Wilander underrated ?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by Wuornos, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. Wuornos

    Wuornos Professional

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    Can someone please help me. I very rarely see Mats Wilander discussed as one of the greats and yet statistically he seems to warrant at least discussion.

    E.g.

    Mats Wilander was 10-3 in major semi finals and 7-4 in finals. He won 7 majors spread over a period of 1982 - 1988 (7 years inclusive).

    Jimmy Connors was 15-16 in major Semis Finals and 8-7 in finals. He won 8 majors spread over 1974-1982 (9 years inclusive).

    Andre Agassi was 15-11 in major semi finals and 8-7 in finals. He won 8 majors spread over 1992 to 2003 (12 years inclusive)

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Mats was better, I'm just wondering why he doesn't seem to be considered more often as a great.

    Any help or advice that can shed light on this appreciated.

    Tim
     
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  2. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    Wilander was a great champion who is underrated. I would say he is on the same level as Edberg and Becker, but not Connors, Mac, and Lendl. I place Agassi's achievements below those 3 but ahead of Edberg, Becker and Wilander.

    Some people on this forum have this tendency to judge former players by the standards of today. They simply add grand slam totals, because nowadays the 4 grand slams are close to each other in status and prestige (though even today I am convinced the Australian is lesser in prestige than the others).

    But in Wilander's day the Australian was nowhere near the satus and prestige of the others. Wilander won Australians in difficult fields, but this is besides the point: plenty of non-slam events have been won with tough opposition. This doesn't make these events on a par with slams.

    Of Wilander's 7 slams, 3 were Austalian. So Wilander only won 4 'blue-chip slams', as opposed to 7 each by Connors and McEnroe, and 6 by Lendl. Furthermore, even the French, though prestigious by the 80s, was considered not quite as important as Wimbledon and the US in the 80s, though much more important than the Australian, and Wilander got only 1 of the biggest 2 (1 US Open), compared to 7 each from Connors and Mac.

    Wilander also never won Wimbledon and never got beyond the quarters.

    However, Wilander tends to be overshadowed by Becker and Edberg, but I think Wilander's career was certainly as good as theirs. I believe this is due to the fact they won wimbledon but he didn't. But Wilander was easily better on clay than both, was as good on hard courts, and while not as good on grass, the difference was probably lesser than the difference between them on clay.

    Wilander was no.1 for as long as Becker (1 year: I consider Becker the no.1 of 1989).

    Wilander was a tough match for anyone, great mentally and tactically, and with a good all round game. He was along with lendl the best clay court player of the 80s. He is a very deserved Hall of Famer.
     
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  3. Gorecki

    Gorecki G.O.A.T.

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    From what i know, and i dont know a lot about tennis history, it was always regarded as the untalented achiever of tennis. but 7 slams...
    In 1988 Wilander won 3 ot of 4 slams. enough said?

    ps: that idea that UO is way bigger than AO or FO could only come from americans. the same one that say Laver, Lacoste, Hoad, Newcombe were Goats.
     
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  4. Wuornos

    Wuornos Professional

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    Thanks both. The help is much appreciated.
     
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  5. Gorecki

    Gorecki G.O.A.T.

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    There is a huge thread somewhere here where Wilander and his pairs were discussed to death by some specialists on tennis hystory. i cant really tell but if your search for the "most replies threads" you will se some fierce battles where some interesting facts and opinions come up about Mats.
    I just happen to think he was a Huge athlete and a awsome player. some call him "the human back board" for his ability to replay at almost any ball possible.
     
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  6. noeledmonds

    noeledmonds Professional

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    Based on achivement alone Wilander is on a similar level to Edberg and Becker. These 3 players fought for dominance after Lendl's era. The reason Wilander is underated or (simply relativly unknown) is that his game style was not flambouant or exciting. Wilander was a classic retriever or super-pusher who simply hit the ball back in play and was reluctant to go for winners. It is also worth noting that 3 of Wilander's grand slams came at the Australian Open. This was played on grass at the time and was considerably less prestigious than the other 3 slams at the time. This meant that there were sometimes depleted fields at the Australian Open, for example in 1984 (McEnroe's golden year) McEnroe did not compete at the event and Wilander won.
     
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  7. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    I am not American and i don't think any 80s tennis pro would disagree with the view that the US open was much more prestigious than the Australian in the 80s. By the 80s the French was virtually on a par with the US, though I still think the US had the edge.

    In tennis history, Wimbledon and the US Open have tended to be the most prestigious events, though nowadays the grand slams are much more equal than they used to be.
     
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  8. AndrewD

    AndrewD Legend

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    No, that isn't beside the point, it IS the point. Wilander won his Australian Open titles by beating McEnroe (on grass), Edberg (on grass), Lendl, Cash, Kriek, Tanner (on grass) and Becker. Every single one of those guys won at least one major/slam title. None of them were playing in Australia purely for the money as it offered, up until 1988 (first year at Flinders Park) considerably less than the other majors and was played over the Christmas break. If it HADN'T been the Australian Open, those guys wouldn't have entered . That tells you the tournament had a great deal more prestige than other, more lucrative events. Also, unlike McEnroe and Lendl, Wilander didn't have the huge advantage of playing in front of a home crowd.

    noeledmonds,

    Wilander won the 83 and 84 Aus Open titles on grass but won the 88 Aus Open on Rebound Ace (first year at Flinders Park). As to the depleted field, he beat McEnroe, Lendl, Tanner and Edberg on grass: Cash, Becker and Edberg on Rebound Ace. The only significant player missing from those events was Jimmy Connors.
     
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  9. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    I would probably place Wilander below Borg Samrpas Federer Connors Lendl McEnroe and Agassi, and in the same bracket as Edberg and Becker. He is the only man that has ever won at least 2 grand slams on each of clay, grass and hard, with is certainly no mean feat.
    People will try and and downgrade his 3 Australian Open Titles. It is important to remember that since 1988 (when aside from the venue and surface switch, the draw size was expanded to 128 players), the Australian Open has been on a par with the other 3 grand slams. Therefore his 3rd title at Melbourne, the one achieved on rebound ace, is every bit as valuable and important as his titles at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows.
    He came through strong fields to win his titles in 1983 and 1984. The weakest years of the Australian Open were 1976-1982. The tournament made a noticeable recovery from 1983-1987. During that time its draw size was 96 players, 32 less than at the other 3 slams, so it was still a slightly smaller tournament, but those 2 titles aren't worthless at all. I have noticed for instance, that despite the fact that Edberg's 2 Aussie Open titles came before 1988, people generally don't attempt to devalue them as much as Wilander's in 1983-1984, which is interesting.
    He is probably one of the 4 greatest claycourters in the history of the open era. Obviously Borg is way out in front, but I would give both Nadal and Lendl the egde over him, although I would place him above Kuerten.
    In my opinion his most important and noteworthy victory was beating Lendl in 5 sets at the 1988 US Open. Lendl had reigned world no. 1 for 157 consecutive weeks prior to the match, as this final had the added incentive of being a play-off for the top spot in the rankings. On top of winning his 3rd grand slam out of 4 in that memorable year for him (which a superb 25-1 win-loss record), he become world no. 1 for the first time in his career immediately after this triumph.
     
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  10. dunloplayah

    dunloplayah Rookie

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    I love the guy. I think he's a smart player, not a grandstander. He has always been the quiet type, so he never really got the publicity that others got during his era. Plus, if you see him play now, he's a funny guy on the court. He exhibits some of the best of what this game has to offer!
     
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  11. Vector

    Vector Banned

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    Mats was great
     
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  12. martin

    martin Banned

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    Mats didn't have real weapons but he was really consistant and worked very hard to improve his game. He had a great career. What a great mentality to win so many grand slams with so few weapons. Mats is a real champion.
     
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  13. Moose Malloy

    Moose Malloy Legend

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    1988 was the first year that the Australian Open was 128 draw. Wilander beat good players to win his 2 AOs prior to that year, but the fact that he had to play only 6 matches to win those majors in a way proves it was a lesser major. Isn't the 128 draw partly why we consider these events the 'majors?'

    also consider the prize money differential with the australian open even today(& the difference in the 80s was even bigger, I'll try to find out how much Wilander won for winning the '83/'84 AOs, I recall it being considerably lower than a number of regular atp events that year, not just the majors)
    It would be strange if, say, the Italian Open offered more prize money than a slam today, no?

    total prize money offered at the majors in '06:

    AO-$6,784,589

    FO-$8,543,700

    W-$8,847,338

    US-$8,332,000

    another reason Wilander is underrated is, despite winning 3 of 4 slams in '88, he only got the #1 ranking after winning the US Open, his 3rd major that year. That showed that he really wasn't that dominant in '88, like Mac, Connors, Lendl & other past greats were in their best years. He wasn't really winning that much more than other players in '88, despite the fact that he won 3 majors(& all 3 were major struggles, many 5 setters etc, he wasn't doing it the way Fed did) I think he own only 6 titles total in '88.

    also Wilander had a very poor record at Wimbledon, he never even reached the semis. In the 80s Wimbledon was so far ahead of the other majors, I could see why Edberg & Becker may be regarded more highly.

    You never explained your ranking system, but I think I figured it out. I noticed Connors was pretty low on your 'peak performance' list(lower than Becker & Courier) & now I know why. It seems unfair to penalize him for playing past his prime, being good enough to reach still slam semis, but not good enough to win them. his 15-16 record in semis is misleading. If he quit after '83, I imagine he would move up quite a bit under your system.
     
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  14. scotus

    scotus Legend

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    I think Wilander had the keenest tennis mind. I still get chills when I think of his US Open championship over Lendl. He won it by charging the net!
     
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  15. stormholloway

    stormholloway Legend

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    It was ironic that Mats' idol was Jimmy Connors, rather than the equally ice cold Bjorn Borg.
     
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  16. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    You never explained your ranking system, but I think I figured it out. I noticed Connors was pretty low on your 'peak performance' list(lower than Becker & Courier) & now I know why. It seems unfair to penalize him for playing past his prime, being good enough to reach still slam semis, but not good enough to win them. his 15-16 record in semis is misleading. If he quit after '83, I imagine he would move up quite a bit under your system.[/QUOTE]


    Great point: if Connors had retired at 31 in 83, his record in grand slam semis would be:

    14-8, a big difference.
     
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  17. CyBorg

    CyBorg Legend

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    Frankly the extra years should help his case in any discussion. The guy made 9 semi-finals after 83. His run at Wimbledon in 87, for example, was downright spectacular. Would it be better if he had lost in round one?

    Some funny reasoning that springs up occasionally on these boards. Thanks for doing the math on this, SM.
     
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  18. sandy mayer

    sandy mayer Rookie

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    I actually completely agree with you Cyborg. I only did the maths to confirm the point made earlier that Connors winning percentage went down in semis after 83 due to old age.

    You are right, the fact Connors was after 31 no longer a grand slam winner but still a formidable player for 10 years into his early 40s shouldn't be held against him. Yet people often use his losses after 1983 asammunition against him!
     
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  19. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

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    And, one helluva nice guy.
     
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  20. AndrewD

    AndrewD Legend

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    NO, IT WASN'T. The Australian Open was a 128 draw event when Wilander won in 1983 and 1984. HOWEVER, as a concession to the top players, they were given a bye in the first round. The ATP only lists Wilander as having played 6 matches but if you look up an unseeded player's record - for example, Peter Doohan or Boris Becker in 1984- you'll see they began their campaign in the round of 128 and would have to have won 7 matches for the title.

    No, and I thought this part was pretty apparent, not to mention well-documented. They're considered the 'majors' because they are the national championships of the four most prominent nations - Australia, France, the United Kingdom and America- , historically speaking.

    What I've never been able to work out is why you take every opportunity to knock the Australian Open and downgrade the achievements of those who've won it.
     
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  21. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    I can't say that I was a great fan of Mats. I didn't like to watch him play very much. But he has the record to be included amongst the greats of his era. He was remarkably smart and consistent. And I don't care who you were, if Mats was in your side of the draw, you knew you were going to have to beat him to win that tournament. Mats almost never beat himself.

    His 1982 French Open win over Vilas, to me, is still an astonishing feat. Even though it's not a match I would recommend anyone watching, Vilas was so good and so experienced. For Mats to outsteady and out tough him at age 17 at Vilas' best and important tournament says a lot.

    7 grand slams is 7 grand slams anyway that you cut it. I give him a lot of credit for going down to Australia and winning on grass even when the draws weren't the best. Grass was not his best surface and he had no real reason to go down there and play those tournaments. But he did. And he beat some good grass court players for those titles.

    So, yes, while not one of my favorites, I would say that Mats is very underated. And I agree with the person above who put him in the same category as Becker and Edberg. Though both of those players had the best style of play to beat Wilander, Wilander's results in the majors was just as good as their's.
     
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  22. Jack the Hack

    Jack the Hack Hall of Fame

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    Wilander is my favorite player of all time, and his record 6+ hour Davis Cup match with McEnroe in '82 was one of the events that inspired me to play tennis (even though Wilander lost).

    Anyway, here's the previous thread about Wilander being underrated:

    http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=61252&highlight=Wilander

    Wilander, Connors, and Agassi are the only three players to have won a Slam on all three major surfaces. I believe that Wilander is the only person to have done it twice.

    His game style was not awe-inspiring as far as power or touch. His weapons were his mind, physical fitness, and speed. To me, he was the ultimate thinking man's player.

    As far as his failures at Wimbledon, I will point out that Wilander had a 34-15 record there, made the quarterfinals in singles three times, and won the doubles championship with Joakim Nystrom in 1985. (In fact, Wilander has made comments in the past that winning the Wimbledon doubles title with Nystrom - a childhood friend - was as happy a moment as anything else he ever did on the tennis court.)
     
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  23. Wuornos

    Wuornos Professional

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    For Moose

    Thanks Moose. It was really interesting to see the discrepancy in prize money. I can't remember the exact words, but think there was line in 'The Hustler' where 'Minessota Fats' says the best pool player is the one who wins the most money forget everything else. On this basis alone it's possible to see why the AO would be held in less regard than the other slams.

    I can see why you would think what you thought of my system but its not right. The system contains a spread adjuster which allows for long and short careers and adjusts for them accordingly. Connors is rated quite lowly for two reasons. First the system is based only on results in Majors and has an underrlying statistical significance basis to evaluate results. Connors tended to dominate for single years which is not enough to be considered hugely significant and then tended to follow up with a year where he was not dominant in the majors. E.g 1974 and 75. Had he been able to string two good years together the spread adjuster would have multiplied his total achievement by a higher value as he would have compressed a greater proportion of his major achievements into a smaller space and his dominance rating would have been higher.

    No the reason Connors tend to appear low is that statistically a single year is not enough to prove outstanding greatness, only the lower echelons of the best. And Connors tended not to string his great results together.

    Don't blame me I just harness the tools of statistical probability theory. What you could say in criticism of my system though is that it is a little short sighted in only looking at Majors and I suspect that Connors would be much higher if we included lessser tournaments. However, I'm not sure whether doing this might damage some other greats like Sampras.

    Keep the posts coming Moose they're always a well thought out and a good read.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2007
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  24. grafrules

    grafrules Banned

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    Wilander should be ranked over Becker and Edberg. He has 1 more slam title then them. He won slam titles on all surfaces unlike them. He had a year winning 3 slams unlike them.
     
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  25. Wuornos

    Wuornos Professional

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    Thanks everyone. I have found all the points made most useful. Appreciated.
     
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