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sspihawaii
06-23-2009, 12:14 AM
Can anyone give some perspective on how tough a task Laver's '67 pro slam was vs., say, his '69 open slam?

For example, how many players entered the pre-open pro tournaments? I'm guessing it wasn't very many, because from what I know of those days, there simply weren't very many pro players.

I saw a post from Carlo Giovanni Colussi of this forum giving his opinion of the best pro + am players in that year. He has Laver-Rosewall-Gimeno, all pros, at 1-2-3, then a group of two pros and two am players (in no order, Stolle, Ralston, Newcombe and Emerson), and then a group of two pros and three am players (in no order, Gonzales, Buchholz, Mulligan, Roche and Santana).

So if Carlo is right, only 7 of the top 12 in 1967 were pros, and I bet the further down the rankings one looked, the more amateurs would dominate. That all leads me to wonder how tough of a task winning a pros-only tournament was vs. an open tournament. Obviously, with Rosewall, Gimeno and Pancho around, it couldn't have been easy for Laver. But is it fair to give the '67 pro slam as much weight as an open slam?

John123
06-23-2009, 02:23 AM
Welcome to the forums, and kudos for asking a very thoughtful and important question!

In 1967 the Wimbledon Pro had 8 players, Wembley had 12, the French Pro had 12, and the U.S. Pro had 14. Laver won three matches each to capture Wimbledon, Wembley, and the French, and four matches to capture the U.S. Pro.

As you point out, the absence of amateurs is relevant. For example, Emerson upset Laver in the first round of Wembley in 1968, but Laver didn’t have to contend with Emerson or the other amateurs in 1967. Laver was surely better than they were, as he proved when the Open Era began, but that doesn’t mean he would have beaten them every time in the important events.

In my opinion, it is very misleading to equate pro majors with open majors. The absence of the top amateurs, coupled with the small fields, made it less difficult to win pro majors in bunches.

In a different thread, SgtJohn has done an excellent job of identifying the most important four tournaments of each year (http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=167531). When he lists the players who have won these tournaments the most, the top three are Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzales, and Rod Laver. Is it just a coincidence that all three of them played during the pro era of the 1950s and 1960s? And is it similarly a coincidence that the pro "grand slam" was achieved by two different players in the mid-1960s whereas the open grand slam has been achieved by no one in the past forty years? My answer is no. (SgtJohn, like Carlo, seems to possess a rare combination of knowledge and fair-minded objectivity. He makes clear that his compilation is not meant to resolve the debate about which player is the GOAT—greatest of all time.)

None of this is meant to denigrate those champions in the least. I think that Laver, Rosewall, and Gonzales were as good as the top players from other eras, and that Laver may well have as good a case as anyone for GOAT. But it won’t take long for you to encounter, in these forums, people whose extensive knowledge of tennis history is paired with an overarching bias in favor of their favorite players from the 1960s, usually Laver. These people emphasize only the considerations (of which there are many) that favor Laver and the others from the pro era, while downplaying the considerations (of which there are many) that favor champions from earlier and later eras. You won’t see those people writing many positive things about Tilden, Borg, and Federer. Despite their knowledge, such people are really no different from those (usually younger) who argue in favor of Sampras, Federer, or other recent champions simply because they’re fans of those players.

If you’re interested in the GOAT question, then I hope you’ll keep an open mind and try to follow the relevant information wherever it leads you. There is a knowledgeable member of these forums called Chaognosis who is uncompromisingly honest and fair in evaluating great players from all eras. (Regrettably, he hasn’t been around much lately.) The ultimate proof of this honesty and fairness is that he’s changed his mind several times about the GOAT, as he’s learned more information and used different methods of evaluating it. Everyone should approach the question this way — i.e., actually trying to discover the truth, rather than using the facts to make arguments on behalf of a preselected favorite player — but very few people do so.

NGM
06-23-2009, 02:43 AM
In 1967 the Wimbledon Pro had 8 players, Wembley had 12, the French Pro had 12, and the U.S. Pro had 14. Laver won three matches each to capture Wimbledon, Wembley, and the French, and four matches to capture the U.S. Pro.



:shock:

He played just 3 matches for titles? Give me a break.

John123
06-23-2009, 04:06 AM
He played just 3 matches for titles? Give me a break.

I tend to agree. Laver fans will tell you that it doesn't matter because he had to beat the top players. There is some truth to this: Laver had to beat Rosewall at two of those majors in 1967, and Gimeno and Stolle at three of them. So eight of his thirteen match wins in the majors were against significant opponents. How much it meant to beat Stolle is debatable. A nitpicker could even say that Gimeno was very good but not great, and that Rosewall had declined from his peak (despite the longevity he'd ultimately show). Also, all of the four tournaments were on fast surfaces, with none on clay.

We shouldn't get carried away with this nitpicking: winning all of those tournaments was still a great accomplishment. But I don't think it was anything like the Grand Slam that Laver won in 1969.

Borgforever
06-23-2009, 04:19 AM
Welcome to the forums, and kudos for asking a very thoughtful and important question!

In 1967 the Wimbledon Pro had 8 players, Wembley had 12, the French Pro had 12, and the U.S. Pro had 14. Laver won three matches each to capture Wimbledon, Wembley, and the French, and four matches to capture the U.S. Pro.

As you point out, the absence of amateurs is relevant. For example, Emerson upset Laver in the first round of Wembley in 1968, but Laver didn’t have to contend with Emerson or the other amateurs in 1967. Laver was surely better than they were, as he proved when the Open Era began, but that doesn’t mean he would have beaten them every time in the important events.

In my opinion, it is very misleading to equate pro majors with open majors. The absence of the top amateurs, coupled with the small fields, made it less difficult to win pro majors in bunches.

In a different thread, SgtJohn has done an excellent job of identifying the most important four tournaments of each year (http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=167531). When he lists the players who have won these tournaments the most, the top three are Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzales, and Rod Laver. Is it just a coincidence that all three of them played during the pro era of the 1950s and 1960s? And is it similarly a coincidence that the pro "grand slam" was achieved by two different players in the mid-1960s whereas the open grand slam has been achieved by no one in the past forty years? My answer is no. (SgtJohn, like Carlo, seems to possess a rare combination of knowledge and fair-minded objectivity. He makes clear that his compilation is not meant to resolve the debate about which player is the GOAT—greatest of all time.)

None of this is meant to denigrate those champions in the least. I think that Laver, Rosewall, and Gonzales were as good as the top players from other eras, and that Laver may well have as good a case as anyone for GOAT. But it won’t take long for you to encounter, in these forums, people whose extensive knowledge of tennis history is paired with an overarching bias in favor of their favorite players from the 1960s, usually Laver. These people emphasize only the considerations (of which there are many) that favor Laver and the others from the pro era, while downplaying the considerations (of which there are many) that favor champions from earlier and later eras. You won’t see those people writing many positive things about Tilden, Borg, and Federer. Despite their knowledge, such people are really no different from those (usually younger) who argue in favor of Sampras, Federer, or other recent champions simply because they’re fans of those players.

If you’re interested in the GOAT question, then I hope you’ll keep an open mind and try to follow the relevant information wherever it leads you. There is a knowledgeable member of these forums called Chaognosis who is uncompromisingly honest and fair in evaluating great players from all eras. (Regrettably, he hasn’t been around much lately.) The ultimate proof of this honesty and fairness is that he’s changed his mind several times about the GOAT, as he’s learned more information and used different methods of evaluating it. Everyone should approach the question this way — i.e., actually trying to discover the truth, rather than using the facts to make arguments on behalf of a preselected favorite player — but very few people do so.

In my opinion this is a Great Post -- perfectly expressed, concise and wise.

SgtJohn
06-23-2009, 05:59 AM
Hello and welcome sspihawaii,

Good question indeed. I think I could not give a better answer than John123 (thanks for the kind words, btw!).

I have always felt that the only factors prone to 'lessen' (a little bit) the pro circuit were, first the lack of media and 'fan' pressure (but I think that guys like Laver, Rosewall or Gonzales could have coped with it very well anyway, so this one is not so important), and second, the field's depth.

The non-existence of the 'upset' factor (there was only one round when a seed played a clearly 'lesser' player) might have a role in the long streaks that existed during the pro era. It's extremely hard to say though and there are alway two sides to the argument. You could say that after all Federer won 5 straight US Opens (and counting), Nadal 4 straight RG, Lendl reached 8 straight NY finals, and so on, so why would Laver's 4 Wembley or Rosewall's 8 French Pros be so out-of-this-world? In that case the players met in the very first round can be seen as merely, 'training partners'.
However the occasional huge upset in today's Open Slam has to make us revise this opinion. What would Nadal have done in 2009 in an 8-man French event where he would be scheduled to meet Del Potro, Djokovic and Federer only? Extremely hard to say...

Jonathan

Borgforever
06-23-2009, 06:31 AM
Another wonderful post by SgtJohn -- all rapier-sharp points well made.

Tennis is so strange that -- while there are so many fine players -- the giants have always been the trademark of the game. Through every era there's been really dominating players.

And every era has its own specific context. I'm think that Laver was both helped and undone by The Pro Era during the 60s. Helped in the way that he had to face supreme competitors -- always the creme de la creme -- when he was pro -- greatly assisting him in honing his brilliance -- and it helped he was not put in front of truly inferior opposition (which most people know easily can have a negative impact and be "boring") and didn't have to drain his inspiration with endless minor matches. Rod was also helped, IMO, by the small draws especially later on in his career.

"The Rocket" was also, IMO, undone by the way we underrate (or many underrate) The Pro Era putting some question-marks around his achievements since The Pro Era lacked a lot of respect from many directions.

I think that if Sampras came back today, made a concerted effort, and entered, lets say, a pro Wimby with three matches I think his chances would increase dramatically to make an impressive impact.

However, my opinion in this matter doesn't prove anything in any direction I believe, its no proof of anything, as regards to Laver and I fully agree with everyone of SgtJohn's great points made above.

Rod was only required, to quote Sir Norman Brookes, "to beat the guy in front of him and nobody else" and he did just that...

urban
06-23-2009, 08:21 AM
Maybe Mr. St. John will call me biased again. But some comments. OK, if i follow his wise comments, all of Lavers career until 1968 seems obsolete. When he delivered the best season of an amateur in 40 years of tennis, with a Grand Slam and 22 tourbament wins and 140 match wins, it was only against amateurs. When he had the best pro season of all Kramer pros in 1967 with winning all important tournaments and 19 overall, it had only little draws and only pros. OK. How comes it, that Laver won another 54 tournaments in open competition alone with 32 men draws, when he was over 30-38 years of age and had a win-loss record of ca. 80%. Something the man must have done right in the previous ten years of his career.
Same for Rosewall, he won the last major before turning pro in 1956 and the first when he got another chance in 1968. Something in those 11 years in between he must have done right. The pro circuit pre 68was very hard and had excellent competition, and that is an account of all kowledgable people i know.

Steve132
06-23-2009, 08:23 AM
Welcome to the forums, and kudos for asking a very thoughtful and important question!

In 1967 the Wimbledon Pro had 8 players, Wembley had 12, the French Pro had 12, and the U.S. Pro had 14. Laver won three matches each to capture Wimbledon, Wembley, and the French, and four matches to capture the U.S. Pro.

As you point out, the absence of amateurs is relevant. For example, Emerson upset Laver in the first round of Wembley in 1968, but Laver didn’t have to contend with Emerson or the other amateurs in 1967. Laver was surely better than they were, as he proved when the Open Era began, but that doesn’t mean he would have beaten them every time in the important events.

In my opinion, it is very misleading to equate pro majors with open majors. The absence of the top amateurs, coupled with the small fields, made it less difficult to win pro majors in bunches.

In a different thread, SgtJohn has done an excellent job of identifying the most important four tournaments of each year (http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=167531). When he lists the players who have won these tournaments the most, the top three are Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzales, and Rod Laver. Is it just a coincidence that all three of them played during the pro era of the 1950s and 1960s? And is it similarly a coincidence that the pro "grand slam" was achieved by two different players in the mid-1960s whereas the open grand slam has been achieved by no one in the past forty years? My answer is no. (SgtJohn, like Carlo, seems to possess a rare combination of knowledge and fair-minded objectivity. He makes clear that his compilation is not meant to resolve the debate about which player is the GOAT—greatest of all time.)

None of this is meant to denigrate those champions in the least. I think that Laver, Rosewall, and Gonzales were as good as the top players from other eras, and that Laver may well have as good a case as anyone for GOAT. But it won’t take long for you to encounter, in these forums, people whose extensive knowledge of tennis history is paired with an overarching bias in favor of their favorite players from the 1960s, usually Laver. These people emphasize only the considerations (of which there are many) that favor Laver and the others from the pro era, while downplaying the considerations (of which there are many) that favor champions from earlier and later eras. You won’t see those people writing many positive things about Tilden, Borg, and Federer. Despite their knowledge, such people are really no different from those (usually younger) who argue in favor of Sampras, Federer, or other recent champions simply because they’re fans of those players.

If you’re interested in the GOAT question, then I hope you’ll keep an open mind and try to follow the relevant information wherever it leads you. There is a knowledgeable member of these forums called Chaognosis who is uncompromisingly honest and fair in evaluating great players from all eras. (Regrettably, he hasn’t been around much lately.) The ultimate proof of this honesty and fairness is that he’s changed his mind several times about the GOAT, as he’s learned more information and used different methods of evaluating it. Everyone should approach the question this way — i.e., actually trying to discover the truth, rather than using the facts to make arguments on behalf of a preselected favorite player — but very few people do so.


John123:

Excellent post - thorough, objective and well-informed.

I agree entirely with your contention that pro majors cannot be equated with majors won in the Open era. I would only add that in Laver's case his Pro Slam is just one of the achievements that promote his GOAT claims. Laver won an amateur Slam, turned professional and won the pro Slam in 1967, then completed the only Grand Slam by any male player in the open era. To my mind this combination of achievements shows that he could dominate any group of contemporaries.

I'm not sure that we can say the same for Gonzales or Rosewall. Gonzales was clearly not as effective on slow surfaces as he was on grass, while Rosewall was dominated by Hoad when they were amateurs. Hoad's later career was, of course, interrupted by injuries, so we can't say definitively how good he might have been. But Gonzales always regarded Hoad rather than Rosewall as the best player he faced in his (Gonzales') prime.

Borgforever
06-23-2009, 08:34 AM
Maybe Mr. St. John will call me biased again. But some comments. OK, if i follow his wise comments, all of Lavers career until 1968 seems obsolete. When he delivered the best season of an amateur in 40 years of tennis, with a Grand Slam and 22 tourbament wins and 140 match wins, it was only against amateurs. When he had the best pro season of all Kramer pros in 1967 with winning all important tournaments and 19 overall, it had only little draws and only pros. OK. How comes it, that Laver won another 54 tournaments in open competition alone with 32 men draws, when he was over 30-38 years of age and had a win-loss record of ca. 80%. Something the man must have done right in the previous ten years of his career.
Same for Rosewall, he won the last major before turning pro in 1956 and the first when he got another chance in 1968. Something in those 11 years in between he must have done right. The pro circuit pre 68was very hard and had excellent competition, and that is an account of all kowledgable people i know.

Your're right Urban. And you make great points here IMO all as valid as any I've seen.

But anknowledging the differences in tennis in the different eras and their plus and minuses is healthy and very interesting -- but also hypothetical. SgtJohn makes great points IMO without throwing even a sliver of a shadow on Laver's accomplishments.

"The Rocket" won...

Borgforever
06-23-2009, 08:38 AM
Of course -- I'm don't feel I know this entirely -- but I don't recall any instance SgtJohn calling you biased. At least not biased in the important sense that it has a negative connotation and clouds judgment.

There was a fella here called "Chopin" posting a bit. He was biased in a negative manner IMO. Outright stating and arrogantly dismissing things beyond the realm of reasonable questioning.

Tell me -- who is beyond bias?

No-one...

Borgforever
06-23-2009, 09:08 AM
I must add one tid-bit which I found I have to give tremendous kudos to -- in the European coverage of RG this year -- in the evening-summary show "GAME, SET AND MATS" on the EUROSPORT-channel with Mats Wilander after the final (Mats' judgment here was very refreshing and sharp) sat with (I guess Guillermo Vilas or Andre Agassi in the studio) and the discussion turned to Roger Federer as GOAT and Mats went on saying he thought Roger could very well be the greatest but that he thought this statement just added a lot of unfair pressure on Roger. He said that it must be terrible to have to live up to this label thrown at him each and every day and said we should wait until Fed's retired before stating that he is -- to help him and decrease the hysterically insane pressure.

Wilander got immense back-up from everyone in the studio and Mats followed that up by saying that Roger is a great candidate for the spot without any hesitation -- but -- and here's the gold -- Wilander said that its an intense discussion (The GOAT-debate) and a very complex one and added, just as an example, that Ken Rosewall won a lot of pro and regular majors and not a lot of people remembers this today or even talks about it. Many greats of yesteryear deserves mention before we hysterically hurl this honor on some player before he's left the game.

Unusually insightful and rare statement for being a contemporary tennis-commentator on TV today...

urban
06-23-2009, 09:19 AM
Yes, in contrast to Mr. John, not Sgt. John i am biased in favor of older, somewhat forgotten players and the lost records of tennis history. No one can show me a post, i wrote, in which i didn't praise the greatness of Tilden. His 96,2 % match win percentage over his whole 10 or 12 year career of amateur tennis, is in pure statistical numbers beyond everything i know about tennis. I wrote nice thing about Cochet, Perry, Budge and Santana, even Nastase, whose personality i disliked a bit. I bet for forgiveness, that I don't like Kramer that much, because of his Machiavellan strategies in promoting tennis and his very big ego. But i do reckon his great Wimbledon win in 1947, when he lost the fewest games.
Certainly i feel, that Laver, Rosewall and Gonzales belong to the very elite group of 6-7 people, if you should name all time greats. But i think, that is a very common opinion among people, who are older than 25 years, and have seen a bit of tennis history.

krosero
06-23-2009, 09:56 AM
Yes, in contrast to Mr. John, not Sgt. John i am biased in favor of older, somewhat forgotten players and the lost records of tennis history. No one can show me a post, i wrote, in which i didn't praise the greatness of Tilden. His 96,2 % match win percentage over his whole 10 or 12 year career of amateur tennis, is in pure statistical numbers beyond everything i know about tennis. I wrote nice thing about Cochet, Perry, Budge and Santana, even Nastase, whose personality i disliked a bit. I've also seen you give credit to Borg, and though I've often disagreed with your criticisms of him, I've never felt that your criticisms were pulled out of mere bias; you always based them on direct observation (and perhaps bias mixed in with that; but we all have bias).

krosero
06-23-2009, 10:03 AM
How comes it, that Laver won another 54 tournaments in open competition alone with 32 men draws, when he was over 30-38 years of age and had a win-loss record of ca. 80%. Something the man must have done right in the previous ten years of his career. I think this is a key point, because when tennis did go open, Laver in a sense vindicated what he had done -- or demonstrated that he would done well in any circumstance. When a player is missing something in his competition, playing conditions, or chief rivals, yes, you can say that something was lacking in his achievements. But if the player meets those conditions later and still comes through, the burden of proof goes back to demonstrating that his previous victories really were weak.

I have no problem with anyone arguing that Laver's pro victories were not equal to the open victories. But because of his 1969 Slam, and his consistently good record in all conditions, on all surfaces, and against all rivals, I need to see something specific about his pro victories that would demonstrate his weakness. Merely saying that his pro victories were not equal to the open victories doesn't identify any weakness in him.

sspihawaii
06-23-2009, 11:44 AM
Thanks to everyone for so many quick responses to my '67 slam question. I've read a number of posts on this forum, and am really impressed with some of the knowledge and in-depth study I've seen. I hope the older posts in this forum are being preserved--it would be a shame to lose some of this analysis.

On the question of bias, I'm actually surprised at how passionate some posters are, for or against certain players--even moreso on the current player board. I saw one poster actually claim that the Connors-Laver '75 clip on Youtube was sped up, despite all sorts of evidence to the contrary. But while a few seem to argue anything that will support their views, most on here seem to be at least somewhat objective.

I actually find it humorous that anyone would feel biased for or against someone like Bill Tilden or Don Budge. Unlike some other sports, especially baseball, statistics don't really allow us to compare players across generations very effectively. And there seems to be very little tennis footage from the first half of the 1900s, so we're really just left with others' accounts. Accordingly, I'm not sure I would ever really be able to form my own opinion on a GOAT--but who knows?

John123
06-23-2009, 12:49 PM
Many thanks to Borgforever, SgtJohn, and Steve 132 for their extremely kind words, which I appreciate very much.

I agree with basically all of the substantive points they made. For example, Steve132 is certainly right to highlight Laver’s great achievement throughout his career. And I might add that Gonzales, although definitely most vulnerable on clay, might be remembered very differently today if the French Pro had been held in 1954, 1955, and 1957 — three of the four years of Gonzales’s absolute prime. In 1956, when it was held at Roland Garros, Gonzales lost a heartbreaking 5-setter in the final to Trabert (the best clay-courter of that time) after leading 2 sets to 1 and then dropping the fourth set 8-6.

SgtJohn is right to point out that even in the Open Era, there have been some great streaks. I think, though, that the results from the pro era of the 1950s and 1960s were substantially more extreme. Consider these streaks:

1. Pancho Gonzales won 8 straight U.S. Pros from 1953-1959.
2. Ken Rosewall won 7 straight French Pros from 1960-1966.
3. Rosewall and Rod Laver combined to win 11 straight Wembleys from 1960-1970.

In the entire Open Era (40 years), only two players have won a major 5 straight times — Borg and Federer, 30 years apart — and no player has won more than 5 in a row. No two players have combined to come anywhere close to 11 straight wins at a major. It’s true that some amazing streaks have occurred, including Sampras’s 7 Wimbledons in 8 years. But these streaks were downright common in the 1950s and 1960s.

Urban wrote: “No one can show me a post, i wrote, in which i didn't praise the greatness of Tilden.” But when Tilden’s name was floated as a possible GOAT rather than Laver, Urban wrote this: “Maybe Tilden wasn't thoroughly dominant for all the years 1920-25. In 1921 he won all important events (although his Wimbledon win was rather lucky). But in 1922 Johnston did somewhat outshine him, if we take a closer look. Tilden beat im for the US crown in a close match, but overall Johnston was 3-1 over Tilden, was more dominant in the Davis Cup campaign, and was indeed ranked Nr. 1 for the year by some experts.”
<tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.phpt=159294&highlight=john123&page=3>

All of that is true, but we could also nitpick Laver’s results, which Urban never chooses to do. If his goal were simply to raise awareness of older champions, then he’d treat Tilden and Laver the same. But he doesn’t.

OK, if i follow his wise comments, all of Lavers career until 1968 seems obsolete.

Absolutely not. His amateur and pro careers were amazing. But instead of focusing only on the positive and characterizing him as some sort of superman, while focusing heavily on the negatives of other GOAT contenders, we should assess everyone the same way with no agenda.

The pro circuit pre 68was very hard and had excellent competition, and that is an account of all kowledgable people i know.

I’ve agreed with this statement elsewhere, and I reiterate my agreement here.

[Laver] delivered the best season of an amateur in 40 years of tennis

Very possible, and I have no interest in engaging in an argument about which season was better, Laver ’62 or Budge ’38. But it’s worth noting that Don Budge won 6 straight majors and 92 straight matches from 1937-1938, then immediately started beating the pros when he joined them the next year. Laver accomplished none of those things as an amateur or a new pro.

John123
06-23-2009, 12:53 PM
I need to see something specific about [Laver's] pro victories that would demonstrate his weakness. Merely saying that his pro victories were not equal to the open victories doesn't identify any weakness in him.

His weakness was his match records in his prime years. People frequently cite 1967 as his best year, and his record that year was 94-26. AndrewTas has compiled all of his results from 1967 here:
<tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=267197&highlight=john123>. As you can see from that compilation, Laver lost a lot. This contrasts with GOAT candidates from earlier and later eras (like Tilden, Borg, and Federer), who lost very few matches in their prime.

Urban is always quick to make excuses for those losses: the schedule was heavy, some of the losses were tour matches or 3d-place tournament matches, etc. There’s some truth to this. On the other hand, when you start explaining why the best player of all time lost 26 matches in his best year, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do.

If we cite context to forgive those losses, then shouldn’t we also cite it to forgive the imperfections in others’ GOAT resumes?

John123
06-23-2009, 12:57 PM
I actually find it humorous that anyone would feel biased for or against someone like Bill Tilden or Don Budge.

I've never seen any bias in favor of Tilden or Budge, which might explain why one rarely sees strong arguments made in favor of them for GOAT. I can't remember anyone but Chaognosis arguing much for either of them as #1 of all time. Tilden often gets mentioned, but rarely if ever championed.

The reason for this, I'd speculate, is that people support the players they rooted for at important times in their lives. So you get fans of Laver, Rosewall, Borg, Sampras, and Federer, but not the earlier players.

I find it a little strange and uncomfortable that I've momentarily taken on the role of the person who argues against Rod Laver. I love Rod Laver. And if I had to pick a GOAT, there's a great chance I'd pick him.

But just as Urban says that he wants to bring balance to the standard focus on recent players by emphasizing the achievements of earlier ones, I sometimes feel as though the Former Player forum has gone too far in the opposite direction. Urban himself admits his agenda: “i am biased in favor of older, somewhat forgotten players.” Even Chaog, who has no rooting interest, doesn’t argue for anyone from the past 40 years as a top GOAT contender.

Doesn't it seem implausible that all of the leading candidates for GOAT would have played in the 1950s and 1960s? Or all but one, who played in the 1920s? I suppose you could argue (though I’m not endorsing it) that none of the leading contenders came from before 1920, on the ground that there was less depth and less international play in the pre-WWI era. This is very controversial, but at least it could be argued. But to claim that none of them came from the most recent years 40 years of tennis? That seems wrong to me.

Is it possible that we’re all bending over so far backwards to avoid being biased in favor of the present day, that we’re actually failing to give the recent players their due? My opinion is subject to change and probably will, but it seems to me that Federer belongs in the conversation with Laver and Tilden, and that Borg (alongside others like Laurie Doherty, Budge, Kramer, Gonzales, Rosewall, and Sampras) deserves a lot of attention as well.

Borgforever
06-23-2009, 01:07 PM
Well made, titanium points. I am Gonzalez, Borg, Laver, Tilden, Rosewall and Laurie Doherty for GOAT in no specific order. In top tier.

Next tier: Federer/Sampras (Pete ahead on clutch and strength of field but Fed edging closer and may soon enter the top tier and -- who knows after that?) Lendl (Perry, Vines, Cochet, Lacoste and a shaky Budge)

Third tier (very close to the first two tiers) but I save that for a rainy day when I have more time to explain my choices...

urban
06-23-2009, 01:10 PM
Nice, that someone is reading all which i wrote. Must be real interesting. That i have an "agenda", come on, don't overrate my intentions. What is wrong with both facts. That i have high praise for Tilden (as a player, not for all he did outside the court) and that i refer to some new insights on the year 1922, which were yet put on the internet in the often mentioned Wikipedia article by Carlo Coloussi. I had seen this head to head just before. That the 1921 Wimbledon final was extremely delicate (to put it mild), please read about it, especially the things Tinling wrote about it. That we should examine the years thoroughly and should not follow clichés of tennis history, i think, isn't exactly a bad thing. If you want to make a case for Tilden as goat, please go on. Its a good choice. No superhuman, but a bigger than life figure. Magnificent in his ambivalence. If you prefer Federer or Sampras, please go on. Nothing against arguments. That Laver is no bad choice either, i beg your pardon, is quite a common place. That he did something outside his Grand Slams should be remembered, even by way of the internet. Maybe sometime journalists like the Independent chief sports reporter James Lawton read those internet articles.

John123
06-23-2009, 04:08 PM
That the 1921 Wimbledon final was extremely delicate (to put it mild), please read about it

Not only have I read about it, but I've written about it in the context of suggesting that Laver's open-era slam meant more than Tilden's achievements in 1921.
<tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.phpt=267197&page=2&highlight=John123>

I’ve also written in these forums about Tilden's losses to Johnston in 1922. It’s very valuable to mention these things, but only if you're fair in mentioning the good and bad associated with each player. Here’s what I wrote recently about Tilden and Federer:

“Tilden lost no major matches for six years (1920-1925), winning six straight Davis Cups and six straight U.S. Championships as well as the only two Wimbledons and the only World [Clay] Court Championship he played during that time. His longevity was also awesome. But he lost 3 out of 4 matches to Johnston in 1922, almost never competed in his prime against the top Europeans on clay, and played in an early era when dominance was achieved by others as well (e.g., Doherty’s undefeated years and Larned’s five straight U.S. Championships). Federer has shattered records with his 20 straight major semis, 14 out of 15 major finals, 11 major wins in four years, and 237 consecutive weeks at #1. But he was never the world’s best player on clay during his dominant run from 2004-2007, unlike Tilden and Laver in their primes.”
<tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=267197&highlight=John123&page=4>

I’ve also emphasized Laver’s positives (1969 slam, perhaps the greatest accomplishment in tennis history; plus outstanding results as a pro and amateur) and negatives (match record in his prime; and issues about the pro/amateur era).

All I ask is evenhandedness. Do you ever acknowledge that there are any weaknesses in the case for Laver as GOAT? Or that anyone in the past 40 years has a legitimate case to be made?

If you prefer Federer or Sampras, please go on. Nothing against arguments. That Laver is no bad choice either, i beg your pardon, is quite a common place.

As I keep saying, Laver is probably my pick as well.

If I were going to make an argument for a more recent player, I think I'd say that Federer's accomplishments stand out from his era in a way that puts him in a class with anyone. No one else in the past 20 years has won three majors in a calendar year, whereas Federer has done it three times. His 20-straight semis and 14/15 finals at open-era majors are achievements that have never been (and might never be) approached, let alone equaled, by anyone else. Winning 11 open-era majors in four years is similarly staggering.

Federer's 4th-best year was substantially better than the very best year of Sampras, Nadal, or Agassi's career.

Only Borg has dominated with any sort of comparable thoroughness in the open era, but Borg's peak span of dominance (not just arguable status as #1, but clear and dominant status as #1) didn't last as long as Federer's four-year run from 2004-2007. And unlike pre-open-era greats such as Laver and Tilden, Federer has had to play all of the world's best players on every surface in deep tournaments throughout his prime, in an era where an endless number of pros emerge from countless countries to try to challenge him.

Yes, Nadal has a clear head-to-head advantage over him, but that's due in large part to the fact that Federer reached clay-court finals more regularly than Nadal reached hard-court finals from 2004-2006.

It's also true that Federer never won the Grand Slam like Laver did in 1969, but Federer lost fewer matches in his three best years combined (2004-2006) than Laver did in the year that Laver won the slam.

I'm not comfortable making these arguments, and I'd much prefer just to say that a great player of the present belongs on top of the mountain alongside the best of the past. I've laid out this case only to give a little balance, ironically enough, to all of the arguments made for players of earlier eras.

krosero
06-23-2009, 05:23 PM
His weakness was his match records in his prime years. People frequently cite 1967 as his best year, and his record that year was 94-26. AndrewTas has compiled all of his results from 1967 here:
<tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=267197&highlight=john123>. As you can see from that compilation, Laver lost a lot. This contrasts with GOAT candidates from earlier and later eras (like Tilden, Borg, and Federer), who lost very few matches in their prime.

Urban is always quick to make excuses for those losses: the schedule was heavy, some of the losses were tour matches or 3d-place tournament matches, etc. There’s some truth to this. On the other hand, when you start explaining why the best player of all time lost 26 matches in his best year, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do.

If we cite context to forgive those losses, then shouldn’t we also cite it to forgive the imperfections in others’ GOAT resumes?What I don't understand about Laver's W-L record in any single year is how it can be compared to someone like Federer when the conditions are so different. I am no expert on pro tennis before the Open Era but from everything I've heard, I would never have thought to simply take a W-L from those years and stack it up against Borg or Sampras or Federer's W-L. Or Tilden's. When enough years pass by, the only thing you can count on is change.

It's just context, the same word you use, and I agree fully that any year, for any champion, should be taken in context.

The problem with context being cited, when players are compared against generations, is that some people view it as legitimate explanation, while others dismiss it as "excuses." I mean, you've taken the stance that Laver's losses need to be "forgiven," and sure, against Federer's W-L from another time it looks that way. But how is that perspective helpful at all? Why does anything need to be "forgiven"? His wins and his losses need only to be described and explained.

I don't really know any way around the impasse, when people disagree on what are "explanations" and what are "excuses." I've seen it happen so much, and it's probably inevitable when generations are being compared. Context and changes have to be mentioned, but there will always be disagreements on how much of that is legitimate.

One suggestion I have is to take the W-L of another player from that decade (or possibly the 50s) -- another pro, and compare it to Laver's W-L in 1967. That would attract my attention more than a direct comparison with Federer, which I see as bound to be caught up in disputes about all the changes in the last 40 years and which ones are explanations and which ones are excuses. If you compare to someone who played in Laver's environment, that's immediately interesting. Of course that player's year might still be different from Laver's 1967 season in important ways, and that should be debated, but at least then you'd be comparing apples to apples.

And then any W-L would have some meaning. Right now I have no idea what I'm supposed to take from Laver's W-L in 1967. Am I supposed to take from it that Laver was not a consistent player (despite his having close to 200 career titles)? Is that the argument? To be honest I have no idea what to make of it, except compared against another player in the same environment.

John123
06-23-2009, 06:02 PM
Krosero, I agree with what you wrote. All I'd say is that it has to work both ways: if Laver's losses aren't as meaningful in context because others from his era lost a lot as well, then his wins also aren't as meaningful in context because others from his era (Rosewall, Gonzales) won a lot as well.

And if Federer's great match records aren't as meaningful in context because others from related eras (Lendl, McEnroe, Borg) had great records too, then Federer's failure to win a grand slam isn't as meaningful because others from related eras (Sampras, Lendl, McEnroe, Borg, etc.) similarly failed.

When you look at everything in context, what do you come up with? I really don't know. What it looks like to me, as a very rough approximation, is that Laver and Federer more or less stand next to each other on top of the mountain -- possibly alongside one or two others.

Steve132
06-23-2009, 07:49 PM
As I keep saying, Laver is probably my pick as well.

If I were going to make an argument for a more recent player, I think I'd say that Federer's accomplishments stand out from his era in a way that puts him in a class with anyone. No one else in the past 20 years has won three majors in a calendar year, whereas Federer has done it three times. His 20-straight semis and 14/15 finals at open-era majors are achievements that have never been (and might never be) approached, let alone equaled, by anyone else. Winning 11 open-era majors in four years is similarly staggering.

Federer's 4th-best year was substantially better than the very best year of Sampras, Nadal, or Agassi's career.

Only Borg has dominated with any sort of comparable thoroughness in the open era, but Borg's peak span of dominance (not just arguable status as #1, but clear and dominant status as #1) didn't last as long as Federer's four-year run from 2004-2007. And unlike pre-open-era greats such as Laver and Tilden, Federer has had to play all of the world's best players on every surface in deep tournaments throughout his prime, in an era where an endless number of pros emerge from countless countries to try to challenge him.

Yes, Nadal has a clear head-to-head advantage over him, but that's due in large part to the fact that Federer reached clay-court finals more regularly than Nadal reached hard-court finals from 2004-2006.

It's also true that Federer never won the Grand Slam like Laver did in 1969, but Federer lost fewer matches in his three best years combined (2004-2006) than Laver did in the year that Laver won the slam.

I'm not comfortable making these arguments, and I'd much prefer just to say that a great player of the present belongs on top of the mountain alongside the best of the past. I've laid out this case only to give a little balance, ironically enough, to all of the arguments made for players of earlier eras.

I agree entirely with your comments about Laver and Federer.

With respect to Federer, I would only add that some commentators have (prematurely, in my view) rushed to proclaim him as the GOAT after his French Open win, without seriously considering the claims of other contenders. On the other hand, in some quarters Federer does not get credit for the achievements that you cite, although they can stand comparison with those of any of his predecessors. I have great difficulty understanding how someone can compile a GOAT list in which Federer does not make the top 5 or even the Top 10.

It is, as you indicate, MUCH more difficult to win titles in an era when every player who is not injured enters every major and every Masters tournament. No one from this generation is likely to approach the number of tournament titles that players in the 50's and 60's won. Even Jimmy Connors won a lot of small tournaments (8 or 16 man draws) in the 70's on a circuit with relatively few other quality players. That sort of thing is just not possible today.

Borgforever
06-23-2009, 08:14 PM
Steve132 -- this I find not at all well argued.

Tennis lacks that statistical logic that you seem to promote as regards to Roger Federer and his supposed stronger fields ("with more pros") than anybody in history. Sorry, that smells bogus to me in the extreme.

India has more licensed players than practically any country and still they haven't produced any No. 1 or that many top players.

Gonzalez sat, over 40 years old, smoking a cigarette, before he made chopped liver of world No. 1 Laver and world No. 3 Newk. Where's the logic?

To just say that this era is more difficult just because more players play is dog that won't hunt.

Jim Thorpe ran, with inferior practicing methods and equipment, the 100-yard dash on 10 seconds flat in 1912 and 220 on 21.8 seconds. Anyone duplicate this feat?

No...

But we must denigrate that because nowadays there's even more athletes out there. Well Steve132, I can't see how your last remarks holds any water.

Tennis doesn't work according to simple mathematical formulas -- almost no sport does...

Steve132
06-23-2009, 11:58 PM
Steve132 -- this I find not at all well argued.

Tennis lacks that statistical logic that you seem to promote as regards to Roger Federer and his supposed stronger fields ("with more pros") than anybody in history. Sorry, that smells bogus to me in the extreme.

India has more licensed players than practically any country and still they haven't produced any No. 1 or that many top players.

Gonzalez sat, over 40 years old, smoking a cigarette, before he made chopped liver of world No. 1 Laver and world No. 3 Newk. Where's the logic?

To just say that this era is more difficult just because more players play is dog that won't hunt.

Jim Thorpe ran, with inferior practicing methods and equipment, the 100-yard dash on 10 seconds flat in 1912 and 220 on 21.8 seconds. Anyone duplicate this feat?

No...

But we must denigrate that because nowadays there's even more athletes out there. Well Steve132, I can't see how your last remarks holds any water.

Tennis doesn't work according to simple mathematical formulas -- almost no sport does...

You appear to have misunderstood my argument. I don't believe that tennis "works according to strict mathematical formulas," and nothing in my post could be read in that manner. I am not arguing that there are more great players today than there were in previous years, or that today's players are better than those in previous generations. The people who make "strength of competition" arguments are usually Sampras fans, who seek to support their hero's GOAT claims by stating that he faced tougher competiton than other great players - notably, although by no means exclusively, Federer. For several reasons I have never found such claims plausible

My real argument is that in today's conditions the best players appear in all the main tournaments, and hence that in order to win a major or a Masters series event you normally have to beat the best, or at least the most in-form players, in a 128 or 64 man field. Virtually all ATP players who are not injured play in every major and even most Masters series tournaments. Highly ranked players are automatically entered into these events, and their ranking points include results from all majors and Masters events irrespective of whether the player actually played.

This is a fairly recent development. As recently as the 90's Agassi, for example, missed several Australian Opens. In the 1970's and 1980's many players missed the Australian Open, and some skipped the French Open as well. You can see the effects of this by looking at a list of Australian Open winners from that period. Mark Edmondson, Brian Teacher and Johan Kriek all won the title.

If you go back a bit further to the 1950's and 60's, players were split between the amateur and professional ranks. The amateur events were obviously weaker than today's Open events, simply because many of the best players (Gonzales, Rosewall, Hoad, Laver, etc.) were pros and not eligible. By contrast, the pro events had a number of great players but little depth, since the fields were relatively small (typically 16 player or so events). If you go back even further to the interwar years you will find that the best players often did not face each other regularly.

Today they do. As far as I know no serious contender has missed a major for the past five years unless he has been injured. To win tournaments in today's playing environment you have to beat the best of today's players. This is the only sense in which I claimed that it is more difficult to win titles today.

Of course, if Gonzales, Rosewall, Laver, Emerson and all the other great players of the early 60's had been allowed to take part in a tournament with a 128 man draw that tournament would probably have been more difficult to win than any tournament held in this decade. For reasons beyond the control of any of the players such an event never took place.

Borgforever
06-24-2009, 01:44 AM
Ok -- Steve132 -- this I agree with in every way...

SgtJohn
06-24-2009, 01:47 AM
Maybe Mr. St. John will call me biased again. But some comments. OK, if i follow his wise comments, all of Lavers career until 1968 seems obsolete. .

Hi Urban, I'm not sure if you're referring to me in this post or if it's a typo. Anyway, I certainly never called you biased. What you suggest about Laver's pro career is so opposite to everything I stand for that I think you could only be thinking about someone else...?

krosero
06-24-2009, 02:38 PM
Krosero, I agree with what you wrote. All I'd say is that it has to work both ways: if Laver's losses aren't as meaningful in context because others from his era lost a lot as well, then his wins also aren't as meaningful in context because others from his era (Rosewall, Gonzales) won a lot as well.

And if Federer's great match records aren't as meaningful in context because others from related eras (Lendl, McEnroe, Borg) had great records too, then Federer's failure to win a grand slam isn't as meaningful because others from related eras (Sampras, Lendl, McEnroe, Borg, etc.) similarly failed.I think these are both good points, no problem here.

Still I'd like to see other W-L records from Laver's era. For example, does anyone have Rosewall's W-L the year he won the "pro Slam"?

John123
06-24-2009, 09:05 PM
Still I'd like to see other W-L records from Laver's era. For example, does anyone have Rosewall's W-L the year he won the "pro Slam"?

This is a great point. I'd love to see Rosewall's W-L from 1963 as well.

pc1
06-29-2009, 02:49 PM
I think these are both good points, no problem here.

Still I'd like to see other W-L records from Laver's era. For example, does anyone have Rosewall's W-L the year he won the "pro Slam"?

This is a great point. I'd love to see Rosewall's W-L from 1963 as well.

It was 89-26. Rosewall played 13 tournaments and won 5. He was runner-up in 3. His tournament singles won-lost was 30-10 and of course he played a lot of matches with Laver on tour. It was a great record considering the competition he played.

Q&M son
07-16-2009, 07:57 AM
Nice, that someone is reading all which i wrote

You can bet that I do too.

Greetings and thank you.

pc1
07-16-2009, 09:26 AM
What I don't understand about Laver's W-L record in any single year is how it can be compared to someone like Federer when the conditions are so different. I am no expert on pro tennis before the Open Era but from everything I've heard, I would never have thought to simply take a W-L from those years and stack it up against Borg or Sampras or Federer's W-L. Or Tilden's. When enough years pass by, the only thing you can count on is change.

It's just context, the same word you use, and I agree fully that any year, for any champion, should be taken in context.

The problem with context being cited, when players are compared against generations, is that some people view it as legitimate explanation, while others dismiss it as "excuses." I mean, you've taken the stance that Laver's losses need to be "forgiven," and sure, against Federer's W-L from another time it looks that way. But how is that perspective helpful at all? Why does anything need to be "forgiven"? His wins and his losses need only to be described and explained.

I don't really know any way around the impasse, when people disagree on what are "explanations" and what are "excuses." I've seen it happen so much, and it's probably inevitable when generations are being compared. Context and changes have to be mentioned, but there will always be disagreements on how much of that is legitimate.

One suggestion I have is to take the W-L of another player from that decade (or possibly the 50s) -- another pro, and compare it to Laver's W-L in 1967. That would attract my attention more than a direct comparison with Federer, which I see as bound to be caught up in disputes about all the changes in the last 40 years and which ones are explanations and which ones are excuses. If you compare to someone who played in Laver's environment, that's immediately interesting. Of course that player's year might still be different from Laver's 1967 season in important ways, and that should be debated, but at least then you'd be comparing apples to apples.

And then any W-L would have some meaning. Right now I have no idea what I'm supposed to take from Laver's W-L in 1967. Am I supposed to take from it that Laver was not a consistent player (despite his having close to 200 career titles)? Is that the argument? To be honest I have no idea what to make of it, except compared against another player in the same environment.

I think a lot of what you take from Laver's won-lost in those years was that Rod was playing against the highest level of competition, even higher than Open tennis. Rod was playing Rosewall, Gonzalez, Gimeno, Hoad and other champions who won majors. Laver had no easy matches. Notice how his winning percentage went up after Open Tennis started, despite the fact he was older. The man didn't have to play Rosewall every week. That alone will cut down on your losses.

I think Laver was consistently good just about every week but sometimes playing very good against a Rosewall won't cut it. You will lose. Good against just an above average player may allow you to win.

The other thing is that they played more often than they do today. Laver play 120 matches in 1967. The wear and tear on his body had to hurt him in some matches. Laver's record was fantastic in 68, 69 and 1970. Was he better than in 1967? I don't think so. The average competition wasn't as high.

In 1962 Laver had a great year, winning 22 tournaments and won a high percentage of his matches. In 1963, at the beginning of Pro Tennis for Rod he could barely win a match. It's to Rod's credit he was number two by the end of 1963. It's fairly certain that Rod was a better player at the end of 1963 than in 1962 but the record wouldn't show it. The level of competition that Rod played in 1963 was beyond what Rod played before.