Originally Posted by Gizo
Despite all this I agree with the common concensus that Lendl was 'only' the 4th best player that year, behind McEnroe, Wilander and Connors.
Lendl won 7 official titles. Noah won only 3 titles, but one was RG -- and Noah took down both Lendl and Wilander there. That was arguably the biggest single victory of the year.
So can Lendl be ranked ahead of a GS winner? In this case I think overall performance, without a Slam, can leapfrog over someone who has a Slam title. Noah's 3 titles were all on outdoor clay (RG, Hamburg, Madrid), and as impressive as those titles were, he was only a force in the claycourt season. He did not play Wimbledon or the AO, and went out in the USO quarters. He didn't even meet Connors or McEnroe the whole year.
Lendl meanwhile was a force everywhere, even if he couldn't quite get that blue-chip victory (to use your phrase). He won titles on carpet, hard and clay; he made the finals of many big events (USO, AO, Masters, Dallas), which should count for something. He even did well at Wimbledon, with a good run to the semis. And though he won none of the top titles, he won some fairly big events (Canadian Open, Tokyo Indoor).
At the end of the season no one was talking about Noah as a candidate for player of the year, that's for sure. No one thought Lendl was #1, either, but at least he entered the conversation. He was the prizemoney leader; and the (admittedly flawed) computer rankings placed him at #2, just a hairline behind McEnroe (129.60 points vs 129.92 points).