Who are the 10 greatest tennis players of open era?

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    As Rafael Nadal strives to become only the third man ever – and first since 1969 – to hold all four grand slam trophies at once at this month’s Australian Open, tennis writer Darren Walton ranks the greatest players of the open era (1968-2011) from 10 down to one:

    10. STEFAN EDBERG: – Unlike the small army of Swedes who stampeded the ATP Tour following the baseline footsteps of the trailblazing Bjorn Borg, Edberg was a graceful serve-volleyer who came within one tantalising set of achieving the career grand slam. Despite losing the 1989 French Open final in five sets to 17-year-old Michael Chang, Edberg remains the only player ever to claim a junior grand slam, having swept the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US under-18 championships in 1983, the unique feat serving as the appetiser to a stellar pro career.

    He wound up a decade later with six grand slam crowns from 11 finals, three Davis Cup trophies and 72 weeks’ service as world No.1. He is one of only eight men to have held the year-end top ranking for consecutive seasons. A model sportsman and unflappable performer, his one-time record 53 straight major appearances is testimony to the fire that burned within. In retirement, Edberg carries that same ruthless competitive streak into national-level squash tournaments and he is also said to be nigh unbeatable in “rackleton” – a multi-sport event featuring tennis, squash, badminton and table tennis.

    9. JOHN MCENROE: The Superbrat will forever be remembered for his wild, unrestrained outbursts and signature “you cannot be serious” ranting at umpires, but tennis purists prefer to marvel at his mastery with the racquet. With a mixture of junk, touch and grace and in possession of a unique and deceptive back-to-his opponent serve, McEnroe snared seven grand slam titles from 11 finals, had 14 stints totalling 170 weeks atop the rankings and halted Bjorn Borg’s record five-year Wimbledon reign in one of the greatest matches of all-time in 1981. The German-born firebrand also enjoyed the most dominant season of the 43-year professional era in 1984, winning 82 of 85 matches, a record that only Roger Federer (81-4 in 2005) has ever come close to matching. But to sporting neutrals McEnroe’s volcanic temper overshadowed his winning ways and, among the more notable of his tantrums, he was fined $US7500 and banned for three weeks for demanding an umpire in Stockholm to “answer the question, jerk” and ejected from the 1990 Australian Open for swearing at the umpire, supervisor and tournament referee. For all that, he’s now regarded as the premier TV commentator and analyst in the game.

    8. JIMMY CONNORS: Arguably the greatest competitor of all-time, unquestionably the most enduring, James Scott Connors enjoyed an extraordinary career spanning three decades. Among his catalogue of highlights and achievements, he won eight majors from 14 finals, won more titles (109) and matches (1242) than any man in the modern era – at a staggering 82.4 per cent strike rate – and was world No.1 on nine different occasions for some 268 weeks, including five straight years from 1974-78. He spent a dozen years ensconced in the world’s top three and was a fixture in the top 10 for a phenomenal 16 consecutive seasons (1973-88). Connors was also the first man to win grand slam titles on three different surfaces – clay (when the US Open was contested on dirt in 1976), grass and hard courts. He finally signed off after the most emotion-charged encore in tennis history, a pulsating four-hour comeback victory over Aaron Krickstein in the 1991 US Open quarter-finals on his 39th birthday. The maverick American made almost as many headlines off the court, briefly engaged to Chris Evert before settling with playboy model Patti McGuire, with whom he had two children.

    7. IVAN LENDL: He had less friends in the locker-room than major titles, but Ivan The Terrible – as he was often labelled – was one hell of a tennis player, as evidenced by his winning record over fellow greats John McEnroe (21-15), Jimmy Connors (22-13), Mats Wilander (15-7) and Boris Becker (11-10). All up, he made 19 grand slam final appearances – less than only Roger Federer (22) – including eight straight at Flushing Meadows. A modern-day pioneer of the baseline power game, the Czech-born court bully, who won eight majors incidentally, occupied top spot in the rankings for 270 weeks, behind only Pete Sampras (286) and Federer (285) and is in an elite group of only eight men to have contested all four grand slam finals. Having won three of the four, super-fit Lendl’s obsession became triumphing at Wimbledon and he even skipped Paris a couple of times in desperate pursuit of his holy grail. Alas, he never broke through. But with 94 career titles – second to Connors – and as the only man ever to have won at least 90 matches in three consecutive years (1980-82), Lendl’s place in tennis history is secure. Upon retirement, he took up golf but never quite made it professionally despite reaching a scratch handicap.

    6. ANDRE AGASSI: Surely the most successful pigeon-toed athlete of all-time. Undoubtedly the highest earner in tennis, with his and wife Steffi Graf’s wealth estimated to be near enough to a billion dollars. Known on tour as The Punisher for his brutal groundstrokes, Agassi was the first man (and one of only two along with Rafael Nadal) to achieve the career “golden slam” – winning all four majors plus an Olympic gold medal. The eight-times major champion and 15-times finalist swears his infamous mullet wig cost him at least one more slam – when he feared the shocking hairpiece would fall off in the 1990 French Open final against Andres Gomez – and one wonders how many more he missed out on while plunging to No.141 in the world while married to Brooke Shields and fraternising with Barbra Streisand in the mid-1990s. Amazingly, Agassi recovered to reach four straight grand slam finals in 1999-2000 – one of the rarest feats in tennis – and add four more majors to his collection to take his tally to 101 weeks atop the rankings. Oh, and can anyone else say they beat Pete Sampras 14 times, or boast of 30 grand slam singles trophies in the family household?

    ***5. ROD LAVER: The Rockhampton Rocket was 30 and in the twilight of his celebrated career when he entered the professional ranks yet remains the only man in the 43-year open era to have pulled off the calendar-year slam with victories at the 1969 Australian, French and US Open championships plus Wimbledon. He also achieved the slam as an amateur in 1962 and Lord only knows how many more majors he would have amassed if not banned from the pro tour between 1963 and 67. As it was, he piled up 11, including five in the open era. And the five-year exile couldn’t stop Laver becoming the first player ever to earn $US1 million in prize money. He didn’t need a wheelbarrow for his cash, though. Laver’s left (hitting) forearm, measuring an abnormal 30cm, was the same size as world heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Marciano’s so when he unleashed one of his famous whip-like backhands, it often didn’t make it back over the net.

    4. RAFAEL NADAL: At just 24, the modest Majorcan has already achieved feats most players dream of. His numbers are staggering. Success at last year’s US Open gave Nadal the full grand slam set – the second-youngest of only seven men in history to complete the sweep – and he will arrive at this month’s Australian Open hoping to join Laver and 1930s great Don Budge as only the third man ever to hold all four major trophies at once. Barely halfway into his career, Nadal sits fourth on the all-time grand slam leaderboard with nine majors. The all-court master is nigh unbeatable on clay, his lone defeat in six French Open campaigns coming while troubled by a knee injury. But confirming his all-court prowess, apart from Bjorn Borg, Nadal is the only man in the open era to have achieved the French Open-Wimbledon double more than once (2008 and 2010). And only Federer has conquered Nadal at The All England Club since 2005. Throw in two Davis Cups, an Olympic gold medal, a record 18 Masters Series titles and 70 weeks as world No.1 and an enviable 14-8 winning record over Federer and Nadal has done it all. The single-minded Spaniard may well have raised eyebrows with his lunch snubbing of the Queen at Wimbledon last year, but there is no doubting his own place in tennis royalty.

    3. BJORN BORG: Tragically for tennis lovers, the ice-cool Swede was on display for an all-too-brief 10-year-career. But before retiring at just 25, Borg accrued 11 grand slam titles – the third-most in the modern era behind only Federer (16) and Sampras (14) – from 27 entered at a wondrous 41 per cent strike rate. All up, he won 89.2 per cent of his grand-slam singles matches. Both are men’s open-era records that have stood for 30 years. Borg’s adaption from clay to grass is also legendary, with the baseline master completing the French Open-Wimbledon double a record three straight times (1976-78). Had he bothered playing the Australian Open more than once, during a time when mostly locals and lesser lights reigned Down Under, it’s likely Borg would have challenged Federer’s sweet 16 majors. And despite jostling with fellow legends John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, Borg spent 109 weeks atop the rankings. And with 33 consecutive singles victories from 1973-80, Borg is also arguably the greatest-ever Davis Cup performer. On and off the court, the Scandinavian heart-throb transcended the sport like no other. He was the first tennis player ever feted like a rock star and to have women throw him their underwear.

    2. PETE SAMPRAS: In a tremendous display of longevity, Pistol Pete won the first of his 14 slams at only 19 and last at 32, both in New York. Sampras rode his clutch serve and killer forehand to an unmatched seven Wimbledon crowns plus five US Open titles and two Australian Open triumphs, owned the top ranking for a record 286 weeks in total – one more week than Federer – and finished top dog for an unrivalled six consecutive years from 1993 to `98. He lost only four grand slam finals out of 18 and eclipses Federer for several big records. Alas, the American cannot be considered the greatest because of his dismal claycourt record. Sampras never made one final at Roland Garros, only ever reached the last four once in 12 attempts and averaged less than two wins a visit to the French capital. Sadly for Sampras, about 80 of his trophies and other priceless memorabilia were stolen this year – but he stopped the search for the Musketeers’ Cup long before that.

    1. ROGER FEDERER: The Swiss master ended all arguments when he completed the career grand slam at the 2009 French Open. The once-in-a-lifetime talent owns a mountain of mind-boggling records – including 16 major trophies and 237 consecutive weeks as world No.1. He is the only man ever to contest all four grand slam finals in three different years and is the only player in history to win two different grand slam events for five consecutive years (Wimbledon 2003-07 and US Open 2004-08). Few could have imagined the mighty career ahead when, as a 19-year-old, Federer broke the Wimbledon domination of seven-times champion Sampras in 2001. At his most dominant, the freakish Federer reached 10 consecutive grand slam finals and a surely never-to-be-repeated 18 out of 19 (from 2005 to 2010), 22 in total and an almost incomprehensible 23 successive grand slam semi-finals and won 22 tour finals on the trot. If not for Nadal, the 29-year-old probably would have collected four more titles in Paris and three of his six other major final defeats were in five sets. In total, Federer has accounted for a dozen different rivals in grand slam finals. His crazy stats aside, the 29-year-old has achieved all he has with unrivalled on-court elegance, wielding his racquet like a stylish wand in a manner that may never be seen again. In truth, he could probably beat most social players with a frying pan. The undisputed tennis king.

    (*** While Rod Laver won a total of 11 grand slam titles throughout his career, only his achievements from his professional career were considered for this exercise.)

    BY THE NUMBERS – HOW THE GREATEST TENNIS PLAYERS OF THE PROFESSIONAL ERA (1968-2011) STACK UP:-

    1.ROGER FEDERER (Switzerland)

    Pro career: 1998-

    Career win-loss record: 746-174 (81%)

    Grand slam win-loss record: 208-31 (87%)

    Career finals win-loss record: 66-28

    Grand slam finals win-loss record: 16-6

    Australian Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 54-7 (4-1)

    French Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 43-11 (1-3)

    Wimbledon win-loss record and (record in finals): 55-6 (6-1)

    US Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 56-7 (5-1)

    Weeks at No.1: 285

    2.PETE SAMPRAS (USA)

    Pro career: 1988-2002

    Career win-loss record: 762-222 (77%)

    Grand slam win-loss record: 203-38 (84%)

    Career finals win-loss record: 64-24

    Grand slam finals win-loss record: 14-4

    Australian Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 45-9 (2-1)

    French Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 24-13 (0-0)

    Wimbledon win-loss record and (record in finals): 63-7 (7-0)

    US Open win-loss record and record in finals: 71-9 (5-3)

    Weeks at No.1: 286

    3.BJORN BORG (Sweden)

    Pro career: 1972-82

    Career win-loss record: 608-127 (83%)

    Grand slam win-loss record: 141-17 (89%)

    Career finals win-loss record: 63-26

    Grand slam finals win-loss record: 11-5

    Australian Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 1-1 (0-0)

    French Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 49-2 (6-0)

    Wimbledon win-loss record and (record in finals): 51-4 (5-1)

    US Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 40-10 (0-4)

    Weeks at No.1: 109

    4.RAFAEL NADAL (Spain)

    Pro career: 2001-

    Career win-loss record: 475-101 (82%)

    Grand slam win-loss record: 120-17 (88%)

    Career finals win-loss record: 43-13

    Grand slam finals win-loss record: 9-2

    Australian Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 25-5 (1-0)

    French Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 38-1 (5-0)

    Wimbledon win-loss record and (record in finals): 29-4 (2-2)

    US Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 28-7 (1-0)

    Weeks at No.1: 70

    **5.ROD LAVER (Australia)

    Pro career: 1968-77

    Career win-loss record: 413-107 (79%)

    Grand slam win-loss record: 60-10 (86%)

    Career finals win-loss record: 47-23

    Grand slam finals win-loss record: 5-1

    Australian Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 6-1 (1-0)

    French Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 13-1 (1-1)

    Wimbledon win-loss record and (record in finals): 22-3 (2-0)

    US Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 19-5 (1-0)

    Weeks at No.1: none (only contested three grand slam events after advent of rankings in 1973)

    6.ANDRE AGASSI (USA)

    Pro career: 1986-2006

    Career win-loss record: 870-274 (76%)

    Grand slam win-loss record: 224-53 (81%)

    Career finals win-loss record: 60-30

    Grand slam finals win-loss record: 8-7

    Australian Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 48-5 (4-0)

    French Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 51-16 (1-2)

    Wimbledon win-loss record and (record in finals): 46-13 (1-1)

    US Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 79-19 (2-4)

    Weeks at No.1: 101

    7.IVAN LENDL (Czech Republic/USA)

    Pro career: 1978-1994

    Career win-loss record: 1071-239 (82%)

    Grand slam win-loss record: 222-49 (82%)

    Career finals win-loss record: 94-52

    Grand slam finals win-loss record: 8-11

    Australian Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 48-10 (2-2)

    French Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 53-12 (3-2)

    Wimbledon win-loss record and (record in finals): 48-14 (0-2)

    US Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 73-13 (3-5)

    Weeks at No.1: 270

    8.JIMMY CONNORS (USA)

    Pro career: 1970-1992

    Career win-loss record: 1242-277 (82%)

    Grand slam win-loss record: 232-49 (83%)

    Career finals win-loss record: 109-54

    Grand slam finals win-loss record: 8-7

    Australian Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 10-1 (1-1)

    French Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 40-13 (0-0)

    Wimbledon win-loss record and (record in finals): 84-18 (2-4)

    US Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 98-17 (5-2)

    Weeks at No.1: 268

    9.JOHN MCENROE (USA)

    Pro career: 1977-1992

    Career win-loss record: 875-198 (82%)

    Grand slam win-loss record: 167-38 (81%)

    Career finals win-loss record: 77-31

    Grand slam finals win-loss record: 7-4

    Australian Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 18-5 (0-0)

    French Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 25-10 (0-1)

    Wimbledon win-loss record and (record in finals): 59-11 (3-2)

    US Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 65-12 (4-1)

    Weeks at No.1: 170

    10.STEFAN EDBERG (Sweden)

    Pro career: 1983-1996

    Career win-loss record: 806-270 (75%)

    Grand slam win-loss record: 177-47 (79%)

    Career finals win-loss record: 41-36

    Grand slam finals win-loss record: 6-5

    Australian Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 55-10 (2-3)

    French Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 30-13 (0-1)

    Wimbledon win-loss record and (record in finals): 49-12 (2-1)

    US Open win-loss record and (record in finals): 43-12 (2-0)

    Weeks at No.1: 72

    (** While Rod Laver won a total of 11 grand slam titles throughout his career, only his achievements from his professional career were considered for this exercise.

    (*** Statistics up to date as at January 7, 2011).

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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • January 8th 2011 @ 5:48am
      sheek said | January 8th 2011 @ 5:48am | ! Report

      Darren,

      Your article is severely flawed. First you ask who are “the 10 greatest tennis players of all time”, then abruptly discount anything that happened before 1968.

      Does this mean anyone who played the game before 1968 simply doesn’t rate? The two greatest changes in the game over more than a century have been equipment, especially racquets, & surfaces, moving away from grass. So comparisons of current & former players must take this into account.

      But as the great Sir Don Bradman often said, “a champion in one era is a champion in any era”.

      I was a young guy just taking an interest in all sports in the mid-60s. I managed to ‘arrive’ just in time to witness the last great days of Australian tennis, which effectively wound down by the mid-70s, with Newcome & Roche’s departure. I also ‘arrived’ just in time to see tennis become “open” in 1968, meaning the professionals were welcomed back into the bosom of the 4 grand slam majors.

      There are Aussies of a certain generation who will tell you there was none better than Rod Laver. Ever. Others of an earlier generation might argue over the respective merits of Lew Hoad or Ken Rosewall.

      But Americans of a similar generation to above & other keen judges will tell you that the Mex-Tex Pancho Gonzales might actually have been the best player of all-time. You won’t see his name often in the honour-roll of the ‘big 4’ GS major wins, since most of his career was played as a professional. Remembering these were the days of largely amateur sport.

      Yet he apparently had the measure, more often than not, of professional troupe founder Jack Kramer, along with the likes of Hoad, Rosewell & Laver.

      And what of pre-WW2 champions like Don Budge, Fred Perry, Bill Tilden, Norman Brookes & the French 4 musketeers (Lacoste, Cochet, Borotra & Brugnon)? To name just a few others.

      Roger Federer might well be the greatest tennis player of all-time. But your article would have claimed greater substance if you looked at champions from over 130 years, not merely since 1968.

      Alternately, your headline should read, “the 10 greatest tennis players since 1968”. NOT all-time!

      Otherwise, enjoyed the article!!!

      • January 8th 2011 @ 7:50am
        darwin stubby said | January 8th 2011 @ 7:50am | ! Report

        doesn’t the heading and the article state the “open era”, further there is comment to this being “tennis writer Darren Walton ranks the greatest players of the open era (1968-2011)” and then finally it goes further when referencing Laver’s stats … surely he couldn’t be much clearer than that …

        personally I’d have plumbed for Becker ahead of Connors and had Assagi further up the table … but overall certainly a great reminder of some of the best to hold a racket

        • January 8th 2011 @ 8:08am
          sheek said | January 8th 2011 @ 8:08am | ! Report

          DS,

          In the hours following when I first posted, the headline to the article has since been changed, to more correctly reflect the article’s content.

          My comments were directed at the initial headline…..

    • January 8th 2011 @ 7:16am
      Kersi Meher-Homji said | January 8th 2011 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      What, no Ken Rosewall?

    • January 8th 2011 @ 8:39am
      Plasmodium said | January 8th 2011 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Kersi – Rosewall could never crank up his serve enough to win on grass. And when playing on carpet or clay, didn’t do as well against Gonzales as Hoad did. Rosewall and Budge actually rallied together one year at Wimbledom. All the players came out to watch and tried to decide who had the best backhand.

      As for greatest player ever, the scribes say Hoad was better than anybody for one set. But he had so many shots he often chose the wrong one in later sets in a match.
      Gonzales had the best big serve ever – a first serve percentage of over 80%.

      I’ve seen all the players in Darren’s excellent summation. Nobody took my breath away like Laver did, time and again running down a ball and hitting a flashing winner while facing away from the net. Rod always said his biggest drawback was not hitting his first serve hard enough although, being a leftie, it had murderous spin.

      Of all the players listed, I’d say that Sampras and McEnroe owed their success to their serve, while Connors found a faster serve only after he’d won most of his titles.

    • January 9th 2011 @ 2:07am
      amazonfan said | January 9th 2011 @ 2:07am | ! Report

      Great article, 😀 and I while my top ten would be slightly different (purely in terms of ordering), I don’t have any problems with your top 10.

      10)Edberg. I agree with your selection here. While I think that Becker was better one-on-one, Edberg came closer to claiming the career slam, and he won several clay court titles. Becker never won a clay-court title.

      9)McEnroe. One of the absolute most talented players of all time, but it can be argued that he underperformed. Perhaps if he spent less time on arguing with the umpire, and focused his energy on the match at hand he could have had even more success. Still, he did have a brilliant career.

      8)Lendl. I have him below Connors as he never won Wimbledon. Unfair perhaps, but as far as I’m concerned, to be among the very best, you need to win Wimbledon. Nonetheless, he remains a tragically overlooked legend.

      7)Connors. McEnroe was more talented, but IMO talent is overrated. Connors’s singles career was definitely more impressive.

      6)Agassi. An absolute freak of nature, he might have won more slams if he wasn’t playing when Sampras was at his peak. Agassi is one of my all-time favourite players, however my problem with his career was that he didn’t really showcase dominance beyond his brilliant 1999 season. In fact, even during that season, he didn’t showcase any dominance apart from his winning two slams.

      5)Borg. I have him at number 5, rather than in the top 3, as he never won a hardcourt slam. He made the final of the US four times, but he never won. As for the Australian, he didn’t care about it.

      4)Nadal. A truly incredible player, he’s outside the top 3 as he’s only won 9 slams. Once he gets to 11, he will move up on my list.

      3)Sampras. One of the absolute sporting legends of the 20th century, he would be challenging for a top 2 spot if he had won the French. As such, when he was playing, I never considered him a candidate for the title of greatest player of all time.

      2)Federer. Sorry, but you will get an argument from me. It has nothing to do with Federer. He is a genius, a one in a millennium athlete, but I can’t place him at number 1 on my list due to his failure to do what the holder of that position did in fact do.

      1)Laver. He claimed The Grand Slam in 1969. That alone makes him IMO the greatest player of the open era.

      BTW, my all-time top 6 (I don’t have an all-time top 10) is identical to this list.

      • January 20th 2011 @ 3:41pm
        John Lucania said | January 20th 2011 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

        Although Laver was definitely in the top 5 I would not rank him over Sampras or Federer. The level of competition and depth of the game was not as great at that time as it was in the 70’s until now. Also consider that the U.S. Open, Australian and Wimbledon were all played on grass courts at that time and Laver specialized on grass courts.

    • January 9th 2011 @ 1:03pm
      ohtani's jacket said | January 9th 2011 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

      How can Laver be one of the top 5 players of the open era when his grand slams all came in the first two years? If his success in ’69 is so alluring then stick him on as number 10, but c’mon, he was more interested in chasing money on the WCT tours then winning majors in the open era, which tells you how important they were at that point.

      Tennis as we know it (men’s tennis) began with the Lendl/Edberg/Wilander generation. Those guys would’ve chased each other to the ends of the earth to win a Grand Slam.

      • January 9th 2011 @ 1:40pm
        ohtani's jacket said | January 9th 2011 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

        Also, what is Darren Walton talking about? Laver became a pro at the age of 30? Banned from the pro ranks from the pro tour between 1963 and 67? That really is poor googling.

      • January 9th 2011 @ 11:54pm
        amazonfan said | January 9th 2011 @ 11:54pm | ! Report

        Becker was part of that generation as well. Anyway, I think it’s inaccurate to say that tennis ‘as we know it’ began with that generation. Even forgetting the amateur era, there were Borg, Connors & McEnroe. Not to mention Vilas, Nastase and Newcombe.

        Also, the reason why Laver is included, and why I personally put him at number 1, is that in 1969 he claimed The Grand Slam; one of the greatest sporting feats of all time.

        • January 10th 2011 @ 3:34pm
          ohtani's jacket said | January 10th 2011 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

          Borg, Connors and McEnroe may have pathed the way, but they weren’t interested in winning as many Grand Slams as they could otherwise they would’ve played in the Australian Open.

          Tennis as we know it today really began in the late 80s-early 90s. When the open era began, players like Laver particpated in as many tournaments as they possibly could because there wasn’t the money in the game that there is today. In 1969, Laver won more tournaments than Nadal played in 2010. It was a different era, as evidenced by the number of absences Laver had in Grand Slams from 1970 onwards.

          Laver’s Grand Slam is an overrated feat in many ways. It’s a bit like Bradman’s average. Nobody really stops to think why it was achieved. The most impressive part was beating Rosewall on clay.

          • January 10th 2011 @ 6:56pm
            amazonfan said | January 10th 2011 @ 6:56pm | ! Report

            “Borg, Connors and McEnroe may have pathed the way, but they weren’t interested in winning as many Grand Slams as they could otherwise they would’ve played in the Australian Open.”

            To be fair, the Australian just wasn’t as prestigious throughout much of the 70’s and early 80’s as it is now. IMO, the year it reattained it iabsolute prestige was 1983, when Wilander defeated Lendl in the final.

            “In 1969, Laver won more tournaments than Nadal played in 2010. It was a different era, as evidenced by the number of absences Laver had in Grand Slams from 1970 onwards.”

            Why is that relevent? Lendl won 15 titles in 1982, Muster won 12 in 1995, Federer won 12 in 2006. I don’t see how you can dismiss an era because Laver was so dominant?

            As for Laver’s absences in the slams, it was still an era in which the professional majors (a term I will only use to describe the professional big tournaments) were still dominant. Also, yes, they participated in numerous tournaments because of limited money, however, you can’t dismiss that era as the players who participated had a tremendous influence on today’s players.

            “Laver’s Grand Slam is an overrated feat in many ways. It’s a bit like Bradman’s average. Nobody really stops to think why it was achieved. The most impressive part was beating Rosewall on clay.”

            I completely disagree. There are certain sporting feats which are achieved precisely because of the genius of the practitioner. Bradman’s average and Laver’s Grand Slam are two such feats IMO. I think that calling Laver’s Grand Slam (and he achieved two BTW) overrated is extraordinary.

            • January 11th 2011 @ 12:26am
              ohtani's jacket said | January 11th 2011 @ 12:26am | ! Report

              Players chose not to play in the Australian Open, though it’s often said that Borg would have played the Open if he’d won the US Open. Can you honestly imagine a player these days opting to miss a Grand Slam?

              My point about Laver is that people get caught up in numbers when talking about past greats. Laver played 32 tournaments in 1969 and won 18 of the 20 finals he contested. Those are impressive numbers, but Nadal only played 16 tournaments last year and Federer 18, so they would’ve had to have won just about every tournament they played in to compare.

              Laver missed slams after 1969 because of his contractual obligations to NTL and WCT and later because of injuries. It wasn’t until 1972 that the open era was fully integrated and not until 1990 that there was a proper ATP tour as we know it, so in truth Laver’s accomplishments don’t actually fall into the true open era.

              Aside from the fact that three of the four majors were on grass, the reason I think Laver’s Grand Slam was overrated as that it came at the dawn of the open era where he was playing against guys who were either amateurs or first/second year pros. When you consider Laver’s age at the time (and his opponents’ age) and how much longer he continued play professional tennis competitively, you start to realise that it was nowhere near as professional as today’s game.

              I also don’t like how it’s held against other considerable achievements by tennis players and I don’t like how women who accomplished the same thing aren’t held in similar adoration.

              • January 11th 2011 @ 1:25am
                amazonfan said | January 11th 2011 @ 1:25am | ! Report

                “Players chose not to play in the Australian Open, though it’s often said that Borg would have played the Open if he’d won the US Open. Can you honestly imagine a player these days opting to miss a Grand Slam?”

                You will have no arguments from me. I just don’t agree that ‘tennis as we know it today really began in the late 80s-early 90s’ as you said earlier. I think that ignores too many influential and great players who played in the open era, but were of an earlier generation. IMO of the ten best players to have played in the open era (and I’m considering replacing Edberg with either Becker or Wilander), four were from earlier generations; Laver, Borg, Connors & McEnroe.

                “My point about Laver is that people get caught up in numbers when talking about past greats. Laver played 32 tournaments in 1969 and won 18 of the 20 finals he contested. Those are impressive numbers, but Nadal only played 16 tournaments last year and Federer 18, so they would’ve had to have won just about every tournament they played in to compare.”

                True, Laver contested more tournaments (although the exact number of titles he won is in dispute, as some sources list it at 16), but why does it detract from his brilliance? Sometimes, black is black, white is white, and brilliance is brilliance. Laver was simply brilliant! 😀

                Seriously, you can take numbers and get whatever conclusion you want. They don’t always tell the whole story, but I don’t think that Laver’s 1969 season can be criticized because of the number of tournaments he played.

                “Laver missed slams after 1969 because of his contractual obligations to NTL and WCT and later because of injuries. It wasn’t until 1972 that the open era was fully integrated and not until 1990 that there was a proper ATP tour as we know it, so in truth Laver’s accomplishments don’t actually fall into the true open era.”

                No, absolutely not, I can’t accept that. The open era began in 1968, so to say that it wasn’t part of the ‘true’ open era is IMO nonsense. There is no so-called ‘true’ open era (however you define it.) There is the open era, and the amateur era which came before. While I do consider Laver to be the number 1 player of the open era, I do understand why others would disagree. But I think it’s a false and unfair argument that his accomplishments were not part of the ‘true’ open era (a term which I had never heard of until you mentioned it). I think that Laver’s accomplishments were as part of the legitimate open era as Federer’s.

                However, for argument’s sake, let’s say that I agree that the ‘true’ open era did not begin until 1990. That would be like the AFL not beginning until 1990, however I don’t think anybody could argue that the VFL was not legitimate. Same thing with Laver; he was still part of the open era, regardless of whether it was part of the ‘true’ open era or not.

                “Aside from the fact that three of the four majors were on grass, the reason I think Laver’s Grand Slam was overrated as that it came at the dawn of the open era where he was playing against guys who were either amateurs or first/second year pros. When you consider Laver’s age at the time (and his opponents’ age) and how much longer he continued play professional tennis competitively, you start to realise that it was nowhere near as professional as today’s game.”

                Yes, but what does it say that only two male players in the history of the game have claimed the Grand Slam, with Laver doing so twice? When most of the players had turned professional, Emerson had an opportunity to do so, but he never did so. Laver didn’t have any advantages over anyone else, every player had an opportunity to claim The Grand Slam, yet it was he who did so. Quite honestly, I can not rate either of Laver’s Grand Slams enough.

                “I also don’t like how it’s held against other considerable achievements by tennis players and I don’t like how women who accomplished the same thing aren’t held in similar adoration.”

                I can’t comment on the first except to say that as IMO it is the greatest feat ever recorded in the history of tennis, I think it justifiably is held above other great feats. To me, the fact that Laver claimed The Grand Slam twice means that no matter what Federer or Nadal ever do, it is quite unlikely they will surpass him as IMO the greatest tennis player of all time. For me, there are two sporting feats which IMO I would list as the greatest of all time; Laver’s claiming The Grand Slam twice, and Bradman’s average. So on that basis, I think there is a good reason it’s held against other great tennis achievements.

                As for women, only three have done so; Maureen Connelly, who did so in the 50’s and so like Don Budge in 1938 does get overlooked, Margaret Court who does deserve more respect, and Steffi Graf who is held in complete adoration.

                I will say a pet peeve of mine, and that is when people refer to The Grand Slam as a calender-year Grand Slam. I don’t care what rule changes the ITF implemented 20 years ago; as far as I’m concerned there is only one Grand Slam, and it’s The Grand Slam, not a calender-year Grand Slam.

              • January 11th 2011 @ 5:54pm
                ohtani's jacket said | January 11th 2011 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

                My point about modern tennis beginning in the late 80s/early 90s is simply that 1988-90 was when the ATP tour as we know it today began taking shape. It has nothing to do with the class of Laver, Borg, Connors & McEnroe, it’s merely the facts of the eras as I see them to be. The era that Laver and Borg, etc. played in was much different from the era that the 1988 “press conference in the parking lot” ushered in, and it’s my belief that their achievements should be viewed in light of the differences in those eras. Otherwise, you get the crazy situation as with Bradman’s average where people think that because it hasn’t been done since it’s some unmatchable feat of human endeavour.

                I’m not trying to criticise Laver’s ’69 season, I simply think it’s an example of how people get caught up in the numbers game (especially when talking about events they weren’t alive for or never saw.) The number of tournaments Laver played reflected how important prize money was in those days in terms of how they players made their living and how weak the player power was before ’88.

                The reason I say that the open era didn’t truly begin until 1972 is that before the ATP was formed the NTL and WCT promoters often forbid their players from entering Grand Slam tournaments if they thought the prize money was too low. Hence, there were several Grand Slams in the early 70s that didn’t host a complete field of players. Only Wimbledon and the US Open featured every top player in that era (another thing sticks in my craw about Laver being the best player of the open era is that he failed to make it past the round of 16 in both those tournaments in 1970 or the quarters of any GS thereafter.) In ’72, all traditional ILTF events held from January to July were forbidden to the WCT players meaning that the US Open was the only tournament that year where the best players were present. The true Open era began from August of that year.Laver was part of the true open era because he played after August ’72, but his best years in the open era saw players playing on seperate tours (something Krammer tried to rectify with the Grand Prix circuit.)

                There are many feats in tennis that are as impressive as Laver’s Grand Slam: Borg’s consecutive RG/Wimbledon double is a criminally underrated one, Federer’s semi-final streak, Graff’s 1988, Navratilova’s six in a row. At the same time that Laver did the Grand Slam, Court began her own streak of six in a row.

                Laver was a phenomenal player, but I’ve seen footage from that 1969 Grand Slam and you can’t really compare it to the modern era. Watch the US Open final that year and tell me those conditions are the same as professional tennis today.

              • January 11th 2011 @ 10:42pm
                amazonfan said | January 11th 2011 @ 10:42pm | ! Report

                “My point about modern tennis beginning in the late 80s/early 90s is simply that 1988-90 was when the ATP tour as we know it today began taking shape. It has nothing to do with the class of Laver, Borg, Connors & McEnroe, it’s merely the facts of the eras as I see them to be. The era that Laver and Borg, etc. played in was much different from the era that the 1988 “press conference in the parking lot” ushered in, and it’s my belief that their achievements should be viewed in light of the differences in those eras.”

                Yes, the eras were extremely different, I don’t dispute that. However I simply do not agree that Laver did not play in the ‘true’ open era. It’s like VFL/AFL. Peter Hudson kicked 150 goals in an season in which there were no non-Victorian clubs. Should Hudson’s feat be dismissed for that reason? I don’t think so. You can only compete against your competition, and you can only play in the era in which you competed, and Laver did something that only one other player had ever done, and he did it twice.

                “Otherwise, you get the crazy situation as with Bradman’s average where people think that because it hasn’t been done since it’s some unmatchable feat of human endeavour.”

                Well, I’m one of those people, so I don’t think it’s crazy. Bradman’s average IMO was, along with Laver’s two Grand Slams, one of the two greatest sporting feats of all time.

                “I’m not trying to criticise Laver’s ’69 season, I simply think it’s an example of how people get caught up in the numbers game (especially when talking about events they weren’t alive for or never saw.) The number of tournaments Laver played reflected how important prize money was in those days in terms of how they players made their living and how weak the player power was before ’88.”

                Just because the ATP tour began taking shape in 1988, does not mean that player power was weak before then. For me, 1983 was actually the year that player power truly became strong. Wilander defeated Lendl at the Australian, thus IMO ensuring that the Australian recaptured its incredible prestige.

                Anyway, I don’t dispute that Laver played the number of tournaments he did because of the importance of prize money, but for me, I’m not really concerned either way. For one thing, my reverence of the season is based mostly upon his claiming The Grand Slam. But also, regardless of how many tournaments he played, he still won 16-18 of them. Very few playrs could have done that.

                ” (another thing sticks in my craw about Laver being the best player of the open era is that he failed to make it past the round of 16 in both those tournaments in 1970 or the quarters of any GS thereafter.)”

                Truthfully, if he hadn’t claimed The Grand Slam, I wouldn’t think so myself. But I place such importance on it, especially since no other player has won four straight slams, that IMO it automatically makes him the best of the open era.

                “Laver was part of the true open era because he played after August ’72, but his best years in the open era saw players playing on seperate tours (something Krammer tried to rectify with the Grand Prix circuit.)”

                I get what you are saying regarding eras, however I can’t agree with there being a true open era. Perhaps I’m taking a literal approach to this, but for me there is only the open era and the amateur era.

                “There are many feats in tennis that are as impressive as Laver’s Grand Slam: Borg’s consecutive RG/Wimbledon double is a criminally underrated one, Federer’s semi-final streak, Graff’s 1988, Navratilova’s six in a row. At the same time that Laver did the Grand Slam, Court began her own streak of six in a row.”

                Disagree. Borg’s consecutive RG/Wimbledon double was incredible, but I would place it below Laver’s Grand Slam(s). Federer’s semi-final streak is also amazing- as was Lendl’s 8 straight US Open finals, Federer’s 10 straight GS finals, and McEnroe’s 1984 season- but IMO The Grand Slam remains the greatest feat in the history of tennis. As for Graf, she claimed The Grand Slam! Court’s six straight slams also saw her claim The Grand Slam. As for Navratilova, she was incredible, and the fact that she claimed 6 straight slams is awesome, but I’m a traditionalist, and so I can’t place her achievement in the same category as Laver’s claiming The Grand Slam (twice).

                “Laver was a phenomenal player, but I’ve seen footage from that 1969 Grand Slam and you can’t really compare it to the modern era. Watch the US Open final that year and tell me those conditions are the same as professional tennis today.”

                You would also have to do the reverse. That is, place modern players in those conditions. How would some of today’s player fare if they played in those conditions, without their fitness regimes, with 60’s technology?

              • January 11th 2011 @ 11:25pm
                ohtani's jacket said | January 11th 2011 @ 11:25pm | ! Report

                By player power, I meant the union.

                As you’re probably aware, from 1974 to 1989, the men’s circuit was administered by Men’s International Pro Tennis Council. In 1988, the ATP union basically rose up in mutiny and took over the circuit.

      • August 21st 2011 @ 6:57pm
        John Lucania said | August 21st 2011 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

        Although Majors may not have been as important to Laver as money he still had major accomplishments by winning two Grand Slams. I don’t agree that Tennis as we know it started with Lendl/Edberg/Wilander. When you talk about the speed and modernization of today’s game you have to credit Jimmy Connors as the father of modern era tennis along with Borg and McEnroe.

    • January 9th 2011 @ 2:05pm
      Clipper said | January 9th 2011 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

      I’d move Sampras down, as not only did he not win a Frech, he only made the semis once, plus the only rivalry he had was Agassi, who went missing for a few years. I’d also move Connors and Nadal up a spot and swap Becker for Edberg. Of course Laver would be higher if it was best of all time, but by stating Open era it takes away his ’62 Grand Slam.

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