Is the Grand Slam Easier or Harder Now?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by hoodjem, Apr 16, 2013.

  1. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    In the past, I've read a bunch of people saying the Grand Slam is much harder now with the game being more athletic and more grinding, and there being three different surfaces (as opposed to two in 1969).

    But more recently, I've read a few posters going in the other direction: saying that it is easier today because of the greater homogenization of the surfaces. These same posters suggested that Laver's GS was more difficult because of the greater disparity of the fast Wimbledon grass versus the slower Roland Garros clay back then.

    (Personally, I put a lot of credence in what Laver said about the grass at Wimbledon versus the grass at the USO: he said it was like comparing Twiggy to Racquel Welch.)

    What do you think?
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2013
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  2. DolgoSantoro

    DolgoSantoro Professional

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    In theory easier probably, however with a probable Clay GOAT playing today not necessarily in practice. Especially now that Novak is such a beast on slow courts such as the ones in Melbourne on top of that. You have to look at the players as well. I'm extremely skeptical of anyone getting the Grand Slam anytime soon, however it might be possible once those two retire.
     
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  3. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Yes, clay court at Paris was Brigitte Bardot.
     
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  4. ARFED

    ARFED Semi-Pro

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    Probably the most difficult period to do so was in the 90`s. The most polarized period taking into account surfaces and racquet technology. Today it is a bit easier than the 90`s, but about on the same level as the 60`s and early 70`s.

    My point is that if the surface speed hadn`t changed in recent years at Wimbledon and USO especially, it would be almost impossible to stop an on fire big server/ball basher like Delpo or Berdych and we would be seeing players like Tsonga develop much better aproach and net games too. Imo Fed would be the only one of the current crop to be able to handle that kind of ball speed and court pressure, (in this sense i find his game much similar to Agassi`s, taking the ball early and taking time away to their opponents combined with sharp laser passing shots and amazing return skills) and even he would struggle a lot. And when we get to the slow clay of RG, and i mean really slow like it was in the 90`s, it would be mission impossible to cope with a heavie top spinner like Nadal.
     
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  5. RF20Lennon

    RF20Lennon Legend

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    IMO. Harder than the 60's but easier than 80's 90's and 00's due to all the surfaces being similar now.
     
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  6. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Easier today and not just because the surfaces are so similar but so are the players. Remember when you actually had to battle in Paris through several rounds of clay court specialists (guys that spent 90% of their time on clay) and then you had your small click of grass court guys that could knock anyone out on any given day but only on grass because of their serve and volley. Far too predictable now but I'm not trying to take anything away from today's top 4 who I believe could have been great players at any time in history.
     
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  7. pennc94

    pennc94 Semi-Pro

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    In addition, the introduction of 32 seeds ensures top players do not necessarily encounter a tough draw early on.
     
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  8. forzamilan90

    forzamilan90 Legend

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    I hear the grass back in the day was "different" across 3 of the slams, but really more different than AO hard court to W grass surface of today?
     
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  9. forzamilan90

    forzamilan90 Legend

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    But it gives more matches and there is always the chance of an upset...i donnt see this as a negative. If you are a pro, it's evident you can play the game quite well.
     
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  10. Phoenix1983

    Phoenix1983 Hall of Fame

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    Homogenisation (of surfaces and playing style) means that it is 'easier' than it has been in the past. Mind you, it is still incredibly tough.

    Probably the toughest time to do it was from the late 70s to the early 00s. Very different surfaces everywhere, and a lot of greats playing.

    Of course the AO did not really count as a major for some of that time, so the 'Grand Slam' could be considered winning the FO/W/USO/Masters. In this respect, I think Borg came very close in 1980, winning 3 of these 4 tournaments and losing narrowly in 5 sets to McEnroe in New York.
     
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  11. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    It's easier now than it was in the 90's but probably hard in than 1969. We have;

    - Super slow hardcourt
    - Clay
    - Grass
    - Fast hardcourt

    So there is variety. Grass plays slower in the second week but that can't be helped. It's still pretty fast especially in week one. It's possibly harder than ever now with Nadal at RG.
     
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  12. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    It was always difficult. Otherwise more men would have won it actually. On his way to the GS in 1969, Laver had to deal with at least 11 or 12 players, would would rank in every top 50 among men alltime, and who actually were named in the (infamous) Tennis Channel list. But strength of the field is a matter of opinion.
    What we can certainly say, is that before the homogenization of surfaces, the rapid change between slow clay at RG (in the 80s the French did speed up RG in order to help Noah and Leconte) and fast grass at Wim, was tough and crucial. Not only for the adaptation to the surfaces, but also for the modification of playing styles. Djokovic can now virtually play a similar (hard court) game against Nadal at RG and Wim. There are still some differences especially regarding the return of serve and the positioning nearer the baseline. But Djoker can always play a baseline game. Lendl for instance couldn't, when he had to face Wilander at RG and Becker or Edberg at Wim. On the you tube clips one can still see, that is was a complete different ball game. Long, endless rallies with high topspin at RG, serve and volley even on second serves at Wim. Some say, Lendl should have stayed more back at second serve. Could be. But in that case, the netplayers like Becker, Cash or Edberg would crowd him at the net, playing chip and charge, and would put him under immense pressure. The difference in styles among the top players generated the need to be more versatile for every contender, who wanted to have a chance for the GS.
     
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  13. pennc94

    pennc94 Semi-Pro

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    I don't think you understand. Having 32 seeds guarantees seeds 1 thru 4 do not encounter #17 thru #32 until the 3rd round of a major. Having just 16 seeds means potentially playing #17 thru #32 in an earlier round (depending on the random draw).
    Not easy to win a major, but 32 seed draw is more advantageous to top players.
     
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  14. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    I agree but to me it's not surprising that there are more and more "career grand slams" being obtained where once this was almost unheard of, for all the reasons previously mentioned.
     
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  15. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

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    Based on evidence: it is harder now than the 60/70s, as none of the great players, who have accumulated other ridiculous records, have managed it since Laver.

    The draw is deeper now days as there is a greater tennis playing population, with better training techniques available (sport science wasn't as big in the 60s).

    Take for example: Dolgopolov finally gets his head together and makes some big wins. He is now attempting the Grand Slam.

    First he has to get through a group of big hitting underachievers like Berdych and Del Potro who can pull off a big upset, before playing the likes of Nole and Murray, who can get anything back then blast you off the court, at the Australian open.

    Then you need to beat Nadal at the French open, after having fought your way through the Spanish clay courters who can grind you down with their big bouncing forehands.

    Then he has to get through the serving giants like Isner to be allowed to fight the insanely accurate Federer, Nadal and Djokovics of the world, who can easily hit winners from anywhere on the court.

    Finally, exhaustedly, he has the US Open, where the hard court experts like Federer, Djokovic and Murray will do more of the above.

    This is assuming that a player like Haas or Wawrinka doesn't pull off a lucky early upset in any of the tournaments.


    If we lose one or two of the big 4 it might become possible for a talented player who can play on every surface.
     
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  16. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    What evidence?
     
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  17. 90's Clay

    90's Clay Legend

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    Easy as all hell if you are a top pusher, top grinder ,top notch baseliner under these slow homogenized conditions etc.


    It would be like letting Sampras and Becker play on fast grass and indoor carpet year round
     
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  18. Goosehead

    Goosehead Hall of Fame

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    you think the u s open is 'fast hardcourt' hmmm..:confused::shock::???::confused:
     
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  19. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Interesting characterization. How would you rate the speeds of Wimbledon grass versus USO hard-court?

    How would you rate the speeds of the "Super slow hard-court" versus RG clay?
     
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  20. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    This is helpful information Hoodjem. Here are ITF speed/court pace ratings for the majors. This information seems current (Dec. 2012). Thanks.

    See: http://www.perfect-tennis.co.uk/tennis-court-surfaces-and-court-speeds/
     
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  21. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    The Australian Open clearly isn't a medium fast court. Murray and Nadal have both stated that the USO is slower than Wimbledon too.
     
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  22. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    How about tennis balls though, that's another factor. When players comment on the speed of the courts, they also consider the tennis balls. Perhaps that could be a difference. We should look at the official ITF speed ratings and also the tennis balls used. I just ran across that article I posted above as to the ITF ratings, but I haven't searched on their site yet. I think that when players talk about how fast courts are playing, the difference in ball speeds also makes a difference. When the French Open started using lighter balls, that sped up conditions a bit, but the court speed hasn't changed there. Another dynamic is that Wimbledon slows after the first week, so when are you measuring court speed?
     
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  23. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    The US Open does use quicker balls I think;

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/464068-need-for-speed-comparing-the-court-speeds-at-wimbledon-and-the-us-open

    It's Bleacher Report so a grain of salt is needed. But I think the number of aces is pretty convincing. Plus you have Murray and Nadal's testomony's. If you watch the Australian Open I think you can really see how slow it is. Hard to finish points.
     
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  24. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    To me, a career grand slam give you an idea whether a player is capable of pulling it off in a single year. Laver was the only one to pull it off in the first decade of Open tennis. No one completed a career grand slam in the second decade, nor the 3rd decade. But now since 99 you have 3, Agassi, Fed, and Nadal and if Nole can grab a French, you would have a 4th. Statistically speaking, something is going on because you have only one in 30 years and then 3 in 11 years with very much the possibility of a 4th. Either a greater balance of power in the first 30 years or something else has gone on in the last decade.
     
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  25. mattennis

    mattennis Hall of Fame

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    I think it is obvious, as has been debated to death here.

    Homogenization of conditions AND playing styles (along with 32 seeds) is the answer.

    Today, for Djokovic to win the four GS he would have to defeat the same players, playing the same style, in the four GS.

    For Lendl (just an example) it was a totally different enterprise. He had to face Edberg or Cash in the grass of the Australian Open, two players that would serve-and-volley perfectly on both serves and would chip-and-charge to perfection on Lendl's serves if Lendl stayed back. Then he would face Wilander in Roland Garros, and would have to engage in endless rallies on a very slow clay, being so patiente waiting for an opening to unload a great forehand winner. Then in Wimbledon he would face again someone like Cash or Edberg or Becker and would have to play a TOTALLY different game altogether again. And finally in the US OPEN he could face any of the previous players because there any style was potentially successful.

    Today, for Djokovic, the main difference is just the footing/movement on grass, clay and hard that are all them different (and that difference is even more important than the slight difference in bounce that there exists today) But he will have to defeat the same top players playing all them the same style in the four GS.

    It is totally different (and of course easier).
     
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  26. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    Nadal, Federer and Agassi are all-time greats. Djokovic has the game to succeed everywhere as well and his 2011 season was phenominal. I think we're just seeing some great players emerge one after the other. The difference between the French and Wimbledon isn't the same anymore but it's still fairly different. Not as different as the 90's etc...though
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
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  27. mattennis

    mattennis Hall of Fame

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    For me, Agassi's career slam is just different than Federer's and Nadal's.

    Agassi did it when there were still totally different competitive styles and huge difference in surfaces/conditions.

    The way he won Wimbledon in 1992, defeating Becker, McEnroe and Ivanisevic on that fast and skidding grass, against those great grass court players....is totally different than Federer and Nadal winning Wimbledon against each other (and against other rivals) playing all them baseline topspin rallies (not that different than what they do in any other court).
     
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  28. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    Federer won his first Wimbledon playing serve and volley. Did Agassi serve and volley to win wimbledon in 1992? Or did he play more of his natural game.
     
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  29. mattennis

    mattennis Hall of Fame

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    Federer only won Wimbledon in the slow-and-higher-bouncing grass era (just like Nadal).

    It would be a totally different game playing against a Goran Ivanisevic, or a Boris Becker (or even the same Philippoussis) in the 90s Wimbledon conditions than in 2003 or later.

    Of course the blame is not on Nadal or Federer. They don't decide what type of grass/soil/balls the tournaments use. They just take advantage of it.
     
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  30. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    Federer beat Pete Sampras playing serve and volley. He would have won Wimbledon either way, there's no doubt about that. It's not like Wimbledon is a slow court these days either, 2003 was playing very fast still.
     
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  31. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Couldn't agree more, that was one of the most impressive return games that Wimbly grass had ever seen, with due respect to earlier Borg. Goran hitting rockets and AA sending them back almost as fast and right at his feet, unbelievable timing.
     
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  32. mattennis

    mattennis Hall of Fame

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    I think Federer would have won Wimbledon in the 90s (or in 90s-like conditions), but I think Nadal wouldn't have won it.

    Anyway, neither had the opportunity to prove me right or wrong. And that is precisely what I am saying, that they played in a totally different era/conditions/styles than Agassi.

    Agassi did win the four GS in totally different conditions against totally different competitive and specialized styles.

    Federer (I think) could have done it, Nadal (I think) could not do it, but both cases are just speculation because they didn't have the opportunity to do what Agassi did (homogeneous conditions/surfaces, poly strings, unique competitive baseline style, all this started before Federer and Nadal started to win GS tournaments).
     
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  33. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    It seems like we have a slight majority toward concluding that is actually easier today.
     
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  34. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    I don't think anyone has concluded it's easier than in 1969, just easier since the 90's.
     
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  35. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Okay. I can accept that.

    Is there anyway we can get some info on any differences in the grasses of the late 1960s?
     
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  36. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    The information is likely to be out there. Although I imagine it was all still serve and volley. Unlikely to be a big difference.
     
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  37. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    I don't think, that the invention of hard courts at the majors in 1978 had much impact on the difficulty of a possible Grand Slam. If there was a surface problem, it was always the clay-grass contrast, and this contrast has existed since the 30s. I cannot name one single top player, who was prevented from winning a Grand Slam or a career foursome by the hard court surface. Even Borg wasn't prevented by the hard court surface at USO, but much, much more by bad luck or a jinx or the genius loci, call it as you will. He lost on all 3 surfaces there, grass, har tru and hard.
    Connors, Mac, Becker, Edberg, Sampras all won 3 majors on grass and hard, Connors even on har tru, but couldn't solve the clay at RG. Wilander won on clay, hard and even of the higher bouncing Australian grass, but couldn't solve the more skidding Wimn grass. Lendl couldn't break through the psychological barrier at Wim, although he dominated Queens for 2 years.
    Imo besides the surface, others factors have to be considered, like the general liking or disliking of a place, the atmosphere, the psycholgical barrier, if a top player has to wait a long time for a win at a certain major. I remember that Federer always disliked the wide room behind the baseline at Court Central at RG, that Edberg in the late 80s was afraid for the noise and the plane overflews at Flushing, that Borg couldn't cope with night matches at USO and so on. Of course, playing styles are important, but other factors play a role too.
     
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  38. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    How true
    In 70-80 the true slam was
    Fo on slow clay
    Masters or WCT on fast carpet
    USO on medium hard
    W on very fast grass
    That is extremely difficult!!!!
     
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  39. Feather

    Feather Hall of Fame

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    They could have maintained the fast grass at Wimbledon and the fast hard courts of 90s at US Open. that way we would have had four different conditions.
     
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  40. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Not just Wimbledon and Forest Hills were so different
    Australia had 4 different venues until they settled it down in Kooyong from 1970
    Laver won the 69 title at Brisbane
     
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  41. Feather

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    If Agassi could win one Wimbledon on fast grass, there is a possibility that Nadal may also manage to win one Wimbledon title at fast grass had Nadal played on fast grass.

    However, Nadal always struggles in SW19 in the first week, when the grass is relatively fast. He played five setters in the first week six out of the eight times he played there in Wimbledon. Many a time he was so close to elimination.

    Federer could have won for sure. He beat Pete playing serve and volley in 2000. That was quite something considering the fact that he has never won a match prior to 2000 in Wimbledon.
     
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  42. Feather

    Feather Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the link, but I really don't understand how grass can be slower than hard courts. Shouldn't it be faster?
     
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  43. Feather

    Feather Hall of Fame

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    Very true!

    I used to feel that only Cincinnati is faster. AO is very slow. I wonder how it can be faster than Wimbledon, really confusing article
     
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  44. Phoenix1983

    Phoenix1983 Hall of Fame

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    Yes, and Borg came incredibly close to winning all four in 1980 (one set away, losing the US Open final to McEnroe).
     
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  45. fluffyyelloballz

    fluffyyelloballz Rookie

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    This.
    Homogenization means now we have 2 active ATP players with career slams and one who was a match away. A career slam is on the way surely for the next 'great'?
    90s was when the surfaces were authentic. Who was making career slams of Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Edberg, Becker, Sampras? Only one, Agassi, arguably the most talented of the lot of them. And it took him one hell of an effort to achieve it.
     
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  46. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    True.This would have been uncredible and well deserved.
     
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  47. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Not 2000, it was 2001.

    It was the fourth round, so obviously Fed had won three matches prior (beating Rochus, Malisse, and Bjorkman) at Wimbledon that year.

    In 2000, he lost in the first round to Kafelnikov. In 1999 he lost in the first round to Jiri Novak. In 1998 he won the Boys Singles Chamionships.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
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  48. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    Here's another article on the subject:

    http://www.fawcette.net/2012/02/hard-courts-fast-clay-slow-not-so-much-.html

    In the article, the author ranks the majors this way, from slowest to fastest:

     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
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  49. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Borg did not enter the 1980 AO.
     
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  50. Nathaniel_Near

    Nathaniel_Near G.O.A.T.

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    Relax folks, ...
    Not sure, but it's probably no harder than winning RG 7 times, winning Wimbledon 7 times, winning the channel Slam 3 times in a row... and probably some other tennis achievements.
     
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