Golden 9 by Ivan Lendl?

thrust

Hall of Fame
1982


Monte Carlo
. Slight exception. Six, of top15, but seven of top 16, in a 32-man draw. These included the top clay-court players, such as Vilas, Noah, Lendl, Clerc and Borg, in his last official tournament. Other top clay-courters in the draw were Jose Higueras and Andres Gomez, as well as some over-the-hill superstars, and the dangerous whippersnapper, Jimmy Arias. We take tradition into account, the fact that this draw effectively meets the minimum criterion, and the strength of field relative to the clay surface. Guillermo Vilas Champion.

WCT Finals. Ivan Lendl Champion.

Canada Open. Exception. Eight of top 15 and 10 of top 18, and the top three players in the world, McEnroe, Connors and Lendl. Vitas Gerulaitis Champion.

Cincinnati. Eight of top 15, but nine of top 16, and the World’s Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the field. Ivan Lendl Champion.

Challenge of Champions (non-sanctioned). World’s top three players (four of top five) plus in-form Bjorn Borg, in an eight-man format like that of the ATP Finals: Round-robin with semifinals and finals, for five matches against at least four different opponents for the finalists. Ivan Lendl Champion.


Another disappointing year in this regard, and another year without an Italian Open worthy of its history. I looked at 19 tournaments. Tokyo was the closest of the 16 rejected.

Tournaments considered and rejected (16): U.S. Pro Indoor, U.S. National Indoor, La Quinta, Brussels, Monterrey Open, Rotterdam, Lombardia International, Las Vegas, German Open, Italian Open, Queen’s, Tokyo, Stockholm, Wembley, WCT Forest Hills, European Community Championship (non-sanctioned).


1983

U.S. Pro Indoor
. Slightest Exception. Eight of the top 15, nine of top 16 players and 15 of the top 25, plus three of the top five, McEnroe, Lendl and Wilander. John McEnroe Champion.

Brussels Donnay Indoor. Eight of the top 15 in a 32-man draw, including five of the top seven. Peter McNamara Champion.


Monte Carlo. Eight of the top 15 in a 32-man draw. Mats Wilander Champion.

Las Vegas. Seven of the top 15 in a 32-man draw just makes the cut. Jimmy Connors Champion.

WCT Finals. Ivan Lendl Champion.

WCT Tournament of Champions. The top four ranked players (and seven of the top nine) participated in a 32-man draw. John McEnroe Champion.

German Open. Seven of the top 15 players (and a robust 11 of top 19) in a 32-man draw and a strong clay court tournament. Yannick Noah Champion.

Canada Open. Nine of top 15 and 12 of top 18 in the world, including the top three of McEnroe, Connors and Lendl. Ivan Lendl Champion.

Cincinnati. Ten of the top 15, including the Big Three. John McEnroe Champion.

Wembley. Eight of the top 15 players in a 32-man draw, and three of top four (McEnroe, Wilander, Connors). John McEnroe Champion.

European Community Championship, a/k/a “Gold Racquet (non-sanctioned). Seven of top 15 players (eight of top 17), including three of top four in 24-man draw. This independent tournament offered $750,000 prize money, more than double any official non-Slam tournament. John McEnroe Champion.

Challenge of Champions (non-sanctioned). Four of the world’s top five players and eight of top 17 in eight-man draw, with ATP Finals - type format as described above. Jimmy Connors Champion.


Obviously a much stronger year for “elite” tournaments. The Lombardia International (Lendl winner) was a close call and one could argue for it, but I kept to the exact criteria I set out and it just missed. By the same token, Las Vegas only made it because it just met the nominal criteria. I thought it a little weak to be on the list.


Tournaments considered and rejected: U.S. National Indoor, La Quinta, Lombardia International, Italian Open, Queen’s.



1984

Brussels Donnay Indoor
. Nine of the top 15 players in a 32-man draw easily clears the hurdle. World top three competing: Lendl, McEnroe, Wilander. And some tough opponents outside the top 15, including Tim Mayotte, Anders Jarryd, Gene Mayer, Pat Cash and Henri Leconte. John McEnroe Champion.

Monte Carlo. Seven of the top 15 players (10 of top 20) in a 32-man draw, including three of the top five and an overall strong clay-court field. Henrik Sundstrom Champion.

WCT Finals. John McEnroe Champion

German Open. Exception. Only seven of top 15 ranked players, but 13 of the top 22, and lots of top clay-court competitors. Juan Aguilera Champion.

Italian Open. Exception. Like the German, 13 of the top 22 ranked players competed in a good clay-court draw. An improvement over the previous four years for the venerable tournament. Andres Gomez Champion.

Canada Open. Nine of the top 15, including the top three: McEnroe, Lendl and Connors. Thirteen of the world’s top 20. John McEnroe Champion.


Tokyo Indoor. Exception. Six of world top 15 in a 32-man draw, but included four of the top five ranked players at the time, and five of top seven. Jimmy Connors Champion.

Stockholm Indoor. Ten of the top 15 players, including McEnroe, Connors and Wilander. John McEnroe Champion.


Wembley. With seven of the top 15 ranked players it meets the standard. Lendl and Connors and five of the world’s top seven in the draw. Couple of guys named Becker and Edberg in there too, and a guy named Curren. Ivan Lendl Champion.

European Community Championship (non-sanctioned). Seven of world’s top 15, including five of top seven, and 15 of top 30 in a 24-man draw. Double the prize money of any official non-Slam tournament. Ivan Lendl Champion.

Another good year for “elite” tournaments. Stockholm and Canada particularly strong.

Tournaments considered and rejected (9): U.S. Pro Indoor, U.S. Nat’l Indoor, La Quinta, Lombardia Int’l, Rotterdam, Boca West, WCT Forest Hills, Cincinnati, Challenge of Champions (non-sanctioned).
All of this is interesting but confusing. What would be the total amount of comparable Masters Titles would you award Lendl in his era?
 

Ivan69

Hall of Fame
My criteria for choosing Masters 1000-like tournaments are: (1) Prize Money, (2) Strength of Field, and, (3) Tradition. I also looked at the role of independent, or “non-sanctioned” tournaments, as well as where the WCT Finals should fit into this determination.

Prize Money: Money is always important. Some say this should be virtually the sole criterion. I very much disagree. But it is one of the main factors attracting or dissuading player participation. It is also a good way to identify possible tournaments that might meet the standard of being “Masters 1000-like.” Basically, the tournaments examined offered at least a quarter million dollars in total prize money by 1982, usually more. The purses rose throughout the 1980s, but rather slowly, until the very end of the decade. The Stockholm Indoor is an interesting case in point. It has a strong enough draw in 1980, despite offering just $175,000 in prize money, makes the list again in 1984, with a relatively paltry $250,000 and makes a reappearance in 1989, after three years off the list, giving $872,000, an amount way above nearly all the other tournaments that year. The WCT Finals, a would-be competitor to the year-end Grand Prix Masters, sometimes retained its older tradition of being ahead of the pack in prize money. It was the first official tournament, other than the Slams or the Masters, to give $500,000 prize money, in 1985.

Strength of Field: This is the most important factor in my judgment. It is driven in significant measure by prize money, granted, but not at all entirely. Player preferences regarding venues, surfaces, along with issues of logistics (a complicated mess in the 1980s), were other factors. For the very best players, the desire to test oneself against their closest rivals was sometimes enough of a motivation. In the 1980s, players had to play at least 14 tournaments, but were free to decide which ones. No non-Slam tournament paid so much that it was automatically elite, save the Masters, of course, and the WCT Finals.

We do see a few cases where money is not the major attraction, such as the Stockholm Indoor of 1980, and 1984-85, just mentioned, the 1980 and 1982 Monte Carlo, and the Italian Open later in the decade. Finally, there was always the extra-official, if not quite illegal, “appearance fee” to attract a top player or two to bolster a mediocre field or push a tournament to “significance”, if only for one season.

But to the criteria used to measure strength of field, here is how my standard works: I look for as many top-15 players as possible (as of the time of the tournament). The tournaments with the most top-15 players will tend to make the list.

  1. Unless at least three of the top four ranked players participated, any 64-man tournament with fewer than nine of the top 15 players will not make the list.
  2. For 32-man tournaments, the guideline is a minimum of seven of the top 15 ranked players. I think this makes sense because in a 32-man draw, the competitor has one fewer match to play, but with seven or more top-15 players out of 32, his chances of having to face three of these seven en route to the title is probably greater than his chances of facing three of the nine in a 64-draw tournament.
  3. Exceptions: If at least three of the top four players in the world were in the tournament, it stands a good chance to make the grade, even if it is a wee short on the number of top-15 players. By the same token, a 64-man tournament with only eight top-15 players, but maybe 15 out the top-25, might make the grade.

In maybe three or four instances, tournaments that fell just short of these guidelines, but whose draws were strong under the circumstances, made the grade. The obvious examples would be the important European clay tournaments, particularly Monte Carlo and the Italian Open.

  1. I used slightly modified criteria for the European Community Championship and The Challenge Cup, more rigorous, because they were independent tournaments, notwithstanding their huge prize money.

We have to make these compromises, or wring our hands and say no analogies are possible between the first 20 years of the Open era and what has occurred since the 1990s. In doing so, we would be repressing some of the biggest accomplishments of Lendl, McEnroe, Connors, Borg and Becker.

Tradition: This can be underrated. I would opt wherever possible for traditionally prestigious tournaments such as the Italian Open, Monte Carlo, German Open, Wembley, U.S. Indoor, Queen’s. But I still used the above-mentioned standards for strength of field. As you will see, my conclusions show I was not overly-sentimental about tradition in the face of the facts of the 1980s, and I Tradition really was used as a “tiebreaker” in favor of a tournament that was right on the borderline. As it turned out, much though I incline towards the three venerable clay-court tournaments, I rejected the illustrious Italian Open six out of 10 years; Monte Carlo five out 10 years, and; The German Open eight out of 10 years.

Independent Tournaments: We cannot ignore the so-called non-sanctioned tournaments, which never were – and never have been – recognized by tennis officialdom. They are the reason, for example, that ATP gives Lendl 94 total titles, while I say he won well over 100, and you could put the figure near 140 if you included a slew of 4-man events.1 These tournaments were put on independently by deep-pocket corporations. They gave very competitive money to attract leading players. For our purposes, the only two which can be considered on a similar plane with the Masters 1000s were The Challenge Cup (in Chicago and Atlanta) and the European Community Championship (in Antwerp). There are two reasons for this: (1) far beyond competitive money, these tournaments were paying double and more than the richest official tournaments they competed against, and, (2) they had the most serious draws and rigorous formats among these “non-sanctioned” events. But other of these independent events received significant television and newspaper coverage. Although sometimes the supporting cast might not be the strongest, the media could expect a McEnroe-Lendl, or Borg-Connors final, that sort of thing. Hence, for example, 4-man events such as The Suntory Cup, in Tokyo, and the Akai Gold Challenge, in Sydney, were covered almost equally as important official tournaments, their finals broadcasted on U.S. television.


Masters and WCT Finals. By the 1980s, the WCT Finals had fallen from its heights as a Major or quasi-Major, and so I place it in the lower category as an M 1000 equivalent. The year-end Grand Prix Masters, meanwhile, gained additional prestige and importance, making up a category of its own (as it is today), and it is not counted.
I appreciate your type of analyses in the previous posts. This theme has been and maybe will be always a subject of discussion.with its pros and cons.
I agree with most of your conclusions. But I have huge remarks on the essence of the raised topic - the names of the tournaments.
You mentioned that you have chosen 3 criteria for your selection - (1) Prize Money, (2) Strength of Field, and, (3) Tradition.
I don't want to discuss the selected tournaments year by year but all of them (without any exception) show that the criteria Prize money and Tradition are fully neglected. That's not acceptable for me for an era where money and tradition were very very important.

The cases you gave for one or another player who did or did not participate in one or another tournament was/is not decisive for the status of the tournament. The players back then had their own schedules and priorities whether to play or not. Unlike now they had much more choices for playing at the so called "elite" tournaments or NON-SANCTIONED tournaments or private exhibitions. In general, the field can't be the decisive factor. One small example (out of many) - FH, Las Vegas, Milan, Tokyo miss in some years when they were among the richest events.

Tradition is something important not for a decade only. It stays with capital letters in the Grand history of tennis. It's unacceptable for me tournaments like Italian, Monte Carlo, Stockholm etc. to be ignored.
Finally, 3, 5, 7 elite tournaments per year is a too limited number which does not correspond to the structure of the tour. We might have some doubts about one or another event whether it was an elite or not but not cut a dozen of them.
 

Drob

Professional
All of this is interesting but confusing. What would be the total amount of comparable Masters Titles would you award Lendl in his era?
25 for Lendl. This is for the 1980s. The ATP backdates the Super Nines to 1990, although my understanding is they began in '95 or '96. There are two or three titles in the early 90s that could be looked at. Of course, he does not have a Golden 9 or whatever, because there were too many tournaments. If I decided the Italian Open is going in, regardless of how thin the field was for a few years, then it would be 26. I am considering doing that, inasmuch as I count the Italian as one of the super important, non-Slam achievements generally, from its inception to the present.
 
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NoMercy

Hall of Fame
25 for Lendl. This is for the 1980s. The ATP backdates the Super Nines to 1990, although my understanding is they began in '95 or '96. There are two or three titles in the early 90s that could be looked at. Of course, he does not have a Golden 9 or whatever, because there were too many tournaments. If I decided the Italian Open is going in, regardless of how thin the field was for a few years, then it would be 26. I am considering doing that, inasmuch as I count the Italian as one of the super important, non-Slam achievements generally, from its inception to the present.
The Italian Open should be included every year. Only borderline year is 1970
 

Drob

Professional
The Italian Open should be included every year. Only borderline year is 1970
I decided that it should because of exceedingly strong tradition. I realized I talk up the special importance of the Italian Open, and then I held it to the same standards as some other "tradition" tournaments which are not in the same special class as the Italian. Sort of contradicting myself. In truth, the tournament suffered from some very weak draws (including from the perspective of clay courters) in the first half of the decade (kind of like a thankfully shorter version of what the AO experienced). But Italian should always be counted, like AO.

So it is in. Thanks.
 
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