Originally Posted by Mustard
Vilas is number 1 for 1977 because of his sheer activity, and the fact that he won 2 of the 5 majors that year, and runner-up in another. There's just no way that Vilas isn't number 1 in 1977.
I would say 2 of 3 majors rather than 2 of 5. The Australian really was not on a par with the others as far as attendance, and the Masters, while it was at least the 4th most important tournament, was not in the same category either, if only because of format. An 8-man draw with best of 3 matches is by definition not a major (“slam,” whatever), at least to me.
A big problem is that in all these discussions there seems to be a constant and often unconscious going back and forth between trying to adopt the perspective of the time under discussion (assuming we could know exactly what that perspective was) and replacing it in favor of current standards, with no clear criteria for this constant switching of perspectives. The Australian in particular seems to undergo major changes in status depending on individual years. Was it or was it not an important tournament in that decade? And how important was it exactly in relation to other tournaments? What was it comparable to at the time? Judging by player’s attendance, one has to suspect it could not have been too important. On the other hand, because of the majestic status of Australia as a cradle of modern tennis, it could be that the AO retained a certain old prestige or cachet that was not present in other secondary tournaments with better attendance. I just don’t know. And I know even less how to evaluate and measure those things.
If one adopts the criteria that each tournament's weight is never static, but always strictly established by the quality of the field attending it, then a dispassionate and consistent measuring tool for such quality would need to be ruthlessly applied accross the board for all years, and let the chips fall where they may. But no such tools exist, and so the evaluations and opinions tend to get anecdotal, highly vulnerable to very selective subjectivity and personal preferences. Not even the complete draws of most secondary tournaments are easily available. Judgment is often made based on the presence or absence of a few arbitrarily selected players. It seems to me that almost the entire second half of the seventies could be subject to great uncertainty, as well as various years in the 80s and even 90s. But I do agree that, at least on first impression, Vilas seems to me the strongest candidate for the number one position / player of the year or whatever title one wants to give it in 1977.