Misconceptions about the Borg/McEnroe/Connors rivalry

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by sandy mayer, Feb 29, 2012.

  1. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    People often talk about the years 1979-1981 as if Connors had stopped being a rival to McEnroe and Borg, and that the only real rivalry was between McEnroe and Borg.

    I don't think this is true. In my view in 1979-1981 Connors was as tough for McEnroe as Borg was to McEnroe. Over this period the head to head was McEnroe led Borg 7-6 and McEnroe led Connors 6-5. This is effectively the same.

    McEnroe was certainly much tougher for Borg than Connors over this time period, as Borg beat Connors 10 times in a row between 1979-1981, and Borg never lost in this time.

    Clearly there was a match up issue in this time period.

    Having said this, I also don't agree with the common perception that Connors was no threat to Borg after 1978. That would be true for 1979 but not 1980-1981 where Connors often pushed Borg very close. I doubt very much Borg knew throughout those close matches he was going to win. When Federer was dominant many of his highly ranked opponents like Roddick and Hewitt became whipping boys where throughout the match you knew Federer was going to win, and so did they.

    The other thing that get's swept under the carpet is that Connors beat Borg so many times in their exhibitions between 1982 and 1983. People tend to say they were exhibitions and totally meaningless, but I think they were trying. I think Connors improved and Borg obviously lost something and I honestly think Connors had overtaken him.

    Personally I think Connors Borg and Connors McEnroe were great rivalries as Borg McEnroe was, and people tend to forget the Connors rivalries with the other two because of the famous tiebreak in 1980 Wimbledon.
     
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  2. timnz

    timnz Hall of Fame

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    Yep Connors still a factor

    Connors WCT Finals win in 1980 over McEnroe. Then it was still regarded as one of the very big tournaments. Connors was still in the mix.
     
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  3. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    Several of the matches between Borg & Connors from '79 to '81 were close/competitive. But, Borg seemed to "have his number" as they say. Still, I doubt Borg felt he won the match before he stepped on the court; Connors was not going to give it away.

    If I am not mistaken, Connors had a winning record over Mac in 1981; so, yes, he was very much a competitor to Mac. there was a stretch in the mid 80's where where Jimmy was simply getting clobbered by John. But at that time, Mac was close to his peak game. Oddly, Jimmy won a few off him in the late 80's after Mac was no longer the top dog (but still highly ranked). This is similar to the Borg exos in the sense that these guys had to bring their best game; Connors was not the walk over type of opponent, be it an ATP tourney or a cash-rich exo.
     
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  4. borg number one

    borg number one Legend

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    Three great players who played during a Golden Era for tennis. Talk about some competition at the top! Three majors played each year, and winning any of them was a tall order with these three around. Three giants.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
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  5. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Borg-mc Enroe was superb for the style contrast, Borg vs Connors ,because of the density of their rallies, and Connors vs Mc Enroe for the outburst between those fierce competitors.But also, because it brought back the S&V vs Return&passing dinamics of the past.
     
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  6. Nadal_Power

    Nadal_Power Semi-Pro

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    In this story we only need more Borg vs Lendl matches in this golden age of tennis
     
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  7. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    this is very true; a very different dynamic in Mac vs. Jimmy or Bjorn versus when Jimmy and Bjorn squared off. Although I would say that in the 80's, Jimmy got a bit more aggressive vs. Mac in terms of getting to net himself when Mac lacked depth off the ground. All very enjoyable to watch; clearly "appointment tennis" when you knew a match between them was going to be on the TV.
     
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  8. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I pittied about that.Damn Borg didn´t retire 2 years later, or Lendl wasn´t born a couple of years before...still, their 1981 FO final and their Gran prix geneva final showed the promise of what could have been...very very good on clay and hard courts.
     
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  9. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    All rivalries between the top 5-6 players were great.Lendl vs Clerc was pretty good on clay, Lendl vs Gerulatis was really good, Tanner vs Borg or Tanner vs Connors, was also terrific.You could see how much Connors or Tanner care about losing to the other (Wimbledon 80, Masters 79 and 81...)
     
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  10. Xavier G

    Xavier G Semi-Pro

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    Connors didn't get past McEnroe in the slams in the years mentioned, but was still a big threat. He beat Mac a couple of times in big matches in1980 and Wembley 81 was something else! In some ways, Jimmy was tougher for Mac to beat than Borg was. In 80 and 81, Jimmy pushed Borg closer than he had in 1979, and could easily have pulled off a win at the Masters, they were close. And Connors was 2 sets up in the Wimby semi in 81, but couldn't close it out. Jimmy had to pull the same trick himself against Vijay Amritraj in the quarters , maybe that took its toll in the later stages of the semi. Connors just never did get that win against the cool Swede at Wimbledon.
     
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  11. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    I think if Jimmy had a better serve, he might've pulled out some of those really close matches against Borg and Mac. 1980 USO was another doozy.
     
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  12. Xavier G

    Xavier G Semi-Pro

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    I agree. Jimmy's serve wasn't really a weapon, though often accurate and well-placed. Mac's serve meant a lot in helping him beat Borg of course.
     
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  13. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I agree completely.The only reason for people thinking that is that Connors wsn´t reaching the major finals ( except 1980 WCt were Borg didn´t compete) and it was just Borg vs Mc Enroe for the big titles.The only other players able to make a major final in those 3 years, were Vitas,Lendl and Tanner.and Pecci, who defeated Connors in the 1979 Fo sf.
     
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  14. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I quoted that in another post.Versus Mac, Jimmy could reverse it some days with his returns, the best in the game so far.But he needed a bigger serve to switch things around, specially against Borg.
     
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  15. britbox

    britbox Rookie

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    Lendl looks the spitting image of Sue Barker in that pic.
     
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  16. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    Agreed. Connors managed to get that better serve by 1982.
     
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  17. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I wouldn´t say it wa s a better serve.To me, it was the old serve with a better tosh and a higher degree of spin, which resulted in a better % of first serves in, but not in aces or direct points won.Connors serve was not even top 30.Just as Borg´s net game wasn´t top 30 and Mc Enroe´s passing shots weren´t top 30.
     
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  18. WCT

    WCT Rookie

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    It was better, I agree, but still not a REAL weapon. Not sure the difference was in %. Seemed to me that he usually got a high % in, he needed more penetration from the serve.

    The stats I did for the 1980 US Open semi had Connors with 20 free points on serve and Mcenroe 59. Routinely, Borg would have him beat by 15-20 points on free points. These guys were hard enough to beat without that advantage.
     
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  19. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Borg improved his relatively weak first serve by 1976, which resulted in 5 Wimbledon titles.The exciting Connors never changed his game, except a bit in 1982.That made the difference between both.
     
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  20. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    He had 13 double faults, no aces in the '82 Wimbledon final. That's the worst ratio I've ever seen from him(maybe the worst anyone's had in a major final that they won) He choked away the 3rd set to go down 2-1 in sets (2 straight doubles when serving at 5-4, 30-30) And he served at 64%, on the low side for him compared to some of his 70s matches(was at 83% in the '76 USO final, 75% in '75 W Final)

    I haven't noticed any big difference in the Connors' serve over the years. I think fans/media get too caught up in trying to come up with a reason why a player does better in one year compared to another...sometimes there is no big adjustment in their game, you win some, you lose some. Its not like Connors wasn't close to winning majors from '79 to '81 or something.

    do you have any other stats on that match? Mac had a 55-33 edge in free points in '82. don't know how he lost that match, the stats don't really show a big edge for Connors in any category.

    The 'biggest' Connors serve ever seemed to me was vs Rosewall in '74.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
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  21. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

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    I didn’t see much of Connors prior to the 80s, so I can’t say if his serve improved that year, but I've always thought it was by far the weakest part of his game. Out of the best 6 or 7 players in the open era, of which he is a part (Connors, Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Sampras, Federer, Nadal), his serve seems to me the least significant part of story. The closest one for comparison would be Nadal’s, but even that is not really all that close. If Connors had a serve like Lendl or even McEnroe, I think he may well have become the best player in the open era. But Providence distributes things its way. He was gifted with the best return, so it seems reasonable the gods took something off his serve in compensation.
     
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  22. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Good comment.Does anybody remember the 1977 Wimbledon final, when he was coming back in such a memorable way..just to hit a double fault at 40 ALL in the ninth game of the fifth set?

    I am sure he would have won the title without that double fault.Borg himself said so.
     
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  23. WCT

    WCT Rookie

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    I remember all those DFs in the final, but did have the impression that the serve was a bit better in 82. Not areal weapon, though, as compared to other bi serves.

    I had 56-33, pretty damn close. Here is what I have from that 80 match. I had a foreign language version that is missing a few games. But i got most of them in the ESPN Classic version. Might still be missing a few points. Here is what I have. For some reason, I did more detailed stats here at least as relates to Mac. The free points are off a couple points. I posted by memory before.

    Free points Mac 60 and Connors 21. Mac 97 of 165 first serves in. He won 60 of 97 on the first, and 34 of 68 on the second. I have Connors 32 of 49 at the net and Mac 45 of 112. But the 112 doesn't include 45 s/v free points.
    So I guess you could say he was 90 of 157. There were 10 points where Connors was headed to the net and either hit a clean winner on the approach or missed the approach. There were 11 for Mac. Mac had 4 double faults.
    Connors served and volleyed 16 times, 4 in the 5th set tiebreaker. It was 7-3 and Mcenroe had 2 or 3 free points in it.



    Agreed. It's relative in that it's still not huge, but he seems to be serving harder. Do you have that set from the 75 challenge match against Newcombe? Same thing there. For Connors, he is serving hard. Winning his service games easily. The free points in that set are 11-7 Connors.


    I remember the 77 Wimbledon. Hard for me to definitively say that Connors would win. He double faulted at 15-0. We don't even know he'll win the second point, just that he wouldn't have lost it outright.

    I'll say this. That match is the most exhausted I ever saw Borg. Read his post match quotes, he admitted to it. Having read them, watching the match again, you can really see it at several points. A couple balls he didn't chase and some of the body language, if you look really closely. He was dying out there. Not sure why. It was hot that day, but he was coming off a day's rest. In any case, the most tired I ever saw him. And I imagine a lingering fifth set, without a tiebreaker, might have been too much for him.
     
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  24. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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  25. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Borg was coming off a classical exhausting 5 setter against Gerulaitis, which certainly had affected even such a great athlete as him.
     
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  26. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    There seems to be some difference in the Connors serve in '82. He said himself he was making contact further into the court. In that five-set loss to Borg in '81, he was spinning his serves as softly as I've ever seen him do. In '82 he was going for big serves more often.

    But whether that was more effective is something else. He had 33 free points against McEnroe in that long '82 Wimbledon final, just as many as he had in their semifinal there in 1980, which was only four sets long.

    In the '82 match, he got a free point on 17.7% of his service points; in 1980 his rate had been 22.8%.

    We do know he made fewer total errors than McEnroe, 105 vs 117, if we subtract their clean winners and aces from their Total Points Won.

    On points where the serve was returned successfully, Connors made only 57 errors of all kinds, McEnroe 74.

    That one and the Challenge Match against Laver. Some very big serves in that one.
     
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  27. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I´d like to imagine top Laver ( 1967 or 1969) against top Jimbo (1974 or 1976).Connors won in 4 sets and then lost to Newcombe.Newcombe was beaten often by Laver, at his prime.So, I am not sure Connors would even win one single set had he met top Laver.
     
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  28. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Connors won the match against Newk, in four sets.
     
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  29. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Not in the one really counting, the 1975 AO ( I was refeering to that, sorry I wasn´t specific).

    And Newcombe ate up Connors at the 1973 USO qf, when jimmy was just a few months away from peaking...and just 2 months away from playing his second Masters ( he reached the semifinals and lost to Okker)
     
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  30. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    But I think those two Challenge Matches make the best comparison. Same surface, same place, same type of match.

    The AO was on grass, which had to be Newk's best surface. On grass he has to be one of the best ever. Connors was great on grass but may have been better on carpet. Anyway that's my impression when watching those two matches.

    Newk served brilliantly in the AO match, and did not serve well in Vegas. But Laver served poorly too in the Vegas match, for two sets. And they were both defeated in four sets; so I think the results were very comparable.
     
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  31. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Laver was slept for most of his match and Jimmy was eager.prior to it he said " Get me Laver" to his slave´s troop, captained by Riordan and his balck coach ( can´t get to his name now, Ian Crookenden?)

    For the few points Laver was on a high, look at Jimmy´s face...
     
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  32. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    Connors and Newcombe were different players with far different styles. Laver was great and I think he was greater than Connors but let's not underestimate Connors. I think Jimmy would win some matches against Laver.
     
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  33. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    ...of course...and nowhere truer than in Vegas, where,according to his words, he may have fathered AGASSI¡¡¡
     
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  34. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Why Borg and Connors never play a Las Vegas Challenge match? Jimmy played Laver,Newcombe,Orantes and Nastase.I think Nastase was the one beating him ( as he used to do, generally)
     
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  35. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    I was thinking the same; Newk was more effective on grass than carpet or hard courts. Even then, he was not a lock to beat Connors, regardless of surface. I was watching some of the AO '75 final on You Tube recently; definitely some sharp play from Newk. Here is an interesting link on the potential match up

    http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/simon-reed/goat-4-connors-v-13-newcombe-1941.html
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
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  36. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    It could be true, but remember that he won the 2 biggest indoor events: Phili and Dallas, both on supreme carpet.
     
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  37. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Connors never beat Newcombe at the majors, John owned him throughoutly¡¡¡
     
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  38. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    To say Newcombe owned Connors does not bear up with the facts. They only played 4 times, with 2 wins a piece and don't forget Connors won their big money challenge match which doesn't count in their ATP head to head but at the time probably meant more than their Australian Open final.
     
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  39. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Connors won in WTT which was no serious event.Newcombe won at FH and Melbourne.I liked both, but Connors is always the overrated guy and Newcombe is the underrated guy.Both asre in the same level, no way Connors has ever proven to be any bit better of Newcombe ( and I like Connors a lot as a tennis player and showman)
     
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  40. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    They are both greats, but I think Connors had the better career and quite comfortably. He won more slams, more titles, was number one longer (I'm not sure Newcombe ever finished had a year when he was clear number one), had dominant periods Newcombe never had, had more longetivity, more consistency and had more surface versatility. I would say it is debatable who had the best career on grass and Connors achieved much more on the other surfaces.
     
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  41. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Connors won 8 GS to Newc´s 7...that is not dominat, considering Newcombe beat Connors when it counted...but yes, John should have been at nº 1 for 5 or 6 years, given his enormous talent, but he stayed there for 2-3 years.Wasted talent.
     
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  42. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    perhaps not "dominant" head to head, but Connors had a better career overall than Newk.
     
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  43. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    On grass it is not debatabale at all, sorry.Newcombe wins by far.
     
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  44. jrepac

    jrepac Professional

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    I think that's really hard to say because 1) Newk played the majority of his matches on grass, while Connors did not. So naturally, Newk will have more grass titles 2) they only met head to head twice on grass. I suspect that if they played 10 matches it might go 6/4 in Newk's favor. Even against the best S&V players on grass, Connors was not a pushover. He did win a Wimbledon over Mac (and badly lost one as well).
     
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  45. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    All of Newcombe's 7 slams were on grass but only 3 were with full strength fields. The 1967 Wimbledon and US Open wins were in the amateur era, while the Australian Open wins in the 70s had many top players missing.

    Of Connors' 4 slam wins 3 of those were with full strength fields.

    Newcombe was never an undisputed number one. In 1970 there was a debate as to who was number 1 (Newcombe, Rosewall or Laver?), and in 1971 it was between Smith and Newcombe.

    Connors was the clear number one in 1974, 1976, and 1982. Connors had the greater career.

    Newcombe in my view was a little like Becker. Great player but underachieved a little.
     
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  46. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Connors wasn´t clear nº 1 in 76 either.Borg had a better record.

    I also feel Connors had a bit better career, but you have to consider that, on his day, Newcombe was always a more dominant player than Connors.His record in W/L finals is far better than Connors.In slam contests, of course, not i regular tournaments.
     
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  47. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    In 1976 most of the tennis world considered Connors no. 1 with Borg 2. They finished with the same number of slams but Connors won more titles and easily led the head to head. The final at Forest Hills clinched the number spot for Connors.
     
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  48. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Borg won the biggest event and lost another major final, Connors took only one major...Borg wins the 4 th major, the WCT Title.I know Connors had a dominant head to head record against Borg at that time, but, results wise, Borg was in another dimesnion that year...
     
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  49. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    In 1976 Connors won 13 titles to Borg's 6 titles. At 1 slam a piece and with a dominant head to head record in Connors' favour, Connors was comfortably no.1 for 1976. The tennis world were saying it at the time and they were right.
     
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  50. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Then we will agree on disagree.Borg was number 1 in 76 just as Vilas was in 77.Once again, Connors was a bit better than Borg in 76 and Borg was solidly better than Vilas in 77.Going into the 1979 Masters, if somebody picks the 1978 Masters as part of the 1979 year, mc Enroe won 3 big titles to Borg´s 2 and their head to head was 2-2 in 79, 3-2 considering John´s win at 1978 Stockholm...would it be credible to affirm 1979 Mac was nº 1 instead of Borg? well, actually this statement would be much better supported than having Connors at nº 1 in 76.

    Connors was nº1 in 74 and 82.
     
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