The Greatness of Tilden?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by hoodjem, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    I have heard that Tilden won about 98% of his matches during his peak five-year period, and he never lost one major that he entered during his peak period.

    If Tilden had had access to the plane travel we have today, he may have won around 30 majors and several Grand Slams.

    Is this a reasonable assumption?
     
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  2. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Does anyone have access to the draw at the 1926 U.S. Championships (where Tilden finally lost after winning it six consecutive times?









    (The Wikipedia site does not start listing the men's singles players draws until 1933.)
     
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  3. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Given that he won 7 at his best venue, the US championships, I would say that 20-22/23 is a reasonable number. Between 1920 and 1925 he would be favorite, against the likes of Johnston, Patterson, Alonzo, Shimizu, the young Richards, Borotra, the young Cochet and the Brits. How he would fare on the lawns of Wimbledon, in the Australian heat and in the Paris rain and cold, we can only speculate. Maybe at an open Paris, the French musketeers would have caught him earlier than 1926. On the other side, Richards won the Paris Olympics 1924. I think, the draws of the majors are out on the internet.
     
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  4. Devilito

    Devilito Hall of Fame

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    i'd put Tilden near the top on the GOAT list. Like Fed, Petros, Laver, Tilden in no particular order
     
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  5. corners

    corners Legend

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    Tilden dominated an extremely weak era to an extreme degree. Remove all the players from the Federer era whose parents made less than $300,000/year and you'd roughly have the strength and depth of field that Tilden faced. So the top 100 might be reduced to ten guys, with draws filled in by rich dilettantes equivalent to today's 5.5-rated club players. How many matches would Fed have lost against such stiff competition?

    I've heard Tilden was an amazing player, but as Laver says, its very difficult or impossible to try and compare someone like him to the players of today. He may have been the GOAT or he may have been the equivalent of Tim Mayotte.
     
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  6. josofo

    josofo Semi-Pro

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    certainly the fields were less deep but i have little doubt that people at the very top like bill tilden would would be great even in todays start at 4 years old play 6 hours a day era.
     
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  7. YaoPau

    YaoPau Rookie

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    Tilden is a great GOAT candidate.

    You can't really knock him for playing in a weak era IMO. By that I mean, while you can argue that Newcombe played in a lull era fit inbetween prime Gonzales/Rosewall/Laver and Borg/Connors/McEnroe (if you don't agree with Newcombe, any modern lull era example works), Tilden's era wasn't a lull era , it was just tennis developing, and Tilden was arguably 10-15 years ahead of his time.

    Without Tilden, who knows if Kramer's pro tour would've been so expansive, and if it wasn't for Kramer's tour, who knows when Open Tennis would've been pushed through. Tennis was still in its infancy when Tilden came around, and 15 years later fans filled Madison Square Garden to see him play one match.

    So yeah he was great, but trying to guess the number of Slams he would've had is such a pointless exercise and completely missing most of Tilden's qualities that would put him near the top of the GOAT discussion.
     
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  8. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    If everyone had access to easy plane travel, and the competition remained unchanged, Tilden might have won something like a couple of dozen Slam events and the CYGS. I've never looked at the possible numbers but it sounds possible given his domination of his rivals during his peak years.

    On the other hand if you picture everyone in tennis traveling around the globe like today, the sport might have attracted more players -- just because it's a different sport in that case.

    And it's if been already an Open, global sport for years by the time that Tilden and his rivals arrive on the scene, then the depth in the early rounds of the Slams would be greater, and you'd expect Tilden to take more early-round losses.

    I would tend to doubt that, given Tilden's defeat of Cochet, and match points against Lacoste, at the '27 French. And if Richards could beat Cochet in '24, as you point out, Tilden should not have a problem. Not in the biggest events, anyway.
     
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  9. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    hoodjem, Yes, a reasonable assumption. I give Tilden three to four Grand Slams (if there were French Open or Championships in his peak years).

    I rank Big Bill fourth in my all-time list.
     
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  10. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Interesting: Tilden a second Mayotte...
     
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  11. joe sch

    joe sch Hall of Fame

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    I do believe Tilden would have won 20+ slam championships if air travel was possible in his era. Even when it was possible, many of the greats did not play the AO and even FO. There was also the split before open tennis when many of the GOAT candidates went pro so would have won many more slam championships 20+.

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

    BobbyOne Banned

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    krosero. I mostly agree. Tilden won EVERY important match between 1920 and 1925 including Wimbledon, US Championships, Davis Cup against the Musketeers and World's Hard Court championships.
     
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  13. forzamilan90

    forzamilan90 Legend

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    He was legit for his time, and of course very dominant, but I cannot rank him as a legit candidate in comparison to contemporary legends.
     
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  14. YaoPau

    YaoPau Rookie

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    Ok, then post your definition for GOAT. If you're talking pure skill then obviously Tilden isn't in the discussion... guys today started at age 2 while Tilden started playing seriously after college.

    But tennis started in basically the 1870s, and by that I mean started, from nothing. 40 years later WWI came around and there were massive icons in other sports like Dempsey and Babe Ruth. Nobody had to pay attention to tennis, a sport in its infancy where no player was making any money. And yet they came out to watch Tilden.

    You can't fault a guy for being born at a certain time. Federer grew up in a time where tennis players could make millions of dollars, it's a completely different thing. Federer is the better player, yes, but Tilden was probably the better player compared to his competition (same dominance with longer prime), further ahead of his time for sure, and Tilden arguably had a bigger influence on tennis as well.
     
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  15. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    There remain some intangibles in those speculations, and no major is won that easy. OK, Tilden was the best player in 1920-1925, but in some years, like in 1922 or 23, Johnston was really close. He won Wimbledon at his only attempt, seemed to be at home on Wim lawns, and nobody knows, how Tilden would have fared on this (Wim) type of grass against Johnston's forehand. Tilden's progress at Wim even in the years 1920-21, wasn't always easy, he had problems with Shimizu and Babe Norton. We don't know, how Tilden dealt with the extreme heat of Australia, he played only the Davis Cup there in 1920. Correct is, that he dominated Patterson, and that the line of good Aussie players wasn't deep at that time. Borotra won in the late 20s. It was a different affair in the mid 30s, when Australia had Crawford, Quist and McGrath, and Perry won and lost there, but peak Vines lost to young McGrath, i think.

    If Paris had the status of a major in the early 20s, as it had later after 1927, Tilden would have to deal with some nasty things, like watering the courts (bad for his footing), bad and biased linesmen, aggressive Parisian crowds, questionable seeding etc. Old Borotra still beat peak Vines at the Davis Cup 1932 on Parisian clay, when they had watered down the court, to make it slow. The French trio would have used the team tactics before. It would have been no easy way for Tilden, even in 1923-25, to beat Borotra, Lacoste and Cochet in succession on a slow court.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
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  16. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    No one is THAT GOOD.





    There can be only one . . . Mayotte.
     
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  17. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, true.

    Tilden actually won the 1927 French Championship: he served an ace on match point in the finals against Lacoste. Lacoste knew it and was walking to the net to shake hands, when Cochet (the linesman and the player Tilden had defeated in the semis) called it out.
     
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  18. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Yes, even though Tilden won the vast majority of his matches it was not uncommon for him to have tough five-setters. He was not blowing through everyone in straight sets, and the combination punch of good opponents in successive rounds could have resulted in him being upset.

    You mention the Wimbledon lawns. One possibility is that Johnston's topspin forehand would have been a greater weapon there than it was at Forest Hills where the ball barely bounced at all. On the dry turf in Australia Johnston's forehand would have bounced even higher.

    But like you say there is no way of knowing, and there are so many factors (eg, how would Johnston have fared in the Australian heat).
     
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  19. forzamilan90

    forzamilan90 Legend

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    Correct. But I can include a time frame of when for me personally the game actually started to look like an athletic discipline of the highest order and not a leisure activity (Jack Kramer's time till now....even then I still think the game has evolved athletically with every generation)
     
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  20. 90's Clay

    90's Clay Legend

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  21. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Tilden will go down as one of the most complete players, with no big weakness and a superb tennis brain.He´d be a hot player antime you may want to place him.
     
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  22. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    YaoPau, Federer does not have the skills Tilden had.
     
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  23. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    urban, Interesting aspects. I think Tilden would have had to beat only two of the Musketeers in succession.
     
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  24. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    I found a new place for my tennis books and have now better access to informations. I looked up the results of Johnston's Wim results in 1923 in the book of John Barrett, who gives the draw shields (not always complete):
    Johnston's results since 2nd round (first round is not represented):

    Higgs (GB) 6-4, 6-2, 6-1
    Watson (GB) 6-1,6-2,9-7
    Spence (SA) 6-1,6-0,6-4
    Richards (US) 6-4,6-3,7-5
    Campbell 6-1,5-7,6-2,6-2
    Norton (SA) 6-4,6-2,6-4
    Hunter (US) 6-0,6-3,6-1.

    I find the scores extraordinary for Johnston's attempt at Wimbledon in 1923 (maybe he had played already in 1920, there was a Johnston in the draw in the 1920 Wimbledon, who lost to Parkes of Ireland). Spence, Richards, Norton and Hunter were all world class players at the time. Yet, Johnston lost only one set to Campbell, and won the other three sets 1,2,and 2. It looks, given the bagles and clear set scores like Kramer's results in 1947, but Johnston imo had better competition. Norton had taken Tilden (who was however ill) in the Challenge Round to 5 sets and 2 matchpoints two years before, and had good results in the 1923 tournament. We don't know, how Johnston would have played against Tilden in a virtual final, who had the Indian Sign over him at Forest Hills. But in 1923 at the Big W he would have been no easy prey.
     
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  25. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Bobby, i don't know, who the seedings made at the French champs at Paris, but the French "officials" could be quite tricky. By the way, in the 1928 Wimbledon, Tilden actually had all Borotra, Lacoste and Cochet in his line to the title since quarters. He beat as usually Borotra, but lost to Lacoste in the semi. I think, it was Tilden's big problem, going by the major and Davis Cup results since 1926, that he could always beat one of the French, but not two or three in succession. Obviously, they tired him out. It was explicitely the French strategy in the DC final 1927, to hold Tilden as long as possible on the court in the first singles and doubles. He won both, but promptly lost the deciding rubber to Lacoste.
     
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  26. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    That was him. The Americans came over to play Queens Club (where Johnston beat Tilden), the Wimbledon championship and a UK-US Davis Cup tie hosted at Wimbledon. Parke beat Johnston in four sets at Wimbledon and Johnston reversed the result in five sets in the Davis Cup tie.

    Right after eliminating Johnston at Wimbledon, Parke met Tilden and lost in straights.
     
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  27. forzamilan90

    forzamilan90 Legend

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    yes, because 2000+ tennis skills are no match for 1920 tennis skills. (rolls eyes)
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
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  28. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    urban, I understand.
     
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  29. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Forza, No, it's because Tilden was one of the most skilled players in history, in a league with Rosewall, Laver and Gonzalez.
     
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  30. 1477aces

    1477aces Hall of Fame

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    those of you who say weak era. Well that's exactly what fed fans say about the 60s and 50s. So you can't have your cake and eat it too.
     
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  31. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    As is Federer...:rolleyes:
     
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  32. ARFED

    ARFED Semi-Pro

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    Yes, i agree with you. In fact i was just about to post some links of videos of Tilden`s peak years, in which you clearly see, as you just demonstrated, how Tilden is the more complete player of the two
     
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  33. josofo

    josofo Semi-Pro

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    literally first thing i am doing when i get my time machine. bringing bill tildon to 2006 wimbledon so he can destroy fed.
     
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  34. Chotobaka

    Chotobaka Hall of Fame

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    A dominant player with a proclivity for young boys, and the nickname "Stump Finger", was a force to be feared both on and off the court.
     
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  35. ARFED

    ARFED Semi-Pro

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    At least Fed didn`t have his twins back in 2006, so that is one thing less to worry about...
     
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  36. DolgoSantoro

    DolgoSantoro Professional

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    I don't believe you or anyone else on this board has seen enough of Tilden and his competition to accurately determine how good they were or make such a claim.
     
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  37. ARFED

    ARFED Semi-Pro

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    Finally a post that actually makes sense
     
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  38. YaoPau

    YaoPau Rookie

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    I mean, we're talking several multiples of difference here with Federer being better. Tilden was a forehand-only player in his early US Open runs, and he didn't get that corrected until his mid-20s.

    You just can't compare skill levels, it's not fair to the old players. The top guys of today have essentially been born into the game, while many of the top players in 1920 saw tennis as a fun hobby. Tilden took it seriously once he hit like 20yo and clearly developed well after, but come on. Different era, and Tilden was great for his era, but don't compare pure skills, it's disrespectful to the guys who've literally poured their entire lives into playing tennis at a mindnumbingly high level.
     
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  39. pc1

    pc1 Legend

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    May I try to interject a few points here? What is the definition of skill in tennis anyway? Is it the mindless blasting away of groundstrokes that we often see today or is it something else? Tilden played in an era when small wooden racquets were the only thing available to them. In my opinion when you play with small heavy wood racquets you can't just rely on power but HAVE to learn the finer points of the game. Where and when to position yourself when you hit a certain shot, varieties of spin and touch, how to volley better because you can't hit winners from the baseline, lobbing, changes of pace and angles are important. Pete Sampras said that he would tell a player to use a wood racquet so he or she could learn the finer points of the game. I would tend to think Sampras knows more than most if not all of you.
    Wood racquets enable players to learn more because they can't rely on blasting topspin groundies from the baseline or the ability to hit great serves on a regular basis. Tilden was an extremely gifted and skilled player and I don't understand why people should put him down. I guess it's the automatic reaction to BobbyOne writing Tilden is more skilled than Federer. However why should some of you put Tilden down to defend Federer? Just disagree and explain why Federer is more skilled.

    Another point is this, we don't necessary have to have seen Tilden to know he was extremely skilled. The authorities who can attest to this are countless. Nevertheless I will point out that Ellsworth Vines, who was as objective a tennis authority as I have ever read wrote that he had never seen a player who could do as much off both sides as Bill Tilden. Vines wrote this in 1978 when he had already seen Laver, Rosewall, Kramer, Budge, Perry etc.

    There was a story Fred Perry related in his superb book "Fred Perry, an autobiography." Apparently Tilden, who was playing a tour with Perry called Perry to hit with him in Kansas of all places. Here's a quote from the book--When we got to the court he asked me to hit a few to his forehand, low and wide. I did this and he returned them using a perfect continental grip, just as if he were mimicking my own forehand. When I inquired what he was up to Tilden said, "After playing so many matches against you and studying your style, I realized that the continental grip, and not my own Eastern grip, is the only one for that sort of shot. I felt I wouldn't be the complete tennis player unless I had mastered it to the stage where I could use it in a match if I wanted to." Tilden was 53 when that happened. It showed what a great analytical mind he had in tennis and how he was constantly trying to improve. Perry felt when he wrote the book that Tilden was the finest player he had ever seen and that Laver was the best after World War II.

    In my opinion Tilden was one of the rare true geniuses in tennis history. We toss out the term genius too frequently nowadays. Without Tilden, tennis would not be the game it is today. Federer as great as he is uses many of the techniques Tilden used and perhaps invented. His book "The Art of Lawn Tennis" and "Match Play and the Spin of the Ball" influenced tennis players through the generations.

    Do we call Einstein an idiot because he, as he was in his heyday couldn't use a computer if we transported him to today? Is Thomas Edison a lesser inventor because he didn't work for the big corporations of today? Is Leonardo da Vinci any less an artist or a genius because he can't operate a computer and use computer graphics to make his art better or to work on his many inventions? You all know the answer.

    The question is asked "Who is the father of the modern game?" and I would venture to say that Tilden who could play the power game could be argued to be that. I don't think it's really a question whether Tilden would be great in today's game. It's a question of how great and awesome he would be. Tilden may play differently, maybe with a two handed shot, maybe he would play left handed but he would develop new theories about the game and the game would probably improve because of it.

    Tilden incorporated so many of the strokes and techniques that we have in today's game that all of you who are decent players use them.

    Here's a few videos of Bill Tilden. And I think he looks pretty good.

    http://www.britishpathe.com/video/battle-of-tennis-stars

    http://www.britishpathe.com/video/big-bill-tilden/query/bill+tilden

    Here's a few facts for you. Bill Tilden won 138 of 192 tournaments from 1912 to 1930. His winning percentage was 93.6 during that period. This information is from the Collins Encyclopedia. From 1920 to 1925 he played only nine majors (I'm including the British Hardcourt which was the clay court major at the time) and he won all nine. Tilden in his best years, as Hoodjem wrote was reputed to have won 98% of his matches. He played Don Budge at age 48 and only lost 46 to 7 with one tie. Budge was at his peak at age 26. Tilden even defeated Ted Schoeder, who was the US Nationals Champion in the late 1940's.

    I will also point out physically that Tilden was 6'2" with excellent mobility and footwork.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
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  40. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    ARFED, Federer can play harder shots (due to the modern equipment). That's it.
     
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  41. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    ARFED, WRONG! DolgoSantoro has blamed you the same way he blamed me!!!
     
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  42. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    [​IMG]
     
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  43. abmk

    abmk G.O.A.T.

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    good ones :lol:
     
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  44. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    pc1, Thanks a lot for your intelligent post. You can explain this matter much better than I could. But alas, I fear that some "experts" in this blog (who mostly little know about older tennis) will not be too impressed by your convincing analysis...
     
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  45. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Krosero, interesting facts, i wasn't aware of at the moment, about Johnston, that he played in Europe and beat Tilden at Queens in 1920. Certainly, Tilden was the greater player, one of my top two or three in history, but 'Little Bill' Johnston is often underrated, because of his Forest Hills losses to Tilden. In 1922 he beat Tilden 3 out of 4 times, but lost Forest Hills in a close match, and in 1923 he won the magic double, World Hard Court and Wimbledon plus Davis Cup, but lost badly at Forest Hills to his nemesis. Under modern points scoring systems, he probably still would have been Nr. 1 in 1923.
     
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  46. ARFED

    ARFED Semi-Pro

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    As always, interesting anlalysis Pc1. I would like to read from you more often. But here is the thing, if 50 years from know a X players comes up, with a very talented skillset but i just tell the younger generations "trust me, this guy is less talented than Federer", you know what their answer would be "yes we have seen plenty of this Federer guy on videos, and X is still better than him". They will count with evidence to make their own judgment, sadly nobody on this forum can have the same luck regarding Tilden. So i can only accept a parcial assesment of Tilden`s game as a valid one, but to claim so boldly that a player from 100-80 years ago was better at this or at that without any decent footage as evidence, goes against the most basic of logics. If we are trusting references from older players as the ultimate true then i must conclude that Laver was nothing special because Kramer said so. But i have seen a few of Laver`s matches, not even the 10% of what i would like to have seen from him, but i can affirm that he was a wonderful player, one of a kind, even maybe the GOAT, regarding his play.
     
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  47. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Kramer had a huge resentment against Laver, probably due to financial and organizational problems dating back the early 60´s, when both dealt, Kramer as a pro game promoter and Laver, as the next biggest thing in the game.Nothing new under the sun.
     
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  48. ARFED

    ARFED Semi-Pro

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    And maybe Vines had some bias in favour of Tilden, after all he was his main competition during the 30`s in the pro tour. Why should i trust Vines word instead of Kramer`s?? Flawed logic again
     
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  49. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    There is a wrong focus on Federer vs Tilden IMO.

    The current era problem, big issues is not that Fed is more or less talented than great past champs.He is one of the most talented.The problem is HE IS THE ONLY ONE that can be used for comparing talents.After him, the inmense dark of the dull.
     
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  50. NatF

    NatF G.O.A.T.

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    Sometimes it almost seems like you respect Federer...
     
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