more. To be fair, it seems that they should also include the footnote that players who play longer have a more difficult time of keeping career % numbers high. Borg won his first major in 1974, last in 1981. In comparison, Sampras won his first in 1990, his last in 2002. That's 7 years to 12, and obviously much harder to maintain great numbers over.

They have some weird numbers I don't understand, like tour, grand slam, and timeline points. I think the second is rather superfluous as such stats are already accounted for elsewhere (like tournament win %, big slam win %...). Similarly, I don't understand the first category. The last, if it is measuring the depth of field, should have a larger range. They simply equate era difficulty down to relative time, which is quite dubious, especially given that the field difficulty is one of the main factors affecting a players' statistical greatness.

Anyway, thanks for the interesting read. It still fails to break the order of its top 3 that most lists will not deviate from (Laver-Borg-Federer), but it does well to place Sampras lower on the list, despite his record of 14 slams. This effectively reflects how un-dominant he was, given a particular 2-5 year period (an extended peak and probably the best way to measure who is GOAT), despite his longevity.

Action Jackson
09-16-2007, 06:41 PM
Interesting article for sure and while the principle is very good, it still gives too much weight to smaller events and Connors winning all those titles, well there is a problem as to how they should be counted as a lot of them weren't ATP events.

This is why just using numbers as the main foundation is problematic, as for the results they came up with after all that the top 4 include Laver, Borg and Federer, who would be there anyway to most reasonable people though the order might differ.

CyBorg
09-16-2007, 07:04 PM
I don't think that any top 10 list should be made by virtue of statistical analysis alone. The stats don't match from era to era. Some of these favour the old-time greats, some favour the modern players - for obvious reasons. You add all of this up and you get a stew of loose ends and rudimentary conclusions.

That being said, the author did address these shortcomings in the article, so I think that he was generally fair and admitted the limitations.

I would have liked a greater elaboration as to the 'big tournaments' of players before the open era (and even those up to around 1983). I am wondering how the author came to amass 19 for Laver for example.

marcRD
09-16-2007, 08:09 PM
I don't think that any top 10 list should be made by virtue of statistical analysis alone. The stats don't match from era to era. Some of these favour the old-time greats, some favour the modern players - for obvious reasons. You add all of this up and you get a stew of loose ends and rudimentary conclusions.

That being said, the author did address these shortcomings in the article, so I think that he was generally fair and admitted the limitations.

I would have liked a greater elaboration as to the 'big tournaments' of players before the open era (and even those up to around 1983). I am wondering how the author came to amass 19 for Laver for example.

He counted the pro majors Laver won between 63-67 and added to his total number of slams won in the regular atp tour. There was only 3 majors in the pro league, which makes up the limited number of players which played there (certanly the best, but still most player were amateurs). Certanly Lavers pro majors are worth more than his amateur slams before 63.

CyBorg
09-16-2007, 08:21 PM
He counted the pro majors Laver won between 63-67 and added to his total number of slams won in the regular atp tour. There was only 3 majors in the pro league, which makes up the limited number of players which played there (certanly the best, but still most player were amateurs). Certanly Lavers pro majors are worth more than his amateur slams before 63.

Mmmyeah .. sounds a bit simplistic .. on one of the boards I read it was suggested that Laver's 1971 Rome title should be counted as a big tournament, due to the depth of its draw (greater than the French Open) and the 128-man field. I don't think he took this into consideration.

marcRD
09-16-2007, 08:31 PM
Mmmyeah .. sounds a bit simplistic .. on one of the boards I read it was suggested that Laver's 1971 Rome title should be counted as a big tournament, due to the depth of its draw (greater than the French Open) and the 128-man field. I don't think he took this into consideration.

LEts not Complicate things now. I dont think Rome was played with best of 5 set matches and neither do I think that players felt they were playing a tournament more important than RG.

You have to count the pro majors if you will compare pre open era players achievments to players who play today. LAver just happens to be good enought to live just on his regular slams, but a great player like Gonzales or Rosewall can get completely overlooked if not looking at their pro major achievments.

MisterQ
09-16-2007, 08:44 PM
Here’s a list of the records of the top players on this list and how often they reached the semifinals, finals or won the title in Big Tournament events. Rosewall (52 times), Tilden (35 times), Laver (32 times), Connors (31 times), Gonzalez (29 times), Lendl (28 times), Budge (23 times), Sampras (23 times), McEnroe (19 times), Borg (17 times), Perry (17 times), Federer (16 times), Vines (11 times), Kramer (7 times). In this case it shows that generally if Rosewall did not win the tournament he always was deep in the Big Tournament and was a threat to win the title.


Agassi 25 times.

It's interesting to me that Agassi is not even considered in this study (the only 8-major winner other than amateur-era Emerson to be discarded). I don't expect that he would place highly, as his periods of true dominance were short-lived -- but I would expect to see him included in the discussion.

Overall, I find the study interesting, but in the end it tends to replace one set of random & biased criteria with another. Sampras, the dominant player of his generation without question, falls to #10. Connors, who had a pronounced losing head-to-head against all three dominant players of his time (Borg, McEnroe, Lendl), ranks ahead of Sampras here --- and yet Agassi, another "second-fiddle" player with accomplishments across surfaces, as many majors as Connors and similar longetivity, is not even included. :shrug:

l_mac
09-16-2007, 09:13 PM
Agassi 25 times.

It's interesting to me that Agassi is not even considered in this study (the only 8-major winner other than amateur-era Emerson to be discarded). I don't expect that he would place highly, as his periods of true dominance were short-lived -- but I would expect to see him included in the discussion.

Overall, I find the study interesting, but in the end it tends to replace one set of random & biased criteria with another. Sampras, the dominant player of his generation without question, falls to #10. Connors, who had a pronounced losing head-to-head against all three dominant players of his time (Borg, McEnroe, Lendl), ranks ahead of Sampras here --- and yet Agassi, another "second-fiddle" player with accomplishments across surfaces, as many majors as Connors and similar longetivity, is not even included. :shrug:

I refused to comment on this article on another board because the author had failed to include Agassi.

marcRD
09-16-2007, 09:48 PM
Agassi 25 times.

It's interesting to me that Agassi is not even considered in this study (the only 8-major winner other than amateur-era Emerson to be discarded). I don't expect that he would place highly, as his periods of true dominance were short-lived -- but I would expect to see him included in the discussion.

Overall, I find the study interesting, but in the end it tends to replace one set of random & biased criteria with another. Sampras, the dominant player of his generation without question, falls to #10. Connors, who had a pronounced losing head-to-head against all three dominant players of his time (Borg, McEnroe, Lendl), ranks ahead of Sampras here --- and yet Agassi, another "second-fiddle" player with accomplishments across surfaces, as many majors as Connors and similar longetivity, is not even included. :shrug:

Maybe it is because Agassi only had a year as the world nr1. All other players in the article atleast had some years as nr1.

l_mac
09-16-2007, 10:34 PM
Maybe it is because Agassi only had a year as the world nr1. All other players in the article atleast had some years as nr1.


Yes but "Weeks spent at #1" was one of the few statistics the author didn't use to compile his list. I find him a perplexing ommission. :(

FedFan_2007
09-16-2007, 11:54 PM
All time greats:

1. Laver
2. Tilden
3. Borg
4. Federer
5. Hoad

CyBorg
09-17-2007, 12:35 AM
LEts not Complicate things now. I dont think Rome was played with best of 5 set matches and neither do I think that players felt they were playing a tournament more important than RG.

You have to count the pro majors if you will compare pre open era players achievments to players who play today. LAver just happens to be good enought to live just on his regular slams, but a great player like Gonzales or Rosewall can get completely overlooked if not looking at their pro major achievments.

Rome is probably a stretch, although it's ample proof that Laver was the best clay court player that year. He beat Kodes in Rome and then did not play at the French, which Kodes won.

Those years are full of such mystery. The French was far behind in terms of prestige and popularity in the early 70s until roughly 1973.

P.S. Don't forget that Rome was best-of-three sets until the semifinal, much like the US Open at the time (correction; in some of the years - like 1975).

Burrow
09-17-2007, 12:58 AM
Sampras 10th? :haha:

CyBorg
09-17-2007, 06:00 AM
I should correct myself. The 128-man draw at Rome was in 1972, not 1971.

Magical Trevor
09-17-2007, 08:47 AM
Oh and there is a wonderful little article making a case for the forgotten Lew Hoad who could have been the greatest talent tennis has seen together with Roger Federer, but he was a wasted talent mainly because of injury problems:

http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=17414&bannerregion=

I love the Lew Hoad anecdotes... have you ever read Richard Evan's book (called something along the lines of "20 years of open tennis")?

There is a story about on of the French Opens Lew won, where the afternoon before he played the doubles semi which he and his partner won in 5 sets. Then, on his way to his room after that win, he and his wife ran into some Russian friends, and instead of sleeping, he went out and spent the whole night drinking. He finally got back to his room early in the morning, hungover, got no sleep at all, and at sunrise, tried to run to the courts and ended up throwing up when he arrived there.

Anyway, the point of the story is he ended up crushing his opponent something like 6-3 6-1 6-2 a couple of hours later.

Action Jackson
09-17-2007, 08:49 AM
Lew Hoad wins a GS while being hungover, that takes talent.

CyBorg
09-17-2007, 10:38 PM
I love the Lew Hoad anecdotes... have you ever read Richard Evan's book (called something along the lines of "20 years of open tennis")?

There is a story about on of the French Opens Lew won, where the afternoon before he played the doubles semi which he and his partner won in 5 sets. Then, on his way to his room after that win, he and his wife ran into some Russian friends, and instead of sleeping, he went out and spent the whole night drinking. He finally got back to his room early in the morning, hungover, got no sleep at all, and at sunrise, tried to run to the courts and ended up throwing up when he arrived there.

Anyway, the point of the story is he ended up crushing his opponent something like 6-3 6-1 6-2 a couple of hours later.

That's awesome. It's always the Russians too. I can only imagine what Safin has been ingesting over the years. He should probably be considered a marvel of medicine for winning two majors alone.

ReturnWinner
09-18-2007, 01:05 AM
Sampras at 10??? what a joke

World Beater
09-18-2007, 04:52 AM
Sampras at 10??? what a joke

im no sampras fan, but yes #10 is a huge joke.

Sampras still has the better career than federer right now.

NYCtennisfan
09-19-2007, 02:49 AM
Interesting article for sure. It rightly points out that Sampras never had one truly dominant year and never won 3 slams in one calendar year.

That being said, there is no way that you could watch Sampras from about 1993 to 1998, especially when he was playing his best tennis, and say he was the 10th best of all time. There were times when you would watch the guy and wonder how anyone could break him let alone beat him on a fast court.

Another thing I find peculiar is that the author points out certain deficiencies in players' games like Lendl's BH return, but doesn't mention at all that Rosewall couldn't come over the ball on the BH side. Surely this is a HUGE deficiency, but if mentioned takes away from the argument that Rosewall is the 6th best player ever.