Is Djokovic now in the tier with Becker, Wilander, Edberg?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by 5555, Jan 29, 2012.

  1. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Djokovic last year had one of the most impressive winning streaks in the Open Era. Vilas’ winning streak was longer, but it was achieved against lesser opponents as this graph from the ATP shows.

    [​IMG]

    In McEnroe’s streak, for example, he posted wins over his two top rivals, Connors and Lendl. That’s why his streak was so impressive – why he was regarded as utterly dominant in ’84.

    Federer as well, in his streak, posted wins over his top rivals, including one at the Masters Cup over Nadal.

    Borg’s streak included a number of wins over Connors and McEnroe, his two nearest competitors at that time.

    Djokovic posted wins over Federer and Nadal during his streak, including two massively impressive wins over Nadal on clay.

    Vilas in his streak did not meet Borg. He met Connors once and defeated him, at the USO, and that’s his unquestioned greatest victory. But his numbers against the top ten and top five are not impressive.

    That’s one big reason that Vilas did not win universal regard as #1 in 1977: it was the weakness of the draws in the tournaments he was choosing to play.

    He could have met Borg in October, in Madrid and Barcelona (after Nastase ended his streak). But he did not play those events, citing injury – and of course that’s a minus in his column, just like Borg’s injury at the USO is a minus in Borg’s column. You have to stay healthy to win events. And Madrid and Barcelona were big events: 64-man draws with best-of-five matches in the last two rounds (Borg won them both).

    There are still other reasons that most authorities chose Borg over Vilas in ’77 (for example, Vilas’ numerous losses during the year), but the chart above illustrates one of the major issues.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
  2. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    It's easy to understand why no one disputed it. In the first place, did the AO in 1973 really have a satus remotely approaching that of the other slams, or is this some retrospectively assigned status? What I see is that other than Rosewall (who was 39 at the time) and Newcombe himself, the highest-ranked player in the tournament was John Alexander, ranked 29. The final was against Onny Parun, ranked 40.

    And now, how does the rest of the year compare with Vilas 1977, outside of the slams? Well, Vilas won 14 tournaments aside from the FO and the USO. Newcombe won just 1 tournament: Djakarta. That's it. No wonder Nastase was picked as number one.
     
  3. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Yes, agreed to all that. Newcombe won the AO over a depleted field; he beat no one in the top 10 which is a similar problem to what I pointed out about Vilas beating few top 10 players during his streak. And just to be clear: I'm saying that these two cases are similar in the sense that the strength of the draw is at issue; I am not saying that Vilas' draws were as weak as the '73 AO.

    My main point about '73 is that if you don't look at draws, and you simply take the AO's of the 70s as being on equal footing with the other Slams, then Newcombe has a solid 2-1 lead in Slams over Nastase. And if one then takes Jean Pierre's position that it's absurd for a player leading 2-1 in Slams not to be voted #1 for the year, then one should be voting for Newcombe in '73 -- against the opinion of everyone else.

    But your arguments about '77 are different from his, so I'll address those.

    I'll take a crack at this reverse scenario.

    Firstly, Borg was Borg in '76, but nobody pronounced his losing H2H against Connors (0-3) to be irrelevant. All those folks who voted for Borg in '77 voted for Connors in '76.

    Now, let's give Borg the record that Vilas had, in '77.

    Borg gets to the final of the AO in a depleted field and loses to Tanner, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. And this after straight-setting Tanner at the '76 Wimbledon.

    Then Borg loses to Vilas in Nice, in four sets. At Monte Carlo he loses to Vilas 6-2, 6-3. He loses early in Rome, to Franulovic. He loses early in Hamburg, to Mottram. People would naturally take those to be bad losses -- in Borg's case they would be shockingly bad. Everyone would recognize that Borg was not performing to his usual level on clay.

    Then he wins RG over Gottfried. Fine. Vilas is off playing WTT, and I'm tempted to say that this would raise few questions because Borg has dominated Vilas in the past -- but in this scenario Borg has lost to Vilas at Nice and Monte Carlo. So plenty of questions arise about whether Borg could have beaten Vilas at RG.

    Then Borg loses in the third round of Wimbledon to Billy Martin, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. He's the defending champion. Obviously he's not performing to his usual level. At this point who is going to be willing to give him a free pass? These are really bad losses. In the grasscourt warmup at Nottingham, he had lost in the opening round. At Queens he had lost in the second round.

    After this he retreats to his best surface, playing only clay-court tournaments from July to late November. He's undefeated in a stretch through late September, including a great victory over Connors at the USO. But in that undefeated streak he beats only four players in the top ten. He's injured for Barcelona and Madrid in October, missing the tough claycourt opposition in those draws. So even on his favorite surface, he's not facing his best opposition (except at Nice and Monte Carlo, where he lost).

    At the Masters, finally, he beats Connors in a tremendous late-night battle in the round-robin: another impressive victory. He loses in the semis, on carpet, to Vilas, 6-3, 6-3, and people are going, "??????????"

    They're also asking: why did Borg play something like 150 matches this year? Why did he arrange his schedule that way? Why would he see the need? Why didn't he just play like he did in '76?

    Okay, so, obviously I'm taking a hard devil's advocate position against Vilas here. I do think he had a fine year -- but I also think there are a lot of questions and negative marks on Vilas' record -- and I've listed them in this way to show that it would really be very, very unlikely for anyone to simply ignore the negatives in Borg's record, if he traded places with Vilas.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
  4. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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  5. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    Yes some of those losses would have looked odd on a normal year, but in that kind of year they would have certainly been put side by side with the accomplishments, the fact of playing about 160 matches and winning 145 of them on his way to 16 titles, including the French with an incomplete but very respectable field, and the USO with all the top players in it. The losses would have been easily understood in the context of playing a match every 54 hours on average for a whole year and winning 90% of them. This would not have been a source of criticism, I think, but rather of awe.
     
  6. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    These are great points. Vilas win loss % in '77 is pretty poor compared to Borg's prime years. And that Wimbledon loss is huge, its pretty rare for any year end #1 to bomb out as spectacularly at Wimbedon as Vilas did in '77(has anyone else? Courier in '92? and?) I'm sure a lot of writers held that against him. Like you pointed out in another thread Wimbledon was the unofficial world championship of tennis back then, it was way ahead of all the other majors. I think its hard for a lot of posters here(even those that may have followed the game back then) not to get sucked into the standards of today, where all the majors are a big deal - geez we just witnessed an all time classic semis & finals at the AO, televised worldwide & highlights everywhere online. While in the years Vilas made the finals at AO, the field was on par with a 250 level today- if that - & it probably wasn't televised anywhere but Australia(I'm curious what sort of press it got in Europe)

    which it makes it even sillier when posters here try to equate Vilas' '77 in todays points. First of all if majors in '77 had the same amount of prize money & points as they do today (or at least a similar markup in points & money relative to regular tour events) there's no way in hell Borg would have played team tennis or exos. His year would have been geared entirely towards the majors & I don't think Vilas would have ended up with a year like he did.

    and can you imagine if they had masters series? no more win streak for Vilas, it would be impossible to dodge the top players like he did throughout the year.

    I could understand that sentiment with Laver in '69. he also played a ton & lost a lot that year. But he played & beat the best all year long. krosero posted a chart showing the miniscule amount of top 10 players Vilas beat during the 46 match win streak. I would love to see a chart for all year end #1's & the amount of top 10 wins they had those years. I would bet that Vilas had less top 10 wins in '77 than any other #1 in atp history. Muster was criticized for getting to #1 on the basis of just clay, but at least he played & won a lot of events with greats fields. I'm not sure any of Vilas wins that year(except the FO & the USO, which had a strange format that year, only best of 3 for first 4 rounds) were even on par with a masters series today, in terms of quality of field. Its truly remarkable how lame some of those tournament fields were. At least Connors had Vegas & Dallas wins over great fields. And Borg with Monte Carlo & Wembley.
    You mentioned in another thread an explanation of why there were more different players entered in events in the 70s/early 80s. This is a result of that, so many more events + less satellites = players being able to enter events they would not be able to qualify for in later years. Today there are no other events the weeks there are masters series. In '77 there were pretty much multiple events going on every week of the year. Vilas showed a lot of flaws in the schedule that year.

    so were you in 'awe' of his record?
    you seem like you've been following the game for a while & I'm guessing you are from Europe? what sort of press did Vilas' year get where you were?
    I'm guessing not as much as that Borg-Connors Wimbledon final.
     
  7. jean pierre

    jean pierre Semi-Pro

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    Outside of Grand Slam, we can compare principal tournaments won by Borg and by Vilas, and what player they beated in final. Do you see any difference ? Can we say that tournaments won by Borg are more important ? I don't think so : Borg won Wembley (beating Lloyd), Cologne (Fibak), Basel (Orantes), Madrid (Fillol), Denver and Memphis (Gottfried), Monte-Carlo (Barazzutti), Nice (Vilas). Vilas won South Orange (Tanner), Kitzbuhel (Kodes), Virginia beach (Nastase), Springfield (Smith) Johannesburg (Mottram), Buenos Aires and Santiago (Fillol), Bogota (Higueras), Téhéran and Louisville (Dibbs), Colombus and Washington (Gottfried), Buenos aires second (Fibak).
     
  8. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    Sure I’m impressed. It's not true that his record against top players is bad (other than against Borg).

    If I counted right, he met every player in the top 10 except Stockton. His record against the top ten that year is 13-6. He has a winning record against all those top tenners except Borg (0-3) and Nastase (1-1).

    He met 20 out of the top 25 players. His record against the top 25 is 37-7.

    The only losing record he has against that whole group is Borg. He has a winning record against everyone he played in the top 25 except Borg (0-3), Nastase (1-1) and Tanner (1-1).

    The guy played practically non-stop that year. A match every 2.28 days on average, and got a 90% winning percentage.

    If you find all that non-impressive, you are extremely demanding and selective. I still doubt anyone would be scrutinizing that kind of record too much in order to dismiss it, if Borg had had it, and shifting the emphasis from achievement to "better player" so relentlessly. It's true that Wimbledon was the most prestigious championship in those days (it still is), but I don't see the same exclusive emphasis on it to gauge performances in other years, before the majors became homogenized.

    Here is Vilas detailed record in 1977 against the top 25. I used the rankings as they appear here: http://************.com/rankings/yearend/s1977.txt

    1 Connors, Jimmy (USA) (2-0) (at USO and Masters)
    2 Vilas, Guillermo (ARG)
    3 Borg, Björn (SWE) (0-3)
    4 Gerulaitis, Vitas (USA) (1-0)
    5 Gottfried, Brian (USA) (3-2)
    6 Dibbs, Eddie (USA) (3-0)
    7 Orantes, Manuel (ESP) (1-0)
    8 Ramirez, Raul (MEX) (2-0)
    9 Nastase, Ilie (ROM) (1-1)
    10 Stockton, Dick (USA) (didn’t meet)
    11 Barazzutti, Corrado (ITA) (didn’t meet)
    12 Rosewall, Ken (AUS)(didn’t meet)
    13 Fibak, Wojtek (POL) (3-0)
    14 Solomon, Harold (USA) (2-0)
    15 Tanner, Roscoe (USA) (1-1)
    16 Mayer, Sandy (USA) (didn’t meet)
    17 Fillol, Jaime (CHI) (2-0)
    18 Alexander, John (AUS) (2-0)
    19 Roche, Tony (AUS) (didn’t meet)
    20 Mottram, Buster (GBR) (6-0)
    21 McEnroe, John (USA) (1-0)
    22 Dent, Phil (AUS) (2-0)
    23 Panatta, Adriano (ITA) (1-0)
    24 Smith, Stan (USA) (3-0)
    25 Borowiak, Jeff (USA) (1-0)
     
  9. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    Yes, but note that you could use those exact same arguments to dismiss any comparison between the match records of today’s players and those in the 70s/early 80s. You can’t just apply this to Vilas. Everybody was playing in tournaments that look ridiculous if compared with a Masters 1000 today, and that applies to Vilas, Connors, Borg and everyone else. What I see is that the requirements to play in “first division” (thinking of it as ATP 250 or higher) are much stricter today. And since most top players don’t even have time to play any 250 events, the difference becomes even larger if you start at ATP 500 and above. So the competition is tougher, and the strength of the filed in Masters 1000 tournaments is higher than in many older majors. Today there are 12 tournaments that all top 30 players have to attend unless they are injured. How many were there in the 70s?

    So all that stuff is true, but it’s not true only for 1977 and it makes no sense to make it an issue only for that year.
     
  10. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    More to the same point. Consider for example the following statistic (arbitrarily chose, as all stats are, but not irrelevant, as some are):

    Vilas was 37-7 (86%) against the top 25. Borg was 22-5 (81%)

    Of Borg’s 76 ATP-listed wins, 22 were against the top 25 (28.94%)

    Of Vilas 130 ATP-listed wins, 37 were against the top 25 (28.46%)

    So they both had a little over 71% of their wins against players ranked outside the top 25.

    And if you consider that for every 10 matches played by Borg, Vilas played more than 17, you may be allowed to wonder which performance is more difficult to achieve, given that the quality of the competition seems to be very similar for both.

    My point in general being that you cannot just single out Vilas and 1977 for playing and winning the majority of his matches against much lesser players. All the top players did the same in those times. Using these arguments just to dismiss the fact that a player won 2 of the 3 then-existing majors (I don't count the AO) and many more other tournaments than anybody else, is something I only see done with Vilas 77. Whatever the competition was, it was for everybody in those years. And by the way, I wonder how those stats would compare with today’s top 4, for example. Actually, I don’t think they should be much different.
     
  11. helloworld

    helloworld Hall of Fame

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    Djokovic needs 2 more Major titles to be in the league of Becker, Wilander, and Edberg.
     
  12. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    For Borg I have the same, but I have Vilas at 36-8 (with a 5-1 record over Buster Mottram: he lost to Mottram in Hamburg).

    I'll post Borg's list separately.
     
  13. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Borg against the Top 25 in '77

    1 Connors, Jimmy (USA) (2-1)
    2 Vilas, Guillermo (ARG) (3-0)
    3 Borg, Björn (SWE)
    4 Gerulaitis, Vitas (USA) (1-0)
    5 Gottfried, Brian (USA) (2-1)
    6 Dibbs, Eddie (USA) (4-0)
    7 Orantes, Manuel (ESP) (1-0)
    8 Ramirez, Raul (MEX) (1-0)
    9 Nastase, Ilie (ROM) (1-0)
    10 Stockton, Dick (USA) (0-1)
    11 Barazzutti, Corrado (ITA) (1-0)
    12 Rosewall, Ken (AUS) (0-0)
    13 Fibak, Wojtek (POL) (2-0)
    14 Solomon, Harold (USA) (0-0)
    15 Tanner, Roscoe (USA) (1-0)
    16 Mayer, Sandy (USA) (0-1)
    17 Fillol, Jaime (CHI) (1-0)
    18 Alexander, John (AUS) (0-0)
    19 Roche, Tony (AUS) (0-0)
    20 Mottram, Buster (GBR) (0-0)
    21 McEnroe, John (USA) (0-0)
    22 Dent, Phil (AUS) (0-0)
    23 Panatta, Adriano (ITA) (1-0)
    24 Smith, Stan (USA) (0-0)
    25 Borowiak, Jeff (USA) (1-1)
     
  14. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Vilas: 2-3 vs Borg & Connors, 6-5 vs Top Five, 13-6 vs Top Ten, 36-8 vs Top 25

    Borg: 5-1 vs Vilas & Connors, 8-2 vs Top Five, 15-3 vs Top Ten, 22-5 vs Top 25

    So Borg has more wins, and fewer losses than Vilas, almost straight down the line, whether you're looking at the Top Three, Top Five or Top Ten. If you expand it out to the Top 25, then Vilas has more 'scalps' than Borg (although he still has more losses!) That's because Vilas' total record against the Top 25 is heavily comprised of wins over players ranked 11-25, as compared to Borg. Against the very best Vilas did not do as well as Borg did.

    Vilas played a lot more matches than Borg throughout the year: yet Borg still came away with more victories over Top Tenners (15-13). Despite playing much less than Vilas did, Borg met Top Ten players almost as many times as Vilas did (18 times vs. 19) -- which I think shows decisively that Vilas' draws were not as strong as Borg's.

    If you look at players ranked 11-25, Borg met such players 9 times. Vilas met them 25 times -- which shows again that Vilas was spending more time playing lower-ranked players.
     
  15. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Borg was the disputed no. 1 for 1977.
     
  16. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for catching that 5-1 instead of 6-0 vs Buster Mottram.

    As you consider smaller groups of players near the top, definitely Borg’s number are significantly better, and of course the main reason for it is Borg himself, as he is responsible for a full 100% of Vilas losses in the category vs top 3. And 60% of the losses vs top 5. And 50% vs top 10. All that’s because Vilas is 0-3 vs Borg for the year.

    Borg did play a higher percentage of his matches against top 5 and top 10 than Vilas. For things to start evening out you need to consider at least the top 25 or maybe top 30. But still they both played more than 70% of their matches outside that category, which actually doesn't seem too terrible.

    I think the only way to really know the strength of the field in each of the tournaments they played would be to have the draws for those tournaments and just calculate the average rank of all the participants or something like that. But I can’t find those draws. That tennis page I am using only has them up to 1978.

    Of course the problem for me is I don’t really understand why it’s necessary in this case to go to such minutia, because I think Vilas' clearly better record in the majors + all his other stuff should be more than enough to settle the issue. That’s why I am convinced that in the reverse situation, the discussion wouldn’t have arisen and these things would have never been looked at. I will try one day to describe how it may have been presented had it happened the other way around, with the records reversed.
     
  17. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I often see Vilas' year summarized as having a 2-1 edge in Slams and a large edge in total tournament victories; you mentioned those items in a post above as the main things that should put Vilas in the clear lead. But I almost never see Vilas' losses listed as one of the main items. A player's total number of victories is one of the basic items in his record, but so are the losses. There's no way to do one without the other.

    Vilas clearly has more wins than Borg. Just as clearly he has more losses (14-7). Many of them are poor losses. Borg lost just twice to players outside the Top 25. Vilas had 6 such losses. That's partly because he played more matches overall, but still. One of those losses was in Rome, where he was one of the favorites. Another was a blowout in the third round at Wimbledon, the world's biggest tournament.

    We've barely talked about surfaces but that's another major issue. Vilas won 13 of his 16 titles on clay. He bombed out of Wimbledon and its tuneups, while Borg established himself clearly, not just as the victor at Wimbledon, but as the world's best player on grass, due to his great victories over Nastase, Gerulaitis and Connors.

    And who was the best player, was a question on every one's mind back then. It always is. I know we always say: separate actual achievements from the question of who is the better player. Up to now I've always agreed with that. But now I think about it, I don't see how it's possible to fully separate those things. Frankly I don't believe anyone thinks that way: measuring records alone, without judging skill.

    That can be seen if you just ask this simple question. Which of these victories by Vilas was more impressive, beating Ferdi Taygan in the first round of Springfield, or beating Connors in the USO final? We're not dealing with what-ifs here, just matches actually played. Obviously the Connors win is infinitely greater. Nobody that I know of considers a tennis match to be just a number on a win/loss sheet. We all evaluate the quality of the defeated opponent, and the quality of the tennis on display. Mastery of surfaces is obviously a big factor in that: it's something tennis fans discuss all the time. When we hear of a match, right off the bat we ask: who played? where? what surface?

    So I see the point in saying, "Stick to the record; don't look at skill." But nobody separates the two entirely; nobody thinks that way. If Vilas had beaten Borg instead of Gottfried for the RG title, wouldn't we think of his win as a greater achievement? Wouldn't it rightly be considered as carrying greater weight? Conversely, if he had beaten nobody in the Top 25, wouldn't the achievement carry less weight than what he actually did in beating Gottfried?

    That's why the H2H between Borg and Vilas looms large in all this. He was better than Vilas in direct meetings on clay and carpet: and he defeated the rest of the Top Ten just as often as Vilas despite playing far less. He was not beaten by any opponent or any surface: whereas Vilas drew a full blank against his main rival and was beaten badly on grass.

    Maybe I give more weight to H2H than others do. I sometimes get the sense from Vilas backers that the H2H against Borg is relegated to a minor factor that shouldn't even be considered because Vilas already has (in their opinion) the better overall record.

    But I don't think my emphasis on it is purely my own. I forget where it appeared, maybe in the New York Times, but one tennis expert was reviewing the '77 season. He looked back to '76 and said that Borg regarded himself as having the best overall record -- but this expert then added that all observers disagreed with Borg and voted for Connors largely on the strength of his 3-0 record over Borg in direct meetings.

    And the voting in '76, as I mentioned above, is just one reason I'm skeptical about your reverse scenario. To me, those who voted for Borg over Vilas in '77 were looking at genuine issues in the record, unless it can be substantiated otherwise. Supposing that they went against the record due to some kind of preference for Borg is just not a satisfying answer to me -- particularly because Vilas was a very sympathetic figure himself, one of the most popular ever to have played the game. If some kind of bias took away his being named #1 for year, then I think the bias would have to be substantiated directly, like anything else.

    Didn't mean to make this such a long response but I've been enjoying the debate and finding it thought-provoking.
     
  18. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Just a few minor thoughts--in 1977, despite the fact Vilas won the two most important clay court tournaments (the French and the US Open), I felt Borg was the best player in the world on clay but it is not shown by his record in majors in the clay events. I also felt Borg was the best player in the world on grass which is backed by his record in winning Wimbledon. Yes Borg did have an unbeaten record against Vilas in 1977 with I believe a 3-0 record but frankly that shouldn't be a huge consideration until we exhaust a number of other factors in evaluating both player's years. Overall my feeling was Borg was the best player in the world in pure tennis strength but the problem is that that is not the same as having the best overall year. Vilas did win two majors in a huge schedule and defeating Jimmy Connors in the US Open final is very impressive.

    I am not sure about this but in 1976, when Connors was called number one by a number of magazines, it seemed to me that in some of them which were US tennis magazines there was a nationalistic pride in naming Connors number one. In other words I got the feeling there were very partial. Now I do think Connors was perhaps number on in 1976 and I think he was perhaps the best player in terms of strength.
     
  19. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    1976: Connors wins a US Open, Borg wins Wimbledon... and WCT Finals, then the 4 th biggest even of the year, much bigger than AO (Edmondson)...Borg lost at the FO QF, Connors at W QF...oh¡ and Borg made another major finat (Forest Hills)...who is nº 1 just based on results ( and not the year head to head)?

    Borg was the nº 1 in 76 ( Connors being the best player) and Vilas was the nº 1 in 77 (Borg being the best player).Simple as that...Isn´t it easy to get?
     
  20. 5555

    5555 Hall of Fame

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    There is no reliable source which says that Vilas was the undisputed No. 1 in 1977. Isn´t it easy to get?
     
  21. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Just common sense...which certainly is the least common of the senses...
     
  22. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Connors onlu undisputed nº 1 in 74 and 82...had also a possible chance in 1976 and 1983, where no player really dominate ( altough in 76 Borg had a much more solid year and in 1983 Mc Enroe had the best record among the big events)
     
  23. 5555

    5555 Hall of Fame

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    Burden of proof is on the claimant of the positive claim. jean pierre claims that Vilas was the undisputed No. 1 in 1977, so burden of proof is on him.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2012
  24. 5555

    5555 Hall of Fame

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    The common sense says it's controversial who was the No. 1 in 1977
     
  25. jean pierre

    jean pierre Semi-Pro

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    In my opinion, the n°1 in 1977 is Brian Gottfried, because he beated this year Borg and Vilas. Or maybe Jeff Borowiak, because he beated Borg in Washington.
     
  26. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    ...at the end of the day...what problem do you ( and many others at this thread) have with Vilas? is there something personal? even a loyal poster to Borg like Borg nº 1 doesn´t go nuts disputing that issue... he certainly has common sense and no personnal feelings.
     
  27. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Until now I always agreed with distinguishing the best record from the best player. But I doubt now that they can be separated entirely. Not saying that you’re asking for that; but in debates about ’77 one frequent demand is that the question of Borg’s skill, compared to Vilas’ skill, be left out entirely.

    But I don't think we ever manage to debate greatest records without discussing who was better than whom. We're always judging the skills of players; it's unavoidable. In the GOAT debate we're constantly talking about who was better than whom on clay, or on grass, or carpet. One of the great things about Borg’s record is his claycourt domination; it’s an element in his favor in the GOAT debate. But any discussion about surfaces is fundamentally about skill. We’re talking about how his great claycourt record illustrates what a great claycourter he was in relation to his peers: for example by twice sweeping the French Open in straight sets.

    But if we talk about skill in the GOAT debate, then how can it be taken out of debate about individual years? The two debates are fundamentally about the same things, except that the GOAT debate encompasses all the years of tennis history.

    Sometimes we narrow it down to a decade. We debate who was the greatest claycourter of the 70s, for example. We mention Borg’s record and how dominant he was over his peers. And that’s fundamentally about skill. After all what is a player’s record, if not a record of how dominant he was against his peers, how often he beat them?

    So we do that when looking at all of tennis history, or looking at a decade. But reduce it down to one year, and we’re asked to leave skill out of it entirely. I don’t know what that would leave us with. There would be no point to discussing surfaces, because we’re not supposed to talk about skill. And it would be pointless to discuss level of competition: because we’re not supposed to talk about level of play. Just the record.

    Vilas in ’77, starting at the French Open, had a long claycourt streak, something like 50 straight wins. That is one of his greatest achievements. The streak illustrates what a great claycourter he was, how good he was on clay. When Nadal started to approach it, Vilas' streak was brought up as one of his great records. And it wasn’t brought up as a bare number with no meaning: the obvious meaning was that it showed what a great claycourter Vilas was.

    But if we really tried to leave skill out of it, there would be no point to talking about what Vilas did on clay. We would just look at his overall numbers, I guess, without reference to surface.

    Again, I’m not saying that you’re asking for the two concepts – best record, and best player – to be separated entirely. If you’re just saying that they’re distinct, but related concepts, then we’re in full agreement. But in ’77 debates, you hear it now all the time: how the record should be separated from the question of best player. It’s become almost a mantra, so I think we need to bring this issue up.
     
  28. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Let me be clear about something. I am not saying that in debating ’77 we should be concentrating on Borg’s forehand and Vilas’s backhand smash and stuff like that. Those are skills, of course, but I’m not emphasizing that. Nor am I saying that we should be speculating about how Borg, at his best in ’77, would do in an imaginary match against Vilas at his best.

    I am saying that you can divide up the actual record according to surface, and place value on who showed himself – in actual results, not imaginary matchups – to be the best player on a particular surface in ’77.

    Vilas was arguably king of the year with 16 titles, but only 3 of those titles came on a non-clay surface. So if he dominated the year, he was really king only of the claycourt tennis world. Yet Borg has a claim there because he beat Vilas twice in Monte Carlo and Nice, had a perfect 21-0 record on red clay, and lost only one clay match all year (the USO match he defaulted). On top of that Vilas has some poor losses to lower-ranked players in Hamburg and Rome. Move on to grass, and Borg was clearly king. Indoor carpet tournaments – the most dominant player there would have to be Connors. He had 5 carpet titles, including Dallas and the Masters.

    In my view that leaves Borg as the only player of the Top Three with a claim to mastering two surfaces. Moreover there was no surface on which he was beaten badly and consistently, as Vilas was on grass.

    Is all that about skill? You bet. But how can all that possibly be irrelevant when you’re trying to decide the player of the year?
     
  29. Steve132

    Steve132 Professional

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    A GOAT debate is very different from a player of the year one. In the former we are comparing players of different generations. While we compare their achievements, there are clear limits to the extent to which this is possible. For example, Rod Laver never had the opportunity to equal Federer's total of majors won, because he was barred from the majors for many of his prime years. On the other hand, Federer will never match Laver's total number of tournaments won, partly because today's players play fewer tournaments but also because, as Benhur noted, they play most of their tennis in majors and Masters 1000 events, which feature far stronger draws and competition than existed in most tournaments in the past. So we need to look at attributes such as dominance, versatility, consistency and longevity when comparing GOAT candidates.

    By contrast, player of the year awards are based almost exclusively on achievement in that year. The only exception that I can think of would occur when a player was injured for part of the year AND this injury was solely responsible for preventing him or her from accumulating the most ranking points for the season.
     
  30. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I have to agree that a GOAT debate encompasses things that a Player of the Year debate never could. Longevity, most obviously. And yes in a GOAT debate, the other things you mention are vital.

    And good points about Federer and Laver: I happen to agree.

    But the fact that tennis has not had uniform conditions throughout its history is not the reason that we talk about the players' skills (such as versatility, or dominance over the years, etc). Sure, in tennis we might have a greater need to look at those things because without them the problems of comparing generations would be insurmountable. But we would be talking about them anyway even if we didn't have those problems. Even in a sport with great historical continuity (like baseball), fans debate the greatest players and talk all the time about skills. I'm just asking, why is it necessary to leave skills out of it when discussing a single year?

    Is it even possible? I mean it's a sport, right? It's about skill. Debate the greatest pitcher of all time, you're going to look at stats, obviously, but I'm sure you're also going to be talking about what he did on the field -- what a particular pitcher was good at, what times he was clutch, the batters he faced, etc.

    If we attempt to just look at numbers, well the first thing that will happen is that people will start interpreting the numbers and what they mean. They will say: these numbers over here were achieved under less competition than those numbers over there. Fans do that when looking at long periods of time. But we do it in the '77 debate too: I've been saying that Borg's win/loss numbers, smaller than Vilas's, were achieved under greater competition. Benhur has talked about Top 25 victories and about ascertaining the average ranking of players in a tournament in order to evaluate the strength of the draw. So we're talking about level of play already. I don't know what else we could be referring to, when we talk about the rankings of the players that Vilas and Borg faced.

    About achievements in a year, yes, that's what we're measuring. Not imaginary achievements. But it's an achievement to master a surface. For example it's a great achievement to have dominant numbers in the claycourt world. Yet, there's much more to the tennis world, and it's a greater achievement, I think, to post good records on clay, on the indoor circuit, and in the grasscourt season, short as it is.

    Wimbledon makes a unique demand on tennis players. It's regarded as the top tournament in our sport. But it's played on a surface that nobody plays on, outside of the short grasscourt season. Now, that might be illogical, or unfair. But it is a feature of our sport's biggest tournament, no getting around it.

    So doing well there is a big deal. Bombing out there is a big deal.

    In '77 debates it's become very common to refer simply to the "Slams", or the "majors". Vilas has 2, Borg has 1. Case settled. But each of the Slams places unique demands on the players' skill sets, mostly because of surface (though there are other factors). They're not interchangeable. Referring to them merely as a major, and then counting up majors, seems to miss out on an essential aspect of these tournaments. Is it possible to refer to Wimbledon without reference to its grass, and the grasscourt skill it demands of the players? It's not just 1 major where Vilas didn't happen to do well: it's the only major on grass and players have always been expected to take its demands seriously, to master grass and to do well there.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2012
  31. 5555

    5555 Hall of Fame

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    Do you claim it's fact that Vilas was the No. 1 in 1977?
     
  32. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    But I don’t know that it should be a requirement to have the best results on any one particular surface, or even to have any titles on it, in order to be the number one player for the year. There must have been a number of years where the number one was someone who didn't do great on grass. And we know Sampras was number one a few times while doing next to nothing on clay (some years he bombed out in the first or second round of almost all the clay tournaments he entered). By comparison, Vilas performance on grass (winning three rounds at W and reaching the final at the Australian) doesn't look quite so bad. He also had some wins on hard courts and carpet. Finally, the red clay of RG and the USO Har-Tru are different enough surfaces not to be lumped together under one type, as if he only played on red clay, and they happened to be the surfaces where two of the three majors were played back then. I think the focus on the paramount importance of Wimbledon grass for 1977 seems excessive or perhaps too selective for that particular year in the context of choosing the number one for the year.
     
  33. helloworld

    helloworld Hall of Fame

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    Djokovic is currently in the tier between Courier and Becker/Edberg.
     
  34. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    Average ranking of all participating players in different tournaments would be great, but extremely lengthy to calculate (and you could only compare it between tournaments that have the same number of players). A simplifying compromise might be to calculate the average ranking of, say, the top 10 players that are present in each tournament. And it would still be a very time consuming task, assuming we could even get the draws for those tournaments. But as a mental exercise you can see how much tighter things are today. The highest possible average ranking of any group of 10 players is 5.5, and it would occur only if those 10 players are also the top 10 in the rankings. In most Majors and Masters 1000 today, that’s exactly what happens.

    I did the calculation for the 1977 majors. Of course it would be nice to take into account the relative skill of different players on each specific surface, but -- absent any official rankings by surface -- any attempt at doing so would introduce a messy element of subjectivity totally incompatible with these kinds of calculations.

    In the 1977 FO, 5 of the top 10 ranked players are present, (2, 5, 6, 8 and 9 ) so I replaced the missing ones with the highest ranked players available, which are Barazutti, Fibak, Solomon, Fillol and Mottram (ranked 11, 13, 14, 17 and 20). So the average ranking of the top 10 participants is 10.5.

    In the 1977 Wimbledon, the number 6 and 7 ranked are missing, so we replace them with Fibak and Solomon (ranked 13 and 14). We get an average of 7.2.

    In the 1977 USO, all the top 10 were present, so the average ranking of the top 10 participants is the highest possible: 5.5.

    Pursuing this exercise with the next 10 or so most important tournaments won by each player should give us an idea of the strength of the tournaments that Borg and Vilas won that year. But we can already see that in 2 of the 3 majors in 1977, the average ranking of the top 10 participants was lower than what you are likeley to obtain today in most Masters 1000.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2012
  35. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    I wouldn’t treat it like a requirement either, to have the best results on any particular surface. It’s just one thing to look at. Same with failing on one surface: it’s a significant blemish but you can still make #1 with other achievements. Sampras failed often on clay, but he often paired his Wimbledon victory with a victory on hard courts at the AO or USO. In ’96 his only major was the USO but he had a great win at the YEC on carpet, and led everyone else in overall titles. In ’98 his only major was Wimbledon, but the 3 other Slam champions of the year could not catch his overall record. Rios took the most titles that year but didn’t win a Slam.

    So of course every year is different, and in some years surface might not be an important issue, maybe because some other difference between the top players is more decisive. In ’77 I think it’s important because there are significant contrasts among the top 3 players if you look at their records by surface.

    Vilas’ failures on grass can be over-emphasized, true. At the AO he beat John Alexander, a fine grasscourter and a Top 25 player. On the other hand he looked outclassed by Tanner in the final (in my opinion), won only 1 match at the Wimbledon tune-ups, and was taken out at Wimbledon by Billy Martin in straights in the third round. Overall it’s not a good record.

    Does that break his year or eliminate him as a candidate for #1? No, of course he has a case for #1.

    Nastase lost to Sandy Mayer in the R16 at the ’73 Wimbledon but still made #1, largely because of his overwhelming lead in overall titles.

    Courier lost to Andrei Olhovsky in the third round at Wimbledon in ’92, but nobody else that year had a better overall record.

    Can’t recall any other #1’s bombing out at Wimbledon.

    While I think there’s a significant difference between red clay and Har-Tru, there are larger differences when you move from either of them to grass, or to hard court. Grasscourts can vary greatly among themselves but are still one category. Same with the different types of clay courts and the different types of hard court.

    Best example I can think of is when a player is accused of being nothing more than a claycourt specialist. (That’s not what I call Vilas, by the way, I’m just speaking theoretically.) The only thing that can change that, is if he starts winning on grass, hard or carpet. Merely moving from red clay to Har-Tru will not do that at all. It would only highlight him as a clay-court specialist, mastering the different types of clay.
     
  36. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    yes, I think so too.May catch them soon, but not yet.
     
  37. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    and Courier did pretty good on 3 surfaces that year - hard, clay, & carpet.

    Kuerten in '00. Lost early at the 2 hardcourt majors as well. Won the Masters Cup(on a 'very slow' indoor hardcourt according to commentators)
    He probably had the least impressive year of a year end #1. And I would have said the same if Safin had finished #1 that year. I wonder if Sampras would have finished #1 had he won the USO final, he played a minimal schedule that year.
     
  38. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    No, he is not claiming that. He is only trying to show why he thinks he should be considered number one, while you keep asking him to prove that it is undisputed -- an unreasonable demand in most cases, and a very vacuous one if you are trying to explain why it should be disputed. Everybody here knows it IS disputed, otherwise there wouldn't be any threads about it. You just keep repeating like a broken record that it is disputed, as if this by itself showed why it should be disputed. You are not giving any arguments either way.
     
  39. r5d3

    r5d3 New User

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    Ok, so eliminate Connors and bring it to Borg and Vilas, fine. Why is it an absurd question and and obvious vote for Vilas? Wouldn't you pick the guy who won all three head to head match-ups that year? Wasn't Vilas.

    Vilas played in 2 finals and won 1. I'm sorry, but the Aussie Open was a major in name only, period. Apparently, you feel the AO is the end all of tennis, but it simply isn't so, and definitely wasn't in the 70's.

    And it says a lot for the comparison between Vilas and Djokovic when you see that in Vilas' best year, he played Borg three times and Jimmy once. Four matches all year against the two best players in the world (not to mention a 1-3 record). In comparison, how often did Djokovic have to go through Federer and/or Nadal in 2011? Novak played the two best players in the world 12 times last season, and won 11.

    I'm a fan of Guilermo, but this argument is over. If you want to say something like Vilas was better than Becker (I'm German, so Becker is my all time favorite) than you might have something.
     
  40. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Thats not completely correct. Vilas won 2 big majors that year. Paris on clay by demolishing Gottfried, and Forest Hills by beating Connors in a tough 4 setter on har tru. If you include Borg's three wins, you have to include a further Connors match. Vilas also beat Connors in a great match at the MSG indoor Masters January 1978, in front of some 18000-20000 people, in what many thought was the best match of the year. It wasn't Vilas' fault, that Borg chose WTT over RG, and that Borg waterskied before Forest Hills and hurt his shoulder. Maybe it was just bad preparation for a major on Borg's part, especially with the USO being played on the surface (har tru), which had much in common with his favorite surface.
     
  41. r5d3

    r5d3 New User

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    I'll give you the Masters win, that was a great match. And a win over Connors at forest Hills was nice and all, but not a major. Of course, I'm pretty sure the field was much more stacked than in Melbourne.
     
  42. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Now, Forest Hills was the USO, and this was certainly a major. To have two important wins over Connors at his beloved New York, is quite impressive. I can understand well the arguments pro Borg, as Krosero has explained them so detailed. 1977 was a close race between three players, with the top players facing each other not so frequently. But nobody can deny that Vilas has a strong claim, with his record 50 wins streak, his 2 majors and his overall record of 16 or 17 tournament wins. If you point to the absence of Borg at RG, you must consider, that in all French Opens between 1970 and 1978, someone, often the worlds leading player was missing.
     
  43. jean pierre

    jean pierre Semi-Pro

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    US Open was not a major ???
     
  44. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    How do you figure that? Vilas played 2 major finals (FO and USO) and won both. All top 10 ranked players were at the USO, the only major where this was the case that year.
     
  45. r5d3

    r5d3 New User

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    Yeah, not sure what I was thinking there, I thought the U.S. had already moved to FM by that point. Sorry about the error.
     
  46. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    The 9th ranked player, Nastase, was also there (lost to Gottfried).

    The missing top tenners were Borg, Connors, Gerulaitis, Stockton and Orantes (who normally always played the French but was injured).

    Present from the top ten were Vilas, Gottfried, Dibbs, Ramirez and Nastase.

    The missing two were Orantes and Dibbs. Orantes played Wimbledon only once after '74, and Dibbs played it just once in his career ('74).

    Yes and it was a typical situation in the 70s. Different times.
     
  47. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    Yes, I'd forgotten to include Nastase. I've corrected this (taking out McEnroe). It brings the average ranking to 10.5, for the top 10 players at the French that year.
     
  48. 5555

    5555 Hall of Fame

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    He is claiming that. Undisputed means generally agreed upon
     
  49. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    That’s what it means to you. And it seems to be a matter of vital importance for you that this should be the only acceptable meaning. There are plenty of instances where the meanings can be easily seen to be different. In most disciplines, you have sets of predominant/mainstream theories at any given point, that can be described as generally agreed upon, but that doesn't mean they go undisputed by dissenting researchers who have alternative theories. The origin of oil is generally agreed to be biological detritus, but this is loudly disputed by those who propose the theory of abiotic/abiogenic oil and find it plausible. The author of Shakespeare’s plays is generally agreed to have been a man by that name, but this has been disputed by some scholars for at least two hundred years. It's not difficult to see that many things which are “generally agreed upon” aren't necessarily undisputed, and examples like the ones I just gave you can be generated endlessly.

    What constitutes general agreement is a flexible notion. In some cases it may be just a bare majority. In others a two thirds majority, or an overwhelming majority. So it may or may not be the case that Vilas number one status in 77 is “generally agreed,” depending on who you ask. It’s not something I loose any sleep over. If you have enough understanding about something to evaluate the arguments directly, you don't need to rely on where the majority opinion or the general agreement lies to form your own opinion (let alone argue about the meaning of undisputed). You just evaluate the arguments and reach your own opinion.
     
  50. FlamEnemY

    FlamEnemY Hall of Fame

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    If I may interject,

    undisputed - not disputed or called in question; accepted; universally agreed upon; unchallenged and accepted without question.

    Simply judging by this thread alone, Vilas' ranking is not undisputed. Which is the point 5555 is trying to make.

    Now, not to be completely off-topic:

    Djokovic will most likely join these players by the end of the year. He also has the potential to surpass them.
     

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