The true no.1 of 1977

ClarkC

Hall of Fame
Now, your argument would be stronger if you could demonstrate that the French Open was as irreplaceable as it is today. But it wasn't - it was not uncommon for a player to skip the event to play World Team Tennis. There were also tremendous restrictions and bannings in place in this era, which speaks to circumstances that were beyond the players' control. Saying that Borg should have foreseen the future and chosen to play at the French Open is frankly unfair. The aspect that is beyond Borg's control is the contemporary perception of the French Open, which sees the event as indispensable, something that wasn't the case 30 years ago.
Who could possibly foresee that the all-time tennis record books would continue to record the French Open as one of the four grand slams? Why, Borg would have to have been a prophet and a genius to predict that the French Open would be considered more important than ... than ... what was he doing during the two weeks of the French Open?

Total grand slam tennis titles have been counted, and discussed as being important, for a long time. In 1977, every pro player was aware that Roy Emerson had 12 titles in grand slams, Rod Laver had 11, and Bill Tilden had 10. Everyone was aware that calendar year grand slams were what made Rod Laver to greatest of all time as of 1977. If anyone chose to skip the Australian Open or any other slam, it was due to wanting to rest their bodies, etc. It was not due to failing to comprehend that these were still being counted as Grand Slam events.

What was Borg doing at the French Open during the other years that he played it, including the six years he won it? Did he think it was not historic when he was winning it? Sorry, but this aspect of the argument is a crock.
 

ClarkC

Hall of Fame
Here were Vilas' scores at the 1977 French Open, just FYI:

G. VILAS (3) d. Z. Franulovic 6-1,6-2,6-4

G. VILAS (3) d. B. Prajoux 2-6,6-0,6-3,6-0

G. VILAS (3) d. B. Mitton 6-1,6-4,6-2

G. VILAS (3) d. S. SMITH (9) 6-1,6-2,6-1

G. VILAS (3) d. W. FIBAK (9) 6-4,6-0,6-4

G. VILAS (3) d. R. RAMIREZ (5) 6-2,6-0,6-3

Final (7th round) - Guillermo VILAS (3) d. Brian GOTTFRIED (6) 6-0,6-3,6-0
 

Vegito

Hall of Fame
I don´t understand why Vilas don´t played the most important tournaments or the same that Connors if he(Vilas that year)was better than Connors.
 

CyBorg

Legend
Everyone was aware that calendar year grand slams were what made Rod Laver to greatest of all time as of 1977.
That's not the reason. If you think Laver's accomplishment as an amateur significantly bolstered his all-time status you haven't been reading much about Laver.

The rest of your post falls apart this considered.
 

pmerk34

Legend
Who could possibly foresee that the all-time tennis record books would continue to record the French Open as one of the four grand slams? Why, Borg would have to have been a prophet and a genius to predict that the French Open would be considered more important than ... than ... what was he doing during the two weeks of the French Open?

Total grand slam tennis titles have been counted, and discussed as being important, for a long time. In 1977, every pro player was aware that Roy Emerson had 12 titles in grand slams, Rod Laver had 11, and Bill Tilden had 10. Everyone was aware that calendar year grand slams were what made Rod Laver to greatest of all time as of 1977. If anyone chose to skip the Australian Open or any other slam, it was due to wanting to rest their bodies, etc. It was not due to failing to comprehend that these were still being counted as Grand Slam events.

What was Borg doing at the French Open during the other years that he played it, including the six years he won it? Did he think it was not historic when he was winning it? Sorry, but this aspect of the argument is a crock.

I can see the Australian Open was real important to Borg.
 

Benhur

Hall of Fame
Total grand slam tennis titles have been counted, and discussed as being important, for a long time. In 1977, every pro player was aware that Roy Emerson had 12 titles in grand slams, Rod Laver had 11, and Bill Tilden had 10. Everyone was aware that calendar year grand slams were what made Rod Laver to greatest of all time as of 1977. If anyone chose to skip the Australian Open or any other slam, it was due to wanting to rest their bodies, etc. It was not due to failing to comprehend that these were still being counted as Grand Slam events.

What was Borg doing at the French Open during the other years that he played it, including the six years he won it? Did he think it was not historic when he was winning it? Sorry, but this aspect of the argument is a crock.
I agree, especially the last part. One cannot have it both ways. The French Open was a major event since the early 70s. Borg's greatness and status in the history of the game depends very heavily on his 6 wins there. Arguing that it was not important as late as 1977 is rather odd coming from a big Borg fan as CyBorg.

I was just looking in some detail at Vilas' and Borg records from 1977, and I don't see any way to deny that Vilas' record looks pretty much extra-terrestrial. To begin with, the sheer amount of tennis the man played is mind boggling. 31 tournaments, winning 16, plus one DC tie, plus two other minor tournaments also won, beating Nastase in the finals. 130-14 win/loss record (not counting the two extra tournaments). He must have played at least 150 matches that year, that's an average of one match every 2.4 days for a whole year. I used to believe Lendl's 1982 season was the most impressive in the open era in terms of a combination of results plus stamina, but this clearly surpasses it.

I think the year clearly belongs to Vilas and it should be acknowledged. Diminishing the importance of the French Open to give the year to Borg does not help Borg's case at all. I am not sure why Borg didn't play the French that year, but the fact is he didn't, and you can't argue it was not a major tournament, and Vilas won it along with the USO and a whole bunch of other stuff that dwarfs the accomplishments of anybody else. Arguing that he played mostly on clay (though he had a good number of wins and finals on other surfaces as well, including the AO on grass) is not a solid argument, since clay was the predominant surface then. When everything is said and done, he won the French and the USO, was runner up at the AO, won a total of 16 tournaments and was runner up in 6. There is no way, absolutely no way, anybody else can be said to match his performance that year.
 

krosero

Legend
There is no way, absolutely no way, anybody else can be said to match his performance that year.
Here's what Sports Illustrated said at the time:

And It Was Still Three For One

Although Jimmy Connors won the Colgate Grand Prix, he failed to settle the vexing question of who's No. 1—he, Borg or Vilas

Curry Kirkpatrick

Whether or not the sport of tennis found its heart or lost its soul in New York City last week is a question that the Colgate Grand Prix Masters tournament can take up just as soon as Jimmy Connors , Bjorn Borg and Guillermo Vilas finish beating up on one another. Or defaulting to somebody else to avoid beating up on one another. For the time being, who's No. 1? How about Bess Myerson?

When Connors defeated Borg 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in as thrilling a match as Madison Square Garden had witnessed since, well, 72 hours earlier when Vilas whipped Connors, all it did was reinforce the notion that these three young men, who are head and racket handle above everyone else in the game, are separated from each other by only the barest of psychological threads.

It may be that for Vilas to climb to the top he needs six more months under the glowering tutelage of Ion Tiriac, who has shown him how to outthink Connors but has been unable to convince him of the vulnerability of Borg . This will be especially difficult now that the Swede has defeated Vilas for the 12th time in their 16 meetings, most recently in the Masters semifinals, 6-3, 6-3.

On the other hand, while Borg dominates his once-close amigo from the Argentine, the pair's mysterious ailments and shameless disregard for the ticket-buying public during the tournament's preliminary round robin demonstrated that neither man (or for that matter, neither of their coaches, Lennart Bergelin and Tiriac, who are the suspected culprits) is prepared to deal with these showdowns without resorting to some connivance, be it a sore ankle, a fever or anything else they can come up with on the spur of the moment. In chronological order, to recover from Connors and to get ready for him, Vilas and Borg , undefeated and having already qualified for Saturday's semifinals, defaulted their third-round matches (Vilas to rest a "strained tendon," Borg to recover from "severe flu") but were allowed to continue in the tournament, presumably because there was no rule against it. All that this medical buffoonery (sing, "I can do anything sicker than you can; I can get sicker, much sicker than you") did was disgrace the sport and—irony of ironies—turn Connors into a white knight. Or, as the Masters sponsor might prefer, the Ultra Brite Knight.

"It's good to see somebody else on the barbecue pit," said Connors, who leads the world in defaults with four in 1977, 13 in the last four years.

And that was not Jimbo's final comment on Borg and Vilas, either. Before his match with Brian Gottfried in the other semifinal, Connors arrived on the court hobbling on a crutch, which engendered loads of hilarity in everybody but Gottfried , who lost a tense 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 struggle.

In the final on Sunday, it appeared as if Borg would need at least a crutch, if not a whip and chair, to stop an aroused Connors. "I wanted to come out creaming everything," said Jimbo. Connors was devastating in the first set, breaking service in the third game as well as strings on two different rackets as he won 6-4. By then, however, Borg 's penetrating first serves were beginning to take effect, and he began to vary his speed and depth of shot, working on Connors' forehand to break serve three times and grab the second set by 6-1. Despite the lopsided score, Borg lamented, "I don't feel 100% O.K. in my head, you know?"

Nonetheless, he went quickly ahead in the final set with an early break and held serve for a 3-1 lead. Then he faltered. Connors broke back to even the deciding set at 3—all with a lunging forehand volley and then a net-cord winner. "It was big point, for sure," said Borg . "Jimmy so tough unless you stay ahead. After that, I feel very strange."

After that, Borg 's first serve deserted him—he missed 27 of 42 in the last set—and he had to fight off three break points in the eighth game. By the time Borg served in the 10th at 4-5, 15-0, both men had won 40 points in the set. But Connors was still hitting some amazing rockets and Borg was not. Jimbo had a few more left: a forehand down the line, a backhand stab drop volley, a cross-court forehand, another volley. It was over.

"That's the best I can play," Connors said afterward. "Who's No. 1? It looks like we'll have to go out and do it all over again, doesn't it?"

Well, yes. Having lost Wimbledon to Borg and the U.S. Open to Vilas, Connors must have looked on the Masters as a close encounter of the third kind. Third place in the world rankings was staring him square in the face, even though the USTA computer ranked him first.
 

Evan1225

Banned
Your argument about the Wimbledon tournament ignores one crucial fact: Connors played the tournament with a broken thumb. In fact, a week before Wimbledon, a doctor looked at it, splinted it, and said something to the effect of, "Guess you'll have to withdraw from Wimbledon." Connors snarled, "Wanna bet?"
Connors is quite the man.:)
 

krosero

Legend
continued:

Let's look at the numbers. Though Connors won eight of the 21 tournaments he entered, his match record for the year was only 70-11, not as good as Borg 's (13 victories in 20 tournaments, 78-8 in matches) and Vilas', who played just about every waking minute in compiling his 139-14 match record and 21 wins in 34 tournaments.

Borg 's percentage, then, is slightly the best and he won the world championship as well. But Vilas won the U.S. and French titles and put together a streak of 55 clay victories while winning 83 of 85 matches on all surfaces. But Connors won the big bowl game at the end. What now? Head-to-head? Borg is 5-1 against the other big two, while Vilas is 2-3 and Connors a woeful 1-4.

If the Masters did not entirely decide who is No. 1, it did bring big-time tennis back to the Garden and, in the process, show everybody that the Masters is the Super Bowl of the game and the only real conclusion a tennis season has.

Perhaps because the tournament had only twice graced American soil, the Masters never had caught on. But this year Colgate—those same wonderful folks who invented Dermassage, Handi-Wipes and Dinah Shore—took over the tournament, signed a three-season deal with the Garden, moved the affair to an off-week for pro football, sold it to TV and promised to make the Masters an event. Among other marvelous arrangements, Colgate raised the total prize money to $400,000 and spent another $400,000 on advertising.

The most significant thing Colgate did, however, was persuade the eight best players in the world—Gottfried, Manuel Orantes , Raul Ramirez , Roscoe Tanner and Eddie Dibbs also were on hand—to show up, a feat previously considered impossible unless you guaranteed each of them $100,000 first-place money and a position at the head of the line at Studio 54. When Connors, who had skipped this tournament the past three years, barely qualified for the final berth and agreed to play, tournament organizers knew they had a winner.

The last time New Yorkers had seen—and been obnoxed by—Connors was when he stormed out of Forest Hills last September, claiming that his U.S. Open title had been "stolen" because of rude crowd behavior and bad line calls while he was losing the championship match to Vilas. Connors' return last week was less stimulating. He merely disrupted a player picture-taking session, walked out on a TV interviewer and snapped at a journalist who had the effrontery to ask why Connors was finally gracing the Masters with his presence. "Because I feel like it," he snorted.

Not surprisingly, Vilas, who had won the regular-season Grand Prix points race and its bonus pool of $300,000, did not seem to feel like it.

One day Vilas ripped the tournament to shreds in his soft, charming voice. "This Masters used to mean very much to me when it was in December and changed continents every year," he said. "Hopefully, someday it will be on clay. I don't prepare for this. If I don't have to come to collect $300,000, I no come. How badly I want to win? No badly."

Vilas' last remark would come as a shock to the crowd of 18,590 that packed the Garden on Thursday night to watch his 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 repeat victory over Connors.

To begin with, it was one of those remarkable moments the sporting world comes up with every now and then when whatever game is being played is transcended by the emotion and suspense of the event. Boston , 1975: the Reds-Red Sox sixth game. Augusta , 1975: the Nicklaus-Miller-Weiskopf fourth round. Stuff like that. Andrew Young , over from the U.N. , was on hand, as was Farrah, just out from under the blow dryer. But the attraction was mostly Vilas and Connors, slugging it out and thinking it over down there on the eggshell-blue carpet of the roaring arena.

First, it was Vilas pounding huge serves and floating his sidespin ground strokes into the quicksand where Connors has to use his erratic forehand. Vilas gained two early breaks and ran out the first set. Then it was Connors jumping all over his nemesis in the second set, giving up only two points in the first three games and only five during his five service games.

"I had to change tactics," Vilas was to say later. "It was big casino, but my legs not moving. I no afford to stay back."

So, in the final set the man they call "Willie" became aggressive and occasionally even covered the net after slashing approaches into the corners. Connors had three break points in the third game, but Vilas saved them all at the net and held serve. Next, against Connors' serve, Vilas mis-hit two returns, but Jimbo could handle neither one. overhead, and suddenly Vilas had the break for 3-1.

Vilas took the set to 5-3 and to match point after Connors got a bad call on the baseline. But Jimbo saved himself with a net-cord volley winner. Connors hammered his racket on the net and screamed at the line judge, "That's for you! That's for you!" Not to mention some fairly horrible other words.

By this time the Garden was going wild. One would have thought the Knicks had won another championship or even covered another point spread, such was the thunder from the rafters. "This is as good as the Tiger-Torres fight," said Joe Flaherty of The Village Voice . "The Fleischmann bottles will be coming out of the upper deck any minute."

And so, like a vicious prizefight, the match went on. After a shaken and groggy Vilas double-faulted and was wide with a forehand, the score reached 5-4. After Connors held serve easily, it was 5—all. Abruptly, with the American crowd now clearly favoring the American, Vilas summoned up the heart he had found somewhere last summer.

With love-30 against him, he hit a glorious backhand pass to win the most spectacular point of the evening (now morning) and eventually took the game. Then, after staggering to his chair on the changeover, Vilas went back out to hit one more winning backhand, to watch one more Connors forehand sink into the net and to break serve and win a match that may one day be legendary. It was 42 minutes after midnight. "I hope next time we can do this in a bigger stadium," Vilas mumbled.

They might have done it two days later in the same arena, were it not for some nifty one-downmanship by Borg in the hospital sweepstakes. Knowing that Vilas, who was scheduled to meet Dibbs, had-been granted a default and a day's rest because of his "hurt" ankle, Borg suddenly came up with the flu, defaulted from his match with Gottfried and got a day off himself. Moreover, because a default counts as a loss, he wound up playing Vilas instead of Connors in the semifinals. Hmmmmmm.

"If you not think I am sick, I am sorry," Borg said. The point is that the loose tournament format worked in favor of the two walking wounded, led to cynicism and infuriated both the press and the public.

On Saturday morning when the two sickies began their Profiles in Courage challenge match, what is believed to be tennis' first banner was unfurled near the top of the Garden. It read: BORG AND VILAS. WE WERE HERE LAST NIGHT. WHERE WERE YOU?

Tennis had finally made it in the Big Apple.
 

CyBorg

Legend
I can't figure out why it says Borg won 13 events in 1977. I have 11 events counted by ATP and Hilton Head for a total of 12.
 

jean pierre

Professional
Vilas was incredible in 1977, but he's still today. He played in august the blackrock tour in Portugal and played against Rios ! Rios could be his son ! How old is he, 34 or 35 ? Vilas 56 ! Of course, Vilas defeated, but 6/2 6/2, after a long match : not bad for 56 years.
 
I have changed my mind on who I think was number one in 1977. When I started this thread I said I felt Borg was number one, but now I think Vilas was.

My original argument that Borg would have won the French if he'd turned up and the US Open if he'd not got injured was hypothetical. At the end of the day Borg didn't win these events and Vilas did.

If I had a choice between a 1977 fit Borg or 1977 fit Vilas to play for my life I'd choose the 1977 Borg. However ultimately in determining the number one for a year results must dictate, and Vilas had the best results of anyone in 1977 so he deserves to be considered number one for that year, with Borg 2 and Connors 3.
 
Last edited:

Benhur

Hall of Fame
I have changed my mind on who I think was number one in 1977. When I started this thread I said I felt Borg was number one, but now I think Vilas was.

My original argument that Borg would have won the French if he'd turned up and the US Open if he'd not get injured was hypothetical. At the end of the day Borg didn't win these events and Vilas did.

If I had a choice between a 1977 fit Borg or 1977 fit Vilas to play for my life I'd choose the 1977 Borg. However ultimately in determining the number one for a year results must dictate, and Vilas had the best results of anyone in 1977 so he deserves to be considered number one for that year, with Borg 2 and Connors 3.


Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul [i.e. Paul], why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=acts+9-9&version=nrsvae
 

krosero

Legend
I have changed my mind on who I think was number one in 1977. When I started this thread I said I felt Borg was number one, but now I think Vilas was.

My original argument that Borg would have won the French if he'd turned up and the US Open if he'd not got injured was hypothetical. At the end of the day Borg didn't win these events and Vilas did.

If I had a choice between a 1977 fit Borg or 1977 fit Vilas to play for my life I'd choose the 1977 Borg. However ultimately in determining the number one for a year results must dictate, and Vilas had the best results of anyone in 1977 so he deserves to be considered number one for that year, with Borg 2 and Connors 3.
Have to give this post kudos, because it's rare to see someone on a message board admit a change of mind.

And I agree with this much: if Borg's case is made for '77 it has to be made on the basis of actual achievements, not imaginary ones.
 

krosero

Legend
In the world #1 thread I mentioned this article, posted in the Montreal Gazette, July 8, 1978 (“Tennis, Everyone? Even Jack the Ripper had a mean grip”). It's in a section of articles devoted to every aspect of the game of tennis, with a byline of Terry Belford, though it's hard to tell whether he's the author of this piece.

*********************​

Money aside, Major, who are the very best?

Jimmy Connors and Guillermo Vilas make more money, but Bjorn Borg, the long-haired Swede, is the world’s best men’s tennis player. So say such top tennis writers as Lance Tingay of London’s Daily Telegraph, Rino Tommasi of Rome’s Tennis Club magazine and Judith Elian of L’Equipe, Paris.

The secret to ranking is who can beat whom, not who earns what. The 21-year-old Borg won 13 of the 20 tournaments he entered in 1977. Against the world’s top 10 players, he posted a 16-3 win-loss record.

Aussie great Rod Laver puts Borg in the Number 1 spot. “He seemed ready to play all comers while Connors played when he wanted to.”


*********************​
 

krosero

Legend
An Associated Press article from Dec. 29, 1977:

*****************​

“Strictly by record, I would say I’m No. 1,” says Borg, who lives among the posh gambling resorts of the Riviera to avoid paying Swedish taxes. “But I’m sure if you asked Guillermo Vilas, he would say the same thing.” Borg is ranked No. 1 in the world by the International Lawn Tennis Federation, but there is no unanimity in the rankings. World Championship Tennis ranks him third in Grand Prix standings behind Vilas, of Argentina, and American Brian Gottfried. The Association of Tennis Professionals’ computer rankings also place him third, behind Jimmy Connors and Vilas.

*****************​
 

krosero

Legend
After Vilas beat Connors at the Garden in the first days of '78, UPI reported that Borg was “top-ranked by several 1977 tennis magazines.” Neil Amdur reported in the New York Times that “Borg already has been named No. 1 in several rankings.” More from his article:

****************************​

The confusion over the top spot continued yesterday with the release of still another ranking, that of the United States Tennis Association.

Using a computer based on its ranking system from Oct. 1, 1976 through Sept. 30, 1977, the U.S.T.A. placed Jimmy Connors in the No. 1 spot, with Borg second, Gottfried third and Vilas fourth.

The U.S.T.A. ranking was the fourth to be issued in the last two weeks. The previous three – by Tennis Magazine [France], Lance Tingay of the London Daily Telegraph and Rino Tommasi of Italy – all rated Borg first.

Much of the confusion may clear in the next few days ...

U.S.T.A. Rates Connors No. 1

The United States Tennis Association released its 1977 rankings for men’s singles yesterday and immediately raised as many questions as it answered.

For the second straight year, Jimmy Connors was ranked No. 1 in the world with 14,900 rating points. However, Bjorn Borg of Sweden, who defeated Connors in the Wimbledon final, was ranked second with 13,665.

And Guillermo Vilas of Argentina, who beat Connors in the United States Open final, was ranked fourth with 11,950. Brian Gottfried, who was ousted by Vilas in the French open final, was placed one step ahead of Vilas, in third place, with 12,459. Vilas also had won 83 of his last 84 matches and was considered by many to be No. 1 in the world among the men.

“This is the best system that money can buy,” Slew Hester, president of the U.S.T.A., said yesterday at a news conference announcing the ratings. “I’m sure that when our rankings are published, the players won’t understand it, but they’ll say it’s fair. It’s not designed to compete with the A.T.P. point system, where a player can figure out exactly where he stands by adding up his points after each tournament.”

Bruce Yellin, a systems analyst for the Equitable Life Assurance Society, co-sponsor of the ratings, explained they were based on such factors as weight of the tournament and field, and the rating of the man a player defeated.


****************************​
 

krosero

Legend
And from Bud Collins' Encyclopedia of Tennis:

********************​

… Vilas won a record 17 tournaments and $800,642 in prize money—more than he had earned in five previous pro seasons. He played the most ambitious tournament schedule of any of the top men and finished with a 145-14 record [.912], including Davis Cup matches….Starting with the French Open, he won 53 consecutive matches on clay ….

But even though World Tennis magazine declared him No. 1 for the year, most other authorities disagreed and bestowed that mythical honor on Borg....The 21-year-old Swede had the best winning percentage for the season -- .920, on a record of 81-7. He won 13 of 20 tournaments he played. Including the Masters -- played in 1978, but considered the climax of the 1977 season -- Borg was 3-0 over Vilas (two victories in the spring, the third in the semis of the Masters, 6-3, 6-3), and 2-1 over Connors, who beat him in the Masters final ....

********************​
 

CyBorg

Legend
Have to give this post kudos, because it's rare to see someone on a message board admit a change of mind.

And I agree with this much: if Borg's case is made for '77 it has to be made on the basis of actual achievements, not imaginary ones.
You're committing the fallacy of major-counting, which is like answering universal questions with a singular mentality.

Vilas won more majors. Borg dominated more surfaces.
 

Benhur

Hall of Fame
Since this thread has been revived, it seems better to continue these conversations here. The main problem for me with just counting encounters with top 10, top 25 etc, is that it is subject to a lot of chance variations, when lower ranked players beat higher ranked ones in previous rounds. If a player beats someone who has beat a higher ranked player in another round, its seems very odd to punish the winner of this encounter for not having had the chance to play the higher ranked player that was knocked out earlier, as if it were his own fault. Beating the player who beat the other player should be just as good, but it isn’t at all with such a system. It seems like a pretty loose and informal way of measuring anything.

Granted that over the course of many tournaments these chance variations should even out somewhat, but it still looks like a very loose system. I think the only real way to know the strength of the fields they entered would be by having access to the draws and comparing the average ranking of the top 8-10 players in attendance, in their best 12-14 results. But since no such draws seem to be available anywhere, it looks like an impossible task for the moment. It would be a good research project for future historians of tennis. Yet even if it were done one day, the task of assigning a specific weight to each tournament based on those results would be necessarily very subjective. To give an extreme example, how do you weight a 4-man draw with only two rounds involving high ranked players, vs. a 64 man draw where you need to win 6 matches? The problem gets even worse when you start introducing such ethereal notions as relative prestige between tournaments and try to weigh them. We wish that pure objectivity could emerge from the glue and the muck of such a subjective mess, but it doesn’t. We wish for authoritative guidance, but there are no authorities to be found.

From the ATP site I see the following events listed as wins or runner-ups for each of them. Surfaces are red clay or Har-Tru, unless otherwise indicated.

BORG
11 titles
--1 with a 128-man draw (Wimbledon)
--3 with 64-man draws (Memphis [carpet], Madrid, Barcelona)
--5 with 32-man draws (Nice, Denver [carpet], Basel [carpet], Cologne [carpet], Wembley [hard])
--1 with 16-man draws (Monte Carlo)
--1 with a 4-man draw (Boca Raton Pepsi)

Borg also won an 8-man invitational event at Hilton Head, not listed at the ATP site.

2 runner-up appearances: Johannesburg [hard], Masters [carpet]
----------------------
VILAS
16 titles
--2 with a 128-man draw (FO, USO)
--4 with 64-man draws (Washington, Louisville, Columbus, Teheran)
--8 with a 32-man draws (Springfield [carpet], Kizbuhel, South Orange, Paris, Bogota, Santiago, Buenos Aires [april], Johannesburg [hard])
--2 with 16-man draws (Buenos Aires [november], Virginia Beach [hard])

6 runnner-up appearances: Australian Open [grass], Baltimore [carpet], Palm Springs [hard], Johannesburg [hard], Nice, Aix en Provence)

But what do we do with all that? On first impression, the case for Vilas appears very strong. Further investigations may produce convincng reasons to change this impression, but they are not available. The mere counting of "scalps" and so on seems highly insufficient and inadequate.
 

jean pierre

Professional
Since this thread has been revived, it seems better to continue these conversations here. The main problem for me with just counting encounters with top 10, top 25 etc, is that it is subject to a lot of chance variations, when lower ranked players beat higher ranked ones in previous rounds. If a player beats someone who has beat a higher ranked player in another round, its seems very odd to punish the winner of this encounter for not having had the chance to play the higher ranked player that was knocked out earlier, as if it were his own fault. Beating the player who beat the other player should be just as good, but it isn’t at all with such a system. It seems like a pretty loose and informal way of measuring anything.

Granted that over the course of many tournaments these chance variations should even out somewhat, but it still looks like a very loose system. I think the only real way to know the strength of the fields they entered would be by having access to the draws and comparing the average ranking of the top 8-10 players in attendance, in their best 12-14 results. But since no such draws seem to be available anywhere, it looks like an impossible task for the moment. It would be a good research project for future historians of tennis. Yet even if it were done one day, the task of assigning a specific weight to each tournament based on those results would be necessarily very subjective. To give an extreme example, how do you weight a 4-man draw with only two rounds involving high ranked players, vs. a 64 man draw where you need to win 6 matches? The problem gets even worse when you start introducing such ethereal notions as relative prestige between tournaments and try to weigh them. We wish that pure objectivity could emerge from the glue and the muck of such a subjective mess, but it doesn’t. We wish for authoritative guidance, but there are no authorities to be found.

From the ATP site I see the following events listed as wins or runner-ups for each of them. Surfaces are red clay or Har-Tru, unless otherwise indicated.

BORG
11 titles
--1 with a 128-man draw (Wimbledon)
--3 with 64-man draws (Memphis [carpet], Madrid, Barcelona)
--5 with 32-man draws (Nice, Denver [carpet], Basel [carpet], Cologne [carpet], Wembley [hard])
--1 with 16-man draws (Monte Carlo)
--1 with a 4-man draw (Boca Raton Pepsi)

Borg also won an 8-man invitational event at Hilton Head, not listed at the ATP site.

2 runner-up appearances: Johannesburg [hard], Masters [carpet]
----------------------
VILAS
16 titles
--2 with a 128-man draw (FO, USO)
--4 with 64-man draws (Washington, Louisville, Columbus, Teheran)
--8 with a 32-man draws (Springfield [carpet], Kizbuhel, South Orange, Paris, Bogota, Santiago, Buenos Aires [april], Johannesburg [hard])
--2 with 16-man draws (Buenos Aires [november], Virginia Beach [hard])

6 runnner-up appearances: Australian Open [grass], Baltimore [carpet], Palm Springs [hard], Johannesburg [hard], Nice, Aix en Provence)

But what do we do with all that? On first impression, the case for Vilas appears very strong. Further investigations may produce convincng reasons to change this impression, but they are not available. The mere counting of "scalps" and so on seems highly insufficient and inadequate.
Exactly. Vilas won more tournaments than Borg, more Grand Slams than Borg, more matches than Borg, did 2 records never destroyed (the most tournaments won in a year + 46 matches consecutively) ... Vilas is obviously the n°1. There is a very big difference between Borg and Vilas results. So, the question "who beats who" is not interesting in 1977.
 

kiki

Banned
Exactly. Vilas won more tournaments than Borg, more Grand Slams than Borg, more matches than Borg, did 2 records never destroyed (the most tournaments won in a year + 46 matches consecutively) ... Vilas is obviously the n°1. There is a very big difference between Borg and Vilas results. So, the question "who beats who" is not interesting in 1977.
Borg vs Vilas at Johannesburg? looks like that, is it true?
 

krosero

Legend
In reference to Vilas' streak, let me also post this here, an ATP chart published during Djokovic's streak last year. This came up in the other thread in reference to how many (or few) players Vilas beat who were ranked in the Top Ten.

 

krosero

Legend
Since this thread has been revived, it seems better to continue these conversations here. The main problem for me with just counting encounters with top 10, top 25 etc, is that it is subject to a lot of chance variations, when lower ranked players beat higher ranked ones in previous rounds. If a player beats someone who has beat a higher ranked player in another round, its seems very odd to punish the winner of this encounter for not having had the chance to play the higher ranked player that was knocked out earlier, as if it were his own fault. Beating the player who beat the other player should be just as good, but it isn’t at all with such a system. It seems like a pretty loose and informal way of measuring anything.

Granted that over the course of many tournaments these chance variations should even out somewhat, but it still looks like a very loose system. I think the only real way to know the strength of the fields they entered would be by having access to the draws and comparing the average ranking of the top 8-10 players in attendance, in their best 12-14 results. But since no such draws seem to be available anywhere, it looks like an impossible task for the moment. It would be a good research project for future historians of tennis. Yet even if it were done one day, the task of assigning a specific weight to each tournament based on those results would be necessarily very subjective. To give an extreme example, how do you weight a 4-man draw with only two rounds involving high ranked players, vs. a 64 man draw where you need to win 6 matches? The problem gets even worse when you start introducing such ethereal notions as relative prestige between tournaments and try to weigh them. We wish that pure objectivity could emerge from the glue and the muck of such a subjective mess, but it doesn’t. We wish for authoritative guidance, but there are no authorities to be found.

From the ATP site I see the following events listed as wins or runner-ups for each of them. Surfaces are red clay or Har-Tru, unless otherwise indicated.

BORG
11 titles
--1 with a 128-man draw (Wimbledon)
--3 with 64-man draws (Memphis [carpet], Madrid, Barcelona)
--5 with 32-man draws (Nice, Denver [carpet], Basel [carpet], Cologne [carpet], Wembley [hard])
--1 with 16-man draws (Monte Carlo)
--1 with a 4-man draw (Boca Raton Pepsi)

Borg also won an 8-man invitational event at Hilton Head, not listed at the ATP site.

2 runner-up appearances: Johannesburg [hard], Masters [carpet]
----------------------
VILAS
16 titles
--2 with a 128-man draw (FO, USO)
--4 with 64-man draws (Washington, Louisville, Columbus, Teheran)
--8 with a 32-man draws (Springfield [carpet], Kizbuhel, South Orange, Paris, Bogota, Santiago, Buenos Aires [april], Johannesburg [hard])
--2 with 16-man draws (Buenos Aires [november], Virginia Beach [hard])

6 runnner-up appearances: Australian Open [grass], Baltimore [carpet], Palm Springs [hard], Johannesburg [hard], Nice, Aix en Provence)

But what do we do with all that? On first impression, the case for Vilas appears very strong. Further investigations may produce convincng reasons to change this impression, but they are not available. The mere counting of "scalps" and so on seems highly insufficient and inadequate.
I think a problem with a list like this is that it is simply a count of accomplishments, with failures listed almost nowhere. I say 'almost' because you see some of the losses in the runner-up appearances. But not all the losses are there, obviously. On a list like this the runner-up appearances are really presented as another accomplishment, on top of the titles.

If you recall I mentioned this in the other thread: how I always see Vilas' wins listed, without his 14 losses mentioned. It's always a simple counting up of his Slam titles, then his total titles, and basically that's it.

It's something that's become common in recent years: in the 90s we started simply counting up Slams in judging careers; and I think listing total titles in a year is another similar kind of counting. It can be done today because the tour is standardized, the Slams are basically the same in terms of attendance, and so are the Masters Series. Everyone is basically playing under the same conditions, and there's no need to check the quality of draws because so many events are guaranteed to have all the top players. And everyone is playing the same tour, whereas back then nothing was unified. Players were divided up into Grand Prix, WCT and WTT, and there were no mandatory events; the Slams varied widely in terms of top player attendance.

Etc., etc., none of this is new. But I do think a simple counting up of Slams (or majors), or a simple counting up of titles, won't do. Today two top players will play approximately the same number of matches, so if one wins 10 titles, and the other 5, there's little need to look at the losses because the losses are generally not going to show a different picture: the player with the smaller title haul will typically have more losses. Not true at all in '77. Borg got fewer titles than Vilas (11-16), but he had only half as many losses (7-14).

And that's important this year because Vilas had a number of poor losses, for example losing 6 times to players ranked outside the Top 25, compared to 2 such losses for Borg.

If you notice how Bud Collins summed up the year, he talked about X wins out of Y number of events played. He also used the full win-loss record and calculated the winning percentage, all of which Sports Illustrated did as well.

Notice also that you don't see the sources back then simply referring to Slams and counting them. They refer to the majors by naming them or describing what happened at those events. For example writers would refer to Wimbledon as the world championship; or they mentioned whom Vilas beat in Paris and New York and whom Borg beat at Wimbledon. Many writers seemed to value Vilas' USO victory a good deal more than his French title. By how much, I don't know, because they didn't assign numbers to these things. They certainly did not say, Okay, French Open = 1 major, USO = 1 major, therefore Vilas leads Borg by a margin of 2-1 in majors.

If lists of basic stats are going to be made, the losses have to be mentioned with the wins -- that's my main point. Then there are other stats to go into, like H2H against the Top Ten.

I understand your concern about Vilas possibly not getting a chance to play top-ranked players who might have been knocked out earlier. I considered this myself, but what you're talking about is random chance. We know that Vilas encountered Top Ten players at a rate significantly lower than Borg did, and I find it hard to believe that random chance could have been responsible for that. For that to happen, you have to imagine top-ranked players in Vilas' draws consistently getting knocked out early, while in Borg's tournaments the top-ranked players consistently make it through to face Borg. If you're just talking about one of the Top Tenners that Borg and Vilas faced, you might see such a pattern. But the Top Ten as a whole behaving that way, only in Vilas' tournaments?

For all we know the top-ranked players might have fallen early in Borg's tournaments more than in Vilas', which would imply that Borg's Top Ten scalps should be even higher. But let me just say: I'm skeptical of that scenario too. I just think the numbers are too big for random chance to tip the numbers in a clean fashion toward one player or the other.

In a smaller set of numbers chance might play a distorting role. If you were just looking at how many Top Ten players Borg and Vilas defeated in the Slams, that might very well be distorted at the expense of one player if the seeds in his section of the draw were knocked out early. So with that stat you'd have to be more careful.

Incidentally the draws for all the tournaments are available at the ITF site.

I used those draws to look for Top Ten players in November and December tournaments. And in that time period Vilas' draws are not strong: he attended 4 tournaments and only in one was another Top Ten player present (Eddie Dibbs was present at Johannesburg). Borg attended 3 tournaments, one without any other Top Tenners; but Wembley had 3 other Top Tenners in attendance and Oviedo had 2 others.
 
Last edited:

Benhur

Hall of Fame
If you recall I mentioned this in the other thread: how I always see Vilas' wins listed, without his 14 losses mentioned. It's always a simple counting up of his Slam titles, then his total titles, and basically that's it.

It's something that's become common in recent years: in the 90s we started simply counting up Slams in judging careers; and I think listing total titles in a year is another similar kind of counting. It can be done today because the tour is standardized, the Slams are basically the same in terms of attendance, and so are the Masters Series. Everyone is basically playing under the same conditions, and there's no need to check the quality of draws because so many events are guaranteed to have all the top players. And everyone is playing the same tour, whereas back then nothing was unified. Players were divided up into Grand Prix, WCT and WTT, and there were no mandatory events; the Slams varied widely in terms of top player attendance.

Etc., etc., none of this is new. But I do think a simple counting up of Slams (or majors), or a simple counting up of titles, won't do. Today two top players will play approximately the same number of matches, so if one wins 10 titles, and the other 5, there's little need to look at the losses because the losses are generally not going to show a different picture: the player with the smaller title haul will typically have more losses. Not true at all in '77. Borg got fewer titles than Vilas (11-16), but he had only half as many losses (7-14).

And that's important this year because Vilas had a number of poor losses, for example losing 6 times to players ranked outside the Top 25, compared to 2 such losses for Borg.

If you notice how Bud Collins summed up the year, he talked about X wins out of Y number of events played. He also used the full win-loss record and calculated the winning percentage, all of which Sports Illustrated did as well.

Notice also that you don't see the sources back then simply referring to Slams and counting them. They refer to the majors by naming them or describing what happened at those events. For example writers would refer to Wimbledon as the world championship; or they mentioned whom Vilas beat in Paris and New York and whom Borg beat at Wimbledon. Many writers seemed to value Vilas' USO victory a good deal more than his French title. By how much, I don't know, because they didn't assign numbers to these things. They certainly did not say, Okay, French Open = 1 major, USO = 1 major, therefore Vilas leads Borg by a margin of 2-1 in majors.

If lists of basic stats are going to be made, the losses have to be mentioned with the wins -- that's my main point. Then there are other stats to go into, like H2H against the Top Ten.

I understand your concern about Vilas possibly not getting a chance to play top-ranked players who might have been knocked out earlier. I considered this myself, but what you're talking about is random chance. We know that Vilas encountered Top Ten players at a rate significantly lower than Borg did, and I find it hard to believe that random chance could have been responsible for that. For that to happen, you have to imagine top-ranked players in Vilas' draws consistently getting knocked out early, while in Borg's tournaments the top-ranked players consistently make it through to face Borg. If you're just talking about one of the Top Tenners that Borg and Vilas faced, you might see such a pattern. But the Top Ten as a whole behaving that way, only in Vilas' tournaments?

For all we know the top-ranked players might have fallen early in Borg's tournaments more than in Vilas', which would imply that Borg's Top Ten scalps should be even higher. But let me just say: I'm skeptical of that scenario too. I just think the numbers are too big for random chance to tip the numbers in a clean fashion toward one player or the other.

In a smaller set of numbers chance might play a distorting role. If you were just looking at how many Top Ten players Borg and Vilas defeated in the Slams, that might very well be distorted at the expense of one player if the seeds in his section of the draw were knocked out early. So with that stat you'd have to be more careful.

Incidentally the draws for all the tournaments are available at the ITF site.

I used those draws to look for Top Ten players in November and December tournaments. And in that time period Vilas' draws are not strong: he attended 4 tournaments and only in one was another Top Ten player present (Eddie Dibbs was present at Johannesburg). Borg attended 3 tournaments, one without any other Top Tenners; but Wembley had 3 other Top Tenners in attendance and Oviedo had 2 others.
I’ve taken a look at the topic of losses that you seem to place a lot of emphasis on. My conclusion is there is nothing unusual there regardless of what perspective you take. In the first place, the rate is very similar. Borg has a winning percentage of 91.6 (76-7) and Vilas 90.3 (130-14).

Now, going into it in more detail, you could for example add up the ranking of their opponents on each loss and divide it by the total number of losses, to find out the average ranking of the opponents they lost to. If you do this you get an average ranking of 27 for Borg’s opponents, and 22 for Vilas’ opponents. So, in this sense Vilas losses were not worse than Borg’s (but slightly better). The lowest ranked player Vilas lost to was Case (55) and the lowest ranked player Borg lost to was Stewart (94).

Since we are focusing on top 10, another possible approach would be to see what percentage of their total losses were against players outside the top 10. Here the result is exactly equal.

57.14 percent of Borg’s losses (4 of 7) were against players outside the top 10.

57.14 percent of Vilas losses (8 of 14) were against players outside the top 10.

The November discrepancy is to be expected, given that Vilas was on a South American tour most of that month, playing Bogota, Santiago and Buenos Aires, then went to Johannesburg. In the meantime Borg played Wembley and Oviedo. The higher ranked players Vilas met in these four tournaments were Fleming (47), Pecci (39), Higueras (30), Smith (24), Mottram (20) and Fillol (17).

I agree with you that the distortions introduced by random wins of lower ranked players over higher ranked ones would probably even out over the course of so many tournaments but the only way to know for sure is to look at the draws and see what the average ranking of the 8 or 10 main players is in each of them.

I’ve looked at the ITF site but I can’t see where they keep those records of old tournament draws. I suppose they have some kind of archive section for this, but I can’t find it. If you know the links, please let me know. I am not sure how big a task it would be to calculate anything from it, but it might be a fun project for rainy afternoons.
 

krosero

Legend
I’ve taken a look at the topic of losses that you seem to place a lot of emphasis on. My conclusion is there is nothing unusual there regardless of what perspective you take. In the first place, the rate is very similar. Borg has a winning percentage of 91.6 (76-7) and Vilas 90.3 (130-14).

Now, going into it in more detail, you could for example add up the ranking of their opponents on each loss and divide it by the total number of losses, to find out the average ranking of the opponents they lost to. If you do this you get an average ranking of 27 for Borg’s opponents, and 22 for Vilas’ opponents. So, in this sense Vilas losses were not worse than Borg’s (but slightly better). The lowest ranked player Vilas lost to was Case (55) and the lowest ranked player Borg lost to was Stewart (94).

Since we are focusing on top 10, another possible approach would be to see what percentage of their total losses were against players outside the top 10. Here the result is exactly equal.

57.14 percent of Borg’s losses (4 of 7) were against players outside the top 10.

57.14 percent of Vilas losses (8 of 14) were against players outside the top 10.

The November discrepancy is to be expected, given that Vilas was on a South American tour most of that month, playing Bogota, Santiago and Buenos Aires, then went to Johannesburg. In the meantime Borg played Wembley and Oviedo. The higher ranked players Vilas met in these four tournaments were Fleming (47), Pecci (39), Higueras (30), Smith (24), Mottram (20) and Fillol (17).

I agree with you that the distortions introduced by random wins of lower ranked players over higher ranked ones would probably even out over the course of so many tournaments but the only way to know for sure is to look at the draws and see what the average ranking of the 8 or 10 main players is in each of them.

I’ve looked at the ITF site but I can’t see where they keep those records of old tournament draws. I suppose they have some kind of archive section for this, but I can’t find it. If you know the links, please let me know. I am not sure how big a task it would be to calculate anything from it, but it might be a fun project for rainy afternoons.
I want to clarify that when I mention losses, I don't think they need to be emphasized more than the wins, or anything like that. I only want them listed with the basic facts, especially in a case where the wins favor one player but the losses favor the other player (that's not a universal situation).

Not really a big deal, just a general point I'm making.

The lowest-ranked player Vilas lost to was actually Billy Martin (59). But my averages are the same as yours: Vilas loses to an average ranking of 22, Borg to 27.

Borg's number is lower largely because he had the worst loss between the two of them -- to Stewart, 94th ranked. Statistically an outlier like that can have a distorting effect. If you get the median average Vilas is at 18, Borg at 16.

Now, I have to laugh that we've taken it to such a level of detail. On that particular stat it doesn't really matter that much: the difference is not so great. But I do wonder, when we go on to judge the strength of draws, what's the best way to get the average ranking? Mean or median? I'm not sure.

Since I already looked at November and December's draws, I've continued counting Top Ten entries in draws earlier in the year, and I'll have that finished soon. I'm just counting Top Ten players present (and noting who they are). I'm not doing anything with averages, at least not now.

At the ITF site, if you search for a player and then get his activity in a range of dates, you can then click on the tournament names to get the draws.

http://www.itftennis.com/mens/players/player.asp?player=10001449
 

Benhur

Hall of Fame
I want to clarify that when I mention losses, I don't think they need to be emphasized more than the wins, or anything like that. I only want them listed with the basic facts, especially in a case where the wins favor one player but the losses favor the other player (that's not a universal situation).

Not really a big deal, just a general point I'm making.

The lowest-ranked player Vilas lost to was actually Billy Martin (59). But my averages are the same as yours: Vilas loses to an average ranking of 22, Borg to 27.

Borg's number is lower largely because he had the worst loss between the two of them -- to Stewart, 94th ranked. Statistically an outlier like that can have a distorting effect. If you get the median average Vilas is at 18, Borg at 16.

Now, I have to laugh that we've taken it to such a level of detail. On that particular stat it doesn't really matter that much: the difference is not so great. But I do wonder, when we go on to judge the strength of draws, what's the best way to get the average ranking? Mean or median? I'm not sure.

Since I already looked at November and December's draws, I've continued counting Top Ten entries in draws earlier in the year, and I'll have that finished soon. I'm just counting Top Ten players present (and noting who they are). I'm not doing anything with averages, at least not now.

At the ITF site, if you search for a player and then get his activity in a range of dates, you can then click on the tournament names to get the draws.

http://www.itftennis.com/mens/players/player.asp?player=10001449
Yes, it’s a crazy level of detail, and of course I don’t really think it should be so important to enter into such minutia with individual results and matchups, but the problem is that the methods employed at the time (or rather the apparent lack of a method) makes the whole thing so incredibly confusing.
I may address the other issues you talk about regarding measuring methods later if time allows. I confess my general initial impression is that it seemed to be all done in a very loose and inconsistent manner, based on the impressions of a few journalists sometimes with incomplete data. The system seems to be almost improvised to the needs of the moment, where sometimes more emphasis was placed on some aspects of the record (tournaments) and sometimes on the various results of individual encounters. What’s frustrating is the apparent total absence of any pre-established method, because this is what allows for the endless impromptu creation of makeshift methods, and ultimately nobody knows on what basis these things are decided, as there are endless ways to look at a record.

Great site the ITF. This should allow for a much more detailed and methodical examination of the relative strength of the field at each tournament than just counting meetings with certain players. I don't know when or even if I will get to doing it, but many thanks for making me aware that the draws are easily available.
 

krosero

Legend
Yes, it’s a crazy level of detail, and of course I don’t really think it should be so important to enter into such minutia with individual results and matchups, but the problem is that the methods employed at the time (or rather the apparent lack of a method) makes the whole thing so incredibly confusing.
I may address the other issues you talk about regarding measuring methods later if time allows. I confess my general initial impression is that it seemed to be all done in a very loose and inconsistent manner, based on the impressions of a few journalists sometimes with incomplete data. The system seems to be almost improvised to the needs of the moment, where sometimes more emphasis was placed on some aspects of the record (tournaments) and sometimes on the various results of individual encounters. What’s frustrating is the apparent total absence of any pre-established method, because this is what allows for the endless impromptu creation of makeshift methods, and ultimately nobody knows on what basis these things are decided, as there are endless ways to look at a record.

Great site the ITF. This should allow for a much more detailed and methodical examination of the relative strength of the field at each tournament than just counting meetings with certain players. I don't know when or even if I will get to doing it, but many thanks for making me aware that the draws are easily available.
There are others here who have seen more yearly rankings than I have, and who can say just what level of detail and argumentation such voting was based on. I've seen some rankings that went into a good level of detail examining the yearly record, and I've seen some writers such as A. Wallis Myers in the 1930s whose writings show that he obviously gave serious thought to how rankings should be made. Now, how many of these voting processes of the past came up to the level of a rigorous statistical method, of the kind you seem to be asking for, I can't exactly say; I suspect many of the votes of the past will fall short of that and will seem far too subjective.

But imo there is always a level of subjectivity to these things, because we're dealing with sports. Of course I'm all for taking the subjectivity out of it as much as possible, but I prefer a method that takes into account every important aspect of the sport, even if some aspects cannot be exactly quantified, rather than a statistical method that stops where it can no longer count things.

By such things I mean, for example, the amount of pressure the players feel at a particular tournament, due to the general prestige of the event -- or perhaps due to a particular circumstance; maybe the #1 ranking was being decided by that match; maybe it was an important moment in a rivalry; etc. Those things are impossible to quantify but they're real. And I think a ranking system should try to acknowledge them, even if it means going beyond the counting up of titles.

Sometimes in the '77 debates it's been pointed out (not just by you) that surface can't be taken into account, or shouldn't be, because there are no reliable rankings by surface. The argument is, it hasn't been quantified, so we can't bring it in without introducing subjectivity. And I can respect that: but I will say that when such a system produces its results, I would have to regard them as incomplete. It won't have embraced some important things that we all feel and recognize while watching the sport, for example that Connors' victory over Borg on Har-Tru was especially impressive because it was Borg's best surface. Everyone knows it was Borg's best surface; no ranking says so; but it's true nevertheless.

To put it very crudely, I'd prefer a ranking system that was subjective, but complete, over one that was objective as far as it goes, but incomplete.

About the '77 rankings, perhaps the writers who voted didn't have complete information and stats. But I have my doubts about that. Bud Collins, stats man that he is, probably had a lot of statistical information right at his fingertips.

Bud is also an interesting case because I've often heard him speak with admiration about Vilas' year; and he's often been critical of Borg. So I was surprised, slightly, to learn yesterday that he voted for Borg in '77.
 

krosero

Legend
Here are the entries of Top Ten players in Borg and Vilas' tournaments in '77. In every case I've used the year-end ATP rankings. Davis Cup is not included (in his Davis Cup matches Vilas met, and defeated, two Top Ten players: Gottfried and Stockton).


TOP TEN PLAYERS IN BORG’S TOURNAMENTS (apart from Borg)

Pepsi – Connors (1), Orantes (7)
Philadelphia – Connors (1), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Little Rock – none
Memphis – Vilas (2), Gottfried (5)
Johannesburg (outdoor) – Vilas (2)
Washington DC (indoor) – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
La Costa – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
Nice – Vilas (2)
Monte Carlo – Vilas (2), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Denver – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
Wimbledon – Connors (1), Vilas (2), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
USO – Connors (1), Vilas (2), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Madrid – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Barcelona – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Basle – none
Cologne – none
Wembley – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )
Oviedo – Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )
Masters – Connors (1), Vilas (2), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 )

53 Top Ten entries, apart from Borg's own entries. Outside of Wimbledon and USO the number is 37.



TOP TEN PLAYERS IN VILAS’ TOURNAMENTS (apart from Vilas)

AO – Stockton (10)
Baltimore – Gottfried (5)
Springfield – none
Ocean City – Gerulaitis (4), Nastase (9)
Palm Springs – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Stockton (10)
Memphis – Borg (3), Gottfried (5)
Johannesburg (outdoor) – Borg (3)
Nice – Borg (3)
Monte Carlo – Borg (3), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Buenos Aires – none
Virginia Beach – Gerulaitis (4), Nastase (9)
Hamburg – Orantes (7)
Rome – Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9)
French Open – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9)
Nottingham – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Stockton (10)
Queens – Connors (1), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Wimbledon – Connors (1), Borg (3), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Kitzbuhel – Orantes (7)
Washington DC (outdoor) – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )
Louisville – Dibbs (6), Stockton (10)
South Orange – none
Columbus – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
USO – Connors (1), Borg (3), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Paris Outdoor – Nastase (9)
Aix-en-Provence – Nastase (9)
Tehran – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Bogota – none
Santiago – none
Buenos Aires – none
South African Open – Dibbs (6)
Masters – Connors (1), Borg (3), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 )

68 Top Ten entries, apart from Vilas' own entries. Outside of Wimbledon and USO the number is 52.


A lot more could be argued, for example the prestige of the tournaments, surfaces, etc. I drew up this list as another way to ascertain whether Vilas' draws were weaker than Borg's, and the number of Top Ten entries shows that they were. Apart from Davis Cup, Borg played in 19 tournaments, Vilas in 31, a significant difference. But there is much less difference in the number of Top Ten entries in each man's tournaments (53 vs. 68).

This is similar to the number of times that they actually faced Top Ten players. Borg faced top tenners 18 times (with a 15-3 record). Vilas did so 19 times (with a 13-6 record). Again, that's excluding Davis Cup, and using the year-end rankings.
 
Last edited:

krosero

Legend
Leaving Borg-Vilas aside, it's interesting to see how few of the top players dependably showed up at most tournaments.

USO was the best-attended tournament of the year with 10 entries.
Wimbledon and Philadelphia each had 8 entries.
The Masters had 7.
Queens Club had 6.
Dallas, Roland Garros and Rome each had 5.
Palm Springs, Monte Carlo, Nottingham, Washington DC (O) and Wembley each had 4.


Very few tournaments had the top players, which among other things makes the 4-man invitationals look better. We're always asking how much weight a tournament should be given if it only required two victories. But the four-man invitationals, at least when they invited the very top players, had better players in attendance than many tournaments of 5 or more rounds.
 
Last edited:

krosero

Legend
I've edited the two last posts because somehow I had forgotten the two grasscourt tuneups that Vilas played at Nottingham and Queens Club. His total of Top Ten opponents goes up by 8. The grasscourt tuneups are a bit of a unique case because despite being merely warmups, they had some of the best attendances of the year -- no doubt because there were so few places to go in preparation for Wimbledon.
 

Benhur

Hall of Fame
Thanks Krosero. Very useful work. I haven't had time to look at it in great detail but I will. Regarding DC, since it is a team effort, I think its use as part of individual tournament records is debatable. But for purposes of H2H counting against a player or a group of players, it should be perfectly fine. After all, those are official matches and they are counted in the official H2H records between players.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Leaving Borg-Vilas aside, it's interesting to see how few of the top players dependably showed up at most tournaments.

USO was the best-attended tournament of the year with 10 entries.
Wimbledon and Philadelphia each had 8 entries.
The Masters had 7.
Queens Club had 6.
Dallas, Roland Garros and Rome each had 5.
Palm Springs, Monte Carlo, Nottingham, Washington DC (O) and Wembley each had 4.


Very few tournaments had the top players, which among other things makes the 4-man invitationals look better. We're always asking how much weight a tournament should be given if it only required two victories. But the four-man invitationals, at least when they invited the very top players, had better players in attendance than many tournaments of 5 or more rounds.

Small tournaments are often tougher to win than bigger tournaments if the field is very strong. That's obvious. For example when Pancho Gonzalez defeated both Ashley Cooper and Mal Anderson by a combined match total of 34 wins to 0. Considering Cooper won three of four majors (only missed the French) in 1958 and Anderson won the US Championship in 1957 you could argue that to defeat Pancho Gonzalez just once is tougher than winning several majors.

On a slightly different note, this is another one of the incredible performance by Pancho Gonzalez, to defeat two top major tournament winners without one loss!
 
Last edited:

krosero

Legend
Thanks Krosero. Very useful work. I haven't had time to look at it in great detail but I will. Regarding DC, since it is a team effort, I think its use as part of individual tournament records is debatable. But for purposes of H2H counting against a player or a group of players, it should be perfectly fine. After all, those are official matches and they are counted in the official H2H records between players.
Agreed, in the big picture (not when counting Top Ten encounters in standard tournaments, for example), Davis Cup needs to be included.
 
I've always included the Davis Cup in my own criteria for the top players. Grand Slams, YEC, Masters, Olympics, Davis Cup; in that order. Definitely one of the top events of the year and the top players should all be involved in it as much as possible.
 

Benhur

Hall of Fame
Here are the entries of Top Ten players in Borg and Vilas' tournaments in '77. In every case I've used the year-end ATP rankings. Davis Cup is not included (in his Davis Cup matches Vilas met, and defeated, two Top Ten players: Gottfried and Stockton).


TOP TEN PLAYERS IN BORG’S TOURNAMENTS (apart from Borg)

Pepsi – Connors (1), Orantes (7)
Philadelphia – Connors (1), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Little Rock – none
Memphis – Vilas (2), Gottfried (5)
Johannesburg (outdoor) – Vilas (2)
Washington DC (indoor) – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
La Costa – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
Nice – Vilas (2)
Monte Carlo – Vilas (2), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Denver – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
Wimbledon – Connors (1), Vilas (2), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
USO – Connors (1), Vilas (2), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Madrid – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Barcelona – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Basle – none
Cologne – none
Wembley – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )
Oviedo – Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )
Masters – Connors (1), Vilas (2), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 )

53 Top Ten entries, apart from Borg's own entries. Outside of Wimbledon and USO the number is 37.



TOP TEN PLAYERS IN VILAS’ TOURNAMENTS (apart from Vilas)

AO – Stockton (10)
Baltimore – Gottfried (5)
Springfield – none
Ocean City – Gerulaitis (4), Nastase (9)
Palm Springs – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Stockton (10)
Memphis – Borg (3), Gottfried (5)
Johannesburg (outdoor) – Borg (3)
Nice – Borg (3)
Monte Carlo – Borg (3), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Buenos Aires – none
Virginia Beach – Gerulaitis (4), Nastase (9)
Hamburg – Orantes (7)
Rome – Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9)
French Open – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9)
Nottingham – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Stockton (10)
Queens – Connors (1), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Wimbledon – Connors (1), Borg (3), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Kitzbuhel – Orantes (7)
Washington DC (outdoor) – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )
Louisville – Dibbs (6), Stockton (10)
South Orange – none
Columbus – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
USO – Connors (1), Borg (3), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Paris Outdoor – Nastase (9)
Aix-en-Provence – Nastase (9)
Tehran – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Bogota – none
Santiago – none
Buenos Aires – none
South African Open – Dibbs (6)
Masters – Connors (1), Borg (3), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 )

68 Top Ten entries, apart from Vilas' own entries. Outside of Wimbledon and USO the number is 52.


A lot more could be argued, for example the prestige of the tournaments, surfaces, etc. I drew up this list as another way to ascertain whether Vilas' draws were weaker than Borg's, and the number of Top Ten entries shows that they were. Apart from Davis Cup, Borg played in 19 tournaments, Vilas in 31, a significant difference. But there is much less difference in the number of Top Ten entries in each man's tournaments (53 vs. 68).

This is similar to the number of times that they actually faced Top Ten players. Borg faced top tenners 18 times (with a 15-3 record). Vilas did so 19 times (with a 13-6 record). Again, that's excluding Davis Cup, and using the year-end rankings.

Since Vilas played many more tournaments than Borg, it’s normal there were more top tenners in the tournaments he played. It’s also quite normal that the presence of top tenners per tournament played should be higher for Borg.

But one cannot use the overall thinner density of Vila's total tournaments to dilute the density of his best tournament wins.

Borg won 11 tournaments and Vilas 16. A sensible way to compare that data would be to compare those best results by Borg (his 11 wins) with Vilas' best-attended 11 wins.

The number of top 10 players present in the 11 tournaments won by Borg was 24 (2.18 per tournament)

The number of top 10 players present in the best 11 tournaments won by Vilas was 27 (2.45 per tournament).

Not a big difference there, but we can see that Vilas best 11 wins look slightly better than Borg’s 11 wins from this perspective alone. Two of Borg’s 11 wins were in tournaments with no other top 10 players present. One of Vilas “best 11” would come from that kind of tournament. But most important to my mind, though, is the fact that some real credit needs to be given to the fact that Vilas has one extra major among those 11 tournaments. That cannot just be ignored.

To me, none of this support the notion that the quality of Vilas' best titles was inferior in any way to Borg’s. Quite the opposite.

And then you still have the fact that Vilas did win 5 additional tournaments, and had 6 runner up appearances to Borg’s 2.

Borg's 11 tournament wins:

Pepsi – Connors (1), Orantes (7)
Memphis – Vilas (2), Gottfried (5)
Nice – Vilas (2)
Monte Carlo – Vilas (2), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Denver – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
Wimbledon – Connors (1), Vilas (2), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Madrid – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Barcelona – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Basle – none
Cologne – none
Wembley – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )

Vilas 11 (best-attended) tournament wins:

Virginia Beach – Gerulaitis (4), Nastase (9)
French Open – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9)
Kitzbuhel – Orantes (7)
Washington DC (outdoor) – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )
Louisville – Dibbs (6), Stockton (10)
Columbus – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
USO – Connors (1), Borg (3), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Paris Outdoor – Nastase (9)
Tehran – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Buenos Aires – [or some other] none
South African Open – Dibbs (6)
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Since Vilas played many more tournaments than Borg, it’s normal there were more top tenners in the tournaments he played. It’s also quite normal that the presence of top tenners per tournament played should be higher for Borg.

But one cannot use the overall thinner density of Vila's total tournaments to dilute the density of his best tournament wins.

Borg won 11 tournaments and Vilas 16. A sensible way to compare that data would be to compare those best results by Borg (his 11 wins) with Vilas' best-attended 11 wins.

The number of top 10 players present in the 11 tournaments won by Borg was 24 (2.18 per tournament)

The number of top 10 players present in the best 11 tournaments won by Vilas was 27 (2.45 per tournament).

Not a big difference there, but we can see that Vilas best 11 wins look slightly better than Borg’s 11 wins from this perspective alone. Two of Borg’s 11 wins were in tournaments with no other top 10 players present. One of Vilas “best 11” would come from that kind of tournament. But most important to my mind, though, is the fact that some real credit needs to be given to the fact that Vilas has one extra major among those 11 tournaments. That cannot just be ignored.

To me, none of this support the notion that the quality of Vilas' best titles was inferior in any way to Borg’s. Quite the opposite.

And then you still have the fact that Vilas did win 5 additional tournaments, and had 6 runner up appearances to Borg’s 2.

Borg's 11 tournament wins:

Pepsi – Connors (1), Orantes (7)
Memphis – Vilas (2), Gottfried (5)
Nice – Vilas (2)
Monte Carlo – Vilas (2), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Denver – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
Wimbledon – Connors (1), Vilas (2), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Madrid – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Barcelona – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Basle – none
Cologne – none
Wembley – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )

Vilas 11 (best-attended) tournament wins:

Virginia Beach – Gerulaitis (4), Nastase (9)
French Open – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9)
Kitzbuhel – Orantes (7)
Washington DC (outdoor) – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )
Louisville – Dibbs (6), Stockton (10)
Columbus – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
USO – Connors (1), Borg (3), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Paris Outdoor – Nastase (9)
Tehran – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Buenos Aires – [or some other] none
South African Open – Dibbs (6)
Borg had 13 tournament victories plus a tournament in which he and Vilas were in the finals but wasn't completed. It was not 11 tournament victories.
 

krosero

Legend
Benhur and I have been using the ATP/ITF webpages. That's not the full picture, but it is more or less proportionately correct because Borg and Vilas each have 2 additional victories in '77 listed at their respective Wikipedia pages.

Borg has Cincinatti and Hilton Head (that's probably how Bud Collins got to a total of 13 titles for him).

Vilas has Rye and Caracas (Collins counts Rye, yielding 17 total -- and a longer winning streak).
 

Q&M son

Professional
Benhur and I have been using the ATP/ITF webpages. That's not the full picture, but it is more or less proportionately correct because Borg and Vilas each have 2 additional victories in '77 listed at their respective Wikipedia pages.

Borg has Cincinatti and Hilton Head (that's probably how Bud Collins got to a total of 13 titles for him).

Vilas has Rye and Caracas (Collins counts Rye, yielding 17 total -- and a longer winning streak).
Correct too.
 

Q&M son

Professional
To me, none of this support the notion that the quality of Vilas' best titles was inferior in any way to Borg’s. Quite the opposite.

And then you still have the fact that Vilas did win 5 additional tournaments, and had 6 runner up appearances to Borg’s 2.

Borg's 11 tournament wins:

Pepsi – Connors (1), Orantes (7)
Memphis – Vilas (2), Gottfried (5)
Nice – Vilas (2)
Monte Carlo – Vilas (2), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Denver – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
Wimbledon – Connors (1), Vilas (2), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Madrid – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Barcelona – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Basle – none
Cologne – none
Wembley – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )

Vilas 11 (best-attended) tournament wins:

Virginia Beach – Gerulaitis (4), Nastase (9)
French Open – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9)
Kitzbuhel – Orantes (7)
Washington DC (outdoor) – Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Ramirez (8 )
Louisville – Dibbs (6), Stockton (10)
Columbus – Gottfried (5), Ramirez (8 )
USO – Connors (1), Borg (3), Gerulaitis (4), Gottfried (5), Dibbs (6), Orantes (7), Ramirez (8 ), Nastase (9), Stockton (10)
Paris Outdoor – Nastase (9)
Tehran – Dibbs (6), Orantes (7)
Buenos Aires – [or some other] none
South African Open – Dibbs (6)
In Pepsi, was a 4 men event... this may be cited.

Check Rye event draw for example...
 
Last edited:
Top