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pc1 01-01-2011 08:29 AM

What is a weak era or strong era in tennis?
 
We've had a lot of discussions on so called weak eras in tennis. Some of the reasons are because they may serve as explanations for why one player may have done well in a certain era. If one player dominates it may have been because of the so call weak era.

I do believe that just by logic alone, there had to be times in tennis history in which the relative quality of play more have been lower. However I do think it's hard to pinpoint and a so call weak era may be in reality a strong era.

For example I do believe in Pre-Open tennis that perhaps there were very weak eras in the amateur ranks. Roy Emerson won a lot of majors in the 1960's and yet he may not have been one of the very top players in the world. Would he have won so many majors if Gonzalez, Laver, Rosewall, Gimeno, Hoad were playing in the majors? I would doubt it. But that was the times. The Pros had all the best players and while there were some strong players in the amateurs, there weren't of the level of the pros.

So I'm curious what people consider a "WEAK ERA" and what is a "STRONG ERA" in tennis and why? Please don't just give an explanation that currently we have the strongest era in history just because it's the present. I want some explanations if possible.

Obviously there is no right or wrong answers here. No one can prove anything but it would be interesting to see the explanations and perhaps learn from them.

FiveO 01-01-2011 08:37 AM

IMO strong v. weak eras can be identified by the strength/weakness of two elements:

1- generational overlap both front and rear. IOW the holdover apex players of the generation prior, coming to the big tour 5-6 years earlier than the current generation currently enjoying their prime AND early door kickers, the young guns from the "next gen" breaking in 5-6 years after the current crop had. Sometimes it becomes further enhanced when 1 or 2 great players from two gens prior hang long enough to be a factor in the first part of a current generations run.

2- health - of the top echelon current and crossover generations, but mostly the current generations nearest peers all peaking at or about the the same period of time.

I think that the history of the game shows that each generation produces somewhere between 2 and 3 truly elite players and it's the presence and overlap of multiple generations that makes any particular era great. The vast majority of any era are draw fillers and would remain draw fillers in any generation, there's a second tier of very good, but there's only a couple of great players per generation. The absence of such players from any of those generations creates a vacuum or weaker era.

5

urban 01-01-2011 09:02 AM

Lets better talk about strong eras, and leave the weak era debate to others like Mats. Otherwise we get the usual flame war with the usual suspects. If you have 6-7 great players competing for the big titles and top ranks, you imo have a strong era. Three of these strong eras were imo the late 50s at he pro game, the early open era around 1970, and the late 80s until ca. 1991.
While i certainly agree about the problems of the pro-amateur-split, i don't see the 60s as a particular weak era in the shamateurs. Because the National Federations spent money to control and hold their amateurs, great and very good players remained amateurs like Emerson, Santana, Pietrangeli, Stolle (till 1966), Fraser, later the upcoming Newcombe, Ashe, Roche. The semi final lineup of the Australian of 1967 with Emerson, Ashe, Newcombe or Roche was certainly not bad. When the younger ones came into age in the late 60s, they faced the older pro generation and the older amateur generation, so we got together a very strong era imo. The early and mid 50s had also a very strong amateur game, with Sedgman, Patty, Drobny, Schroeder, Rosewall, Hoad, Rose, Trabert, Seixas and others competing. A weak amateur era were the late 50s, when virtually all top players had turned pro. That resulted in the strong pro era, mentioned above.

BTURNER 01-01-2011 09:15 AM

A few thoughts. With rare exception, it is not the era or time frame that is weak, but that an era has specific weaknesses or strengths. There may be a weak clay era or a regional fragility on 'this side of the pond' or that, but it usually suggests resurgence in other places on grass events or in Europe. Those weaknesses or strengths switch either due to internal or external politics, changes in the technology etc. Very few changes have led to a pervasive weakness of the entire sport. The two world wars and their direct aftermath surely represent the exception. Even the the deprivation in the amateur sport had a corresponding blossoming in the pro tour, it is more about looking somewhere else for the strength.

pc1 01-01-2011 09:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by urban (Post 5287418)
Lets better talk about strong eras, and leave the weak era debate to others like Mats. Otherwise we get the usual flame war with the usual suspects. If you have 6-7 great players competing for the big titles and top ranks, you imo have a strong era. Three of these strong eras were imo the late 50s at he pro game, the early open era around 1970, and the late 80s until ca. 1991.
While i certainly agree about the problems of the pro-amateur-split, i don't see the 60s as a particular weak era in the shamateurs. Because the National Federations spent money to control and hold their amateurs, great and very good players remained amateurs like Emerson, Santana, Pietrangeli, Stolle (till 1966), Fraser, later the upcoming Newcombe, Ashe, Roche. The semi final lineup of the Australian of 1967 with Emerson, Ashe, Newcombe or Roche was certainly not bad. When the younger ones came into age in the late 60s, they faced the older pro generation and the older amateur generation, so we got together a very strong era imo. The early and mid 50s had also a very strong amateur game, with Sedgman, Patty, Drobny, Schroeder, Rosewall, Hoad, Rose, Trabert, Seixas and others competing. A weak amateur era were the late 50s, when virtually all top players had turned pro. That resulted in the strong pro era, mentioned above.

Yes the names you brought up in the shamateurs were almost legendary so for the amateurs the 1960's may very well have been a strong era. Still it would have been interesting to see how it would have played out if the top pros played in a true Open Era in the 1960's. I would bet Gonzalez, Laver and Rosewall would dominate but some names like Gimeno, Emerson, Newcombe and Roche might break in to win some majors.

As far as the late 1950's are concerned I read in Jack Kramer's book that he thought Cooper and Anderson were the best of a bad group so he agree with you that time was poor for the amateurs also.

urban 01-01-2011 10:06 AM

Yes, we should very carfully considerate the respective amateur and pro tours of the 50s and 60s. Joe McCauley writes in his book, that the real top class pro game started with the Gonzalez-Trabert series in 1955/56. In 1956 and 57 the last great amateur players, Rosewall and Hoad, turned pro. Prior to that, the amateur game had a camparable level, but it couldn't compensate the loss of the two young Aussies. Cooper and Anderson, who succeeded them, hadn't the same level, and got clobbered, when they turned pro in 59. In 1959 virtually a whole generation of top players had left the amateurs and were in the pro ranks. It lasted some years, before a new generation of great amateurs like Laver, Santana and Emerson, and some very good as Pietrangeli, Osuna, Stolle or Fraser took over the amateur game. By then, the ILTF made it more difficult for Kramer, to recruit new pros, by giving their players some appearance money and benefits. In the 1960-1967 period, only Laver as real amateur champion turned pro, Stolle and Ralston signed later in 1967. Gimeno was a upcoming new face, when he signed with Kramer in 1960. That said, the major picture would certainly have been different with all pro competing.

TMF 01-01-2011 10:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by FiveO (Post 5287364)
IMO strong v. weak eras can be identified by the strength/weakness of two elements:

1- generational overlap both front and rear. IOW the holdover apex players of the generation prior, coming to the big tour 5-6 years earlier than the current generation currently enjoying their prime AND early door kickers, the young guns from the "next gen" breaking in 5-6 years after the current crop had. Sometimes it becomes further enhanced when 1 or 2 great players from two gens prior hang long enough to be a factor in the first part of a current generations run.

2- health - of the top echelon current and crossover generations, but mostly the current generations nearest peers all peaking at or about the the same period of time.

I think that the history of the game shows that each generation produces somewhere between 2 and 3 truly elite players and it's the presence and overlap of multiple generations that makes any particular era great. The vast majority of any era are draw fillers and would remain draw fillers in any generation, there's a second tier of very good, but there's only a couple of great players per generation. The absence of such players from any of those generations creates a vacuum or weaker era.

5

You left out one element and it's the most important one....

Increase in number of athletes and countries competiting. Logic say the bigger pool, the greater depth and talent. It doesn't necessary has to be tennis, but in other sports too. It's natural that the game continue to progress, it cannot stay still and improvement is the only way to survive.

While it's true that each generation produces 2 or 3 dominant players, but the quality of tennis in their respective era are not the same. For example, no one in there right mind would say Court would have won 11 AO in this current era.

pc1 01-01-2011 11:36 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TMF (Post 5287660)
You left out one element and it's the most important one....

Increase in number of athletes and countries competiting. Logic say the bigger pool, the greater depth and talent. It doesn't necessary has to be tennis, but in other sports too. It's natural that the game continue to progress, it cannot stay still and improvement is the only way to survive.

While it's true that each generation produces 2 or 3 dominant players, but the quality of tennis in their respective era are not the same. For example, no one in there right mind would say Court would have won 11 AO in this current era.


That's is a great point and extremely valid.

But let's say Court played in this era. I believe she was around Serena's height with world class speed in her time. What if she had the training of today? Clijsters is shorter (or at least near Court's height) than Court and she's one of the dominant players in the game today.

I do think Court would be one of the top players today. She would be different and probably play with a different style but I don't think her physical gifts and mental desire would be denied.

Did Court play in a weak era? Her main competition was Bueno, Wade and Billie Jean King with Evert and Goolagong coming in at the tail end of her dominance in the early 1970's. Is it as strong as today? Offhand I would think the top players could compete but perhaps there weren't as many good players then as there are now. It's a gut feeling.

The increase pool of course is a tremendous help and logically there should be greater athletes but we can never assume that genius cannot be found from a little pond.

Writers in the United States used to complain all the time how the United States players were being dominated by the population of a small country in Australian for years. Why were the Aussies so powerful for such a long time? Perhaps it was Hopman, who may have been very unique. I guess Hopman can claim credit for developing John McEnroe and Vitas Gerulaitis also among all the great Australians.

Is tennis better today? Are the athletes better today? Hard to say. But clearly the talent pool is larger. Would that make Roger Federer of 2005 a weak player relatively speaking twenty years from now when the talent pool should be even larger? I don't think so. I think Federer's genius would probably be valid in 2031 but obviously I wouldn't know for sure now.

In watching John McEnroe compete against some of the athletes of today I am convinced a young John McEnroe would do extremely well today. His speed and hand/eye coordination and his great touch would still be very effective today in my opinion and this a player who's peak was over 25 years ago. It was from a smaller talent pool.

Manus Domini 01-01-2011 11:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pc1 (Post 5287534)
As far as the late 1950's are concerned I read in Jack Kramer's book that he thought Cooper and Anderson were the best of a bad group so he agree with you that time was poor for the amateurs also.

Anderson Cooper was a tennis player?

In my opinion, it is shown a few ways:

1} how the older players of the previous generation do against the newer ones at the newer one's prime

2} Now, champion's series. If the old-men players can keep up with/beat the younger guys, they obviously would do well in the current era.

BTURNER 01-01-2011 11:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pc1 (Post 5287755)
That's is a great point and extremely valid.

But let's say Court played in this era. I believe she was around Serena's height with world class speed in her time. What if she had the training of today? Clijsters is shorter (or at least near Court's height) than Court and she's one of the dominant players in the game today.

I do think Court would be one of the top players today. She would be different and probably play with a different style but I don't think her physical gifts and mental desire would be denied.

Did Court play in a weak era? Her main competition was Bueno, Wade and Billie Jean King with Evert and Goolagong coming in at the tail end of her dominance in the early 1970's. Is it as strong as today? Offhand I would think the top players could compete but perhaps there weren't as many good players then as there are now. It's a gut feeling.

The increase pool of course is a tremendous help and logically there should be greater athletes but we can never assume that genius cannot be found from a little pond.

Writers in the United States used to complain all the time how the United States players were being dominated by the population of a small country in Australian for years. Why were the Aussies so powerful for such a long time? Perhaps it was Hopman, who may have been very unique. I guess Hopman can claim credit for developing John McEnroe and Vitas Gerulaitis also among all the great Australians.

Is tennis better today? Are the athletes better today? Hard to say. But clearly the talent pool is larger. Would that make Roger Federer of 2005 a weak player relatively speaking twenty years from now when the talent pool should be even larger? I don't think so. I think Federer's genius would probably be valid in 2031 but obviously I wouldn't know for sure now.

In watching John McEnroe compete against some of the athletes of today I am convinced a young John McEnroe would do extremely well today. His speed and hand/eye coordination and his great touch would still be very effective today in my opinion and this a player who's peak was over 25 years ago. It was from a smaller talent pool.

How a past champion might adapt to today's tennis is not just about how their physical game and training would be altered, but would the sport still fit their personality or temperament. That is one individual characteristic that is not easily altered by training or even the best sport psychologist. Court might not succeed in the modern era because her shy, diffident personality could not handle the modern pressure cooker of public eye and Mac might simply implode too often and far earlier in his career

urban 01-01-2011 01:05 PM

Of course, Court would win even more than 24 majors against the likes of Woizniacki, Safina, or others of the current crop. Court was a bit mechanical, but that would fit in extremely well with today women players, who play all the same. She could lose to players with some imagination as Bueno or Goolagong. That even a mother can win big, is shown by Clijsters. If Serena would really focus on her game and train properly the whole year, she would have around 20 majors. The current state of womens tennis is pretty weak. Excuse me, i did want to talk not about weak eras, but strong ones.

TMF 01-01-2011 03:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by urban (Post 5287910)
Of course, Court would win even more than 24 majors against the likes of Woizniacki, Safina, or others of the current crop. Court was a bit mechanical, but that would fit in extremely well with today women players, who play all the same. She could lose to players with some imagination as Bueno or Goolagong. That even a mother can win big, is shown by Clijsters. If Serena would really focus on her game and train properly the whole year, she would have around 20 majors. The current state of womens tennis is pretty weak. Excuse me, i did want to talk not about weak eras, but strong ones.

This is not a good post.

BTURNER 01-01-2011 03:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by urban (Post 5287910)
Of course, Court would win even more than 24 majors against the likes of Woizniacki, Safina, or others of the current crop. Court was a bit mechanical, but that would fit in extremely well with today women players, who play all the same. She could lose to players with some imagination as Bueno or Goolagong. That even a mother can win big, is shown by Clijsters. If Serena would really focus on her game and train properly the whole year, she would have around 20 majors. The current state of womens tennis is pretty weak. Excuse me, i did want to talk not about weak eras, but strong ones.

I see problems with her winning that much on the hard courts as she did on the grass courts. While the groundies are certainly there, I suspect injuries would take a real toll on her body.

pc1 01-01-2011 05:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BTURNER (Post 5288156)
I see problems with her winning that much on the hard courts as she did on the grass courts. While the groundies are certainly there, I suspect injuries would take a real toll on her body.

Court used to play a pretty heavy schedule. While the hard courts could cause injuries I can see her playing less tournaments than she did in the 60's and early 70's which would cut down on the wear and tear.

hoodjem 01-01-2011 07:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TMF (Post 5287660)
Increase in number of athletes and countries competiting. Logic say the bigger pool, the greater depth and talent. It doesn't necessary has to be tennis, but in other sports too. It's natural that the game continue to progress, it cannot stay still and improvement is the only way to survive.

While it's true that each generation produces 2 or 3 dominant players, but the quality of tennis in their respective era are not the same. For example, no one in there right mind would say Court would have won 11 AO in this current era.

"This is not a good post." Logic "says" nothing here.

Probability suggests that if a given set of organisms is more populous, the specimens who survive are probably better adapted to survive. But in reality the exact opposite could happen. Probability means that it is more likely to happen, but offers no guarantee that it will actually happen.

Logical results are dependable; probable results are only more likely.

"It is only a fool who presumes evolution means progress or improvement in human beings."
--Bertrand Russell

The-Champ 01-01-2011 07:12 PM

1. Weak era - the era your favorite player did not play in.

2. Strong era - The era your favorite player dominated.


:)

fed_rulz 01-01-2011 07:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hoodjem (Post 5288504)
"This is not a good post." Logic "says" nothing here.

Probability suggests that if a given set of organisms is more populous, the specimens who survive are probably better adapted to survive. But in reality the exact opposite could happen. Probability means that it is more likely to happen, but offers no guarantee that it will actually happen.

Logical results are dependable; probable results are only more likely.

"It is only a fool who presumes evolution means progress or improvement in human beings."
--Bertrand Russell

but in the absence of indisputable proof, which one would you rather trust? probability or the subjective opinion of some tennis-crazy, self-proclaimed expert?

urban 01-02-2011 12:19 AM

Ok, Lets get into it again. If one would (and could) change the one really good women player of modern times, Serena Williams with Margret Court, i would indeed bet, that she would win over 20 majors. Serena has won a lot, without focussing on tennis, without training properly, despite being overweight and very seldom really fit, with an in and out mentality. Now Court, with her sound allcourt game, her ultra fit athleticism, her long arms and legs, i don't see, why she would have not won the same now as in her own era. Who in all the world would say, that those unspeakable names of today, those camp-made roboters are in the same class as women like BJK, Maria Bueno, Virginia Wade, Ann Jones, Lesley Turner, Rosie Casals, young Chrissie Evert - all players Court defeated for big titles. The only exception and competition for a really fit Serena i see is Clijsters.

FiveO 01-02-2011 06:24 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TMF (Post 5287660)
You left out one element and it's the most important one....

Increase in number of athletes and countries competiting. Logic say the bigger pool, the greater depth and talent. It doesn't necessary has to be tennis, but in other sports too. It's natural that the game continue to progress, it cannot stay still and improvement is the only way to survive.

While it's true that each generation produces 2 or 3 dominant players, but the quality of tennis in their respective era are not the same. For example, no one in there right mind would say Court would have won 11 AO in this current era.

Looked at in a vacuum perhaps. But this isn't a vacuum. World population only has an impact if participation in tennis increases in a like percentage and if other established locales maintain their own level of participation.

Number of countries has little to do with it. As the former USSR and Eastern European countries fragmented it doesn't mean more players playing it merely means players playing under more flags. About the only country that could have an impact is China but that depends on if the sport catches enough people's interest there. Aside from that many countries are no larger in terms of area or population than states in America.

The decline in participation in New York is just one example of once established tennis playing locales being a shell of themselves as far as participation. A large local public par of 16 courts here was jammed with 2-3 hour waits in the 70's and 80's. One is lucky to find 3 or 4 courts occupied at a time nowadays. The majority of indoor clubs that sprang up like mushrooms during the "tennis boom", whose JD programs lured the best coaches in the world to suburban and even urban New York have either been downsized to accomodate other sports or training facilities or sold off outright for their land value. Having been in the industry here since before the bubble burst, there isn't 1/10th the participation in tennis there was in the sport's hey day here. That's just one state whose area and population rivals many of the "new countries" you speak of. About the only locales it has survived in numbers are the traditional US sunshine states.

Tennis has to compete against many more leisure time activities today than ever before, that's worldwide. X-sports, more water sports, vehicle sports, etc. Also every sport has to compete against ever more sedentary generations attracted more to video/computer games and activities than outdoor sports.

So merely because the world's population has increased doesn't mean there are more potential elite tennis players in the pool of potential prospects.

As far as other sports go, look no further than baseball. Where are the .400 hitters? W/O drugs who has hit more homeruns in a season than Ruth or Maris? Why aren't all pitchers throwing 120 mph today?

Lebron James is held up as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Better than MJ? Better then Kareem? Chamberlain? Based on what exactly? He was recently quoted as saying the league is watered down by having too many franchises and preventing teams being formed with multiple tier 1 stars as they were in the 1980's. Why would he say that?

Why is a country like Jamaica producing all the world class sprinters not caught doping? Why aren't all those "new countries" producing them? It's only my opinion, based on almost all other record breaking 100m times being rolled back as each of those athletes were discovered to have been PED enhanced, is that Jamaica is merely just somehow ahead of the testing curve. If that isn't the case then how is a sport like horseracing, one that has control over all the variables of the subject population, engages in selective breeding, bioengineering and various types of doping (legal and illegal) able to produce ever faster horses? The simple answer is there are limits. And to think with that much "control" over their subjects horseracing can't produce ever better "athletes" but with human subjects, by shear chance, to multiple powers (i.e. parent's genes, the offspring choosing the sport, finding the right environment, the right training, the right competition, remaining healthy), simply through the passage of time and increasing general population, human beings MUST produce better tennis players is a concept that is rendered amusing.

5

borg number one 01-02-2011 06:39 AM

The late 1970's-early 1980's has been called the "golden era". Public courts were packed in the U.S. (TV ratings were also extremely high. The 1980 Wimbledon final was off the charts). I'd be curious to know what the numbers were in places such as Great Britain, France, and Australia as well. The open era began in 1968 with Laver leading the way. Then, by the mid-1970's you had Connors, Evert, Borg, McEnroe, and Navratilova taking the Sport to dizzying heights of popularity. That atmosphere, in my opinion, helped produce some stellar competition, but that atmosphere was also created by the very special players themselves. In effect, some key players have played a large part in making professional tennis into what it is today, in terms of media coverage, global reach, prize money, and endorsements. I do think that "overall depth" has increased as the Sport has become more popular internationally (more countries are fielding top players, so more depth overall). Yet, I don't think that automatically translates into more "depth at the top", just by virtue of greater numbers. If you look at Laver's competition you'll see that it was extremely tough. Then again, just look at the top 10 in 1980 or so. It was stacked with Borg, Connors, McEnroe, and Lendl in the top four and many great players in the top 20.

In many ways, champions are "born, not made". Really great players come along periodically and I don't buy the argument that you can just produce lots of great players by starting with a large number of them and just sticking to a standard formula. Comparing players across eras as well as comparing the eras themselves is a very difficult proposition. I've concluded that doing so has to be both a qualitative and quantitative exercise (like the GOAT debate). Even then, as PC1 has rightly pointed out, "there are no right or wrong answers here".

I tend to evaluate the strength of eras based on the majors and who is contending at them. I focus on the players that reach the quarters, semifinals, and finals at the majors. That's where champions/all-time greats are really tested. Those are the tournaments that are most prized and where players tend to play their very best. The stakes are the highest and they are playing on the grandest stages. So, I like to focus on this question:"What is the overall quality of the quarterfinalists/semifinalists at the majors"? That inevitably leads me to another related question when I look back at majors played during an era. I end up asking myself "how tough were the players that the title holders prevailed over?" When I try and rate the strength of an era, I look at the "depth at the very top" (players 1-4, 1-8 ). By and large, great players just don't lose in the first several rounds at majors. When you get down to the quarters and further, that's the real danger zone for them. So, that leads me to the conclusion that in a "strong era", even truly great players are severely tested by other great players at the end of majors. In a "weak era", great players face relatively weaker players in the quarters through the finals.


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