Tennis Channel's "100 Greatest of All Time"

Discussion in 'Pro Tennis (Mens)' started by Obsi, Feb 16, 2017.

  1. Obsi

    Obsi Club Member

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  2. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    Great post @Obsi Loved the vids.
     
  3. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    Lot of controversial choices however!
     
  4. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    Still disagree with Billie Jean King, who doesn't belong anywhere near the Top 10 IMO - her narrative about equality should see the women play the men.
     
  5. Federberg

    Federberg Multiple Major Winner

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    I totally agree. It's like when people talk about boxing. You have to make a distinction between someone who is a great person or has done things beyond the sport... Ali, and a great boxer. Now of course Ali is a great great boxer. Top 5 of all time no doubt. But is he better than a Pernell Whitaker, Sugar Ray Robinson etc? I'm not so sure. Even Floyd has a case (arguable... but a case) to be above him..
     
  6. El Dude

    El Dude Pro Tour Player

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    Haven't watched the videos, but I hate their list on a variety of levels. First of all, they should be separate lists for women and men. Secondly, they HUGELY underrate Ken Rosewall and Pancho Gonzales, in particular. And what about Tony Wilding? The guy was hugely dominant, the best player in the sport for almost 10 years, and he's behind Jan Kodes and Yannick Noah. Recency bias? There seems to be no methodology other than Slam count and maybe an awareness of secondary accomplishments like calendar and career Slams.
     
  7. masterclass

    masterclass Pro Tour Player

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    First, the women's players should never be grouped with the men in any list. It has nothing to do with being sexist or equality. They play and compete in two different leagues, period. There should simply be separate llists of greatest women, and greatest men. Otherwise, I could make a great case for Esther Vergeer as being the greatest tennis player by far. It's difficult enough comparing men from different generations, or women from different generations, much less putting each together and not fair to either.

    So despite the way TC does it and any agenda they might have, and there are others that do the same, I just prefer to separate them in my own mind.

    Second, this is at least 6 years out-of-date and perhaps if and when they do another version things will be different.


    Respectfully,
    masterclass
     
  8. Federberg

    Federberg Multiple Major Winner

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    I think a clear distinction needs to be made between the Open era and before. To be honest, tennis is so different now than even the 90s. As most of you know I have a huge problem with cross era comparisons anyway. But the idea that we can compare a Bunny Austin with a Pete Sampras is hilarious to me. Just watching the clips it's a different sport. Frankly watching Sampras against Edberg in comparison to what I saw in the final last year.... it's almost alien as well to me. So I'll look at this with amusement
     
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  9. El Dude

    El Dude Pro Tour Player

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    I don't know if we've had this conversation before, Federberg, but I see it this way. You cannot compare players across generations, really only when they played or could have played each other (so, for instance, I think you can compare the 90s and now because players like Agassi and Sampras played Roger and Rafa, the two Slam finalists this year). But clearly the further back, the harder it is to compare - and when you get to the big dividing line of 1968, it is a huge gap.

    That said, cross-generational comparisons aren't--or shouldn't be--about asking questions like, "How would 2006 Roger Federer have fared against 1969 Rod Laver?" I think we know the answer to that and it isn't pretty for the great Australian. But it is an unfair comparison, because Laver didn't come of age in the current era, with its benefits. What we can compare is how dominant two players were relative to their own eras. We can compare Laver to his field vs. Federer to his field, and when we do that Laver comes out as a slightly greater player. He was, in the 60s, basically what Roger Federer would have been in the 00s if Rafa didn't play, or if Roger hadn't had the "Rafa problem" in their match-up.

    But because of the difference in eras, it is awfully difficult to rank players relative to each other across many decades. I tend to stick away from ranking players before the Open Era because of this, although I did include Laver and Rosewall in my most recent top 20 of the Open Era here. But I did so using their entire careers, as I thought it would be unfair for them to only use their Open Era records.
     
  10. Obsi

    Obsi Club Member

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    Only tennis historians should make this kind of lists. If just Bud Collins, Steve Flink and Joel Drucker had done the Tennis Channel's list, it would have looked much different.

    If someone is a former pro, it doesn't mean they have high level knowledge of tennis history.
     
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  11. Federberg

    Federberg Multiple Major Winner

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    I like your idea of comparison within your era to make the analysis dimensionless. But how do you get from that to Laver looking like the greater player? I'm not instantly disputing it, do you have data to support that? Intriguing
     
  12. Federberg

    Federberg Multiple Major Winner

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    I think you'll find that most of the top tennis guys are historians as well, so I'm not sure I agree
     
  13. El Dude

    El Dude Pro Tour Player

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    Well, that would require a huge study - and maybe some day I'll do it. But in the short hand versions of different ranking systems I've played with, Laver just ends up better in almost any way I can think of. He was more dominant within his era than Roger was in his. It isn't hugely different, but Laver definitely has the edge.

    For example, TennisBase.com has their own ranking system which I find quite useful for stats and rankings before the Open Era. It isn't perfect - if you look at their all-time top 100, there are some questionable placements (e.g. Connors and Lendl ahead of Sampras), but that's part of the problem when you rank based upon conglomerating records with no way to adjust for peak dominance. But still, there is no other source or way to rank players before the Open Era, other than who sports writers agreed were the #1 players each year, which was pretty subjective. Anyhow, TB has Laver as #1 in 1962, and every year from 1965 to 1971 - that's eight years, compared to Roger's five at #1. Or if we look at Slams, he won 17 of 26 he played in (including pro, amateur, and Open), from 1962 to 69, a 65% conversion rate. Roger was slightly better in his very best years, 2004-07, winning 11 of 15 (73%), but that's only four years compared to Laver's eight; if we extend Roger to include 2008-09, it's 14 of 23 Slams (61%), but to get his best eight year span we'd have to go 2003-10, which is 16 of 31 (52%).

    Laver also won more than twice as many titles (200 to 89); even if Roger plays for 2-3 more years, that number will stay at around twice as many. Of course it is hard to compare those titles, and TB considers only 189 of Laver's to be equivalent to an ATP 250 or higher. And of course this is an example of how you just can't compare certain things across eras; Laver won 22 titles in 1962 and won 15+ titles in a year seven times (within the 61-70 span); Roger has never won more than 12 (2006), and only won more than 10 three times (2004-06). But consider just how many tournaments players played back then; in 1962, Laver played in 38! So he won 22 of them, or 58%, compared to Roger winning 34 of 49 tournaments from 2004-06, or 69%.

    We could go on and on, but you get the point. Both were very dominant, but Laver even more so.

    On a side note, TB has Bill Tilden being #1 for 13 years! Or all but two of every year from 1918-32.

    Players with 3+ years as #1, according to TennisBase.com:
    13 Tilden
    8 Laver
    7 Gonzales, Wilding
    5 Sampras, Federer, L Doherty
    4 Djokovic, Lendl, Budge, Ritchie
    3 Rosewall, Borg, Nadal, McEnroe, Connors, Riggs, Pim, Barlow

    You might note they have Sampras with only 5, rather than the ATP 6. That's because while they mainly align with the ATP rankings from 1973 on, they do differ slightly and actually give #1 to Rios in 1998. They're also better at ranking the 70s, giving Connors only 3, with Ashe, Borg and Vilas each getting one of his years. Connors earns one back from McEnroe in 1982.
     
  14. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    I don't give the pro tour stats as much credibility as those from the full combined tour... Yes, during the amateur/pro split the best players were on the pro tour... but the tour itself was small with the best players just playing each other over and over.

    The problem?

    a) It didn't give the others the opportunity to step up their game and bridge the gap and...
    b) You wouldn't have had shocks like Istomin, M.Zverev had the opportunity to provide at the AO and...
    c) Youngsters and breakout players out of the blue had no opportunity to win a pro slam.

    So, while guys like Rosewall and Laver have hugely impressive stats, my feeling is that they would have been less impressive on a combined tour. The field would have been deeper, the tournaments more gruelling and they'd have been playing more players who they weren't used to playing on a week in, week out basis. That's not to say they wouldn't have had a good level of dominance - just not as good IMO.
     
  15. britbox

    britbox Multiple Major Winner

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    I love the videos... I like this sort of video format (don't like the combo-women and men, like others have mentioned)... don't agree with the lists but it's entertaining!
     
  16. El Dude

    El Dude Pro Tour Player

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    I agree with you to an extent, but not fully. Let me explain.

    I agree in that I see the Pro Slams as being somewhat similar to today's World Tour Finals: a smaller pool of players, but generally the best on tour. I count them as equal to Amateur and Open Slams even though there were fewer rounds because you only had three a year, and because of the high level of competition. Realistically I think the Pro Slams were equal to maybe a 70% share of an Open Era slam, and an amateur Slam was even less, maybe 60%. But if we make an adjustment like that we're unduly penalizing these players, because they could only compete in the tournaments available at the time.

    Consider lso that Laver and Rosewall pretty much continued their Pro tour dominance in the early years of the Open Era, while the dominant amateur, Roy Emerson, declined quickly.

    Laver really put a cap on it by winning all four Slams in 1969. And he wasn't beating stiffs at those Slams, either - some players being top amateurs who he had never or barely played in seven years. Consider some of the "names" he beat at each of those four Slams:
    Australian Open: Andres Gimeno, Tony Roche, Fred Stolle, Roy Emerson
    French Open: Rosewall, Okker, Gimeno, Stan Smith
    Wimbledon: Newcombe, Ashe, Drysdale, Smith, Pietrangeli
    US Open: Roche, Ashe, Emerson, Ralston

    Poor Roy Emerson went from being the top amateur in 1967 to not being among the five best Open Era players, maybe barely top 10.

    I
     
  17. Obsi

    Obsi Club Member

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    Not true.
     
  18. mrzz

    mrzz Major Winner

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    I am enjoying a lot your discussion, guys, please keep going. But I could not help but smile when Federberg asked El Dude if he had the data....

    The answer was extremely telling: he said "No, I donĀ“t", and went on analysing more data than most people that claim to posses good data actually have.
     
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  19. Federberg

    Federberg Multiple Major Winner

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    The top guys I've spoken to have a ridiculous grasp of tennis history. Their views are worthy of respect in my opinion
     
  20. Federberg

    Federberg Multiple Major Winner

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    Completely agree. A lot of those "titles" are little more than club house things. The very idea we can compare them to what these guys have to face up to now is laughable surely. And we're not even talking about depth. It is a completely different world now, and even if El Dude's well intentioned attempt to normalise across era's is accurate it simply won't be able to adjust for the vast difference in depth now. It literally is the difference between amateurs and professionals
     
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