Originally Posted by krosero
The problem with the bolded part is that it's too general a statement. Some people may well have considered those 3 players the best, but that was several years ago. Without knowing who those people were, we have no idea what their opinions are today.
Just because you heard some people comparing Sampras to Laver back then, and you hear some people comparing Federer to Laver today, does not mean they are the same people.
And if they are the same people, that does not automatically mean they are wrong. A lot of Laver's history has mostly been unknown to tennis fans until recently -- even today. It's been 11 years since Sampras retired, and in that time a lot of people have learned a lot about Laver that they didn't know then.
You imply above that Laver, Sampras and Federer were all in the same tier because they had a similar number of Grand Slam victories, with Laver at 11. Well that's precisely why some people, back in Sampras' time, might have equated Sampras with Laver: because all they knew about Laver was that he won 11 Slam titles. Big problem right there, because he did so much more.
I think if anything Laver's overall place in the GOAT debates will continue to rise, as tennis fans come to know more about his career. Right now the casual fan knows very little about his pro years before '68. What they do know of Laver is basically restricted to his two Grand Slams, and to his 11 Grand Slam titles. Many are not even aware, or are only dimly aware, that he played his best tennis during his pro years before '68, when he wasn't winning Slams because, of course, he was barred from them.
A lot of the tennis that was played on the pro tours before '68 has only been discovered recently, through the research of historians. Some tennis fans know a lot about Laver's career, most don't know too much. But that's one reason that an older player's career can be re-assessed -- and his ranking in the GOAT debate can increase over time.
If anything, it's the modern players who will remain "fixed." We know everything that Sampras won. Everyone has always known it, because the modern media keeps track of all of it, and tennis fans have always had access to the information.
Same with Federer. His career is brandished in bright lights and documented in heavy detail.
Not so with older players like Pancho Gonzalez and Laver. That's especially true for a guy like Pancho who spent most of his career in the "dark ages" of the pro tours before '68.