Originally Posted by timnz
Well is the comparison I have given of comparing Masters 1000s and greater not a fairly good approximation? It isn't too wildly out in my opinion. It is focused on career achievement.
It is not very good because in the last era (post 2000 or so) top players really try hard to win M-1000 tournaments (much much harder than their effort in ATP-500 or ATP-250) because those tournaments NOW are very very important to be nš1.
It was totally different prior to 2000. There were another 8-10 tournaments where they could get virtually the same points (sometimes even MORE points as I posted earlier, depending on the toughness of the draws and bonus points) than in those "M-1000 equivalents", so they were not as focused (as totays players are) in those tournaments.
So it is not by chance that both Federer and Nadal (players from the last era) have won so many M-1000 equivalents. For Federer and Nadal (players from the last era) those M-1000 tournaments are infinitely more important for their ranking than prior to 2000.
It also happens with the GS tournaments. Now the four GS give the same amount of points, but it was not like that earlier.
For example, in 1987 Edberg got 251 points for winning the Australian Open and 238 (almost the same) for winning Cincinnati, and Mecir got 335 for winning Miami (much more than what Edberg got for winning one of the GS tournaments).
The "M-1000-equivalents" didn't give the same amount of points either (it happens now, each gives 1000 points, but in previous eras it wasn't like that).
It was totally different. Now a young fan could say: " player X only won 1 GS that year and only 2 M-1000 equivalents and still was nš1" and he doesn't know that probably that player won other tournaments that gave him equal or more points than the "M-1000 equivalents", or even more points than one of the four GS!
In previous eras, the GS and the now called "M-1000 equivalents" weren't as important to be nš1 as they are now.
To make comparisons even more complex, prior to 1990 the ranking measured an average (total points obtained in sanctioned tournaments divided by nš of such sanctioned tournaments played), not a total sum of points. That is why then it was "better" (to be nš1) to be consistent (making good results in almost all tournaments) than winning 2 GS but failing in early rounds in some other tournaments. For example, it was much better (for the ranking) to play only two GS and make the final in both (as Connors did in 1977 ) than winning two of them (like Vilas did) but losing in earlier rounds in the other two (like Vilas did in Wimbledon and December Australian Open that 1977 year), and the same applied to the rest of the tournaments.
That is why Connors was nš1 in 1975, 1977 and 1978 (apart from him being nš1 in 1974 and 1976 that nobody disputes) and some people try to discredit or "change" it looking at it under current evaluation system (that computes the total sum). For the same reasons some try to give him the nš1 in 1982 (when McEnroe was the year-end ATP ranked player).
All these things make it almost impossible to compare properly achievements in different eras.
And to make things even more difficult, in the last 10 years or so they changed 16 seeds to 32 seeds, they make all courts slower and much more similar than before, a new element (poly strings) added to the homogenization of conditions make everybody play "the same" baseline game everywhere, all these changes producing the obvious effect of top-players getting almost always to the final rounds (SF, F) of every big tournament, inflating their statistics.
For all these things I can't say that Federer is "better" or "greater" than Lendl, neither Sampras was "better" or "greater" than Lendl (or Borg or many other really great players from different times).
I can only compare great players from the same era (about 5 years of age apart at most) and say that one was greater or "better" than the other.