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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
It's the second part of my innovative attempt to summarize the Open era. As opposed to the first part which was prepared within a day actually as a stream of consciousness, I've been thinking about this "matrix" over the last couple of years, and the preparation of this thread lasted several weeks...

Five mentally strongest players of the Open era:

Code:
	[B]
Category-> 1) 5-sets    2) TBs     3)Dec.3.TB	4) 2-game	|Mental reliability|[/B]

Borg	   26-6         48-42      13-6   	19-9   		[67.25]
Furlan	   7-3 	        80-80 	   10-2 	23-12 	 	[67.00]
Robredo    13-4         152-116    19-11 	25-10 		[66.50]
Higueras   9-2 	        65-53      5-4     	28-10 		[66.00]
Djokovic   20-7         157-87     10-6   	18-12 	        [65.00]
If you want to see the entire research (3 Nov 2013) click below:

54 active players
197 non-active players
251 players gathered in one picture

(the largest pic I've ever made - 27 MB)​


Comparison by each category (five best) (five worst)
The most tight "best of 3" wins (ten guys)
Random stuff

Born in the 50s - 37 players
Born in the 60s - 69 players
Born in the 70s - 82 players
Born in the 80s - 63 players


Underlined - double handed backhand (121 players out of 251)
* Asterisk - left-handers (32 of 251)​

To some degree you can treat the names gathered here as the best typical Open era players. By "typical" I mean players, who started their pro careers after '68: the oldest is Adriano Panatta (b. 1950), the youngest Marin Cilic (1988). I have to admit there's lack of one player which should have been included - it's John Lloyd. I overlooked him somehow, because it's a thread not a book, I didn't see necessity to add him to the already prepared list and picture.

EXPLANATION:

I'd like to apologize all MTF members characterized by positive approach to discussions for my extensive explanation in this post. I've been a member of this forum long enough to know that there's a group of malcontents, and I'm not eager to waste my time discussing with them if they don't understand something or don't want to, so in case of yammering I can direct them to this post immediately. I don't claim the method of my calculation is perfect, so I'm open for remarks and questions.

Over the last few years, I've spent a lot of time considering issues:
"What's the mental strength/toughness in tennis?"
"Who is mentally weak/strong?"

I've drawn a conclusion that it can be manifested as a synthesis of winning matches in four different ways:
  1. the match is balanced in the crucial stage and both players are simultaneously close to victory at the end (best exemplification: matches concluded with deciding a '7-5' '7-6' set or "advantage sets")
  2. one of players is close to victory, but the match wins the other one who was far away at the same time (exemplification: scorelines like "4-6 7-5 6-3" or "1-6 7-6 6-2" etc.)
  3. one of players is close to victory, but loses his advantage and there's a moment when both are similarly far/close to victory (exemplification: scorelines like "6-2 5-7 6-1" or "6-4 6-7 6-3" etc.) **
  4. the match is balanced, but wins it a player who wasn't close to lose it (exemplification: scorelines like "7-6 7-5" or "6-4 3-6 7-6 7-6" etc.)
* Sometimes we witness matches that qualify to three different ways as far as their progress is concerned (exemplification: Marat Safin d. Roger Federer 5-7 6-4 5-7 7-6 9-7)
** Not all matches of this type have been included to the stats: I mean scorelines like "6-3 5-7 6-4" - if the winner lost this match for instance "6-3 5-7 4-6" (but he won 6-3 5-7 6-4!) it'd declare itself in a bigger negative number of the 4th category

METHOD:

First of all:
I've analyzed all the scorelines using the official ATP website, database of http://www.tennisabstract.com (Jeff Sackmann :worship:) and my database.

I've taken into account the best "typical" Open era players to have participated in at least 100 main-level tournaments winning at least 1 title (I've made an exception for Julien Benneteau, hence the title of the thread is '250+1'). Only main-level matches have been counted so there's:
- no qualifying rounds,
- no Challengers,
- no Futures,
- no Satellites - all them counted would change the whole picture

It's pointless to explain what I mean by "the best players" in this thread. If you are upset there's lack of someone who deserves to be included IYO, simply count him according to my method and share your results in this thread... I consider "100 main-level tournaments" as a representative number of one's career to make comparable statistics, thus there's lack of the former Top 10ers here, like Kent Carlsson, Jay Berger & Joachim Johansson.

People sometimes tend to call a player "choker" based on a single match. If you're one of them, keep in mind this:
~ a notable retired player notches participation in more than 200 tournaments, playing more than 500 matches.
It's easy to calculate that if all the matches he plays are concluded as "two-setters", he must have played 1000 sets - guys included to the stats usually have played much more. When we talk about vast numbers of sets it's obvious that every player has lost
- dozen of sets squandering set points and
- dozen of matches being one/two/three points away from victory.
Besides: the more you win - you're the more prone to suffer dramatic defeats, Pete Sampras lost 194 tie-breaks, Filippo Volandri just 57. Does it mean Volandri knows better how to win tight sets than Sampras? (rhetorical question...)

I assume we can depict these four different ways ordering the numbers in a 4-category division:

Percentages of all four categories summed up then divided by 4 = Mental Toughness. If someone has played less than 9 decisive 3rd set tie-breaks, then Cat. 3 & 4 summed up together and all divided by 3.

1) Five-setters: obviously we have "five-setters" consisted of only one-sided sets (for instance: "6-2 1-6 6-2 3-6 6-1", but the shortest 5-setters usually last ~3 hours, so it's a time-wise equivalent of the dramatic "best of three" matches
2) Tie-breaks: it's a special category because includes scorelines of either three other Categories or any, however, it always tells something about one's ability to win sets being relatively close to lose them
3) Deciding 3rd set tie-break: when you know that a player won a match '7-6' in a final set, you are automatically aware that a loser was at worst 7 points away from victory (usually it's 3 or 4 points away); if you asked me, I'd say '7' it's far away, but you can be 100% sure that he was closer of winning a match than a loser with scorelines like "6-7 6-4 3-6" or "6-1 3-6 2-6" etc.
4) "2-game away" matches:
I think about scorelines like -
6-3 2-6 7-5
4-6 6-2 11-9
3-6 7-6 0-1 ret.
6-7 7-5 6-3
etc.
so belonging to the first or second way...
This is tricky category because a bit blurred looking only at scorelines; for example:
A - you have a "4-6 7-5 6-3" scoreline; you don't know what happened, it may be a case that the winner saved several match points, but he could lead 5:2 in the 2nd set and won two games in a row from 5-all to 'love' - so the loser was eight points away from victory at best
B - you have a "2-6 6-4 6-1" scoreline; you don't know what happened, it may be a case that the winner saved a double break point at 0:3 in the 2nd set, then saved a game point at 2:4 (exactly it happened during the Rafa Nadal-Fabio Fognini match in Beijing '13) - so the loser was five points away from victory, but he could have theoretically led 5:1 in the 2nd set, so he actually wasn't under pressure of losing the match at all.

My conclusion:
there are matches "6-2 4-6 1-6" when the loser was 5 points away from victory while in other matches like
"5-7 6-2 6-7(0)" the loser was 7 points away from victory at best
"4-6 6-3 5-7" the loser was 8 points away from victory at best

I've included to the 4th category all scorelines of the A type as opposed to the B type. Why? because I know enough scorelines (in terms of the match progress) of different players that I'm pretty convinced it's a safe assumption... matches like "Nadal-Fognini/Beijing" don't occur often; I bet if you knew the exact progress of all the matches played in the Open era, including to the fourth category scorelines like "3-6 6-4 6-4" when the loser was 5 points away, in some cases you'd obtain +/- 1 percentage difference, rarely +/- 2 percentage difference. It doesn't change the general outlook too much.

NOTES:

# Numbers included to the 1st & 2nd categories are/were accessible on Internet. Unfortunately the ATP website sucks lately with the tie-break records of the players born in the early 70s or earlier (it wasn't a case a few years backwards). When you see on the ATP website Stefan Edberg's record '107-71', I can ensure it's a nonsense. Why? Due to the wrong logarithm that doesn't include tie-break scorelines - more than 90% of them prior to 1991 are unavailable in the ATP website.

# Numbers included to 3rd & 4th categories - I've counted all

# I can't ensure you that all the numbers are correct - there are a few reasons of that. Nevertheless the possible mistakes cannot change the general view - it's not that a player with "62%" of the mental toughness would be "52%" when I've carefully investigated once again - forget it. For the clearer picture I've divided the players in six columns.

# It's not a number-juggle to place particular players higher/lower in the list. I'd adopted the four categories first, then I started counting with curiosity

# Keep in mind this thread hasn't any intention to point out who is a better/worse player - completely different numbers are responsible for that. If you are upset that Tommy Robredo - whom you call "Boredo" - is so high, although plenty of players achieved more, better ask yourself "why he achieved so much with his 'boring' game-style?", and looking at the numbers, perhaps you will immediately find the answer to the question.

# People sometimes tend to underestimate tight matches won over inferior players. So I ask you:
- why Boris Becker [4] loses to Nicolas Pereira [122] 6-7 7-6 6-7 in Doha '96?
- why David Nalbandian [11] loses to Yen-Hsun Lu [61] 4-6 7-5 6-4 4-6 2-6 at Aussie Open '09?
Those cases may be easily multiply every season... Of course, higher ranked/more experienced players usually win close matches against lower ranked/less experienced opponents, yet either you're "Aaron Krickstein" and you win tight matches against superior/inferior players than yourself or you're "James Blake" and you usually lose tight matches no matter who you play against.

# TV stats display the tie-break records of a particular season and commentators tend to draw conclusions based on that. It's ridiculous because:
- partial record can strongly differ from the career view, for example: Sampras won the vast majority of tie-breaks against his biggest rivals, yet he started the 1995 year having a period with an abysmal 1-12 record
It's more ridiculous when displayed before the final set tie-break. Some players are good in tie-breaks of 1st & 2nd sets when the pressure isn't huge, but weak in deciding 3rd set tie-breaks (Felix Mantilla), others work on reverse pattern (Andreas Seppi for instance)

# Some people like putting too much emphasis on wasted chances that don't mean anything in retrospective (usually it concerns fans focused only on particular players):
- a player wastes six break points in a game that eventually wins: problem
- a player wastes six set points but eventually wins the set: problem
- a player wastes six match points but eventually wins the match: problem

You know who's got the problem? The one who lost... Smaller or bigger.
Every experienced player wastes a 2- or 3-game advantage plenty of times during his career. The question is: how he responses on that? If he usually wins those sets it's a good sign from his perspective. It's a psychological thing - if you erases a huge deficit in a set only to lose it, it hurts you - you tried so much, but all in vain (Nadal is an exception, I guess he tends to think "better lost 1st set in 60 minutes than in 20 because in the deciding set the match will be 40 minutes longer and my opponent will be more tired" - but he's unique).

There's a "7-6 6-2" scoreline in a match of players of the similar sort where the winner blew a 5:1 lead in the 1st set and some people say "it should have been 6-1 6-2". It doesn't work this way. I've seen enough tennis over 23 years to notice that the most important moment is the moment which precedes the next moment. If there was 6-1 in the 1st it might have been "6-1 6-2", but it might have been "6-1 6-7 2-6". We never know. The one who lost the lopsided set starts the next one with a "I've got nothing to lose, I can't play worse than that" attitude, in turn the one who won that set with a "he's playing such a poor tennis I can't lose today" mindset, and it may cost him the loss of the concentration.
 

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Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

Is this our Robredo or was there another mental giant Robredo in the 70s ;) ?

Well I like your commitment and I think it's quite innovative what you've done.
But: Nadal belongs to that list... (and I'm not a fan, but he is so strong mentally) so we have to find a few stats more...

Quite a good stat would be: "Head-to-Head" after 5-5 in 3rd set in Best-of-three sets. That shows quite something.
The mental goat on the womens side (Marion Bartoli) had something like 17-2 over the last years, that stat shows a lot I guess.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

Quite a good stat would be: "Head-to-Head" after 5-5 in 3rd set in Best-of-three sets. That shows quite something.
You've got all those cases included to the categories 3 & 4.
The difference: Cat. 3 - all matches concluded '7-6' in decisive 3rd set, Cat. 4 - all matches concluded '7-5' or '16-14' etc. in decisive 3rd set + matches like
1-6 7-6 6-3;
4-6 9-8 6-4;
6-7 7-5 6-0 etc.
 

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Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

Maybe I've missed it, but what do the asterisks refer to in your extensive list?

Anyway, I think this is an ambitious project, but I don't know how I feel about the criteria in some aspects.

I've never thought five setters, for instance, were a clear indicator of mental toughness because there are so many ways to get there. They never tell the same story.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

Maybe I've missed it, but what do the asterisks refer to in your extensive list?

Anyway, I think this is an ambitious project, but I don't know how I feel about the criteria in some aspects.

I've never thought five setters, for instance, were a clear indicator of mental toughness because there are so many ways to get there. They never tell the same story.
Asterisk - left-handers

Read the entire post, it's written why 5-setters; if someone wants to understand the concept must read the entire post, this is how it is :shrug:

Look at this, you've got 5-setter:
6-1 2-6 6-3 4-6 6-0 - it's counted only as 5-setters
but you've got 5-setter
2-6 3-6 7-6 7-6 6-3 - it's counted as 5-setters and two tie-breaks won/lost are included to Cat. 2 which is automatically reflected in the "mental toughness"
 

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Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

You have to consider the biggest matches and over the course of his career I think Nadal has been mentally tougher than Novak - it's been the hallmark of Nadal since he arrived on tour. Novak's mental toughness has only been a post 2011 thing (a lot of tough losses/with bad mental mistakes before that e.g. Olympics 2008) - Nadal came back in 5th set of Rome 05 F from a double break down in final set; 2008 Wimbledon is all about mental toughness - wasting match points on his serve, serving second in the 5th; 2009 Verdasco AO match - Verdasco lights out throughout yet he somehow hung in mentally...

Even this year Novak's mentality is what's let him down at times - the Montreal final set tiebreak, the Djoko-smash at the USO, the inability to cope with the loss of the 3rd set at USO etc. It's a close call but I think Nadal wins the mental battle looking at the whole of their careers.
 

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Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

I read the entire post, nothing you said changes my opinions about the nature of five-setters. Thanks though.

I'm not talking about five-setters consisting of close sets or not. I'm talking about five setters that are the result of different factors.

A superior player can play sloppy versus an inferior one and still have enough game to take it to five sets, lose or win. An inferior player can play out of their skin and take a superior one to five sets, win or lose. A guy can choke away two sets to end up pulling it together for a fifth set victory when he should have won comfortably in 3. Then there's the player who capitalizes on the guy above by "escaping" with two sets and stealing momentum for the fifth.

What can we learn from all that? Not much, because they're each completely different narratives ending in the same result (a fifth set w/l). It's really something that needs to be looked at qualitatively, not quantitatively.
 

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Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

You have to consider the biggest matches and over the course of his career I think Nadal has been mentally tougher than Novak - it's been the hallmark of Nadal since he arrived on tour. Novak's mental toughness has only been a post 2011 thing (a lot of tough losses/with bad mental mistakes before that e.g. Olympics 2008) - Nadal came back in 5th set of Rome 05 F from a double break down in final set; 2008 Wimbledon is all about mental toughness - wasting match points on his serve, serving second in the 5th; 2009 Verdasco AO match - Verdasco lights out throughout yet he somehow hung in mentally...

Even this year Novak's mentality is what's let him down at times - the Montreal final set tiebreak, the Djoko-smash at the USO, the inability to cope with the loss of the 3rd set at USO etc. It's a close call but I think Nadal wins the mental battle looking at the whole of their careers.
Not sure how long you have been watching tennis but Djokovic was quite strong mentally when he bursted onto the scene in 2006 and 2007. He had tough times in 2009 and especially in 2010 when he lost his serve, but has since recovered nicely.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

You have to consider the biggest matches and over the course of his career I think Nadal has been mentally tougher than Novak - it's been the hallmark of Nadal since he arrived on tour.
Nonsense, Nadal at the beginning of his career was a choker (he lost from match points up even to Agustin Calleri - awful player in the mental department), it's been actually changed since he beat Roddick in the Davis Cup 2004 final.

Nadal & Del Potro are lower in the list than his current mental disposition due to losing several dramatic matches in first ~30 main-level tournaments.

Besides it's not a thread about the elite players - it's about 250 players born between 1950 & 1988, it's about their mental predisposition in particular situations. Renzo Furlan who is second in this list, in my opinion was playing this type of tennis that he should have lost 2-6 2-6 to Nadal/Djokovic if they had played against each other (it couldn't happen though), but if one of them was injured, Furlan would beat them 2-6 7-5 7-6 as anti-choker type of a player as opposed to plenty other better/more successful players, Almagro for instance.
 

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Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

I really enjoy reading your posts Voo, they are always informative and interesting.

Some interesting 'stats' I found from your lists:

Coria ranked very high but failed to win the RG final against Gaudio, who is ranked very low on the list.
Also, Costa being ranked low was a bit of a surprise for me since I thought he displayed mental toughness in his RG performances in 2002 and 2003. Perhaps he was not so tough earlier in his career?

Del Potro only ranked somewhere in the middle - and yet most tennis fans (including me) & MTF thinks he is mentally tough.

The stats are interesting but there may be other factors that affect mental toughness that were excluded.
Perhaps if the stats included some weighting depending on the level of the tournament (e.g. Grand Slam vs 250's) or the 'round' of the tournament (e.g. Finals vs 1st round), then we could see an even more 'complete picture'. (I'm not sure if there would be a 'risk' of the stats just reflecting achievements if this level of detail was included.)

Some players are 'mentally tough' in small tournaments / early rounds but cannot rise to the occasion.

For example, Davydenko has 'choked' many times in his career against certain opponents but his record in finals is pretty good and is a factor that demonstrates 'mental toughness'.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

I'm not talking about five-setters consisting of close sets or not. I'm talking about five setters that are the result of different factors.
So you're talking about every tennis match.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

Coria ranked very high but failed to win the RG final against Gaudio, who is ranked very low on the list.
Matches like that one I call "against the probability", actually the entire Gaudio's triumph was like that - poor 5-set player all of a sudden wins three 5-setters, saving match points in the final which didn't happen in Paris since 1927.

Also, Costa being ranked low was a bit of a surprise for me since I thought he displayed mental toughness in his RG performances in 2002 and 2003. Perhaps he was not so tough earlier in his career?
Look at Costa's record: 385-273, number of matches he played at RG '03? Six.

Del Potro only ranked somewhere in the middle - and yet most tennis fans (including me) & MTF thinks he is mentally tough.
I consider him as the toughest mentally player along with Djokovic, Nadal & Murray as far as best of 3 matches are concerned. He is lower due to choking ability in first full season and poor ratio in 5-setters, tie-breaks play its role as well. Yesterday he beat Gasquet 6-7 6-3 7-5 but 7-6 3-6 7-5 is better from mental perspective.

The stats are interesting but there may be other factors that affect mental toughness that were excluded.
Perhaps if the stats included some weighting depending on the level of the tournament (e.g. Grand Slam vs 250's) or the 'round' of the tournament (e.g. Finals vs 1st round), then we could see an even more 'complete picture'. (I'm not sure if there would be a 'risk' of the stats just reflecting achievements if this level of detail was included.)
It's a thread about players like Matsuoka, Karbacher, Sandy Mayer etc. Without players like them Nadal, Djokovic & Federer mean nothing. If there were 3 players facing each other week-in week-out no-one would give a shit.
 

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Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

Matches like that one I call "against the probability", actually the entire Gaudio's triumph was like that - poor 5-set player all of a sudden wins three 5-setters, saving match points in the final which didn't happen in Paris since 1927.



Look at Costa's record: 385-273, number of matches he played at RG '03? Six.



I consider him as the toughest mentally player along with Djokovic, Nadal & Murray as far as best of 3 matches are concerned. He is lower due to choking ability in first full season and poor ratio in 5-setters, tie-breaks play its role as well. Yesterday he beat Gasquet 6-7 6-3 7-5 but 7-6 3-6 7-5 is better from mental perspective.



It's a thread about players like Matsuoka, Karbacher, Sandy Mayer etc. Without players like them Nadal, Djokovic & Federer mean nothing. If there were 3 players facing each other week-in week-out no-one would give a shit.
I was just pointing out the irony in Gaudio defeating Coria and saving match points, haha. I have to admit I'm not too familiar with Costa since I only started following tennis closely in 2002, so I don't really know much about his earlier results.

As stated in my previous post, the stats are very informative about the mental toughness of players in 'any given match' but obviously, players will display varying degrees of mental toughness depending on the tournament level or the tournament round.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

As stated in my previous post, the stats are very informative about the mental toughness of players in 'any given match' but obviously, players will display varying degrees of mental toughness depending on the tournament level or the tournament round.
Of course, but this thread compares 250 players and many others which are reflected in the numbers. It's about predisposition of certain players to act under specific circumstances not in a tournament or year but in the entire career which usually lasts 10-15 years.

It's ambitious and it's complex, something which is complex can't be easily explained and understood.

Furlan was too weak to seriously compare him with Sampras, Agassi etc. But you sometimes think why this player is 150th in ranking while other is 20th with similar skills. This thread partially replies on these doubts.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Re: Matrix of mental toughness: 250+1 Open era players (psycho-stats)

Look at the picture of all guys gathered together and notice where are placed Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Agassi, Sampras, Edberg etc.

It's not a thread: who is the mentally strongest among the best of best in the Open era... To such a thread I'd include 20 not 250 players and different method of calculation.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
^ Sometimes people say "Safin was underachiever", who knows, maybe he was due to his poor decisive 3rd set TB record :shrug: No-one in history lost more decisive 3rd set tie-breaks than Safin, the funny thing is: no-one won more decisive 5th set tie-breaks than Safin (and Krickstein).
 

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The picture is taking a long time to load because of its size. (And it loads from bottom-up.) Was there any particular reasoning for the positioning of the players in the picture?
 

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^ Sometimes people say "Safin was underachiever", who knows, maybe he was due to his poor decisive 3rd set TB record :shrug: No-one in history lost more decisive 3rd set tie-breaks than Safin, the funny thing is: no-one won more decisive 5th set tie-breaks than Safin (and Krickstein).
Oh my God Marat, 31 lost! :lol: That's a howler of a record.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
The picture is taking a long time to load because of its size. (And it loads from bottom-up.) Was there any particular reasoning for the positioning of the players in the picture?
Random stuff - on purpose to display that in this thread all included guys are equal. It's not a thread about their achievements.

Connors (b. 1952) loses to Santoro (b. 1972), who loses to Cilic (b. 1988) - this is Open era in a nutshell.
 
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