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Blocker 11-20-2012 08:26 PM

Why the GOAT does NOT exist
 
For a long time now I have sat back and read all the various discussions about GOATs, of which there seems to be hundreds floating around. I have read all the arguments for and against and all the counter arguments, and Iím here to tell you that a tennis GOAT does not exist to this point.

So what defines a GOAT? A summary of all the arguments which have been written on this site follows:

Most slams won, ie beating the field most times.
Dominating your era as well as all your main rivals during your time.
Dominating a particular slam like no one else has done before you.
Dominating Wimbledon like no-one else has done before you.
Longest time spent at number 1.
Most titles won.
Dominating the player most perceive to be the GOAT.
Winning the grand slam.
Winning a career slam.

The above are all examples I have seen used to explain why any one player should be the GOAT. Alot of these points have merit, but canít be used in isolation to determine the GOAT.

To me, there are 4 main things which come into consideration when choosing a GOAT.

Most slams won
Career slams
Head to head
A combination of everything else, eg time spent at number 1, eras, mental toughness, serve, return of serve, fitness, x factor, basically anything you can think of.

These 4 points have to be taken together, as a combination, not taken in isolation from 1 through to 4.

Before I continue, I want to quickly qualify point 3 because I know a lot of people will reject that as a factor. At the end of the day, tennis, in its purest form, is two players on the opposite sides of a court, separated by a net, trying to win a match of tennis. If you had to choose one human being who ever lived, be it a professional tennis player, an amateur tennis player or a hack, to play for YOUR LIFE, against any other human being in the history of the world, to win 2 of 3 BO5 set matches, one on grass, one on clay and one hard court, who would it be?

Let me quickly explain these 3 surfaces.

Grass: traditional fast surface, low skidding bounce which favours a serve volleyer. On this surface, a good serve volleyer will have the advantage over a good baseliner.

Clay: slow, high bounce, favours the baseliner. On this surface, a good baseliner will have the advantage over a good serve volleyer.

Hardcourt: medium true pace, not too fast, not too slow, with medium true bounce. Favours no style of play. All things being equal, a serve volleyer who is superior to a baseliner should win this match, and vice versa. This is the neutral surface.

The above surfaces are the traditional grand slam surfaces and hence I have limited it to these 3. These surfaces ensure that ever player to have ever played the game is not disadvantaged by homeginastion, which in the scheme of things, has been around for 5 minutes.

So ask yourself this question. Which human being would you choose to play for your life in 3 x 5 setters (grass/clay/hardcourt) against any other random human being in the history of the world? Remember, your player loses 2 of 3 matches, your life comes to an end. Take Federer vs Nadal for example. Who here is willing to put their life in the hands of Federer against Nadal? I know I wouldnít. I value my life too much. Iíve seen Federer lose to Nadal on clay and hardcourt too many times for me to want to risk everything there is about me. I even saw Federer lose a grasscourt match to Nadal and saw Nadal nearly beat him in a grasscourt match the year before.

So this is why head to head has to be a factor when assessing the GOAT. Remember, GOAT is the acronym for ďgreatest of all timeĒ. The greatest of all time should be good enough to beat all comers, in 2 of the 3 traditional grand slam surfaces. To use a boxing term, the GOAT should be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. And as you will see, there is plenty of dispute, about every candidate.

So letís have a look at some of the GOAT candidates.

Federer
Has the most slams, has the career slam, but is owned by Nadal. Sorry Federer fans, I have taken on board everything you have said about this H2H issue and nothing I have seen convinces me otherwise.

For years, we as tennis fans have salivated at the prospect of seeing a great from one era up against a great from another era. The first time I ever encountered such a match-up was in 1984. I was reading this Australian tennis magazine and it was about Laver vs McEnroe. At that stage, McEnroe was the top player in the world and seemed invincible at the time. This was before the FO of that year. The aurthor set the scene. The Laver/McEnroe match would have to be played on Wimbledon Centre Court, the day would have to be sunny, packed crowd, everything to play for, bla bla bla. Until Nadal started owning Federer, I always wondered about who would have won such a match. But not anymore, which I will explain why below.

Put Federer in the 90s (assume Sampras did not exist and also assume Federer and Nadal never crossed paths). Federer with his 17 Slams from the 90s versus Nadal in todayís era with his slams to date. Could you imagine the GOAT discussions then? They would be epic. Seriously, their would not be enough bandwith in the world to support all the discussions written about a Federer versus Nadal matchup. The arguments about why Federer would whip Nadal and vice versa would be endless. But the reality is, Nadal has had the better of Federer in their matchups. And for this reason, the fantasy of seeing two tennis greats from different eras has been ruined for me. Because the player with 17 slams, the most in history, continues to be pawned by Nadal when it matters the most. Why would I get excited about Federer versus Laver when I know Federer could not beat Nadal? If anything, put Nadal up against Laver. Even if we were to limit the Federer/Nadal H2H to one match on each of the 3 surfaces, Nadal still wins 2-1. (Iím aware that the AO surface is as slow as the FO clay, but unfortunately I can only go with what weíve got, and their matches to date in the slams is what weíve got.)

Now I know what the response will be to this. Like Iíve said, Iíve read it all before. Inbalance due to too many clay matches, mental issues, mismatch issues, 5 years age difference, and the list goes on. But this ladies and gentlemen is the precise reason why Federer can not be the GOAT. Surely the GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME should be able to figure out a way to beat any other player in 2 of 3 x 5 set matches. Isnít that what the GOAT is all about, winning against the field, beating your direct rival and beating anyone else on a tennis court? Like I said before, in its purest form, tennis is about two players trying to figure out a way to beat their opponent. If you canít beeat your greatest rival who is standing on the other side of the net, then quite simply, you canít be the greatest of all time?

Now if someone was to ask who has the most slams in history, then of course it is Federer. But this does equate to GOAT. Tennis was not always about winning slams. Believe it or not, DC was once considered as important. Really, the slam count only came to prominence from the 80s. So using slam count alone and applying it across different eras is comparing apples to oranges. Like I said, you need to take in all the 4 factors I mentioned above to pull one man out and place him above everyone else. Federer is not GOAT because he canít get past Nadal.

Sampras
Has the second most slams.
Pretty much won his H2H rivalries.
No career slam (no FO). For this reason, Sampras is not the GOAT.

Borg
Iíll make an exception re the career slam for Borg given that he did not give two hoots about the AO.

But even so. No USO, lost in the final there 4 times. Got owned by McEnroe in 3 of their 4 grand slam finals. So how can Borg be the GOAT? Quite simply, he canít. He couldnít get the better of McEnroe in 4 grand slam finals, how can he possibly be GOAT?

Agassi
If there is one player who ticks all the boxes as far as winning everything worth winning is concerned, it is Agassi. Won all the slams, won the YEC/WTF and won an Olympic singles gold medal. I stand corrected, but no other man has done this. He even helped win the DC for his country. As the WTF and the Olympics have not always been around, I will stick to the slams. Agassi is well behind Federer and Nadal as far as slam count is concerned. Plus, he also got owned by Sampras in their biggest matches. So Agassi canít be the GOAT.

Connors
Never won the FO and was owned by Borg in their big matches. So Connors is not the GOAT.

Lendl
Never won Wimbledon and was owned by Becker in their biggest matches. Not the GOAT.

McEnroe
His slam count never made it to double digits and he never won the FO. He must still have nightmares about that 1984 final against Lendl.

Nadal
Nadal is an interesting one. Has won the career slam but still trails Federer in total slams won, even though he owns their H2H. Another thing which rules Nadal out is that so far he has been owned by Djok in their big matches. So again, knowing that Djok beat Nadal in 3 of 4 consecutive slam finals means that I would not have Nadal as GOAT because there is another player in the history of the world who has had the better of him.

Laver
Iím not going to comment about Laver. I never saw him play. Everyone knows him as the man that has won the GRAND SLAM OF TENNIS twice. But his era is too much bygone to even be relevant to todayís tennis environment. And this just goes to show even moreso that you cannot have a GOAT because the 50s and 60s, and every era before that, is so different to today.

Blocker 11-20-2012 08:27 PM

Following on from my OP:

Beating the GOAT field

Put the above 9 players plus 7 other players of your choice, each at their peak, in a 16 field knockout tournament, where each round was best of 3 x 5 set matches on the surfaces mentioned above, and there you will have your GOAT field. Make them play to the death, who would be the last man standing? Who is going to beat the field? Whatever your answer is, that would be your GOAT. Of course it is all speculation about who would win and that is why tennis simply does not have a GOAT. I know one thing, it would not be Federer due to the Nadal factor. Federer would win on the fast grass, Nadal would win on the clay and Nadal would grind out a win on the neutral hardcourt. If I had to put my money on someone (note not my life, just my money) to beat this field, the last man standing would probably be Sampras. He would lose his clay matches, win his grass court matches (remember, traditional grass) and would probably be good enough to win the hardcourt matches with his big serve and net rush, as long as he was on the opposite side of the draw to Federer, where he could rely on Nadal taking him out. Nadal fans would probably have something to say about Sampras winning, but again, all these ifs and buts makes it clear…there is no GOAT…not at this stage anyway.

90's Clay 11-20-2012 08:28 PM

The standard of "GOAT" has changed so much over the years, there is just no level playing field as to what constitutes one. Was there even GOAT talk prior to Sampras breaking Emerson's record?


If you go with slam count, thats a totally uneven playing field because if guys like Pancho and Laver had as many cracks at the slams as say Federer, they would have won 20 plus slams easily.

Then you factor in homogenization where its much easier to dominate year round today, thats entirely new argument we can get into.

Prisoner of Birth 11-20-2012 08:35 PM

Wow, thanks for clearing that up for us, Sherlock. I see it now!

OddJack 11-20-2012 08:43 PM

What you miss is that "Greatest" is relative, not absolute.
Relative to everybody else's achievements, Federer is the greatest.
Rod said so, Borg said so, and many of the rest of greats said so.

Now, carry on.

Cup8489 11-20-2012 08:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 90's Clay (Post 7027147)
The standard of "GOAT" has changed so much over the years, there is just no level playing field as to what constitutes one. Was there even GOAT talk prior to Sampras breaking Emerson's record?


If you go with slam count, thats a totally uneven playing field because if guys like Pancho and Laver had as many cracks at the slams as say Federer, they would have won 20 plus slams easily.

Then you factor in homogenization where its much easier to dominate year round today, thats entirely new argument we can get into.

What makes you say that? Nostalgia?

above bored 11-20-2012 09:09 PM

The idea of the GOAT is a very simple concept that does not require these mammoth explanations. All it identifies is the player considered to be the best overall, given all the information, not just Majors or something else. Nor is it a mathematical equation that can be discovered by tallying up all the data. It doesn't mean you have to be invincible or completely flawless or that there must be complete unanimity amongst the world's population. As I said, all it means is you are considered to be the best to have played the game. At this stage, most expert and casual opinion think Federer is the best player the world has seen, so there you have it.

Saying there is or isn't a GOAT does not make either true in any absolute sense. The level of support for the idea of a GOAT and the identification of a player that embodies that quality, by most people, is what determines the sustainability of the GOAT concept.

Also, the OP is factually wrong when he says Federer cannot beat his biggest rival. He has beaten him 10 times and counting.

Prisoner of Birth 11-20-2012 09:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by above bored (Post 7027183)
The idea of the GOAT is a very simple concept that does not require these mammoth explanations. All it identifies is the player considered to be the best overall, given all the information, not just Majors or something else. Nor is it a mathematical equation that can be discovered by tallying up all the data. It doesn't mean you have to be invincible or completely flawless or that there must be complete unanimity amongst the world's population. As I said, all it means is you are considered to be the best to have played the game. At this stage, most expert and casual opinion think Federer is the best player the world has seen, so there you have it.

Saying there is or isn't a GOAT does not make either true in any absolute sense. The level of support for the idea of a GOAT and the identification of a player that embodies that quality, by most people, is what determines the sustainability of the GOAT concept.

Also, the OP is factually wrong when he says Federer cannot beat his biggest rival. He has beaten him 10 times and counting.

Totally this.

joeri888 11-20-2012 09:59 PM

I agree there is no single greatest of all time. It's hard to compare different eras and there were a lot of different great players. I mean, you can probably say that Federer is better than Djokovic or Hewitt but that's pretty much it. Federer's probably up there resumewise, but whether he's better than Pancho or Laver FOR THEIR TIME, it's hard to tell.

NLBwell 11-20-2012 10:06 PM

Arthur Ashe said that he would want McEnroe playing for him if his life depended on it.
Interesting, since there was a lot of disagreement between them.
I don't know that McEnroe is the best, but I know that if he were playing for someone else's life, he would treat it as if it were his own life on the line. Not sure that some of the other guys would do that.

jokinla 11-20-2012 10:15 PM

Yes, NOBODY will ever have it all, which is what your criteria seems to be, and since NOBODY will ever have it all, we must go to who is closest, and ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the GOAT.................................................. .................................................. .................................................. .................................................. ................................................ROGER FEDERER , millions applaud and cheer, some even weep, congrats Roger, and still the GOAT!!!!!!!!!!

Goosehead 11-20-2012 10:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NLBwell (Post 7027227)
Arthur Ashe said that he would want McEnroe playing for him if his life depended on it.
Interesting, since there was a lot of disagreement between them.
I don't know that McEnroe is the best, but I know that if he were playing for someone else's life, he would treat it as if it were his own life on the line. Not sure that some of the other guys would do that.

if it were lendl's life on the line then mcenroe would tank the match.

oops..sorry mr robot-head ivan, i think i lost...byeeeeeeee.:twisted:

roundiesee 11-20-2012 10:43 PM

I think we all (deep in our hearts) know that there is no such thing as a GOAT in tennis, because it is so difficult to compare different eras; BUT we still like to discuss it, just for the hell of it! :) Anyway, I think the OP has put his point across quite well, so kudos to you OP! :)

beast of mallorca 11-20-2012 10:51 PM

I guess this topic signifies that tennis season is over huh. Re-hash the GOAT topic some more for the nth time.

TennisLovaLova 11-21-2012 01:01 AM

^^^ this is the first time I hear about this GOAT concept
it has never been discussed before on these boards

Prisoner of Birth 11-21-2012 01:02 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by roundiesee (Post 7027265)
I think we all (deep in our hearts) know that there is no such thing as a GOAT in tennis, because it is so difficult to compare different eras; BUT we still like to discuss it, just for the hell of it! :) Anyway, I think the OP has put his point across quite well, so kudos to you OP! :)

So let me get this straight. You're saying Roger Federer doesn't exist?

Sabratha 11-21-2012 01:38 AM

"Greatest" is a suggestable word by itself, but it has several criteria it can fit into. I think if anything, there should be a GOAT for every era.

Blocker 11-21-2012 01:53 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by OddJack (Post 7027167)
What you miss is that "Greatest" is relative, not absolute.
Relative to everybody else's achievements, Federer is the greatest.
Rod said so, Borg said so, and many of the rest of greats said so.

Now, carry on.

No my op didn't miss a beat. My point is you have to make it absolute.

Because as my op states, winning slams was not always the be all and end all.

Just in case you forgot, AT in GOAT means ALL TIME. All time includes every player to have played the game.

So if slam count had been the measure for all of time by which we determine GOATness, would Federer sit atop the slam perch today? Bill Tilden won 15 slams, some not recognised as proper slams because he only had to play the all comer winner in the final. Plus he never played the AO. Borg never played the AO, he could have won 7 or 8 AOs given his dominance at W.

That's why you need to factor in everything else as well. Slams weren't always the measuring stick.

Rhino 11-21-2012 01:55 AM

If only I had time to read all that....

Blocker 11-21-2012 01:56 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Prisoner of Birth (Post 7027158)
Wow, thanks for clearing that up for us, Sherlock. I see it now!

Don't get smart with me champ, just stating it for what it is. If you've got nothing constructive to say, just STFU.


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