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View Full Version : How do you rank the great Aussies?


chaognosis
03-01-2007, 11:29 AM
Just curious how you'd rank the great Australian players of the 1950s, '60s and '70s--particularly Sedgman, Rosewall, Hoad, Laver, Emerson, and Newcombe. I suspect Laver is the runaway number one for most of you, but how do you compare, say, Sedgman and Newcombe? Rosewall and Hoad? And where does Emerson fit in, with his tremendous amateur successes, but against a field that was lacking the (probably better) pros?

Thanks.

noeledmonds
03-01-2007, 11:56 AM
Laver is indeed the number 1 for me. I am afraid I find it to look past his 2 Grand Slams. That achivement in itself is almost enough for his number 1 status IMO. Laver also really dominated Emerson and also had convincing H2Hs against Rosewall and Newcombe. Having said this I have never claimed to know enough about pre around 1975 tennis to be able to make a very well informed judgment. I would be interested to here what you think on the matter chaognosis as you seem to be one of the most knowledgable posters on earlier tennis.

urban
03-01-2007, 12:24 PM
Some would rank Norman Brookes pretty high. He was knighted and the second most influential person for Australian tennis - behind his wife Dame Mable Brookes, who chose the players for the Davis Cup teams in the 50s. Lefty Brookes, who played his backhand with the forehand side of the racket, wasn't called Wizard for nothing, he lost a close DC match to prime timeTilden, when he was 47 years old. Together with Kiwi Tony Wilding, he dominated tennis between 1907 and 1914.

AndrewD
03-01-2007, 01:04 PM
All of the Aussies of the 50s and 60s defer to Hoad as the best, followed by Laver and Rosewall, then Sedgeman, then Emerson, then Newcombe then the rest. If you asked the generation prior to that they would, no doubt, include Jack Crawford. I would rank him above Newcombe but below Emerson.

While I don't believe Emmo would have won 12 majors, had all there not been a ban on the pros, I do believe he would have won more than his share of the biggest events (around 8 ). No player was fitter (doubtful any player has ever been fitter), few have been better athletes (Borg was as fast but nowhere near as strong) and, while he didn't necessarily have a genius for the game in the fashion of a Hoad, Rosewall or Laver, his attitude towards sports was unique.

chaognosis
03-01-2007, 02:47 PM
I know far less about tennis of this period (between World War II and the Open Era) than I do about tennis between the wars--and I ask the question b/c it is one that has stumped me. I agree with placing Laver first; the Grand Slam is simply the highest achievement in the game. After that, though, I run into trouble. Hoad was generally considered more talented than Rosewall, and most writers c. 1968 rated Hoad higher b/c of his then-greater amateur successes. Even over the past ten years or so, most expert polls have put Hoad higher than Rosewall. Savvy fans now look at Rosewall's pro achievements more favorably, and of course what he did in the early years of the Open Era gives him an unparalleled record for longevity. Still, the absence of a Wimbledon title hurts him a lot.

Emerson and Newcombe are, I think, the most underrated. Emerson's amateur successes are too often dismissed due to the pro/amateur divide--his poor performance after 1968 probably had as much to do with his age as with the sudden influx of the great pros. He was a complete champion, the only player other than Laver to win all four majors twice. And his success in doubles surely is worth something. I do not agree, however, that most considered Emerson superior to Newcombe; most writers of the time thought quite the opposite. Today, Emerson's major count puts him higher on most lists than Newcombe, but I think Newcombe was overall the greater player. He and Laver alone among this group were able to win Wimbledon, the most important tournament, three times--and Newcombe probably could have won one or two more titles there were it not for the politics of the era. He had a "bigger" game than Rosewall or Emerson, more suited to grass, and was widely expected to take over from Laver as the next dominant champion. (Though Newcombe himself wrote a piece in World Tennis in early '69 saying he felt there would no longer be a dominant champion in tennis... boy did the rest of that year prove him wrong!)

If I had to synthesize my muddled thoughts, I'd probably go as follows:

1. Laver
2. Newcombe
3. Rosewall/Hoad
4. Sedgman/Emerson

That gives primacy to the most important tournament (Wimbledon) and years ranked number one (amateur, pro, or open). It's a formula which, I think, works fairly well for any era--allowing for minor adjustments to accomodate exceptional achievements like the Grand Slam.

As for earlier players, I agree that Brookes is one of the true greats of the early years--Paul Metzler, an Australian writer, ranks him higher than Crawford, Rosewall, Sedgman, Emerson or Newcombe. Crawford was a great player as well, though I feel he didn't stay on top long enough--he took over briefly from Vines but then quickly fell under Perry's shadow.

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. The more the better.

BeckerFan
03-01-2007, 03:08 PM
Laver #1 and Newcombe #2 sounds about right to me.

I agree: Wimbledon and years at number one are paramount.

That said ... IMO Rosewall is BY FAR the greatest never to win Wimbledon.

Moose Malloy
03-01-2007, 03:14 PM
I don't see how Hoad could be ranked higher than Rosewall, since his peak was so short.

Here is what Vines said about Hoad:

"Because he was subject to "off days" and had a career that was cut short, Lew Hoad is ranked only 8th. Injuries are a part of life & it is the track record that counts; nevertheless Hoad was nonpareil when he was "on." If he hadn't hurt his back he probably would be winning yet.

other observations:

"In contrast to Gonzales however, Hoad didn't know what defense was. He never temporized. Lew went for winners even when out of position, & although this resulted in sensational shots it also meant unnecessary errors. He rarely varied his game & would hit a hard shot when an ordinary one would do."

Hoad was literally unbeatable on a "given day." He was even superior to Budge, although he would never have defeated Budge on tour because Don didn't have "off days."

Yours!05
03-01-2007, 03:56 PM
Thought I'd repost link to this article, written by Melbourne chronicler Barry Dickens, though it doesn't help with his position in the constellation:
http://tinyurl.com/9gtte

Great store was placed on Sedgman's pigeon-toed gait - more extreme than Agassi's - to the point where even tennis coaches would annoint those similarly blessed for future success.

AndrewD
03-01-2007, 10:24 PM
I don't see how Hoad could be ranked higher than Rosewall, since his peak was so short.


According to Pancho Gonzales, if he and Hoad were playing at their best, Hoad would win. Given the legendary proportions of Gonzales' ego, I think that ranks as the greatest testament to Hoad's prowess.

Ken Rosewall has said that "anyone playing Lew before his back started playing up in 1958, was fortunate that he wasn't always at his peak. If he had been, the matches would have been too one-sided to be interesting". He has always maintained that the difference between Gonzales and Hoad in their pro encounters was that once Hoad had beaten Gonzales enough times to know he was the better player, he stopped putting in 100% effort.


Kind of funny to see Vines commenting on a player's inability to be defensive. Hoad was certainly an all-out attacking player but he knew enough about defense to win the French and Italian Opens. Of course, unlike Gonzales, he didn't have a major weakness that needed to be covered (Pancho's groundstrokes - backhand in particular) and which would force him to go on the defensive. Like Laver and Federer (the two players closest to him in ability), every shot was an opportunity to attack and his talent put the percentages in his favour.

urban
03-02-2007, 04:25 AM
In Gillers book, Newcombe ranks the Aussies Laver, Rosewall, Emerson, Sedgman, Hoad, Fraser, if i remember it right, with the footnote, that Hoad would probably be Nr.2 on potential. Hoad is the most difficult to rank. His and Rosewalls careers went parallel for quite a while in amateurs and pros, and only in one or two years - 1956, 58, maybe 1959 - Hoad had a clear advantage. In the pros, Hoad had only one big victory, the Forest Hills pro in 1959 over Gonzales, elsewhere he reached many big finals, but lost all these finals. Sedgman is a bit underrated. You could make an argument, that he was indeed the worlds best player in 1951 and 52 (despite being an amateur), and in 1958, too, even ranking over Gonzales, when he won two of the pro majors in Australia and Wembley. I agree with the positive assesment of Emmo, who was indeed an all court and all surface player par excellence, ultra-fit, lean and mean and very seldom losing a final. Newk and Emmo were very much on par; Newk - like Becker afterwards - was a man for the one big event, not a day in, day out player. He was always at his best at Wimbledon, but as a very physical, but not ultra-fit player, he faded away pretty fast, and in his later twenties, he had some really bad losses, especially against the old Rosewall in 1974.

Moose Malloy
03-02-2007, 09:48 AM
According to Pancho Gonzales, if he and Hoad were playing at their best, Hoad would win. Given the legendary proportions of Gonzales' ego, I think that ranks as the greatest testament to Hoad's prowess.


Gonzales won the tour vs Hoad 51-37, I think its aburd to dismiss that as Hoad tanking once he realized he was the better player. If that's the case, he definitely shouldn't be in this conversation, true champions don't do that, esp when gettting the opportunity to make that kind of money pre open era.
I'm sure Hoad at his best may be the best ever, but one could say the same thing about Safin. Its best to go strictly by accomplishment & Hoad falls well short of many other Australians as urban points out.
Even before Hoad's back started giving him problems, he was very erratic & had many "off days" as Vines said, esp in comparison to other greats like Rosewall, Gonzales, & Budge. Hoad was very much like a Safin & Becker, not consumed by tennis, & enjoyed having a life off the court. He was expected to do more at the amateur level before turning pro & admited he could not deal with the amount of pressure he got in Australia to perform well.

Not sure why you get so upset with what Vines said, he basically said what many have said, Hoad at his best is unbeatable. But he also points out that Hoad was rarely at his best, which is a fact not opinion. And that he basically played the same strategy, no matter what the match. In the 1956 US Open final Hoad had a chance to win the Grand Slam, but didn't change his strategy of blasting away when Rosewall started taking the net. There are flaws in almost all great players, thats nothing to be ashamed off. He lost a lot to Sexias & Budge Patty even though he had more talent, because of these tactics.

In Hoad's own words: "I never knew anything about tennis until I turned pro."
And he never reached the heights of his amateur career in the pros.

BeckerFan
03-02-2007, 10:22 AM
In Gillers book, Newcombe ranks the Aussies Laver, Rosewall, Emerson, Sedgman, Hoad, Fraser, if i remember it right, with the footnote, that Hoad would probably be Nr.2 on potential.

That is exactly right, except that he ranks Cooper ahead of Fraser ... then Anderson, McGregor and Stolle round out the top 10. In the computer ratings at the beginning of the book it goes a little differently: 1. Laver, 2. Hoad, 3. Rosewall, 4. Sedgman, 5. Newcombe, 6. Emerson. Crawford is ranked separately, as part of the pre-war list, where he shows up at No. 8, ahead of Vines.

BeckerFan
03-02-2007, 10:25 AM
Not sure why you get so upset with what Vines said, he basically said what many have said, Hoad at his best is unbeatable. But he also points out that Hoad was rarely at his best, which is a fact not opinion.

I think the idea is that the same criticism could apply to Vines as a player ... perhaps even more strongly. Vines once said that his strategy in every match was the same: 'hit the ball as hard as I can to the corner, then hit the ball as hard as I can to the other corner. Repeat.'

Moose Malloy
03-02-2007, 10:41 AM
I think the idea is that the same criticism could apply to Vines as a player ... perhaps even more strongly. Vines once said that his strategy in every match was the same: 'hit the ball as hard as I can to the corner, then hit the ball as hard as I can to the other corner. Repeat.'

I'm not sure why that should matter when someone is offering his opinion. The majority of commentators are hacks compared to the alltime greats but the still offer their opinion.

I may be presenting an unfair view of Vines, in the book he is very flattering to all players & each chapter on each player is quite long, when ranking them all, he says there really isn't much difference from 1-10. And he never speaks about himself in discussion of the great players, sounds like he has very little ego.

Writes that he considers Sedgman possibly the finest net player of all time.
Riggs calls Sedgman the greatest Australian player after Laver. Budge says he consider Crawford the best Australian player.

BeckerFan
03-02-2007, 10:45 AM
Yeah, there's quite the diversity of opinion.

If you're interested in Vines, his son wrote a book called 'The Greatest Athlete of All Time'. Obviously, it's not the most IMPARTIAL account you'll find of Vines's career ... but it does make for an interesting read.

AndrewD
03-02-2007, 04:42 PM
Gonzales won the tour vs Hoad 51-37, I think its aburd to dismiss that as Hoad tanking once he realized he was the better player. If that's the case, he definitely shouldn't be in this conversation, true champions don't do that, esp when gettting the opportunity to make that kind of money pre open era.

Not sure why you get so upset with what Vines said

You've misread what I wrote (BeckerFan was spot on the money). "Kind of funny" doesn't indicate displeasure, it indicates that you found something 'kind of funny'. To see a player like Vines commenting that someone doesn't know anything about defense is - given the way Vines played- kind of funny. It's the pot calling the kettle black and, while it might be true to a degree, it still is 'kind of funny'. Ultimately, it matters because I found it 'kind of funny' and thought I'd mention it, believing that people would understand what I was referring to without me having to explain myself.

No-one suggested that Hoad tanked, that is an insult. However, it's absurd to think that Hoad was playing at full intensity throughout the entire series. I thought you'd also played sport at a professional level, so you should understand the distinction between not trying and not playing at full capacity.

Above all other players bar Emerson, Hoad was completely unsuited to the life of a professional tennis player. Putting aside the trouble he had with his back, his temperament just wasn't suited to the constant grind of the pro tour or the realisation that he was little more than, in effect, a performing seal. Gonzales, I believe, could cope due to the rather large chips he carried on each shoulder. Hoad didn't have that same anger or the desire of a Rosewall, Trabert, etc to make the big dollars. He was more like Emerson - a player who, if he'd turned pro, would have crumbled when he found all of the fun drained out of the game.

I didn't say that Hoad was the best player of all time. However, I did say, if you ask the Australian players of that vintage (of course there's some bias - same as we get with Kramer's best or anyone else's) they rate Hoad as the best of them. Don't you think they're qualified to make that call? The same can't be said about Safin. As talented as he is, his peers aren't proclaiming him as the best of all time. If they did, I'm sure we'd all pay close attention.

urban
03-03-2007, 01:53 AM
I want to take a look on Roche, in comparison to his buddie Newcombe, which is a bit similar to the Hoad-Rosewall-comparison. End of the 60s, Roche was seen as the heir apparent to Laver, even more so than Newk. He had the sounder, more technical complete game, a nasty lefty slice on serve, which went from his left ear in a sharp angle, almost parallel to the net. Great backhand, especially on the volley and a solid baseline game, which gave him early in his career, big clay titles at RG, Hamburg and Rome. In 1969 he was in all semis of the big tourneys, including majors and other big events on all surfaces (grass, clay, hard, carpet): final at USO (loss to Laver),semis at RG (loss to Rosewall), Australia (Laver), Wimbledon (Newcombe), finals at Rome (Newk), Wembley, Philadelphia (both to Laver), win at Hamburg (over Okker), semi at South African Open (default to Okker). He was 5-4 over Laver in the year (including a 3rd place match in Tokyo), but lost all big events to him. But then he faded away, partly due to a severe elbow problem, which was healed much later by a Manila wonder healer. This is a parallel to Hoad. Also his friendship and doubles partnership with Newk was maybe a bit detrimental. Newk was a born leader, with big confidence in himself,not so sound technically but more resolute and positive thinking. Roche was a more shy, self-critical type. As it happens often in doubles partnerships, one, despite the better talent, will end up with much less success in singles. Smith/ Lutz was another example.

Duzza
03-03-2007, 02:18 AM
Interesting thing you might wanna know...


The grandson of Rod Laver and Granddaughter of Frank Sedgman go to my school!

Yours!05
03-03-2007, 02:49 AM
Interesting thing you might wanna know...

The grandson of Rod Laver and Granddaughter of Frank Sedgman go to my school!Hope it rubs off!:) Which city Duzza?

Duzza
03-03-2007, 03:11 AM
Melbourne of course :p

Yours!05
03-03-2007, 04:23 AM
Melbourne of course :pNo-one related to Neale Fraser?

Duzza
03-03-2007, 04:45 PM
No-one related to Neale Fraser?

Not that I can think of no.