'Pursuit of History' (GOAT) is a Marketing Gimmick

bjsnider

Hall of Fame
In the 'Courts of Babylon' days, big media used to sell tennis to the masses using personalities -- 'what's Nasty gonna do tonight'?, or 'come and watch Mac and Connors tear strips of flesh off each other'. Worked well in those years, but then, with the corporatization of tennis, the personalities didn't fit the profile anymore. I still remember the sadness, and even anger, from the TV talking heads regarding the lack of demonstrativeness from Pete Sampras. He was called 'boring' quite frequently. Who else from that generation wasn't boring? even Agassi didn't speak up very much. For those who weren't around in those days, McEnroe would often talk about how the personality had been purged from the game by big endorsement money. The pundits were actually complaining that they couldn't sell the game to the masses.

And then something happened. Pete Sampras approached Roy Emerson's 12 majors, a record no one paid attention to before that time. It seems impossible to imagine now, but in the 1970s, and 1980s, and through most of the 1990s, no one talked about major totals. For example, nobody said, 'McEnroe is now half way to Emerson's 12!'. That wasn't the gimmick in those days, and the players didn't give a damn about it. Many of them didn't even bother to play in all of the majors every year. It was common to skip Australia because of bad scheduling and worse facilities (Bjorn Borg played AO once in his career). According to McEnroe's book, the players cared a lot more about winning specific majors in that era of specialization, and about being world number one.

Apparently, Sampras' pursuit of both the Emerson record, and the most Wimbledons, worked as a substitute for the personalities. Now the talking heads have something they can yammer about. Never mind that previous generations couldn't have cared less, and therefore can't possibly be judged on those terms. What counts is ad revenue from viewership. ESPN is ultimately owned by Disney, and I doubt the Mouse cares much about accuracy and fairness in tennis history.

Pursuit of history doesn't work well if specialists are sometimes capturing majors. We just can't have them interrupting the narrative. For example, many RG tournaments have ended with one-time winners. It's a pretty long list, but just to name a few, Yannick Noah, Andres Gomez, Muster, Kafelnikov, Costa et al. Those guys are today's Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic etc. Excellent players who, given special favours on one specific surface, might expect to win the big prize once in their careers. One big payday.

So, in order to prevent that from happening, as has been discussed so many times in the past, the surfaces were homogenized. Grass and hard courts significantly slowed, clay sped up. Too bad, no more Pat Cash types, who sneak in and take a Wimbledon. The effect of the homogenization is, almost all of the big tournaments, not just the majors, bubble up to the greatest players. That means the great players of the past, especially the pre-Open Era, are excluded from the argument, since they never had the opportunity to foresee that one day the major totals would matter. Good! the talking heads can't explain who these old guys are.

Let's use a thought experiment. Since Djokovic is currently number one, let's move forward in time five years, and give Djokovic 25 majors, 350 weeks at number one, more tournaments won than anybody, 3 or 4 wins for every loss against Nadal and Federer etc. in short, the numbers say he's greater than his contemporaries. Question: Does that make Djokovic the GOAT? If so, what's his argument against Rod Laver and Pancho Gonzales? What's his argument against Bjorn Borg? Suzanne Lenglen was unbeatable throughout the 1920s, so what is Serena's argument as GOAT against her? I mean, Lenglen truly crushed, annihilated, wiped out, destroyed, the field. Her stats are mind-boggling (she finished her career with a 97.99% win percentage). If God himself had played Lenglen at tennis, God would surely have taken a straight sets loss. In more modern times, Chris Evert's clay records are almost too astonishing for words. What is Williams's argument against her?

The answer to all of this is, there is no argument. It's all just hot air, designed to generate the kind of talk that frequently goes on around here. It's actually very easy to undermine any player's GOAT argument, no matter who that player happens to be. That means the entire 'debate' is meaningless, since there's no common frame of reference against which to measure all players in tennis history. I can make great arguments for Laver, Sampras, Gonzales, Borg, et al. and I can also undermine them easily. It all adds up to nothing. The only reason the TV pundits talk about it so much is that it generates views, which means ad revenue, which pays their salaries. If the GOAT nonsense didn't pay off, they'd stop talking about it.

I didn't bother to watch the AO final. I wasn't interested. It would not, and does not, settle anything. The first week was far more interesting. The Tsitsipas/Federer match was more interesting. I guess that illustrates the problem for big media organizations. If viewers stop believing the GOAT b.s., they might actually lose interest in the biggest matches, and then we'd have to look around for some other, even more brainless narrative. Maybe sex appeal, right? Maybe they could just aim the camera at the players' asses and show that for a few hours, while debating who's the ass GOAT?
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
In the 'Courts of Babylon' days, big media used to sell tennis to the masses using personalities -- 'what's Nasty gonna do tonight'?, or 'come and watch Mac and Connors tear strips of flesh off each other'. Worked well in those years, but then, with the corporatization of tennis, the personalities didn't fit the profile anymore. I still remember the sadness, and even anger, from the TV talking heads regarding the lack of demonstrativeness from Pete Sampras. He was called 'boring' quite frequently. Who else from that generation wasn't boring? even Agassi didn't speak up very much. For those who weren't around in those days, McEnroe would often talk about how the personality had been purged from the game by big endorsement money. The pundits were actually complaining that they couldn't sell the game to the masses.

And then something happened. Pete Sampras approached Roy Emerson's 12 majors, a record no one paid attention to before that time. It seems impossible to imagine now, but in the 1970s, and 1980s, and through most of the 1990s, no one talked about major totals. For example, nobody said, 'McEnroe is now half way to Emerson's 12!'. That wasn't the gimmick in those days, and the players didn't give a damn about it. Many of them didn't even bother to play in all of the majors every year. It was common to skip Australia because of bad scheduling and worse facilities (Bjorn Borg played AO once in his career). According to McEnroe's book, the players cared a lot more about winning specific majors in that era of specialization, and about being world number one.

Apparently, Sampras' pursuit of both the Emerson record, and the most Wimbledons, worked as a substitute for the personalities. Now the talking heads have something they can yammer about. Never mind that previous generations couldn't have cared less, and therefore can't possibly be judged on those terms. What counts is ad revenue from viewership. ESPN is ultimately owned by Disney, and I doubt the Mouse cares much about accuracy and fairness in tennis history.

Pursuit of history doesn't work well if specialists are sometimes capturing majors. We just can't have them interrupting the narrative. For example, many RG tournaments have ended with one-time winners. It's a pretty long list, but just to name a few, Yannick Noah, Andres Gomez, Muster, Kafelnikov, Costa et al. Those guys are today's Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic etc. Excellent players who, given special favours on one specific surface, might expect to win the big prize once in their careers. One big payday.

So, in order to prevent that from happening, as has been discussed so many times in the past, the surfaces were homogenized. Grass and hard courts significantly slowed, clay sped up. Too bad, no more Pat Cash types, who sneak in and take a Wimbledon. The effect of the homogenization is, almost all of the big tournaments, not just the majors, bubble up to the greatest players. That means the great players of the past, especially the pre-Open Era, are excluded from the argument, since they never had the opportunity to foresee that one day the major totals would matter. Good! the talking heads can't explain who these old guys are.

Let's use a thought experiment. Since Djokovic is currently number one, let's move forward in time five years, and give Djokovic 25 majors, 350 weeks at number one, more tournaments won than anybody, 3 or 4 wins for every loss against Nadal and Federer etc. in short, the numbers say he's greater than his contemporaries. Question: Does that make Djokovic the GOAT? If so, what's his argument against Rod Laver and Pancho Gonzales? What's his argument against Bjorn Borg? Suzanne Lenglen was unbeatable throughout the 1920s, so what is Serena's argument as GOAT against her? I mean, Lenglen truly crushed, annihilated, wiped out, destroyed, the field. Her stats are mind-boggling (she finished her career with a 97.99% win percentage). If God himself had played Lenglen at tennis, God would surely have taken a straight sets loss. In more modern times, Chris Evert's clay records are almost too astonishing for words. What is Williams's argument against her?

The answer to all of this is, there is no argument. It's all just hot air, designed to generate the kind of talk that frequently goes on around here. It's actually very easy to undermine any player's GOAT argument, no matter who that player happens to be. That means the entire 'debate' is meaningless, since there's no common frame of reference against which to measure all players in tennis history. I can make great arguments for Laver, Sampras, Gonzales, Borg, et al. and I can also undermine them easily. It all adds up to nothing. The only reason the TV pundits talk about it so much is that it generates views, which means ad revenue, which pays their salaries. If the GOAT nonsense didn't pay off, they'd stop talking about it.

I didn't bother to watch the AO final. I wasn't interested. It would not, and does not, settle anything. The first week was far more interesting. The Tsitsipas/Federer match was more interesting. I guess that illustrates the problem for big media organizations. If viewers stop believing the GOAT b.s., they might actually lose interest in the biggest matches, and then we'd have to look around for some other, even more brainless narrative. Maybe sex appeal, right? Maybe they could just aim the camera at the players' asses and show that for a few hours, while debating who's the ass GOAT?
I half agree with you and half don't. I don't think there is anything stupider than the GOAT idea, and I've argued against it every since I came here. But I think humanity is pretty stupid, all by itself, and doesn't need much help developing or maintaining crackpot ideas.

As far as not watching the AO final at all, I think that's a bit of a "get off my lawn" attitude. I had planned to watch it, and if it had developed into a very competitive match, I would have enjoyed it.

As for poly, and the results of poly, I more or less think it just happened. The genie got out of the bottle, and now they can't get the genie back in. Rather than blame the result on a sort of tennis conspiracy, I think it's more about making a bad decision, long ago, in allowing non-wood in frames and then allowing poly strings. How different would it have been if they had held the line? But they didn't, and we have what we have - players now winning over 90% of service games, a break of serve for most players always becoming impossible and making it almost impossible to serve and volley. Now, how different would it have been without these changes for a few players to dominate? That's hard to say. Maybe the dominance of the Big Three is because of those changes, or maybe we have three insanely good players. I really don't know.
 

tennisfan2015

Hall of Fame
Week 1 was more interesting because Fedr was still playing?
The GOAT debate is pointless because Fedr is about to retire, uncomfortably?
The GOAT debate should be postponed until Nadl and Novk retire, and if they do not wipe off the Rolex legacy the debate should be restarted?
Why more and more members are coming out now and saying how pointless the GOAT debate is?
Why they have not argued the same point in 2007? 2009? 2012?

There will always be a GOAT as in any other sport. That is why it is sport.
 

urban

Legend
Agree a lot with the arguments of the op. Goat discussions are funny, but speculative and not more. No proven fact. Parameters have changed constantly, and in tennis, record keeping was very bad until only a few years. Describe the players within their enviroment, search for complete records, ask for the respective hieirachy of their goals and ambitions, regard the very different circuits in respective eras.
One maybe haeretic argument i thought about yesterday. Today we have a situation that 3 players all have built fantastic records within almost the same time frame. But how can that happen, if someone is really and clearly the greatest of alltime. Would not this greatest of alltime prevent by his pure class distinction, that someone else could win 11 RG on clay in the same era, that another one could lose all those AO finals, or that someone else could grap 8 Wimbies.
 
I half agree with you and half don't. I don't think there is anything stupider than the GOAT idea, and I've argued against it every since I came here. But I think humanity is pretty stupid, all by itself, and doesn't need much help developing or maintaining crackpot ideas.

As far as not watching the AO final at all, I think that's a bit of a "get off my lawn" attitude. I had planned to watch it, and if it had developed into a very competitive match, I would have enjoyed it.

As for poly, and the results of poly, I more or less think it just happened. The genie got out of the bottle, and now they can't get the genie back in. Rather than blame the result on a sort of tennis conspiracy, I think it's more about making a bad decision, long ago, in allowing non-wood in frames and then allowing poly strings. How different would it have been if they had held the line? But they didn't, and we have what we have - players now winning over 90% of service games, a break of serve for most players always becoming impossible and making it almost impossible to serve and volley. Now, how different would it have been without these changes for a few players to dominate? That's hard to say. Maybe the dominance of the Big Three is because of those changes, or maybe we have three insanely good players. I really don't know.

I enjoy the modern frames and modern strings more than the heavy wood (full natty is rad, though)!

As for the GOAT stupidity: it will pass.

What will not pass is the effort to milk the sport for money and ruining it in the process. Thank God noone can tell me how to play it, so the normal tennis players will always have that.

:cool:
 

2good4U

Professional
What will not pass is the effort to milk the sport for money and ruining it in the process.

:cool:

Milking anything for money, even cows, ruins everything.

But hey, that's Crapitalism for you, appealing to the baser elements of society.

Why should pro Tennis be any different.
 
Milking anything for money, even cows, ruins everything.

But hey, that's Crapitalism for you, appealing to the baser elements of society.

Why should pro Tennis be any different.

No, the sport needs money, and there is nothing wrong with Capitalism.

What is wrong is when the money start to rule the competition aspects of the sport.

:cool:
 

bjsnider

Hall of Fame
As for poly, and the results of poly, I more or less think it just happened. The genie got out of the bottle, and now they can't get the genie back in. Rather than blame the result on a sort of tennis conspiracy, I think it's more about making a bad decision, long ago, in allowing non-wood in frames and then allowing poly strings. How different would it have been if they had held the line? But they didn't, and we have what we have - players now winning over 90% of service games, a break of serve for most players always becoming impossible and making it almost impossible to serve and volley. Now, how different would it have been without these changes for a few players to dominate? That's hard to say. Maybe the dominance of the Big Three is because of those changes, or maybe we have three insanely good players. I really don't know.

Thanks for the response. I was particularly interested in your views, since you were around, observing tennis, in the days before Sampras broke Emerson's record. I did not actually discuss the racket/strings issues though. I think the equipment ultimately makes hitting easier than in the dead ball era, which makes the achievements of those players more impressive, just as baseball's dead ball era featured much better hitting than today (check George Will's book "Men at Work" on that). The equipment has affected the men's and women's games completely differently. The men find it much easier to hold serve, while the women need a Djokovic-like return game or they don't get to have nice things.

That's all well and good, but I think surface homogenization has done far more to eliminate specialization, which has magnetized this era's great players and caused them to attract more than the typical share of majors and other big tournaments. I have strong doubts that the 'big four' are any better than the players from past eras since their argument is based solely on a numbers game contrived using a formula which emerged very recently, and whose creators had a financial stake in its success, and therefore were far from disinterested parties.
 
In the 'Courts of Babylon' days, big media used to sell tennis to the masses using personalities -- 'what's Nasty gonna do tonight'?, or 'come and watch Mac and Connors tear strips of flesh off each other'. Worked well in those years, but then, with the corporatization of tennis, the personalities didn't fit the profile anymore. I still remember the sadness, and even anger, from the TV talking heads regarding the lack of demonstrativeness from Pete Sampras. He was called 'boring' quite frequently. Who else from that generation wasn't boring? even Agassi didn't speak up very much. For those who weren't around in those days, McEnroe would often talk about how the personality had been purged from the game by big endorsement money. The pundits were actually complaining that they couldn't sell the game to the masses.

And then something happened. Pete Sampras approached Roy Emerson's 12 majors, a record no one paid attention to before that time. It seems impossible to imagine now, but in the 1970s, and 1980s, and through most of the 1990s, no one talked about major totals. For example, nobody said, 'McEnroe is now half way to Emerson's 12!'. That wasn't the gimmick in those days, and the players didn't give a damn about it. Many of them didn't even bother to play in all of the majors every year. It was common to skip Australia because of bad scheduling and worse facilities (Bjorn Borg played AO once in his career). According to McEnroe's book, the players cared a lot more about winning specific majors in that era of specialization, and about being world number one.

Apparently, Sampras' pursuit of both the Emerson record, and the most Wimbledons, worked as a substitute for the personalities. Now the talking heads have something they can yammer about. Never mind that previous generations couldn't have cared less, and therefore can't possibly be judged on those terms. What counts is ad revenue from viewership. ESPN is ultimately owned by Disney, and I doubt the Mouse cares much about accuracy and fairness in tennis history.

Pursuit of history doesn't work well if specialists are sometimes capturing majors. We just can't have them interrupting the narrative. For example, many RG tournaments have ended with one-time winners. It's a pretty long list, but just to name a few, Yannick Noah, Andres Gomez, Muster, Kafelnikov, Costa et al. Those guys are today's Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic etc. Excellent players who, given special favours on one specific surface, might expect to win the big prize once in their careers. One big payday.

So, in order to prevent that from happening, as has been discussed so many times in the past, the surfaces were homogenized. Grass and hard courts significantly slowed, clay sped up. Too bad, no more Pat Cash types, who sneak in and take a Wimbledon. The effect of the homogenization is, almost all of the big tournaments, not just the majors, bubble up to the greatest players. That means the great players of the past, especially the pre-Open Era, are excluded from the argument, since they never had the opportunity to foresee that one day the major totals would matter. Good! the talking heads can't explain who these old guys are.

Let's use a thought experiment. Since Djokovic is currently number one, let's move forward in time five years, and give Djokovic 25 majors, 350 weeks at number one, more tournaments won than anybody, 3 or 4 wins for every loss against Nadal and Federer etc. in short, the numbers say he's greater than his contemporaries. Question: Does that make Djokovic the GOAT? If so, what's his argument against Rod Laver and Pancho Gonzales? What's his argument against Bjorn Borg? Suzanne Lenglen was unbeatable throughout the 1920s, so what is Serena's argument as GOAT against her? I mean, Lenglen truly crushed, annihilated, wiped out, destroyed, the field. Her stats are mind-boggling (she finished her career with a 97.99% win percentage). If God himself had played Lenglen at tennis, God would surely have taken a straight sets loss. In more modern times, Chris Evert's clay records are almost too astonishing for words. What is Williams's argument against her?

The answer to all of this is, there is no argument. It's all just hot air, designed to generate the kind of talk that frequently goes on around here. It's actually very easy to undermine any player's GOAT argument, no matter who that player happens to be. That means the entire 'debate' is meaningless, since there's no common frame of reference against which to measure all players in tennis history. I can make great arguments for Laver, Sampras, Gonzales, Borg, et al. and I can also undermine them easily. It all adds up to nothing. The only reason the TV pundits talk about it so much is that it generates views, which means ad revenue, which pays their salaries. If the GOAT nonsense didn't pay off, they'd stop talking about it.

I didn't bother to watch the AO final. I wasn't interested. It would not, and does not, settle anything. The first week was far more interesting. The Tsitsipas/Federer match was more interesting. I guess that illustrates the problem for big media organizations. If viewers stop believing the GOAT b.s., they might actually lose interest in the biggest matches, and then we'd have to look around for some other, even more brainless narrative. Maybe sex appeal, right? Maybe they could just aim the camera at the players' asses and show that for a few hours, while debating who's the ass GOAT?
Fantastic post. You've nailed it.
 

Red Rick

Bionic Poster
tenor.gif
 

BGod

G.O.A.T.
Of course it's all marketing. If you study and recall enough sports coincidences you find yourself with a bit of a blueprint on how major sporting competitions are marketed as reality television. Hardest of the major sports to do this is hockey. Tennis is on the easier side because of match-ups and draws.

In terms of Slam titles, it's way more circumstantial given the above than other sports. Football is probably the only one that beats it. It's gotten to the point now that enough people seriously think 1 Slam victory proves more than 3 Slam finals. Which is patently insane but there you have it.
 

smash hit

Professional
I don't find myself agreeing with or quoting Mark Petchey very often, but I think he got it right in this tweet,

Mark Petchey
@_markpetchey


Secondly, and I maybe alone in this but i so bored of the GOAT debate. It’s an unwinnable debate. It detracts from enjoying the contribution each has made to the sport to tennis. Isn’t enough we have been fortunate to watch 3 once in a generation Champions play in the same era.
 

JMR

Hall of Fame
It's gotten to the point now that enough people seriously think 1 Slam victory proves more than 3 Slam finals. Which is patently insane but there you have it.

What does either accomplishment "prove"? It may depend on the subject being discussed. Given the question, "Is this player capable of winning a major?" one set of data provides much better evidence than the other.
 

JMR

Hall of Fame
It seems impossible to imagine now, but in the 1970s, and 1980s, and through most of the 1990s, no one talked about major totals. For example, nobody said, 'McEnroe is now half way to Emerson's 12!'. That wasn't the gimmick in those days, and the players didn't give a damn about it.

That's not entirely true. For example, this is from the June 15, 1981 issue of Sports Illustrated, with Bjorn Borg on the cover after his sixth French Open title:

"True to reputation, the dour, unsmiling Lendl was no barrel of laughs on Sunday, but he played determined, sometimes supreme, tennis in the face of not only Borg but tennis history as well, the two having become as intertwined as satin and lace. Borg's sixth French title makes it 11 Grand Slam singles championships, one more than Bill Tilden won, and ties him with Rod Laver for second on the alltime list. The leader is Roy Emerson with 12. That's right. Borg has one major championship to go. And Wimbledon is coming up fast."
 

Otacon

Hall of Fame
Let's use a thought experiment. Since Djokovic is currently number one, let's move forward in time five years, and give Djokovic 25 majors, 350 weeks at number one, more tournaments won than anybody, 3 or 4 wins for every loss against Nadal and Federer etc. in short, the numbers say he's greater than his contemporaries. Question: Does that make Djokovic the GOAT? If so, what's his argument against Rod Laver and Pancho Gonzales? What's his argument against Bjorn Borg? Suzanne Lenglen was unbeatable throughout the 1920s, so what is Serena's argument as GOAT against her? I mean, Lenglen truly crushed, annihilated, wiped out, destroyed, the field. Her stats are mind-boggling (she finished her career with a 97.99% win percentage). If God himself had played Lenglen at tennis, God would surely have taken a straight sets loss. In more modern times, Chris Evert's clay records are almost too astonishing for words. What is Williams's argument against her?
You mean a goddess ? Because in the first ever battle of sexes, Tilden destroyed her 6-0 6-0 in France.
 

bjsnider

Hall of Fame
That's not entirely true. For example, this is from the June 15, 1981 issue of Sports Illustrated, with Bjorn Borg on the cover after his sixth French Open title:

"True to reputation, the dour, unsmiling Lendl was no barrel of laughs on Sunday, but he played determined, sometimes supreme, tennis in the face of not only Borg but tennis history as well, the two having become as intertwined as satin and lace. Borg's sixth French title makes it 11 Grand Slam singles championships, one more than Bill Tilden won, and ties him with Rod Laver for second on the alltime list. The leader is Roy Emerson with 12. That's right. Borg has one major championship to go. And Wimbledon is coming up fast."
Well observed. I wonder if the press would have eventually used that to launch a GOAT argument, or if the lack of active competitors with a similar tally would have dissuaded them?
 

Phoenix1983

G.O.A.T.
You make good points, OP, but do you seriously expect the powers that be *not* to market tennis via the GOAT debate - when failing to do so would lead to a decline in their sport? (Especially since the current youngsters have done little of note to enable them to be hyped up)

Of course, that doesn’t mean that all fans have to take the GOAT debate seriously, or believe the three greatest male players just happen to all be around now. But I don’t think you can blame the authorities as such for wanting to promote their sport.
 

bjsnider

Hall of Fame
You make good points, OP, but do you seriously expect the powers that be *not* to market tennis via the GOAT debate - when failing to do so would lead to a decline in their sport? (Especially since the current youngsters have done little of note to enable them to be hyped up)

Of course, that doesn’t mean that all fans have to take the GOAT debate seriously, or believe the three greatest male players just happen to all be around now. But I don’t think you can blame the authorities as such for wanting to promote their sport.

Excellent points, but I do not blame anyone for perpetrating the GOAT fraud or for believing it. I just want to raise awareness about what's happening. If the tennis viewership did decline, it might lead to the kinds of structural changes that may change things for the better. Normally, in any specific field of endeavour, big changes don't happen except in time of crisis. For example, there was a prolonged work stoppage in the NHL over a decade ago, and the league changed a lot of the rules before play was resumed due to a real or imagined view that the NHL was in the midst of an existential crisis. There are those who have been talking about change in tennis for a long time, but the authorities have continued to slow down the fast surfaces and weigh down the balls. In other words, the only change has been further efforts at homogenization, and that only makes the great players stronger by marginalizing specialists.
 

Amygdal

New User
You're probably right to some extent, although the first time I remember knowing and appreciating Emerson's record was as far back as 1990, when I first got interested in tennis, and long before Sampras broke that record.
Having said that, what amazing about Fed, Nadal and Djokovic and separates them entirely from previous generations is not the headcount at all - but their longevity and dominance. The fact that at the age of 30-36, they are still so much better than all the competition, and that they were better since they were 19 (Nadal) to 22 (Federer) and that they practically only lost to each other for 80% of that time (a little of Murray there and Wawrinka here), is what really differentiates them. The fact that for 16 years since Wimbeldon 2003 and one australian open (63 GS tournaments), they have won 52 (83%) that's what differentiates them. Since RG 2005, they have actually won 47/56 (84%) and our of those 112 finals slots, they occupied 75 finals between them (67%), that's what's amazing. Not to mention the Masters 1000s they shared between them, which I assume (without checking) is also comparable in numbers.
Lendl, Mc'Enroe, Agassi, Borg and all the other greats - they never had either - the longevity, nor the dominance. they never annihaliated all comptition except for themselves.

In comparison, let's look at 1983 - 1993, I am picking 1984, because it seems that's about when the big's started competing in Australia instead of having winners and finalists as Kriek or Teacher. In those 11 years (44 slams, or 88 finals. ), no less than 16 non-greats reached a GS finals (non greats = less than 4 GS. so excluding the likes of Becker and Edberg, but including Courier or Bruguera). that doesn't seem like that much, but there were a lot of greats in that era. Not 3, but more like 8 (Connors, Lendl, Becker, Edberg, McEnroe, Wilander, Agassi, Sampras) - so those 8 did not really show the longevity nor the dominance of our 3.
And here's the kick - they didn't even show dominance in their own backyards (i.e. strong surfaces). in Grass we had 5 winners in 11 years with 3 wins at most by either (Becker) and some guys with 2. Same goes for HC (22 slams of which the king - Lendl won only 5, and the top 3 guys definitely didn't win the 80% that Fedalovic did) Of course the same goes for RG.

So you can dissect it whichever way you please - but regardless of surface (or in other words - on every surface) there never was such a combination of longevity+dominance by 3 different players. With perhaps two exceptions:
1. Borg was as dominant on 2 surfaces, but didn't have the longevity.
2. Sampras on Grass can call the same dominance. But even if we take RG away (due to the difference in surface era), there is something weird about his HC dominance which wasn't really there, that is he wasn't as dominant on HC, as either of the big 3, despite the fact that this was a "homogeneous" surface for him. in fact, in 14 years (1990-2003) he only had 7 wins and 4 finals on AO+USO. That is far less than either Nole or Federer, but worse-off, it's not much better than Nadal's record since 2005 ( 4 wins, 5 finals).

So, you wanted to compare Apples to apples - that is the comparison, and due to longevity and dominance - it seems like the big 3 just have the edge (with the Sampras/W and Borg w/o longevity exceptions)
 

BGod

G.O.A.T.
What does either accomplishment "prove"? It may depend on the subject being discussed. Given the question, "Is this player capable of winning a major?" one set of data provides much better evidence than the other.

I just think it's pretty clear when one guy wins 3 semifinal matches as oppose to the other guy winning 1. Nevermind draws that open up. Kuerten made it past the quarters of a Slam only 3 times, however those 3 times culminated in 3 titles.
 

JMR

Hall of Fame
Well observed. I wonder if the press would have eventually used that to launch a GOAT argument, or if the lack of active competitors with a similar tally would have dissuaded them?

No one really expected that Borg's 11th slam would be his last. When he retired, he had more than twice as many slams as any other active player (Connors had only five), so there wasn't much of a slam race to be discussed. No one else ever got above eight titles until Sampras came along.
 

AceSalvo

Legend
Fed just raised the bar to achieve GOAT status. Lets wait for the next one. Until then, just give the topic a rest.
 
Top