How do we measure achievements of players in the pre-open era?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by 1477aces, Jul 28, 2013.

  1. 1477aces

    1477aces Hall of Fame

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    Look. I have nothing against them and they deserve their place in history. However it is exceptionally difficult to compare them with modern players (achievement wise) for a number of reasons.
    1. Lack of Fitness/Physicality allowed more longevity, thus more achievements accrued.
    I'm not saying these players didn't take fitness seriously, they did. But not as seriously as players in the modern era and there weren't as many techniques to allow for greater fitness/strength back then. Also, the style of play back then was far less physical and was more skill-based. This can be evidenced by (literally) chain-smoking grandparents in their early 40's beating the world no 1 and some players peaking at a far higher age than they do in today's game and by the success of exceptionally short weak players like Rosewall and to an extent Laver. This lack of physicality and fitness also applies to the first 5-6 years of the open era as well. Rosewall won 15 pro majors and 4 open era majors, meaning that if there were 4 pro majors a year, Rosewall would have won around 24 majors. That number is just unapproachable in today's game. Rosewall was able to attain such an impressive figure because the lack of physicality first allowed such a short player to succeed and then allowed him to succeed long after his physical skills diminished.
    2. How much is a pro major worth?
    They were usually only 8-player draws, making it easier and less taxing to win a pro major. Also, no such thing ever formally existed as far as I know and there certainly wasn't the same amount of prestige attached to them. Furthermore, it is subjective to judge which 3 tournaments were worth the most every year and some would argue that some of the pro majors were worth more than the others.
    3. Lack of proper ranking system
    No official ranking system till 1973, so previous rankings were subjective. Furthermore, even the year-end rankings published by experts don't tell us who was world no 1 each week on the rolling calendar. Weeks at number 1 and year-end no. 1's don't fully correlate.
    4. Lack of depth.
    Only about a 100 pro players generally from far fewer countries than they come from today. It does make a huge difference. It's not necessarily that just everyone but the 100 best players are excluded, its more like randomly removes 24/25 players including the top players. (Well it's actually sort of a combination of the two).
    5. Increased value of Head to head
    Due to smaller draws, pros played each other more often, thus increasing the importance of match-ups and beating a certain player versus beating the field. The long series pros played against each other also did the same thing.
    Again, I don't think the players from this era were bad. Just that their accomplishments are distorted and hard to compare to those of modern players (starting from the mid/early 70's with Borg and Connors). Therefore, when I rank players, I rank them from separate eras. Open era (73 onward) of which Federer is the G.O.A.T, and the pre-open post World War II era of which either Gonzales or Rosewall is G.O.A.T.
    P.S, I'm aware of the eras before that. I wish some people here discussed players from those eras as well.
     
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  2. timnz

    timnz Hall of Fame

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    Fitness

    Agree we need a structure to measure their achievments.

    There is no specific evidence for your point 1 though. It is just assumed that players are fitter today because of the mantra 'athletes are getting better' .....when the actual evidence that that is marginal. There has only been a 4% improvement in marathon times in 45 years! There has been no improvement in mile times in 14 years. The 100 metre sprinters are only going faster by 4% in real terms than they were 75 years ago! In other words this athletes are always improving is either a complete myth or at least a very large exaggeration.

    Players in the pro era in some ways far tougher than todays pampered elite. A large number of tournaments were best of five every round. They stood up between changeover....no sitting down. Driving through the night to go from town to town was not uncommon.
     
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  3. Flash O'Groove

    Flash O'Groove Hall of Fame

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    Good point of Timnz regarding the best of 5 at each round, the short recovery time between changeover, the shoes they used, the heavy wooden rackets they used, the comfortable traveling...

    But your point is basically that contemporary tennis is better, harder, more valuable than former tennis. I can be anything you want that in twenty years similar arguments you use now will be (maybe with pertinence) used against Federer, Nadal and Djokovic). Whoever the next great player will be, McEnroe will consider him the greatest of all time, and young guys will downgrade the current achievements of todays players, because they will judge them using others criterions than today's criterions.

    To be fair for the past players and the current players, we need to judge them by their time criterions.
     
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  4. DMP

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    I'll just add that running records are now set on artificial tracks that can be 'tuned' for optimum speed, and technological changes in technical events, like javelin, high jump, pole vault have been by far the biggest change. Human development takes place a lot slower than people imagine, while technological development happens dramatically quickly.

    Okker for one, from 40 years ago, was every bit as fast as any modern player.

    As for judging past vs present, there is no substitute for reading about history, and getting the best quality film of past players. I say that advisedly because I notice a lot of people appear to get their impressions of the past from youtube clips. I can state as a fact that they are highly misleading. Even colour video degrades with time, and subconsciously the quality of the tennis is related to the quality of the video. Sampras is already starting to look scratchy, and in 50 years Federer will do the same.

    As for the the pre-video films that people see, they are always running at the wrong speed. Because of the difficulty of matching film to TV scan rates film runs either too fast (makes players look jerky), or too slow (they appear to be ambling around the court). Because the human brain picks up jerkiness quickly, film is invariably run slow. The ONLY way to truly judge players from the pre-video age is to get high quality colour flim and watch it at true speed.
     
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  5. DMP

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    The point about Rosewall is that what you say about him was also true about the other players of his time. Yet he was the one who kept going and winning. Which is what makes him special.

    And if it was so unique to his time, how to explain Connors who did much the same, but nearly 20 years later?

    Is it not equally, or more likely, that both were special players who had the drive and determination to keep going, for whatever reason? And that current players could equally keep going (what about Haas, or Bjorkman), but because it is really hard - only a very, very, rare player can do it?
     
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  6. 1477aces

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    Connors won his last slam at the age of 31. And made his last slam final I believe at the age of 32. He had exactly one deep run in his old age.
     
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  7. DMP

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    He was ranked 7 at age 35. He got to a QF and two SFs at that same age. He got to the USO QF at ages 36 and 37, and the SF at age 39. I think he did much better than your summary dismissal of his achievements. Which is one of the reasons why he is so highly regarded by those who understand tennis history. The fact that Rosewall outperformed Connors every step of the way is the reason why he is considered to be up there with the greatest players who ever lived.
     
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  8. kiki

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    Wrong.Newk,Ashe,Emerson,Laver,Hoad,Gonzales when fit could easily challenge any modern player from the fitness point of view.

    Easy draws??? ROFLMAO.The tremendous level atop far compensated the lack of huge draws.Nowadays, it is a walk by till the quarters or so.Not then.You had to be ready , say, in the first match ( round of 16) because your rival was very tough.
     
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  9. 1477aces

    1477aces Hall of Fame

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    You seriously think its harder to win a 8-person draw than a 128 person draw. I have some hotlines you can call then. As for fitness/physical strenght, if the players then were so great physically, explain the following.
    Gonzales beating the world no 1 Laver in a $10,000 match at the age of 41. Gonzales was a chain smoker too, so he won't have been that strong physically.
    Rosewall winning the Australian Open and the WCT (high reward matches) two years in a row at the age of 37 and 38.
    Rosewall making a Wimbledon final at the age of 40.
    Rosewall winning 4 slams from the start of the open era, from the age of 34 onwards. No player since the mid 70's has even won a slam at the age or greater than 33.
    Laver and Rosewall succeeding despite their very short statures. Especially laver with his power game. Short=less power. Old=weaker. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how short and/or old, therefore weak, played succeeded tremendously. Either the competition was weak, or the game required more mental strenght and technique and finesse and far less physical strenght than it requires in the modern era. So, players could concievably maintain success for far longer. Not all did, but the possibility existed for those who wanted to take advantage of it. For the modern era players, such possibilities did not exist.
     
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  10. Eragon

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    Seriously? You're now saying 3-rounds is tougher than 7-rounds? :lol: And let's not even get started with the split fields. Dangerous players like Emerson, who could very well take out Laver and Rosewall, were playing Amateur Slams instead of Pro Majors. Little to no depth in the field, and they were contested between 10/12 players. That is way, way, way easier, whether you like to admit it or not.
     
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  11. monfed

    monfed Guest

    We look at the kinda tournaments they have won. Some have missing Wimbledons, we need to fix that. :lol:
     
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  12. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    Master level tournaments probably should count more than amateur majors really. Pro Majors I'm happy to count as full slams for the most part provided we include the WTF as a major.
     
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  13. Eragon

    Eragon Banned

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    Yeah, spot on. The reason most of these guys overrate Laver and Rosewall is because they think they can get away with counting all Amateur Slams, Pro Slams, Open Era Slams, WCT, Wimbledon Pro and the Tournament of Champions as Majors. Having so many "Majors" an year, no wonder Laver and Rosewall and Gonzales end up with 30 "Majors" or some similar obscene number. And they think it was a Strong Era because each of the top guys has 20 "Majors" :lol: All the while neglecting the irrelevance of the Amateur Slams and the significant favor each Pro gained from 10/12 player draws and split fields.
     
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  14. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    During the first years of open tennis even though the pro's did much better than the former amateurs there were still losses. Having those extra players would have pushed up the competition. The extra rounds also would have done this.
     
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  15. Eragon

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    Yeah, more depth and extra rounds would've taken a lot of Slams away from the top guys. I mean, it's obvious. When you have a 2-player draw, all Slams go to 2 players. And when you have 128-player draws, some could go to players outside the top 4. And just because Federer-Nadal-Djokovic-Murray have been so dominant now doesn't mean Laver-Rosewall would be, too. So these guys can't use that as an argument.
     
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  16. newpball

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    By considering their victories, what else? :confused:
     
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  17. Dan Lobb

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    Good point about the dominance of the four old guys at the present time.

    This shows a clear lack of depth at the top level of today's game.

    There was clearly more depth at the top in the late 1950's.
    (I mean the top ten, not the top 100, where today probably has more depth.)

    Look at the Tournament of Champions at Forest Hills in 1959.
    A preliminary round, where Rose (a slam winner) and Giammalva (a U.S. Davis Cup player) were eliminated.

    The quarterfinals: Hoad, Gonzales, Rosewall, Sedgman, Trabert, Segura, Cooper, Anderson
    Each one a tournament winner in 1959, and a multiple winner of major titles.

    The top eight was stronger in 1959 than today.

    Hoad and Gonzales played marathon five-setters in their extended hth tours, a much tougher schedule than today's pros, who play only a fraction of the number of matches.

    The weight-lifting schedule of Hoad or Sedgman would wilt the top players today.

    Gonzales once tore apart a metal locker with his bare hands.
    Hoad once lifted a chair by its front legs with a man seated in it to eye level, warned him to cease his comments, and then dropped the chair.
    I think that Murray or Fed or Nadal would hide under the nearest table.
     
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  18. Phoenix1983

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    It is telling that Laver, after reaching 13 consecutive Pro Slam finals, lost in the round of 16 in only his 3rd Open Era major (he lost to Cliff Drysdale in the US Open 1968 ).

    Furthermore, Rosewall, who never failed to reach a Pro Slam semi-final, lost in the round of 16 in only his 2nd Open Era major (to Tony Roche at Wimbledon, 1968 ).

    Now, I'm not denying that Laver and Rosewall still dominated the early Open Era years - they did - I'm just pointing out that, with bigger draws and more dangerous opponents, the likelihood of even the greats occasionally losing earlier on increases.

    This is one reason why I consider Open Era slams harder to win than Pro Slams.
     
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  19. BobbyOne

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    What about the assumption that Laver, Rosewall and Gonzalez were so strong when being old because they were the all-time greatest?
     
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  20. BobbyOne

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    monfed, It's cynic to insinuate that Gonzalez and Rosewall have missed Wimbledon. You DO know the real answer to the question why they missed!!!
     
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  21. BobbyOne

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    Please can you tell me who had claimed that L,R,G ended up with 30 majors?
    Thanks.
     
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  22. BobbyOne

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    Why were losses? You "forget" that Rosewall was 33 and Laver almost 30. You also "forget" that L&R won 8 out of the first 10 open majors they participated in!
     
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  23. Phoenix1983

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    Gonzales has an excuse not to have won Wimbledon. He played there only once before turning pro, then when he was allowed to play there again, he was 40 years old!

    Rosewall on the other hand reached five Wimbledon finals and could not win a single one! He deserves not to have his name on the champions' board at SW19!
     
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  24. newpball

    newpball Legend

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    Money?


    <->
     
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  25. BobbyOne

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    Well said, Dan.
     
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  26. BobbyOne

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    newpball, exactly! The pros played for money and thus missed Wimbledon and the other amateur tournaments.
     
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  27. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    A win after beating , say, first Stolle next Newcombe next Hoad and finally Rosewall is miles or galaxys more glorious than one path reading, fi: Seppi, Kohlsreiber,Anderson,Rosol,Youzhny,Ferrer and Djokovic.No posible human comparison.
     
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  28. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    The amateurs needed time to adjust when they turned pro. If there was open tennis sooner the whole standard of tennis bellow the pro's would have improved. That was my point.
     
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  29. BobbyOne

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    NatF, You miss the point. There was no discussion about amateurs turning pros.

    In early open era years the pros needed a certain time to adjust after they had played against each others in a small group.
     
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  30. BobbyOne

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    Eragon, Emerson was dangerous only in lesser events (see his five wins against Laver in 1968). Gimeno was stronger (see his 6:1 balance against Emmo in 1968 and his wins against Rosewall in pro majors).

    Emerson was even not best amateur in several years (1963, 1966, 1967). I value him as most overrated player, matched only by Federer...
     
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  31. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    You miss my point, if open tennis had occured in 1960 the standard of the guys who were simply amateurs in the late 60's would have likely been higher.
     
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  32. BobbyOne

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    Deleted post
     
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  33. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    NatF, Only really great players like Gonzalez, Sedgman , Hoad, Rosewall and Laver were able to improve significantly after turning pro. Players like McGregor, Rose, Hartwig, Olmedo, Cooper, Anderson and Stolle were not able to improve. Also Emerson would not be able. He just was not a really great player. I say this even though I was always a fan of the Aussies and Emmo was my favourite player before I learnt that Laver and Rosewall were much better...
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2013
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  34. Phoenix1983

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    I don't think Emerson is as weak as some like to suggest.

    I understand that the very top players may have turned pro, but it's still impressive to have won all four amateur slam titles at least twice (as Emerson did).

    If we extrapolate the situation to the Open Era, you wouldn't see the likes of Ferrer, or even Roddick and Hewitt, being able to win all four slams at least twice, even if the 'Big 4' or equivalents were removed from the tour (Ferrer is too weak on grass, Roddick and Hewitt too weak on clay).

    Emerson, to me, seems to be on the level of a Courier or Vilas: the kind of guys who probably would have won all four slams, and ended up with totals a lot higher than their actual total of 4, if the very top players had been removed.

    Thus, I consider Emerson equivalent to a 4-slam champion. Not an all-time GOAT contender but a borderline great.
     
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  35. kiki

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    Emerson could be compared to Djokovic.Not game wise but on relative terms...
     
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  36. forzamilan90

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    very athletic, but not nearly as great as the other two big dogs of his time?
     
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  37. Flash O'Groove

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    If we count only the pro majors and the open era majors, Rosewall won 19 and Laver won 14. During 11 years of Rosewall's career, only 3 pro majors were available each year. In the open era, the conflict in the tour didn't allowed all some players to play all the slams each years. Rosewall missed some RG. One of his AO was played against a depleted field.

    It seems to me that it is fair to count the pro majors at full value (1 pro major = 1 open era major) as only 3 were available each year, which compensate for the separation between amateurs and pros.

    But you don't really have a strong argument to say that Rosewall or Laver would have had significant lesser result with bigger draw. The need to be ready from the first match is a strong argument, especially after the traveling in not so comfortable conditions. Can't you imagine one of the top 3 players of today being upset by someone like Raonic, Wawrinka, Cilic, if they had to play them in the first round?

    Good point. It shows that they were strong players who remained amateurs. It is my belief that these players would have been able to at least hurt the second tier pro players, (second tier is every other players who are neither Rosewall nor Laver but reached consistently enough the later rounds of the pro majors). I don't think they could have dent Laver and Rosewall total domination though.

    If I'm not mistaken, Newcombe remained amateur. It was impossible to play back to back Newcombe and Hoad. But whatever. In your example of a typical draw of a current major (which doesn't really look like a typical draw), you argument dismiss Seppi, Kohlschreiber, Anderson and Rosol as journeymen, consider that Youzhny ad Ferrer are not worthy quarter and semi-finalist. Yet, if Youzhny and Ferrer reached the later round of the competiton, it means that they proved in this tournament that they were in form. They had to beat others players to reach these rounds. Maybe they upseted Murray, (Ferrer, RG 2012), or Nadal (Youzhny, USO 2006). Djokovic had to go past at least one of the top 4.

    Let's have a look at the draw of the USpro 1965. Rosewall defeated successively Malcolm Anderson, Pancho Gonzales, Rod Laver. Wow. But who did Pancho Gonzales had to beat to reach the SF, and Laver the final?

    Gonzales defeated Segura (who was 44), who himself defeated Davies (who is really nobody). Laver defeated Buckholz in the SF, after defeating McKay in the QF. Buchholz had to defeat Ayala to reach the SF. So, while it look tough on paper, I think that neither Gonzales nor Buchholz had to prove their worth in this tournament. They had a bye for the first round (round of 16) because of their fame, not because of their current form. And the players fighting in the round of 16 to earn the right to challenge Laver, Rosewall, Bucholz and Gonzales were either really old (Segura, Sedgman) or nobodies (Ayala, McKay, Davies).

    Bobby, why did you need to mention Federer when he is not at all the subject of this post, if not for a pure provocation? You shouldn't be astonished at the hostility you meet with this kind of behavior.

    An interesting post for once.

    There is no evidence to back up your claim. Based on the success that Emerson met in the amateur rank, very comparable with the success met by Hoad, Rosewall and Laver, it is a stronger hypothesis to assume that he could have improved. Anyway there is no means to know, but I think that we can safely assume that some players who remained amateurs could have proven a challenge for the top pros.

    Nothing with the current discussion, but Hewitt's is underrated on clay. At RG, he lost to, since 2000: Costa, Ferrero, Canas, Robredo, Gaudio, Nadal, Nadal, Ferrer, Nadal, Nadal (2010). That's an impressive list of clay court specialist he lost against.
     
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  38. 1477aces

    1477aces Hall of Fame

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    So? Laver had arguably his best season with the CYGS at the age of 31. Rosewall won slams into his late 30's. Physical strength didn't matter back then as much, so being in their 30's is no excuse.
     
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  39. BobbyOne

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    Flash, You blame me for provoking and are nasty yourself (Deleted post is interesting???!!!)

    I mentioned Federer because it's my conviction that Emerson and Federer are the most overrated players. Why not mention this??? I also use to mention the most underrated players ( Nüsslein, Kovacs, Segura, Rosewall, Gimeno, Roche).

    Emerson was not a genius, not a giant like Tilden or Rosewall. Thus he could not have improved much.
     
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  40. BobbyOne

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    1477aces, Rosewall at 36 to 38 (when he won majors) was way behind his peak.
     
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  41. Flash O'Groove

    Flash O'Groove Hall of Fame

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    Bobby, I mentioned your deleted post because I thought it was interesting. Why not mention this??? You shouldn't read this as a mean dig!!!
     
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  42. joe sch

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    Agree. Those players were very fit and probably spent more time on the courts than todays players when you consider they played both singles and doubles and the matches often had very long sets (no TBs) The difference is that todays hard courts and stiff powerful rackets are shortening the careers of todays ultra fit players. How many will play into their 30s or make it to 40 ?

    I think to measure achievements of players in the pre-open era, its the same as today, the championships won and the H2H against the best players of each respective era.
     
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  43. BobbyOne

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    Flash, it's okay now.
     
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  44. monfed

    monfed Guest

    Not sure how a player can be considered a great let alone an all time great if he hasn't won Wimbledon. :?
     
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  45. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    It's YOUR problem only that you are not sure about Rosewall. EVERY true expert ranks him a great, some of them, including Bud Collins, even as GOAT candidate...
     
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  46. monfed

    monfed Guest

    You're right, I can't have him in my top 10 with a missing Wimby.
     
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  47. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    Rosewall is one of the greatest of all time, no doubt there. He would have won a Wimbledon if he was play during his peak, it's not like he couldn't play on grass...
     
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  48. BobbyOne

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    Funny monfed, Just a question especially for you: Can you walk down the streets of Buenos Aires if you are not there???
     
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  49. BobbyOne

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    Thanks, NatF, for your support.
     
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  50. 1477aces

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    Yet he still won majors? so in his peak, extrapolating he should never have lost a match.
     
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