Those who say there is no debate are correct. The case is actually closed. In fact, even had PS and RF been tied at 14 majors, the honors, in my opinion, still go to RF for several reasons, the biggest of which is his amazing streak of QFs or better in majors. But the many PS advocates who claim their man is still #1, regardless of the numbers, believe he faced the (much) tougher opposition, and had they been correct, there certainly would be a debate. There are cases in which quality of opposition could be a decisive factor when comparing the accomplishments of two athletes. A good example of this is Connors 74 and McEnroe 84. Each man had a sensational year, but was one better than the other? Connors 93-4 15 W Australian, Wimbledon, US McEnroe 82-3 14 W Wimbledon, US (lost French final) The following players had good showings in the majors: 1974 1984 Rosewall F F Lendl W F SF Newcombe SF QF QF Wilander W SF QF Smith SF QF Connors F SF SF Borg W Cash SF SF QF Connors defeated Rosewall twice, in the finals of Wimbledon and the US. He didn't face Newcombe, Smith or Borg. He defeated Phil Dent in the Australian final. His record against the top performers in 1974's majors was therefore 2-0, omitting Dent, who surely wasn't highly ranked. McEnroe defeated Connors in all three majors. He defeated Cash once and split a pair of matches with Lendl. His record against 1984's best was 5-1. He didn't play Wilander in a major, but did trounce him at the year-end Master's event. Despite winning two majors to Connors' three, I believe McEnroe gets the nod because of the more difficult opposition he had to deal with. RF's main opposition from 2004 to 2007 comprised Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt (04-05), Andre Agassi (04-05), Marat Safin (04-05), Rafael Nadal (05 onward) and Novak Djokovic (07). How this crew can be described as being part of a weak era is a mystery to me, but PS supporters usually base half of their argument on that claim. To be honest, 2006 may have been relatively soft, with the decline of AA, LH and MS, and an off year by AR till the US Open, but it's not much worse than PS's 1994. And when compared to 1997, when PS beat just one Top 10 player in a major (Muster #5 Aust), RF's 2006, with seven Top 10 victims, doesn't look too bad after all. Agassi: Old. That's what RF detractors usually say about AA during this part of his career. He's too old to offer strong competition. He's far from the player he used to be. Before I continue with AA, I want to mention some similarities between pro hockey and pro tennis. In both sports, players typically begin their careers in their late teens or very early twenties, and in both, most players are at their best before reaching their 30s. In the 2010-2011 NHL season, Nick Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings won the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman. He was forty years old. I'm sure that even the most dim-witted observer will understand my point. One example should suffice, but here's another one. The previously mentioned Ken Rosewall was 39 when he lost in the finals of Wimbledon and the US to Jimmy Connors. To reach those finals, he defeated Roscoe Tanner, Stan Smith and John Newcombe, twice. Yes, he was destroyed in both finals, but I believe (and I obviously can't prove) that the defeats had more to do with Connors' powerful groundstrokes easily handling Rosewall's lightweight serves than it did with the disparity in years. AA had a long up-and-down career, but the period from 2002 to 2005 was one of consistently good tennis, with good W-L records and few early knockouts. In 2004 and 2005, he reached a Final, a SF and two QFs in the four hard-court tournaments, losing the SF to Safin in Australian 04 and the other three to RF. How does a player who's allegedly too old advance that far in so many majors? Finally, if you still believe the man was too old, go to Youtube and watch the final few minutes of his match with James Blake in the US 2005 QFs. Hewitt: 2004 68-18 4 Ws 3 2nd rnd losses in 20 matches 2005 37-9 1 W 1 1st rnd loss (by retirement) in 10 matches 2004 majors 4 QF QF F French loss to Gaudio, other 3 to RF 2005 majors F -- SF SF Aust. loss to Safin, other 2 to RF LH lost 27 matches in these two years, nine of them to just one player, RF. It looks like RF had no problem with him. How did LH do against other players of interest? Sampras 5-4 LH won five of the last six. Agassi 4-4 One LH loss was a retirement. AA won the last two, in 02 and 04, again proving that he wasn't too old to compete. Rafter 3-1 Safin 7-7 Roddick 7-7 Roddick won four of the last five. Henman 9-1 From 00 to 04, it was 8-0, and all four on grass were LH's. Ivanisevic 3-0 00, 01 and 04, all on grass, 7-0 in sets Philippoussis 3-1 Blake 8-1 Kafelnikov 7-1 LH obviously has a losing record against Nadal, Murray and Djokovic, but virtually all of the damage would have been done after 2005. The only other players I could find with winning records against LH are Gonzalez, 5-2, and, believe it or not, Karlovic, 3-1. Roddick: Compare AR to a few notables from the Sampras era in winning percentage, overall and on grass and hard courts. There's no point in including his clay results, as he was no threat to RF at the French. Overall Grass Hard Roddick 612-213 74.2 79.6 75.5 Agassi 870-274 76 73.5 79 Courier 506-237 68.1 62.2 70.9 Ivanisevic 599-333 64.3 72 58.2 Rafter 358-191 65.2 74.7 66.7 I would say that Roddick measures up fairly well. From 2004 to 2007, in the 12 non-clay majors, he reached three Finals, two SFs and Four QFs. Overall, he reached the SFs or better ten times. He was stopped by RF in seven of those matches. Nadal: Little need be said here. It's true that he didn't meet RF in a hard-court major till 2009, but he was an immediate threat to RF at the French, which, unlike PS, RF usually had an excellent chance of winning. I've heard Nadal described as strictly a defensive player, and on some other site, some idiot described him as a pusher. The hardest hit groundstrokes I've ever seen are inside-out forehands that RN occasionally unleashes. Safin: MS's career is remarkably similar to Patrick Rafter's. Each man had one big all-around year: MS 2000 73-27 7 W 15 early losses PR 1998 60-21 6 W 11 early losses In majors, each man had 2 Ws, 2 Fs and 2 SFs (MS reached 2 QFs. wile PR did not). Djokovic: He was obviously not the player he was to become, but in 2007 his record was undeniably good: 68-19 5 Ws majors: 4 SF SF F In addition, he won two Masters events, Miami and Canada. Davydenko: Packed four SFs and four QFs into 05-07, which is better than Courier did in the three years following his last big one, 1993. Nalbandian: His achievements in majors were fairly close to those of Todd Martin, but he spread them around all four majors. 2006 was his last good year in the majors, but in 2007, at Masters Madrid (the earlier indoor one) and Paris, he knocked off RF twice, RN twice, NovD and David Ferrer. Martin won no Master Series events. Finally, here are some interesting numbers with which to finish this thing off--Top 10s faced by PS and RF in each year of their periods of domination. In each case it will the man's record vs Top 10s in majors in the stated year. PS 93 4-1 RF 04 7-0 94 4-1 05 5-2 95 4-1 06 7-1 96 3-1 07 9-1 97 1-0 for 1993, I added the victory over Agassi, even though he wasn't a Top 10 at the time. In conclusion, I want to say that I'm not only a Federer fan, but also one of Sampras. I refuse to watch any part of his match vs Bastl at Wimbledon 2002on Youtube because I'm not at all interested in seeing him embarrassed. I did these two posts mostly because it seems to me that his supporters, more than those of RF, pump out so much unsubstantiated BS, particularly about the quality of the players both men faced. I may make one more large post on this topic, comparing each man's path in the majors during their best periods.