Pancho Gonzales-better than Laver?

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by Moose Malloy, Aug 14, 2006.

  1. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    Great article, should be required reading for those that think that all GOAT debates begin & end with Sampras or Federer.

    "Remembering Big Pancho"
    By Joseph B. Stahl
    Tennis Week Curator & Editor At Large Joseph B. Stahl has served as an analyst for Radio Wimbledon since 1995.

    The announcement, in connection with a series of events celebrating Latino Tennis, of the showing of a documentary film on the life and tennis-playing career of the great Richard Alonzo "Pancho" Gonzales (I don’t use the final-z spelling to which Pancho legally changed his name late in life at the silly insistence of one of his petulant wives) on August 16 in the Bronx during the 2006 GHI Bronx Tennis Classic in New York, again at the 2006 U.S. Open on September 3, and again on PBS television on the evening of November 23 (Thanksgiving), prompts in me the following thoughts about this titanic competitor whom I saw playing in the 1950s.

    The 6-foot-3 1/2 Pancho Gonzales burst upon the tennis scene like a fireball every time he set foot on a tennis court. There was something smoldering about his behavior and his power that was overwhelming to both opponents and spectators. I feel sorry for the relatively recent newcomers to tennis who seriously believe that Rod Laver is the greatest tennis player who ever lived. They not only never saw Gonzales at his best in the middle to late 1950s, they are also ignorant of records that conclusively demonstrate that Gonzales, way past his prime in his early forties, was still a better player than Laver even though Laver was ten years his junior. Gonzales was not only beating their hero then, he was doing it in five-set matches when serious money (for that era, the early ’70s) and pride and prestige were all on the line. They are also blinded by a meaningless record, the fact that Laver won the Grand Slam — all four majors in a calendar year — twice (in 1962 as an amateur and in 1969 as a pro after open tennis began), and Gonzales never did. Reference to that record is meaningless because Gonzales was banned from trying for it from the age of twenty-one on, once he turned professional at that age in 1949 before open tennis began in 1968, by which time Gonzales was thirty-nine, a circumstance that effectively exiled him from the conventional record-books for life.

    Keep in mind that I will always be in awe of the things that Rod Laver could do with racket and ball. Laver’s running shotmaking was simply fantastic and amazing, and Gonzales’s was not. Laver did things that you had to see to believe, and even then you were left with doubts, for he literally invented new ways of pulverizing tennis balls — which he did with shocking brutality, using a forearm that looked as big as a treetrunk —, and he was the first left-hander with a one handed backhand who could hit it with not only slice but also flat or with overspin. But Gonzales didn’t need to be fantastic and amazing to beat Laver, and Laver needed to be fantastic and amazing just to stay on a tennis court with Gonzales. The reason is that Gonzales’s game was just bigger, much bigger, period. When Gonzales toured head-to-head in 1955-56 against Tony Trabert, a big brute of a strongman in his own right, Trabert had to reach for the sky just to get a racket on Gonzales’s serve, that’s how high that powerhouse weapon bounced, and if Trabert was able to return it at all, Gonzales was already at the net needing no more than two shots at most to win the point. Trabert, mind you, is one of only eight men in history (besides Grand Slammers Don Budge and Laver) to have won three of the four majors in a calendar year (the others are Jack Crawford, Fred Perry, Lew Hoad, Ashley Cooper, Roy Emerson, Jimmy Connors and Mats Wilander), yet Gonzales ruthlessly humbled Trabert on their tour, 74 matches to 24, Trabert managing to do well against Gonzales only on the clay segment of that series, where Gonzales’s serve was somewhat neutralized.

    Laver did do supernatural things, but he was a little guy, about 5'-7", and he didn’t have a big serve. He and Ken Rosewall, a demolition expert able to blow up much bigger games than his own — he had the technical expertise of a safecracker or a lock picker, no big shots but he could put every ball on a dime —, who astoundingly remained in the world’s top ten for twenty-five years (prompting Bud Collins to call him "the Dorian Gray of tennis," a reference to the fictional character in an Oscar Wilde novel whose portrait conveniently grew old for him while he stayed young), were competitive with each other throughout their careers, Rosewall beating Laver twice when the chips were down in the 1971 and ’72 World Championship Tennis finals, the latter of which is a famous all-time match. But Rosewall on his pro debut had been massacred on tour by Gonzales so badly, 50 matches to 26, that Kramer had offered Gonzales higher pay to go easy on him. Of course Rosewall got much better after that, even Gonzales characterizing him as some kind of freak because little Kenny was the only player he ever saw who kept improving even after he was thirty(!), for remember, Rosewall reached both the Wimbledon and U.S. finals in 1974 when he was only a few months shy of his 40th birthday!

    The only man who could stay with Gonzales once the latter hit his full stride (Jack Kramer had slaughtered Gonzales on their 1949-50 tour, 96 matches to 27, but that was when Gonzales was a rookie) was Hoad. Hoad was leading Gonzales 18 matches to 9 when Hoad’s chronically bad back went out on him, and thereafter Hoad was not competitive on their tour in 1958-59, Gonzales winning it 51 matches to 36, although Hoad did have a 15-14 winning record over Gonzales as part of a round robin tour in the following year. Yet, three years later, when Laver turned pro, Hoad mercilessly beat up on Laver so badly, fourteen straight matches to none, that Laver, who had just won the first of his two Grand Slams less than a year earlier, told a reporter who asked him how he felt after that drubbing, "It’s nice to find out where you really stand in the world." Hoad, however, a modest man, later told me in his correct Australian mispronunciation that " ‘George’ [Laver’s middle name] becyme a helluva plyer awfter thet," implying that the sides had not been fair at the time and that the later Laver might have beaten him. But to this day Laver will tell you that Lew Hoad was "my idol both on and off the court." Hoad, on the other hand, when asked by me whom he thought to be the greatest ever, immediately responded, "That Mexican *****" — referring to his good pal Gonzales (they had a genuinely affectionate relationship, prompting Kramer to observe that they should put on the gravestone of the universally and immensely likable Hoad that "even [the perennially morose] Pancho Gonzales liked him").

    I have my doubts as to whether Laver even at his best could have lived with heavyweight hitters like Ellsworth Vines, Budge, Kramer and Hoad, who all had huge, overpowering attacking games like Gonzales’s, and doubts as well as to where Gonzales himself stacks up against those tigers. I do give Pancho an edge over them all, as I did in a 1993 article, but only a slim one, and with misgivings. Vines and Hoad were very much up-and-down erratic geniuses who had bad days in which they could and did lose to anybody, but it was generally agreed among their peers that when they were on, "you might as well just go have tea or go home" (Budge), and Gonzales said of Hoad, "When Lew Hoad was at his peak nobody could touch him."

    People ask me where I think Roger Federer would fit in with that mix of bombers. Forget about it: as hard as it had always been to compare players of different time periods within the wood-racket era, the fact that tennis with modern rackets is a completely different sport makes it impossible to compare players across the technology gap. All I can tell you is that if you gave Federer a wooden racket and told him to go out and beat Gonzales at his best, my money would be on Gonzales, though conversely if you gave the mid-1950s Gonzales a high-tech racket and told him to beat Federer today, my money would have to stay in my pocket for that one. Gonzales was a fulminating maniac on a tennis court, and it’s hard to see him losing to anyone when he was at the top of his powers, but if Gonzales had to face a shark like Federer while using a strange racket, you’d have to be mad as a hatter to count Federer’s chances out completely.
     
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  2. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    People also attempt to make a big deal over some advantage in strength, stamina and conditioning that modern players are supposed to have over those of the distant past who didn’t — or supposedly didn’t — go to the gym. I don’t buy that at all. Though there’s a lot more strength in depth in tennis today, the top players of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s were as much beasts and animals as, or more so than, anyone on tour today. They were iron men who played matches with no 90-second sit-downs for TV ads on changeovers and no tie-breaks, resulting in sets that went to scores like 22-20 and matches that lasted as long as five hours and more but with no breaks for ads, injury time-outs or going for wee-wee breaks, and who played against each other, when they were the top two or three players in the world, every night for months on end — after driving miles during the day to get from city to city just to play on their tour —, so I tend to regard today’s players, gym-rat muscles and all, as pampered babies by comparison, although they surely are no sissies in absolute terms.
    Consider that when Gonzales was at an age when players are considered not only over the hill but just gone, period, he was still beating the world’s best. When he was thirty-seven he won the 1965 CBS Championship on red clay by beating Frank Sedgman, Laver and Rosewall. The following year, at thirty-eight in 1966, after beating Rosewall and taking a 15-minute break, he beat Laver in a pro tournament final in three sets. Again in 1969, when he was forty-one, Pancho won the Howard Hughes Classic in Las Vegas by beating, one after another in succession, the murderers’ row of John Newcombe, Rosewall, Stan Smith and Ashe. Early the next year, 1970, he faced Laver in New York’s Madison Square Garden in one of a series of winner-take-all challenge matches. Laver, only months from having just won his second Grand Slam, was the undisputed number one player in the world. So what: the old lion, Gonzales, sent him to the showers, not in a quick and easy blowout but in a five-set struggle that favored the much younger, thirty-one-year-old Laver, 7-5, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. When Pancho, still older, won the Hughes Classic for the second time, he beat Tony Roche in the semis and Laver in the final, prompting Newcombe to say that it was one of the greatest matches he’d ever seen.

    That is the stuff Gonzales was made of. But the last straw came when Pancho was forty-three. Think of a 43-year-old man winning an ATP tour event today, or just getting to the final of one. Impossible. But in February of 1972, Gonzales, three months from his forty-fourth birthday, reached the final of the Des Moines International Indoors, facing Georges Goven of France, who was almost twenty years younger. It was best of five sets, and Goven won the first two routinely. I was watching it on television in New Orleans, and at that point I told my girlfriend, "Let’s take a ride," and we drove to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for the rest of that Sunday afternoon. I knew that Gonzales didn’t have a chance of staging a comeback, but when we returned that night I heard on the news that Gonzales had defied all my science by miraculously turning it around and winning, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. That, I guarantee you, is a feat that will never be duplicated.

    Imagine, then, if you can, what a devastating engine of terror Gonzales was when he was at the height of his powers in his mid- to late-twenties. I feel extremely lucky to have seen Pancho at that period of his life in the mid-1950s. If you’ve ever driven past an oil refinery and seen some of those pipes and flues permanently spewing out hellish jets of fire into an appalled and insulted sky, you’ll know what I mean when I say that I can’t see one of those things without thinking of the tennis and the personality of Pancho Gonzales. He wasn’t a pleasant fellow a lot of the time and had a public disposition that was surly, churlish and unruly, and though that was not his inherent nature, there were reasons for this.

    Two things combined to set Pancho off and leave him an embittered individual: one was that he was constantly at odds with the spouse whom he married and divorced twice, Madelyn Darrow, a stunningly gorgeous woman but filled with a great deal of vain pretension, who tried (as vainly) to remake Pancho in accordance with her deluded ideas, but made only for an enormous amount of friction; and the other was that Pancho felt, not unreasonably, that he was being underpaid and exploited by tour promoter Jack Kramer during most of his career. Both which turned him into a howling hailstorm of an angry character.

    As for Madelyn’s effect on his disposition, think of 1969, the year that Gonzales won the record-setting 112-game match against Charlie Pasarell at Wimbledon, which was the same Wimbledon that Laver won on the way to his second Grand Slam. Gonzales, who was then forty-one, later lost at that Wimbledon to Arthur Ashe. Ashe? As much older than Ashe (who was twenty-five) as he was, Gonzales, who did Ashe the favor of practicing with and coaching him, had never lost to Ashe. Why then did he lose to Ashe at this Wimbledon? Pancho’s brother Ralph had told me, well before he died in 2004, that it was because Madelyn had kept Pancho awake all the night before the Ashe match with interminable bickering and arguing over going shopping during the day. So, Gonzales vs. Ashe on no sleep at all. Don’t think that Gonzales couldn’t have won that Wimbledon if Madelyn had not been there, was Ralph’s point (Ralph had begged him not to take her to England with him), a consideration that could aggravate an already bitter man even further.

    But, as indicated, Madelyn wasn’t the only factor that fueled Pancho’s wrath. As to the underpaid issue, it has been said that Gonzales and Trabert detested each other passionately. It didn’t have to be that way and surely would not have been were it not for the fact that Gonzales simply could not get over the fact that, as badly as he was beating Trabert on their 1955-56 tour, Trabert, as the amateur king who had just turned pro, was getting paid the lion’s share of the profits by Kramer, whereas Gonzales, the champ who was winning, was nevertheless getting chickenfeed, giving rise to Gonzales’s unappeasable hatred and resentment toward and personal abuse of Trabert that the latter did not hesitate to return to Gonzales in kind. And that wasn’t the only time that would happen. The same thing took place again when Rosewall turned pro and toured against Gonzales in 1956-57. Gonzales, as I said earlier, killed Kenny too, yet it was Kenny who was getting practically all the dough, just for having turned pro. So this jealousy, bitterness and resentment over money was like a thorn that resided permanently in Gonzales’s side, making him odds-on to be an unpleasant, unhappy camper a lot of the time. Someone once said of him, "He’s very even tempered — he’s always mad." And another reported — or guessed — that "The nicest thing Pancho Gonzales ever said to any of his [six] wives is ‘Shut up.’ "

    It’s a rule: Players who get mad blow up and lose. But standing alone among all tennis players who have ever lived, the madder Pancho Gonzales got the better he played. Anger and all, he blew like a firestorm through tennis and won. I’ll leave the last word on that to Rod Laver, who, speaking for himself and for his fellow pros who opposed Gonzales in the late ’60s and early ’70s, said, "We hoped that he wouldn’t get mad — because we knew that if he did we couldn’t beat him."

    http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=15794&bannerregion=
     
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  3. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

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    Great find. I love to watch clips of Gonzales play.
     
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  4. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Pancho is a bit of a dark horse in tennis history, not many people have seen him in his prime, because he played outside the big venues on the often forgotten pro tour. He was the best pro 1954-1960/61, until Ken Rosewall took over. Some say Rosewall was the better since 1959. Pancho had a very good, but not great amateur career, winning US twice, but losing on his European tour 1949 early at Paris and Wimbledon.On his first pro tour, he was roasted by the more experienced Kramer 27-96. In 1954 he took over, and beat in head to head series, Trabert, Rosewall and Hoad for the pro title. He was a specialist for fast courts and indoor matches, which were unknown to the former amateurs. Indoors he won the US pro at Cleveland 8 times )last 1961 over Sedgman) and the Wembley pro 4 times (last 1956 over Sedgman)On clay, he was regularly beaten by Trabert and Rosewall. His last big pro title was the US pro 1961, he remained a dangerous foe, especially on fast indoor courts. Was he better than Laver? Pancho in his prime 1956-1959 vs. Laver 1965-1969? Hard to say, i haven't seen Pancho in his prime, but Laver since 1968. Fans make a point, that old Pancho beat Laver 1970 in a winner takes all match at MSG in 5 sets in a round robin tournament 'Champions Classic', but forget to tell, that he was bested in the semifinal of the same tournament for real big money (35000 $) in 3 straight sets by Laver. On the pro tour they had their most intense head to head tour in 1965, when Laver won 8 out of 10 matches, most of them finals. On all accounts, Pancho was not a great strokemaker like Hoad or Laver, but a dangerous, fluent server with a big ego, a big brain, who used all the tricks in the book - a naturally strong and big fastcourter, a bit of an older Sampras without, but no nice guy.
     
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  5. fastdunn

    fastdunn Legend

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    Although I have read quite a few articles on Gonzales regarded as the
    greatest ever, it's still mind-boggling to think about what he did as a 40
    something. Also I can not imagine how many GS he would have won
    if he did not turn pro. Quite a few GS titles won by Rosewell and Laver
    would have been taken away by Gonzales.

    Thanks, Moose malloy, for a great find...

     
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  6. ACE of Hearts

    ACE of Hearts G.O.A.T.

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    Great stuff Moose, i would love too see some clips of his serving motion.:p Looks like the guy was a ball striker.
     
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  7. simi

    simi Hall of Fame

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    Thanks, Moose. Great find. Good reading.
     
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  8. cuddles26

    cuddles26 Banned

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    I dont think Sampras or Federer is the best ever. I really think Gonzalez, Laver, and Borg are the top 3. Then Sampras probably at #4. Federer is around 7 or 8 now but will keep moving up.
     
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  9. The tennis guy

    The tennis guy Hall of Fame

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    Players are made of the era they are playing. It is difficult to compare them across eras. The only thing left to compare is achievement.

    With all the rave about the best ever in Federer and Sampras, to me at least, Laver has surpassed both of them in achievement. 2 Grand Slams are difficult to ignore regardless of what other people are arguing.
     
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  10. chaognosis

    chaognosis Semi-Pro

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    Tilden is too often left out of the top echelon. He had a complete game, won on every surface, was the best player in the world for seven years, and his longevity is comparable to that of Gonzalez or Rosewall. I think he should rightfully be placed ahead of Gonzalez (who did not have Tilden's results on clay) and Borg (who didn't have Tilden's variety of shots nor his longevity), perhaps second only to Laver.
     
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  11. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    I saw a documentary about Pancho in his forties. It followed him around. He whipped Rosewall pretty handily when Rosewall was still a force. Pancho was a total a-hole though and I dunno if he was better than Laver.
     
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  12. 1hdbkhd

    1hdbkhd New User

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    Great article. Would be nice to know where it appeared. Was it in Tennis Week, and which month, year?

    I love these articles on these tennis greats of the past. The more I read about Gonzalez, the more I think he may have been the GOAT. However, it is easy to romanticize about him and his career because he was such a brooding, anti-establishment figure from "the other side of the tracks." It adds to his mystique. I wish I could have seen him play.

    I would love to get access to more quality video that compares and contrasts these greats of the past.

    I leave you with this. If Gonzalez's serve was as formidable as the reports of it suggests it was with the wood racquets, think what he could have made it into with a modern racquet.

    Killer.
     
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  13. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    I read that Julia Roberts' production company is developing a bio-pic on Pancho. He may or may not be the greatest ever, but he is probably the only tennis player who had a life that was interesting enough to make a movie of.

    Wonder who'll play him?
     
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  14. The tennis guy

    The tennis guy Hall of Fame

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    Someone who can't even play tennis like the movie Wimbledon.
     
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  15. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    I think the film has been made already. It was never shown outside the US, so i didn't see it. I think, the former lover of Julia Roberts, whose name i forgot, played Pancho's part. By the way, Pancho himself is credited as the best actor in that epic tennis picture of the 70s, called 'Players' , where Dino Martin lost the Wimbledon final to Guillermo Vilas. During the shooting at Centre Court, the leading lady, Ali McGraw was caught naked in the Wimbledon mens showers by none other than Dan Maskell. Pancho played the coach of young Dino. Got no oscar, but was the best actor in an awful picture.
     
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  16. chaognosis

    chaognosis Semi-Pro

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    I hate to sound like a troll, but again... Tilden! According to Frank Deford -- whose Big Bill Tilden could be the best tennis biography ever written -- there have been numerous attempts to make a movie about Tilden's life. Numerous writers, directors, and actors alike have found his story compelling; however, no production company has been willing to fund a motion picture whose protagonist is a pedophile.
     
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  17. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    Yeah, I was aware of Tilden's life, but even if he wasn't a pedophile I'm not sure it would be good for tennis or be that interesting to those that are fans of sports movies-since he was a homosexual, was upper class, had a really high voice, & wore long pants.

    Contrast that to Pancho-a minority, working class, not remotely effeminate(quite the ladies man actually, with all the models/actresses he was with) & had a raging temper in a country club sport.

    If Pancho played today, he would be capable of transcending tennis in a way that Federer & Co are inacapable of.
     
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  18. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    You are right, Chaognosis, about Tilden (and Defords biography). Great ambivalent life, would be great stuff for a picture. Tilden himself wrote lots of novels, Broadway plays, and played on stage and even in some Hollywood pictures. But on stage he was no Olivier. Was better on the court, where he coached many Hollywood greats like Chaplin, Pickfort, Flynn and Groucho Marx.
     
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  19. cuddles26

    cuddles26 Banned

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    You could be right on Tilden. I know he won 10 slams and 7 U.S Opens but I dont know much more then that about him. It would be fun to read an article on him in some tennis historian book or something.
     
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  20. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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  21. cuddles26

    cuddles26 Banned

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  22. atatu

    atatu Hall of Fame

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    I've always said Pancho was in the all time top 5. But I think the author here is guilty of the same sin that many people are, they always think the guys they grew up watching are the best ever, when in reality the game evolves and the players get better and better. Rarely do you have an athlete who is so superior that he can transcend time (Jordan and Wilt Chamberlin for example). I thought that the actor who was going to play Gonzalez was Benjamin Brat or something like that....
     
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  23. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

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    Yeah, atatu, you beat me to it, Benjamin Bratt. They broke up and I think Roberts scrapped the project. Anyway, it's not listed on Bratt's resume as a film. I would love to see it made.

    Regarding Players, I remember when it came out. Nastase twisted his ankle and that's how Dino beat him at the big W. Dino Martin was on the same team at UCLA that Jimmy Connors was on. He went on to moderate success as a professional tennis player, but with a dad like Dean he really didn't have incentive: in other words he wasn't starving. I still remember loving those damn Fila wood rackets. They had to be the best looking ever.
     
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  24. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    so what makes you think pancho is not on that level? his stats at 40+ show that he is.

    He won the US Open in 1948 & was beating the world #1 Laver(10 years his junior) when he was 41 in 1970. I'm sure the game evolved quite a bit in that 22 year period. He managed to still stay competitive at an age when he had no business still playing, let alone at that high level.

    Pancho is tennis' Satchel Paige.

    and like the writer said graphite racquets effectively ended any way to compare generations. no other sport has changed as much as tennis in the last 30 years, & equipment is the main reason, not "better athletes." I'd love to see a wood raquet event with todays pros, I'm sure the results would be rather eye-opening to most fans.
     
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  25. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    how can I view the site in english?
     
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  26. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Interesting comparison, Moose, with Satchel Page. I am not an insider on US sports, but i think, he was the great figure of Negro Baseball, in the times of white/black segregation. I think however, that Pancho was not a mexican street kid, but a middle class kid and well promoted by Perry Jones of the LA Tennis Club, the czar of US tennis in that time. The segregation in tennis was not along colour lines, but between players and gentlemen, the bashers at the amateur clubs and the true pros, who got their money on the table, not under it.
     
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  27. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    On the mainly French-webside, they have in the biographies-sections and the episodes-sections, often English translations.
     
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  28. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    do you know the format of the slams in Tilden's time? 64 or 32 player draw? I've read that the US Open in the 40s was best of 3 until the QF, 64 draw, & that some players got 1st round byes.
    I'm curious as to the format changes over the years.
     
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  29. LowProfile

    LowProfile Professional

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    Well in Tilden's time, professionals were banned from playing tournaments like the Majors. Tilden turned professional after winning a fair share of grand slams. This is why Gonzales didn't win many grand slams: he turned professional too early and was not allowed to play the grand slams.
     
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  30. baseliner

    baseliner Professional

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    Moose is right. This should be required reading for all the young 'uns who never saw the old lions play and merely cite GS titles as justification for GOAT. Pancho vs Pete on grass at their prime? Pancho 8 out of 10.
     
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  31. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    When Tilden won his first and second Wimbledon, the challenge-round system was still intact. In 1921, as holder, he had to play just one match, a curious match with his friend Norton. At the US they played through with at least 64 draws. Pro touring tennis was invented in 1927 with Suzanne Lenglen, and on the male side, Vincent Richards and Czech player and former teaching pro Karel Kozeluh.
     
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  32. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    That fact puts him below Laver, Gonzalez, Sampras IMO.
     
    #32
  33. superman1

    superman1 Legend

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    So why do all of the tennis experts only talk about Sampras, Laver and Borg as the greatest ever and Federer as the biggest talent they have seen?
     
    #33
  34. chaognosis

    chaognosis Semi-Pro

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    Honestly, many of the tennis "experts" aren't particularly well informed about the history of the game -- particularly prior to the Open Era. It should come as no surprise that the players most experts talk about today are the ones they've seen play during their lifetimes. In most cases this would exclude Tilden, Vines, Budge, etc., and as urban has noted, even those who are old enough to have seen Gonzales at his peak probably wouldn't be aware of his accomplishments, since he played on the mostly ignored Pro tours.
     
    #34
  35. nadalgirl26

    nadalgirl26 Banned

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    You shouldb be ashamed of yourself to count Federer as an all time great at all. He is not even in the top 30 all time. My sweet Nadal is already top 5 all time ateaslt.
     
    #35
  36. HyperHorse

    HyperHorse Banned

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    Why dont you just leave? its evident that you know nothing about tennis...
    And you have nothing to contribute to these forums...
     
    #36
  37. nadalgirl26

    nadalgirl26 Banned

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    You are a cow, you area too stupid to argue with me. Oh yeah I got your nasty e-mail, and I shovedi it back down your throat cow. You area an Australian and Ausatalians are losers anyway. I loved how at the 2000 Olympics all your best stars all lost in their sports to peopleas from other countries and the crowds moaned and cired like babies!@
     
    #37
  38. dh003i

    dh003i Legend

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    Moose,

    Great find. Great article. Great discussion of tennis history.

    Since I'm too young to have even seen Laver play, or a prime Connors for that matter, I'll not comment on Gonzales vs. the modern greats.

    I do think it a little bit ridiculous to downplay the physicalness of modern players. Just look at modern buys vs. guys back then, who were scrawny. (Same thing in basketball).

    Ultimately, you really can't make very good, objective cases about the best player when comparing different eras. It's just impossible.

    However, certainly, the older greats shouldn't be forgotten.

    I think Federer needs to win 14 GS with a French (or 15 w/o) to be considered greater than Sampras. But to widely be considered greater than some of the old greats, how many does he need to win? Maybe 20, with a Grand Slam or 2.

    What do others think?
     
    #38
  39. tennus

    tennus Rookie

    Joined:
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    WTF ?????????? You are either a good troller or just plain dumb !

    Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
    1 United States (USA) 40 24 33 97
    2 Russia (RUS) 32 28 28 88
    3 China (CHN) 28 16 15 59
    4 Australia (AUS) 16 25 17 58
    5 Germany (GER) 13 17 26 56
    6 France (FRA) 13 14 11 38
    7 Italy (ITA) 13 8 13 34
    8 Netherlands (NED) 12 9 4 25
    9 Cuba (CUB) 11 11 7 29
    10 Great Britain (GBR) 11 10 7 28
    11 Romania (ROM) 11 6 8 25
    12 Korea (KOR) 8 10 10 28
    13 Hungary (HUN) 8 6 3 17
    14 Poland (POL) 6 5 3 14
    15 Japan (JPN) 5 8 5 18
    16 Bulgaria (BUL) 5 6 2 13
    17 Greece (GRE) 4 6 3 13
    18 Sweden (SWE) 4 5 3 12
    19 Norway (NOR) 4 3 3 10
    20 Ethiopia (ETH) 4 1 3 8
    21 Ukraine (UKR) 3 10 10 23
    22 Kazakhstan (KAZ) 3 4 0 7
    23 Belarus (BLR) 3 3 11 17
    24 Canada (CAN) 3 3 8 14
    25 Spain (ESP) 3 3 5 11
    26 Turkey (TUR) 3 0 2 5
    27 Iran (IRI) 3 0 1 4
    28 Czech Republic (CZE) 2 3 3 8
    29 Kenya (KEN) 2 3 2 7
    30 Denmark (DEN) 2 3 1 6
    31 Finland (FIN) 2 1 1 4
    32 Austria (AUT) 2 1 0 3
    33 Lithuania (LTU) 2 0 3 5
    34 Azerbaijan (AZE) 2 0 1 3
    35 Slovenia (SLO) 2 0 0 2
    36 Switzerland (SUI) 1 6 2 9
    37 Indonesia (INA) 1 3 2 6
    38 Slovakia (SVK) 1 3 1 5
    39 Mexico (MEX) 1 2 3 6
    40 Algeria (ALG) 1 1 3 5
    41 Uzbekistan (UZB) 1 1 2 4
    42 Latvia (LAT) 1 1 1 3
    Yugoslavia (YUG) 1 1 1 3
    44 Bahamas (BAH) 1 1 0 2
    45 New Zealand (NZL) 1 0 3 4
    46 Estonia (EST) 1 0 2 3
    Thailand (THA) 1 0 2 3
    48 Croatia (CRO) 1 0 1 2
    49 Cameroon (CMR) 1 0 0 1
    Colombia (COL) 1 0 0 1
    Mozambique (MOZ) 1 0 0 1
    52 Brazil (BRA) 0 6 6 12
    53 Jamaica (JAM) 0 4 3 7
    54 Nigeria (NGR) 0 3 0 3
    55 Belgium (BEL) 0 2 3 5
    South Africa (RSA) 0 2 3 5
    57 Argentina (ARG) 0 2 2 4
    58 Chinese Taipei (TPE) 0 1 4 5
    Morocco (MAR) 0 1 4 5
    60 DPR Korea (PRK) 0 1 3 4
    61 Moldova (MDA) 0 1 1 2
    Saudi Arabia (KSA) 0 1 1 2
    Trinidad and Tobago (TRI) 0 1 1 2
    64 Ireland (IRL) 0 1 0 1
    Uruguay (URU) 0 1 0 1
    Vietnam (VIE) 0 1 0 1
    67 Georgia (GEO) 0 0 6 6
    68 Costa Rica (CRC) 0 0 2 2
    Portugal (POR) 0 0 2 2
    70 Armenia (ARM) 0 0 1 1
    Barbados (BAR) 0 0 1 1
    Chile (CHI) 0 0 1 1
    Iceland (ISL) 0 0 1 1
    India (IND) 0 0 1 1
    Israel (ISR) 0 0 1 1
    Kuwait (KUW) 0 0 1 1
    Kyrgyzstan (KGZ) 0 0 1 1
    FYR Macedonia (MKD) 0 0 1 1
    Qatar (QAT) 0 0 1 1
    Sri Lanka (SRI) 0 0 1 1

    Total 301 299 327 927
     
    #39
  40. FiveO

    FiveO Hall of Fame

    Joined:
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    Those names, Laver, Borg and Sampras, are mentioned as the G.O.A.T. candidates from the "Open" era when the events were open to ALL players. Once looking past that substantive change, the likes of Tilden, Vines, Budge, Kramer and Gonzales certainly get mentioned. IMO it is significantly more difficult to draw like comparisons from the "shamateur"/professional split than during the different eras of open tennis.

    All those players of the past are greats, no doubt. But the challenge format and the "one night stands" of professional tennis while easier to "quantify" (record keeping was shoddy at best then, though historians are trying to re-construct the numbers) are far more difficult to use to "qualify" one's place in history.

    Part of a player's greatness is their ability to demonstrate over and over again their dominance of the field. This is why the majors are widely viewed as the litmus test along with master's style events to a lesser extent. (At one time the Italian Open was considered "the Fifth Major") Almost without exception, champions running gauntlets of six or seven rounds concede that they "got past" a round or two of those six or seven where they didn't play their better to best tennis. They had to find ways, through their smarts, guile and/or heart when physically not firing properly on all cylinders.

    During the amateur/pro split and prior to that during the challenge round formats champions, the greats of those eras didn't have to bring it for seven rounds of the Open era major fortnights. H2H's are a good indicator of who's better than who but must be viewed along with those competitor's consistent performance against the rest of the field.

    Gonzales dominated practically every "qualifier" winning a major and rising from "Triple A(mateur)" tennis to the pros. But those new pros were going to Gonzales turf. Gonzales had already been schooled and taken his own lumps from Jack Kramer before each new year's crop of pros arrived. And they were coming to a new format in new venues. They came to what was Gonzales house.

    While Gonzales dominated each Major amateur champ, it was in his own familiar conditions and in time some of them began holding their own against him which CAN partially be attributed to the "new guys" acclimating to the new environment.

    The unanswerable question is whether Gonzales would have adapted as well as say a Laver did when "Open" tennis came. Yes in his late 30's early 40's he was still able to reach the top ten and on a given day could beat anyone but we will never know if HE was forced back into the seven round formats of the majors with ALL the best players of the day in the draw whether he could or would have demonstrated the same sort of dominance. Emerson who remained amateur and is largely ignored when speaking of the greats was remarkably consistent, even if in "watered down fields", however he proved capable of taking out "greater" players when Open tennis arrived "on his given day". Also add in the unfamiliar opponents and flashes in the proverbial pan. They would constitute more hurdles in a 128 man field. Could Gonzales have enjoyed the same level of consistency throughout the 28 rounds of the majors year in year out? I actually THINK he could have. But we will never be able to answer that question.

    For an example just look at the current Fed v. Nadal match-up. Fed clearly has demonstrated his dominance of the field but Nadal has they clear edge to date h2h. Pull those players off the tour and have them play 100 one night stands vs. each other. Fans of each would like to believe one would dominate the other over time. But let's say Nadal beats Fed the majority of the time. Does that mean Nadal is suddenly the G.O.A.T.? You (aside from nadalgirl26) can probably see the dilemna.

    Like everyone else I'm left with opinions like that of another great, Jack Kramer, who witnessed the era up close and personal for years who ranks Tilden, Budge and Gonzales ahead of the Sedgmans, Hoads, Traberts, Rosewalls and even Laver.
     
    #40
  41. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Very good points, Five O. Indeed, the new pros came to Gonzales' own house, mostly on fast indoor surfaces. Trabert writes, that he got a grip vs. Gonzales'big serve on the medium fast hard courts, where he (from Cincinnatti) had grown up. But that was only on the last segment of their tour, when Pancho already had built a big lead on him. Hoad led Gonzales significantly, when he played on his own turf in Australia, when they got to the indoor circuit in US, things changed. As the most impressive wins by Gonzales i find two wins at Forest Hills (on grass) in 1957/58, here he beat all comers in round robins, including Sedgman, Segura, Hoad, Rosewall and Trabert. The question and speculation about Pancho and Emmo for example remains indeed, who would have coped netter with the big draws at the GS. Nevertheless i too think, that Pancho was so excellent, that he would have won around 15 majors.
     
    #41

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