Originally Posted by Borgforever
When it comes to stats and records in majors and such in 1976 Borg vastly outclasses Jimmy Connors record for that year, it's not even close -- Jimbo who had a great year, sure, but he didn't beat a peak form Borg. If that's the ruling logic around here I guess Del Potro's Shanghai'results lately weighs more than his USO-win and that Rafael Nadal must be playing his best tennis right now...
That's really the key here, is identifying what logic we use when we name a #1: what criteria. Not everyone has the same criteria. The biggest contrast is the priority different people give to day-in-day-out consistency on the one hand and big events on the other. And there are other differences, everyone knows what they are.
I'll tell you, though, the problem I have with the criteria of having to beat a player at his peak (your example of Connors not beating a peak Borg). IMO that has its place when we're trying to judge who the better play was; or analyzing the level of play in particular matches, etc. But who was #1 for the year is primarily about results. It may be that Connors did not defeat Borg at his peak in 1976. But he did defeat him, and the turnaround in the rivalry did not come until the following year. That's the only place it can count. 1977 gives some perspective -- tells us that Borg was almost there in 1976, that the rivalry was about to change. But it didn't change. Not yet. Borg came close -- that's what your arguments point to -- but that's it, just close. That makes him a strong #2 (a close #2).
In 1976 perhaps, as you say, casual observers saw the 3-year-old winning streak that Connors had over Borg and casually judged that Connors was going to be the reigning champion for some time. That always happens; we tend to glorify the champion of the moment. But none of my arguments depend on those casual overheated judgments of the moment. My argument about 1976 is that is was simply close but no cigar. Borg did not start beating Connors until 1977.
And when he did it at the Pepsi Grand Slam, since Tennis Channel broadcast it recently it's plain to me that Connors was not at his best in that match. Borg was. And what does that matter, exactly? It doesn't matter to me -- not as far as judging the results and who was #1 for the year.
As I say, your arguments about level of play carry some weight, for deciding whether Borg was better than Connors. And that criteria -- who was better -- is a factor, for instance when we say that Borg was a better player than Vilas as of 1977. That's great -- but Borg showed it with actual results over Vilas. He's got no victories over Connors in 1976, and if we speculate that in peak form he could have beaten Connors, then we're merely talking about matches that did not occur. If the argument is that he came close, then that's all we have -- close but no cigar. I see no way, with these arguments, to lift Borg over Connors in 1976.
But there may be a way by judging what he did over the course of the year, against other opponents, and comparing it to Jimmy's record. If Hellborg's arguments go down that road, then I might see the logic. But Borg, even then, would be given #1 for the year without any concrete indication that he was better than Connors (in actual matches as they were), and for that reason alone I can't see myself giving him more than a co-#1 for the year. To give it to Borg alone, and leave out the man who beat him every time they met?
Each man has 1 Slam, and while I understand that according to traditionalist arguments Borg was named #1 because he won Wimbledon, we are free to disagree with that tradition. Wimbledon was the biggest tournament, that I don't dispute. But Borg won it without facing Connors, which is the one thing -- the only thing -- that can be said against his dominating victory there. But it's an important thing. With Connors in the final Borg would almost surely not have swept the tournament in straight sets, which is why I can only go so far in judging his straight-set victory as a measure of his dominance. When he did meet Connors, on a surface favorable to him, he came close but lost, and I just think that's hugely significant. I can imagine different results for that day (Borg could have tried different tactics), but the only sure result is the one that happened.