Is number of slams won an unfair bias against old time players?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by dominikk1985, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    now the number of majors is pretty much seen as the gold standard for all time lists.

    however there where a lot more small tournaments there (for example conners won a lot more overall tournaments than fed or pete, although a lot of them have been micky mouse events- but they still cost a lot of energy you cannot use in slams).

    also the AO where often skipped (less chances to win majors) and on top of that there was the pro/am division which cost some players a lot of slams.

    I'm pretty sure that someone would have won 20+ majors in history if all players in history would have focussed on slams and other large tournaments like the players of the last 15+ years did.

    I'm not saying laver or maybe borg with 20 slams would be the undisputed GOAT as the quality of game certainly raised but using number of slams against them without context might be unfair. what do you think?
     
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  2. LazyNinja19

    LazyNinja19 Hall of Fame

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    Yes you are right.
    But the sport always keeps on evolving. And so do the tournaments. I think prior to 1990, there wasn't any breakdown of ATP tournaments into 250, 500 & masters 1000 categories. Now Masters 1000, along with WTF are considered as the biggest ATP events.

    In the similar light, I think now that Tennis is a permanent sport in the Olympics. So as the years go by, the value of Olympics will keep on increasing! Players already have started giving immense importance to it. The Grand Slam champions of the future will make it a top priority to do well in the Olympics.

    So couple of decades down the line, the players who haven't won the Olympics, will be considered as having a loophole in their resumes, in the same way as A.O is considered now.
    This is how it is. The sport evolves and so do the players!

    And this is exactly why I don't believe in calling One single player as GOAT!
     
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  3. andreh

    andreh Professional

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    One could certainly argue that there has been some "slam inflation" over the past decade or so, since the surfaces were homogenized, leading one to conclude that people in the past who "only" have 6, 7 , 8 slams were inferior players compared to todays.
     
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  4. Xavier G

    Xavier G Semi-Pro

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    It should not be just about the number of Slams won.
    For much of the 70's for instance, winning sheer numbers of GS tournaments did not seem to carry the weight it does now. In the 70's, different priorities were also given to different events like World Team Tennis, developing the tour so the structure of the tour was different. Some players put more emphasis on chasing the cash. For much of the 70's, the second half at least imo, the Masters and WCT Finals were seen as more prestigious than the Australian Open. Even the French took a dip, in the women's game anyway.
    In the 50's and 60's, the sport was split into the 'pro' and 'amateur' games, so all the best men players were not competing against each other like today.
    I do not really buy into the whole so-called 'GOAT' debate either. It's often like splitting hairs between great players who can all have a solid claim. No real need for it.
    The game has had so many eras with differing levels of competition and depth of fields, rackets and string tech, structures of the sport and emphasis on different tournaments, priorities such as doubles and mixed doubles mattered more back in the older days too, etc.
     
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  5. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    dominikk1985, It's very probable that Tilden, Gonzalez, Rosewall and maybe Laver would have won more than 20 open era majors. Laver had a shorter career than the other three.
     
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  6. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    No. You're forgetting that the field today focus more on winning slams mean that would be even more difficult for a top ranked player to win multiple slams. During the 60s, the field was split where one tour focus on the pro majors and the other focus on amateur slams.

    I don't think it's biased to count modern slams because it's the holy grail in tennis. One can't assumed old timers can do what Nadal have done on clay, or Roger racked up ton of records given in the same situation.
     
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  7. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    Given the same pool size, the slam format, and all surfaces, I don't think so. I just don't believe an undersized player playing in the modern era can win slam because the game is difference, it tailor for the bigger and taller players.
     
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  8. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    It's not so bad from about 1983 to current day, but it's less than perfect before then. Pre-1980, it's rather misleading, as the top guys did not play all 4 events.

    Gets more distorted pre-1975, since 3/4 of the events were on grass!

    So, just tallying up total # of GS wins is not necessarily the best metric.

    It's an important one, granted, but not the only one when comparing across generations.
     
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  9. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    I know that the overemphasis of majors is not good for the sport itself. you need the top ten top 15 players to spread interest and energy so that the sport is constantly envigorated. You get a lot of players with an attitude like Serena's or Lendl's (he tended to tank in events he did not want to work at ) towards one week events, and you end up with no draws in cities with established but vulnerable events on the circuit. That will kill enthusiasm at the local level.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
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  10. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    TMF, Even an "undersized" player can beat the taller ones (Federer &Co.) if he is superior in skills. Laver, Rosewall, Gonzalez and Tilden were much superior regarding skills than Federer.
     
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  11. Wim

    Wim Guest

    Wish that everybody in here reads this thread!
     
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  12. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    Very true ... Just have a look at Kramers "The Game" chapter titled "The Way it Wasn't". Jack clearly explains how the pre-open tennis game worked and shows the amatuer players that did win the slams vs the better professional players that most likely would have won those slam championships. Its safe to say that Tilden, Kramer, Gonzalez, Rosewall, and Laver would have probably all had won more than 20 slams, had they not turned professional. Its also safe to say that Emerson would not have been the slam record holder until Sampras surpassed him.
     
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  13. YaoPau

    YaoPau Rookie

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    It shouldn't be about any one thing. If casual fans want to just go by Slams then okay, but we're better than that here.

    And it goes beyond that. The Aussie and French Opens meant basically nothing for several decades. In the 1950s and early 1960s, I'd argue that none of the Slams (Pro Slam or Grand Slam) meant a whole lot considering the elite players would play other elite players often 20+ times per year, and the money or status gained from a Slam title wasn't necessarily higher than other events during the year.

    Slam counting just wasn't a thing until about 20 years ago, which is about 1/5th of the timeframe that pro tennis has been around. So while I think it can have meaning when comparing Federer to Sampras, I don't think it really has much meaning outside of that comparison even it's used sooo damn much.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
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  14. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

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    I disagree. Even Laver said Roger is capable of anything, and it's an honor to even be compared to Roger.


    Kramer said the Roger is most skilled player.

    "I thought Ellsworth Vines and Don Budge were pretty good. And Gonzalez and Hoad could play a bit, too, but I have never seen anyone play the game better than Federer. He serves well and has a great half-volley. I've never known anyone who can do as many things on a court as he can."
     
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  15. YaoPau

    YaoPau Rookie

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    Two things...

    (1) Federer is an interesting case to me, and he's like Laver in that not only is he really really really good, but he's also flashy. Federer will make your jaw drop a dozen times every match, and he'll do it with such grace. I have no doubt that he's as capable as any player to play the game.

    But a skillset isn't just what you're capable of. Guys like Nadal and Rosewall were comparatively less awe-inspiring, but they also never miss.

    (2) dominikk's quote was, that if Slam counting had always been a thing, then it's likely someone would have 20+ Slams by now. We all have different definitions of GOAT and it looks like yours is different from mine, but Rosewall's and Laver's height doesn't factor into their GOAT-worthiness IMO. The topspin lob of today wasn't possible in their time, the jump serve was barely integrated... being tall didn't matter. All you can ask of former players is for them to dominate their era and (a more difficult argument) be years ahead of the pack. Rosewall and Laver both did that, and Federer did that as well.
     
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  16. 1477aces

    1477aces Hall of Fame

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    i disagree about the undersized. but you can't blame them. that's what fit in the game today. maybe 40 years from now, when 6'6" height is the norm, federer and nadal will be considered undersized.
     
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  17. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    If you're just looking at the metric, number of majors won, you have to look at how tournaments changed from era to era. All you can do is to analyze how each player performed during an era and then, one must try and compare/contrast eras of course. So, there's nothing "unfair" if the analysis is done. It's also interesting to consider the future of tennis. Suppose we go to 5 majors in a year? Then, would a player with 20 majors be considered the greatest? Should he be? Of course, the debates would rage as always.
     
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  18. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    Lendl probably has a better body of work and record at the non-slam events than any other male player in the open era, so he's not the best example to use there.

    And all the big name players whether it was Borg, Sampras, Agassi, Lendl, McEnroe, Connors etc, use to tank quite a bit in smaller events from time to time, pocketing their huge appearance fees (which pre 1990 were all under the table of course) and getting the hell out of there. The gruelling circuit and demands of an individual sport also drove them to that.
     
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  19. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    I'm not saying laver or another player with 20 majors would be an automatic GOAT. "league quality" (as it is called in baseball discussions which are usually at a higher level than tennis discussions because of the availability of stats) does matter I'm just saying that other guys would probably have more majors had they tried.
     
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  20. DMP

    DMP Semi-Pro

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    That is an excellent point, with which I could not agree more. It may not be a coincidence that the peak interest in tennis in my watching time - the late 70s - corresponded with a time when the slams were relatively quite low in emphasis and there were a large number of alternative events with big money. Those other events were big draws and kept interest going all through the season.
     
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  21. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    This is rather backwards. Tanking was Lendl's specialty in his early days. The others you mention, Sampras, Mac, Connors in particular, played like their very lives depended on it, at nearly all events, including exos.
     
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  22. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    Not really. Sampras frequently tanked matches in the 90s, such as against Alami at Doha in 1994, against Paes at New Haven in 1998 ('why don't you default me so I can get the hell out of here') etc. In some years at Queen's after a couple of wins under his belt he decided he couldn't be bothered to try there any more, and guys who beat him there like Woodforde even said that they didn't consider it to be a 'real win;. He wasn't subtle about his tanking at all, and in one match, some fans actually shouted at him to stop tanking.

    Since retiring McEnroe has personally admitted to tanking in events over the years, whether it was the Australian Open or lesser events. There were some matches where he later changed his mind during the match because his opponent was so bad, but he still tanked a fair bit.

    Connors fighting like a lion in big Wimbledon or US Open matches doesn't mean he had that same attitude at all of the smaller events either. A huge myth. Like Mac, Borg etc, he played a crazy schedule with an insane number of invitationals and exos added to his regular schedule every year. When he felt overloaded he tanked, although probably not as much as a lot of others. His comment in his book that he never tanked a match in his life was hilarious. If Connors had tried his hardest in every match, he would have burnt out and wouldn't have kept playing for so long. His match against Gerulaitis at Brussels one year (I think 1982) was a tank.

    In 1974 and 1975, there were rumours of Borg tanking quite a few matches.

    Pre Federer and Nadal, pretty much every great player, even a gentleman like Edberg, will have tanked from time to time. It was a pretty a blatant and common practice.

    Giving up from time to time in slam matches, which Agassi and Lendl did from time to time (and Agassi clearly tanked the third set against Connors at the 1989 US Open to stage a 5 set win) was less common amongst the top players though.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013
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  23. ARFED

    ARFED Semi-Pro

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    Wow Bobby, so you must have had such a hard time during the Anschluss. After all you surely must have seen Hitler entering Vienna if you are old enough to have witnessed Tilden play.:)
     
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  24. CyBorg

    CyBorg Legend

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    I think the dichotomy between "tanking" and "giving it one's all" is misleading and unhelpful.

    Sometimes a player doesn't have it and doesn't give it one's all. But that does not mean he's tanking.
     
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  25. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    If fed had the courage and persistency of his loyal fans, he certainly would have found a way to beat Nadal...
     
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  26. ARFED

    ARFED Semi-Pro

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    He found a way 10 times, including 2 Wimby finals and bagellling him 3 times (even on clay), not too bad, won`t you say? :)
     
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  27. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    How tall was Tilden or Vines?




    Someone did a chart comparing the heights of tennis layers from the 1920s to the present, and (I believe) it showed that the average height has gone up hardly at all in 90 years.
     
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  28. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    ...beat him and reverse the ownage situation whenever they play a major match....
     
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  29. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    I agree. not all players have been short:

    vines: 6"2 1/2
    tilden: 6"2
    gonzalez: 6"3
    kramer: 6"2
    budge: 6"1


    all of those players where as tall or taller than fed and nadal (who probably will be called undersized in 10 years...). the average height has maybe gone up 1-2 inches but still the majority of tennis players are 5"11-6"3.

    muster said 20 years ago that if the trend continues everyone will be a 6"6 serve bomber in 10 years. Has not happened so far...

    today's players are superior but mostly because of modern rackets, training and swing mechanics. I'm pretty sure guys like tilden, laver or gonzalez would be just as good as today's pros had they grown up today.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013
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  30. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    At least I'm old enough to use my brain...
     
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  31. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Tilden and, for that matter, Gonzalez and Smith, were giants.
     
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