The true no.1 of 1977

Q&M son

Professional
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!
Agree. Fully. :)
 

Q&M son

Professional
Rye event from AndrewTas info:

Lionel Tennis Week
Rye, NY 25-29 August 1977

Brown Group
Nastase d. B Manson 63 62, d. R Cano 62 75, d. Z Franulovic 62 76
Cano d. Manson 76 63, d. Franulovic 16 64 64
Manson d. Franulovic 46 63 75

White Group
Vilas d. I Tiriac 75 62, d, M Mitchell 62 62, d. J McEnroe 61 62
McEnroe d. Mitchell 75 62, d. Tiriac 67 63 63
Tiriac d. Mitchell 64 76

Final Vilas d. Nastase 62 60
3rd Place McEnroe d. Cano 36 62 60

Vilas won 4 matches including over Nastase and a young McEnroe
 

krosero

Legend
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.
I’m not sure what you mean in the second sentence, because Vilas could have played his ambitious schedule and still entered more top-quality tournaments than he actually did. For example, he could have chosen to play Philadelphia (which Borg and Connors attended). He could have played Wembley (which Borg attended) instead of his South American tour – in which he faced no Top Ten opponents. With Philly and Wembley the number of Top Ten entries in his events would then shoot up to 78. And he’s still playing a total of 30 events. That’s an average of 2.6 Top Tenners per tournament, not far from Borg’s 2.8. With one or two more changes in his schedule Vilas might catch Borg in that stat – and still play an ambitious schedule.

So it’s very possible to play a lot and still choose high-quality tournaments throughout the year.

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 problem I have with what you’ve done here is that you’ve artificially divided the record of the year so that all the losses are set aside, essentially ignored. You looked at 11 titles for each man, but when you referred to the rest of the record, Vilas’ 14 losses (compared to Borg’s 7) were nowhere in sight. Instead you summed up the remainder of the record as Vilas having more runner-up finishes than Borg. As I said a couple of days ago, this kind of analysis presents everything as accomplishments. Wins are presented without the losses that were incurred: and naturally then the player with the most wins looks undeniably better, because we don’t see how many losses he incurred in his effort to rack up his titles. That’s why the win/loss percentage provides a perspective here that is utterly lost when titles are merely counted up.

We can still compare 11 titles for each man, although I think there are problems with evaluating the year that way.

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).
True, but the average ranking of those attending Borg’s tournaments was 5.4. For Vilas it was 6.6.

Meanwhile look at the remainder of the record. Borg has only the 7 tournaments that he lost (that’s by design, since the cutoff was 11 titles). In each of those 7 tournaments there was an average of 4 Top Tenners joining Borg in the draw. The average in Vilas’s remaining 19 events was just 2.1.

And that right there shows a tendency on Vilas’ part to choose weak draws. In that part of the record the quality of his opposition is thin. And that’s the bone of contention with Vilas: it seems he fattened up his title count, and reached 16, by racking up a number of titles over weaker opposition.

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.
It’s true that RG is not just another tournament. But its field this year, as you have said, while decent, was limited. And looking at all 11 victories, Borg has three titles that stand out, both for prestige and for strength of the draw: Wimbledon, Monte Carlo and Wembley. Those are his victories featuring draws of 3 or more Top Ten opponents. Vilas has three such titles: RG, USO and the Washington DC event in the summer. I don’t see a whole lot separating the two men, even if Vilas has an edge from this perspective.

But from the perspective of surfaces Borg has an advantage. He won his three big titles on three different surfaces (grass, hard, clay), defeating top tenners 6 times.

Vilas won his top three tournaments all on clay, defeating top tenners 5 times.

Looking at the 11 titles for each man, Borg defeated top tenners 13 times, on four surfaces. Vilas defeated top tenners 10 times, on two surfaces.

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.
They are inferior from the perspective of surface. That is most apparent when you look at each man’s 3 biggest titles. And looking at the set of 11, Borg won on four surfaces, Vilas on two. So what would be more difficult, to defeat the world’s best players on four surfaces, or on two? What would be a greater indication of domination over the field as a whole?

Turning to the losses, Vilas’ record has a blemish: almost no good match victories on grass, no titles, and early-round losses at Wimbledon and its tune-ups. On grass there’s the most daylight between the two men’s records.

There were 16 top ten opponents entered in Vilas’ grasscourt tournaments, and he never met any of them – either because he lost early or because he played in draws with hardly any top tenners present (AO).

And that helps explains something we were talking about earlier. Over the course of the entire year Borg met top tenners almost as many times as Vilas did (18 vs 19), but there were more top tenners present in Vilas’ tournaments (53 vs 68 ). Is that because top tenners were losing early in Vilas’ events, so that Vilas never had the chance to meet them? Or is it because Vilas was losing early?

It seems to be more due to Vilas’ early losses. He lost before he could meet any of the 15 Top Tenners entered at Wimbledon and its tuneups. And 15 is the difference between the two men’s draws, in terms of Top Ten entries (53 vs 68 ).
 
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Benhur

Hall of Fame
I’m not sure what you mean in the second sentence, because Vilas could have played his ambitious schedule and still entered more top-quality tournaments than he actually did.
What I am saying is it seems normal that the larger the schedule, the lower the overall quality of the tournaments would be. Overall being the key word. If you are more selective on your schedule you tend to concentrate on the more important tournaments. Playing 18 events is very different from playing 30, and you cannot reasonably demand the same, let's say, overall density. That's why I firmly believe one should not compare the quality of Borg's 18 events to all of Vilas 30 events. We can compare it to Vilas’ best-attended 18 events. Otherwise we are not comparing similar things, and it would look as if all of Vilas tournaments were of lower quality.

The problem I have with what you’ve done here is that you’ve artificially divided the record of the year so that all the losses are set aside, essentially ignored. You looked at 11 titles for each man, but when you referred to the rest of the record, Vilas’ 14 losses (compared to Borg’s 7) were nowhere in sight. Instead you summed up the remainder of the record as Vilas having more runner-up finishes than Borg. As I said a couple of days ago, this kind of analysis presents everything as accomplishments. Wins are presented without the losses that were incurred: and naturally then the player with the most wins looks undeniably better, because we don’t see how many losses he incurred in his effort to rack up his titles. That’s why the win/loss percentage provides a perspective here that is utterly lost when titles are merely counted up.
Well, it seems to me that best results (in this case, wins) is what’s normally looked at when comparing records, provided that the quality of the tournaments in those best results is comparable. So I don’t see it as an artificial division, but as a very logical one. I just took their best 11 results (because Borg won 11 tournaments) and compared the quality of the tournaments they came from, from the perspective of how many top ten players were in them, and discovered that the quality was very similar. Of course there are endless ways you can slice the data, you could look at their best 2 or 3 wins, best 5, whatever. And one could look at the attendance level in much more detail. As I said, the ideal method would be something like a calculation of the average ranking of the best 10 participants in each tournament or something like that, a very time consuming task. But from the perspective of number of top 10 players present, or the average rank of these players, it looks very similar. Slightly better for Vilas in one case, and slightly better for Borg in the other. But all very comparable.

It seems odd to compare losses, but even here there seems to be nothing unusual. Vilas had 14 to Borg’s 7, yes, but he also played 30 tournaments to Borg’s 18, and we know that the match win percentage is also very similar for both, 90 for Vilas and 91 for Borg. And we’ve already seen that the “quality” of the Vilas losses was not inferior to Borg’s either. Vilas did not lose, on average, to lower ranked players than Borg did. So I don’t really get this focus on losses.

I put the cutoff at 11 because that's the number of titles won by Borg in the data we are using, so you can think of them as his best tournaments as far as results go, but certainly this is arbitrary and another (equally arbitrary) number can be used, provided it’s the same for both and the same criteria is used (either best-attended or best results). Vilas played 30 tournaments. But within those 30 he also played 18, or any lower number, which he can show for comparison of strength of field with Borg’s total of 18 tournaments or any lower number. Vilas won 16, but within that number he also won 11 (or any lower number) which he can show for the same comparison with Borg’s 11 wins. As long as the quality of the tournaments is comparable, and the number under comparison is the same, he doesn’t have to introduce the quality of the remaining tournaments on the exhibit. They are just an extra. As if a racer on a time trial, after reaching the end line, felt like continuing for a few more miles because they seemed easy, or just for the hell of it. But he still did what he had to do.

Meanwhile look at the remainder of the record. Borg has only the 7 tournaments that he lost (that’s by design, since the cutoff was 11 titles). In each of those 7 tournaments there was an average of 4 Top Tenners joining Borg in the draw. The average in Vilas’s remaining 19 events was just 2.1.

And that right there shows a tendency on Vilas’ part to choose weak draws. In that part of the record the quality of his opposition is thin. And that’s the bone of contention with Vilas: it seems he fattened up his title count, and reached 16, by racking up a number of titles over weaker opposition.
You point out that Borg’s remaining 7 tournaments featured more top ten players than Vilas remaining 19. Okay, but again, I object to this because you are comparing 7 to 19. If we are using 7 tournaments, let’s stop there and see if Vilas had 7 tournaments to match. Within those 19, Vilas did have 7. You would need to compare those remaining 7 by Borg with the best attended 7 in Vilas remaining 19 tournaments. You can’t dilute the quality of those 7 with the overall quality of the 19, as if Vilas was just micky-mousing around all the time and didn’t play the same amount of equal quality tournaments as Borg. He did. Or at least I think so. He just put in those extra miles for additional ammunition.

The question is: Are Vilas’ best attended 18 tournaments comparable to Borg’s? And: Did Borg’s best results (11 or whatever) occur in tournaments of comparable quality to Vilas’ best results? The answer seems to me to be yes in both cases, though of course hairs can be split endlessly in many different ways. The extra work that Vilas did that year is extra work. He also did what Borg did in the better tournaments, and in my opinion, he did better. True that Borg did much better on grass, and his overall surface variety was better. Yet I would mention that Vilas on clay also had much better results than Borg, if only because 2 of the 3 majors were on clay and Vilas is the one who won them. Monte-Carlo by Borg is fine, but it’s not quite Roland Garros, let alone RG + USO. It would be more on a level with Washington as far as number of top 10 players present, and below Washington in terms of number of rounds (16-man draw at Monte-Carlo, 64 at Washington). Vilas doesn't have a big win on grass, but his performance at the Australian was not exactly shabby, it’s not like he did nothing.

To summarize my view. The general arguments offered for Borg in the long history of discussions on this topic here, are based heavily on the notion that while Vilas was feeding on the pork of the schedule, so to speak, Borg was seriously concentrating on the real beef. But this does not appear to be true under close examination. Vilas had at least as much beef as Borg (and I think he actually had a bit more), and then he also helped himself to some pork because he was just very hungry in 1977. But his pork doesn’t diminish either the quality or the amount of his beef. It’s just extra nutrition.
 

krosero

Legend
What I am saying is it seems normal that the larger the schedule, the lower the overall quality of the tournaments would be. Overall being the key word. If you are more selective on your schedule you tend to concentrate on the more important tournaments. Playing 18 events is very different from playing 30, and you cannot reasonably demand the same, let's say, overall density.
It is not unreasonable to expect the same overall density, if you look at the specific circumstances. Vilas could have played in Philadelphia, which nearly everyone else attended; this year the players flocked to it practically as if it was a major. For some reason Vilas played the smaller indoor events in Baltimore (losing in the final) and Springfield (winning the title), but not Philadelphia. He could have played Philly instead of one of the other events – and in that case his amount of activity for the whole year remains the same while the quality of his draws gets a huge boost.

There’s a similar example in the autumn: he could have played Wembley instead of one or more of the events in his South American tour (in which he picked up 3 titles with no other Top Tenners in the draw to oppose him). That choice would have raised the average quality of his draws almost to the level of Borg’s, and he could have done it without decreasing the amount that he actually played.

Philly and Wembley were important tournaments, maybe the biggest indoor tournaments of the year apart from the tour-ending championships at Dallas and the Garden. It’s not unreasonable at all to expect a top player to attend one or both of them. That’s especially true in the case of Philadelphia, which practically everyone else attended.

That's why I firmly believe one should not compare the quality of Borg's 18 events to all of Vilas 30 events. We can compare it to Vilas’ best-attended 18 events. Otherwise we are not comparing similar things, and it would look as if all of Vilas tournaments were of lower quality.
Your belief proceeds from the false premise above. It is in fact reasonable, even if Vilas plays a ton of events, to expect the overall quality of his events to be close to the quality of Borg’s. So it is appropriate to measure all of Borg’s events against all of Vilas’, in terms of quality of draw.

The average number of Top Tenners in all the events that Borg entered is 2.8. The average number for Vilas is 2.2.

The average number of Top Tenners entered in the 11 events that Borg won is 2.2. The average for all 16 of Vilas’ titles is 1.7.

That’s the lowest number we’ve seen so far, and it speaks directly to the issue of whether Vilas padded his title count against weak opposition.

Your point is well taken about not all of Vilas’ tournaments being of lower quality. If that’s your concern, let me be clear, I’m not trying to pin Vilas’ average on all of his events.

But the average indicates that some significant number of Vilas’ events were poorly attended by the Top Ten. Borg and Vilas both picked up titles with no other Top Tenners present in the draw to oppose them. But Borg only picked up 2 titles that way; Vilas picked up 6. And that nearly accounts for all of Vilas’ edge over Borg in overall titles for the year.

Vilas has a 16-11 edge in total titles. But those 5 extra wins were his least-attended events, out of all the events he played throughout the year. No other Top Tenners were present.

That doesn’t mean those titles are worthless. But they do not automatically put Vilas over Borg, because none of the losses have yet been looked at. You could decide that Vilas’ 11 best results are equal to or greater than Borg’s 11 titles (which is debatable); but at that point you’d have to compare what left’s over in the record: Borg, with 7 losses, against Vilas who has 5 (unimpressive) titles and 14 losses.

Well, it seems to me that best results (in this case, wins) is what’s normally looked at when comparing records, provided that the quality of the tournaments in those best results is comparable. So I don’t see it as an artificial division, but as a very logical one. I just took their best 11 results (because Borg won 11 tournaments) and compared the quality of the tournaments they came from, from the perspective of how many top ten players were in them, and discovered that the quality was very similar.

It seems odd to compare losses, but even here there seems to be nothing unusual. Vilas had 14 to Borg’s 7, yes, but he also played 30 tournaments to Borg’s 18, and we know that the match win percentage is also very similar for both, 90 for Vilas and 91 for Borg. And we’ve already seen that the “quality” of the Vilas losses was not inferior to Borg’s either. Vilas did not lose, on average, to lower ranked players than Borg did. So I don’t really get this focus on losses.
I don’t want to focus on losses, but I object to the way they’re being counted. Whenever you’ve mentioned the losses you’ve referred to them as a percentage of Vilas’ total activity, and you’ve pointed out that the percentage is almost the same as Borg’s.

But the titles are not being treated in the same way. You picked out the 11 best titles for each man – and then you referred to Vilas’ remaining titles, in various analogies, as extra ammunition, extra food eaten, extra miles run. They are merely being added to the pile. They are not referred to as a percentage of his total activity.

If the titles are merely being added up – taking the best 11, and adding the remaining 5 – then the losses have to be counted up in the same way. It’s the only fair way to do it. Vilas lost 14 matches, which is 7 more losses than Borg had. The end. No references to them as percentages.

If you like, you can take 7 losses by Vilas, to compare with Borg’s 7. Then the remainder of the record features 7 more losses by Vilas, none by Borg. That would be the equivalent of what you did with the wins.

Yet that method is still basic addition/subtraction, and I don’t think that’s the right way to evaluate a year like this one.

As long as the quality of the tournaments is comparable, and the number under comparison is the same, he doesn’t have to introduce the quality of the remaining tournaments on the exhibit. They are just an extra. As if a racer on a time trial, after reaching the end line, felt like continuing for a few more miles because they seemed easy, or just for the hell of it. But he still did what he had to do.
Here you explicitly claim that the quality of Vilas’ remaining tournaments – unlike the quality of his best 11, which you did evaluate and which I appreciate – does not have to be analyzed. The remaining titles can simply be added.

But that method instantly gives the victory to the player who played more. By definition, if you stop analyzing quality at the point where the first player has no more titles, that player will be left with much less “material” left over, so to speak, than the guy who played more. The second guy easily wins then – because at that point you’re simply asking for quantity.

I do not see tennis as a contest of who can run more. For one thing, you can talk about how far someone runs, but how does that account for the times when he got beaten?

I don’t like this runners analogy, but I’ll give it a try. Losses can be represented by the runner stopping momentarily because he can’t continue. That means that Vilas stopped quite often while Borg kept running. While they did run (the 11 best events), they ran at more or less the same speed, you’ve said. But Vilas stopped more often, so he’s fallen behind.

But you’ve also said he continued running at the end, after Borg stopped. So perhaps that way he catches up – according to your analogy.

All analogies are imperfect and I’m not claiming that this one – spinning it this way, or that way – reveals anything concrete about the real situation.

But I do think you’ve got a problem when one man plays far more than the other, and you compare them by cutting their activity into pieces and then adding up the pieces. That method will practically hand the victory to the guy who played more.
 

krosero

Legend
To summarize my view. The general arguments offered for Borg in the long history of discussions on this topic here, are based heavily on the notion that while Vilas was feeding on the pork of the schedule, so to speak, Borg was seriously concentrating on the real beef. But this does not appear to be true under close examination. Vilas had at least as much beef as Borg (and I think he actually had a bit more), and then he also helped himself to some pork because he was just very hungry in 1977. But his pork doesn’t diminish either the quality or the amount of his beef. It’s just extra nutrition.
Vilas’ choices do not look like extra hunger. It’s not as if he was facing Borg at every reasonable opportunity and then going out to jog some more. He skipped Philadelphia, with Borg and Connors present. I don’t know the reason; maybe someone can fill us in. I’ve seen reports of the final that he lost in Baltimore to Gottfried, the day before Philly began; he appeared healthy. Whatever the reason, he was absent at Philly; and afterwards he showed up at the lesser tournament in Springfield (taking the title).

He skipped Wembley, with Borg present, in order to do his South American tour. Understandable from a personal point of view, but whatever the reason, in the end this is another case of skipping the beef and feasting on pork.

After Nastase ended his winning streak, he beat Dibbs in the final in Tehran. He was entered in the Madrid tournament starting the next day, but the tournament organizers announced that he’d pulled out with a hand injury that he sustained while playing in Tehran. (I’m taking this from a brief Chicago Tribune report that I can post more of, for anyone who wishes). I don’t get into conspiracy theories about injuries, but if you know my posts you’ve seen several times that I’ve objected to an injury being regarded as serious if the player in question still wins the tournament. Vilas was good enough to beat Dibbs – but not good enough to play the next two weeks in Madrid and Barcelona. Borg was entered in both tournaments (and he won them both). Four days after Barcelona ended, Vilas resumed playing, in Caracas.

None of this appears like extra jogging. Whether injured or not, he missed Barcelona and Madrid. He missed Philadelphia without playing anything else that week. He missed Wembley to play other tournaments, but obviously, that was a free choice for pork over beef.

It does seem like he padded his title count, at the very least with that late-year tour in South America.

And that is supported statistically when you get the average number of Top Ten entries in all the tournaments he won (not just the average in his best-attended victories).
 
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Benhur

Hall of Fame
It is not unreasonable to expect the same overall density[...]

But I do think you’ve got a problem when one man plays far more than the other, and you compare them by cutting their activity into pieces and then adding up the pieces. That method will practically hand the victory to the guy who played more.
Looks like we have very different views on this matter. I very much disagree with the views I quoted, which seems to sum up the way you approach the issue. It is unreasonable to me to expect the same overall density, and most important, I don’t think there is any automatic or predetermined bias in these partial comparisons that would guarantee the victory to the guy who played more, as you suppose. Far from it. Their purpose is precisely to find out if the accomplishments are comparable or not, which cannot be done unless you break it up in parts. And scenarios where the guy who played and won more tournaments has the clearly inferior record can be easily conceived. If after doing those comparisons, it turned out for example that the quality of the 18 tournaments entered by Borg was systematically better in all tiers than any set of 18 tournaments entered by Vilas; and/or, if it turned out that the quality of Borg’s 11 tournament wins were systematically of better quality than any set of 11 tournament wins by Vilas, then Borg would clearly emerge as the player with the better record (even if Vilas had played and won many many more tournaments). Those scenarios are by no means impossible or even highly unlikely. The purpose of what I did was precisely to find out if this was the case here or not. I do not believe there is anything inherently unfair in dividing up the record in comparable units to see how they compare.

The idea that two records cannot be looked at in discrete portions, and that demanding overall equal density is reasonable, could be easly reduced to those arguments known as “ad absurdum". A player enters two of the 4 strongest tournaments and wins them, and doesn’t play anywhere else. By the comparison method you propose as the most fair, nobody playing, say, 20 turnaments could really match that record unles they won the other two strongest tournaments PLUS everything else they entered of lower quality. Any loss anywhere in their record would dilute it and make it inferior by comparison. Of course am not suggesting this is a realistic scenario, it's only meant to be an "ad absurdum" one, but I think the refusal to look at records in parts would in fact lead to a predetermined bias toward players with the more compact overall record, which is the opposite of how you see it.

When I have some time in the next few weeks I will try to go through their record in chronological order on a monthly or weekly basis.
 

timnz

Legend
If Vilas had won that 1977 Australian Open final would he have been year end number 1

Would the difference between being a finalist and an Australian Open winner been enough to put Vilas over the top?. I suspect it wouldn't have been. Hence, a 3 Major winner of a year still wouldn't have been the ATP number 1.
 

Mustard

Talk Tennis Guru
Vilas is the real number 1 of 1977, without question. His activity, with 16 tournaments wins (including 2 majors), does it.
 
Fascinating that people should be fighting this out 35 seasons later. For those of us who were around and paying attention in 1977, the answer was very clear. BJORN BORG was number 1, pure and simple. Vilas played and played and played, with some Majors success, but you'd never bet on him in a match-up with Borg. And the ATP computer just loved Jimmy Connors, who had clearly the leading points average but came up short against both Borg and Vilas in 1977. The ATP computer was a very blunt instrument in trying to determine world rankings, especially as there were so many tournaments that players could play week in week out and frequently avoid their main competitors.
 

kiki

Banned
... new element.1977 was Dickie Stockton best year: won 2 or 3 WCT events ( including the very prestigious US Pro Indoors beating Connors in 5 sets) and lost the Dallas Finals, after beating Gerulaitis in 5 sets in an excellent semifinal.

beat Borg at the USO, losing to Solomon in the quarterfinals.

Best slams years, though, were 1974 (Wimbledon SF after knocking out Nastase) and 1978 (FO sf after defeating Manuel Orantes in the QF)

...oh¡ in 1977 he not just won singles WCT titles but took, paired with Amritraj, the WCT World Doubles Championships, held in Kansas City
 

kiki

Banned
...and, maybe, his major feat was that he was the last man to beat great Rod Laver at Wimbledon, in that unforgetable Centennial year.
 

Q&M son

Professional
Would the difference between being a finalist and an Australian Open winner been enough to put Vilas over the top?. I suspect it wouldn't have been. Hence, a 3 Major winner of a year still wouldn't have been the ATP number 1.
I strongly believe that if Vilas would skipped the grass season in July, the ELO would gave him the number one spot. :twisted:

But he choose to play that events, funny cause for some guys he tried to skip facing Borg all year.
 

Q&M son

Professional
Top 10 Prize Money Leaders 1977:

1- Vilas $766.065
2- Gottfried $458.791
3- Connors $428.919
4- Borg $337.020
5- Eddie Dibbs $283.555
6- Dick Stockton $ 277.626
7- Vitas Gerulaitis $ 260.883
8- Raul Ramirez $ 244.763
9- Wojtek Fibak $ 238.035
10- Bob Hewitt $219.163
 
Those lists tell you nothing. Vilas played an outrageous number of events but he was outclassed by Borg. Connors also chased the money. Borg was interested in Majors, specifically Paris and Wimbledon.
 

Benhur

Hall of Fame
Fascinating that people should be fighting this out 35 seasons later. For those of us who were around and paying attention in 1977, the answer was very clear. BJORN BORG was number 1, pure and simple. Vilas played and played and played, with some Majors success, but you'd never bet on him in a match-up with Borg. And the ATP computer just loved Jimmy Connors, who had clearly the leading points average but came up short against both Borg and Vilas in 1977. The ATP computer was a very blunt instrument in trying to determine world rankings, especially as there were so many tournaments that players could play week in week out and frequently avoid their main competitors.
If you think of the USO (which was the best attended tournament that year) and RG as "some major success" and you dismiss everything else Vilas played and won, and you believe that rankings should be established by betting odds, then you are right.
 

Mustard

Talk Tennis Guru
Fascinating that people should be fighting this out 35 seasons later. For those of us who were around and paying attention in 1977, the answer was very clear. BJORN BORG was number 1, pure and simple. Vilas played and played and played, with some Majors success, but you'd never bet on him in a match-up with Borg.
Vilas was the number 1 player based on activity and overall match results, which is what the world rankings should go by. Vilas played the most, won 16 tournaments (including 2 majors). Borg's activity is nowhere near this level, winning less tournaments and majors. This is not a head-to-head matter.
 
E

elpolaco84

Guest
Those lists tell you nothing. Vilas played an outrageous number of events but he was outclassed by Borg. Connors also chased the money. Borg was interested in Majors, specifically Paris and Wimbledon.
Vilas was the number 1 player based on activity and overall match results, which is what the world rankings should go by. Vilas played the most, won 16 tournaments (including 2 majors). Borg's activity is nowhere near this level, winning less tournaments and majors. This is not a head-to-head matter.
Mustard please


Clearly Doug_Hartley doesn't even know what sport this is
 

krosero

Legend
Looks like we have very different views on this matter. I very much disagree with the views I quoted, which seems to sum up the way you approach the issue. It is unreasonable to me to expect the same overall density, and most important, I don’t think there is any automatic or predetermined bias in these partial comparisons that would guarantee the victory to the guy who played more, as you suppose. Far from it. Their purpose is precisely to find out if the accomplishments are comparable or not, which cannot be done unless you break it up in parts. And scenarios where the guy who played and won more tournaments has the clearly inferior record can be easily conceived. If after doing those comparisons, it turned out for example that the quality of the 18 tournaments entered by Borg was systematically better in all tiers than any set of 18 tournaments entered by Vilas; and/or, if it turned out that the quality of Borg’s 11 tournament wins were systematically of better quality than any set of 11 tournament wins by Vilas, then Borg would clearly emerge as the player with the better record (even if Vilas had played and won many many more tournaments). Those scenarios are by no means impossible or even highly unlikely. The purpose of what I did was precisely to find out if this was the case here or not. I do not believe there is anything inherently unfair in dividing up the record in comparable units to see how they compare.

The idea that two records cannot be looked at in discrete portions, and that demanding overall equal density is reasonable, could be easly reduced to those arguments known as “ad absurdum". A player enters two of the 4 strongest tournaments and wins them, and doesn’t play anywhere else. By the comparison method you propose as the most fair, nobody playing, say, 20 turnaments could really match that record unles they won the other two strongest tournaments PLUS everything else they entered of lower quality. Any loss anywhere in their record would dilute it and make it inferior by comparison. Of course am not suggesting this is a realistic scenario, it's only meant to be an "ad absurdum" one, but I think the refusal to look at records in parts would in fact lead to a predetermined bias toward players with the more compact overall record, which is the opposite of how you see it.

When I have some time in the next few weeks I will try to go through their record in chronological order on a monthly or weekly basis.
I was unclear when I wrote the summary of my views that you quoted. My specific objection is with cutting up the record in two pieces and evaluating the first piece for quality while not doing the same with the second. That’s what I meant by “adding” – in other words, switching to a simple method of addition without continuing to evaluate quality.

If we’re evaluating the quality of the two men’s records, we should do that for the entirety of their records. But you said that after the 11-title cutoff Vilas does not need to introduce the quality of his remaining titles. That right there is what I object to. Evaluating the entire record for quality means, first of all, checking the quality of those 5 remaining titles by Vilas; and secondly, throwing in the last part of the record, namely the tournaments that Vilas and Borg participated in but lost. You seemed to stop short of taking both those steps, by simply asking which of the men had any titles left over.

And that will always favor the guy who won more titles – but when I say that I’m talking about a situation like this one, in which the two men have comparable records after the first cutoff. If they don’t have comparable records in the first 11 titles, that’s different. Like you said we could imagine some very different situations in which your method does not automatically grant the victory to the guy who played more. I should have specified: I was talking about the step you took after a cutoff like this one, where the two men are roughly equal after 11 titles. In such a case the guy who has titles beyond the cutoff line will automatically win, if all you ask for at that point is titles.

After this cutoff, Borg had 7 losses left over, Vilas 5 titles and 14 losses. Now, I’m not exactly sure what to do here because in a way we’re comparing apples and oranges in this part of the record. In a “normal” situation where both men play, for example, 15 tournaments, this would not happen: you would just line up their events against each other and see who had more titles. But in a situation like this, when one guy plays far more than the other and has more titles, you can compare like-to-like for a portion of the record (eg, first 11 titles), but at the end you’re going to be comparing dissimilar things.

Cutting up records into discrete pieces and setting them against each other can work, I think (so long as all the pieces are evaluated for quality). I’ve done it myself. I’m just not sure how well it will work out when comparing two records of radically different sizes. In such cases you’d want to spend at least some time looking at the year from a different perspective -- for example, looking at the win/loss percentages.

I’m sure you noticed, the reports from ’77 (Sports Illustrated, Bud Collins) often start with the win/loss percentage, placing Borg and Vilas more or less on equal footing. They also speak of X-wins-in-Y-events. They don’t just compare X for the two players and say, “Well, Vilas has more titles, the end.”

Like I said, I don’t view tennis as a contest of who can run more. I’m not impressed by sheer level of activity – not in itself. Certainly not if quality did not keep up with quantity.
 

krosero

Legend
You say it’s unreasonable to expect quality to keep up, when someone plays as much as Vilas did. That sounds fine in the abstract, but I keep emphasizing the concrete decisions Vilas made during the season. Vilas could have played Philadelphia instead of one of the other two smaller indoor tournaments, for example. He could have played Wembley instead of one or more events in his South American tour. If he had done those two things, the average number of Top Ten players in his events would be somewhat close to Borg’s.

And there were other times during the season when he opted for a lower quality draw over a higher quality. I’ve listed some below.

I used the draws at the ATP site: http://www.atpworldtour.com/Scores/Archive-Event-Calendar.aspx?t=2&y=1977. (I don’t know what’s happened to the ITF site recently.)

  1. In the spring there was a hardcourt event in Houston featuring 4 Top Ten players, including Connors. Vilas chose to play Buenos Aires that week, with no Top Tenners in the draw.
  2. During the summer, North Conway featured one of the best draws of the year: 5 Top Ten players (as many as Roland Garros), including Connors and Orantes (who always had a good H2H against Vilas). Vilas chose instead to play in South Orange, with no other Top Tenners.
  3. Indianapolis (which Vilas rarely missed throughout his career), featured 4 Top Tenners, including Connors and Orantes again. Vilas went instead to Columbus, with Gottfried and Ramirez.
  4. Vilas played the exo in Rye, New York, during Boston, which featured 5 Top Tenners including Connors and Orantes.
  5. After the USO he chose Aix en Provence (Nastase in the draw) over a carpet event in San Francisco featuring 4 Top Tenners. He then went to Tehran (two Top Ten opponents) instead of the hardcourt event at Maui, which had 4 Top Tenners including Connors.
None of these choices would have impacted his total activity for the year one way or another. At any point he could have entered the higher quality draw and still played approximately 30 events for the year.

If your stance is that it’s unreasonable to expect quality to keep pace when someone plays as much as Vilas, then my question is, why?
 

Mustard

Talk Tennis Guru
(I don’t know what’s happened to the ITF site recently.)
The new ITF site is awful. All the archived results, which were more reliable than the ATP website's, seem to have disappeared. It was also great for showing results of qualifying matches.
 
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Benhur

Hall of Fame
You say it’s unreasonable to expect quality to keep up, when someone plays as much as Vilas did. That sounds fine in the abstract, but I keep emphasizing the concrete decisions Vilas made during the season. Vilas could have played Philadelphia instead of one of the other two smaller indoor tournaments, for example. He could have played Wembley instead of one or more events in his South American tour. If he had done those two things, the average number of Top Ten players in his events would be somewhat close to Borg’s.

And there were other times during the season when he opted for a lower quality draw over a higher quality. I’ve listed some below.

I used the draws at the ATP site: http://www.atpworldtour.com/Scores/Archive-Event-Calendar.aspx?t=2&y=1977. (I don’t know what’s happened to the ITF site recently.)

  1. In the spring there was a hardcourt event in Houston featuring 4 Top Ten players, including Connors. Vilas chose to play Buenos Aires that week, with no Top Tenners in the draw.
  2. During the summer, North Conway featured one of the best draws of the year: 5 Top Ten players (as many as Roland Garros), including Connors and Orantes (who always had a good H2H against Vilas). Vilas chose instead to play in South Orange, with no other Top Tenners.
  3. Indianapolis (which Vilas rarely missed throughout his career), featured 4 Top Tenners, including Connors and Orantes again. Vilas went instead to Columbus, with Gottfried and Ramirez.
  4. Vilas played the exo in Rye, New York, during Boston, which featured 5 Top Tenners including Connors and Orantes.
  5. After the USO he chose Aix en Provence (Nastase in the draw) over a carpet event in San Francisco featuring 4 Top Tenners. He then went to Tehran (two Top Ten opponents) instead of the hardcourt event at Maui, which had 4 Top Tenners including Connors.
None of these choices would have impacted his total activity for the year one way or another. At any point he could have entered the higher quality draw and still played approximately 30 events for the year.

If your stance is that it’s unreasonable to expect quality to keep pace when someone plays as much as Vilas, then my question is, why?
Krosero,
When I have some time I will try to go through their schedule in some detail, month by month or even week by week, to compare what each were doing at any given time. I am certain that Vilas could have chosen to play other tournaments sometimes, but perhaps that's also true for Borg, especially since he played a lot less. I just don't know yet. This is a good discussion. I wish to make it clear that I am no more a fan of Vilas than I am of Borg, but I can't help being impressed by what Vilas did that year. In another thread I read he played a total of 165 singles matches (of which he won 150) + about 58 doubles matches in total that year. Sure a sizeable part of it may have been low quality tournaments, especially from today's standards, but it also seems to me that playing all kinds of tournaments was a much more common practice among top players in those days than it is now. I wouldn't argue about it if it was clear to me that most of what he played was low quality stuff, or that his choice of tournaments and the overall mix was very, very different from the rest of the top ten players or even very very different from Borg's (though I would still be impressed by the sheer amount of tennis). But my general impression is that he was roughly following the practice of the time, except that he played a lot more than anybody else, not just that year, but any year in the open era. His 14 losses to Borg's 7, both with a 90+ winning percentage, have to be seen in that context. For more context, Agassi finished 1999 as number 1 with 14 losses in a total of only 77 matches. The number 2 player that year, Kafelnikov, had 32 losses in 93 matches.
This is a good discussion. I'll have to see if I get around to doing a detailed comparative timeline.
 

krosero

Legend
The new ITF site is awful. All the archived results, which were more reliable than the ATP website's, seem to have disappeared. It was also great for showing results of qualifying matches.
It's just a mess over there. Davis Cup results for an entire season are given under one date, as if in a single tournament. And H2H between players is impossible to read. Pull up a career H2H series between two players: the matches are arranged in chronological order from top to bottom according to year, but within each year they run in chronological order from bottom to top.

Would the difference between being a finalist and an Australian Open winner been enough to put Vilas over the top?. I suspect it wouldn't have been. Hence, a 3 Major winner of a year still wouldn't have been the ATP number 1.
I'd consider him sole #1 for the year if he had beaten Tanner. It's true that the AO was seriously depleted, and I would not put it in terms of Vilas having 3 majors that year, when so many other tournaments had better fields than the AO. But beating Tanner on grass would be a great achievement. By itself it would eliminate most of Borg's edge over Vilas in their grasscourt records.

The way Tanner played that day, though, I think only Borg or Connors at their best could have stopped him. He crushed Vilas; their serves can't even be compared.

I strongly believe that if Vilas would skipped the grass season in July, the ELO would gave him the number one spot. :twisted:

But he choose to play that events, funny cause for some guys he tried to skip facing Borg all year.
Maybe you're not speaking seriously, but in any case, I think it's to Vilas' credit that he played Wimbledon and its tuneups. If he had skipped it, the worst losses of his season would drop out of his record, but it can't be counted in his favor if he doesn't even try. There must be some way, in our evaluations of yearly records, to dock a player for that kind of absence.
 

krosero

Legend
Krosero,
When I have some time I will try to go through their schedule in some detail, month by month or even week by week, to compare what each were doing at any given time. I am certain that Vilas could have chosen to play other tournaments sometimes, but perhaps that's also true for Borg, especially since he played a lot less. I just don't know yet. This is a good discussion. I wish to make it clear that I am no more a fan of Vilas than I am of Borg, but I can't help being impressed by what Vilas did that year. In another thread I read he played a total of 165 singles matches (of which he won 150) + about 58 doubles matches in total that year. Sure a sizeable part of it may have been low quality tournaments, especially from today's standards, but it also seems to me that playing all kinds of tournaments was a much more common practice among top players in those days than it is now. I wouldn't argue about it if it was clear to me that most of what he played was low quality stuff, or that his choice of tournaments and the overall mix was very, very different from the rest of the top ten players or even very very different from Borg's (though I would still be impressed by the sheer amount of tennis). But my general impression is that he was roughly following the practice of the time, except that he played a lot more than anybody else, not just that year, but any year in the open era. His 14 losses to Borg's 7, both with a 90+ winning percentage, have to be seen in that context. For more context, Agassi finished 1999 as number 1 with 14 losses in a total of only 77 matches. The number 2 player that year, Kafelnikov, had 32 losses in 93 matches.
This is a good discussion. I'll have to see if I get around to doing a detailed comparative timeline.
I think that Vilas, compared to Connors and Borg, chose the weakest draws, going by the fact that Vilas played so much more than they did, yet the three of them are fairly close in Top Ten meetings, and Top Ten entries in their tournaments. Having said that, I agree with you that players were scattered throughout the world much of the time. When I talk about Vilas' choices of tournaments, I am not suggesting that you'll find Borg entering draws as well attended as the Masters Series today, or anything close to that. That just didn't exist back then.

I recall reading upthread that 1977 was the first year that the Grand Prix tour ran year-round, and that this fact, combined with the WCT and WTT events, gave players a lot of choices from week to week and made it possible for them to avoid each other if they wished.

If that's true then it might help explain why 1977 is such a mess -- why Borg, Connors and Vilas had 3 very different records and no single one of them could rise decisively above the other two. To me 1977 has always seemed to stand out as a mess -- a complex and indecisive year. Maybe the Grand Prix going to a year round schedule, producing so much tennis and so many choices, has something to do with that.

Look forward to your analysis.
 

jean pierre

Professional
Vilas was the number 1 player based on activity and overall match results, which is what the world rankings should go by. Vilas played the most, won 16 tournaments (including 2 majors). Borg's activity is nowhere near this level, winning less tournaments and majors. This is not a head-to-head matter.
You're exactly right.
 

kiki

Banned
I think that Vilas, compared to Connors and Borg, chose the weakest draws, going by the fact that Vilas played so much more than they did, yet the three of them are fairly close in Top Ten meetings, and Top Ten entries in their tournaments. Having said that, I agree with you that players were scattered throughout the world much of the time. When I talk about Vilas' choices of tournaments, I am not suggesting that you'll find Borg entering draws as well attended as the Masters Series today, or anything close to that. That just didn't exist back then.

I recall reading upthread that 1977 was the first year that the Grand Prix tour ran year-round, and that this fact, combined with the WCT and WTT events, gave players a lot of choices from week to week and made it possible for them to avoid each other if they wished.

If that's true then it might help explain why 1977 is such a mess -- why Borg, Connors and Vilas had 3 very different records and no single one of them could rise decisively above the other two. To me 1977 has always seemed to stand out as a mess -- a complex and indecisive year. Maybe the Grand Prix going to a year round schedule, producing so much tennis and so many choices, has something to do with that.

Look forward to your analysis.

Not at all.First,WCT had a specific circuit, you were invited or not, you just couldn´t play it unless you were invited ( Borg and Vilas only played, under special circumstances,at Montecarlo)

There were events that compare to today Master 1000.Palm Springs was one of them, Las Vegas, too.Certainly Rome and Hamburg and Johannesburg, some of them have been long time Masters 1000
 

kiki

Banned
Vilas was heavily favoured by refs, like the 1980 FO, when they forced Orantes to disqualify...every body at Paris was so much relished when Solomon defeated Vilas the next day...
 

Mustard

Talk Tennis Guru
Vilas was heavily favoured by refs, like the 1980 FO, when they forced Orantes to disqualify...every body at Paris was so much relished when Solomon defeated Vilas the next day...
Solomon was a bit of a thorn in Vilas' side. He twice beat Vilas at the French Open in 1976 and 1980, and also beat Vilas in the Hamburg final in 1980. Vilas' big win over Solomon was in the semi final of the 1977 US Open.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Solomon was a bit of a thorn in Vilas' side. He twice beat Vilas at the French Open in 1976 and 1980, and also beat Vilas in the Hamburg final in 1980. Vilas' big win over Solomon was in the semi final of the 1977 US Open.
I recall announcers mentioning that Solomon was the player other players would LEAST like to face because even when you beat him, the player would have to work hard and would be worn out.

Never could figure why they used to mention Solomon because Vilas and Borg were even better baseliners.

My guess why Solomon was on occasion able to beat Vilas was that Vilas really wasn't that overpowering off the ground and Solly could stay in the rallies with him.

1972 French Open FRA Clay 16 SOLOMON 3-6 8-10 6-2 6-4 6-4
1974 Louisville USA Clay QF VILAS 3-6 1-6
1974 Washington DC (O) USA FR SOLOMON 1-6 6-3 6-4
1975 Masters Singles SWE Hard VILAS 3-6 4-6
1975 Washington DC (O) USA FR VILAS 1-6 3-6
1976 Masters Singles USA Carpet VILAS 3-6 6-4 4-6
1976 French Open FRA Clay QF SOLOMON 6-1 0-6 7-6 6-1
1976 WCT Fort Worth USA Hard QF VILAS 2-6 3-6
1977 U.S. Open USA Clay SF VILAS 2-6 6-7 2-6
1977 Palm Springs USA Hard QF VILAS 4-6 7-6 0-6
1980 French Open FRA Clay QF SOLOMON 1-6 6-4 7-6 7-5
1980 Hamburg GER Clay FR SOLOMON 6-7 6-2 6-4 2-6 6-3
1980 Masters USA Carpet SOLOMON 6-2 6-2
1981 Masters USA Carpet VILAS 7-5 6-7 5-7

The player I think also really annoyed Vilas was Orantes.

1973 Washington DC (O) USA 64 VILAS 7-5 6-1
1973 Hamburg GER Clay 32 ORANTES 6-3 0-6 9-11
1974 Buenos Aires ARG Clay FR VILAS 6-3 0-6 7-5 6-2
1974 London GBR QF VILAS 6-1 6-7 7-6
1974 Canadian Open CAN Hard FR VILAS 6-4 6-2 6-3
1974 USCC-Indianapolis USA QF ORANTES 1-6 3-6
1974 Gstaad SUI Clay FR VILAS 6-1 6-2
1974 French Open FRA Clay 32 ORANTES 6-3 6-3 6-7 3-6 2-6
1975 U.S. Open USA Clay SF ORANTES 6-4 6-1 2-6 5-7 4-6
1975 USCC-Indianapolis USA Clay SF ORANTES 4-6 2-6
1975 Rome ITA Clay SF ORANTES 2-6 2-6 2-6
1975 Bournemouth GBR Clay SF ORANTES 2-6 2-6
1976 Tehran IRI Clay SF ORANTES 7-6 0-6 3-6
1978 Hamburg GER Clay SF VILAS 0-6 1-1 RET
1978 Masters USA Carpet VILAS 6-4 6-1
1980 French Open FRA Clay 16 VILAS W/O
 
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krosero

Legend
Not at all.First,WCT had a specific circuit, you were invited or not, you just couldn´t play it unless you were invited ( Borg and Vilas only played, under special circumstances,at Montecarlo)
Of course, but what happened with Borg and Vilas in '77? They had both played WCT in '76, even reaching the finals in Dallas. What happened in '77, were they not invited? I had always understood that they chose not to play -- Borg perhaps because his WTT commitment made it impossible. I don't know what Vilas' plans for the year were, but one factor for him may have been his Davis Cup commitments (for example he played one tie in Buenos Aires that was held during the St. Louis WCT event).

Borg's only WCT events were Philadelphia and Monte Carlo. Vilas, only Monte Carlo and Johannesburg.

Why did Vilas not participate in Philadelphia, do you know the specific circumstances? Most of the Top Ten were there.

There were events that compare to today Master 1000.Palm Springs was one of them, Las Vegas, too.Certainly Rome and Hamburg and Johannesburg, some of them have been long time Masters 1000
These were among the most prestigious events of the time but that does not mean that they had attendance levels like we might expect today. That was my point about Vilas: many of his draws may have been weak but in the context of his era they will appear less weak (they should not be compared to today's draws where everybody plays on one tour; in '77 the players were divided among Grand Prix, WCT and WTT).

Out of the five events you mentioned, Rome was the best-attended in '77 and it had only five of the Top Ten. Las Vegas, Hamburg and Johannesburg each had only two of the Top Ten.

I posted a list of best-attended tournaments in '77, here's an expanded list (with WCT events marked off).

# of Top Ten Players entered:

USO had 10
Wimbledon and Philadelphia WCT each had 8
The Masters had 7
Queens Club had 6

Birmingham WCT, Richmond WCT, Dallas WCT, Rome, Roland Garros, North Conway and Boston each had 5

Palm Springs, Monte Carlo WCT, Houston WCT, Nottingham, Washington DC (O), Indianapolis, Tournament of Champions WCT, Maui and Wembley each had 4
 
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pc1

G.O.A.T.
From wikipedia on the battle for number one in 1977

Tennis Magazine (France); Michel Sutter; World Tennis; London Daily Telegraph; Tennis Club Magazine (Rome); Joe McCauley; Bud Collins; John Barrett; ATP Awards; Borg won Wimbledon over Connors who also lost the US Open against Vilas; Connors captured both the Masters beating Borg and the WCT Finals (Dick Stockton runner-up); Vilas also won a depleted French Open without Connors, Borg, Vitas Gerulaitis, Orantes and Stockton; Orantes beat Eddie Dibbs in the U.S. Pro; Tennis Magazine (France) ranked Borg #1 because he won Wimbledon and he defeated Vilas 3 times out of 3; Lance Tingay of the London Daily Telegraph, Rino Tommasi of Rome's Tennis Club magazine, Joe McCauley of Tennis Australia, Bud Collins and John Barrett also rated Borg first; while World Tennis and Michel Sutter considered Vilas the best one because among other reasons he won 46 matches in a row (even 50 including the Rye tournament excluded in ATP statistics) and 16 titles (or 17 Rye included); the ATP itself awarded Borg "Player of The Year" contradicting its computer ranking (Connors N° 1).
 
Borg was number 1

Guys, I don't know how old some of you are or indeed if your posts are meant to be taken seriously, but unless you were around in 1977 following the tour as I was, frankly your revisionist views 34 years after the event aren't worth much. The season facts were very cut and dried. Vilas was no match for Borg, not that season, not any season. Borg had his number and in season 1977 Borg again won Wimbledon, the symbol of tennis supremacy. Vilas won two Majors and having nailed Connors in the US final, could fairly claim second spot.

The ATP computer, not taken all that seriously by serious tennis fans, vainly maintained that Jimmy was number 1, Vilas 2 and Borg 3. Just ridiculous. Remember, this was the same computer that ranked Ashe 4th in '75 and Rosewall 8th in '74. It rewarded those who played frequently; penalised those who did not and never ever had the capacity to analyse results or differentiate between Wimbledon and Denver. It was the least reliable ranking, certainly at the upper levels, and was only of gradual value as a basis for determining the bulk of the fields for larger events.

Check the contemporary annuals and you will see that the authoritative rankings were prepared by established expert commentators like Lance Tingay and others at world top ten level and that beyond that there was a plethora of age and national rankings, all similarly decided by real people who understood tennis. Vilas achieved a magic run but again you need to appreciate there was a wealth of tournaments then and these guys could compete regularly in completely different events knowing they would only meet each other rarely at Majors and a few other events. The answer to who was the best player in 1977 is the same as it always was, Bjorn Borg.

To argue otherwise, whether for Connors or Vilas, simply confirms your remoteness from 1977 and a basic misunderstanding of tournament results for that season. 1977 is not 1997 is not 2007 and unless you grasp the differences of the time you will indeed be puzzled as to why folks like me can be so direct and free of any doubt about Borg being the world number1 in 1977.
 

jean pierre

Professional
Solomon was a bit of a thorn in Vilas' side. He twice beat Vilas at the French Open in 1976 and 1980, and also beat Vilas in the Hamburg final in 1980. Vilas' big win over Solomon was in the semi final of the 1977 US Open.
If Vilas wasn't so sick the day he has to play Orantes, he would have beat Solomon, and maybe he could beat Borg, because he was very strong this year : just before the French, he won Rome and beated Borg in Nations Cup.
 
jean pierre, if...if...if. Nations Cup didn't count for much. You should read pc1's post which basically summarises key results and views from 1977. Borg owned Vilas, pure and simple. And Borg won Wimbledon. It did not matter how many events Vilas contested or won he was unable to change those basic facts. Playing more events than a player you fail to beat and who wins the premier event of the season at best makes you number 2.
 

jean pierre

Professional
jean pierre, if...if...if. Nations Cup didn't count for much. You should read pc1's post which basically summarises key results and views from 1977. Borg owned Vilas, pure and simple. And Borg won Wimbledon. It did not matter how many events Vilas contested or won he was unable to change those basic facts. Playing more events than a player you fail to beat and who wins the premier event of the season at best makes you number 2.
"Those basic facts" are that Vilas played 3 Grand Slam Finals and Borg 1. "Those basic facts" are that Vilas won 2 Grand Slam and Borg 1. And "those basic facts" are that Vilas won 16 tournaments and Borg 11. "Those basing facts" are that Vilas's results are more more more better than Borg's results and that Vilas is the n°1 this year, even if he lost 3 times against Borg. Like Federer was n°1 several years even if he lost against Nadal. Because being
n°1 is not a question about head-to-head, but a question of best results.
The only argument for Borg is to say : Wimbledon is the most important tournament and he won Wimbledon. OK. So Stich was the n°1 in 1991 and Krajicek in 1996. And I think that in 1983 Chris Lewis was the n°2 of the world, because he was finalist in Wimbledon.
 
If I was choosing a Davis Cup Team in 1977 and had to choose between Connors, Borg and Vilas for two singles places, I would choose Connors and Borg (unless it was red clay in which I would probably choose Borg and Vilas). However, I have to agree that choosing world number 1 for the year is all about choosing the player with the best results not who you think is really the best player, which is why I now choose Vilas rather than Borg.
 

kiki

Banned
Of course, but what happened with Borg and Vilas in '77? They had both played WCT in '76, even reaching the finals in Dallas. What happened in '77, were they not invited? I had always understood that they chose not to play -- Borg perhaps because his WTT commitment made it impossible. I don't know what Vilas' plans for the year were, but one factor for him may have been his Davis Cup commitments (for example he played one tie in Buenos Aires that was held during the St. Louis WCT event).

Borg's only WCT events were Philadelphia and Monte Carlo. Vilas, only Monte Carlo and Johannesburg.

Why did Vilas not participate in Philadelphia, do you know the specific circumstances? Most of the Top Ten were there.

These were among the most prestigious events of the time but that does not mean that they had attendance levels like we might expect today. That was my point about Vilas: many of his draws may have been weak but in the context of his era they will appear less weak (they should not be compared to today's draws where everybody plays on one tour; in '77 the players were divided among Grand Prix, WCT and WTT).

Out of the five events you mentioned, Rome was the best-attended in '77 and it had only five of the Top Ten. Las Vegas, Hamburg and Johannesburg each had only two of the Top Ten.

I posted a list of best-attended tournaments in '77, here's an expanded list (with WCT events marked off).

# of Top Ten Players entered:

USO had 10
Wimbledon and Philadelphia WCT each had 8
The Masters had 7
Queens Club had 6

Birmingham WCT, Richmond WCT, Dallas WCT, Rome, Roland Garros, North Conway and Boston each had 5

Palm Springs, Monte Carlo WCT, Houston WCT, Nottingham, Washington DC (O), Indianapolis, Tournament of Champions WCT, Maui and Wembley each had 4

Are you sure WCT iers were not allowed to play WTT? Most of fields were filled with WCT players...
 

kiki

Banned
I recall announcers mentioning that Solomon was the player other players would LEAST like to face because even when you beat him, the player would have to work hard and would be worn out.

Never could figure why they used to mention Solomon because Vilas and Borg were even better baseliners.

My guess why Solomon was on occasion able to beat Vilas was that Vilas really wasn't that overpowering off the ground and Solly could stay in the rallies with him.

1972 French Open FRA Clay 16 SOLOMON 3-6 8-10 6-2 6-4 6-4
1974 Louisville USA Clay QF VILAS 3-6 1-6
1974 Washington DC (O) USA FR SOLOMON 1-6 6-3 6-4
1975 Masters Singles SWE Hard VILAS 3-6 4-6
1975 Washington DC (O) USA FR VILAS 1-6 3-6
1976 Masters Singles USA Carpet VILAS 3-6 6-4 4-6
1976 French Open FRA Clay QF SOLOMON 6-1 0-6 7-6 6-1
1976 WCT Fort Worth USA Hard QF VILAS 2-6 3-6
1977 U.S. Open USA Clay SF VILAS 2-6 6-7 2-6
1977 Palm Springs USA Hard QF VILAS 4-6 7-6 0-6
1980 French Open FRA Clay QF SOLOMON 1-6 6-4 7-6 7-5
1980 Hamburg GER Clay FR SOLOMON 6-7 6-2 6-4 2-6 6-3
1980 Masters USA Carpet SOLOMON 6-2 6-2
1981 Masters USA Carpet VILAS 7-5 6-7 5-7

The player I think also really annoyed Vilas was Orantes.

1973 Washington DC (O) USA 64 VILAS 7-5 6-1
1973 Hamburg GER Clay 32 ORANTES 6-3 0-6 9-11
1974 Buenos Aires ARG Clay FR VILAS 6-3 0-6 7-5 6-2
1974 London GBR QF VILAS 6-1 6-7 7-6
1974 Canadian Open CAN Hard FR VILAS 6-4 6-2 6-3
1974 USCC-Indianapolis USA QF ORANTES 1-6 3-6
1974 Gstaad SUI Clay FR VILAS 6-1 6-2
1974 French Open FRA Clay 32 ORANTES 6-3 6-3 6-7 3-6 2-6
1975 U.S. Open USA Clay SF ORANTES 6-4 6-1 2-6 5-7 4-6
1975 USCC-Indianapolis USA Clay SF ORANTES 4-6 2-6
1975 Rome ITA Clay SF ORANTES 2-6 2-6 2-6
1975 Bournemouth GBR Clay SF ORANTES 2-6 2-6
1976 Tehran IRI Clay SF ORANTES 7-6 0-6 3-6
1978 Hamburg GER Clay SF VILAS 0-6 1-1 RET
1978 Masters USA Carpet VILAS 6-4 6-1
1980 French Open FRA Clay 16 VILAS W/O
As I posted before, and older followers will they, the W/O of the 1980 French was provoced by deliverated offciating.Fans booed Vilas next day, when he was defeated by Solomon.
 

kiki

Banned
If Vilas wasn't so sick the day he has to play Orantes, he would have beat Solomon, and maybe he could beat Borg, because he was very strong this year : just before the French, he won Rome and beated Borg in Nations Cup.
Borg owned Vilas at will; he could play 50% of his best and still Vilas wouldn´t win a set.The results in serious contests were humilliating for Vilas.When Borg peaked at the late 70´s, only Connors,Tanner and, more specifically, Mc Enroe could really spell serious trouble...and Lendl, in the early 80´s.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Are you sure WCT iers were not allowed to play WTT? Most of fields were filled with WCT players...
I think Krosero meant that because Borg played WTT he was not allowed to enter the French Open in 1977.
 

Chopin

Hall of Fame
Guys, I don't know how old some of you are or indeed if your posts are meant to be taken seriously, but unless you were around in 1977 following the tour as I was, frankly your revisionist views 34 years after the event aren't worth much. The season facts were very cut and dried. Vilas was no match for Borg, not that season, not any season. Borg had his number and in season 1977 Borg again won Wimbledon, the symbol of tennis supremacy. Vilas won two Majors and having nailed Connors in the US final, could fairly claim second spot.

The ATP computer, not taken all that seriously by serious tennis fans, vainly maintained that Jimmy was number 1, Vilas 2 and Borg 3. Just ridiculous. Remember, this was the same computer that ranked Ashe 4th in '75 and Rosewall 8th in '74. It rewarded those who played frequently; penalised those who did not and never ever had the capacity to analyse results or differentiate between Wimbledon and Denver. It was the least reliable ranking, certainly at the upper levels, and was only of gradual value as a basis for determining the bulk of the fields for larger events.

Check the contemporary annuals and you will see that the authoritative rankings were prepared by established expert commentators like Lance Tingay and others at world top ten level and that beyond that there was a plethora of age and national rankings, all similarly decided by real people who understood tennis. Vilas achieved a magic run but again you need to appreciate there was a wealth of tournaments then and these guys could compete regularly in completely different events knowing they would only meet each other rarely at Majors and a few other events. The answer to who was the best player in 1977 is the same as it always was, Bjorn Borg.

To argue otherwise, whether for Connors or Vilas, simply confirms your remoteness from 1977 and a basic misunderstanding of tournament results for that season. 1977 is not 1997 is not 2007 and unless you grasp the differences of the time you will indeed be puzzled as to why folks like me can be so direct and free of any doubt about Borg being the world number1 in 1977.
Excellent post. The Historians will welcome you into the circle.
 
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