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Dean
05-31-2007, 10:05 AM
As a long time follower of professional tennis the question that has often been repeated is, "Who's the best ever?"

IMHO you cant really compare say a Sampras to Laver or Federer to Gonzales etc etc because they never played each other. The best way is to see who was best during the decade/s or eras they played in.

so starting with the 20's and working through to the present day... here goes.

1920's
Bill Tilden - 7 US and 3 Wimbledon titles

1930's
Don Budge - 1938 Grand Slam and winner of record 6 consecutive GS's

1940's
Jack Kramer - The best professional for most of the decade

1950's
Pancho Gonzales - 7 or 8 years as World No.1 (7 straight US Pro & 4 Wembly Pro)

1960's
Rod Laver - World No.1 1964-70. Double Grand Slam 1962(am) & 1969(open era), and Pro Grand Slam in 1967 (US Pro, French Pro, Wimbledon Pro, Wembly Pro)

1970's
Jimmy Connors & Bjorn Borg
(Connors: 5 straight years as YE No.1 and consecutive weeks as No.1 record holder) (Borg: 5 straight Wimbledon's and 6 French Open's. 1978-80 French/Wimbledon double)

1980's
John McEnroe & Ivan Lendl
(McEnroe: World No.1 1980-84) (Lendl: World No.1 1985-88 & 8 straight US open finals)

1990's
Pete Sampras - 6 straight years as YE World No.1 & Grand Slam record holder in singles. Record 7 Wimbledon's

2000's
Roger Federer - 10 Grand Slams. 4 straight Wimbledon's. World No.1 for record 173 straight weeks and counting

I'd love to know what people think of the list and if it holds any water.

Cheers
Dean.

Jonny S&V
05-31-2007, 10:08 AM
In order:
Tilden
Perry
Kramer
Gonzalez
Laver
Connors
Lendl
Sampras
Federer

logansc
05-31-2007, 10:19 AM
In order:
Tilden
Perry
Kramer
Gonzalez
Laver
Conners
Lendl
Sampras
Federer

This is a fine list. I agree 100%. Kudos for not picking 2 people...there can only be one! :p

Jonny S&V
05-31-2007, 10:22 AM
This is a fine list. I agree 100%. Kudos for not picking 2 people...there can only be one! :p

Thanks. (Ten Characters).

Moose Malloy
05-31-2007, 10:28 AM
1960's
Rod Laver - World No.1 1964-70. Double Grand Slam 1962(am) & 1969(open era), and Pro Grand Slam in 1967 (US Pro, French Pro, Wimbledon Pro, Wembly Pro)


Wel if you picked 2 players for the 70s, I think it is only fair to pick 2 for the 60s(Rosewall)

Rosewall arguably won more major titles than Laver, the gap between them isn't as big as say the gap between Sampras & Agassi.

http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=135592

and Jonny S&V please don't misspell Connors again, it drives me crazy to see that on a tennis board!;)

Dean
05-31-2007, 10:31 AM
This is a fine list. I agree 100%. Kudos for not picking 2 people...there can only be one! :p

that's fair enough. however I do think for the 70's and 80's it is hard to split.

Borg's run at Wimbledon and RG is hard to overlook, while Connors did the 3/4 slam in 1974 and had the long run as No.1.

McEnroe was easily the best in 1980-84 while lendl had a diabolical 1-6 record in GS finals in that period but then won 3 straight US Opens and was No1 from 1985-88.

Jonny S&V
05-31-2007, 10:34 AM
and Jonny S&V please don't misspell Connors again, it drives me crazy to see that on a tennis board!;)

SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY!!!!!
I hate it when people do that too! Argh! I can't believe I fell into the trap!

Edit: There, I fixed it.

drakulie
05-31-2007, 10:47 AM
Tilden
Perry
Kramer
Gonzalez
Laver
Borg
Mcenroe
Sampras
Federer

chaognosis
05-31-2007, 11:03 AM
The most obvious choice of all is Tilden for the 1920s - the most dominant player of all time, bar none. Lacoste and Cochet were Tilden's toughest rivals, and they would be more-or-less tied at No. 2 for the '20s. Almost everyone ranks Budge above Perry for the 1930s, by virtue of the Grand Slam and Budge's own dominance over Perry as a pro (interestingly though, Budge himself considered Vines the true champion of the decade). The 1940s were obviously interrupted but the honor goes to Kramer over Riggs; of course, Kramer has argued that Budge would probably have dominated this decade too were it not for the war. The 1950s are easy: Gonzales. Hard to choose a No. 2 though, with many fine contenders - Kramer, Segura, Sedgman, and Hoad. The 1960s belong to Laver, with Rosewall a formidable No. 2. The 1970s go to Borg over Connors. Despite Lendl's greater consistency, I (along with most other critics) have to give the 1980s to McEnroe. Sampras obviously dominated the 1990s like a Tilden or Gonzales, and someone would be hard pressed to unseat Federer for the present decade.

krosero
05-31-2007, 01:15 PM
Tilden
Budge
Kramer
Gonzales
Laver
Borg
Lendl
Sampras
Federer

Borg and Connors were each in contention for Slams from 1974-79, except that Connors didn't reach any finals in '79. Borg won 8 titles to Connors' 5. He won four Wimbledons in a row. Connors was indeed consistent but his long run at #1 was marred by a flawed computer system; he was not #1 in 1975. Where Connors has the lead is in tournament titles, with 75 (Borg won 50, Vilas 46). Borg had an edge on Connors in their head-to-head, though their Slam meetings were tied at 3-3. [Finally, Borg was on the winning Davis Cup team in 1975, while Connors hardly participated in Davis Cup].

McEnroe was not in contention for Slam titles after 1985. Lendl was in finals from the '81 FO to the '89 USO (his 17 finals tied Laver's alltime record). He made 8 consecutive USO finals, tying Tilden's alltime record, from 1982-89. He reached nine consecutive Masters finals from 1981-88 and won five titles there. He has the longest Slam streak of the '80s (three USO's) and the longest run at #1 (three years). He won more Slams than McEnroe, 7 to 6, and had a 4-3 edge on him in Slam meetings even in 1980-85. He won more tour titles, 83, than the 75 that Connors won in the '70s or the 61 that Sampras won in the '90s (these decade cutoffs are inevitably unfair to players like Rosewall or Connors whose greatness was so much about longevity). McEnroe was on the winning Davis Cup team in 1981 and 1982 and was a constant presence in that competition, but even there Lendl was on the winning team for Czechoslovakia in 1980. In doubles there is no comparison, but I don't think it makes up the edge, IMO, that Lendl had in singles. Doubles would make it a very close call, though.

Edited to add: MooseMalloy had pointed out something I didn't know, that the ATP site, which I used to cull the stats above, is missing some titles that the ITF site does list. So my numbers would change slightly. See his post here:

http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showpost.php?p=1481663&postcount=36

chaognosis
05-31-2007, 01:43 PM
Re: the 1980s. The most important tournament, Wimbledon, was won by McEnroe three times, by Lendl zero. Greatness involves many intangible factors, and it ultimately depends on how a player is perceived by the world -- a great player must be someone in whom the emotions of spectators are invested, who triumphs in the biggest matches on the biggest stages. McEnroe was in this regard by far the dominant figure of the decade. Everyone remembers the Borg-McEnroe confrontations at Wimbledon, perhaps more so than any other matches of the past 70 years, but where is Lendl in our collective memory? It is telling, I think, that no major poll has ever rated Lendl ahead of McEnroe. (That is a fact you can quote me on.) The statistics here don't tell the whole story. To quote my favorite tennis writer: "But figures, after all, can be untrustworthy, and figures that upset our fondest beliefs are the most untrustworthy of all" (Al Laney).

krosero
05-31-2007, 03:25 PM
Re: the 1980s. The most important tournament, Wimbledon, was won by McEnroe three times, by Lendl zero. Greatness involves many intangible factors, and it ultimately depends on how a player is perceived by the world -- a great player must be someone in whom the emotions of spectators are invested, who triumphs in the biggest matches on the biggest stages. McEnroe was in this regard by far the dominant figure of the decade. Everyone remembers the Borg-McEnroe confrontations at Wimbledon, perhaps more so than any other matches of the past 70 years, but where is Lendl in our collective memory? It is telling, I think, that no major poll has ever rated Lendl ahead of McEnroe. (That is a fact you can quote me on.) The statistics here don't tell the whole story. To quote my favorite tennis writer: "But figures, after all, can be untrustworthy, and figures that upset our fondest beliefs are the most untrustworthy of all" (Al Laney).I see what you're saying; you're pointing to something intangible but important. On the question of where Lendl stands in our collective memory, well, let me start with myself. I didn't root for the guy at all. I would much rather have seen McEnroe beat him in their matches. But Lendl was involved in two great contests that I remember vividly: his losses to Wilander at the USO in '88 and to Becker at the Masters a few months later. Those may be my two favorite matches -- admittedly, one of the reasons being that Lendl was toppled. But even then if you had asked me, I would have clearly acknowledged that Lendl put up an amazing fight in both contests, and that his doing so was a huge part of what made those matches memorable for me. He had my respect, too, even if not my enjoyment.

And there is one match, which I just finished seeing for the first time, where the spectators were invested in Lendl and chanting his name: the 84 FO, against none other than McEnroe. That was by any definition an important struggle on a big stage.

Of course McEnroe still held my emotions, but on that point I want to say how many negative emotions McEnroe engendered. Of course he probably had more fans than critics, but he had no shortage of the latter, for his oncourt behavior. What he did for the image of the sport is, on balance, very much in the positive column; but the negative part of it is something that I think would detract from McEnroe's greatness -- unless the standard we're using is "for better or for worse", who had the greater impact? In that sense, McEnroe was easily the figure who caught the imagination of the man in the street, to whom Lendl was probably close to a nobody.

Another thing that comes to mind is that the judgment of history sometimes is different from contemporary judgment. It's not right to ignore either one, but let's say there's a player who worked extremely hard and under an unfair contemporary judgment; then the judgment of history corrects for the imbalance.

I agree with you 110% about the Borg-McEnroe contests. On that stage, McEnroe was at his greatest, and he earned his accolades against Borg always with his courage and his tennis skills, rather than acting up.

CEvertFan
05-31-2007, 07:17 PM
In order:
Tilden
Perry
Kramer
Gonzalez
Laver
Connors
Lendl
Sampras
Federer


The only change I would make to your list is I would put Budge over Perry.

Gizo
06-01-2007, 04:36 AM
1920's - Bill Tilden
1930's - Don Budge (his domination over Perry in pro tour gives him the edge for me)
1940's - Jack Kramer
1950's - Pancho Gonzales
1960's - Rod Laver (although Ken Rosewall is not too far behind)
1970's - Bjorn Borg (Within the decade, Borg won at least one grand slam a year from 1974-1979, with French Open-Wimbledon doubles in 1978-1979, meaning that he won grand slam titles in 6 different years that decade, compared to 3 for Connors. Borg won 8grand slams in 70s, compared to 5 for Connors. Connors was a very soft world no. 1 in 1975, 1977 and 1978 )
1980's - Ivan Lendl (Lendl was consistently reaching grand slam finals throughout the course of the decade, while McEnroe was a spent force after reaching the 1985 US Open final)
1990's - Pete Sampras
2000's - Roger Federer

krosero
06-13-2007, 07:44 PM
Pancho Gonzales is unique on these lists because he's the only one who wins his decade without winning any Grand Slam titles.

I think he was the greatest of the 1950s, but if we consider only Grand Slams, who was the greatest?

FiveO
06-13-2007, 08:15 PM
Tilden
Budge
Kramer
Gonzales
Laver
Borg
Lendl
Sampras
Federer



This is my list.

krosero
06-13-2007, 08:24 PM
This is my list.But who do you think was the greatest amateur of the 1950s?

urban
06-13-2007, 11:07 PM
Best amateur of the 50s is debatable between Sedgman, Trabert and Hoad. Sedge had great DC victories against the US teams, won two clear Forest Hills titles 51/52, the last without losing a set i think. In 52 he won DC, Wim and US, in Wim all 3 titles (singles, doubles, mixed). Trabert was great at RG and US, won RG 54/55, the last American before Chang. After his loss to Rosewall in sf Australia, he won the last 3 of the Grand Slam. Then he turned pro, losing a bitter hth series clearly to Gonzales, however on indoor wood and carpet, not on hard and clay, where he had grown up. Had to deal with Hoad and Rosewall.Won DC 54 in Sydney among the biggest crowds ever. Hoad wasn't that successful until 56, had his best matches at DC, at the majors, he lost some tight and some clear big matches to Patty and Drobny. Had his best year in 56, winning big in all surfaces. Did the Paris-Rome-Hamburg clay triple, which was emulated only by Laver. Dominated Rosewall, but lost the very last match of the Grand Slam, under heavy wind at Forest Hills to Rosewall in four sets. In 57 he played inconsistenly, but had his best performace in his demolition of Cooper at Wimbledon.

FiveO
06-14-2007, 07:23 AM
But who do you think was the greatest amateur of the 1950s?


Not a cop-out but urban's above post sums up the amateur ranks in the '50's very well. But if the question was whether that would effect my overall ranking for that decade the answer would be no, not over Gonzalez.

Jonny S&V
06-14-2007, 08:06 AM
The only change I would make to your list is I would put Budge over Perry.

The only reason I put Perry over Budge is that they were slightly different eras, and the only reason Budge beat Perry as many times as he did was Perry was nearing the end of his career. Also, while Budge did win the grand slam in 1938, it was after Perry had retired, so (although I am going on a slight limb with this statement) there was a slight vacuum at the top of men's tennis at that time. If Perry were still an amateur in 1938, that would have thrown a slight monkey wrench into Budge's bid. I also find the fact that Perry picked up tennis at 18 an amazing feat in its own right. Granted that he was a table tennis champion, that is still an amazing thing to pull off.

krosero
06-15-2007, 06:14 PM
Best amateur of the 50s is debatable between Sedgman, Trabert and Hoad. Sedge had great DC victories against the US teams, won two clear Forest Hills titles 51/52, the last without losing a set i think. In 52 he won DC, Wim and US, in Wim all 3 titles (singles, doubles, mixed). Trabert was great at RG and US, won RG 54/55, the last American before Chang. After his loss to Rosewall in sf Australia, he won the last 3 of the Grand Slam. Then he turned pro, losing a bitter hth series clearly to Gonzales, however on indoor wood and carpet, not on hard and clay, where he had grown up. Had to deal with Hoad and Rosewall.Won DC 54 in Sydney among the biggest crowds ever. Hoad wasn't that successful until 56, had his best matches at DC, at the majors, he lost some tight and some clear big matches to Patty and Drobny. Had his best year in 56, winning big in all surfaces. Did the Paris-Rome-Hamburg clay triple, which was emulated only by Laver. Dominated Rosewall, but lost the very last match of the Grand Slam, under heavy wind at Forest Hills to Rosewall in four sets. In 57 he played inconsistenly, but had his best performace in his demolition of Cooper at Wimbledon.Thanks for that summary. After some very basic research I've put together my own mini-summary for each player; and I've added Rosewall.

All these players are very much neck-and-neck.


SEDGMAN
4 Slams in the 1950s (and 5 altogether)
Never won the French (but made one final there)
15 doubles Slam titles in the 1950s (and 17 altogether)
Helped Australia win 3 Davis Cups


TRABERT
5 Slams
Never lost a Slam final
Won 3 Slams in one year
Won the French twice with a SV game
Never won the Australian
5 doubles titles in Slams
Helped the U.S. win 1 Davis Cup (at a time when the Aussies were dominant)


HOAD
4 Slams
Won 3 Slams in one year
Never won the U.S.
6 doubles titles in Slams
Helped Australia win 3 Davis Cups
Defeated Trabert in a classic Cup match in 1953
Often tipped as the best ever on his best day


ROSEWALL
4 Slams
Youngest ever to win the Australian or French
Prevented a Grand Slam by Trabert in 1955 and stopped Hoad’s in 1956
Did not win Wimbledon (but made two finals there in the 1950s)
6 doubles titles in Slams
Helped Australia win 3 Davis Cups


The one stat that leaps out at me is how many doubles titles Sedgman won.

Q&M son
04-20-2008, 06:39 AM
Laver
Borg
Lendl
Sampras
Federer


My choices, before that I can't said nothing valid.

Wuornos
04-20-2008, 09:19 AM
In order:
Tilden
Perry
Kramer
Gonzalez
Laver
Connors
Lendl
Sampras
Federer

Great list but I would probably go for Borg in the 70's over Connors.

Wuornos
04-20-2008, 09:23 AM
Re: the 1980s. The most important tournament, Wimbledon, was won by McEnroe three times, by Lendl zero. Greatness involves many intangible factors, and it ultimately depends on how a player is perceived by the world -- a great player must be someone in whom the emotions of spectators are invested, who triumphs in the biggest matches on the biggest stages. McEnroe was in this regard by far the dominant figure of the decade. Everyone remembers the Borg-McEnroe confrontations at Wimbledon, perhaps more so than any other matches of the past 70 years, but where is Lendl in our collective memory? It is telling, I think, that no major poll has ever rated Lendl ahead of McEnroe. (That is a fact you can quote me on.) The statistics here don't tell the whole story. To quote my favorite tennis writer: "But figures, after all, can be untrustworthy, and figures that upset our fondest beliefs are the most untrustworthy of all" (Al Laney).


Interesting definition of greatness and it is with the definition of greatness that all such lists should begin before any players are chosen.

I especially like your quote on Statistics by Al Laney. I'd not heard that before.

Regards

Tim

Wuornos
04-20-2008, 09:26 AM
Pancho Gonzales is unique on these lists because he's the only one who wins his decade without winning any Grand Slam titles.

I think he was the greatest of the 1950s, but if we consider only Grand Slams, who was the greatest?

If we had to pick the greatest player of the 1950s based only on perfomances in the Slam events, I would have to go for Frank Sedgman ahead of both Tony Trabert and Ashley Cooper by a narrow margin. I feel Ken Roswall's greater achievements lie outside of this time frame and events and consequently I would have to rank him 4th given the limitations of the exercise. You'd probably also need to consider Lew Hoad as one of the best players of this period in 5th place. After these five you are probably starting to drop away to players like Jaroslav Drobný and Vic Seixas, who while outstanding players in their own right probably fall short of the standard set by the previously mentioned five players performances during this period.

But this is just my opinion.

Regards

Tim

Benhur
04-20-2008, 11:23 AM
[QUOTE]Greatness involves many intangible factors, and it ultimately depends on how a player is perceived by the world

How a player is perceived depends on how it is presented by the media.

-- a great player must be someone in whom the emotions of spectators are invested,

Emotional investment is a characteristic of the spectator and does not work as measurment of tennis accomplishement, which is what most people would understand by tennis greatness. Unless you think that one of the required assets of tennis players should be dramatic talent, a flair for the theater, an ability to engage the spectator, like a good actor. But in fact, emotional investment is the most clouding factor in gauging a player's ability.

Everyone remembers the Borg-McEnroe confrontations at Wimbledon, perhaps more so than any other matches of the past 70 years, but where is Lendl in our collective memory?

He is very present in my memory. Collective memory? What does that have to do with tennis? There is a neat correlation between media coverage of one topic and its presence in the collective memory. There are 100 articles and pieces of gossip written on McEnroe for every article written on Lendl. Does that say anything about their respective tennis accomplishements? No. Not in my mind.

It is telling, I think, that no major poll has ever rated Lendl ahead of McEnroe.

Why is this telling? Telling of what? There is nothing surprising about this fact in view of the media coverage. It would be amazing, unbelievable, if polls rated them the other way around.

The statistics here don't tell the whole story.

Statistics never tell the whole story, that's true; but the story they tell has been healthily purged of blinding "emotional investment," and so they are very useful because of that. When teams look for players, they don't base their decision on how much they can invest their emotions on a player. They base it mostly on the statistics that the player has accumulated.

To quote my favorite tennis writer: "But figures, after all, can be untrustworthy, and figures that upset our fondest beliefs are the most untrustworthy of all" (Al Laney).

I like this quote, mostly for its profound stupidity. "Figures that upset our fondest beliefs" are not to be trusted. When people believed in a geocentric model, heliocentric alternatives were very upsetting to their "fondest beliefs" and so on.

Loyalty to one's "fondest beliefs" must also be the reason that, for example, 1982 continues to be a year where McEnroe is officially number one, when no rational person on earth looking at the record for that year would put him above number 3. I think even the squirrels know he was number three - and not even close to number 2.

Connor's 1982 record
http://tinyurl.com/5hpwgy

Lendl's 1982 record
http://tinyurl.com/59geg4

McEnroe 1982 record
http://tinyurl.com/4uzhk7

And that persistent hallucination regarding 1982 encapsulates their entire careers. There is no way a rational person (I am not talking of emotionally fragile investors with easily-bruised "fond beliefs") could compare Lend'l and McEnroe's record and conclude that the latter is better. You need a solidly pre-conceived "fond belief," deeply seated in your soul, to accomplish that miracle.

llgc8080
04-20-2008, 01:14 PM
See this thread too: http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=113165

Tennis old man
04-20-2008, 03:23 PM
1950: Pancho G
1960: Rocket and Muscles
1970: Iceman and Jimbo
1980: Ivan and Crazy Mac
1990: Pistol
2000: Fed

All time: Pancho.

Lendl and Federer Fan
04-20-2008, 03:32 PM
Tilden
Budge
Kramer
Gonzales
Laver
Borg
Lendl
Sampras
Federer

Borg and Connors were each in contention for Slams from 1974-79, except that Connors didn't reach any finals in '79. Borg won 8 titles to Connors' 5. He won four Wimbledons in a row. Connors was indeed consistent but his long run at #1 was marred by a flawed computer system; he was not #1 in 1975. Where Connors has the lead is in tournament titles, with 75 (Borg won 50, Vilas 46). Borg had an edge on Connors in their head-to-head, though their Slam meetings were tied at 3-3. [Finally, Borg was on the winning Davis Cup team in 1975, while Connors hardly participated in Davis Cup].

McEnroe was not in contention for Slam titles after 1985. Lendl was in finals from the '81 FO to the '89 USO (his 17 finals tied Laver's alltime record). He made 8 consecutive USO finals, tying Tilden's alltime record, from 1982-89. He reached nine consecutive Masters finals from 1981-88 and won five titles there. He has the longest Slam streak of the '80s (three USO's) and the longest run at #1 (three years). He won more Slams than McEnroe, 7 to 6, and had a 4-3 edge on him in Slam meetings even in 1980-85. He won more tour titles, 83, than the 75 that Connors won in the '70s or the 61 that Sampras won in the '90s (these decade cutoffs are inevitably unfair to players like Rosewall or Connors whose greatness was so much about longevity). McEnroe was on the winning Davis Cup team in 1981 and 1982 and was a constant presence in that competition, but even there Lendl was on the winning team for Czechoslovakia in 1980. In doubles there is no comparison, but I don't think it makes up the edge, IMO, that Lendl had in singles. Doubles would make it a very close call, though.

Edited to add: MooseMalloy had pointed out something I didn't know, that the ATP site, which I used to cull the stats above, is missing some titles that the ITF site does list. So my numbers would change slightly. See his post here:

http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showpost.php?p=1481663&postcount=36


I concur! You can not seriously consider a guy who was not in contention for a GS in half of the decade. BigMac is the man of the decade if the decade spins 78 to 84, and I would only consider BigMac if and only if there was no Lendl.

chaognosis
04-20-2008, 05:46 PM
Emotional investment is a characteristic of the spectator and does not work as measurment of tennis accomplishement, which is what most people would understand by tennis greatness. Unless you think that one of the required assets of tennis players should be dramatic talent, a flair for the theater, an ability to engage the spectator, like a good actor. But in fact, emotional investment is the most clouding factor in gauging a player's ability.

Professional tennis, like any professional sport, is fundamentally a form of entertainment. Fans don't pay money simply to see who wins or loses--if that were the case, everyone could just stay home and read the scoreline after the match and there would be no difference--but rather, they pay for the chance to see something dramatic, tense, exciting, inspiring. Tilden certainly understood this, as did the great players of the 1930s; more recently Connors, Borg, McEnroe, Agassi; and now Federer. McEnroe's loss to Borg in the famous 1980 Wimbledon final probably did more to establish his "greatness" in the minds of fans than any of his victories, and I think that's wholly warranted. There's a lot more to greatness than raw ability. These guys are performers, and the ones who fare best understand that.

Now, I would be the first to admit that the media sometimes has a deleterious influence on fans' perceptions (mostly I think because most writers today don't know a damn thing about the game or its history, but then again neither do most fans). However, you describe it as though the media were out to distort the truth with a willfully diabolical intent... By and large, they report on what they know their audience will want to read about (and thus pay for), so the fans are as much to blame here as any "vast media conspiracy."


I like this quote, mostly for its profound stupidity. "Figures that upset our fondest beliefs" are not to be trusted. When people believed in a geocentric model, heliocentric alternatives were very upsetting to their "fondest beliefs" and so on.

Loyalty to one's "fondest beliefs" must also be the reason that, for example, 1982 continues to be a year where McEnroe is officially number one, when no rational person on earth looking at the record for that year would put him above number 3. I think even the squirrels know he was number three - and not even close to number 2.

Connor's 1982 record
http://tinyurl.com/5hpwgy

Lendl's 1982 record
http://tinyurl.com/59geg4

McEnroe 1982 record
http://tinyurl.com/4uzhk7

And that persistent hallucination regarding 1982 encapsulates their entire careers. There is no way a rational person (I am not talking of emotionally fragile investors with easily-bruised "fond beliefs") could compare Lend'l and McEnroe's record and conclude that the latter is better. You need a solidly pre-conceived "fond belief," deeply seated in your soul, to accomplish that miracle.

Seems to me your example works in my favor. McEnroe was ranked number one by a computer-based, statistical formula. It was a deeply flawed formula. Everyone who actually watched tennis that year came to the conclusion that Connors was the best player of 1982. This is why statistics are untrustworthy. They should be an important part of the conversation, of course, but not the be-all, end-all... they need to be judged sensitively, wisely, and with reference to a wider historical (and yes, emotional) context.

I realize I should have provided some context for Laney's quote, as I think you may have found it less objectionable if you knew he was writing about the career of Pancho Gonzales--who turned pro at a very young age and therefore lacked "statistical" success on the then more popular amateur circuit. Though Gonzales is, of course, the extreme example, I do believe that no career can be completely summarized by some predetermined statistical matrix. Beyond the numbers, what do we have to go by except our own eyes, the impressions of other fans and players, and the opinions of the writers, journalists, experts, historians, etc.?

That said, you, like anyone, are entitled to your own opinion! I know of someone else who considers Lendl the greatest player of the entire Open Era--a minority sentiment, no doubt, but he's entitled to it. Nevertheless, if we're being fair, I do think it needs to be admitted that history, so far, has judged McEnroe to be the "greater" player.

CyBorg
04-20-2008, 06:00 PM
Nevertheless, if we're being fair, I do think it needs to be admitted that history, so far, has judged McEnroe to be the "greater" player.

I think that 'history' - if we're talking about popular opinion at its most generic - considers these two guys as fairly even.

However 'history' - a word you overuse to an extreme - is meaningless because it measures the pros past by the standards of today. This is why Pancho Gonzalez is a relative unknown (two grand slam titles).

If we're talking about more grounded methods, I believe that most would rate Lendl ahead of McEnroe and that includes ELO.

One argument in favour of McEnroe is that he had the best year of the open era (1984), but all things considered Lendl in 1986 was probably every bit as good, if we look at it closely.

CyBorg
04-20-2008, 06:07 PM
I like this quote, mostly for its profound stupidity. "Figures that upset our fondest beliefs" are not to be trusted. When people believed in a geocentric model, heliocentric alternatives were very upsetting to their "fondest beliefs" and so on.

Loyalty to one's "fondest beliefs" must also be the reason that, for example, 1982 continues to be a year where McEnroe is officially number one, when no rational person on earth looking at the record for that year would put him above number 3. I think even the squirrels know he was number three - and not even close to number 2.

I agree with this. Chaognosis is a bit of a tennis theologian. Nothing wrong with this, but I can see how some of his comments can rub one the wrong way.

History is full of nostalgia and gaps in memory. Some guys are loved and remembered to be better than they were. Some guys are hated and forgotten when they shouldn't be.

I think that we can all agree if we admit that there are two sides to this - the value of a tennis player as an entertainer and the value of a tennis player as an accomplished professional. The latter matters more to me, even though I admit to being a fan of Bjorn Borg more due to the aura of his on-court persona and the aesthetics of his game rather than the sheer facts of his domination relative to his field. It's important to realize that one is unlike the other.

chaognosis
04-20-2008, 07:16 PM
I think that 'history' - if we're talking about popular opinion at its most generic - considers these two guys as fairly even.

However 'history' - a word you overuse to an extreme - is meaningless because it measures the pros past by the standards of today. This is why Pancho Gonzalez is a relative unknown (two grand slam titles).

If we're talking about more grounded methods, I believe that most would rate Lendl ahead of McEnroe and that includes ELO.

By history I only mean the textual evidence. I collect tennis books and have something of an unholy obsession with top ten lists and other silly things like that, and so all I'm saying is that the majority of people who write about this game hold, and have always held, McEnroe in somewhat higher esteem. This could all change in time, of course--change is just about the only constant in history! I do think that Lendl's stock has risen in retrospect, relative to McEnroe's, and that could very well continue over time. (Federer for example, when asked to name the greatest players of all time, listed Sampras, Lendl, Borg, Laver, and Rosewall... perhaps evidence that opinion is shifting, though Lendl always was more popular outside of the U.S., and vice versa for McEnroe.) At this point though, I do think that the documentary evidence supports my claim.

chaognosis
04-20-2008, 07:22 PM
I agree with this. Chaognosis is a bit of a tennis theologian. Nothing wrong with this, but I can see how some of his comments can rub one the wrong way.

A "tennis theologian"... interesting. I'd never though of it that way, but I suppose it makes sense. (BTW, I think that Urban would agree with me, among others, that there is a certain "mythic" component to greatness that should not be overlooked.)


History is full of nostalgia and gaps in memory. Some guys are loved and remembered to be better than they were. Some guys are hated and forgotten when they shouldn't be.

This is certainly true.


I think that we can all agree if we admit that there are two sides to this - the value of a tennis player as an entertainer and the value of a tennis player as an accomplished professional. The latter matters more to me, even though I admit to being a fan of Bjorn Borg more due to the aura of his on-court persona and the aesthetics of his game rather than the sheer facts of his domination relative to his field. It's important to realize that one is unlike the other.

I would agree with this peace-making attempt. ;) In my own evaluations I try to strike some balance between the two, giving due weight to statistical accomplishments while also highlighting the more intangible (but no less important) elements of a player's story. However, it is true that the two cannot always (or easily) be reconciled.

Benhur
04-20-2008, 07:32 PM
[QUOTE=chaognosis;2268516]
Seems to me your example works in my favor. McEnroe was ranked number one by a computer-based, statistical formula. It was a deeply flawed formula. Everyone who actually watched tennis that year came to the conclusion that Connors was the best player of 1982. This is why statistics are untrustworthy.

Yes, but the formula was not just "flawed". It was absolutely worthless because it depended on a schism in the tennis world. Out of the 15 tournaments that Lendl won that year, 9 of them were not counted AT ALL by the computer, simply because they were WCT tournaments. Now, 9 tournaments is more than the vast majority of players have won in one year in the history of the sport. This is different from the fine-tuning causes that put McEnroe ahead of Connors, because Connors, aside from his two slams, had a weaker record than McEnroe. But the fact that the exclusion of WCT tournaments from the rankings continues to this day, when many of the best players were in those tournaments, is completely absurd and has nothing to do with flaws in the "formula."

I realize I should have provided some context for Laney's quote, as I think you may have found it less objectionable if you knew he was writing about the career of Pancho Gonzales--who turned pro at a very young age and therefore lacked "statistical" success on the then more popular amateur circuit. Though Gonzales is, of course, the extreme example, I do believe that no career can be completely summarized by some predetermined statistical matrix. Beyond the numbers, what do we have to go by except our own eyes, the impressions of other fans and players, and the opinions of the writers, journalists, experts, historians, etc.?

I understand this, but your own eyes and impressions cannot replace the results. Hell, I love Elena Dementieva because she is so cute and fun to watch. I loved watching Goran Ivanisevic play tennis - the only guy whose *serve* I found a highly pleasing shot... and there are many other players I love to watch for certain unique characteristics they have. But the results are the results. The fact that two organizing entities in the early 80s didn't see eye to eye, so the results from one of them have been erased from the record, is not a good argument for the flaws of a result-based judgment.

That said, you, like anyone, are entitled to your own opinion! I know of someone else who considers Lendl the greatest player of the entire Open Era--a minority sentiment, no doubt, but he's entitled to it.

For the record, I don't consider Lendl the "greatest" player of the Open Era. I do consider him one of the 4 greatest of the Open Era, based on his results -- alongside Borg, Sampras and Federer. I view Connors and McEnroe only slightly behind, but definitely behind. Again, based on a dispassionate analysis of their career results. Let me add that I never liked Sampras's game at all, let alone his dull personality. But his results are what they are, and he is up there.

Nevertheless, if we're being fair, I do think it needs to be admitted that history, so far, has judged McEnroe to be the "greater" player.

History is written by many voices and its accuracy does not depend on a majority opinion. People believe all kinds of things, and it is very very very easy to get them to believe something. The techniques were particularly refined around the time of WWI and they have improved enormously since then. I am not saying there was a highly deliberate campaign to turn McEnroe into a god and ignore Lendl, but it certainly worked out that way. At the height of his career, when Sports Illustrated finally decided to have an article on Lendl, the cover title they chose was: The Champion Nobody Cares About -- a prime example of a fact that is believed widely because widely believed - and advertised. Lendl's personality does not change his results.

CyBorg
04-20-2008, 07:43 PM
A "tennis theologian"... interesting. I'd never though of it that way, but I suppose it makes sense. (BTW, I think that Urban would agree with me, among others, that there is a certain "mythic" component to greatness that should not be overlooked.)

Yes, many share the same kind of view and I'm not against this even if I don't buy the mythic stuff. I do believe in stadium and country/climate-specific effects. So not everything has to be on paper.

I would agree with this peace-making attempt. ;) In my own evaluations I try to strike some balance between the two, giving due weight to statistical accomplishments while also highlighting the more intangible (but no less important) elements of a player's story. However, it is true that the two cannot always (or easily) be reconciled.

I think that the simplest way to extrapolate McEnroe's fame and Lendl's relative lack of it is to point to Mac's dominance on grass rather than clay - which always seems to get more points from traditionalists. You know, Wimbledon being the most prestigious tournament stuff. I posit that the grass/clay debate should be rooted within debates of colonialism, grass being the preferred surface of the Westerner/European and clay being the preferred surface of many South American players and, by this extension, enthusiasts/writers - very few of whom actually write this history you speak of. The monopoly on history is by and large Western/European.

The other factor is Mac's huge year of 1984, which seemed to occur just at the most perfect time, when guys have Connors were on the way out while youngsters like Becker, Lendl, Edberg, etc were still ugly ducklings. But nonetheless people look at the record and it's a doozy.

The third factor is the sexiness of his game. So much more memorable in terms of the way he combined finesse with competitive fire and energy. Lendl is widely dismissed as a non-genius, like by the Jeff Daniels character in The Squid and the Whale. I forget the word he used to describe Lendl - lumberjack may have been it.

chaognosis
04-20-2008, 09:20 PM
For the record, I don't consider Lendl the "greatest" player of the Open Era. I do consider him one of the 4 greatest of the Open Era, based on his results -- alongside Borg, Sampras and Federer. I view Connors and McEnroe only slightly behind, but definitely behind. Again, based on a dispassionate analysis of their career results. Let me add that I never liked Sampras's game at all, let alone his dull personality. But his results are what they are, and he is up there.

Let's not pretend that going "by the results" yields some absolute ranking. Which results do we consider important, and how do we weigh them? Lendl's failure to win Wimbledon, by all accounts the most important tournament in the world, at least once, is really a huge knock against him in many critics' eyes. Hell, in some parts of the world (primarily the UK) Lendl remains better known for his losses at Wimbledon than for any of his actual victories! Making a "dispassionate" appeal to "results" doesn't make one's opinion any more or less subjective--too often I think statistics are piled on to create the illusion of objectivity, masking all the personal decisions that go into the process of picking and choosing those statistics.

I really don't want to argue with you about the merits of Lendl's career... I've said it before and I'll say it again, he was one of the greatest ever to play the game, and I can see that a valid case could be made that he was in fact greater than either Connors or McEnroe. But I also think that a good case could be made for either one of these two being greater than Lendl, and I would acknowledge that, up to this point, the majority (though not all) of critics have favored McEnroe over Lendl. Again, that's only worth so much--and it's not to the exclusion of minority views (otherwise we wouldn't even be having this conversation), but it is the case.

CyBorg
04-20-2008, 10:28 PM
Lendl's failure to win Wimbledon, by all accounts the most important tournament in the world, at least once, is really a huge knock against him in many critics' eyes.

Western/European critics. See above.

CyBorg
04-20-2008, 10:39 PM
I really don't want to argue with you about the merits of Lendl's career... I've said it before and I'll say it again, he was one of the greatest ever to play the game, and I can see that a valid case could be made that he was in fact greater than either Connors or McEnroe. But I also think that a good case could be made for either one of these two being greater than Lendl, and I would acknowledge that, up to this point, the majority (though not all) of critics have favored McEnroe over Lendl. Again, that's only worth so much--and it's not to the exclusion of minority views (otherwise we wouldn't even be having this conversation), but it is the case.

As you know, I value peak stretches. I am particularly interested in a prolonged peak stretch of about 2-4 years. I believe that a player's entire career is important, but there is a pattern from most of the true greats (Laver, Gonzales, Borg, Federer, whatever) which encompasses a stretch of 3 or more great years (either concurrent or close) and a few excellent (but not great) years sprinkled throughout (before and after the great years).

Lendl had a peak that most accurately spanned about 30 months. Starting with around summer of '85 until the end of '87. During this span he was dominant on clay, carpet and hardcourts and was probably second-best on grass after Becker.

Neither McEnroe nor Connors share this kind of history. Connors had his most accomplished year in 1974 which is overrated because of the Australian Open accomplishment which looks better now than it did then. He won many minor events that year and beat a 39-year old Rosewall in two major finals in what was a transitional era. Aside from this he never truly dominated - he had very good years in 1978 and 1982 though.

McEnroe had an overrated year in 1984 - also transitional. He also had a very good year in 1981 (two majors) and also did very well in 1979, 1980 and 1983. But he had a rather poor year in between in 1982, which means that he never remained truly dominant for more than a year or perhaps a year and a half.

Here's something else that I like to do. I like to look at how good guys are on surfaces. This means that we don't just look at majors, but also at other results.

Lendl at his peak dominated three of the four surfaces and was second best on the other. McEnroe, at his finest, dominated three of the four as well with a runner-up finish at Roland Garros (this is 1984). But few would argue that McEnroe was truly second best on clay that year and even if he was he didn't maintain this level across these surfaces for more than a year.

Connors was probably only dominant on hardcourts - the US ones. There is nothing to suggest that he was ever truly great on grass. He was good on carpet but McEnroe and Lendl were way better. He wasn't excellent on clay. What he has in his favour is his longevity, but dominance beats longevity. If Connors had a life outside of tennis maybe he would have retired earlier.

msunderland71
04-21-2008, 04:44 AM
A good poll on this site rated Lendl the greatest of the 80's with twice as many votes as McEnroe:

http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=183245&goto=nextoldest

msunderland71
04-21-2008, 04:49 AM
I often hear about how good Mac's 1984 was. But the time-frame is 1980-89.
If you want to concentrate on single years I prefer Mats Wilander's 1988 to McEnroe's 1984. Three slams vs. two.

krosero
04-21-2008, 05:57 AM
Lendl had a peak that most accurately spanned about 30 months. Starting with around summer of '85 until the end of '87. During this span he was dominant on clay, carpet and hardcourts and was probably second-best on grass after Becker.You'd have to put him below Cash, who beat him at the 87 AO and W. Edberg is arguable, but only because he and Lendl split grass-court meetings at the 85 AO and 87 W. In terms of accomplishment, Edberg won two AO's in that span, Lendl of course none.

Benhur
04-21-2008, 07:43 AM
Let's not pretend that going "by the results" yields some absolute ranking. .

I do claim precisely that in this case. And I don't mind telling you exactly why.

1. Weaker surface comparison (grass/clay)

Both Lendl and McEnroe failed to win the biggest tournament on their weakest surface. In the case of Lendl, that also happens to be the most prestigious tournament in tennis, but for purposes of surface weighing, Wimbledon and Roland Garros represent their respective surfaces with equal weight and authority. On inspection, the weaker surface handicap is clearly more pronounced in the case of McEnroe than in the case of Lendl. In other words, Lendl on grass was demonstrably more dominant than McEnroe on clay. After all, Lendl reached the Wimbledon semifinal (or better) 7 times; and the final twice. He also reached the grass-AO semifinals (or better) 3 times and the final once. And he also won Queen’s twice, once beating Becker in the final.

Having taken care of the weaker surface comparison, we will examine the overall record.

2. Overall record

Here things move overwhelmingly in Lendl’s favor. There is any number of significant stats you can present as evidence. As far as I can tell, Lendl comes ahead on all of them except one: McEnroe had the single-year best winning percentage in 1984 with a 96% winning record that remains unequaled. Lendl's best year is at about 93.

As for the rest:

* Lendl won 8 slams to McEnroe's 7. He also won 3 of the 4 slams, to McEnroe's 2

* Lendl reached 19 slam finals to McEnroe’s 11

* Lendl reached 28 slam semifinals to McEnroe’s 19

* Lendl won 5 Masters to McEnroe's 3

* Lendl reached 9 Masters finals (consecutive) to McEnroe’s 4 (in all)

* Lendl reached 9 US Open finals (consecutive) to McEnroe’s 5 (in all)

* Lendl was ranked number one for a total of 270 weeks (second after Sampras to date). That is the equivalent of 5.2 years. I don’t have McEnroe’s numbers for this but it is certainly much lower, by at least 50 weeks.

* Lendl was ranked number one for 157 consecutive weeks. Again, I don’t have McEnroe’s figure, but it would be considerably lower.

* Lendl was ranked year-end number one on 4 different years. So was McEnroe, except that McEnroe’s 1982 number one ranking does not make any sense whatsoever. He was not even number 2 that year.

* Lendl reached at least one GS final for 11 consecutive years, to McEnroe’s 7

* Lendl has the 2nd highest peak ELO rating in the history of tennis after Federer. McEnroe has the 7th highest.

* Lendl won 94 singles titles (by ATP count) to McEnroe’s 77

* Lendl won 144 singles titles (including titles not counted by the ATP) to McEnroe’s 90

* Lendl has a 81.8% winning percentage to McEnroe’s 81.7% according to ATP match statistics (this is so close it can be considered a tie; but Lendl won over 200 matches more than McEnroe.)

* Lendl had a better than 90% winning percentage on 5 different years (82, 85, 86, 87, 89) to McEnroe’s one year (84)

To sum, I really think the numbers speak clearly for themselves. And I can't think of anything you can bring up to dismiss them or even counter them. If they contradict one’s “fondest beliefs”, we will just have to let the beliefs take a breather for a while and think things over. This does not mean one should be expected to like Lendl (or his game) more than McEnroe's. Emotional and aesthetic preferences are not what this is about. Nobody would ever convince me to stop *liking* Goran Ivanisevic’s game more than the game of many better players than him. Why should I? But I would not from this conclude that he was a better player than those many others whose game I like less. I happen to like Lendl's best tennis (aesthetically) as much as McEnroe’s. But I can see how someone might find it uninteresting.

You really cannot dismiss the results I just privided by presenting no factual counterarguments other than: "my heart tells me that McEnroe was greater." Ye, I believe you. I believe your heart is telling you just that. But you must understand that most people would not consider *your* heart as the best available measuring tool for tennis accomplishment.

Benhur
04-21-2008, 07:48 AM
* Lendl reached 9 US Open finals (consecutive) to McEnroe’s 5 (in all)


Correction: 8 USO finals, not 9.

Benhur
04-21-2008, 08:52 AM
I do claim precisely that in this case. And I don't mind telling you exactly why.

1. Weaker surface comparison (grass/clay)

Both Lendl and McEnroe failed to win the biggest tournament on their weakest surface. In the case of Lendl, that also happens to be the most prestigious tournament in tennis, but for purposes of surface weighing, Wimbledon and Roland Garros represent their respective surfaces with equal weight and authority. On inspection, the weaker surface handicap is clearly more pronounced in the case of McEnroe than in the case of Lendl. In other words, Lendl on grass was demonstrably more dominant than McEnroe on clay. After all, Lendl reached the Wimbledon semifinal (or better) 7 times; and the final twice. He also reached the grass-AO semifinals (or better) 3 times and the final once. And he also won Queen’s twice, once beating Becker in the final.

Having taken care of the weaker surface comparison, we will examine the overall record.

2. Overall record

Here things move overwhelmingly in Lendl’s favor. There is any number of significant stats you can present as evidence. As far as I can tell, Lendl comes ahead on all of them except one: McEnroe had the single-year best winning percentage in 1984 with a 96% winning record that remains unequaled. Lendl's best year is at about 93.

As for the rest:

* Lendl won 8 slams to McEnroe's 7. He also won 3 of the 4 slams, to McEnroe's 2

* Lendl reached 19 slam finals to McEnroe’s 11

* Lendl reached 28 slam semifinals to McEnroe’s 19

* Lendl won 5 Masters to McEnroe's 3

* Lendl reached 9 Masters finals (consecutive) to McEnroe’s 4 (in all)

* Lendl reached 9 US Open finals (consecutive) to McEnroe’s 5 (in all)

* Lendl was ranked number one for a total of 270 weeks (second after Sampras to date). That is the equivalent of 5.2 years. I don’t have McEnroe’s numbers for this but it is certainly much lower, by at least 50 weeks.

* Lendl was ranked number one for 157 consecutive weeks. Again, I don’t have McEnroe’s figure, but it would be considerably lower.

* Lendl was ranked year-end number one on 4 different years. So was McEnroe, except that McEnroe’s 1982 number one ranking does not make any sense whatsoever. He was not even number 2 that year.

* Lendl reached at least one GS final for 11 consecutive years, to McEnroe’s 7

* Lendl has the 2nd highest peak ELO rating in the history of tennis after Federer. McEnroe has the 7th highest.

* Lendl won 94 singles titles (by ATP count) to McEnroe’s 77

* Lendl won 144 singles titles (including titles not counted by the ATP) to McEnroe’s 90

* Lendl has a 81.8% winning percentage to McEnroe’s 81.7% according to ATP match statistics (this is so close it can be considered a tie; but Lendl won over 200 matches more than McEnroe.)

* Lendl had a better than 90% winning percentage on 5 different years (82, 85, 86, 87, 89) to McEnroe’s one year (84)

To sum, I really think the numbers speak clearly for themselves. And I can't think of anything you can bring up to dismiss them or even counter them. If they contradict one’s “fondest beliefs”, we will just have to let the beliefs take a breather for a while and think things over. This does not mean one should be expected to like Lendl (or his game) more than McEnroe's. Emotional and aesthetic preferences are not what this is about. Nobody would ever convince me to stop *liking* Goran Ivanisevic’s game more than the game of many better players than him. Why should I? But I would not from this conclude that he was a better player than those many others whose game I like less. I happen to like Lendl's best tennis (aesthetically) as much as McEnroe’s. But I can see how someone might find it uninteresting.

You really cannot dismiss the results I just privided by presenting no factual counterarguments other than: "my heart tells me that McEnroe was greater." Ye, I believe you. I believe your heart is telling you just that. But you must understand that most people would not consider *your* heart as the best available measuring tool for tennis accomplishment.


With all those results statistics I forgot to mention another very significant one.

Lendl's head to head with McEnroe is 21-15.

This is a significant number because they were clearly in the same generation, Lendl being just 10 months younger. (McEnroe played from 77 to 92 and Lendl from 78 to 94; all their meetings ocurred between 1980 and 1992)

One often hears the argument that McEnroe "retired" after 85, but this cannot be taken seriously. He left the game for 6 months. Then he came back and remained in the top 10 for most of the next 3.5 years, making it as high as number 4 in 1989. This does not look like retirement.

Not so often mentionned is the fact that the competition became much, much stronger in the second half of the 80s, with the rise of Wilander, Edberg, Becker (and even Agassi at the end). Considering the extraordinary strength of the field in 1989, the fact that McEnroe ended the year at number 4 is a very remarkable accomplishment (he would have been number 2 if those other guys weren't there) but it also attests to the fact that he did not "retire" after 85. It also puts into perspective the kind of competition he had had in 1984, when he was at his peak and his only real challenge was a pre-peak Lendl.

Out of the 12-year period during which McEnroe and Lendl played one another, the only period where McEnroe dominated their head to head was 83-84. That's 2 years out of 12. Lendl dominated the other 10 years.

Just one more fact to add to an already overwhelming mountain of facts.

CyBorg
04-21-2008, 08:58 AM
You'd have to put him below Cash, who beat him at the 87 AO and W. Edberg is arguable, but only because he and Lendl split grass-court meetings at the 85 AO and 87 W. In terms of accomplishment, Edberg won two AO's in that span, Lendl of course none.

The Aussie complicates things quite a bit. The grass there was so much different than in England because of the climate.

chaognosis
04-21-2008, 09:19 AM
McEnroe won three Wimbledons to Lendl's zero. (For most of tennis history it would have been impossible for anyone to claim the mantle of "greatness" without winning the biggest championship in the world at least once--and unlike Gonzales or Rosewall, Lendl didn't have the excuse of being ineligible to compete as a professional.) This comparison is a lot like QBs Marino vs. Montana in American pro football. Marino put up the bigger personal statistics but never won a Super Bowl; Montana had more modest numbers but played best when it really counted. The vast majority of observers rank Montana over Marino, just as the majority of observers rank McEnroe over Lendl.

Numbers never "speak for themselves"--you have to interpret them. Lendl won more majors than McEnroe (barely), yes, but McEnroe won more often at the more prestigious events, and the Australian was a lower-tier tournament that most of the best players routinely skipped in the late 1970s and early '80s; Lendl was blessed in many ways that his peak coincided with the rise of the Australian as a significant title. Lendl was ranked No. 1 longer than McEnroe, but as you and I have already agreed, the computer rankings in those days were dismal and untrustworthy... just as McEnroe was not the "true" No. 1 in 1982, Lendl was clearly not the best player in 1989, despite his ranking. Arguments about the relative strength of competition are specious; how can you prove, definitively, that Lendl's peers were stronger than McEnroe's? (Many would, and have, argued that the Connors-Borg-McEnroe years constituted the most competitive era, at the top, in modern times.) And so on and so forth...

Again, not dismissing your case--and my "heart" certainly has nothing to do with this--but I would caution you against confusing your own subjective conclusions with objective truth. In my own mind, I think the Wimbledon issue is the most damning strike against Lendl's resume (I'm sure he would gladly have traded most of those statistical achievements you rattled off for even a single Wimbledon title, much less three), and I think that remains the biggest reason why a sizable majority of "experts" would agree with me here.

CyBorg
04-21-2008, 09:24 AM
McEnroe won three Wimbledons to Lendl's zero.

You're sticking to your guns, Chaog. Kind of like Chuck Heston - 'from your cold dead hands'.

:)

chaognosis
04-21-2008, 09:31 AM
You're sticking to your guns, Chaog. Kind of like Chuck Heston - 'from your cold dead hands'.

:)

Well, geez, I sure hope it doesn't come to that... I think I might just have to relent on McEnroe vs. Lendl in that case!

krosero
04-21-2008, 09:40 AM
To sum, I really think the numbers speak clearly for themselves. Numbers do not speak for themselves. People speak, and sometimes they use numbers to do it -- picking out certain ones, which is inevitable.

And I can't think of anything you can bring up to dismiss them or even counter them. I'm surprised that you couldn't think of Davis Cup. Lendl was on one winning team in 1980, but McEnroe participated in four winning years.

Davis Cup is arguably where McEnroe put forward his finest tennis, including his most heroic losses, eg, his marathon loss to Becker.

The latter, a heroic loss, is one of the many things that Chaognosis is talking about -- he mentioned McEnroe's loss to Borg at W -- but it's not going to appear in a statistical tabulation restricted to wins.

A heroic loss MIGHT be partially illustrated in statistics, for instance by showing the scoreline, the marathon length of the match, his quality of play during the match, etc. It's not like what Chaognosis is talking about is merely restricted to feelings. He'd dead-on when he says that statistics are hand-picked; they need to be picked carefully or else they can lie just as much as the "heart" can.

To be clear, if you look back in this thread I picked Lendl as greater than McEnroe for the 1980s. (As far as emotions, I actually like Lendl better). I think he had the greater career, and I have only a few specific problems with your list of stats. I'm not saying that your list is deceptive or that it lies. What I'm affirming is Chaognosis' point about stats. Your forgetting about Davis Cup proves, I think, his point that stats are picked out by people and do not offer themselves up objectively; they need to be picked out carefully. Merely piling on the numbers that favor one player is precisely an exercise that needs to be looked at skeptically.

Out of the 12-year period during which McEnroe and Lendl played one another, the only period where McEnroe dominated their head to head was 83-84. That's 2 years out of 12. Lendl dominated the other 10 years.McEnroe also won their H2H in 1980 (with two meetings). You were too quick with this.

And listing 10 years next to 2 makes it sound overwhelming -- more overwhelming than the actual H2H of 21-15, which you listed -- but you do not say that they did not even meet in 1986. Or that they met only once in 1987, 1988, 1991 and 1992. (Their meeting on French Open clay in 1988 was very close and to McEnroe's credit, being his weakest surface; that's hardly a year of "domination.")

* Lendl was ranked year-end number one on 4 different years. So was McEnroe, except that McEnroe’s 1982 number one ranking does not make any sense whatsoever. He was not even number 2 that year.Again, in this sort of comparison you cannot go without mentioning that Lendl's last year at #1 was 1989, a year that not many people would give him at #1. If you do, that's one thing, and you can say why. But you don't even mention it, but you do mention 1982.

Finally, there's more that could be said for McEnroe. The Dallas WCT Finals was a huge event in its time, and McEnroe won it five times. He was 2-1 with Lendl at that event, including a win in 1989.

What I'd like to see is someone making their case, but making the best case possible for both players, rather than simply piling up the stats for one player and then challenging others to come up with countering stats. I don't mean that we shouldn't have an opinion for make a case. I just mean, include stats that are easy enough to include. Davis Cup, WCT Finals, 1989, the true H2H in 1980, those should not be hard to remember and there's no reason to leave them out.

CyBorg
04-21-2008, 09:49 AM
Well, geez, I sure hope it doesn't come to that... I think I might just have to relent on McEnroe vs. Lendl in that case!

haha, no. No need for that. I do think you're way mistaken about Wimbledon v Roland Garros. I understand maybe if Lendl played in the 70s, but in the 80s RG was already huge and more important than Wimbledon to hearts and minds of many fans in this world.

And we have to realize and grass and clay have been companion surfaces going back about a century. In the 20s we had Cochet the clay guy and Lacoste the grass guy. The difference is that Wimbledon has been able to convince much of the world that it has the monopoly on true tennis greatness. What a bunch of mythological baloney. It's just white colonial superiority nonsense. Kind of like the British monarchy. None of this holds true anymore and it probably never did, except for in the minds of certain folks who hold up the All-England club as a shrine.

Lendl and Federer Fan
04-21-2008, 10:19 AM
Lendl's head to head with McEnroe is 21-15.

1. Weaker surface comparison (grass/clay)

Both Lendl and McEnroe failed to win the biggest tournament on their weakest surface; but Lendl on grass was demonstrably more dominant than McEnroe on clay. After all, Lendl reached the Wimbledon semifinal (or better) 7 times; and the final twice. He also reached the grass-AO semifinals (or better) 3 times and the final once. And he also won Queen’s twice, once beating Becker in the final.

Having taken care of the weaker surface comparison, we will examine the overall record.

2. Overall record

Here things move overwhelmingly in Lendl’s favor. There is any number of significant stats you can present as evidence. As far as I can tell, Lendl comes ahead on all of them except one: McEnroe had the single-year best winning percentage in 1984 with a 96% winning record that remains unequaled. Lendl's best year is at about 93.

As for the rest:

* Lendl won 8 slams to McEnroe's 7. He also won 3 of the 4 slams, to McEnroe's 2

* Lendl reached 19 slam finals to McEnroe’s 11

* Lendl reached 28 slam semifinals to McEnroe’s 19

* Lendl won 5 Masters to McEnroe's 3

* Lendl reached 9 Masters finals (consecutive) to McEnroe’s 4 (in all)

* Lendl reached 8 US Open finals (consecutive) to McEnroe’s 5 (in all)

* Lendl was ranked number one for a total of 270 weeks (second after Sampras to date). That is the equivalent of 5.2 years. I don’t have McEnroe’s numbers for this but it is certainly much lower, by at least 50 weeks.

* Lendl was ranked number one for 157 consecutive weeks. Again, I don’t have McEnroe’s figure, but it would be considerably lower.

* Lendl was ranked year-end number one on 4 different years. So was McEnroe, except that McEnroe’s 1982 number one ranking does not make any sense whatsoever. He was not even number 2 that year.

* Lendl reached at least one GS final for 11 consecutive years, to McEnroe’s 7

* Lendl has the 2nd highest peak ELO rating in the history of tennis after Federer. McEnroe has the 7th highest.

* Lendl won 94 singles titles (by ATP count) to McEnroe’s 77

* Lendl won 144 singles titles (including titles not counted by the ATP) to McEnroe’s 90

* Lendl has a 81.8% winning percentage to McEnroe’s 81.7% according to ATP match statistics (this is so close it can be considered a tie; but Lendl won over 200 matches more than McEnroe.)

* Lendl had a better than 90% winning percentage on 5 different years (82, 85, 86, 87, 89) to McEnroe’s one year (84)



These statistics are so objective, factual and undisputable(I miss a few myself); they worth repeating again. Benhur, you are the man. CyBorg is very convincing too. It should be settled that Lendl is the player of the 80's. Case and thread close. :)

Benhur
04-21-2008, 10:24 AM
[QUOTE=chaognosis;2270082]McEnroe won three Wimbledons to Lendl's zero.

This is ONE fact against a series of some 16 facts I mentioned.

You choose to say nothing about the fact that McEnroe never won the French, and that Lendl's record at Wimbledon is MUCH better than McEnroe's record at RG. This may not completely cancel the "prestige" edge of Wimbledon, but it more than compensates in showing a more all-surface completeness on the part of Lendl.

Numbers never "speak for themselves"--you have to interpret them. Lendl won more majors than McEnroe (barely), yes, but McEnroe won more often at the more prestigious events

Prestige is good. But prestige is also the one element that is least related to ability and most related to media-driven inflation.

and the Australian was a lower-tier tournament that most of the best players routinely skipped in the late 1970s and early '80s;

Lendl won the Australian in 1989 and 1990. That's not the "early 80s" and all the top players were there. He also reached the final in 1983, when most of the top players were there, and in 1991 when all the top players were there.
I remind you that McEnroe was at the Australian EVERY YEAR that Lendl reached the final or won it, except for 91.

Lendl was blessed in many ways that his peak coincided with the rise of the Australian as a significant title.

This I don't understand. Was McEnroe "blessed" by the fact that his peak coincided with Wimbledon being a "significant" title. How was Lendl "blessed" by winning the Australian in 89 and 90 when all the good players were there and the field was clearly stronger than at the 83-84 Wimbledon? How was Lendl more blessed than McEnroe when the latter covered himself with glory by beating the likes of a young Gilbert, an aging Scanlon and an unknown Lewis at the 83 Wimbledon, for example? Why didn't McEnroe take advantage of "blessing" opportunities at the Australian by blessing himself with a win in 83 or 85 when he was there and it was already a "significant" event?

Lendl was ranked No. 1 longer than McEnroe, but as you and I have already agreed, the computer rankings in those days were dismal and untrustworthy
I did not say any such thing. I specifically explained that the 1982 rankings joke was not due to a computer fine-tuning issue but to a schism in the tennis world that caused the dismissal of all WCT tournaments from the rankings. The computer was fed junk and regurgitated junk.

just as McEnroe was not the "true" No. 1 in 1982, Lendl was clearly not the best player in 1989

The "clearly" above is a huge exaggeration. Look at the respective records for Lendl and Becker in 1989:

Lendl's 1989 tournament record
http://tinyurl.com/3uxj84

Becker's 1989 tournament record
http://tinyurl.com/4ylpcy

Now look at the records of McEnroe and Lendl in 1982

Lendl's 1982 record
http://tinyurl.com/59geg4

McEnroe's 1982 record
http://tinyurl.com/4uzhk7

The 1989 ranking is a fine-tuning issue infinitely debatable. The 1982 ranking is simply a joke.

Arguments about the relative strength of competition are specious; how can you prove, definitively, that Lendl's peers were stronger than McEnroe's?

If you are talking of McEnroe's peak years (83-84) vs Lendl's peak years (85-87 and 89) there is absolutely no question that the latter part of the 80s had a stronger field. 89 in particular was phenomenally strong. The very early 79-82 period is a different story, when Borg and Connors were still going strong. Ah, but then McEnroe nowhere near as dominant as in 83-84. For a reason.

(Many would, and have, argued that the Connors-Borg-McEnroe years constituted the most competitive era, at the top, in modern times.) And so on and so forth...

It was a great era, I agree. But don't try to imply that McEnroe clearly dominated that. He didn't.

I think the Wimbledon issue is the most damning strike against Lendl's resume (I'm sure he would gladly have traded most of those statistical achievements you rattled off for even a single Wimbledon title, much less three), and I think that remains the biggest reason why a sizable majority of "experts" would agree with me here.

I don't think the majority of "experts" agree with you, unless you restrict the definition of experts to commentators with whom you agree. These boards represent probably the highest concentration of tennis expertese among the public, since we are all pretty knowledgeable lovers of tennis. Look at the poll on the topic that someone posted here. Lendl gets the clear majority of the votes. Of course if you sample the general population, many of them wouldn't even know who Lendl is. But the reasons for that have nothing to do with Lendl's tennis ability.

krosero
04-21-2008, 10:51 AM
The Aussie complicates things quite a bit. The grass there was so much different than in England because of the climate.I don't know why you would exclude Aussie grass, just because it's different. But as far as Wimbledon, you agree that Lendl needs to be placed below Cash in the period 1985-87?

Lendl and Federer Fan
04-21-2008, 10:59 AM
I don't know why you would exclude Aussie grass, just because it's different. But as far as Wimbledon, you agree that Lendl needs to be placed below Cash in the period 1985-87?

Man, this kind of pick and choose would put Federer below Nadal for the period 2005-07.

chaognosis
04-21-2008, 11:17 AM
This is ONE fact against a series of some 16 facts I mentioned.

I'm focusing on only the most significant fact among quite a few others (see the earlier point about Davis Cup), since I agree with krosero that these selective lists of numerical feats don't get us anywhere. I would hardly say that something like the number of years Lendl finished with a winning percentage above some arbitrary level, should be considered as having comparable weight to the number of Wimbledon championships McEnroe won...


Prestige is good. But prestige is also the one element that is least related to ability and most related to media-driven inflation.

I disagree. The highest level of athletic achievement is about performing well under pressure, giving your best on the biggest stage. The influences of prestige, pressure, attention, desire, etc., are not irrelevant to a player's greatness. I could be the greatest "technical" cyclist in the world, but if I routinely collapse mentally in the final days at the Tour de France and never win that most important of events, will anyone care? (Ultimately I would just chalk this up to a disagreement over how to define "greatness," as Tim noted above.)


Lendl won the Australian in 1989 and 1990. That's not the "early 80s" and all the top players were there. He also reached the final in 1983, when most of the top players were there, and in 1991 when all the top players were there.
I remind you that McEnroe was at the Australian EVERY YEAR that Lendl reached the final or won it, except for 91.

You've missed my point entirely. I'm not dismissing the significance of Lendl's Australian victories; I'm only saying that the event didn't matter nearly as much during *most* of McEnroe's prime years, so it makes sense that he would care about it less, compete there less, and win it less (in this case not at all) during the years when he would have had a really strong shot at the championship. During Lendl's heyday, there were, without question, four major championships that mattered. In McEnroe's, there really were only two (or two and a half at best), and he was quite dominant at those two.


The 1989 ranking is a fine-tuning issue infinitely debatable.

Well, it certainly wasn't debated any more than the 1982 rankings. Both the ATP and ITF awards went to Becker in '89, and journalists also picked Becker as the player of the year. It's dishonest to ignore this. (Connors was also the undisputed No. 1 in '82--in fact, I can't think of an example when a player won both Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year and was NOT universally hailed as the best player of the year, with the obvious exception of the pro/amateur split years.)


If you are talking of McEnroe's peak years (83-84) vs Lendl's peak years (85-87 and 89) there is absolutely no question that the latter part of the 80s had a stronger field. 89 in particular was phenomenally strong. The very early 79-82 period is a different story, when Borg and Connors were still going strong. Ah, but then McEnroe nowhere near as dominant as in 83-84. For a reason.

I like how you exclude 1981 from McEnroe's "peak years"!


I don't think the majority of "experts" agree with you, unless you restrict the definition of experts to commentators with whom you agree. These boards represent probably the highest concentration of tennis expertese among the public, since we are all pretty knowledgeable lovers of tennis. Look at the poll on the topic that someone posted here. Lendl gets the clear majority of the votes. Of course if you sample the general population, many of them wouldn't even know who Lendl is. But the reasons for that have nothing to do with Lendl's tennis ability.

By "experts" I mean professional writers and commentators, as well as former players, coaches, and other significant observers who have participated in published polls.

Benhur
04-21-2008, 11:20 AM
Numbers do not speak for themselves. People speak, and sometimes they use numbers to do it -- picking out certain ones, which is inevitable.

I'm surprised that you couldn't think of Davis Cup. Lendl was on one winning team in 1980, but McEnroe participated in four winning years.

Davis Cup is arguably where McEnroe put forward his finest tennis, including his most heroic losses, eg, his marathon loss to Becker.

The latter, a heroic loss, is one of the many things that Chaognosis is talking about -- he mentioned McEnroe's loss to Borg at W -- but it's not going to appear in a statistical tabulation restricted to wins.

A heroic loss MIGHT be partially illustrated in statistics, for instance by showing the scoreline, the marathon length of the match, his quality of play during the match, etc. It's not like what Chaognosis is talking about is merely restricted to feelings. He'd dead-on when he says that statistics are hand-picked; they need to be picked carefully or else they can lie just as much as the "heart" can.

To be clear, if you look back in this thread I picked Lendl as greater than McEnroe for the 1980s. (As far as emotions, I actually like Lendl better). I think he had the greater career, and I have only a few specific problems with your list of stats. I'm not saying that your list is deceptive or that it lies. What I'm affirming is Chaognosis' point about stats. Your forgetting about Davis Cup proves, I think, his point that stats are picked out by people and do not offer themselves up objectively; they need to be picked out carefully. Merely piling on the numbers that favor one player is precisely an exercise that needs to be looked at skeptically.

McEnroe also won their H2H in 1980 (with two meetings). You were too quick with this.

And listing 10 years next to 2 makes it sound overwhelming -- more overwhelming than the actual H2H of 21-15, which you listed -- but you do not say that they did not even meet in 1986. Or that they met only once in 1987, 1988, 1991 and 1992. (Their meeting on French Open clay in 1988 was very close and to McEnroe's credit, being his weakest surface; that's hardly a year of "domination.")

Again, in this sort of comparison you cannot go without mentioning that Lendl's last year at #1 was 1989, a year that not many people would give him at #1. If you do, that's one thing, and you can say why. But you don't even mention it, but you do mention 1982.

Finally, there's more that could be said for McEnroe. The Dallas WCT Finals was a huge event in its time, and McEnroe won it five times. He was 2-1 with Lendl at that event, including a win in 1989.

What I'd like to see is someone making their case, but making the best case possible for both players, rather than simply piling up the stats for one player and then challenging others to come up with countering stats. I don't mean that we shouldn't have an opinion for make a case. I just mean, include stats that are easy enough to include. Davis Cup, WCT Finals, 1989, the true H2H in 1980, those should not be hard to remember and there's no reason to leave them out.

Krosero, I value your opinions. I have no problem accepting that McEnroes DC performance is better than Lendl's. But you are talking about a player who played for his country throughout his career, in comparison with an ex-patriate who had a spat with his country's tennis federation back in 83 and never played DC again (his name, along with the entire game of tennis was erased from the media for years in his country).

So really, there is not much to compare there, in fairness.

You are right about the WCT Dallas, which Mac won 5 times to Lendl's 2. It is at least as important as the Master's where Lendl dominated.

But even if you don't allow what I said about DC and you include the WCT Dallas difference, this far from overtaking the pile of other stuff I mentioned.

Regarding head to head. It is true that their h2h in 1980 is 2-0 for Mcenroe. I don't know that this is that significant. If you choose to separate out 1980, then you have Lendl dominating even more strongly, 7-0, for the following two years (81-82). Then it's McEnroe's turn with something like 10-2 in 83-84. And then it's practically all Lendl. Either way you look at it, the only clear domination by Mac in head to head is the 83-84 period. Adding 1980 to Mac still gives him only 3 years out of the 12 they played each other (I am excluding 86 from the count)

Regarding the 82 vs 89 ranking controversies, I mentioned my position it in my previous reply to chaognosis by presenting links to the year's record. The two controversies do not belong in the same plane at all.

Regarding heoric losses, Lendl had some too. The 88 USO final was a brutally long affair. Oh, and let us not forget those battles with Edberg at the AO, 9-7 in the fifth in 1985. Another one in 1992, and again the same year at the USO ending on a fifth set tiebreak. And oh, those long tight five setters with Becker, one at the 89 W semifinal, another one at the 92 USO. Epic stuff for me. Another one at the 88 Master's final, loss by Lendl on the first match point of a fifth set tiebreak, at 7-8 or something like that, on a ball that dropped from the cord softly on Lendl's side --softly, the better to rub salt on the lack of luck.

All that of course was not nearly so grabbing of media attention than the 1980 Wimbledon final, and therefore not so present in people's memory. But present in mine. Present in mine. Unlike the media, unlike most of the public I remember what Lendl did.

CyBorg
04-21-2008, 11:26 AM
I don't know why you would exclude Aussie grass, just because it's different. But as far as Wimbledon, you agree that Lendl needs to be placed below Cash in the period 1985-87?

I didn't exclude Aussie grass. My post was me admitting to you that you made a very good point.

Lendl was highly underrated on grass and was right there with the best of them, which included a drubbing of Edberg in the '87 semi. But I agree that it was premature of me to say that he was the second best over this stretch.

Benhur
04-21-2008, 11:58 AM
[QUOTE=chaognosis;2270504]
I would hardly say that something like the number of years Lendl finished with a winning percentage above some arbitrary level, should be considered as having comparable weight to the number of Wimbledon championships McEnroe won...

As long as Wimbledon is the only thing that matters to you, there are no other arguments.

The highest level of athletic achievement is about performing well under pressure, giving your best on the biggest stage. The influences of prestige, pressure, attention, desire, etc., are not irrelevant to a player's greatness. I could be the greatest "technical" cyclist in the world, but if I routinely collapse mentally in the final days at the Tour de France and never win that most important of events, will anyone care? (Ultimately I would just chalk this up to a disagreement over how to define "greatness," as Tim noted above.)

The comparison is totally invalid. Cycling is a sport, where EVERYTHING of any signicance boils down to just one event. Tennis is not.

During Lendl's heyday, there were, without question, four major championships that mattered. In McEnroe's, there really were only two (or two and a half at best), and he was quite dominant at those two.

No. By the 80s the French Open was a slam on the same footing as the USO (unless you are American or French, in which case you say your championship is more important). It is also the world championship of clay, just like Wimbledon is the world championship of grass. Clay is one of the three fundamental surfaces in tennis. And it was even more important in the early 80s than it is now, in terms of tournaments played.

Well, it certainly wasn't debated any more than the 1982 rankings. Both the ATP and ITF awards went to Becker in '89

I just checked the ATP site and Lendl was ranked number 1 from the end of January 1989 until mid August 1990. Check it out. I remind you there was no WCT-like controversy in 1989 excluding a whole bunch of important tournaments from the rankings, as was the case in 1982.

http://www.atptennis.com/5/en/players/playerprofiles/rankhistory.asp?playernumber=L018&selyear=1989

and journalists also picked Becker as the player of the year. It's dishonest to ignore this.

Some journalists may have. Others didn't. I repeat that the computer was not fed junk in 1989 due to a tennis fight between organizations that made them exclude each other from the rankings, as it clearly was in 1982.

(Connors was also the undisputed No. 1 in '82

Yes. He was in my mind, because of his two slams. On every other count Lendl was much better. And of course McEnroe was well behind Lendl that year. Which was always my point.

I like how you exclude 1981 from McEnroe's "peak years"!

Let is include it by all means. He then has three peak years. Lendl has five (82, 85, 86, 87 and 89) all of them at above 90% winning percentage. I consider any year with a 90+ winning percentage a peak year and accept no restrictions on this assessment.

Again, the number of weeks at number one given to Lendl is not disputable under any kind of ranking distorsions of the sort that put McEnroe as number one for much of 1982. But the point is that even if you include those weeks, Lendl is ahead of him by a huge margin. There is really no escaping all these numbers.

CyBorg
04-21-2008, 12:15 PM
No. By the 80s the French Open was a slam on the same footing as the USO (unless you are American or French, in which case you say your championship is more important). It is also the world championship of clay, just like Wimbledon is the world championship of grass. Clay is one of the three fundamental surfaces in tennis. And it was even more important in the early 80s than it is now, in terms of tournaments played.

A very important point. Whether Roland Garros is or isn't at the level of Wimbledon at a particular point in time is not important - this is a fallacy. What's important is the clay court stretch itself and who the best is over the course of that stretch.

In 1971, for example, the best clay courter may have actually been Rod Laver who won in Rome, which had a better, deeper draw than RG.

A player should get every bit as much credit for being the best on clay as one would get for being the best on grass. Both surfaces have a long history. Wimbledon gets more attention because it is the only real important grass event. Roland Garros however is the biggest of a number of important events that include Monte Carlo and Rome - all that go far back. As far as I'm concerned, to qualify as the best on this surface one has to prove himself in more events than simply RG.

Lendl did this. Between 1985 and 1987 he also has wins in Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg in addition to his two W and one F at RG. This is every bit as impressive (if not more) as what McEnroe did on grass.

krosero
04-21-2008, 12:19 PM
Krosero, I value your opinions. I have no problem accepting that McEnroes DC performance is better than Lendl's. But you are talking about a player who played for his country throughout his career, in comparison with an ex-patriate who had a spat with his country's tennis federation back in 83 and never played DC again (his name, along with the entire game of tennis was erased from the media for years in his country).

So really, there is not much to compare there, in fairness.What you presented was a raw statistical list, almost entirely without analysis or any element like fairness. The only time you stepped out of the raw numbers was to say that 1982 was bogus, which it was. And nothing wrong with a straight list of stats, in itself.

But what you're saying about DC gets past the raw numbers, into some questions of character -- even heart. It was always Lendl's desire to play Davis Cup for the U.S. Because he had to wait to become a citizen, he couldn't. That's to his credit -- and it has nothing to do with stats. So now you're bringing up something from a field of human experience (heart, desire, character, fairness) which you denigrated when Chaognosis was talking about it.

And in the end, as you know, the record stands, regardless of fairness. Lendl might well have won a lot of Cups for his country, but you can't credit a player, statistically, with nonexistent wins.

Regarding head to head. It is true that their h2h in 1980 is 2-0 for Mcenroe. I don't know that this is that significant. If you choose to separate out 1980, then you have Lendl dominating even more strongly, 7-0, for the following two years (81-82). Then it's McEnroe's turn with something like 10-2 in 83-84. And then it's practically all Lendl. Either way you look at it, the only clear domination by Mac in head to head is the 83-84 period. Adding 1980 to Mac still gives him only 3 years out of the 12 they played each other (I am excluding 86 from the count)As noted, my problem with your H2H count was the margin of 10-2 in years of "domination." It really adds nothing to the figure of 21-15 and just skews things in Lendl's favor. I wasn't saying that 1980 was significant, in terms of the overall conclusion; it's just a year you included incorrectly. There's no reason to take away one of McEnroe's years, with two wins including a Slam meeting, when you're including 4 years in which Lendl got just one win over Mac.

And yes, had they played more in those years, Lendl probably would have more; but those are nonexistent wins. They'd have no place in a raw statistical list such as yours.

Regarding the 82 vs 89 ranking controversies, I mentioned my position it in my previous reply to chaognosis by presenting links to the year's record. The two controversies do not belong in the same plane at all.I'd be the first to say that there's a big difference between the two controversies. But your list of stats has the two players equal at 4 years apiece, and then you drop McEnroe to 3, without even mentioning that it's a really credible position to drop Lendl to 3 as well. Lendl's got a case in 1989, but with only one Slam to Becker's two it's a debate; you called it infinitely debatable. Of course it belongs in the debate, and even in your list; Lendl's fourth year at #1 is not unquestionably his.

Regarding heoric losses, Lendl had some too. The 88 USO final was a brutally long affair. Oh, and let us not forget those battles with Edberg at the AO, 9-7 in the fifth in 1985. Another one in 1992, and again the same year at the USO ending on a fifth set tiebreak. And oh, those long tight five setters with Becker, one at the 89 W semifinal, another one at the 92 USO. Epic stuff for me. Another one at the 88 Master's final, loss by Lendl on the first match point of a fifth set tiebreak, at 7-8 or something like that, on a ball that dropped from the cord softly on Lendl's side --softly, the better to rub salt on the lack of luck.

All that of course was not nearly so grabbing of media attention than the 1980 Wimbledon final, and therefore not so present in people's memory. But present in mine. Present in mine. Unlike the media, unlike most of the public I remember what Lendl did.I saw all of the Lendl losses live (not in person), except the Edberg match. So I remember them well, and to be honest I hated the guy at the time. But I've rewatched some of these matches and they've impressed me deeply; I'm a fully converted fan. So no argument with you there.

But it's nice that you're including that stuff now, on top of the raw statistical wins.

My real problem is any time someone says that stats speak for themselves. Specifically you said you couldn't even think of countering evidence. I presented some, and there's still more.

Why, for instance, didn't you list Lendl's 8-11 record in Slam finals with McEnroe's 7-4? It's a raw stat, and it belongs in any list that had any hope of being objective. I'm saying that, by the way, as someone who doesn't call Lendl a choker. But if I were compiling a list of stats in their rivalry, I'd certainly put that in. Analysis comes later, and then anyone can take sides about how significant they think the win-loss record in finals is.

A list with all of the evidence in McEnroe's favor, is the only kind of list that I, as a Lendl fan, would trust completely; and the only kind that I might choose to quote in another thread favorably, wholesale and without objection (though I admit that your list includes some stuff I didn't know about, like the semifinal performances, that I can thank you for).

krosero
04-21-2008, 01:04 PM
A player should get every bit as much credit for being the best on clay as one would get for being the best on grass. Both surfaces have a long history. Wimbledon gets more attention because it is the only real important grass event. Perhaps today one reason Wimbledon is valued is because it's the only remaining important grass event. But if we're talking about Lendl and McEnroe, and the 80s, well the AO was also on grass; Wimbledon's prestige was something it had acquired long before then, back to the time when 3 Slams were on grass.

The mythmaking around Wimbledon has never impressed me, partly because I'm American and I've personally (and unfairly) given the US Championships more importance than RG, for example. So there are reasons for Wimbledon's prestige, but that prestige was acquired ages before wimbledon became the only important grass event. (It's not clear what time period you're talking about but you mentioned long histories behind the events).

CyBorg
04-21-2008, 01:19 PM
Perhaps today one reason Wimbledon is valued is because it's the only remaining important grass event. But if we're talking about Lendl and McEnroe, and the 80s, well the AO was also on grass; Wimbledon's prestige was something it had acquired long before then, back to the time when 3 Slams were on grass.

The mythmaking around Wimbledon has never impressed me, partly because I'm American and I've personally (and unfairly) given the US Championships more importance than RG, for example. So there are reasons for Wimbledon's prestige, but that prestige was acquired ages before wimbledon became the only important grass event. (It's not clear what time period you're talking about but you mentioned long histories behind the events).

Just to be clear: Wimbledon was not the only important grass event in 1987.

Benhur
04-21-2008, 01:53 PM
[QUOTE=krosero;2270690] What you presented was a raw statistical list, almost entirely without analysis or any element like fairness. The only time you stepped out of the raw numbers was to say that 1982 was bogus, which it was. And nothing wrong with a straight list of stats, in itself.

Yes, it was a raw statistical list. But I still think that all the statistics mentioned by me are very relevant, AND that they cannot be countered by anywhere near an equal amount of other relevant ones in the opposite direction.

But what you're saying about DC gets past the raw numbers, into some questions of character -- even heart. It was always Lendl's desire to play Davis Cup for the U.S. Because he had to wait to become a citizen, he couldn't. That's to his credit -- and it has nothing to do with stats. So now you're bringing up something from a field of human experience (heart, desire, character, fairness) which you denigrated when Chaognosis was talking about it.

Well in the first place I don't know how to get past the fact that Lendl did not play Davis Cup after 1983 for reasons beyond his own choosing. His countrie's federation expelled him from the team and made him a non-person. He didn't have a country to play for during his peak years.

As noted, my problem with your H2H count was the margin of 10-2 in years of "domination." It really adds nothing to the figure of 21-15 and just skews things in Lendl's favor. I wasn't saying that 1980 was significant, in terms of the overall conclusion; it's just a year you included incorrectly. There's no reason to take away one of McEnroe's years, with two wins including a Slam meeting, when you're including 4 years in which Lendl got just one win over Mac.

Fair enough. We include 1980 and we end up with 3 years out of 12 where McEnroe dominated the head to head.

I'd be the first to say that there's a big difference between the two controversies. But your list of stats has the two players equal at 4 years apiece, and then you drop McEnroe to 3, without even mentioning that it's a really credible position to drop Lendl to 3 as well.

Lendl's got a case in 1989, but with only one Slam to Becker's two it's a debate; you called it infinitely debatable. Of course it belongs in the debate, and even in your list; Lendl's fourth year at #1 is not unquestionably his.


But again, the monumental difference in the nature of the 1982 vs 1989 controversies makes my own differenciation justifiable. You could argue that Lendl was at least a co-number 1 in 1989. You cannot argue anything like that for McEnroe in 1982.

I saw all of the Lendl losses live (not in person), except the Edberg match. So I remember them well, and to be honest I hated the guy at the time. But I've rewatched some of these matches and they've impressed me deeply; I'm a fully converted fan. So no argument with you there.

Those matches (losses) were indeed impressive epic battles, and I am glad you acknowledge that.

My real problem is any time someone says that stats speak for themselves. Specifically you said you couldn't even think of countering evidence. I presented some, and there's still more.

Why, for instance, didn't you list Lendl's 8-11 record in Slam finals with McEnroe's 7-4? It's a raw stat, and it belongs in any list that had any hope of being objective.

I still think that what you present is not strong countering evidence. If you go only by the percentage of slam finals wins, yes, of course. But you cannot separate that from the total number of GS finals, a category in which Lendl leads by nearly 100%. As has been pointed out before by Cyborg: should we think it better for Lendl if he had lost in the semifinals at 11 of those slams where he reached the finals but failed to win, so that his result in GS finals would be a neat 8-0? Do you really think that would work in his favor? I certainly don't. It does not make any sense. The bottom line is that the total number of McEnroe GS finals (11) is the same as the total number of Lendl GS final losses. Now, on top of those losses (runner-ups, you can also call them) Lendl has 8 wins to McEnroe's 7. Bottom line: it's not even close. I mean, the more you try to bring up the GS finals issue, the better it looks for Lendl. There is no way around that. Lendl won one more slam than McEnroe. And on top of that, he is 11-4 in runner-up GS results. Again: not even close, no matter how you look at it.

A list with all of the evidence in McEnroe's favor, is the only kind of list that I, as a Lendl fan, would trust completely; and the only kind that I might choose to quote in another thread favorably, wholesale and without objection (though I admit that your list includes some stuff I didn't know about, like the semifinal performances, that I can thank you for)

With those perspectives in view, I encourage you to put up a more objective stats list than mine (including my statistics). Don't forget what I just pointed out about the GS finals record (that sword has two edges to it, and one cuts much deeper than the other).

Moose Malloy
04-21-2008, 02:27 PM
II just checked the ATP site and Lendl was ranked number 1 from the end of January 1989 until mid August 1990. Check it out. I remind you there was no WCT-like controversy in 1989 excluding a whole bunch of important tournaments from the rankings, as was the case in 1982.


Actually there was. The year end masters never counted for atp ranking in the 80s. Didn't you notice the '0' listed under points for that event in the players' activity page? That's not just a typo. Becker won it in '88 & was the RU in '89. Who knows, that may have given him #1 at some point during that span. With the points you get today for winning it, he certainly would have.

Benhur, I understand you are a big Lendl fan & all(seems like most of your posts in this forum are on him), but the fact that you can't admit this isn't at least a close call is odd.

I would vote for Lendl as well, but you can't just throw out all the many ranking lists over the years that rank Mac higher than him. We're taking about a lot of the greatest players & writers of the game(Laver, Newcombe, Dan Maskell, Fred Stolle, Richard Evans, Bud Collins etc) that all rank Mac higher than Lendl. Chaognosis is one of the true historians of the game on this board, not many are as well-read on the history of the game here(I certainly am not), so I can understand why he would pick Mac, when the amount of actual votes in his favor by so many alltime greats is clearly is in his favor. Just using stats seems rather short-sighted, you think Fred Stolle went on wikepedia before ranking Mac higher than Lendl for the seedings for the Tennis Week all time fantasy tournament last year? should he have?

These boards represent probably the highest concentration of tennis expertese among the public, since we are all pretty knowledgeable lovers of tennis. Look at the poll on the topic that someone posted here. Lendl gets the clear majority of the votes.

it's nice that tennis fans on a message board hold Lendl so highly(& let me repeat I would rank him higher than Mac as well) but that doesn't change the fact that it is an uncommon opinion among the true greats & true historians of the game. Considering most of the posters here are teenagers who've never even seen either player play, I'm not sure why what they think on some random poll on a website should be weighed higher than what Laver, etc think.

Maybe chaognosis can actually start listing all the sources he has that show this opinion to be so widespread.

also, your emphasis on surfaces is not entirely relevant. hardcourts weren't even a common surface on tour until the mid 80s, the game has been in existence a lot longer than just the 80s on. as long as its been around Wimbledon has been the ultimate event. maybe it wasn't to you, but if someone just wants to rank Mac higher than Lendl just on the basis that he won it more than Lendl did, they do have a valid point, as historically it was/is so much more important than any other event.

and as krosero said, wimbledon was always the most important event on tour, even when 3 majors were on grass, so doesn't that sort of make relying on just surface data to draw conclusions on ranking players seem a bit silly?

also that goes for win/loss records by season as well. that's great for lendl & all, but does anyone really remember that stuff in the big picture? were you aware of it before you looked it up on wikepedia? will anyone remember Federer's win/loss by year decades from now? I doubt it, but his 5 Wimbledons will still be a big deal I imagine.

Even though I rank Lendl higher, I do agree with chaognosis that Lendl in some ways was lucky to play more of his prime when all 4 majors were more important than when Mac did. I know it seems strange to think of the 2 as being from slightly different eras, but in a way they were. Lendl was an amazing player, but I don't think he missed out on winning more majors by the way the tour was structured like Connors, Mac, & Borg did. Its really a shame that the powers that be didn't do more to keep all the majors 'major' when the game went Open.

When Mac was in his prime, the WCT finals in Dallas(indoors mind you) was in mid May, very close to the FO, not convenient for the players at all. The fact that it offered considerably more prize money than the FO in some ways made it more of a priority to the top players(Newcombe ranks his '74 win in Dallas as among the most significant of his career) Also Mac skipped on so many AOs in his prime because it interfered with his preparation for the DC final. So his '7' majors really doesn't tell the whole story with his career, but I think '8 majors' pretty much does with Lendl.

And one other thing about Mac, he may be close to Lendl in age, but in some ways his career was like Borg. many forget what a phenom he was, he was the youngest USO champ ever at the time( he was 20 when he won it in '79) He also was one of the youngest #1's ever at 21. Lendl was far different in this aspect, so head to head with the 2 can be a bit misleading, you can argue Mac was just burned out after '85, he just didn't have the guts to walk away like Borg did.

chaognosis
04-21-2008, 02:31 PM
As long as Wimbledon is the only thing that matters to you, there are no other arguments.

I think you know better than this. Wimbledon is far from the ONLY thing that matters to me, but there is no denying that it is a very, very important factor in evaluating any player's career... on more than one occasion it has been called "the championship of the world" (by Laney in 1968, e.g.). However, Wimbledon seems to hold little or no special significance for you. I find it astonishing when you dismiss this "one point" versus your "sixteen"--as if the number of Wimbledon titles won is somehow on par with some of the rather trivial statistics you've dug up in Lendl's defense! Perhaps I've overstated my position re: Wimbledon for polemical reasons, but I think it's warranted, given how flagrantly you seem to willfully overlook it in favor of comparatively minor accomplishments.


The comparison is totally invalid. Cycling is a sport, where EVERYTHING of any signicance boils down to just one event. Tennis is not.

Well, all I can say is that you seem to know very little about cycling. There are a great many events throughout the year with varying levels of prestige (the other Grand Tour races, on par with Grand Slam tournaments in tennis, are the Vuelta a Espana and the Giro d'Italia). The Tour de France gets a disproportionate level of attention from fans and the media, of course, as it is widely regarded as the most important event, just as Wimbledon is in tennis. Your position on cycling seems completely counterintuitive given your position on tennis (I thought you were all about seeing through the distorting lens of the media...); I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that this inconsistency is merely the product of ignorance.


Let is include it by all means. He then has three peak years. Lendl has five (82, 85, 86, 87 and 89) all of them at above 90% winning percentage. I consider any year with a 90+ winning percentage a peak year and accept no restrictions on this assessment.

That is an arbitrary distinction. 0.900 constitutes a "peak year" whereas 0.895 does not? Give me a break. Do you think any player, or any rational being doing a comparison of two players, would care about this peculiar "assessment" of yours?

And lastly, I ask you to sit back, relax, and think about this question: do you HONESTLY believe that McEnroe would trade in his resume for Lendl's?

Moose Malloy
04-21-2008, 02:42 PM
And lastly, I ask you to sit back, relax, and think about this question: do you HONESTLY believe that McEnroe would trade in his resume for Lendl's?

Good one. I say no. But I do believe Lendl would trade his career in for Mac's. He said in the 80s that he would trade his 3 FOs in for one Wimbledon. I think today many think Lendl was just obsessed with winning Wimbledon since it was the only one he didn't win, but in reality it was more than just that, he knew that it was the most important event in the world, & that his legacy would be lowered without it.

chaognosis
04-21-2008, 03:10 PM
As per Moose's request, here are just a few of the most recent testimonies by players, journalists, and other writers that I could quickly come up with (Moose has already named some others); I will add to it when I have access to more materials (others could add to it as well if they know of particular lists or polls I've left out). You'll notice that two recent rankings (by Drucker and Fein), do favor Lendl, albeit by a hair. The other writers, and the two major polls, favor McEnroe by varying degrees.

1999 AP poll (panel including Ted Schroeder, Barry MacKay, Fred Stolle, Virginia Wade, Wendy Turnbull, and Pam Shriver) : McEnroe #6, Lendl not ranked (outside top 10)
2006 TennisWeek all-time fantasy draw (determined by many expert ballots): McEnroe #8, Lendl not ranked (outside top eight)

E. Digby Baltzell (1995): McEnroe and Borg among all-time top 10, Lendl not included
Bud Collins (2006): McEnroe #7, Lendl #10
Joel Drucker (2006): Lendl #9, McEnroe #10
Paul Fein (2003): Lendl #9, McEnroe #10
Steve Flink (2006): McEnroe #9, Lendl #10
Bruce Jenkins (2006): McEnroe #5, Lendl not ranked (outside top 10)
Dan Maskell (1988*): McEnroe #6, Lendl not ranked (outside top 10)

*The ranking from Maskell's book was obviously done before the completion of Lendl's career, so his list may have changed later. However, Lendl's best years (1985-87) were already behind him at that point, and if anything should have been especially fresh in the author's memory; I highly doubt that what happened later would have significantly altered Maskell's opinion here.

There was also a very large poll conducted by Inside Tennis in 1986, which I haven't included for obvious reasons, though the most interesting thing about it is that it ranked McEnroe second behind only Laver! Obviously Mac's stature has declined somewhat in retrospect, but it's remarkable that observers at the time were so impressed by him--ranking him ahead of Borg, Gonzales, Kramer, Budge, Tilden, etc. Lendl was never held in such high esteem, even at the very height of his powers.

krosero
04-21-2008, 03:57 PM
I still think that what you present is not strong countering evidence. You still seem to be arguing with me about Lendl's greatness compared to McEnroe's, yet I think we're in agreement that Lendl's career was greater. As I keep trying to say, what I'm most interested in is the way you've presented stats. You said the stats speak for themselves. Would you really like to let Lendl's 8-11 record in finals speak for itself? Wouldn't you rather analyze it the way you did above in your response to me? That's my whole point: stats don't end any debate, and they don't speak for themselves; people speak through them, and they're a tool for debate. That's all.

For instance, your analysis of Lendl's win-loss record in finals is a valid way of looking at it. I can think of another way of looking at it that's not so positive for Lendl.

I don't call Lendl a choker, because some people think that he started off his career 1-6 in Slam finals only because he choked everything away. And that's not true. But I think he choked in the '83 USO final, with the third set on his racquet, and Connors very beatable. And in some of his other early finals he underperformed, particularly in the mental aspect, becoming discouraged and not digging in particularly well. No question, Lendl's record in the small events was better than in the Slams for some years. In later years he brought up his performance in Slam finals to everything that it could be, and that's when he was so great; when he relinquished his #1 ranking in 1988 it had to be taken from him tooth and nail.

McEnroe never collapsed in a final the way Lendl did in the '83 USO. (I don't consider the 84 F a choke; I think that's just McEnroe's way of sticking it to Lendl; he lost to the better player and Lendl should get full credit for it). If Lendl had won that final, his record would be 9-10 and there would be little reason to bring it up. If he'd won just 1 more, it would be 10-9, nothing remarkable anymore.

Now, it's entirely true that Lendl became better, and matured mentally. But we're talking about the whole career, right? In a list of stats, no one would choose to list only Lendl's Masters wins from 1985 onward, or his semifinal performances in Slams from 1985 onward. He has such an overwhelming record because all of his long career is included.

So Lendl's poor record in his early years, and his underformance in some of those finals, is a part of his record. I like to think of him at his peak; to think of the fully mature champion; to think of the way he ended rather than the way he began. But there's a lot more record before that, and it's not especially great.

That's what the 8-11 stat brings into the picture for discussion, and rightly so. Anyone who then says that Lendl choked everything away, or doesn't acknowledge how much he changed later, is wrong IMO. But there is NO way at all that the 8-11 stat should not be listed in a list such as yours, and presented for discussion.

You said the stat cuts in Lendl's favor, so by all rights you should have listed it.

With those perspectives in view, I encourage you to put up a more objective stats list than mine (including my statistics). Don't forget what I just pointed out about the GS finals record (that sword has two edges to it, and one cuts much deeper than the other).Your list is a start; and it could be modified. Since you said the numbers spoke for themselves, you could list Davis Cup, without mention of the context, plus WCT, change 1980 in the H2H, don't say anything about 1982 being bogus (just present the computer rankings), put in the win-loss record in Slam finals, and let all the numbers stand there without comment.

Then you could admit that as a Lendl fan you probably have statistical blind spots that tend in Lendl's direction, and that you need McEnroe fans to chime in and for discussion and analysis to begin. That's just normal practice; stats need to be proofed, analyzed, debated.

I'm not a fan of using stats as a salvo, intending to end discussion. Stats are just a tool for discussion, nothing more.

Those are the issues I'm really interested in, much more than hearing about how such-and-such stats are really in Lendl's favor and all that. Enough with the Lendl advocacy; I'm there already.

CyBorg
04-21-2008, 04:56 PM
and as krosero said, wimbledon was always the most important event on tour, even when 3 majors were on grass

It was certainly always a high-profile event, but couldn't possibly have been the most important in the amateur era.

For obvious reasons.

Benhur
04-21-2008, 05:17 PM
[QUOTE=Moose Malloy;2271032]Actually there was. The year end masters never counted for atp ranking in the 80s. Didn't you notice the '0' listed under points for that event in the players' activity page?

Ok. But that was tru also of 1982, in addition to the 9 WCT tournaments won by Lendl then. So the abysmal difference stands between 1982 and 1989.

I understand you are a big Lendl fan

I am not a big fan of anyone in the sense of losing any sleep over a tennis player's results, or engaging in the antics one sees at the Pro Match Results forum. But I do believe that Lendl is the most undervalued player in the history of modern tennis, and I do like to point to the evidence to reddress this wrong.

I would vote for Lendl as well

Good to know we agree on that.

but you can't just throw out all the many ranking lists over the years that rank Mac higher than him. We're taking about a lot of the greatest players & writers of the game(Laver, Newcombe, Dan Maskell, Fred Stolle, Richard Evans, Bud Collins etc) that all rank Mac higher than Lendl.

Those are important names, but of course they represent a tiny minority of the tennis greats. I would like to see a poll among all the professional peers of Mac and Lendl.

Just using stats seems rather short-sighted, you think Fred Stolle went on wikepedia before ranking Mac higher than Lendl for the seedings for the Tennis Week all time fantasy tournament last year? should he have?

Of course he should have checked the record. Why? Because results are the most relevant factor by far.

it's nice that tennis fans on a message board hold Lendl so highly(& let me repeat I would rank him higher than Mac as well) but that doesn't change the fact that it is an uncommon opinion among the true greats & true historians of the game.

I do not think it is an uncommon opinion by the majority of people who are knowledgeable about the history of tennis and its results, and the poll on this board attests to that.

Considering most of the posters here are teenagers who've never even seen either player play, I'm not sure why what they think on some random poll on a website should be weighed higher than what Laver, etc think.

The teenagers here seldom participate in the Former Pro message board. Those who do must do so because they are interested in the history of the game and have gained some knowledge. I would guess that the majority of the kids who post on the General board and the Match Result board do not know much about Lendl and would automatically vote for Mac because they've heard of him 1000 times for every time they've heard of Lendl.

also, your emphasis on surfaces is not entirely relevant. hardcourts weren't even a common surface on tour until the mid 80s, the game has been in existence a lot longer than just the 80s on.

I agree that the more you go back in time, the more important clay is with respect to hardcourts, so I am not sure what you are driving at. The more important clay becomes, the better for Lendl, since Mac didn't do much of anything on clay.

as long as its been around Wimbledon has been the ultimate event. maybe it wasn't to you, but if someone just wants to rank Mac higher than Lendl just on the basis that he won it more than Lendl did, they do have a valid point, as historically it was/is so much more important than any other event.

I agree it is the most prestigious event. But it has never been the only event by any measure. Certainly not during the 80s.

and as krosero said, wimbledon was always the most important event on tour, even when 3 majors were on grass, so doesn't that sort of make relying on just surface data to draw conclusions on ranking players seem a bit silly?

I don't think it makes it silly at all. By that rationale, you should rank players only by Wimbledon titles and damn everything else. By the 1980s there were three distinct surfaces and grass tournaments were already in the minority, with clay significantly more frequent than today. I simply give Wimbledon the same weight as the USO and RG in the early 80s, though I recognize his higher prestige. But quantifying prestige is a different matter.

also that goes for win/loss records by season as well. that's great for lendl & all, but does anyone really remember that stuff in the big picture?

Now you are switching to a less valid line of argument. What people remember is independent of what a player has accomplished on the court. We can go back to the media-based evaluation. If you go by that measure, there is no contest at all. McEnroe is a media figure. Lendl is just a tennis player. But when it comes to evaluating their tennis careers, I like to look at what they actually did on the court while they played, not on what people remember, which is a measure of what the media remembers.

were you aware of it before you looked it up on wikepedia? will anyone remember Federer's win/loss by year decades from now? I doubt it, but his 5 Wimbledons will still be a big deal I imagine.

They will be a big deal. But they would be much less of a deal if he hadn't done much of anything else. Or if his domination had not been as overwhelming as it has been everywhere. And that's one reason why, even before matching Sampras' slam record, he is already considered by many as better than Sampras, based on those other factors.

Even though I rank Lendl higher, I do agree with chaognosis that Lendl in some ways was lucky to play more of his prime when all 4 majors were more important than when Mac did.

I think the French was as important in the early 80s as it is now. The Australian became a very important event in 1983, while McEnroe was in his prime. In addition, I do not accept the notion that McEnroe's career ended in flames in 1985. He was still number 4 as late as 1989, far from burned out. In fact, I have the heretic notion that McEnroe was pretty much as good in 1989 as he was in 1984. It was the competition that had changed, and changed dramatically. I understand this is not an orthodox notion, and some people will wring their hands at the sound of it. But I base it on reasoning that a "burned out" player could not have been number 4 in 1989. Especially considering the field in 1989.

When Mac was in his prime, the WCT finals in Dallas(indoors mind you) was in mid May, very close to the FO, not convenient for the players at all. The fact that it offered considerably more prize money than the FO in some ways made it more of a priority to the top players(Newcombe ranks his '74 win in Dallas as among the most significant of his career)

I don't know what this means. 74 was way before Mac's time. Dallas was not on the same level as RG by the early 80s, regardless of the money. RG was an establishe slam by then, Dallas was not. McEnroe played RG in 1977, 80, 81, 83, 84, 85, 87, 88, 91, 92. That's ten. Dallas didn't prevent him from winning it. Lendl was in Dallas most of the years that Mac won Dallas.

Also Mac skipped on so many AOs in his prime because it interfered with his preparation for the DC final. So his '7' majors really doesn't tell the whole story with his career, but I think '8 majors' pretty much does with Lendl.

This does not make sense. All I see is a convoluted persistent attempt to explain to me why Mac's 7 slams don't really mean 7 but mean who knows what. Lendl's *inability* to play DC for most of his career is dismissed as not McEnroe's fault. On the other hand, McEnroe's trailing in GS titles is dismissed on the grounds that the AO *interfered* with his DC preparations and that Dallas is too close to RG. So slams are not that important in this sense. Yet on the other hand, McEnroe's record outside slams is even more inferior to Lendl's (Lendl won many more titles, significant titles). When this is brought up, we are sent back to the revived notion that all that really matters is slams, and damn the rest (even though we had just heard that Mac's 7 slams are not really all that matters because of other factors). So then if you bring up Lendl's edge on slams, 8-7, which are completely legitimate (his 2 AO date from 89 and 90) then we are brought back to the notion that these don't count because Mac sometimes was preparing for Davis Cup in January, or because he didn't realize they were important, even though the top players were there from 1983. I hope you realize the remarkable slapstick character of these arguments. Further down the discussion, when one brings up the fact that Lendl leads Mac by an even wider margin in GS runnerup appearances, some of you suggest that this is in fact a stain in Lendl's record because somehow the fact that Mac reached 11 GS finals, winning 7, is BETTER than Lendl reaching 19 GS finals and winning 8. The theater of the absurd is not far from here. When everything is said and done, we are left with the notion that Mac is the greatest because he won 3 Wimbledons, and because some important personalities have said this is so without even consulting his record. On top of it, you say these people don't need to consult his record to make a pronouncement, as if their pronouncements had the force of royal decrees or papal bulls.

I have to acknowledge that you guys show an unbelievable level of creativity and obfuscation to find ways to aggrandize McEnroe's accomplishments and minimize Lendl's. I also confess that so far I remain serenely unmoved by any of it, as you can see. Other than Wimbledon, all I observe is a stack of resultsthat tell me that Lendl has very clearly the better record of the two.

anointedone
04-21-2008, 05:22 PM
Good one. I say no. But I do believe Lendl would trade his career in for Mac's. He said in the 80s that he would trade his 3 FOs in for one Wimbledon. I think today many think Lendl was just obsessed with winning Wimbledon since it was the only one he didn't win, but in reality it was more than just that, he knew that it was the most important event in the world, & that his legacy would be lowered without it.

Which year do you think was Lendl's best chance to win it? Or in retrospect was there not really that year where there was too much of a chance missed, given how it all played out.

CyBorg
04-21-2008, 05:38 PM
Lendl, by the way, also won Boca West in 1986 which had a 128-man draw with pretty much everyone of importance participating. I think that this title is more impressive than a three-round Dallas event.

As for his play on grass, from what I saw he played his best at the 1989 Wimbledon and got raving reviews at Queen's in 1990 - that's the year he skipped RG to prepare for grass.

krosero
04-21-2008, 05:46 PM
Lendl won one more slam than McEnroe. And on top of that, he is 11-4 in runner-up GS results. Again: not even close, no matter how you look at it.Upon closer inspection I cannot really affirm this. You're right about the idea that Lendl should get some credit for winning his semifinals so consistently -- for getting to Slam finals. But here you've done something I've never seen before: you've listed runner-up showings for two players the way that wins are typically listed: you have Lendl ahead of McEnroe by 11 to 4. In runner-up showings.

That's just tossing up the numbers so they're listed favorably for Lendl. The standard way is to have Lendl ahead 8-7 in wins and behind, 8-11 vs. 7-4, in the win/loss ratio; and ahead in the finals, 19-11. If you just list the runner-up showings like they're a credit to the player and nothing more, the whole question of the win/loss ratio is evaded.

krosero
04-21-2008, 05:59 PM
Further down the discussion, when one brings up the fact that Lendl leads Mac by an even wider margin in GS runnerup appearances, some of you suggest that this is in fact a stain in Lendl's record because somehow the fact that Mac reached 11 GS finals, winning 7, is BETTER than Lendl reaching 19 GS finals and winning 8. The theater of the absurd is not far from here. Actually all I remember is that I brought up the win/loss ratio as something that should be discussed. Then -- not before -- you brought up the fact that Lendl has more runner-up showings than McEnroe.

I have never said, nor do I think, that Lendl has a worse Grand Slam record than McEnroe, so if this is in reference to me it's a strawman.

Benhur
04-21-2008, 07:15 PM
[QUOTE=chaognosis;2271040] I think you know better than this. Wimbledon is far from the ONLY thing that matters to me, but there is no denying that it is a very, very important factor in evaluating any player's career... on more than one occasion it has been called "the championship of the world" (by Laney in 1968, e.g.).

There is not such a thing as the tennis championship of the world except in hyperbolic talk.

However, Wimbledon seems to hold little or no special significance for you.

Where you get that from, I don't know. I said several times it is the most prestigius event. A quantification of this prestige has not been done. Is it worth 1.5 US Opens, 1.7 RG to you? Since as far as I can remember it has been given the same value in terms of points as the USO and RG.

I find it astonishing when you dismiss this "one point" versus your "sixteen"--as if the number of Wimbledon titles won is somehow on par with some of the rather trivial statistics you've dug up in Lendl's defense!

What?? More GS is trivial. 19 GS finals is trivial? 50-some more weeks as number one is trivial? 5 different years with above 90% winning percentage is trivial?? Again you keep reinforcing the notion that for you everything is trivial except the Wimbledon titles.

Well, all I can say is that you seem to know very little about cycling.

That is very curious. I used to follow cycling pretty well since the mid 60s. Me and my friends would watch the Tour religiously every day in Spain. We knew the names of all the cyclists. We knew already then, in Spain, that the only thing that mattered was the Tour. Any cyclist will tell you that wining the Tour towers above anything else you can win in cycling by a huge margin, and all the players who never won it would trade all they have done for just one Tour. Why do you think all the great riders concentrate exclusively on the Tour and plan all their schedule around it, and treat the Giro and the Vuelta as preparatory training events?

There are a great many events throughout the year with varying levels of prestige (the other Grand Tour races, on par with Grand Slam tournaments in tennis are the Vuelta a Espana and the Giro d'Italia).

That is ABSOLUTE nonsense that can only come from someon who knows nothing about cycling. Are you now going to reveal yourself as an authority in cycling history to me? The Giro and the Vuelta are to the Tour de France what an MS event is a GS. At most they would be comparable to an MS level event. They have nothing to do with grand slam status. There is ONE slam in cycling, and that's the Tour.

The Tour de France gets a disproportionate level of attention from fans and the media, of course, as it is widely regarded as the most important event, just as Wimbledon is in tennis.

It is not a matter of disproportion. The Tour is a race that resides on a completely different level from the other races. Any person that knows anything about cycling knows this. Comparing it with Wimbledon vs other slams is total nonsense.

Your position on cycling seems completely counterintuitive given your position on tennis

My position on cycling stems from having followed it from childhood in the 60s in Spain. No sane person (even in Spain or Italy) would think that the Vuelta or the Giro compares in any way with the Tour. You are actually the only person I've heard make such outlandish statements.

(I thought you were all about seeing through the distorting lens of the media...); I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that this inconsistency is merely the product of ignorance.

The ignorance on cycling comes exclusively from you. Your statements that the Giro and the Vuelta are to the Tour what the USO or RG are to Wimbledon are so unbelievably silly they leave me speechless. You simply have no idea what you are talking about.

That is an arbitrary distinction. 0.900 constitutes a "peak year" whereas 0.895 does not? Give me a break.

What is your definition of a peak year (not THE peak year)? Does entering 23 tournaments, reching the finals of 20 of them, and winning 15, with a 93% winning percentage for the year prevent one from considering it a peak year? How many years like that can you quote from other players peak years?

And lastly, I ask you to sit back, relax, and think about this question: do you HONESTLY believe that McEnroe would trade in his resume for Lendl's?

The question, posed in retrospect, is rather meaningless as no one would want to trade anything with a main rival. The question would make sense if posed before the events. So let's imagine the Devil comes up to McEnroe in 1977 and offers him two resumés (written by me, of course) containing the results of two possible future careers. Only the results and the stats (as viewed from our vantage point today - not the media attention etc.). Just show the numbers to young Mac. Well, I don't know what he would do. I know what I would do. I would go for the better resume with the better results in a flash. We both know which one that is.

Then again, if McEnroe's had ended up with Lendl's results (and viceversa) we would not be having this discussion. Because nobody would doubt which one had the better results. The reason the discussion is even possible today is that McEnroe is McEnroe, a media figure as much as a tennis player.

Benhur
04-21-2008, 08:38 PM
[QUOTE=chaognosis;2271129]As per Moose's request, here are just a few of the most recent testimonies by players, journalists, and other writers that I could quickly come up with (Moose has already named some others); I will add to it when I have access to more materials (others could add to it as well if they know of particular lists or polls I've left out). You'll notice that two recent rankings (by Drucker and Fein), do favor Lendl, albeit by a hair. The other writers, and the two major polls, favor McEnroe by varying degrees.

1999 AP poll (panel including Ted Schroeder, Barry MacKay, Fred Stolle, Virginia Wade, Wendy Turnbull, and Pam Shriver) : McEnroe #6, Lendl not ranked (outside top 10)
2006 TennisWeek all-time fantasy draw (determined by many expert ballots): McEnroe #8, Lendl not ranked (outside top eight)

E. Digby Baltzell (1995): McEnroe and Borg among all-time top 10, Lendl not included
Bud Collins (2006): McEnroe #7, Lendl #10
Joel Drucker (2006): Lendl #9, McEnroe #10
Paul Fein (2003): Lendl #9, McEnroe #10
Steve Flink (2006): McEnroe #9, Lendl #10
Bruce Jenkins (2006): McEnroe #5, Lendl not ranked (outside top 10)
Dan Maskell (1988*): McEnroe #6, Lendl not ranked (outside top 10)

*The ranking from Maskell's book was obviously done before the completion of Lendl's career, so his list may have changed later. However, Lendl's best years (1985-87) were already behind him at that point, and if anything should have been especially fresh in the author's memory; I highly doubt that what happened later would have significantly altered Maskell's opinion here.

What these tennis pundits have to say must be based on a question that does not suggest looking at results, but going by fond beliefs. Since this is a forum where tennis buffs exchange impressions and knowlege on the history of the game, and since I doubt their perception of Lendl has been helped at all by any favorable media coverage of Lendl (there being so precious little of it) I give much more credence to polls such as the one I list below, where the question is clearly formulated as:

"Who is the greatest male player of the 1980s based on their performances in this decade?"

And where the result is this.

http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/poll.php?do=showresults&pollid=5115

I am actually a bit surprised that, given the overwhelming and persistent media drive to turn McEnroe into a tennis demigod for the last 20 years, people around this forum were able to distinguish substance from hoopla and voted accordingly. It is to their credit.

Similar clashes occur often on the political scene, where tv and newspaper pundits attempt to drive home one view while the public stubbornly insists on having a contrary view based on their own assessment of the facts. Clashes between media-received wisdom and actual public opinion are much more frequent than imagined. They just don't get much publicity. I remember for example in the early 90s, in spite of massive media campaigns to present the Canadian health system as gulag-style medicine where people had no options and were led like sheep, polls kept showing the American public remained relatively immune to the blatant bs and so people kept answering that they would LOVE to have a universal health system like Canadians have. So the pundits would respond by writing article after article trying to show how Americans didn't understand their own psyche and didn't know what was good for them. Amusing stuff.

In sum, congratulations to board members who are able to form their own opinion based on facts in spite of the "experts" insistence in telling them what they should think.

Lendl and Federer Fan
04-21-2008, 09:05 PM
Benhur and CyBorg may be the reason why I would move to Canada one day. You two are national treasures! :)

Benhur
04-21-2008, 09:17 PM
Upon closer inspection I cannot really affirm this. You're right about the idea that Lendl should get some credit for winning his semifinals so consistently -- for getting to Slam finals. But here you've done something I've never seen before: you've listed runner-up showings for two players the way that wins are typically listed: you have Lendl ahead of McEnroe by 11 to 4. In runner-up showings.

That's just tossing up the numbers so they're listed favorably for Lendl. The standard way is to have Lendl ahead 8-7 in wins and behind, 8-11 vs. 7-4, in the win/loss ratio; and ahead in the finals, 19-11. If you just list the runner-up showings like they're a credit to the player and nothing more, the whole question of the win/loss ratio is evaded.

I listed the GS runner-up showings after indicating the number of GS wins each one of them had. So all the information is there. You can instantly extrapolate that a 8-7 count in GS wins between two players, and a 11-4 count in runnerup showings ,means that each one has respectively 8 out of 19 and 7 out of 11 in finals. I did not say anything that was not true and all the information was there.

On the other hand, what you are doing by highligting the higher win ratio of a 7-11 record vs a 8-19 record, is pushing the "dirt" so to speak of the first ratio under the rug. For what those records imply is that the 7-11 guy either lost before the finals more often than the other guy, or did not play as many slams.

So let's see what happened. McEnroe entered 45 GS tournaments and reached the finals in 11 of them, which is a 24% ratio. Lendl entered 55 and reached 19 finals, which is 34%. Meaning that Mcenroe lost before the finals 10% more often than Lendl, if I am seeing this correctly. On the other hand, if you just compute final wins ves tournaments play, the discrepancy is less than you might expect. Lendl winning 8 of 55 GS tournaments entered means he won 14.5%. Mac winning 7 of 45 means 15.5%.

But note also that this system, if pursued uncritically, would lead to absurdity. You need to penalize somehow the fact of not entering a slam Otherwise a guy who only enters two slams and manages to win both would end up with a perfect 100% record...And what do we conclude from that? That he would have won all slams he had entered? Not really. That's why whenever I hear the phrase "he didn't play... but if he had" I tend frown.

On the other hand, if I heard of a player who entered only 11 slams and got to the finals of all of them, winning 7, I could begin to wonder maybe there's something special here.

But that is not the case in our story. As shown by the number of slams entered, Mac has a better record in finals ONLY because he lost more often than Lendl in earlier rounds.

Bottom line: what is better, losing in the final or losing in an earlier round? In view of this, what does the winning ratio in finals really mean? You have to look at it case by case.

Logic and statistics lead to unsuspecting conclusions.

CyBorg
04-21-2008, 10:13 PM
Benhur and CyBorg may be the reason why I would move to Canada one day. You two are national treasures! :)

You can drop by to Ottawa, but I'd be wary of Montreal. You'll make it there for the smoked meat sandwiches, but won't make it out due to the perpetually ****ed off kamikaze drivers who turn your highway driving experience into a real life recreation of Street Racer.

You can tell by the messages here that Benhur would like nothing more than to take a few shots at Chaognosis's bumper.

Okay, okay. Just kidding. The Francophone community is quite lovely, even if a little bit on edge.

krosero
04-21-2008, 11:14 PM
I listed the GS runner-up showings after indicating the number of GS wins each one of them had. So all the information is there. You can instantly extrapolate that a 8-7 count in GS wins between two players, and a 11-4 count in runnerup showings ,means that each one has respectively 8 out of 19 and 7 out of 11 in finals. I did not say anything that was not true and all the information was there.Right, but the problem with most presentations is not that they're factually untrue. The problem is which stats are chosen or left out, ie, which issues are highlighted (or obscured).

On the other hand, what you are doing by highligting the higher win ratio of a 7-11 record vs a 8-19 record, is pushing the "dirt" so to speak of the first ratio under the rug. For what those records imply is that the 7-11 guy either lost before the finals more often than the other guy, or did not play as many slams.
Just an aside, a long time ago when I was editing Wikipedia tennis bios (under username krosero if you want to look it up), I recall adding to Lendl's bio either his total of Slam finals or his consecutive years reaching a final. It was long enough ago that maybe my memory is bad and I didn't actually make the edit; but I remember doing it and thinking that it was an important stat to highlight.

So you're talking to someone who feels that Lendl's achievement in reaching finals is important. I am not trying to "highlight" the win/loss ratio, I'm trying merely to include it. It has no reason not to be included in any raw list. The ones I'd like to see included tell all the sides of the story: 8 Slams to 7; 19 finals to 11; and the win-loss ratios. I'm not trying to exclude any "dirt", I'm trying to bring up neglected issues: like Lendl's losing record in Slam finals.

So let's see what happened. McEnroe entered 45 GS tournaments and reached the finals in 11 of them, which is a 24% ratio. Lendl entered 55 and reached 19 finals, which is 34%. Meaning that Mcenroe lost before the finals 10% more often than Lendl, if I am seeing this correctly.That looks fine, and Lendl's ahead in that stat.

On the other hand, if you just compute final wins ves tournaments play, the discrepancy is less than you might expect. Lendl winning 8 of 55 GS tournaments entered means he won 14.5%. Mac winning 7 of 45 means 15.5%.McEnroe's slightly ahead in this way of looking at it, also looks fine.

But note also that this system, if pursued uncritically, would lead to absurdity. You need to penalize somehow the fact of not entering a slam Otherwise a guy who only enters two slams and manages to win both would end up with a perfect 100% record...And what do we conclude from that? That he would have won all slams he had entered? Not really. You don't need to take it to that absurdity. There is no special problem here. McEnroe entering 45 while Lendl enters 55 is not a big difference. Statistically, if you moved McEnroe up to 55, don't change his winning rate at all, just give him his 15.5%. He ends up winning 8.5 Slams. Not so hard to believe. He might well have won the Australian Open in 1980 or 1981 if he'd played and he cared about it enough (and it didn't interfere with any Davis Cup final). Lendl himself in the 1983 tournament talks about maybe not returning to Australia the next year, and he certainly played the final without much conviction. By the time he reached his peak, though, the AO had become even more important (more of an event to care about), had returned to a surface more favorable to him (the only surface he won it on), and had returned to January where it couldn't interfere with anything (like holidays). All of these are issues that Moose and Chaognosis have tried to highlight already.

I'm not "giving" McEnroe nonexistent wins, by the way. His Slam record stands, and as it stands, it's not as good as Lendl's standing record. I hope that's clear.

Statistically if you want, you could bring Lendl down from 55 to 45 Slams played, and just keep his winning ratio of 14.5%. So he wins 6.5 Slams. (And if the AO had remained what it was during McEnroe's great 1979-84 years, Lendl might not have played in 1989 or 1990, so these speculations are not unrealistic). Again, just keep the winning ratio, neither raising nor decreasing it. There's no special problem here with the number of Slams that McEnroe and Lendl played; they had similar careers in that regard.

That's why whenever I hear the phrase "he didn't play... but if he had" I tend frown.So you'd need to explain to me why you excluded Davis Cup on the basis of Lendl not getting to participate as much as he would have wanted. You excluded it, and the reason you gave was essentially that Lendl didn't/couldn't play.

As shown by the number of slams entered, Mac has a better record in finals ONLY because he lost more often than Lendl in earlier rounds.Incorrect. The correct statement is that McEnroe played fewer finals because he lost more often before the final.

How many finals a player converts into victories, is another question. One you haven't sunk your teeth into yet.

In your estimation why did Lendl begin with a 1-6 record in Slam finals?

krosero
04-21-2008, 11:26 PM
A clarification. Your argument is that playing 45 events, rather than 55, makes it easier to have a higher winning percentage. I don't think so, because I can see no significant difference between 45 and 55 played.

But if there is a difference, statistically it is small. It can't begin to explain the difference between an 8-11 and a 7-4 record. It's just frankly impossible to explain that way. There's no way that playing 10 more events, you should expect to move down from 7-4 to 8-11.

You need more than stats to explain it.

Benhur
04-21-2008, 11:42 PM
[QUOTE=CyBorg;2272180]You can drop by to Ottawa, but I'd be wary of Montreal. You'll make it there for the smoked meat sandwiches, but won't make it out due to the perpetually ****ed off kamikaze drivers who turn your highway driving experience into a real life recreation of Street Racer.

Oh, come on. Smoked meat sandwiches are a marginal part of Montreal cuisine, which is actually excellent in my incomplete opinion. As for reckless drivers, you need to go to Mexico City to see what that means. People there tell me that all drivers in Mexico City are absolutely outstanding, because all the mediocre and bad ones are quickly killed. Survival of the fittest or something like that.

You can tell by the messages here that Benhur would like nothing more than to take a few shots at Chaognosis's bumper.

No, no. Chaognosis is okay. I just like to to give counterarguments when I don't agree with something. You know, Lendl is being disgracefully run through the mud. I mean, yes, McEnroe was an outstanding player and all. But better than Lendl? Never. I haven't seen the evidence for that. And I watched both play a lot. Lendl's record as a whole is significantly better, and that is rather easy to demonstrate.

Okay, okay. Just kidding. The Francophone community is quite lovely, even if a little bit on edge.

I am actually in San Francisco right now, and I am here as often as in Montreal. I keep meaning to stay there through the winter but never manage. As long as my job allows me to work from here or there, it's hard not to choose. I am going back to Montreal on Saturday, for at least 6 months, so I will probably slow down on these rants. This board is fun. And of course we are, collectively, considerably more knowledgeable and blessed with independent thinking than the pundits. We look at the numbers, and we make up our minds.

Benhur
04-22-2008, 07:32 AM
A clarification. Your argument is that playing 45 events, rather than 55, makes it easier to have a higher winning percentage. I don't think so, because I can see no significant difference between 45 and 55 played.

But if there is a difference, statistically it is small. It can't begin to explain the difference between an 8-11 and a 7-4 record. It's just frankly impossible to explain that way. There's no way that playing 10 more events, you should expect to move down from 7-4 to 8-11.

You need more than stats to explain it.

I think you may have been reading too much into my post. I agree with your points above. I think what I may have done is I was just musing for a moment on the siginifcance of those percentate if they involved a player who entered very few, slams. Let's say just one or two. Obviously the reliability or meaning of those percentages woujld diminish the fewer tournaments you have. But you are right, between 45 and 55 there are no substantial worries on that matter.

Benhur
04-22-2008, 08:40 AM
[QUOTE=krosero;2272276] Right, but the problem with most presentations is not that they're factually untrue. The problem is which stats are chosen or left out, ie, which issues are highlighted (or obscured).

I agree. A list should be compiled of stats that look meaningful, relevant and easily derived from results rather than subjective judgement. Not an easy task but I may get around to compiling such a list. Such a list should be easier to compile when dealing with players who played roughly in the same period, which is the case here.

So you're talking to someone who feels that Lendl's achievement in reaching finals is important. I am not trying to "highlight" the win/loss ratio, I'm trying merely to include it. It has no reason not to be included in any raw list. The ones I'd like to see included tell all the sides of the story: 8 Slams to 7; 19 finals to 11; and the win-loss ratios.

I continue to believe that the win-loss ratio in finals is pretty arbitrary measure. Is it more important than the win-loss ratio in earlier rounds? Why? In the end, perhaps the meaningful number is a win-loss ratio by number of tournaments entered, applied to at least the final rounds. So Lendl won 1.45 out of every 10 GS tournaments he entered, and McEnroe won 1.55 out of 10. Lendl was reaching the final in a little more than 1 out of 3 of those tournaments, while McEnroe was reaching the finals in a bit less than 1 out of 4. One could go on to other rounds. Or you can turn it around: Lendl lost before the final in 2 out of every 3 GS tournaments he entered. McEnroe lost before the final in 3 out of 4. And so on.

But I still think that somehow just the win/ratio in finals is very arbitrary.

I'm not trying to exclude any "dirt", I'm trying to bring up neglected issues: like Lendl's losing record in Slam finals.

I didn't mean that you were trying to hide dirt. It was just a manner of speaking to reflect the fact that a simple win-loss ratio in finals says nothing of the actual overall performance in those tournaments. How about a guy who plays 20 GS tournaments, reaches 2 finals and wins both. He has a perfect record in finals, but how significant is that? Maybe he didn't make it past the third round in his other 18 appearances. We need to strive to look at the total picture. The overall performance.

I'm not "giving" McEnroe nonexistent wins, by the way. His Slam record stands, and as it stands, it's not as good as Lendl's standing record. I hope that's clear.

All right. That's clear.

So you'd need to explain to me why you excluded Davis Cup on the basis of Lendl not getting to participate as much as he would have wanted. You excluded it, and the reason you gave was essentially that Lendl didn't/couldn't play.

Ok, this Davis Cup issue needs to be clarified. I understand you want Davis Cup included in the comparative individual records somehow. But included as what? The DC matches, wins, losses, etc are already included in the individual record of a player, as well as in the head to head record and so on. But I am not sure what else you want to include. Do you want Davis Cup tournaments recorded as individual tournament wins? What type of tournament? I mean what category? But most importantly, how do you go about assigning a result that is based on a team effort onto the record of an individual-based sport like tennis without completely distorting everything? What does that mean? Do you assign a value to the tournament and divided by the number of players (which can be different from one round to another)? Do you give each player full credit for a tournament of, say MS category? I am interested in being able to quantify things so they can be fairly compared. But I don't see any non-subjective way of quantifying Davis Cup into a player's tournament record, other than including the matches, win/loss and so on, which is already being done. I truly don't know that any more than that should be attempted. Maybe it can just be mentionned: player was part of his country's DC team victory on such and such occasion. There are many other players in the world who were involved epic DC battles, especially when DC was more important than today. That is something that people may or may not mention when speaking of a players individual record, but in any case it is not to be mixed up with individual tournament wins, especially GS wins. Don't you think?

Incorrect. The correct statement is that McEnroe played fewer finals because he lost more often before the final.

Yes, I agree that is a better way to put it.

How many finals a player converts into victories, is another question. One you haven't sunk your teeth into yet.

I have been trying to sink my teeth into it, as I have been saying. But how about altering just one word in that question, and saying, for example:

"How many semi-finals a player converts into victories, is another question."

I don't see any reason why this question is less meaningful than the one concerning finals, or any other round.

We are back at the all or nothing / winner takes all etc. A win is a win and nothing else counts. If this were applied to the ranking system, you would get 0 points regardless of whether you lost in the first round, or lost in the final, or didn't even show up. No difference. No distinction.

I know that you already agree with me that 19 finals with 8 wins is a considerably better overall performance than 11 finals with 7 wins. But why you keep thinking that the win/loss ratio in finals (but not in any other round) is especially significant and should be specially showcased, I am not so sure.

In your estimation why did Lendl begin with a 1-6 record in Slam finals?

The truth is nobody knows and there is no way of telling for sure. The widespread belief that he "choked" them is probably a great exaggeration. Other than his 83 USO final, where he clearly underperformed, I think he just ran into a better player or a player that was better that day.

There is know final conclusion to take from the fact that he started out 1-6 (or that he ended 7-5) in those finals.

But, again, for example, how did he start out in GS simifinals?
Well, just checked: he started out 6-2.

Why is that less important?

krosero
04-22-2008, 01:29 PM
I continue to believe that the win-loss ratio in finals is pretty arbitrary measure. Is it more important than the win-loss ratio in earlier rounds? Why? Pressure builds for the player with each successive round. The final round is also where the tournament is won, where the highest two rankings (ideally) meet and produce (ideally) the best tennis of the tournament. I don't care what a player's win/loss ratio is in the 2nd round compared to the 3rd. I'll bet the player doesn't care either. No one remembers that sort of thing and there's no meaning in it. Start to talk about quarterfinal finishes, and it's more interesting. Semifinals, more interesting than that. Finals, are the ones that everyone wants to win.

There's a lot of subjective emotions invested by fans in final round meetings, but I'm not even talking about that. It's just an objective measure. Losing in the semis is not as good as losing in the final, which in turn is not as good as winning it. You can think about it as levels of achievement and nothing more.

In the end, perhaps the meaningful number is a win-loss ratio by number of tournaments entered, applied to at least the final rounds. So Lendl won 1.45 out of every 10 GS tournaments he entered, and McEnroe won 1.55 out of 10. I haven't seen this stat before (except above, of course, where it was represented as 14.5% and 15.5%), and it's fairly interesting.

Ok, this Davis Cup issue needs to be clarified. I understand you want Davis Cup included in the comparative individual records somehow. But included as what? The DC matches, wins, losses, etc are already included in the individual record of a player, as well as in the head to head record and so on. But I am not sure what else you want to include. Do you want Davis Cup tournaments recorded as individual tournament wins? What type of tournament? I mean what category? But most importantly, how do you go about assigning a result that is based on a team effort onto the record of an individual-based sport like tennis without completely distorting everything? What does that mean? Do you assign a value to the tournament and divided by the number of players (which can be different from one round to another)? Do you give each player full credit for a tournament of, say MS category? I am interested in being able to quantify things so they can be fairly compared. But I don't see any non-subjective way of quantifying Davis Cup into a player's tournament record, other than including the matches, win/loss and so on, which is already being done. I truly don't know that any more than that should be attempted. Maybe it can just be mentionned: player was part of his country's DC team victory on such and such occasion. There are many other players in the world who were involved epic DC battles, especially when DC was more important than today. That is something that people may or may not mention when speaking of a players individual record, but in any case it is not to be mixed up with individual tournament wins, especially GS wins. Don't you think?Davis Cup, like anything else, has a section in Wikipedia bios. It's just a distinct set of matches in tennis, a distinct event like any other. But it's not a regular tournament, so all the more reason to give it a distinct stat in a list, or section in a bio.

Here you somehow feel that it would be repetitive to have a stat representing Davis Cup just because it's encompassed in larger numbers like the player's total match record. But since when has that been a problem? When you listed the total tournaments Lendl won, you had no problem breaking down the tournaments and listing, for example, the number that were Masters wins.

Team efforts, of course, are unique; and Davis Cup has many of its own particular set of circumstances and pressures. Of course it needs to be described, and not left buried in the total career matches. And it needs more than to say that a player was part of a winning team in certain years; the win-loss record in Davis Cup singles is the other big stat everyone looks for; McEnroe has a distinguished record so of course it should be included.


The truth is nobody knows and there is no way of telling for sure. The widespread belief that he "choked" them is probably a great exaggeration. Other than his 83 USO final, where he clearly underperformed, I think he just ran into a better player or a player that was better that day.

There is know final conclusion to take from the fact that he started out 1-6 (or that he ended 7-5) in those finals.The two figures, 1-6 and 7-5, are a statistical way of illustrating something that truly distinguishes Lendl, the one thing that everyone admires him for (including me): his transformation around 1984-85. His training, tremendous work, diet, working with Roche, modifications in his game, becoming physically and mentally a champion. And to do it while you're backed up into a corner, so to speak, with a 1-6 record and nothing left to lose, I think is quite dramatic and meaningful. And fully based on objective facts, that is, on his hard work.

But, again, for example, how did he start out in GS simifinals?
Well, just checked: he started out 6-2.

Why is that less important?There one's other aspect about the stat that you're missing, though you've put up the numbers right here: there's a difference between 6-2 and 1-6. Sometimes you bring up a stat just because it bring up a unique situation. With other players, for instance, it may not be important. If somebody won 3 out of every 4 semis and also 3 out of every 4 finals, it may not even be worth mentioning. If you're comparing two players and they each have the same or similar win/loss ratios in finals, it's not such a big deal -- though even there sometimes it's interesting to know that two players are tied in a certain stat, ie, that there is no contrast between them in that stat. But if there is a big contrast, then of course it should be highlighted.

I mean, if you don't bring it up you've leaving out one of the salient features of Lendl's career. 1-6 and 7-5 tell a story. Who doesn't talk about Lendl losing his first four Slam finals, when they tell the story of how he won his first Slam? Who doesn't mention how poor his record in finals still was when he finally broke through at the U.S. Open?

This question, why are finals important?, is not something Lendl himself would ever ask. He wanted to win them (everyone does). He felt the pressure in them. You can see him playing scared in the Connors finals, tentatively at times against Borg, and listlessly against Wilander in Australia. I've never seen a major champion -- I'm hard pressed even to think of any player -- look so openly defeatist in his body language as Lendl did in that one. How a champion looks and performs on the big stages is important in obvious ways.

But look how he changed. In that first final against Wilander he went down in straight sets and it was not a pretty sight. Losing to Wilander at the 1985 FO, he fought better, though at the end he succumbed to some of that negative energy and went out rather tamely. When Wilander beat him at the 1988 USO, he fought for every point and I don't need to tell you how stirring it was.

chaognosis
04-22-2008, 04:07 PM
Because I think it's clear that the point-by-point bickering is getting us nowhere, I am going to attempt to make a summary comment of my own stance. I think the vigor of this debate proves the point Moose was trying to make: that the Lendl vs. McEnroe issue is a close call, and that the matter can be spun in either direction. Among the serious followers on this board, Lendl seems to be favored--he has the beefier numbers, certainly, and there is no question that he was underrated in his day, and remains so even now. Among great players and sportswriters, however, McEnroe has the decided edge. Without a doubt, Lendl's failure to win Wimbledon even once (something he himself admitted he would have traded all his French titles for) contributes to this assessment. You can attribute the rest to the aesthetic appeal of McEnroe's game, his showmanship, the drama of his rivalries with Connors and Borg, etc., or whatever. What can't be denied is that these less tangible factors matter to most fans, and not only that, but to most players, "experts," and historians of the game as well. I think it is a bit shallow to dismiss the whole thing on the basis of some postulated vast, international media conspiracy to put Lendl down.

My main concern is when someone claims that the numbers here "speak for themselves" and that when you look at these numbers rationally, one player (Lendl) is the incontestable winner--the implication being that anyone who thinks McEnroe is greater is either delusional or willfully deceitful. (Remember that this list of the deluded/liars would include a majority of the respected voices who've weighed in on this topic over the years.) To have a civil discussion, I think it's important to at least acknowledge that there are multiple ways of looking at the historical evidence... if not, then there should be no discussion to begin with. I freely admit that I am a bit of a traditionalist, in that I regard Wimbledon as a more important test than the other majors, and that this colors the way I compare the two players. But I also admit that this is a choice I have made; any such position has its costs and its benefits, and in that respect I think it's important to be critical of our own assumptions. One should not mistake one's own perspective for objective, unassailable truth. We each have developed our own definitions, our own methodologies, and our own ways of arguing. We ought to acknowledge and embrace this diversity and plurality of viewpoints, because these are the very things that make conversations meaningful--and possible!

FedForGOAT
04-27-2008, 01:04 AM
As you know, I value peak stretches. I am particularly interested in a prolonged peak stretch of about 2-4 years. I believe that a player's entire career is important, but there is a pattern from most of the true greats (Laver, Gonzales, Borg, Federer, whatever) which encompasses a stretch of 3 or more great years (either concurrent or close) and a few excellent (but not great) years sprinkled throughout (before and after the great years).

Lendl had a peak that most accurately spanned about 30 months. Starting with around summer of '85 until the end of '87. During this span he was dominant on clay, carpet and hardcourts and was probably second-best on grass after Becker.

Neither McEnroe nor Connors share this kind of history. Connors had his most accomplished year in 1974 which is overrated because of the Australian Open accomplishment which looks better now than it did then. He won many minor events that year and beat a 39-year old Rosewall in two major finals in what was a transitional era. Aside from this he never truly dominated - he had very good years in 1978 and 1982 though.

McEnroe had an overrated year in 1984 - also transitional. He also had a very good year in 1981 (two majors) and also did very well in 1979, 1980 and 1983. But he had a rather poor year in between in 1982, which means that he never remained truly dominant for more than a year or perhaps a year and a half.

Here's something else that I like to do. I like to look at how good guys are on surfaces. This means that we don't just look at majors, but also at other results.

Lendl at his peak dominated three of the four surfaces and was second best on the other. McEnroe, at his finest, dominated three of the four as well with a runner-up finish at Roland Garros (this is 1984). But few would argue that McEnroe was truly second best on clay that year and even if he was he didn't maintain this level across these surfaces for more than a year.

Connors was probably only dominant on hardcourts - the US ones. There is nothing to suggest that he was ever truly great on grass. He was good on carpet but McEnroe and Lendl were way better. He wasn't excellent on clay. What he has in his favour is his longevity, but dominance beats longevity. If Connors had a life outside of tennis maybe he would have retired earlier.

It seems to me (correct me if you think I'm wrong) that you seem to be biased in favor of players who managed to dominate on clay, like Lendl and Borg. I don't know if we can consider Lendl to be the 2nd best grass courter especially given the fact he has never won Wimbledon and lost to Cash.

McEnroe did badly after 84' because he was burned out after that year. In 1984 he gave it his all, and I suspect he subsequently lost some desire to play the game. He still had the motivation to play for his country and look how well he did in the Davis Cup. In conclusion, I don't think he overachieved in 84', I believe he underachieved in other years.

CyBorg
04-27-2008, 07:20 AM
It seems to me (correct me if you think I'm wrong) that you seem to be biased in favor of players who managed to dominate on clay, like Lendl and Borg.

Not really.


I don't know if we can consider Lendl to be the 2nd best grass courter especially given the fact he has never won Wimbledon and lost to Cash.

I've already addressed this. Lendl was probably at his best on grass in 89-90.

McEnroe did badly after 84' because he was burned out after that year. In 1984 he gave it his all, and I suspect he subsequently lost some desire to play the game. He still had the motivation to play for his country and look how well he did in the Davis Cup. In conclusion, I don't think he overachieved in 84', I believe he underachieved in other years.

There are many factors, some of which include a rise in competition and Lendl's emergence.

FedForGOAT
04-28-2008, 11:28 AM
I think the French was as important in the early 80s as it is now. The Australian became a very important event in 1983, while McEnroe was in his prime. In addition, I do not accept the notion that McEnroe's career ended in flames in 1985. He was still number 4 as late as 1989, far from burned out. In fact, I have the heretic notion that McEnroe was pretty much as good in 1989 as he was in 1984. It was the competition that had changed, and changed dramatically. I understand this is not an orthodox notion, and some people will wring their hands at the sound of it. But I base it on reasoning that a "burned out" player could not have been number 4 in 1989. Especially considering the field in 1989.



While you could argue that part of McEnroe's drop was due to greater and different-style competition, I sincerely don't see how, after watching McEnroe in 1984 and 1989, anyone could argue that he was as good in 1989. For one thing, his serve, which in 84' was a big weapon, lost some of its sting, which would obviously hurt McEnroe's performance.

noeledmonds
04-28-2008, 02:26 PM
I am suprised that noone has mentioned Riggs as a candidate for the 1940s. Riggs was surley the best player during the early part of the 1940s including during the war. Even after the war Riggs was the top proffessional in 1946. Kramer had an excellent amateur year this year but said himself that he did not think that he could have beaten Riggs or Budge consistantly this year. 1947 is also debatable with Riggs dominating the professionals and Kramer dominanting the amateurs. By 1948 Kramer had turned proffesional and beat Riggs convincinly in their tour. However, this is almost the end of the 1940s. Riggs was probabely the top player for most of the 1940s.

Note that it also worth noting that Kramer himself rated Riggs very highly in the top 6 of all time (ahead of both Gonzales and Laver). However, Kramer may have said this with a vested interest to make his own competition look stronger than it really was. This would indirectly increases Kramer's own greatness as a player.

Lendl and Federer Fan
05-06-2008, 11:35 AM
You can drop by to Ottawa, but I'd be wary of Montreal. You'll make it there for the smoked meat sandwiches, but won't make it out due to the perpetually ****ed off kamikaze drivers who turn your highway driving experience into a real life recreation of Street Racer.

You can tell by the messages here that Benhur would like nothing more than to take a few shots at Chaognosis's bumper.

Okay, okay. Just kidding. The Francophone community is quite lovely, even if a little bit on edge.


Haha, LOL... I almost miss this one. By the way, I might go up to Ottawa real soon, I'll save Montreal for another vacation maybe next year.

Tennis old man
05-13-2008, 09:16 AM
Because I think it's clear that the point-by-point bickering is getting us nowhere, I am going to attempt to make a summary comment of my own stance. I think the vigor of this debate proves the point Moose was trying to make: that the Lendl vs. McEnroe issue is a close call, and that the matter can be spun in either direction. Among the serious followers on this board, Lendl seems to be favored--he has the beefier numbers, certainly, and there is no question that he was underrated in his day, and remains so even now. Among great players and sportswriters, however, McEnroe has the decided edge. Without a doubt, Lendl's failure to win Wimbledon even once (something he himself admitted he would have traded all his French titles for) contributes to this assessment. You can attribute the rest to the aesthetic appeal of McEnroe's game, his showmanship, the drama of his rivalries with Connors and Borg, etc., or whatever. What can't be denied is that these less tangible factors matter to most fans, and not only that, but to most players, "experts," and historians of the game as well. I think it is a bit shallow to dismiss the whole thing on the basis of some postulated vast, international media conspiracy to put Lendl down.

My main concern is when someone claims that the numbers here "speak for themselves" and that when you look at these numbers rationally, one player (Lendl) is the incontestable winner--the implication being that anyone who thinks McEnroe is greater is either delusional or willfully deceitful. (Remember that this list of the deluded/liars would include a majority of the respected voices who've weighed in on this topic over the years.) To have a civil discussion, I think it's important to at least acknowledge that there are multiple ways of looking at the historical evidence... if not, then there should be no discussion to begin with. I freely admit that I am a bit of a traditionalist, in that I regard Wimbledon as a more important test than the other majors, and that this colors the way I compare the two players. But I also admit that this is a choice I have made; any such position has its costs and its benefits, and in that respect I think it's important to be critical of our own assumptions. One should not mistake one's own perspective for objective, unassailable truth. We each have developed our own definitions, our own methodologies, and our own ways of arguing. We ought to acknowledge and embrace this diversity and plurality of viewpoints, because these are the very things that make conversations meaningful--and possible!

Great comment chaognosis.

hoodjem
11-08-2008, 08:00 AM
1880s: Willie Renshaw
1890s: Reginald Doherty
1900s: Bill Larned
1910s: Bill Johnston
1920s: Bill Tilden
1930s: Don Budge
1940s: Jack Kramer
1950s: Pancho Gonzales
1960s: Rod Laver
1970s: Bjorn Borg
1980s: Ivan Lendl
1990s: Pete Sampras
2000s: Roger Federer

tennis-hero
11-08-2008, 04:47 PM
20s Tilden (i'd assume most agree)

30s Budge (perhaps Perry has a shout)

40s I don't know

50s Gonzales (notable honor to Rosewall)

60s Rod.on Clay Rosewall

70s Borg on Clay/Grass Connors on hard

80s Lendl (easily aswell.... i can't believe McEnroe is even in contention.... he had 1 outstanding year, and he wasn't even there for half of the decade)

90s Sampras (if you say Lendl can't be in contention because he didn't win Wimbledon then half the players on the list can't be because pete and Roger haven't won the FO) [honorable mention to Agassi]

00s Fed Clay Nadal

navratilovafan
11-08-2008, 09:59 PM
The hardest decades for me to decide would be:

Men

1930s- Perry or Budge
1980s- McEnroe or Lendl


Women

1920s- Lenglen or Wills Moody
1930s- Wills Moody or Marble
1940s- Betz, Brough, or Du Pont
2000s- Serena, Venus, or Henin


The rest seem fairly easy:

Men

1920s- Tilden
1940s- Kramer
1950s- Gonzales
1960s- Laver
1970s- Borg
1990s- Sampras
2000s- Federer

Women

1950s- Connoly
1960s- Court
1970s- Evert
1980s- Navratilova
1990s- Graf

Nadalbestever
11-12-2008, 11:50 PM
1920s- Henri Cochet
1930s- Fred Perry
1940s- Frank Parker
1950s- Tony Trabert
1960s- Ken Rosewall
1970s- Jimmy Connors
1980s- John McEnroe
1990s- Jim Courier
2000s- Rafael Nadal

julesb
11-30-2008, 09:29 AM
1920s- Henri Cochet
1930s- Fred Perry
1940s- Frank Parker
1950s- Tony Trabert
1960s- Ken Rosewall
1970s- Jimmy Connors
1980s- John McEnroe
1990s- Jim Courier
2000s- Rafael Nadal

Those are basically all wrong. ROTFL at Courier the player of the 90s.

hoodjem
11-30-2008, 02:32 PM
1920s- Henri Cochet
1930s- Fred Perry
1940s- Frank Parker
1950s- Tony Trabert
1960s- Ken Rosewall
1970s- Jimmy Connors
1980s- John McEnroe
1990s- Jim Courier
2000s- Rafael Nadal

Ever the contrarian.

crabgrass
11-30-2008, 07:32 PM
20s tilden
30s budge
40s kramer
50s gonzales
60s laver
70s borg
80s lendl
90s sampras
00s federer