Originally Posted by Mustard
I was watching the 1979 Wimbledon final between Borg and Tanner the other day. An amazing match which Tanner was very unfortunate to lose, and one of the Australian commentators said that if Borg won, he would surely be recognised as the greatest player of all time. Laver didn't seem to be in the equation anything like he seems to be these days.
Of course, there's the fact that Borg was just 23 at that stage, about to win his 8th major, and potentially had many, many years at the peak of the game. Many people were saying the same about Federer long before he got near Sampras' 14 majors.
I found that remark somewhat odd too. A few things come to mind about that time period (the late 70s).
1) Wimbledon may have been regarded as more important, relative to the other Slams, than it is today. Of course it has top prestige today, but back then it was still called the unofficial world championship -- a title which by tradition it had held for a long time. For example in '77 when Borg won Wimbledon, Sports Illustrated referred to his winning "the world championship."
So the streak that Borg was putting together at Wimbledon was already taking on mythical proportions. The longest previous streak since the Challenge Round was abolished was 3 in a row by Fred Perry. Borg was doing something that had not been done in 40 years, going back to Perry, and when he got 4 in a row with the win over Tanner it became the longest streak since 1906. When records that old get toppled, it takes on mythical proportions.
2) Laver's "lost" career in 1963-67 was not as well understood in 1979 as it is now. Of course people knew that he kept on winning in those years, but the picture of what he did was unclear. A lot of it was forgotten, or just plain unknown. (And what was
known was definitely under-appreciated!)The historical research that uncovered all of his titles and laid it out in a clear picture is much more recent. In '79 what the pros had done before the Open Era was still looked upon as the dark ages of tennis.
3) And I think there was just some hyperbole in the moment. That announcer may just have felt the excitement of an unheard-of record about to be made, and jumped the gun about what its importance was going to be in the GOAT debate.
Not saying that explains the remark fully, but those things come to mind.