Greatest Tennis Player of All-Time (Men)

Rabbit

G.O.A.T.
If I may be so bold....I don't think that it is that easy to evolve one's game plans. Tennis History will confirm that. Lendl tried unsuccessfully to develop a Serve/Volley game under one of the greatest Serve Volleyers around (Tony Roche). Steffi Graf tried to develop a topspin backhand which looked good in the hit-up but when the game got close, went back to her trusty slice backhand. Look at Hewitt now, everyone is telling him that his game of defence and attrition won't work anymore....so why doesn't he change ? Because he won't...or because he can't ?

Borg was quoted in training magazines (who knows how accurately), that he considered players that hit the ball on the rise and at a flat trajectory over the net, took too great a risk. He played a game that involved low risk....high shots over the lowest part of the net.

Would his game change today ? Could his game change today ?
I would like to make a distinction here. I said evolve, not radically alter. Borg's game evolved into something he was completely comfortable with. Lendl, on the other hand, was so desparate to win Wimbledon that he and Roche attempted to completely change not only his tactic, but his equipment and preparation. Lendl wound up skipping the French a couple of years, 1990 & 1991, to enhance his chances of winning Wimbledon.

I would also like to address another misconception that constantly is brought up. I have some matches of a 17/18-year old Borg playing on hardcourts in the WITC. It was so early in his career that he was wearing Fred Perry clothing, Tretorn shoes, and playing with Slazenger Challenge 1's. In those matches, Borg's tactics when he is serving is either serve and volley or serve, hit an approach and get to net. He is constantly moving forward on his service games. When returning, Borg does give the net to his opponent, but given who he was playing, I don't see that as anything out of the ordinary (Stan Smith & Rod Laver).

The point of the above is that while Borg was not a natural serve and volley player and was not at home at net, he did work toward making himself competent from a very early age. It is also true that early in his career, on clay, he didn't approach net, but he didn't have to.
 

Rabbit

G.O.A.T.
1.Laver
2.Sampras
3.Borg
4.Federer
5.Tilden/Gonzalez/Budge/Rosewall
Gonzalez
1. Laver
2. Borg/Sampras
4. Federer
5. Rosewall/Connors
7. Agassi
8. McEnroe/Lendl
10. Australia/Sweden


I altered your list.... :)

In my view, Gonzalez will always be the 800 pound gorilla. He was a force no one, except Lew Hoad, could deal with. When professional tennis began to make itself a viable sport, Gonzalez was arguably well past his prime. Yet, in 1969, he defeated the player who had just won the first "legitimate" Grand Slam. (I quoted legitimate because I don't agree with that notion. I think any Grand Slam is valid.)

Even after that, Gonzalez once again came out of retirement and played the world's best and beat them. In his prime, he'd have decimated the competition as defined above.
 

bluegrasser

Hall of Fame
Where's Emerson on this list ? also Laver winning two " Grand Slams" ( hear that 'Cyborg" ) should be numero uno IMO, then Pete. I'm with Drak, in that winning all four GS's on all surfaces ( eg: Agassi, Budge.) should put one near the top.
 

Virginia

Hall of Fame
The only professionals at that time capable of winning any slams were Rosewall, Hoad and Gonzales. It's not like there were a dozen missing challengers, so I don't think it's at all fair to dismiss the first grand slam. He won two and that's that!
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
The only professionals at that time capable of winning any slams were Rosewall, Hoad and Gonzales. It's not like there were a dozen missing challengers, so I don't think it's at all fair to dismiss the first grand slam. He won two and that's that!
There were less missing than many envision.

However, I think you're discounting the tougher gauntlet it could have been had names like Ashley Cooper, Mal Anderson, Tony Trabert, Alex Olmedo, Butch Bucholz been added to the draw along with those named above.

If just those eight names were in the draw it represents an entire QF round of more depth. I'm not saying Laver loses to any of them necessarily, however, alot of these guys would have been capable of pulling an upset.

5
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
His first was not against the best players in the World (Professionals were not allowed to compete) So realistically...one Grand Slam.
If you take away the GS of 1962 (because it was among amateurs only), then you need to add the Pro Slam of 1967.
 

timnz

Legend
If you take away the GS of 1962 (because it was among amateurs only), then you need to add the Pro Slam of 1967.
I agree. Laver was probably at his peak in 1967.

NB: Ken Rosewall also got the pro grand slam in 1963 - so he has to be up there near the top.
 

timnz

Legend
Laver won 19 Tournaments in 1967!

Including the 3 Pro Grandslam tournaments + Pro Wimbledon.

I think that is better than Mac 1984, Connors 1974
 

SgtJohn

Rookie
How can Rosewall NOT be the Goat?

The title of my post is voluntarily provocative :)

But it is based on serious facts. I, for one, if I try to make up my own subjective list, will tend not to give the top spot to Kenny, and the reasons for that are often 'symbolic' or 'sentimental' (no Wimbledon title, for example, no very long stretch as year-end #1)...

... but still I think that anyone not putting him in the top 3 (most of you here) is seriously underestimating his record. Quite simply, if you just focus on the numbers, leaving aside subjectivity for a moment, the guy is superior to anyone in the sport in just every category! Quick reminder:

-major tournaments:

Pro World Series (main tour) '63
Wembley Pro '57, '60, '61, '62, '63
French Pro '58, '60, '61, '62, '63, '64, '65, '66
US Pro '63, '65
Madison Square Garden '66
Roland Garros '68
US Open '69
Australian Open '71
WCT Finals '71, '72

That's 22. Keep in mind that:
-a) this is the most conservative of lists. With this choice of events, there were only 2 pro majors in the early 60s and only 3 later, not 4 as today.
b) he won 3 Davis Cups and 4 majors as an amateur at a time when the amateur field was far inferior to the pro, but still wasn't bad at all (Trabert-Seixas-Drobny-Hoad era).

You can make any list of majors you want, I made a lot, with surfaces taken in to account or not, with 3 majors a year or 4, etc., in the end Rosewall is always the leader hands-on.


-major finals:

Masters Round-Robin '57
Tournament of Champions '58
Wembley Pro '64, '66
US Pro '66
French Pro '67
Wimbledon Pro '67
PSW LA Open '68
Roland Garros '69
Wimbledon '70, '74
US Open '74

The sum of wins and runner-up finishes of Rosewall leave all the others far behind. The same can probably be said for the semis to underline his great regularity.

-rankings:

'53-'56: probably in a top 10 pro-amateurs combined.
'57: #2
'58, '59: #3
'60: #1 or #2 (Gonzales beat Rosewall in the World Series, Ken dominated the tournaments in Rosewall's absence)
'61-63: #1, with 62 and 63 very dominant years (Pro Slam in 1963 with 4 wins if we include the World Series against Laver)
'64: probably #2 (even if judged #1 at the time)
'65: #2, but very close (won 2 pro majors against Laver)
'66: #2
'67: #2 or 3 (Gimeno had an excellent year too)
'68: #2 or 3 (Ashe could have been #2)
'69: #4
'70:#1 or 2
'71-72: #3
'73-74: top 10 finish

The #1 ranking is the only domain where Rosewall does not dominate everyone. His record of between 3 and 5 years at #1 (including 2 very dominant) is good but inferior to Laver's or Tilden's for instance.

But if we consider the top 2 finishes, Rosewall again trumps everyone with at least 7 straight years (up to 9) in the top 2, and between 9 and 11 total.

His 12 straight years in the top 3, and 15 years (!!) total is as amazing. The closest to this figure are Gonzales and Tilden (13).

Also remember that Rosewall's career was 'sandwiched' between 2 other all-time greats, Gonzales and Laver, this quick succession being quite rare, which might explain (not justify) his relatively small number of number 1 finishes.

-tournament wins:

according to most counts, Rosewall is in the top 5, behind Laver and open era players (Connors, Lendl...). Still, (as Gonzales) Rosewall played a large part of his career in a pro tour where some years very few tournaments were available to play at all (Laver's arrival on the pro tour corresponded to its expansion).
This figure is usually not a reliable one for this reason...


Anyway, these are just some quick thoughts. Again, I'm not anointing Rosewall the GOAT, as I don't really want to designate one at all, I just wanted to remind these quick stats to everyone, as it hit me that Kenny was superior to everyone in virtually every stat you can imagine (again, except for the highly symbolic number-one years figure).

SgtJohn
 

CyBorg

Legend
I pretty much have Rosewall solidified at #2 behind Laver now. Laver wins out due to a longer dominant peak, which I value more than Rosewall's longevity.

It took me a while to warm up to Rosewall as #2, though I'm not sure why. I think that there's a tendency in history books to underrate him and everyone sort of follows along with that train of thought. Going on facts, it becomes hard to not have him as #1 or 2. And then consider who finally unseats Ken for the #1 in the world - Laver. And when Laver's dominance ends, who is back at the top? Rosewall (US, Aussie combo in 70-71).

Rosewall did suffer a lot of losses to Laver from mid-60s-onward. Almost with Nadal d Federer-type of regularity, but I think it's amazing that he stuck around past Laver's peak, won two majors in the 70s and then those two Dallas WCT finals. What heart.
 

Virginia

Hall of Fame
SgtJohn, thank you so much for posting all those details of Rosewall's results, showing what a tremendous player he was. One of those WCT finals by the way, was against Laver - which he won in a gruelling five setter, much to everyone's surprise and delight.

CyBorg, you are right - the history books do underrate him, possibly because he is a very humble person, really almost too nice to be a tennis player!

I've been a fan of his for more years than I'd like to admit.

In March I'm going to meet him in person, in Sydney, as the museum there is holding an event known as the "Ken Rosewall Tennis Day". I'm a member of the museum tennis club, so I get an invitation and might even get a chance to play on the same court as "the little master". :)
 
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urban

Legend
Rosewall is often underrated. Maybe he had the bad luck, to be overshadowed sometime in his career by some more charismatic or more spectacular players. The iconic and adonis-like Hoad was seen as the better amateur player due to his 2 Wimbledon triumphs, although overall Kenny had about the same amateur success. Gonzales too, was a charismatic player with a movie star look, and dominated the young pro at the foreign indoor circuit. Laver wasn't that good looking, but had the more spectacular game. And he never won the big one Wimbledon, despite 4 finals. He probably would have won 2-3 around 1960. Rosewalls game wasn't overpowering, but was built on accuracy, economy and efficiency. He was always on the right place for him, and the wrong place for the opponent. And, what made him especially dangerous, he glided swiftly into winning positions at the net. He could be overpowered, not by net rushers, but by good returners like Hoad, Laver or Connors, who could exploit his solid and accurate, but not forcing serve. Many net rushers like Newcombe, Ashe or Smith always had surprisingly difficulties with his serve.
 
reply to sgt john

I would agree with your world rankings given that you put some uncertainy on them; world rankings are never clear cut.

On your list of majors , I would eliminate msg 1966 (you seem to be constructing 4 a year for the pros so the argument about only having 3 to pick is not valid) and repace it with Barcelona because a clay court event is required in '66 and its best of 5 sets. Gonzales's paricpation at MSG is not that significant given he did not play any of the other major pro events


I would also eliminate WCt '71 and choose the Italian open; you need a major clay court if you can find one and this was stronger than paris with 13 of the top 17 playing; its also stronger than the WCT finals because only 10 of the top 17 attempted to qualfy for Dallas; the ITF players qualified for the masters.

jeffrey
 

SgtJohn

Rookie
Hi Jeffrey,

Thanks for your comments. Actually this small list was off the top of my head just to back my point about Rosewall, so it's not systematic at all.

But actually you are truly spot-on! In the last list I worked on I used a 4-majors system, but with 'partial majors' when there are only 2 or 3 obvious majors.
For instance for 1971 I have the AO, Wimbledon and the USO as 'complete majors', and Dallas and Rome both as 'partial majors' with coefs 0.5 each.
Same thing in 1966. I would not quite call Barcelona a 'true major' in its own right as it was clearly less prestigious than Wembley, Longwood or Paris. The MSG might have had an inferior field but was highly considered, because of the venue and the prize money, huge for the time.

So I guess we agree, in the end...

Take care,
SgtJohn
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
1. Laver
2. Tilden
3. Rosewall
4. Budge
5. Sampras
6. Borg
7. Gonzales
8. Federer
9. Perry
10. Lendl

Have you moved Nadal up on your top-20 list? I am going to have to. He's earned it.
 
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chaognosis

Semi-Pro
1. Laver
2. Tilden
3. Rosewall
4. Budge
5. Sampras
6. Borg
7. Gonzales
8. Federer
9. Perry
10. Lendl

Have you moved Nadal up on your top-20 list? I am going to have to. He's earned it.
Very, very similar to my own list. I view Laver as a firm number one, followed by Tilden, Budge, and Rosewall all in a cluster (though I rate Rosewall narrowly ahead of the others). Sampras and Gonzales are basically tied, just ahead of Borg, who is, in turn, just ahead of Federer. And then I somewhat idiosyncratically round out the top 10 with Cochet and Perry. In my judgment Nadal will remain bubbling under this group for at least a couple more years, unless of course he runs the table this year, in which case he immediately bursts into the top five.
 

chaognosis

Semi-Pro
Good but I would have Sampras in the top 3.
I just don't think Sampras has not earned that high accord...

He lacks two key virtues of Laver, Rosewall, Tilden, and Budge:

1) The demonstrated ability to dominate on all surfaces

2) The concentrated excellence to win the GS (amateur or pro)
 

CyBorg

Legend
Very influenced by chaog's push for Rosewall, I now have him second. The list is...

1. Laver
2. Rosewall
3. Budge
4. Tilden
5. Gonzales
6. Borg
7. Federer
8. Sampras
9-10. Lendl/Kramer/Perry/Cochet are all very close.

I acknowledge that Gonzales/Sampras are very similar, but Gonzo was still better than Sampras on clay and his stretch as year-end#1 looks a bit more convincing.

Still think Federer is better than Sampras.
 

Wuornos

Professional
Thanks Sandy.

Andre Agassi is overrated after an 20 year career with very little to show for himself ... he had 3 or 4 good years' worth of results --- good years, NOT great ones --- spread out over an 20 year career.

If someone were to achieve in 4 years what Agassi has achieved in 20 years, people would say that this person might end up becoming the next Pete Sampras.
Absolutely. I couldn't agree with this more.

Tim
 

Wuornos

Professional
My personal list although I don't know enough about the pre WWII era and the pre open pro era would be the following:

1 Roger Federer
2 Rafael Nadal
3 Rod Laver
4 Ivan Lendl
5 Roy Emerson
6 Mats Wilander
7 Björn Borg
8 Frank Sedgman
9 Tony Trabert
10 Pete Sampras
11 Ashley Cooper
12 John McEnroe
13 Jim Courier
14 Ken Rosewall
15 Lew Hoad

I have included down to 15 as following the debate regarding Ken Rosewall I wnated to show he was also high on my list.

Tim
 
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reply to wuornos

this list far overrates ameteur slams pre -1968.

Both emerson and cooper are way overraed . Both rosewall and laver are way better players.

pro slams in the period 1954-67 are always worth a lot more than amateur slams. No top amAteur champ who turned pro was initially successful and some like cooper never did anything

Rosewall was the top pro 1960-3 in terms of definte pro majors. He won 9 in a row doing the french/ british(london) pro double 1960-3 and winning the Us pro in 1963 (us pro was not a major between 60-62 because of weak fields-
neither Hoad or Rosewall enterred)

Cooper turned pro in 1959 after winning 3 amateur slams in '58.
and proved how worthless they wore. In the '59 Gonzales beat cooper 14-0 and hoad 18-2 in head to head in the world series. At the end of the season he was ranked 8 below all the long established pros like sedgman, rosewall , trabert and segura.

In all his pro career cooper nevered reached a major final let alone won one. Cooper played in all the major events up to 1962. he was in the fields rosewall won in from 60-62 and was beaten by rosewall in the '61 french pro and wembly pro '62. Cooper was a complete flop and would never even be regarded as even a top 5 player in his own era; he ranked about 7 or 8 in his last full year of play in '62.

As for emerson, he was never ranked above Rosewall in his career when they played in the same field ie 1955-56 and 1968-73. Rosewall was always the better player and rosewall was not at his peak in any of these years . Rosewall 's peak is from 1960-66 when he could not play emerson. Laver was better than emerson( he has something like a 45-15 edge head to head). Laver had the greatest amateur year in history in '62 winning 22 events,the 6 top majors events (a unique achievement consisting of Wimbledon ,us , french, australian , iltalian and german titles with emerson runner-up in 4 of these finals)) , but he was not the world's best player- rosewall was ; he domnated the pros winning every major event in '62 and '63. Laver turned pro in '63 and his performance quickly showed he was not the world's best player.

Hoad beat him 8-0 on grasss in australia in jan 1963
Rosewall beat him 11-2 in Aus/ new zealand jan/feb 1963
Rosewall again beat him 14-4 on us world series head to head play-off may '63

Rosewall won all 3 pro majors beating laver in 2 of them between june and sptember '63. Rosewall completed a real slam in '63 and confirmed he was best player in '62 -63 by miles. Neither Laver or emerson have any case whatsoever.

Rosewall's record is awesome and his list of about 20 true majors (see sgt john list above) is the highest of all time and his real world ranking record is awesome (see sgt john list again). emerson was never the world number 1 in any true senes (3 or 4 in 1964 is the best he deserves). gimeno is about the same age as emerson and just as good a player. In '68-72 they always finished very close in the world rankings , although head to head Gimeno has the advantage. Gimeno has only one slam , but that's because he spent his best years '61-67 as a pro having to face the awesome 3 some of laver, rosewall and gonzales. His wins at geneva '63 and bareceloa '66 when he defeated Rosewall and laver on clay are true majors not the second rate events Emerson won.

jeffrey
 

SgtJohn

Rookie
My personal list although I don't know enough about the pre WWII era and the pre open pro era would be the following:

1 Roger Federer
2 Rafael Nadal
3 Rod Laver
4 Ivan Lendl
5 Roy Emerson
6 Mats Wilander
7 Björn Borg
8 Frank Sedgman
9 Tony Trabert
10 Pete Sampras
11 Ashley Cooper
12 John McEnroe
13 Jim Courier
14 Ken Rosewall
15 Lew Hoad

I have included down to 15 as following the debate regarding Ken Rosewall I wnated to show he was also high on my list.

Tim
Tim, could you explain how you built this list? Lots of strange stuff here, chiefly Rosewall's ranking of course, but also, Nadal superior to Laver? Let the kid grow up a little bit, we'll have this conversation when he's 25 at least... ;)
Is it based on the ELO ratings? because in this case you might not be using the same criteria as us ( ELO ratings are mainly about regularity and head-to-head dominance, if I'm not mistaken).
 
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thalivest

Banned
1. Laver
2. Tilden
3. Rosewall
4. Budge
5. Sampras
6. Borg
7. Gonzales
8. Federer
9. Perry
10. Lendl

Have you moved Nadal up on your top-20 list? I am going to have to. He's earned it.
Just curious, where would you have Nadal if he wins the grand slam this year.
 

SgtJohn

Rookie
As I said before, I find it too hard to actually rank players in this debate, as so many parameters can be taken into account... But still I usually classify them in 'groups'.

Tier 1 (in alphabetical order, not preference order):
Doherty H.L.
Laver
Rosewall
Tilden

Federer*

Tier 2:
Budge
Borg
Gonzales
Sampras

Tier 3:
Cochet
Lendl
Perry
Renshaw (Willie)


*Federer is in-between for me... If he retires today, he's not in the Tier 1. Still, his record does not need much more for him to be there.

Nadal might be in the top 20, but barely. Not only all the players listed above, but also the likes of Reggie Doherty, Segura, Riggs, Kramer, McEnroe, and maybe a few others are ahead of him.
Again, this is reasoning on a 'If-he-retires-today' basis. If Nadal is near the GOAT Top 20 at 22, the upside is huge of course...

Jonathan
 

Moose Malloy

G.O.A.T.
Tim, could you explain how you built this list? Lots of strange stuff here, chiefly Rosewall's ranking of course, but also, Nadal superior to Laver? Let the kid grow up a little bit, we'll have this conversation when he's 25 at least...
Is it based on the ELO ratings? because in this case you might not be using the same criteria as us ( ELO ratings are mainly about regularity and head-to-head dominance, if I'm not mistaken).
Its ELO:

The following data show peak career ELO Ratings for all players who have achieved a 2500 ELO Rating based on results since WWII up to and including the Australian Open of 2009.



MEN

1 Roger Federer 2783
2 Rafael Nadal 2759 Players Current ELO Rating equals their Peak ELO Rating. Strong probability of increase at next revision.
3 Rod Laver 2752
4 Ivan Lendl 2748
5 Roy Emerson 2735
6 Mats Wilander 2726
7 Björn Borg 2725
8 Frank Sedgman 2724
9 Tony Trabert 2720
10 Pete Sampras 2713
11 Ashley Cooper 2705
12 John McEnroe 2703
13 Jim Courier 2700
14 Ken Rosewall 2685
15 Lew Hoad 2683
http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=190959
 

Virginia

Hall of Fame
Jeffrey, thanks so much for posting all those stats for Rosewall - I have his biography "Twenty Years at the Top" but to have all the stats and other info set out, as in your post, adds tremendously to my knowledge base. I've copy/pasted both your post and SgtJohn's to keep with my other notes on Kenny.

His sheer longevity as a player puts him in a class of his own and he is still contributing to tennis in other ways, not the least of which is in connection with the Tennis Museum in Sydney.
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
Just curious, where would you have Nadal if he wins the grand slam this year.
I had thought of this myself right after the AO final (when I projected and thought he will surely win the FO . . . again, for a fifth time).

IMO, the true Grand Slam is the Everest of tennis, the greatest sustained "peak" performance in the game of tennis. It comes close to trumping even the amazing longevity of a Rosewall.

. . . maybe just behind or tied with Budge. (Who has won the most slam majors in a row?)
 
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How can Rosewall NOT be the Goat?

The title of my post is voluntarily provocative :)
...
SgtJohn
I don't want to give a GOAT players' list because I've so much to study before giving that sort of list but I can give the following indications :
In chronological order the best ever players are : William Charles Renshaw, Reginald Frank Doherty, Hugh Laurence (Lawrence) Doherty, William Tatem Tilden II, John Donald Budge, John Albert Kramer, Richard Alonso Gonzales, Kenneth Robert Rosewall, Rodney George Laver, Björn Rune Borg, Petros Sampras (I didn't know that Petros was his first name) and Roger Federer. At a lower level you have James Ernest Renshaw, Joshua Pim (very underrated), Malcolm Douglass Whitman (very underrated too), William Augustus Larned, Norman Everard Brookes, Anthony Frederick Wilding, William M. Johnston (if someone knows what "M." is in reality I would be glad) , Jean René Lacoste, Henri Jean Cochet, Henry Ellsworth Vines Jr., Frederick John Perry, Robert Larimore Riggs, James Scott Connors, John Patrick McEnroe Jr., Ivan Lendl, Andre Kirk Agassi. Below are the following great players : Wilfred Baddeley, Francisco Olegario Segura, Frank Arthur Sedgman, Lewis Alan Hoad (very overrated because many forget his innumerable injuries who prevented him from being better, the first quality of a sportsman is to be in good health), Mats Wilander, Stefan Bengt Edberg, Boris Franz Becker and Rafael Nadal Parera (he will possibly improve as his first Australian Open win can indicate) . Finally John David Newcombe (a player who could have been very great but, as his autobiography shows, had many lacks of will : in 71-72 he wanted to retire and once again after Wimby 73 and he virtually retired after the 1975 Australian) and Ilie Năstase (another player who didn't fulfill his potential because he couldn't stand pressure : at Roland 70 and even 71 - Wimbledon 72, 73, 76 - Davis Cup 72 - US Open 73 - Masters 74, ... he could have won or at least made better).
I've perhaps forgotten some players.

All the lists in that forum completely underrate pre-WWI players (except HL Doherty) so they shouldn't be entitled
"Greatest Tennis Player of All-Time" lists
but "Greatest Tennis Player since the 20's" lists.

For instance George Whiteside Hillyard was adamant that R.F. Doherty when he wasn't too ill (it seemed that R.F. has never been in good health in his whole life) never lost once to his younger brother H.L., be it in official or private match. Hillyard even said that H.L. very seldom won a set against his elder. In fact R.F. owe 15 in each game to H.L.
So though H.L. Doherty had the best tennis record of all the pre-WWI players, R.F. Doherty shouldn't be ignored in any GOAT discussion.

This said I want to thank warmly SgtJohn for his post about Kenny.
Rosewall is (was) completely underrated because his peak years were a) before the open era, b1) between Gonzales (who had such a great sex-appeal) and Laver (who in some occasions could display such an attractive game) whereas Kenny was a small man with no very powerful strokes and b2) his head-to-head records against those giants of the game are negative.
Most of Gonzales' wins over Rosewall were in 1957 and 1960 when Pancho was better but had the American faced Kenny in long pro tours in the mid-60's and Pancho's record against Muscles would have been much less good.
Urban very often points out that Laver always led Kenny in H2H meetings from 1964 to 1972
but Urban never recalls that Kenny would have probably a superb positive H2H record before 1963 against Laver had Kenny the opportunity to play Rocket in those years.
I recognize that Rosewall's record in 1963 is skewed because he met (and beat) Laver so many times that year but at least it makes up for the missed meetings between both players, which would have happened in the years before if tennis had been open.
Until 1962 Rosewall-Laver record is 0-0 though Laver was at that time "million" classes below Rosewall and it penalizes so much Rosewall in any judgment of his true level.
For instance in 1957-1958 Kenny was already a contender for majors while Laver was crushed by grandpa Drobny at Wimby. If Ken had meet Laver in these years it is evident that Laver would have lost most (if not all) of their meetings.
One example of Rosewall's underestimation : in the late 80's, George Lott (an amateur player of the 20's and a pro player in the 30's, for those who don't know him, so a man who has watched all the greats from Johnston to Becker) made his own list in World Tennis. Lott ranked Neale Fraser higher than Rosewall (it wasn't a true list but an imaginary tournament, won by McEnroe, where Fraser got further than Kenny). When you know that Fraser a) was always barred by Rosewall (and Hoad and Cooper and Anderson) in the amateur circuit and b) was virtually retired when Rosewall was at his peak or close to it, how can someone put Fraser above Rosewall ?

Many forget that Laver met Kenny for the first time when the latter was 28 years old and that Laver dominated Kenny in direct confrontations (since 1964) when the Sydneysider was already 29 years old that is close to his 30's.
The same remark can be made about Gonzales. According to Jeffrey or Urban, Laver leads Gonzales something like 37-20 in H2H but don't forget that this record concerns a Gonzales who was between 36 and 42 years old. If tennis had been open, Laver could have beaten Pancho some times in 1962 or 1963 or if I'm generous in 1961 but not before that is when Pancho was at least 33 years old so Laver's record against Gonzales is also more flattering than it should.

In conclusion Laver's head-to-head record against Kenny (and Pancho) and Pancho's record against Kenny are misleading. This is one of the reasons why Kenny was so underestimated. But it is clear that if one considers the era since 1920, Rosewall has to be ranked in the same class as Great Bill, Don ? (I have many problems to judge Budge because WWII damaged his career so much), Gorgo and Rocket.
So SgtJohn's title post is not provocative at all. It is debatable but once again not provocative. Thank you very much SgtJohn.
 

SgtJohn

Rookie
You are right Carlo, the complexity of tennis doesn't allow one to give too much credit to head-to-head in any case (before the 1980s).
Concerning the Pancho-Ken H2H, we should also mention that Gonzales was in a perpetual state of semi-retirement from 1962. In 1961, Gonzales had lost in the big events, Roland-Garros Pro and Wembley Pro while Rosewall had won the double, we can then assume that Ken had become superior. But in 1962 and 1963, Rosewall's best years, Gonzales did not play at all. He came back in 1964 and 1965 but played only half a season at best. Then he retired again and came back for the Open Era (apart form a few events as MSG Pro 1966). During all these years Rosewall could have improved his H2H if he had had the occasion to...

As for the pre-WW1 Era, here is my personal Top 10:

1. HL Doherty
2. W Renshaw
3. RF Doherty
4. W Larned
5. Wilding
6. Brookes
7. Pim
8. E Renshaw
9. Lawford
10. Gore

Now I admit that at least Reggie Doherty and Larned would have deserved to be in the list I posted earlier, but definitely not in 'Tier 1'.

With 4 Wimbledon and 3 Irish titles, Reggie cannot be ignored, you are right, but I don't think he is as serious a GOAT candidate as his brother.

A (very) quick reminder of his career:
1897: R Doherty appears on the tennis scene (no trace of him playing in 1896 or before in my records...), and won Wimbledon. It can be argued that the real number 1 for this year was Irish winner Eaves, though.
1898-1900 : He dominates Tennis, his only loss in an important tournament being the Irish in 1898.
1901: sadly his illness begins to take its toll when he loses his Wimbledon title to Gore, but he brilliantly wins the Irish again.
1902: from now on, he never played in England again. He reaches the US Championships challenge roud, but Larned beats him. He also loses a match in Davis Cup to Whitman.
1903-1906: Reggie only plays the European clay circuit but after 1904 his brother dominates it.

A significant element that should be noticed is all the walk-overs that the brothers gave each other. It probably seemed the brotherly thing to do at the time, but now it seems unfortunate as it tweaks a little bit the results.
I think Laurie gave Reggie a few walk-overs at the Irish. Reggie did at the 1900 Olympics. Laurie also gave Reggie a walk-over at Newport in 1902, which could have been really important considering that Reggie was finally beaten by Larned but that Laurie won the next year against him...

Jonathan

Jonathan
 
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urban

Legend
Now, Carlo we have had our differences about this speculative questions. I don't think, that Rosewall was a million times better than Laver in say 1960-62. I generally rank the amateur game of the 50s and 60s a bit higher against the pros than Carlo or even Jeffrey. In the early 50s or in 61 or 62 imo the pro game had problems and struggled, and the emerging amateurs did quite well. Its quite possible that Rosewall was the best player in 1961 and 62, but if Laver had gotten him earlier, i think, he would have challenged him earlier. Especially in 128 draws, where Hoad would have had difficulties due to his physical problems (Gonzales was semi-retired 1961-63). The 1963 domination of Rosewall was complete only in the first half of the year. In the second European part of the pro season, Laver made great strides, won a big share of the pro tournaments and challenged Rosewall severely. Sedgman said that in early 1964, and Trabert wrote it in 1963. Carlo himself has cited a Tennis du France article on the Cannes tournament in autumn 1963, where Kenny, after he saw Laver demolish Gimeno, seemed a bit afraid to face the in form Laver in the final.
I wrote in earlier posts, that Laver would probably not have won a Grand Slam in 1962 with all the pros competing. But if Wimbledon would have been open all the time, i would give Laver the 61 and 62 titles even with all the pros.
 

Borgforever

Hall of Fame
I don't want to give a GOAT players' list because I've so much to study before giving that sort of list but I can give the following indications :
In chronological order the best ever players are : William Charles Renshaw, Reginald Frank Doherty, Hugh Laurence (Lawrence) Doherty, William Tatem Tilden II, John Donald Budge, John Albert Kramer, Richard Alonso Gonzales, Kenneth Robert Rosewall, Rodney George Laver, Björn Rune Borg, Petros Sampras (I didn't know that Petros was his first name) and Roger Federer. At a lower level you have James Ernest Renshaw, Joshua Pim (very underrated), Malcolm Douglass Whitman (very underrated too), William Augustus Larned, Norman Everard Brookes, Anthony Frederick Wilding, William M. Johnston (if someone knows what "M." is in reality I would be glad) , Jean René Lacoste, Henri Jean Cochet, Henry Ellsworth Vines Jr., Frederick John Perry, Robert Larimore Riggs, James Scott Connors, John Patrick McEnroe Jr., Ivan Lendl, Andre Kirk Agassi. Below are the following great players : Wilfred Baddeley, Francisco Olegario Segura, Frank Arthur Sedgman, Lewis Alan Hoad (very overrated because many forget his innumerable injuries who prevented him from being better, the first quality of a sportsman is to be in good health), Mats Wilander, Stefan Bengt Edberg, Boris Franz Becker and Rafael Nadal Parera (he will possibly improve as his first Australian Open win can indicate) . Finally John David Newcombe (a player who could have been very great but, as his autobiography shows, had many lacks of will : in 71-72 he wanted to retire and once again after Wimby 73 and he virtually retired after the 1975 Australian) and Ilie Năstase (another player who didn't fulfill his potential because he couldn't stand pressure : at Roland 70 and even 71 - Wimbledon 72, 73, 76 - Davis Cup 72 - US Open 73 - Masters 74, ... he could have won or at least made better).
I've perhaps forgotten some players.

All the lists in that forum completely underrate pre-WWI players (except HL Doherty) so they shouldn't be entitled
"Greatest Tennis Player of All-Time" lists
but "Greatest Tennis Player since the 20's" lists.

For instance George Whiteside Hillyard was adamant that R.F. Doherty when he wasn't too ill (it seemed that R.F. has never been in good health in his whole life) never lost once to his younger brother H.L., be it in official or private match. Hillyard even said that H.L. very seldom won a set against his elder. In fact R.F. owe 15 in each game to H.L.
So though H.L. Doherty had the best tennis record of all the pre-WWI players, R.F. Doherty shouldn't be ignored in any GOAT discussion.

This said I want to thank warmly SgtJohn for his post about Kenny.
Rosewall is (was) completely underrated because his peak years were a) before the open era, b1) between Gonzales (who had such a great sex-appeal) and Laver (who in some occasions could display such an attractive game) whereas Kenny was a small man with no very powerful strokes and b2) his head-to-head records against those giants of the game are negative.
Most of Gonzales' wins over Rosewall were in 1957 and 1960 when Pancho was better but had the American faced Kenny in long pro tours in the mid-60's and Pancho's record against Muscles would have been much less good.
Urban very often points out that Laver always led Kenny in H2H meetings from 1964 to 1972
but Urban never recalls that Kenny would have probably a superb positive H2H record before 1963 against Laver had Kenny the opportunity to play Rocket in those years.
I recognize that Rosewall's record in 1963 is skewed because he met (and beat) Laver so many times that year but at least it makes up for the missed meetings between both players, which would have happened in the years before if tennis had been open.
Until 1962 Rosewall-Laver record is 0-0 though Laver was at that time "million" classes below Rosewall and it penalizes so much Rosewall in any judgment of his true level.
For instance in 1957-1958 Kenny was already a contender for majors while Laver was crushed by grandpa Drobny at Wimby. If Ken had meet Laver in these years it is evident that Laver would have lost most (if not all) of their meetings.
One example of Rosewall's underestimation : in the late 80's, George Lott (an amateur player of the 20's and a pro player in the 30's, for those who don't know him, so a man who has watched all the greats from Johnston to Becker) made his own list in World Tennis. Lott ranked Neale Fraser higher than Rosewall (it wasn't a true list but an imaginary tournament, won by McEnroe, where Fraser got further than Kenny). When you know that Fraser a) was always barred by Rosewall (and Hoad and Cooper and Anderson) in the amateur circuit and b) was virtually retired when Rosewall was at his peak or close to it, how can someone put Fraser above Rosewall ?

Many forget that Laver met Kenny for the first time when the latter was 28 years old and that Laver dominated Kenny in direct confrontations (since 1964) when the Sydneysider was already 29 years old that is close to his 30's.
The same remark can be made about Gonzales. According to Jeffrey or Urban, Laver leads Gonzales something like 37-20 in H2H but don't forget that this record concerns a Gonzales who was between 36 and 42 years old. If tennis had been open, Laver could have beaten Pancho some times in 1962 or 1963 or if I'm generous in 1961 but not before that is when Pancho was at least 33 years old so Laver's record against Gonzales is also more flattering than it should.

In conclusion Laver's head-to-head record against Kenny (and Pancho) and Pancho's record against Kenny are misleading. This is one of the reasons why Kenny was so underestimated. But it is clear that if one considers the era since 1920, Rosewall has to be ranked in the same class as Great Bill, Don ? (I have many problems to judge Budge because WWII damaged his career so much), Gorgo and Rocket.
So SgtJohn's title post is not provocative at all. It is debatable but once again not provocative. Thank you very much SgtJohn.
A knock-out great post again Carlo! I totally agree with your assessments here in every last detail. And grand writing too.

Also have to commend Sgt John for his excellent additions and comments which are of course very illuminating and creating even greater nuance to this debate.

I'm hesitant about Urban's comments though. Laver wasn't the honed, precision Mozart he was to become until the mid 60s (he said he didn't think and adjust brilliantly during matches until later in his career) and he IMO (and others) had amateur success much like Fed -- being so amazingly talented that he whacked you on the basis of that alone and not on tenacity, quick tactical adjustment skill et al -- and did lose spectacularly or surprisingly in matches he probably could've won (based on his obvious potential) because of this roughness.

Rosewall on the other hand had such precision, anticipation, Borg-like consistency and ability to keep the ball in play even in seemingly impossible situations -- not to dismiss his Mecir-like angles and out-of this world volleying. He was a scalpel early on. And Laver couldn't make it to any GS-final in the 70s -- even at his favorite tourney Wimby that was tailor-made for him -- whereas KENNY (who was much older than Rod by this time) almost won Wimby 1970 (killed Laver twice in those two classic WCT-finals in the early 70s) won US Open and *****' made it to the 1974 Wimby final.

Hats off for Mr. Ken Rosewall!

Urban's points could be correct anyway. It's a very worthy additional view to express as I see it nonetheless...

A joy to read this. Would love some more info on the Doherty's though. What was Reggie's illnesses exactly? Why did they die so young -- both of them?

A white patch in my reservoir of knowledge sadly so I would appreciate some info on this if it's possible...
 
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cristiano

New User
If health is so important for a tennis player, R. Doherty is not a possible goat for you, i suppose.

I don't know so much about pre-Tilden tennis. In last 90 years of tennis - I agree with Carlo - the best nine players are, in chronological order, Tilden-Budge-Kramer-Gonzales-Rosewall-Laver-Borg-Sampras-Federer (Lendl and McEnroe maybe share the #10, but it's not so important). Maybe we can all agree with this statement?

In the pre-Tilden tennis HL Doherty can stay for sure in the same echelon. Maybe also Renshaw. Who other?

Between the nine players above i can observe a general consensus here, with the exception of Kramer, which is often considered (i don't know why) to stay at a lower level.

But I think we can (almost) all agree with a large 'Tier I' of 11-12 players and say that the GOAT is, without any reasonable doubt, one of them. 10-12 is not too much, it's a good starting point. What do you think?
 

Virginia

Hall of Fame
I don't know if this has been mentioned in this thread and I'm not entirely certain whether "demolish" was the actual word used, but it was said that:

Laver would demolish you, but Rosewall would break your heart.

*Off topic* Do any of you know that Anthony Wilding wrote a wonderful book entitled "On the Court and Off"? I have two (new) copies of it - one is a photocopy version of the original printing and the other is a recently published version by an American company that speclialises in the reprinting of rare books.

*Back on topic* I saw many of Rosewall's matches (singles and doubles with Lew Hoad) at Wimbledon back in the 1950's. I had pin up photos of both players on my bedroom wall!
 
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urban

Legend
Great memories, Virginia. I would have loved to see Hoad and Rosewall. Besides: The quote You mentioned could have been made by Fred Stolle. I read that or something similar in some books.
 

AndrewD

Legend
Urban,

Why aren't people emphasising that when Laver started to wrack up wins against Rosewall it neatly coincided with him entering his peak years and Rosewall entering his 30's ?

Far as I can see, everyone is trying to rate the two while completely ignoring very basic physical realities. (just as they happily ignore how beneficial certain playing conditions were for some player over others).


A final word - everyone, PLEASE, when you find a comment/article/book/etc that comes from a player, promoter or journalist, think through the reasons why that person said what they did and what their biases or hesitations might be.
 

Virginia

Hall of Fame
AndrewD, I mentioned this in the classic racquets forum, but I think you may have missed it.

Do you happen to live in Sydney? It's just that I'm going to be there for about a week next month, and will be going to the "Ken Rosewall Tennis Day" at the Museum.

I just thought it would be fun to meet up and compare notes. :)
 

Borgforever

Hall of Fame
No-one has the knowledge about the Doherty's early deaths and health problems? I'm waiting impatiently... :)
 
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SgtJohn

Rookie
No-one has the knowledge about the Doherty's early deaths and health problems? I'm waiting impatiently... :)
Here's a quote from the french 'Bmarcore' site:

Laurie Doherty abandonna le tennis en 1906 pour se consacrer au golf, sport moins violent où il fit une carrière toute aussi brillante qu'au tennis, paraît-il. De santé fragile comme son frère, il avait des problèmes respiratoires et il se fatiguait vite. Mobilisé dans la Royal Navy pendant la guerre, les rigueur du service achevèrent d'user sa santé. Il mourut après une longue maladie à Broadstairs dans le Kent le 21 Août 1919, à l'âge de 43 ans.

Approximate translation:

"Laurie Doherty retired from tennis in 1906 and played only golf from then on, and had a brilliant career in that sport too, it seems. A man with a fragile health, as his brother, he had respiratory issues and tired easily. As he was enrolled in the Royal Navy during the Great War, military service kept deteriorating his health. He died after a long illness in Broadstairs, Kent, at 43."
 

Borgforever

Hall of Fame
Many thanks Sgt John! :)

Seems like asthma for Reggie then probably. A great handicap...

If anyone has even more info on these master brother duo I'll appreciate it greatly since I'm fascinated with tennis pre 1910... So if Carlo or anyone else has something I'm dying listen...
 

timnz

Legend
Sampras agassi - Southern Hemisphere

This is a great post. I've always believed Sampras had amuch better career than Agassi and have never understood why some people say otherwise.
I take your point. However it is only valid for the Nortern Hemisphere. Sampras never beat Agassi in Australia ever :)
 

Borgforever

Hall of Fame
Okey -- the Doherty's has always fascinated me although there's not a wealth of info about them out there. This is one of my projects for 2009.

If you're nutty about stuff like this as I am check out this little gem of a report from the early 1900's when the Doherty's visited the US. It gives us some nice evaluations on the sophistication of our game and the players around this era.

I just love stuff like this. Hope you enjoy as much as I did:

http://www.la84foundation.org/SportsLibrary/Outing/Volume_42/outXLII05/outXLII05u.pdf

Both of them absolutely belong in a GOAT debate IMO and deserve deep scrutiny -- so I hope someone else, if they have further knowledge about these early Kings, that they will post...

And I must add -- the earliest film footage of tennis at Wimbledon is from around 1903-04 (?) and only a few seconds so I doubt we'll ever see anything of fantastic Doherty's in action during their glorious peak. Saaaad....
 
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Many thanks Sgt John! :)

Seems like asthma for Reggie then probably. A great handicap...

If anyone has even more info on these master brother duo I'll appreciate it greatly since I'm fascinated with tennis pre 1910... So if Carlo or anyone else has something I'm dying listen...
I don't remember well what were their diseases but after the brothers played their very tiring doubles in the 1906 Wimbledon event their mother, who was afraid, made them swear not to play anymore in the Championships so in particular Hugh gave up his title in 1907 because he didn't want to betray his mother but he did it reluctantly. So the Dohertys didn't play many singles since 1907. For instance Hugh reached the Monte Carlo final in 1907 and 1909 and won some tournaments as the North of England Championships, Scarborough in 1908-1909-1910 or the Nottinghamshire Championships, Nottingham in 1909. Reggie probably won his last tournament in early 1909 (probably January) at the South African champs in Johannesburg but he was so ill that he didn't play the rest of the South African tour with the other British players.

About the brothers meetings the only public match they apparently played was their 1898 Wimbledon final (they played many private matches in particular on George Whiteside Hillyard's private home court).

SgtJohn, here are some Doherty's performances before 1897 (thanks to Károly) :

Exmouth BRI (G) Probably Aug 10 1895 (ending date):
Last round : Reggie Doherty (BRI-G) - Harry Barlow (BRI-G) 7-5 4-6 6-4 6-2

Scottish Championships, Moffat BRI (G) (Probably Aug 24 1895)
Challenge Round: Reggie Doherty (BRI-G) – R. Watson (BRI-G) 6-1 6-1 6-1

Irish Championships, Dublin BRI (G) (Probably May 30, 1896):
Quarters: Harold Mahony (BRI-I) - Reggie Doherty (BRI-G) 6-2 6-2 6-4

London Championships, Queen’s Club BRI (G) Probably Jun 27, 1896:
2nd round: Laurie Doherty (BRI-G) - Bill Larned (USA) 6-4 7-5 6-2
Semis: Harold Mahony (BRI-I) - Laurie Doherty (BRI-G) 6-3 4-6 6-2 2-6 10-8
Final : Harold Mahony (BRI-I) - Reggie Doherty (BRI-G) 11-9 6-4 6-4

Jul 20 1896
The Lawn Tennis Championships, Wimbledon BRI (G)
1st round: Harold Mahony (BRI-I) - Reggie Doherty (BRI-G) 6-3 5-7 6-1 3-6 6-2

Probably Aug 15 1896
Scottish Championships, Moffat BRI (G):
Challenge round : Reggie Doherty (BRI-G) – Edward Allen (BRI-G) 13-11 6-4
 
Now, Carlo we have had our differences about this speculative questions. I don't think, that Rosewall was a million times better than Laver in say 1960-62. I generally rank the amateur game of the 50s and 60s a bit higher against the pros than Carlo or even Jeffrey. In the early 50s or in 61 or 62 imo the pro game had problems and struggled, and the emerging amateurs did quite well. Its quite possible that Rosewall was the best player in 1961 and 62, but if Laver had gotten him earlier, i think, he would have challenged him earlier. Especially in 128 draws, where Hoad would have had difficulties due to his physical problems (Gonzales was semi-retired 1961-63). The 1963 domination of Rosewall was complete only in the first half of the year. In the second European part of the pro season, Laver made great strides, won a big share of the pro tournaments and challenged Rosewall severely. Sedgman said that in early 1964, and Trabert wrote it in 1963. Carlo himself has cited a Tennis du France article on the Cannes tournament in autumn 1963, where Kenny, after he saw Laver demolish Gimeno, seemed a bit afraid to face the in form Laver in the final.
I wrote in earlier posts, that Laver would probably not have won a Grand Slam in 1962 with all the pros competing. But if Wimbledon would have been open all the time, i would give Laver the 61 and 62 titles even with all the pros.
If we have to believe Hoad :
a) he trained hard 10 days before facing Laver in January 1963 on Australia's grass well mastered by the Rocket and however Hoad never lost a match to Laver. Hoad has never defaulted a match in this series and previously Hoad hadn't much defaulted in the whole year 1962. Hoad was out of form in 1961 (because of his Coubertin injury). I also guess that in 1962 Hoad was slightly better than in January 1963 and that Laver slightly improved during his Rosewall or Hoad matches and so was a little better than in 1962. I can then deduce that the gap between Hoad and Laver in 1962 was larger than in January 1963. So it is very likely that Hoad would have bettered Laver in 1962 on grass;
b) Rosewall quit his holidays vacation spot only 2 days before meeting Laver indicating how Muscles judged Laver's level at the time. Once Rosewall had recovered his true level (after his initial 3-2 lead) he too didn't lose one match.

Therefore Hoad and Rosewall were clearly better than Laver in early 1963 and even more in the 1960-1962 years.

Remember that Laver had problems against Darmon and Santana at Wimbledon 1961-1962. Except his volley Darmon had no good grasscourt strokes and Santana though a relatively complete player was far from being the best grasscourter especially in 1961-1962 when he wasn't at his peak (circa 1965-1966).

In 1961, Gonzales (who wasn't retired then), Rosewall and Segura (unfortunately tennis has never seen a real Segura-Laver confrontation because they didn't meet before 1963 when Segura was clearly over the hill) were superior to Laver on grass and would probably have prevented him from winning that year (and perhaps MacKay and Buchholz were on the same level as Laver).

In 1962 the same can be said about Rosewall, Hoad (not injured this time) - Segura and perhaps Earl Buchholz, the latter had some good pro performances in 1962 (and even in 1963 he crushed Laver 64 61 or 61 64 at Wembley).

So we have a deep disagreement about Wimbledon 1961-1962.


The point here is to judge players as they were and not as they would have been.

You think that a hypothetical Laver would have won Wimbledon in 1961-1962 if the pros had entered the event because he would have been better after having challenging them before but
you don't judge the true Laver of those years (you wrote "if Laver had gotten him (Ken) earlier, i think, he would have challenged him earlier").

In this case you should apply the same logic with all the amateurs :
in the early or mid-60's if Emerson, Stolle, Newcombe, Roche, Santana had faced the pros they also would have been better, if Rosewall had faced the pros since his early years he wouldn't have been crushed by them in early 1957, the same for Gonzales with Kramer and so on (and you can come back to Vines or Perry). But the true Laver in 61-62 apparently had a weak defensive game which could have been greatly exploited by the best pros.

If I use your logic I can also state that if Rosewall had met Laver earlier, Rosewall would have adapted to Laver's best game earlier too.
It took Rosewall 2 years to do that : I recall that Laver clearly dominated Kenny in direct confrontations during the years 1964-1965 but in 1966 and 1967 Kenny (though more than 31 years old) did well against Laver (6-7 in 1966 and 5-8 in 1967).
So if Laver had turned pro in 1961 (and not in 1963) why not speculate that Rosewall would have truly rivalled Laver in direct confrontations since 1964 (and not 1966). Besides being younger in 1964 than in 1966, perhaps this hypothetical Rosewall would have been even more dangerous in 1964-1965 for Rod than he had been in 1966-1967 and so in this case why not speculate that Laver could not have been #1 in 1964-1965.

As my example above I therefore think your reasoning, a hypothetical better Laver in 1961-1962 than the true one, is too speculative. In reality Laver wasn't that good in those two years.

One last remark : You also wrote "In the second European part of the (1963) pro season, Laver ... challenged Rosewall severely". It was true only in second class events but it wasn't the case in the majors, at the French Pro and at Wembley (held in that second part) where Laver was clearly behind Rosewall (see Laver's defeat by Buchholz at Wembley).
 
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