Important Events aka Major Events on the Old Pro Tour

krosero

Legend
It's a good idea for a thread, though I think essentially none of tennis history is as standardized -- in terms of majors -- as what we have today. And I doubt there was any more chaotic era than the early OE.

Starting from 1964-These are the tournaments which is my best GUESS on what is called important tournaments. There may be more or less and of course I could be incorrect.
1964-Being the lazy guy that I am I will take Rod Laver's word in his latest autobiography that he won 7 important tournaments that year.
1965
US Pro Indoor
Masters Pro Round Robin
Newport Pro Champs
Wembley
1966
Forest Hills Pro Round Robin
US Pro Champs
Wembley
1967
Madison Square Garden Pro Champs
US Pro
Wembley
French Pro
Newport Casino Round Robin
Wimbledon Pro Champs

I may do the Open Era later.
What's happened to the French Pros? And Rosewall's '65 US Pro? That US Pro was regarded as the culminating event of the entire US circuit; and it was best of 5 in the last two rounds. The US Pro Indoor had no B5 matches. The Masters also had no B5 matches, and its round-robin stage was entirely pro-sets. And Newport was played from start to finish under the VASS system (first to 31 points, one set played).

Laver won $1,548 at Newport, Rosewall took $3,000 at US Pro.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
It's a good idea for a thread, though I think essentially none of tennis history is as standardized -- in terms of majors -- as what we have today. And I doubt there was any more chaotic era than the early OE.


What's happened to the French Pros? And Rosewall's '65 US Pro? That US Pro was regarded as the culminating event of the entire US circuit; and it was best of 5 in the last two rounds. The US Pro Indoor had no B5 matches. The Masters also had no B5 matches, and its round-robin stage was entirely pro-sets. And Newport was played from start to finish under the VASS system (first to 31 points, one set played).

Laver won $1,548 at Newport, Rosewall took $3,000 at US Pro.
It was just for Laver.

I'll do other players later. Remember it's my best GUESS. Don't get on me too much if I mess up.
 

krosero

Legend
I'd say the Tournament of Champions that Gonzalez won in the late 50s has good creds for getting into the usually named Big 3 majors (and it's already listed at Wikipedia). It didn't always use B5 matches, but I think that was true only in one of its editions; its draws were extraordinarily strong; can't recall offhand about the prize money but I'm sure it was among the highest. And it was called a world championship at least once in the press; and granted that term was sometimes just a title but in this case is very much justifiable.
 
is it true what wikipedia says, that in 1960 the ILTF voted about open tennis and the vote fell short by only 5 votes (134 instead of the needed 139)
Yes, it appears that open tennis nearly started in 1930. Britain and the US were behind the idea, but other nations voted them down at the ILTF ... check out this passage from Bowers: http://www.tennisserver.com/lines/lines_01_04_01.html

THE IDEA OF OPEN TOURNAMENTS
Should the game's best players earn money as professionals for competitive play? Most tennis people saw the fairness of the idea, but many also believed that by competing for money players might lose their commitment to victory and to the codes of the game. Meanwhile tennis organizers felt required to preserve the amateur game and its great international events along their present lines, not only for tradition's sake but also to assure revenues to support national tennis programs.

Still, the notion of pros and amateurs competing together in open tournaments, at least on an occasional basis, remained appealing to most aficionados. In late 1929, the executive committee of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association proposed amending the regulations of International Lawn Tennis Federation to allow open competition. The British Lawn Tennis Association voted to agree, provided that a nation sanction no more than one such event per year. Of 42 leading American amateur players responding to a USLTA questionnaire, 36 were "enthusiastically in favor" of open events, five were "lukewarm," only one was opposed. Planning began for a first U.S. open event in Germantown Cricket Club, Philadelphia, to be held in September 1930, pending ILTF vote on the American-British proposal.

But the idea failed at the ILTF meeting in Paris on March 21, 1930. The Belgian delegate led the opposition. It would be of only momentary sporting interest, he argued, to learn whether given pros are better than given amateurs. Open tournaments could soon overshadow the present international championships, he warned. "Let us prevent the work which we have erected from falling on the ground," he continued. "Let each--the pro and the amateur--remain in his own sphere."

Only the U.S. and Britain voted in favor of open events, twenty nations opposed, while the delegates from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, who had been expected to support, instead abstained in view of the tone of the opposition. Afterwards Merrihew, who liked the notion of very limited open play, strongly criticized the ineffectiveness of the presentation in support of open tennis. The U.S. had been represented only by proxy to the British.​
 

krosero

Legend
A little bit on prize money that I posted some months ago, from the Cape Times of Oct. 16, 1964:

JOHANNESBURG.—The prize money of R14,000 being competed for in the professional tennis tournament at Ellis Park at present is the biggest on the world circuit.

Giving me this news yesterday, Owen Williams, organizer of the tour by the greatest tennis players in the world to-day, added that Cape Town, with prize money of R10,000, is fourth on the world list.

“Only the London and Paris tournaments, which offer prize money of R12,000, can better Cape Town,” explained Williams. “But Johannesburg is now the No. 1 centre as far as tennis is concerned.”​

I wouldn't take this list as exact, because it's one promoter advertising his events and comparing them to distant events about which he may or may not have had exact information. But interesting nevertheless.
 

timnz

Legend
I would say the World Professional Championship of 1932 and 1933 held in Berlin at the Rott Weiss Club could be classed as 'Important Pro Tournaments'. Also the Bristol Cup in France in the 1920's and early 30's was the most important professional tournament of its time. Wouldn't it be great to speak with the likes of Karel Koželuh to ask what that was like in those days? Agree with Tournament of Champions - 1956 to 1959 (LA and Forest hills versions) and 1967 Pro Wimbledon being included in the 'Important Pro tournaments' list. There are other important Pro tournaments like Kooyong,Forest Hills, LA Masters, Madison Square gardens etc that we also important.
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
Is there not already a list on wikipedia of important pro tourneys pre-open? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_professional_tennis_tournaments_before_the_Open_Era
Should we use that as a starting point... deciding what to drop or add?
The problem with that Wiki list is that the three "pro majors" are given dominant status, and the "others" are given a lesser status.

In fact, the "others" such as Wimbledon, Forest Hills, Kooyong , White City Tournament of Champions, L.A. Masters, were often more important the so-called pro majors.
 
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KG1965

Legend
There was no name change in '54; the World Pro designation goes back to the 1950 event. McCauley refers to the '51 event as World Pro.

The 1964 Cleveland tourney was called "the 15th annual world professional tennis championships", which goes back to 1950.

A report of the '53 event, from the Daily Times (New Philadelphia, Ohio) of June 22, 1953:

Pancho Gonzales Downs Budge For Pro Tennis Toga

CLEVELAND (INS)—Richard “Pancho” Gonzales reigns today as the world’s professional tennis king.

Gonzales copped his first world title Sunday by defeating J. Donald Budge, a 38-year-old veteran Racquet man, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in a torrid afternoon of tennis.

The 25-year-old Californian then teamed up with Budge to win the doubles crown by defeating Carl Earn of Los Angeles and Bob Rogers of Hollywood, 6-1, 6-4.

Gonzales lost in the 1952 world pro finals when he was beaten by Pancho Segura, the bandy-legged Ecuadorian, who, along with Jack Kramer, did not take part in the 1953 event.​
The other Pancho seems to have been forgotten, but more I read about him than he seems to me a great player. A big.
 

urban

Legend
In the book The Art of Tennis, edited by Alan Trengove and first published in 1963/64, Segura and the other pros of the day gave short accounts of their careers (the book is more about the specific shots and tactics of the pros). Segura doesn't mention any US pro wins there, but states instead, that two of his biggest wins were at age 36 in a grass court Sydney tournament, which he won over Gonzalez (in 5 sets) and Sedgman. And a year later in a round robin in California, which he won over Rosewall. Looking for references at McCauley, the first event must be, what is billed there as Australian pro at Sydney, 1957, Febr. 6-10. The second must be the Masters Round Robin played at Los Angeles (on cement i think) in 1958, Jun 28-July 6. Segura won that round robin over all top pros with an overall score of 6-0.
Going by the (often cited here) contemporary lens of 1963, Segura does seem to rate those two events as de facto pro majors, certainly as his two biggest wins on the pro tour.
 
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urban

Legend
Thanks to Krosero, among the lot of newspaper articles he provided in the Gonzalez thread, there is one (post 235) with a citing by Trabert, 1963 June 14 in the LA Times, where Trabert states that pro tennis at that time had NO fixed or regular pro majors or pro Grand Slam schedule. He makes comparisons to other sports like Golf, and regrets that in the pro tennis scene, tournament tennis had been and was overshadowed by those preeminent hth tours. I think, that is a clear, significant statement by a guy who played the pro tours since 1956, and as a tour manager was running the tours since 1963.
 
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NatF

Bionic Poster
I think it makes sense for the newspapers of the day to refer to their own home tournaments in grandiose language, so while I find it compelling to read that Wembley or the French Pro were 'World Championships' I think it should be taken with a pinch of salt. Certainly I do not believe that these events stood out head and shoulders above the rest like the modern AO-FO-Wim-USO.
 

KG1965

Legend
After 1978 the circuit was fairly uniform (except for 1982-83 where there was still the WCT split), now is very uniform.

Going back in time, in the early 70s, the circuit was double (GP vs WCT) and created confusion.

Before 1968 the circuits were always two:
1) the best players (Pro)
2) the worst players (amateurs)

The circuit 2)had for me value close ... zero (including slam tournaments).
The circuit 1) was largely incomplete because it lacked the players of circuit 2)(amateurs).

So the majors Pro <<< current slam.

The importance of pro majors is close to that of the other big (great)tournaments of the time, more than slam are close to Master1000.

To understand the importance of the other determinants (or decisive) tournaments in played in Pro Era must necessarily start from the Roll of Honour of the tournaments.
 
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urban

Legend
To talk about some important pro tournaments, which built a sort of continuity besides the Wembley London pro, Cleveland or Longwood pro, Roland Garros or Coubertin pro.
In Europe, the event played at Cannes, indoors at Palais Omnisport built up a certain tradition. I found many references in French tennis books and the very good French Tennis Magazine, and even saw a French film documentary made by INA on the internet about this event and the Riviera tour in 1965. The Geneva event, played indoors, since 1961 apparently on clay, was the most prominent Swiss pro venue. It seems, that in some European countries the pros didn't get access to the prominent amateur venues and clubs, like Gstaad, Hilversum or Hamburg, Rothenbaum. In Germany, von Cramm organised some pro tours very early in the late 1940s. But i cannot find references about Hamburg, Rothenbaum, which was the German national centre of Tennis in those days. In the story of the Rot-Weiss-Club in Berlin, there are references of pro tours, staged there in the 50s and 60s. I don't know about the club Iphitos Munich, maybe there was a tournament in 1964. In the Netherlands there were stops at Nordwijk and Scheveningen, also later in the early open era.
In the US, the Forest Hills Tournaments of Champions and also the LA Masters, later Newport seem to me very important events since the later 1950s. I am still looking about the setting and surroundings of the 1966 Forest Hills Round Robin event with a great draw, which is known by McCauley, and the VASS scoring. A very important event was certainly the US pro indoor, played at White Plains in 1964 and since 1965 at Old Armory in Manhattan, New York (the venue of the US National indoors). It was singled out in several books by McCauley and Laver. It had good crowds and in 1965 a prize money of $ 3000 for the winner. In 1966, Madison Square Garden made a 4 year contract with the pros. The tournament had always very rich prize money, Rosewall won in 1966, Laver in the years 1967, 68 and 69 (there he got 12000 $, second only to Forest Hills).
Important is the role of local promoters and managers. In Germany, Jochen Grosse and Horst Klosterkemper had great influcence in staging world class pro tennis, but only since 1969 at Cologne (Spoga Cup, later WCT event) and later at Duesseldorf (WTC). Owen Williams did good things, setting up a solid South African circuit since 1963, which later ended in the important South African Open at Ellis Park. In England Pat Hughes was a solid local promoter.
 
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urban

Legend
In Italy, wher the pros played a lot in the early 1960s, the venues, surfaces and surroundings are - to me at least - quite uncertain. Sure, the pros played in major cities like Rome, Milano or Turin, but I don't know for instance, if the pros ever got access to the Foro Italico at Rome, where the famous Italian Champs mostly were played.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
I think it makes sense for the newspapers of the day to refer to their own home tournaments in grandiose language, so while I find it compelling to read that Wembley or the French Pro were 'World Championships' I think it should be taken with a pinch of salt. Certainly I do not believe that these events stood out head and shoulders above the rest like the modern AO-FO-Wim-USO.
Of course. My opinion now after many years is that the so called Pro Majors which I think we should just refer to now as regular Important Tournaments (as Laver did in his last autobiography) aren't nearly of the status of the regular classic majors now. The amount of rounds and the fact that it's almost always best of five sets makes it tougher in this way over the Important Tournaments like Wembley. As Urban pointed out in post 66 and 69 here there were a lot of important tournaments every year on the Old Pro Tour depending on the schedule and financials of the tournament and the tour in general. It wasn't exactly a set schedule like that have now.

The Masters Round Robin in 1958 won by Segura with a 6-0 record over the likes of Gonzalez, Rosewall, Sedgman, Trabert, Hartwig and Hoad was one of these important tournaments in my opinion.
 
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pc1

G.O.A.T.
Thanks to Krosero, among the lot of newspaper articles he provided in the Gonzalez thread, there is one (post 235) with a citing by Trabert, 1963 June 13 in the LA Times, where Trabert states that pro tennis at that time had NO regular pro majors or pro Grand Slam schedule. He makes comparisons to other sports like Golf, and regrets that in the pro tennis scene, tournament tennis had been and was overshadowed by those preeminent hth tours. I think, that is a clear, significant statement by a guy who played the pro tours since 1956, and as a tour manager was running the tours since 1963.
Here is the post by Krosero that Urban is discussing.
Here's Pancho talking about the '56 series, and Trabert comparing the one-night stands to tournaments (LA Times, June 14, 1963):

Gonzales Bitter Over Tennis Set-up

Part of the trouble with the old two-man tour system was that a newcomer to the pro game was rarely genuinely competitive. Trabert himself was the last American world player to sign for big cash--$75,000. He played against Pancho Gonzales who only got $25,000 and never forgave tennis, Trabert, or promoter Jack Kramer. He humiliated Tony on the court and rarely lost a chance to grouse to him off it. He won the tour, 74-27, and liked to point out to the press that Trabert got $5,000 per victory for his while he, Gonzales, got about $300 for each of his. “I am playing straight man at a benefit for Tony Trabert,” he once confided bitterly.

Trabert, while he is not about to give the money back, now agrees. “We have to have a fixed slate of world tournaments like golf,” he feels. “We feel the people will come out not to just see one or two top players but all the top players. We propose to take professional tennis out of the exhibition class and into the competition class. Promotionally, you could not really keep the public abreast of a world tour. Everyone knows who won the Masters, the U.S. Open, and even the L.A. or Tucson Open in golf. But no one knows how Rosewall and Laver stand as of last night [in the World Series]. We eventually want to have our equivalent of the Masters and the Open or the PGA.”​
Even Wembley and the French Pro really wasn't played that often. The French Pro wasn't played from 1940 to 1952, possibly played in 1953, was not played in 1954, 1955 and 1957 and possibly played in 1956. Wembley wasn't played from 1940 to 1948, not held in 1954, 1955 and then played until as late as 1971. It was not played from 1972 to 1975 and played from 1976 to 1990.

So in this way, considering the lack of a fixed schedule every day you really cannot equate the Old Pro Tour "Important Tournaments" with the Classic Open Majors of today. I think more importance should be focused on how many years did the player in question dominated and was number one. The World Championhips Tours was generally played every year from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s. I believe this is of more substance by a large amount over the Important Tournaments of the Old Pro Tour.

Counting these "Important Tournaments" as equivalent to majors doesn't make sense now to me. I used to think it was okay but not anymore when I examine the huge differences.

This doesn't take away from the greatness of players like Laver or Gonzalez but we just have to look at other tournaments plus the World Championship Tours and their overall dominance through their long tenure as the best player in the world.
 
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krosero

Legend
Here is the post by Krosero that Urban is discussing.


Even Wembley and the French Pro really wasn't played that often. The French Pro wasn't played from 1940 to 1952, possibly played in 1953, was not played in 1954, 1955 and 1957 and possibly played in 1956. Wembley wasn't played from 1940 to 1948, not held in 1954, 1955 and then played until as late as 1971. It was not played from 1972 to 1975 and played from 1976 to 1990.

So in this way, considering the lack of a fixed schedule every day you really cannot equate the Old Pro Tour "Important Tournaments" with the Classic Open Majors of today. I think more importance should be focused on how many years did the player in question dominated and was number one. The World Championhips Tours was generally played every year from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s. I believe this is of more substance by a large amount over the Important Tournaments of the Old Pro Tour.

Counting these "Important Tournaments" as equivalent to majors doesn't make sense now to me. I used to think it was okay but not anymore when I examine the huge differences.

This doesn't take away from the greatness of players like Laver or Gonzalez but we just have to look at other tournaments plus the World Championship Tours and their overall dominance through their long tenure as the best player in the world.
PC1, I cannot agree with your argument here at all.

Firstly, some historical context. The French Pro and Wembley were not played during the war years, but that was also true of the French Amateur championships and Wimbledon. The latter were resumed when the war ended in 1945, but England and especially France needed some time before any semblance of normal life returned, and that included pro tennis. That was no fault of the pros.

That long span in which Wembley and French Pro were not played should not be held against those tournaments. And it’s especially ironic because both tournaments were RESOUNDING successes in the last peacetime year (1939). French Pro attracted far larger crowds to Roland Garros than did the French Amateur championships, that year. Pro tennis was looking in very good shape by then (I wish your post had at least glanced at the 1930s because none of these questions can be decided without doing so), but was simply stopped cold because of the war. Amateur championships were quicker to return after the war compared to pro events, but that’s because amateurs were always given precedence in those days, by the establishment. Again, no fault of the pros.

I’m sure you would agree with me 100% that it wasn’t their fault; nevertheless these are the same arguments that were levelled at the pros even back then: that their events simply didn’t have tradition/continuity comparable to the amateur events.

Now, the world championship tours. Everything you say about the pro majors is true of those tours as well. They were not held during the war. Even after the war, there was no tour at all in 1949, 1952, 1955, 1962 – the very span in which you hold them up as stable events. And the world championship tours – as you define them, meaning the H2H tours – were not held at all after 1963. So we’re talking about an event that did not even last through the pro era.

I have documented a great number of these world series tours with a fine-toothed comb, and I don’t think I’m being boastful at all in stating that there are very few who have looked at these tours as much, and as closely, as I have. And I don’t agree with your picture of their importance, at all. They have their place – and a very important one – but you are presenting them as something that they were not.

I don’t think, by the way, that the lack of continuity should be held against any of these events, whether tournaments or tours.

And I don’t understand the standard against which you’re judging. You argue that the pros didn’t have tournaments “like we have today.” There NEVER was an era in tennis history in which the majors were as established, and the tour was scheduled around them, as we have today. By this modern standard everything will pale in comparison, including the world championship tours.

If you’re looking at the things that the pros didn’t have, that we have today, the list is endless. Today at the majors you have the entire tennis world showing up to play full 7-round draws, at historical/important venues, in front of the whole world. The h2h tours consisted usually of no more than 2 players confronting each other, occasionally in good venues like Madison Square Garden but quite often in whatever local venue they could find; often you’d get an experienced pro whipping a helpless amateur. And this, for you, is the central factor in deciding world number one’s in the pro years?

For example, when we say that Gonzalez was number one in 1956, you’re saying that his whipping of new pro Trabert is of more substance than Gonzalez’s record against seasoned pros (the best players in the world) in the latter half of the year?

(And you have French Pro as only “possibly” played in 1956? Is that a typo?)

Honestly it’s the comparison with modern tennis that I find so questionable here. There is so much that pre-Open tennis, both amateur and pro, sorely lacked, compared to what we have now. The pro majors were not equivalent to today’s majors (there’s wide agreement about that), but if that’s true it’s doubly true that the amateur majors don’t hold a candle to what we have today. Want to start comparing prize money? That was a big fat zero, for the amateurs (at least officially). Best players in the world? Not in their draws, not by a long shot. They had tradition and continuity, but for me that means very little in context, because their continuity was due to their being backed by an obsolete establishment that prevented a truly open sport senselessly for decades.

I do not understand why a modern standard is being used here, to judge the past. If you start bringing in harshly drawn comparisons with today’s tennis, there is no event or era in tennis history that will not take a serious hit.
 

krosero

Legend
Thanks to Krosero, among the lot of newspaper articles he provided in the Gonzalez thread, there is one (post 235) with a citing by Trabert, 1963 June 14 in the LA Times, where Trabert states that pro tennis at that time had NO fixed or regular pro majors or pro Grand Slam schedule. He makes comparisons to other sports like Golf, and regrets that in the pro tennis scene, tournament tennis had been and was overshadowed by those preeminent hth tours. I think, that is a clear, significant statement by a guy who played the pro tours since 1956, and as a tour manager was running the tours since 1963.
Urban, it’s remarkable how we read the same piece in nearly opposite ways. Certainly Trabert regretted that pro tennis had not moved on sufficiently to tournaments, as opposed to hth tours. But that’s a direct statement, by him, that pro tennis as it was being played back then was not comparable to a modern sport – and he was stating directly that the reason for this inferiority was the h2h tours. He said that those tours were leaving tennis in “the exhibition class.”

Understood in their own context, the pro events of the ‘50s, including the tours, can be seen as great events. But Trabert’s statement does nothing in that direction: he is saying directly that pro tennis in the 1950s was of an inferior quality.

In the Gonzalez thread you quoted E. Digby Baltzell, who considered the 1948 US Pro the only true major of the pro era. But that includes all pro events; he didn’t consider any world series to be in that class. He explicitly agreed with Kramer’s opinion that “the head-to-head pro tours were far less satisfactory than tournament play, either as a test of ability or especially as a developer of ability.” By choosing the 1948 US Pro as his preeminent event of the pro era, he is picking a pro major over the championship tour that had been played earlier that year between Kramer and Riggs.

I find it somewhat telling that for Baltzell, the only pro event to make it in as a worthy event was not a H2H tour but a tournament, a pro major.

I don’t understand where these arguments are going. All these comparisons with modern, open tennis must fall back negatively on everything before the OE, both amateur and pro.

PC1 said that these arguments will not diminish Gonzalez or Laver, but I don’t see how that can be avoided. The tradition/continuity arguments will leave the H2H tours in the pits; and Laver’s years as number one in the 60s will seem all the poorer in comparison to modern players, if there is no sense at all that he and his rivals had a few stops that they considered to be prestigious titles where they would have their showdowns and battles for No. 1. I’ve always agreed with you that the pro majors are not equivalent to modern Slams and were not the kind of stops on the old pro circuit that the Slams are on today's circuit; but if you remove that and simply describe Laver as playing many important tournaments of little significant distinction, then in my view his years as number one look all the poorer, when compared to what Federer and today’s greats are doing in the Slams today.
 

urban

Legend
Krosero, I think, we have exactly the same understanding of the Trabert citing. I cannot see a difference. Trabert regrets, that the pros had no regular major tournament schedule, like Golf had. And he does state, that they hadn't. That's all i understand there. And i cannot see, that i diminish someones career, when i look at very important events or most important events (these are Lavers own words), or leading events or prestigious titles, which those players won in their specific context. Without insinuating, that there were playing regular pro Grand Slams. That would be much more the modern lens. My theory always has been to look at the whole body of work on all pro tours. My method is a sort of close description, to get all angles on a complex historical situation. The basics of this whole body of work were shown in the great founding work of McCauley, in his appendix.
 

krosero

Legend
Krosero, I think, we have exactly the same understanding of the Trabert citing. I cannot see a difference. Trabert regrets, that the pros had no regular major tournament schedule, like Golf had. And he does state, that they hadn't. That's all i understand there. And i cannot see, that i diminish someones career, when i look at very important events or most important events (these are Lavers own words), or leading events or prestigious titles, which those players won in their specific context. Without insinuating, that there were playing regular pro Grand Slams. That would be much more the modern lens. My theory always has been to look at the whole body of work on all pro tours. My method is a sort of close description, to get all angles on a complex historical situation. The basics of this whole body of work were shown in the great founding work of McCauley, in his appendix.
Urban, well enough. I have a problem, too, with pro majors being equated with today's Slams. But for me that is no knock against the pro major concept. The amateur majors were majors and we all (or most of us) still count them in major counts, despite the fact that many arguments could be levelled against them showing that they are not equivalent to today's Slams.

I don't see a problem with counting amateur, pro and Open majors, so long as context is given. That's the real problem in tennis history, that our sport's history is so poorly known and that we have such lists as the Tennis Channel's, as well as modern fans who do count up majors superficially.
 

KG1965

Legend
Given that I have a little knowledge relatively to the post-peiord WWII-1968 allow me some reflections:
1) the slam amateurs count little;
2) the value/prestige of the majors pro <<< to slam Era Open;
3) h2h Tour are basically an endless series of exhibitions among the top players;
4) now the exhibitions have no value but in that time the value/prestige for determine the number 1 was > majors pro >>>>>>> slam tournaments amateurs
5) skip all the usual parameters with which they are elected the top players in the last 20 years.

The main difference is this:
in the Era Open after 1990 (when the WCT and Invitationals ended their history) the look is unidirectional, that is you look forward to the particular slam, but also to others important tournaments of the circuit (Finals and M1000).

At that time our attention is fixed in 4 directions (h2h Tour, Majors, other big tournaments, amateurs / traditional tournaments).

Some critics and ordinary people continued to prefeire traditional tournaments (slam) that were worth wastepaper.

We who love the truth must IMHO concentrate on three aspects:
- H2h Tour
- Majors
- Other Big Titles (what were they?)
.... knowing that none of these was worth the current slam.

Last two considerations:
1) the great Pro tournaments resembled, there was not the match of the year that now exists and we identify in the final W, or USO or RG.
2) the champions were committed in the same way it was an exhibition h2h or Wembley, not like now that Federer or Nadal undertake more at Wimbledon than in Brisbane.
 
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urban

Legend
But the count of alls sorts of majors in itself is the modern lens. Look, now some people on wikipedia state, that Tilden won one "major" more, the World Hard Court in 1921. Hallelujah! Now, he has 11 majors instead of 10, Ok give him some pro majors, and he has about 14 or 15 "majors". Wonderful! Still some behind Federer. But what says that about the real greatness of Tilden. Nothing, absolute nothing! Now look at his win loss percentages for his 10 amteur years (some 95%), and you get some idea of his greatness. Or look on the time, he spent as World Champion. Then you get an idea, why people today rank him among the best, even amost 100 years after his era.
 
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KG1965

Legend
Maybe I'm wrong but I have the impression that as the Pros went clearly to clash head-on the tradition (Wimbledon etc.); .. and the traditionalist system hates the Pro.

1957:
Australian Pro Ch. (Segura tops Sedgman), World Pro Ch. (Gonzalez beats Segura), San Francisco Pro (Gonzalez tops Trabert), ToC (Gonzalez), Masters Pro (Gonzalez), London Pro (Rosewall beats Segura) all these titles >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Wimbledon (Hoad beats Cooper)... we agree???
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
But the count of alls sorts of majors in itself is the modern lens. Look, now some people on wikipedia state, that Tilden won one "major" more, the World Hard Court in 1921. Hallelujah! Now, he has 11 majors instead of 10, Ok give him some pro majors, and he has about 14 or 15 "majors". Wonderful! Still some behind Federer. But what says that about the real greatness of Tilden. Nothing, absolute nothing! Now look at his win loss percentages for his 10 amteur years (some 95%), and you get some idea of his greatness. Or look on the time, he spent as World Champion. Then you get an idea, why people today rank him among the best, even amost 100 years after his era.
Of course. What imo Laver or Gonzalez may lose in one area in people's minds they will gain in other areas like important tournaments won or in Gonzalez's case World Championship Tours won or some cases great feats like Gonzalez's win in the 1969 Howard Hughes, Laver's tournament wins in the Open Era, Rosewall winning the French and US Open as well as reaching the finals of Wimbledon at near age forty. Their levels of play were amazing.

Thing is what does the most damage is time. The longer the time the more likely people will forget a player's greatness.
 
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krosero

Legend
But the count of alls sorts of majors in itself is the modern lens. Look, now some people on wikipedia state, that Tilden won one "major" more, the World Hard Court in 1921. Hallelujah! Now, he has 11 majors instead of 10, Ok give him some pro majors, and he has about 14 or 15 "majors". Wonderful! Still some behind Federer. But what says that about the real greatness of Tilden. Nothing, absolute nothing! Now look at his win loss percentages for his 10 amteur years (some 95%), and you get some idea of his greatness. Or look on the time, he spent as World Champion. Then you get an idea, why people today rank him among the best, even amost 100 years after his era.
I got a sense of Tilden's greatness when I first started studying tennis history and I read about the greatest matches of his career, in old New York Times reports. I mean his famous encounters with Little Bill Johnston and the Musketeers, at the US Nationals, in Davis Cup, and to a lesser extent at Wimbledon and Roland Garros. I continue to find that a solid foundation for examining how great he was. It is not all, and today we can add statistical analysis of win percentages, which you mention. But win percentages are a modern lens too. Tilden wasn't playing to out-strip his opponents in win/loss percentages; to some extent that's true of all athletes but today under a modern ranking system, with modern up-to-date awareness of what the win/loss records are, any given player might give some importance to his own numbers, in an attempt to win a few additional matches and improve his ranking, perhaps; but in Tilden's day there was no such thing. The contemporary literature I am familiar with, about Tilden, talk about his greatness for winning so many Davis Cup titles, for dominating the US Nationals for such-and-such string of years; for not being dethroned until the Musketeers finally took his titles in 1926-27. That sort of thing. Big titles, and big matches.

And then they fix a large part of his legacy on his LOSING but gallant efforts against the Musketeers in the late 20s: this is something that statistics will never capture.

Yes the writers of the time do speak on occasion of Tilden having few losses; or that he had no important losses until around 1926. Rarely, to my knowledge, did they get more exact than that. It could well be that they did; but I don't think Tilden's legacy was built, at the time, on his win/loss records. Nor do I see such stats as definitive for his legacy today. When I see those super-high percentages, I am impressed, as anyone would be; but always there is the question of how strong his competition might have been. Certainly no modern fan of tennis will look at Tilden's match/win percentages and take them as strong evidence that Tilden was as great as Federer. The sport has changed too much.

I find it easier to connect a century of tennis greats if I think of them as rivals challenging and succeeding one another in great matches at important sites. That's a constant. And it's perhaps one reason that I think of majors when I think of the great champions -- not because I want to see who has the higher number and then say, OK, this one with 14 majors is greater than one with 13. But simply because it begins to give me an idea of their resume in great titles.

I don't have a problem at all with talking about all important events on the old pro tour, and not just the pro majors. Talking about a wider category like that is all to the good. But I don't see any need for flattening out the pro major concept (or abandoning it) and simply speaking of players winning 7, 10, even as many as 15 Important Tournaments in a season.

Joe McCauley did not present US, French and Wembley Pro as events that stood out from the old pro circuit in the way that Slams stand out today; but I don't know why they need to stand out the way they do today, to be called majors. They just have to stand out to some significant extent, and they certainly did, per all the evidence that McCauley presented and all the studying of the issue that I've done myself over the years.
 

DMP

Professional
I think the question in the OP is the wrong one to ask, or at least is being interpreted entirely the wrong way. The right question is 'What were the important matches on the old pro tour?'.

Because the old pro tour (and amateur) and modern ATP tour are fundamentally different beasts. As I have said before, it is like trying to equivalence how far someone could trek across the Himalayas without a compass with how many times they can climb the five highest peaks with a troupe of sherpas and GPS. Fundamentally different challenges.

Nowadays you can roughly say that there are five important matches - the finals of the 4 slams and the WTF, although even that is a simplification. They are important (the 5 finals) because they give the winner the most important victories as seen NOW.

But on the old pro (and amateur) tour (and even early Open era) there were not the same clearly demarcated high points. Instead there were many significant lesser matches (individual H2H matches, significant Davis Cup matches, Pro championships of varying descriptions).

So a better, but much harder, question is what matches, year-by-year, are equivalent in achievement to a year of the current ATP tour.

And anyone who can answer that without a lot of simplification is a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
I got a sense of Tilden's greatness when I first started studying tennis history and I read about the greatest matches of his career, in old New York Times reports. I mean his famous encounters with Little Bill Johnston and the Musketeers, at the US Nationals, in Davis Cup, and to a lesser extent at Wimbledon and Roland Garros. I continue to find that a solid foundation for examining how great he was. It is not all, and today we can add statistical analysis of win percentages, which you mention. But win percentages are a modern lens too. Tilden wasn't playing to out-strip his opponents in win/loss percentages; to some extent that's true of all athletes but today under a modern ranking system, with modern up-to-date awareness of what the win/loss records are, any given player might give some importance to his own numbers, in an attempt to win a few additional matches and improve his ranking, perhaps; but in Tilden's day there was no such thing. The contemporary literature I am familiar with, about Tilden, talk about his greatness for winning so many Davis Cup titles, for dominating the US Nationals for such-and-such string of years; for not being dethroned until the Musketeers finally took his titles in 1926-27. That sort of thing. Big titles, and big matches.

And then they fix a large part of his legacy on his LOSING but gallant efforts against the Musketeers in the late 20s: this is something that statistics will never capture.

Yes the writers of the time do speak on occasion of Tilden having few losses; or that he had no important losses until around 1926. Rarely, to my knowledge, did they get more exact than that. It could well be that they did; but I don't think Tilden's legacy was built, at the time, on his win/loss records. Nor do I see such stats as definitive for his legacy today. When I see those super-high percentages, I am impressed, as anyone would be; but always there is the question of how strong his competition might have been. Certainly no modern fan of tennis will look at Tilden's match/win percentages and take them as strong evidence that Tilden was as great as Federer. The sport has changed too much.

I find it easier to connect a century of tennis greats if I think of them as rivals challenging and succeeding one another in great matches at important sites. That's a constant. And it's perhaps one reason that I think of majors when I think of the great champions -- not because I want to see who has the higher number and then say, OK, this one with 14 majors is greater than one with 13. But simply because it begins to give me an idea of their resume in great titles.

I don't have a problem at all with talking about all important events on the old pro tour, and not just the pro majors. Talking about a wider category like that is all to the good. But I don't see any need for flattening out the pro major concept (or abandoning it) and simply speaking of players winning 7, 10, even as many as 15 Important Tournaments in a season.

Joe McCauley did not present US, French and Wembley Pro as events that stood out from the old pro circuit in the way that Slams stand out today; but I don't know why they need to stand out the way they do today, to be called majors. They just have to stand out to some significant extent, and they certainly did, per all the evidence that McCauley presented and all the studying of the issue that I've done myself over the years.
We also have Kramer's own statements that in the late 1950's, the world pro series of tournaments had four events which stood out, namely, L.A. Masters, Forest Hills, Kooyong, and White City.
These four were the biggest money events for the pro tour at that time.
 
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70sHollywood

Guest
Since Wimbledon 2012 Federer leads Djokovic 7-5 in "lesser" matches, but in the big ones Djokovic leads 6-0.

A lot is made of the longevity of Tilden and Gonzalez, based partly on their h2h records against Vines, Perry, Budge, Rosewall and Laver. But have a look at when they won and lost - a pattern starts to emerge...
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Since Wimbledon 2012 Federer leads Djokovic 7-5 in "lesser" matches, but in the big ones Djokovic leads 6-0.

A lot is made of the longevity of Tilden and Gonzalez, based partly on their h2h records against Vines, Perry, Budge, Rosewall and Laver. But have a look at when they won and lost - a pattern starts to emerge...
Some have pointed out how great Budge was (and he was great) by pointing out how he crushed Tilden 46-7-1 in I think 1941. However I think the 7 matches won by Tilden is perhaps more a testimony to Tilden's greatness considering he was playing Budge at his physical peak. I don't know if the ages were reversed if Budge would have done as well.
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
I'd say the Tournament of Champions that Gonzalez won in the late 50s has good creds for getting into the usually named Big 3 majors (and it's already listed at Wikipedia). It didn't always use B5 matches, but I think that was true only in one of its editions; its draws were extraordinarily strong; can't recall offhand about the prize money but I'm sure it was among the highest. And it was called a world championship at least once in the press; and granted that term was sometimes just a title but in this case is very much justifiable.
Completely agree, Krosero.
 

urban

Legend
Re: win loss stats. I am not a proven statistics experts, no way, But i do think firstly, that complete win loss records (as complete as we can get them) are very important for substantial evaluation of tennis history, because they are objective facts, and secondly, that they are not a modern lens. I must admit - and i do regret that a bit - that i am a contemporary of the tennis history since the late 60s, and i must say, even as a kid, i have noticed references to win -loss records, tournament wins, personal hth or match winning streaks, quite often both on tv commentaries and newspaper reports. Certainly we hadn't the complete and continuous stats material, we have now, due to Ponte Vedra and the ATP and the internet as a whole. But hot streaks like Lavers match and tournament winning run in the summer of 1969 were widely known, during Wim semis and final transmissions, hth scores were given, and occasionally prize money lists and match records were given and published by the press. McCauley has some of those press releases about match records and prize money scores of the old pro tours, sometimes of mid-season (i think for instance of 1966). The NTL and WCT released such overall match record scores and prize money lists systematically since 1968.
So the pros kept match records and exact scores of all matches which were competed, they had to keep those record books, alone for legal tax reasons. I do not precisely know, who kept them, and what happened to those documents. Maybe they were kept in the basement of Kramers mother (no joke), maybe they were lost or dispersed. Some of George McCall's papers now seem to reappear in data banks.
In the case of Tilden the match win record is staggering, and in the eyes of none other than the much cited traditionalist Bud Collins (going by his MSNBC article of 2006) is THE main cornerstone of Tildens greatness. Why? Because it gives substance to the myth. The numbers of tennis base show, that Tilden not only had great percentages, but also played much more matches up to over 100 per year and bigger draw tournaments outside the amateur majors, than it was widely known.
I have written before, that besides the percentages, that the winning margin between wins and losses is to me as much or more representative for a year evaluation, because it merits the activity more. For instance in Gonzalez' case. I think 1956 was his best year numerically. It has a lesser percentage than other years with less activity, but the matches won numbers, and especially the winning margin are extraordinary. I think, over the thumb everything over 50 matches plus in the span between won and lost matches is excellent, and in that department the top performers of the old pro tour hold every bit their stance against the modern players, who may have better percentages, because they play less and have more time to rest and recover.
So all in all, complete match records and tournament records are the factual basis of all historical analysis and evaluation. Thanks to people like McCauley, Robert Geist, Andrew, Scott, Carlo, PC1, Krosero and others, we have gathered more information on those dispersed records. Those records are substantial, because those are hard facts, no opinions, no spinning, just facts. Numbers don't lie.
 
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NatF

Bionic Poster
My feelings on this are that the French Pro and Wembley were pretty much always among the biggest events (if not the biggest) each year on the Pro's. The US Pro was large in several years but in others the draw was quite pitiful. In some years the Tournament of Champions was clearly one of the biggest event, in 1967 the Wimbledon Pro must be considered. I also believe that in some years there were likely other events with big draws and big prize money that were at least comparable to what we traditionally call Pro Majors.
 

KG1965

Legend
My feelings on this are that the French Pro and Wembley were pretty much always among the biggest events (if not the biggest) each year on the Pro's. The US Pro was large in several years but in others the draw was quite pitiful. In some years the Tournament of Champions was clearly one of the biggest event, in 1967 the Wimbledon Pro must be considered. I also believe that in some years there were likely other events with big draws and big prize money that were at least comparable to what we traditionally call Pro Majors.
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
My feelings on this are that the French Pro and Wembley were pretty much always among the biggest events (if not the biggest) each year on the Pro's. The US Pro was large in several years but in others the draw was quite pitiful. In some years the Tournament of Champions was clearly one of the biggest event, in 1967 the Wimbledon Pro must be considered. I also believe that in some years there were likely other events with big draws and big prize money that were at least comparable to what we traditionally call Pro Majors.
The exceptions would be most strong in 1958 and 1959 when Kramer arranged a strong group of tournaments which overshadowed the independent tournaments (Wembley, RG, Cleveland), and in 1959 Kramer arranged a world tour of tournaments which carried a special status, and probably exceeded in quality of play any other pro tour in succeeding years.

Each year needs to be evaluated on its own merits.
 

urban

Legend
Dan is right, and also in the internal rating of these important pro events each year, the surface question comes into play. On the amateur scene, Wimbledon rated always ahead of Forest Hills, when both were grass events. The US open, when played on har tru, was seen by people like Ashe still as second clay court event behind Roland Garros. The USO made a stride to even more importance, when they changed to hardcourts in 1978, when they had a surface on their own. Roland Garros always held a special status in the amateur and pro scene, because it was hailed as premier clay (hardcourt) event of the year. Coubertin as indoor event was always in the shadow of Wembley, the premier indoor event. In some year you had probably 3 top indoor events, Wembley first, then Coubertin and US pro indoor. I think, the US pro made a move to more importance, every year, when it was played on grass, as premier pro grass court event. I think, since 1963 it was explicitely billed as US pro grasscourt champs. Wembley was mostly the leading pro event, as Tingay puts it. But clearly in 1967 it stood in the shadow of the Wimbledon pro. For 1966, Barcelona was an important pro event. It had no continuity, but was probably the premier clay event, and saw fine matches between Gimeno and Rosewall, and Gimeno and Laver.
 
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thrust

Hall of Fame
I'd say the Tournament of Champions that Gonzalez won in the late 50s has good creds for getting into the usually named Big 3 majors (and it's already listed at Wikipedia). It didn't always use B5 matches, but I think that was true only in one of its editions; its draws were extraordinarily strong; can't recall offhand about the prize money but I'm sure it was among the highest. And it was called a world championship at least once in the press; and granted that term was sometimes just a title but in this case is very much justifiable.
The T of C was only played for about 4 or 5 years, I think 55-59, so that players like Rosewall and Hoad only played it for 1 or 2 years. From what I see, the French Pro was the only pro slam that was 3 of 5 in all rounds. Some US Pros were 2 of 3 for all rounds or 3 of 5 in finals before 63. Wembly was 3 of 5 in semis and finals. Therefore, IMO, the French Pro was the premier pro slam especially when it was on clay at RG
 

Dan Lobb

G.O.A.T.
The T of C was only played for about 4 or 5 years, I think 55-59, so that players like Rosewall and Hoad only played it for 1 or 2 years. From what I see, the French Pro was the only pro slam that was 3 of 5 in all rounds. Some US Pros were 2 of 3 for all rounds or 3 of 5 in finals before 63. Wembly was 3 of 5 in semis and finals. Therefore, IMO, the French Pro was the premier pro slam especially when it was on clay at RG
The RG Pro was managed independently of the pro tour by French locals, and was financially overshadowed by the major events of the regular tour.
I suspect that for Stad Coubertin beginning 1963, the touring pros were in control of management, although the venue was less attractive and less prestigious than RG.
 
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pc1

G.O.A.T.
The T of C was only played for about 4 or 5 years, I think 55-59, so that players like Rosewall and Hoad only played it for 1 or 2 years. From what I see, the French Pro was the only pro slam that was 3 of 5 in all rounds. Some US Pros were 2 of 3 for all rounds or 3 of 5 in finals before 63. Wembly was 3 of 5 in semis and finals. Therefore, IMO, the French Pro was the premier pro slam especially when it was on clay at RG
Generally speaking Wembley was the most highly thought of. Of course there were years where there was no French Pro or Wembley which left only the US Pro. So I guess when Kramer won the US Pro in 1948 over Budge and Riggs he won the most prestigious tournament of the year since there was no Wembley or French Pro.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Starting from 1964-These are the tournaments which is my best GUESS on what is called important tournaments. There may be more or less and of course I could be incorrect.
1964-Being the lazy guy that I am I will take Rod Laver's word in his latest autobiography that he won 7 important tournaments that year.
1965
US Pro Indoor
Masters Pro Round Robin
Newport Pro Champs
Wembley
1966
Forest Hills Pro Round Robin
US Pro Champs
Wembley
1967
Madison Square Garden Pro Champs
US Pro
Wembley
French Pro
Newport Casino Round Robin
Wimbledon Pro Champs

I may do the Open Era later.
Twenty important titles during Old Pro Tour Years, possibly more.


1968
US Pro
Wimbledon
French Pro
Pacific Southwest
1969
Australian Open
US Pro Indoor
South African Open
Madison Square Garden Pro
French Open
Wimbledon
US Pro
US Open
British Covered Courts
(Not a bad year in 1969) LOL.
1970
Philadephia Indoor
Dunlop Open
South African Open
Pacific Southwest
Tennis Champions Classic
Embassy Indoors
Queens Club (debatable but I think it is)
1971
Tennis Champions Classic (13-0 in the tournament)
Italian Open

So far 22 important titles in the Open Era.
So far 22 important titles in the Open Era with more to come.
 
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pc1

G.O.A.T.
1972
US Pro Indoors
1973
0
1974
US Pro Indoors
Alan King
1975
0
Laver only played a limited scheduled after 1975. So I have him from 1964 to 1975 winning 45 important titles or around 4 a year. It could be more. It could be less but I think I was very cautious in my picks.
 
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thrust

Hall of Fame
Some have pointed out how great Budge was (and he was great) by pointing out how he crushed Tilden 46-7-1 in I think 1941. However I think the 7 matches won by Tilden is perhaps more a testimony to Tilden's greatness considering he was playing Budge at his physical peak. I don't know if the ages were reversed if Budge would have done as well.
No, Budge would not done as well as Tilden at 47 or 48. Tilden was born in 1893, Budge in 1915. Tilden though did not win his first Major till 1920, age 26-27
 

timnz

Legend
Maybe the discussion about what are Pro Majors (since unlike the Amateur and Open eras there is no agreement on these) should be given up? Maybe we could use another term completely. How about 'Important Pro tournaments'. One could say that Laver has won xyz important pro tournaments. At that be listed in his CV. I think there could be a broader consensus on what constitutes an 'important pro tournament'.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Maybe the discussion about what are Pro Majors (since unlike the Amateur and Open eras there is no agreement on these) should be given up? Maybe we could use another term completely. How about 'Important Pro tournaments'. One could say that Laver has won xyz important pro tournaments. At that be listed in his CV. I think there could be a broader consensus on what constitutes an 'important pro tournament'.
I agree. I mentioned in this thread that we use that term. You know this subject as well as anyone. Please contribute.

There really wasn't a Pro Major term in the time of the Old Pro Tour. It should be given up.
 
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