Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - New Again
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New Again 04/19/2010 - 2:26 PM

Ss Are we ready to believe in Sam Stosur? I did once, very briefly, years ago, when I first saw her play somewhere in her native Australia. She had a game that might have been described as half-Heninesque. She had the inside-out forehand and the aggressive, jocky, all-court style, but she didn’t whirl around that court quite like the Belgian. And while Stosur’s backhand was strong, it was a workmanlike two-hander, one that would never make it into tennis’ Hall of Great Shots alongside Justine’s Olympian one-hander. Still, Stosur appeared to have Top 10 athleticism, her kick serve had the virtue of simplicity, and she was more capable of dictating a point from the middle of the court with her forehand than most of her opponents.

For years, it seemed that those gifts would be wasted. Stosur bounced around the rankings—No. 65 to 46 to 29 to 47 to 52—but never landed anywhere near the Top 10. The relatively few times she popped up on my radar screen, I could see that the shots and the talent were still intact, but she seemed to have no idea how to use them or to modify them for the moment. Like, say, Ernests Gulbis or Svetlana Kuznetsova on a bad day, Stosur could hit the ball as hard and as well as anyone, but her game lacked texture and adaptability. Like Kim Clijsters, if she got tight and things didn’t go well, she could rush herself into a trip to the showers.

But you don’t need to adapt when you can just hit a blatant winner off any ball you like. That’s what Stosur did for two very quick sets against Vera Zvonareva on Sunday in Charleston. The Aussie, who, even as she improved in 2009, had a habit of folding in finals, won her second and most prestigious title at the Family Circle Cup. At 26, she’s in the Top 10 for the first time, with a 17-5 record on the year. More impressive is the way she won this title. While Stosur hasn’t lost to Zvonareva since 2004, she made the sometime Top Tenner look like a barely coordinated amateur. Along the way, she inspired Vera to commit one of her most YouTube-worthy meltdowns—after double-faulting at 0-3 in the second, she broke her racquet, chucked it into the sideline sofa, and then, after it landed on the court, gave it a kick for good measure. It was the highlight of her afternoon.

Otherwise, it was all Stosur. Every time I looked away for a second—at a newspaper, out the window, at the floor—I looked back up to see her sending another viciously angled winner past a staggering Zvonareva, who had trouble even getting within five feet of some of these balls. Stosur’s uncluttered service motion and the powerful kick it produces is a thing of athletic beauty, one of the finest shots on the women’s tour. She can backpedal and hit her forehand for winners equally well to either corner. And she was using her slide-and-slice backhand when appropriate yesterday—that’s the texture and adaptability I was talking about. Better than all these, though, was Stosur’s return. She took it early, used a truncated backswing, hit it crisply, but never went for an outright winner with it.

So, back to my original question. Are you ready to believe in Sam Stosur? Can she rise higher than No. 10? Can she avoid the dismal early losses that have plagued her at the majors (before 2009, she was a collective 17-22 in the Slams)? Is she a match for the even more physically gifted Williams sisters, Henin, and Clijsters? Can she overpower someone as steady as Wozniacki, who will make her hit an extra ball to finish a rally? For the moment, as we head to Roland Garros, I'll say yes. Stosur made the semis in Paris last year, and she has the point-ending power for clay. Maybe now she’s learned to use all of her gifts. I hope so. Normally a blowout final is dull stuff, but not this one. After the Henin-Clijsters trainwreck in Key Biscayne, it was satisfying to see a player grab a match from the first game and win it decisively, with outstanding play from start to finish.

***

The same could very nearly be said for the men’s final that had been played earlier in the day, in Monte Carlo. Rafael Nadal grabbed his match with Fernando Verdasco from the start, winning the first six points and ending the second game with a vintage crosscourt backhand pass from off his shoe tops and outside the doubles alley. It's probably a shot that only a right-handed left-hander could hit. In other words, it's probably a shot that only Nadal could hit.

That’s the shot we’ll remember from his 2010 Monte Carlo win, his sixth in a row. What was most memorable the rest of the time was how routine this title was and how self-assured Nadal was winning it. He didn’t drop a set and, as he has in years past, the anxieties that seemed to plague him through the early part of the year all blew away in the red Monaco dust. There wasn’t a moment all week where Nadal seemed in any kind of doubt about who the tournament’s winner would be. There was more confidence in every part of his game. He had no issues going up the line with his forehand or taking an aggressive cut at his crosscourt topspin backhand, two shots that he gets cautious with when he’s not confident. What I noticed most, though, was how seldom he was forced to hit his slice backhand, which is a shot that can float on him. On hard courts, when he’s pushed back, he’ll resort to this stroke. On clay, with a little more time and his ability to slide, he seems to have no trouble taking the extra step needed to get in position to drive the ball. Nadal has mastered the surface, the subtleties of footwork and court positioning needed to get around on it efficiently, to the point where he appears to believe he can hit any shot from any spot, and that he’s never out of a rally. Must be a nice feeling. A confidence-boosting feeling.

Rn

Nadal didn’t beat Federer or Djokovic or Murray or del Potro or Davydenko or Soderling or a bunch of other very good players. It doesn’t matter—do you really believe that he can’t beat those guys on clay? What matters is that he’s found his best form, and that, after the “accidents” in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne, he knows that it’s still good enough to put him on the winner’s stand. But let’s set aside what this means for his future for the moment. The win was Nadal’s 16th Masters title, tying him with Federer and putting him one behind the record-holder, Andre Agassi. It’s extremely unlikely that Nadal will challenge Federer’s Slam record, but he’ll probably retire as the all-time Masters winner, a record indicative of consistent excellence and persistence. His record in Monte Carlo itself is even better; at 23, Nadal has already won six straight titles there. What will he end up with, 10? Whatever it is, it won’t be surpassed any time soon.

I talked recently with Nadal’s former Davis Cup captain, Emilio Sanchez, for an article for Tennis Magazine. He said that he hoped Nadal would find success again soon, because “he’s so emotional, and he suffers so much when he’s not winning.” You could see the truth in those words after match point yesterday, when Nadal fell straight to the ground as if he’d been shot, and ended up crying into his towel on the sideline. You might say that a guy who has won a tournament the previous five years should act like he’s been there before. I say the opposite. Would you rather that Federer, when he won his fifth straight U.S. Open in 2008 after having a tough season, had just flashed a smile of satisfaction, shaken Andy Murray’s hand, and sat down, instead of rolling on the court in berserk joy the way he did? Which would have been the more memorable reaction? Which would have revealed more of the man? Which would have moved us more? The same goes for Nadal’s tears in Monte Carlo. They came after a year of ups and downs for him, of physical and emotional disappointment and pain, and they showed that it isn’t just the majors that need to matter. After every match he wins, wherever it is, Nadal takes the time to celebrate as if the experience is brand new. It’s one reason why he continues to win, and why he can stay motivated at Monte Carlo. Keep acting like you’ve never been there before, Rafa. It's why tennis players keep playing, and it's why tennis watchers keep watching. We want to feel that way, too.


 
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Comments
 
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Posted by JohnP 04/20/2010 at 02:48 PM

Freddy, the Lendl lead two sets to one against Becker was in '89. In '88, Becker beat him in four in the semis.

Posted by freddy 04/20/2010 at 02:50 PM

I don't like using Head to Heads as a basis for 2 reasons - a) I think its not logically sound and b) I'm a Fed KAD through and through :-), though I admire Rafa a lot..

But gotta say, this time I feel like a Rafa fan - there are times when the HTH is a great stick to have to beat someone with.

JohnC and USC1963 - ever seen the Lendl-Mac HTH?? Lendl owned Mac, and Mac knew it. Heck, half his book Serious was whining about Lendl..Ciao

Posted by 1963USCtennis 04/20/2010 at 02:51 PM

"Oh and 1963USCtennis - Federer got blown out at RG09"

that is ONE of the reasons why I do not consider RF the goat. But he is one of a very select few to have achieved that highest of level of tennis, which McEnroe also did in 84 (and IMO MCs level was slightly higher than Roger's level, but for a shorter period of time)

No, Lendl got blown out by Connors because he was not as great as either Connors or Mc.

And yes he WAS the favorite going into the 82 Flushing meadow final. By that time Lendl had overtaken McEnroe as THE best fast HC player in the world. It started in 81 when McEnroe ascended to #1 and had been the best fast surface player in the world (grass, carpet, HC) but in the Davis cup match in the US (where Mcs best surface was selected) Lendl promptly blew McEnroe out of the water... then Lendl had something like 10 consecutive victories on HCs over the top player in the world (81-82); so by the US open final in 82 Lendl was widely considered THE best player on fast hardcourts and was in his prime. Getting blown out by connors just showed the difference between the two.

But again if all we are doing is counting majors then Roy Emerson is #3 on the Boat debate.

Posted by Alexis 04/20/2010 at 02:52 PM

Right you are, chegu. Stats can be skewed to make any point you want. I HATE the GOAT debate. It's sooooo useless.

Posted by Anna 04/20/2010 at 02:55 PM

I also believe that comparisons by age are impossible.
I however frequently compare the careers of: Federer to Sampras minus 10 years (born August 12/71, August 8/81)
and Nadal to Borg minus 30 years (born June 6/56, June 3/86)

Posted by Alexis 04/20/2010 at 02:56 PM

"that is ONE of the reasons why I do not consider RF the goat"

Yeah, shame on Fed for making the RG finals yet again. Stupid idiot. Should have lost in the first round - that would have looked soooo much better!

Posted by JohnP 04/20/2010 at 02:57 PM

Yes, Freddy, the Lendl-Mac h2h is how this discussion got started.

Of course majors are not the only factor. Wilander won 7 majors; Mac won 7 ..... Wilander = McEnroe ????? Uhhh, no.

Buffalo Bills 0-4 in SUper Bowls
Minnesota Vikings 0-3 in Super Bowls
Ivan Lendl 8-11 in major finals.

Yes, the fourth set in the '83 final was a bagel. I remember Tony Trabert saying that Lendl "threw in the sponge."

Posted by Ruth 04/20/2010 at 02:57 PM

Just in case anyone hadn't noticed, there's a difference between saying that a Slam "means more" or is remembered more by players or fans than Masters events and saying that Masters events, with their more selective fields/draws with the absence of the scheduled one-day break between matches (even if they're not 3/5 matches, 5 matches in 7 days for the TMS winner vs 7 matches in 14 days for Slam winners) are more challenging and harder to win than Slams.

This (the greater challenge of the TMS events) is what I have said, and this is what several players (including Federer) and sportswriters over the years have said. That's our OPINION, and I suppose that it has as much right to exist as anyone else's opinion about the greater importance historically or otherwise of Slam wins.

Just let's be sure that we know what we're talking about: what some people consider most important or most memorable vs what some people consider more challenging or harder to achieve -- very different criteria being considered, obviously. It would be stupid not to see that people tend to remember Slam wins more easily. That doesn't mean, automatically, that Slams are more challenging or harder to win that other events.

Posted by Carrie *¿Dónde está el Elfo? * 04/20/2010 at 03:06 PM

* why not include the biggest of them all - TMC (now the World Tour Final). Sampras may have only won...what 11 TMS... but he won 5 TMC. Rafa may have 16 TMS, but he's never even made the final of the TMC*

Too me there is a difference. I love TMC but I do think it is a bit of apples to oranges vis-a-vis the regular Masters titles. 1) Only eight players allowed- which I do think makes a big difference in particular if there was a player who caught fire in the latter part of the year or was out for a long time because of injury and thus did not have the annual tally to make it to TMC 2) Round robin.

For what it's worth- I know that grand slams are the grand poobah of the tournaments. But I also think Masters are darned impressive and shouldn't be looked down on. They have their own challenges.

Posted by Alexis 04/20/2010 at 03:06 PM

There is just so much more on-the-line when it comes to majors as compared to TMS. The mindset is different in a Best-of-3 versus a Best-of-5. It's much easier for a journeyman player to have a great day and take out a top seed in a Best-of-3 versus a Best-of-5. The pressure/expectation/prestige of a major is so much greater, which is why it is tougher to win those.

You can have a 'fluke' winner at a TMS. You can have a 'fluke' winner at a major. You can have a 'fluke' winner at the YEC. The Great Great players of today do well at all three. And all three should be well-represented for any all-time great.

Posted by Anna 04/20/2010 at 03:07 PM

I think we all agree that a career is not judged by one single number. We just disagree in what to count.
For instance, Kim Clijsters' career is so much more than Mary Pierce's with 2 slams each.
Or Andy Roddick's compared to... Thomas Johansson with one slam.
And obviously, if you ask 10 experts to give their lists, they would all be different.

Posted by Carrie *¿Dónde está el Elfo? * 04/20/2010 at 03:08 PM

* The mindset is different in a Best-of-3 versus a Best-of-5. It's much easier for a journeyman player to have a great day and take out a top seed in a Best-of-3 versus a Best-of-5*

Well- as coutner evidence I present Thomas Johannson and Gaston Gaudio. ;)

Posted by Carrie *¿Dónde está el Elfo? * 04/20/2010 at 03:10 PM

^^^ Granted it is unfair of me to say that TJ and Gato are journeymen. But my point is that for the number of Masters there are- I think the "fluke" winners are equal to or perhaps less than the "fluke" winners of grand slams. How I can prove it- no idea!

Posted by Alexis 04/20/2010 at 03:11 PM

Carrie, NO ONE is dismissing the TMS, but it is below majors in terms of prestige, etc. And in my opinion, the TMC is definitely greater than any TMS. It contains only the very top players - not much chance of a cupcake draw! :)

If you want to be considered an all-time great... you better have at least a few of those.

Posted by JohnP 04/20/2010 at 03:11 PM

1984 Wimbledon final McEnroe d. COnnors 6-1, 6-1, 6-2

1984 US Open final McEnroe d. Lendl 6-3, 6-4, 6-1

12 games lost in two major finals: utter dominance on the big stage against big names (something Lendl can only dream about)

Posted by Alexis 04/20/2010 at 03:13 PM

"Well- as coutner evidence I present Thomas Johannson and Gaston Gaudio. ;)"

I didn't say it never happened, I said it was much easier to happen in Best-of-3 versus Best-of-5. Your Johannson and Gaudio examples are true... but I could throw hundreds of Best-of-3 examples, because it happens more often, which was my original point.

Posted by freddy 04/20/2010 at 03:13 PM

Sorry folks - couldn't keep away after all the ciaos...

Lendl - Mac Stats

Slams Won - Lendl 8 (out of 57 played), Mac 7 (out of 45)
Slam Finals - Lendl 19, Mac 11
Slam SFs - Lendl 28, Mac 19

# of ATP Titles = Lendl 94, Mac 77
Weeks at #1 - Lendl 270, Mac 170
Career HTH - Lendl 21, Mac 15

What other stat do you want to look at? And re choking against Connors in the USF, Lendl has admitted that he choked. Being dominant on tour tournaments is one thing, turning it on in a Slam Final is quite another. Murray and Davydenko recently are prime examples. Plus lets not forget Lendl in 1982 = Czech immigrant, playing in an alien country, unfamiliar with the language and environment; Connors / Mac = playing in front of 30,000 supportive home country fans.

Posted by Carrie *¿Dónde está el Elfo? * 04/20/2010 at 03:14 PM

And in my opinion, the TMC is definitely greater than any TMS. It contains only the very top players - not much chance of a cupcake draw! :)

If you want to be considered an all-time great... you better have at least a few of those.
*

This is where we will have to disagree. The eight best players at the moment may not qualify for TMC- and it is round robin. And I am not just saying that because Rafa has not won one despite what you may think. ;) I love tthe TMC but I disagree with you that in order for someone to be considered an all time great once their career is done- they can only be up for discussion if they have "at least a few" of TMC titles.

Posted by chegu 04/20/2010 at 03:16 PM

Anna@2.55 & Anna@3.07, you made good points.

Posted by Carrie *¿Dónde está el Elfo? * 04/20/2010 at 03:18 PM

*Your Johannson and Gaudio examples are true... but I could throw hundreds of Best-of-3 examples, because it happens more often, which was my original point.
*

My point was in terms of winning Masters titles- meaning the tournament- there may not be a greater likelihood to have a fluke winner than a grand slam when all is said and done. Over the past few years I am trying to think who would be the biggest fluke...I con't really consider Berdych - who many have said is a great talent- or Tsonga- who many have felt could be a future GS winner and he is a grand slam finalist. Stapenk- didn't he win one? Maybe Robredo in Hamburg but neither Rafa or Roger were there. But when one factors in that there are a much larger number of Masters titles than grand slams- I really don't think you will see that many more fluke winners at all.

Posted by JohnP 04/20/2010 at 03:19 PM

"Plus lets not forget Lendl in 1982 = Czech immigrant, playing in an alien country, unfamiliar with the language and environment; Connors / Mac = playing in front of 30,000 supportive home country fans. "

So, players from countries that do not host a grand slam should be given special favour in the GOAT rankings. So, using, say, 1.25, Murray will have to win 20 majors to equal Federer's 16.....I know - that's getting ridiculous, but I couldn't resist throwing it in.....

Posted by Alexis 04/20/2010 at 03:20 PM

Well, we agree to disagree. The TMC is the YEC championship and includes only the top 8 players of the year (unless injury/illness takes them out). Okay, maybe you don't need one to be an all-time great. I mean, Sampras is an all-time great and he never won the FO, nor even made the finals. So, I guess Rafa can get a pass if he never makes the TMC finals either. But obviously if you can win alot of TMS, win several majors (hopefully all four), and a few TMC - you are going to be up there and should be. Again, it's being great at ALL the top tourneys that are going to solidify your legend.

Posted by Carrie *¿Dónde está el Elfo? * 04/20/2010 at 03:21 PM

John P- to carry one- what if the crowd is openly hostile like the French crowd has been to Rafa to a constant degree. Does that add extra weight?

Posted by Kombo 04/20/2010 at 03:23 PM

if you ask McEnroe he'll tell you himself that Fed is more 'goatly'. He's said as much in the past, on record, and he knows better than we do having played pro tennis and being intimately knowledgeable about what it takes to do what they do.

Posted by JohnP 04/20/2010 at 03:24 PM

Carrie, absolutely. I apply a 2.0 coefficient to that one.......therefore, Rafa has actually won 8 French Open titles and 10 overall!!!!

Posted by Alexis 04/20/2010 at 03:24 PM

Hostile crowds make it tougher, no doubt, but unfortunately no weight. Every player has experienced a tough crowd. Rafa has seen some in Paris, yes. Roger had a tough one in NY when he played Agassi for the title.

Posted by Carrie *¿Dónde está el Elfo? * 04/20/2010 at 03:26 PM

Alexis- I do agree that it is a mix of things that will factor in. Imo there can be a lot of things to support someone as an all time great (I don't like the idea of ONE GOAT- I think it is impossible to compare eras). I just am wary to say that a lack of one specfic title should take someone all the way out of the convo- like you mentioned- Sampras.

Posted by Alexis 04/20/2010 at 03:26 PM

Yeah, kombo. J-Mac has been pretty vocal about Fed being the GOAT, but again...that is an opinion, albeit a respected one since he's an all-time great himself.

Posted by Anna 04/20/2010 at 03:27 PM

Clealry TMC counts more than TMS titles. But again, one single number does not make a career.
No matter what happens from now on, Nadal is already among the all time greats. He is not a GOAT candidate yet (far from it at this point- and again, I am a Rafa fan) and the only reason his name keeps surfacing in this GOAT debate, I believe is his head to head with Roger.

Posted by JohnP 04/20/2010 at 03:28 PM

....and since Federer is from a neutral country like Switzerland, his French title only gets a 1.5.......

Kombo, I agree with everyone you say. No one, including myself, is suggesting Mac deserves higher spot than Federer. The debate originated as a Lendl vs. McEnroe one. (ALthough there is still no one that I'd rather watch than McEnroe when he was at his best)

Posted by 1963USCtennis 04/20/2010 at 03:30 PM

"Weeks at #1 - Lendl 270, Mac 170
Career HTH - Lendl 21, Mac 15

What other stat do you want to look at?
"

all those weeks at #1 were during a period when neither McEnroe nor Connors were challenging for #1 (except maybe the middle of 85, but by then McEnroe was a totally different player than the 78-84 McEnroe, and yes there is a difference)

so yes, looking at it by watching (LOOKING) the matches, not just the stats.

What you can say with those stats is that Lendl was good for a far longer period of time than McEnroe, but that is it. McEnroe's 84 is one of the all time great accomplishments in this sport. Suffice it to say that I do not think even Federer reached that level of play.

Posted by JohnP 04/20/2010 at 03:32 PM

A good point, Alexis. There is a difference, however. Fans were more pro-Agassi in that '05 US final than anti-Federer; whereas, the Connors-Lendl finals - well probably a combination.

Posted by chegu 04/20/2010 at 03:34 PM

kombo, its not just Mac, many of the contemporary players and few retired greats has been vocal about federer being a GOAT.
i guess someone should mail them the template, otherwise they keep babbling about fed as GOAT;-))

Posted by JohnP 04/20/2010 at 03:37 PM

Think of it this way Mac at his best (best match, best month, best year....take your pick) vs. Lendl at his best, you'd put your $$$$$ on McEnroe.

Posted by freddy 04/20/2010 at 03:42 PM

Not suggesting any weights based on hostile crowd etc. All I'm saying is when you say Lendl got blown out by Connors at the USO finals despite dominating in tour events, you have to take it in context. You've conveniently taken my last point and stretched it.

Let's talk about the other stats - 8-7 Slam wins (Slam Wins Don't count. And pray why not, when we are looking within the Open Era?)
Weeks at #1 (those weeks were when neither Mac nor Connors were challenging - so why weren't they challenging? How about Mac's weeks - should we look at who was and who wasn't challenging? Variant of Fed's weak era argument all over again)
85 Mac was diff from earlier Mac - too bad, not Lendl's problem. Its the same as saying Lendl pre 84 and post 84 were different Lendls. You can't take 1 great year (Mac 84) and say that Mac was the GOAT, or even better than Lendl. Why 1 year? Why not 1 Slam? Then Rafa FO 08, Fed AO 07, Borg FO 78-79 etc. would be GOAT. Why not 1 match? Then Fed vs. Hewitt US 05, Fed vs Roddick AO 07, or Rafa vs Fed FO 08 would be GOAT. Why not 1 set? Then take any bagel set..or what about Fed vs Soderling Tie Break FO last year...see how silly that gets?
The only basis for comparison is over the entire career of the player, not sub-periods within. And Lendl, over his career was >> Mac over his career on every single count, purely in terms of performance.

BTW, I loved watching Mac play - he was a genius - no question about it. But Lendl achieved more.

Posted by freddy 04/20/2010 at 03:46 PM

"Think of it this way Mac at his best (best match, best month, best year....take your pick) vs. Lendl at his best, you'd put your $$$$$ on McEnroe."

I'd give you 21-15 odds against that

Posted by 1963USCtennis 04/20/2010 at 03:47 PM

"But Lendl achieved more"

not in my book. Not when all of it came after McEnroe washed away and Connors was too old.

I agree it is not Lendl's problem McEnroe washed away from 85 on...

Posted by Anna 04/20/2010 at 03:49 PM

1963USCtennis
let's not start the "weak era" talk again- one can argue that Mac had a weak era once Borg retired, and that Lendl had to face a deeper field in the late 80s (Becker, Edberg...)- PLEASE
BTW, it is not that I like Lendl more than Mac, I just look at the numbers objectively

Posted by Anna 04/20/2010 at 03:50 PM

USC1963,
well maybe MacEnroe came up because Borg "washed away". The argument is SO subjective

Posted by freddy 04/20/2010 at 03:52 PM

So supposing Andy Murray blossoms late, and Rafa burns out and Fed gently heads into retirement, and then Andy has a dominant 6-8 years on the circuit, to the point where his wins exceed Rafa, you'd obviously discount that saying all that was after Rafa washed away and Fed was too old, based on the Andy that you saw who lost to Fed and Rafa when he was still maturing...sounds logical

Posted by Carrie *¿Dónde está el Elfo? * 04/20/2010 at 04:00 PM

Doesn't every era have some great players who are "washed up" and future greats who are still maturing?

Posted by Anna 04/20/2010 at 04:05 PM

Carrie, exactly, that's why the "weak era" margument is futile

Posted by 1963USCtennis 04/20/2010 at 04:06 PM

"well maybe MacEnroe came up because Borg "washed away""

ridiculous. McEnroe Connors and Borg battled for #1 in 78, 79, 80 and 81, all three were very close. Quite the contrary, they elevated their play and the sport as a whole in a way that has not ever been done since, only Nadal-Fed has come close.

Posted by Mike 04/20/2010 at 04:07 PM

I think the difficult thing regarding the H2H is that Rafa has been disproportionately good on one surface, whereas Fed has been more consistent on all of them. Though Rafa has been slowly creeping up ... Fed has been the 2nd best clay court player for some time, and #1 on the rest of them.

To be fair ... I think Rafa is the greatest clay court player of all time, Fed ... the most consistent all around.

Age means little in regards to Rafa, specifically, because he started very young and has a particularly aggressive style. He's got a lot of rough terrain mileage on his 23 year old body.

Posted by Kombo 04/20/2010 at 04:09 PM

I find it funny that the fallacious 'weak era' argument is rarely used in its most obvious context: Rafa on clay.

It could go something like this, "If only these other guys were right handed lefties who generate ungodly amounts of high-bouncing topspin,but sadly it's a weak clay court era and opponents just lay down for Rafa 'allowing' him to win Master's level tournaments 6-0 6-1."

Fallacious indeed.

Posted by Anna 04/20/2010 at 04:10 PM

1963USCtennis- about Borg McEnroe, it was a semi joke. The point is that the argument of the weak era is flawed

Posted by Anna 04/20/2010 at 04:14 PM

I wish there was some time machine, and we could watch peak Rafa play peak Borg on clay, or peak Federer play peak Sampras on grass.

Posted by 1963USCtennis 04/20/2010 at 04:14 PM

"The point is that the argument of the weak era is flawed"

when did I say weak era?

but it is a lot tougher to be the country club champ if that country club happens to be in Mallorca than it is to be the country club champ in say Delray beach, get it?

Posted by Anna 04/20/2010 at 04:16 PM

I would appreciate it if the attacks were not personal- I do get it

Posted by freddy 04/20/2010 at 04:18 PM

"when did I say weak era?"

When you said "not in my book. Not when all of it came after McEnroe washed away and Connors was too old."

Posted by freddy 04/20/2010 at 04:23 PM

Cheers Anna. Never let the facts get in the way of a strong opinion :-) Now, really off

Posted by Anna 04/20/2010 at 04:26 PM

I once had a mentor who used to say: we may not be always right, but we are always certain

Posted by Sammy 04/20/2010 at 04:54 PM

Great write-up as usual Steve. Your Rafa musings are the best articles I read about him anywhere and I always look forward to reading them. Each of them is a masterpiece of a devoted fan's observations of a singular athlete. I share your admiration of Rafa and I think he (and Federer, though for different reasons) are the best thing that has happened to tennis in the last decade. Without these two, I do believe that tennis followeres wouldn't have been nearly as many and the sport survivability itself may indeed have been threatened.

I'm Just grafeful we live in the tennis age of Rafa and Federer, may they continue to entertain us for many years to come!

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 04/20/2010 at 05:19 PM

manuelsantanafan,

My GOAT is better than your GOAT. ;-))

- Slice

Posted by Jamesss 04/20/2010 at 05:49 PM

I have never got it why TMC's don't add up to the TMS tally. Isn't the tournament basically
a Masters 1000 tournament schedule-wise, just with the top 8 players, more prize money and
points. I have very rarely, if ever seen an article mentioning Fed's 4 TMC's out of 8 participations, which is sad since that's IMO a much better record than 16 TMS's out the 60-70 since he reached the top. So, for me, Fed leads Rafa 20-16 (at least), if you can't mention the 4 titles as their own.

Posted by fazioli 04/20/2010 at 06:42 PM

Godwin's law states that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."

I posit there exists a corollary for a tennis.com:

"As a tennis.com discussion grows longer, the probability of a goat debate arising approaches 1."

Posted by ava 04/20/2010 at 06:46 PM

It is interesting to observe than even though half the article is about Sam Stosur and thereby women's tennis a huge majority of the comments eventually veered towards who's the GOAT in men's tennis.

Anyway interesting arguments all around. This young tennis fan learned a lot reading them. Hope Concrete Elbow inspires people to have more productive discussions like this one. Very few bait-posts and lot of food for thought from all sides.

Posted by Statician 04/20/2010 at 06:48 PM

Statician thinks it funny how some trot out stats in order to validate their argument, but disregard other stats that might not be so convenient.

Lendl > McEnroe no matter how you look at the big picture. When you look at the small picture, not so clear.

Federer > Nadal no matter how you look at the big picture. When you look at the small picture, not so clear.

Majors > Masters no matter how you look at the big picture. When you look at the small picture, Majors > Minors.

Posted by Maplesugar (at home) 04/20/2010 at 07:39 PM

TTC aired the Nadal/Coria 5 setter clay match last night...Nadal was down 0-3 in the 5th,
and he was so defiant and clawed his way back...to win in the tie-break. He was a frightening opponent. The two men exchanged both vicious and delicate shots that made my draw drop numerous times. It was impressive. His will to win is just amazing. I think he's going to continue his clay court dominance for many years to come.

Posted by Maplesugar (at home) 04/20/2010 at 07:40 PM

jaw drop...sorry

Posted by thooz 04/20/2010 at 07:44 PM

I am an ardent Federer fan, yet I respect Nadal as a great champion. I will gladly admit Nadal is the GOAT when all these things happen before he retires: he at least surpasses Sampras' 14 Majors, he accomplishes the career grand slam (i.e., wins the US open), and he maintains his 65% winning record against Federer. The only caveat would be if Federer does something truly amazing like win over 21 Majors. So, if the final Majors score between them is something like 21 to 15, then I'd still give the nod to Federer, since those 6 extra Majors would more than offset Nadal's head to head edge. But if Nadal can creep to within 3 of Fed's final tally, then the GOAT title would be his.

Posted by Goldilocks 04/20/2010 at 07:55 PM

As usual I am a bit behind so I am playing catch up and I really enjoyed the Grand Slams versus Master Shields discussions. You were all great, guys. You were all very respectful and I liked that and I must admit I´ve learned a lot from all of you, tennis-wise. The comments were wonderful and filled me in with all the great moments between Lendl and MacEnroe.

As for my opinion about which are better/greater/most prestigious titles to hold: 20 Grand Slams or 30 Master Shields? Hmmm .... this is hard. I can´t choose because my brain has segregated the 16 Grand Slam titles from 6 Grand Slam titles, 16 Master Shields from 16 Master Shields, 28 year old from 23 year old, GOAT from not even a contender, Olympic Gold Medalist in Men´s Doubles from Olympic Gold Medalist in Men´s Singles, 279 weeks at number 1 from 46 weeks at number 1, wait a minute, this is about who is the better player, Roger or Rafa? Sorry guys, I still can´t say. How about I get back to this when both have retired? Oh, actually I can. For now or maybe forever (who knows?), Roger is/will always be way better than Rafa. As for my guy Rafa breaking whatever records in the future, we gonna se, no?

I, for one, don´t care if Rafa doesn´t win another Grand Slam. I just love his amazing work ethic. I mean, when players beat him, he works even harder. It´s how he was able to beat players with far more natural talent. He takes all his losses graciously, learns from his mistakes and trains like there´s no tomorrow. Really an amazing work ethic. Also, I´m super duper glad that Rafa´s main priority is to be healthy (better late than never), skipping tournaments he loves to rest. Vamos Rafa. See you in Rome.

Anyway, I´m still grinning the grin of the happy Rafa fan for the MC title. I loved it, and re-watched the entire match so I could love it some more. :)

I hope you see this Rafalito, thanks for your compliment. I´m pleased. We must have been separated at birth, because I feel exactly the same way about all you said. You saved me a lot of time typing. :) Oh, one more thing, I love your moniker (Rafa is my favorite tennis player and Lito is my baby brother´s nickname). Looking forward to reading more posts from you.

Posted by John 04/20/2010 at 08:22 PM

Nadal is a smart guy. This year he will win RG because he's taking care with his body and then without injuries he can beat to anyone. He has enough game to win on clay, he's the best. What happened to him last year had to be really a nightmare to him. Soderling beat him?? come on, never ever again

Posted by leslie 04/20/2010 at 08:38 PM

The Knees in the MC locker room:
http://img718.imageshack.us/img718/1745/imaimagosports137459440.jpg

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 04/20/2010 at 08:43 PM

Thanks Steve, I am a little late to this party.

Well 2 of my favs won their titles.So I guess I am happy.

You are spot on with Sam.I think someone got in her ear and she thought 3 years ago she might as well give the singles a shot.She was a very successful doubles player being the no 1 in the world and capturing GS titles along the way.I think her power as a player has been enhanced by her gym work as well.Lets remember she suffered from that dreadful Lyme disease that had her our of action for sometime.All credit to her to get herself strong and well again.I feel her game is ideal on clay.She did make the s/finals at RG.The last Aussie to do that in singles was Wendy Turnbull.Sam has suffered from not believing in herself.I loved the wrist band she wore in the final.Attitude and Composure.I think that said it all.

Well Rafa found his Clay feet at MC.Who knew? lol!.The best tonic for him.To being the first male player in the Open Era by capturing 6 titles in a row as well.Onwards Rafa and now is not contesting Barcelona again for the 6th time.I am glad he is not playing.There are bigger prises waiting down the line.

Posted by Goldilocks 04/20/2010 at 08:54 PM

Thanks leslie for the pic.

Oh, wow. Rafa looks soooooo happy. And yeah, The Most Talked Knees in the World, what a lovely sight! :)

Posted by Karl Romano 04/20/2010 at 10:13 PM

The intention in any of your writings is evident; I must say however, that Federer, Nadal and, to be fair, some of the best tennis player of today,put so much into their game, that those arrests of emotions are almost logical. Who can forget Joseph Barthel's tears in the gold medal award ceremony at the Olympic Games. He could have moved a stone to tears too.

Posted by Steve 04/20/2010 at 10:50 PM

hjh

Posted by Geellis 04/20/2010 at 11:27 PM

I'm sorry I missed so much of the GOAT conversation. It's one for which I have a lot of passion. In a phrase, I don't even think it's worth the time to consider any player prior to like, say, Lendl for GOAT contention. The Lavers, Budgses, Tildens etc of the world would be KILLED by the Federers, Nadals, Samprases, Agassis etc. I don't just mean lose, I mean KILLED. And are we just talking about racket/string technology? NO!!!! You give the same racquets (wood or modern) to the players and the modern players still KILL the older guys. And lets assume that both groups understand the limitations/benefits of the racquet of the other era as they do their own. This last point is important but more complicated than I care to explain right now. Anywho, the answer is simple for why the old duffers get killed: they were the best among a field that's nowhere near as competitive, as fit, as big, as strong, as fast, etc. as the players of today.

Folks, seriously, just turn on the old matches. I have. It's a joke. Watch even Borg play, in his heyday, on clay and then imagine him trying to play Nadal. He wouldn't win a single game. No disrespect to the man, but the game has simply moved on. That's why the coronation of best of Era (as no less a personage than Laver put it) is the better phrase to use. Even Laver concedes tacitly, that he would not have competed with the likes of Federer or Nadal or Sampras. The eras are simply too different. The compliment of skills, too different. How do you take a player like Laver, who won tons of GSs on Grass and put him in a world where, not 3, but rather just one of the GSs is on that surface? Moreover, how does Laver, at a wopping 5'8" and about 155lbs soaking wet, stand up to the likes of federer (6'1 180) or Nadal (6'1+ 185lbs) or Tsonga (6'2" 195lbs)? I'll tell you. He doesn't. He gets mowed down and his career looks more like that of Michael Chang. Even Hewitt, who we think of as a small guy, is listed at 5'11".

Add to that the extent to which tennis is simply no longer anywhere close to the country club sport it was emerging out of the non-open era and, again, you just get a bloodbath. For all the rocket's vaulted training, he just didn't train like a Nadal or Federer. He didn't eat like them. He didn't weight train like them. He didn't have all of the sports science that has developed in the past 40 years (and at 5'8" it wouldn't matter if he did, he'd still get KILLED by the top players of today). And thus, he, his contemporaries, and all those that come before him, get killed by the modern gladiator. As do most of the players through the late 80's. Only when we get to Becker, Wielander, etc. (I'm flexible on exactly when we might consider players to have reached the contemporary era, but it's sure as heck not with Laver or, quite frankly, even Borg) do we approach a time, an era, with which we can compare contemporary players. I'm happy to talk about specific old guys (Rosewall, PG, Segura, Laver, Budge, Tilden, Lacoste, whoever), but, alas, there's just no way to overlook the innumerable ways in which the game has simply, utterly, left behind those that came more than about 20 or so years ago.

And as for the writers and commentators, they won't generally acknowledge this well known truth (sorry Steve) for the simple fact of their respect for the history of the game and its icons. It's a little like Baseball in that way. But you can take this to the bank, they know. Even Bud Collins (our greatest living commentator/historian) knows it. But he'll go to his grave swearing the Rocket was the best ever (I don't really mean to represent that Collins feels this way, it's just to make my point). I respect that. Unfortunately, tennis, like most other sports, is subject to improvements in speed, strength, endurance, etc. And the contemporary players have that in multiples over the players from 40 years ago. But as a reminder. Best of Era is the more reasonable term to use. Cause who know what players will look like in 40 years from now.

Posted by zolarafa 04/20/2010 at 11:39 PM

Does it really matter who we think is the GOAT? or if Rafa is better than Fed or vice versa? Do we really want to see tennis without Federer or Rafa?

We are in a golden era. we are spoiled! We are watching a champion who has won 16 GS titles and have been dominating tennis for 7 years, plus another champion who at 23 has already won 6 Gs titles and 16 Ms and is perhaps the best clay court player ever.

I am a huge Rafa fan and I have problems with Fed's attitude sometimes, but I appreciate them both and want. At their best , they both play shots that are out of this world. I think comparing Rafa and Roger is like comparing apples and oranges right now. we can compare them when they are both retired and hopefully that will be in a very long time from now.

Posted by freddy 04/20/2010 at 11:55 PM

Geelis - found your last post disappointing, considering the quality of points you made earlier on Masters vs Slams. In a GOAT discussion, there is no contention made by anyone that older players, playing the way they played would beat current players, giving them the same rackets. Forget Laver, even a Sampras would find it tough today; the game evolves.

A GOAT discussion basically comes to who was the most dominant player of his era. This is somewhat easier to establish, as one can look at the numbers (not blindly, but with due understanding of context). Cross era comparisons across the most dominant players are basically parlour games - eventually it boils down to choosing b/w Tilden, Budge, Gonzalez, Rosewall, Laver, Borg, Sampras and Federer.

While there is no claim made that a Budge would beat a Federer given the same equipment today, the hypothetical claim that given how dominant Budge was in his heydey, if he had been born in the same era as Federer, had the same access to technologies, methods, training regimen, and accumulated prior learning from history, he and Federer would be close equals, is a strong one. Or you look at it the other way - if Federer had been born in the 20s and played at the same time as Budge, they would be equals.

So when you watch Borg footage, don't look at it with reference to Nadal today - look at how far ahead he was of his contemporaries in his time; and then do a thought experiment on how he would do today.

Posted by freddy 04/20/2010 at 11:56 PM

BTW Geelis - if you are interested in the GOAT discussion, pls see link I have posted upthread (on Pg 8/9) - I wrote an entire series last year..

Posted by freddy 04/21/2010 at 12:01 AM

Statician - am curious about why Lendl-McEnroe is not clear in the small picture. Can understand re Federer-Nadal because of the HTH..Except if you are thinking about artistry / genius / style of play, or about McEnroe's peak year performance being greater (both in my opinion valid points, but irrelevant in a comparison of achievements over a career)

Posted by yf 04/21/2010 at 01:10 AM

erm... who really cares about the reaction when you won the tournament? one reason i don't like nadal is his actions everytime he won a point. is that necessary? i'm watching tennis for tennis. that's why i'm a Federer fan, as he takes victories ever so gracefully.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 04/21/2010 at 01:30 AM

Wow. Just saw the last hour of the Rome 06 final. just amazing. Jason points out that with this win rafa has now beaten fed the last 5 out of 6 times they've played. What a rivalry these two have had. And I missed basically all of it. :(( well, thank goodness for tape...

I find I'm really wearying of the GOAT debate. We have so many great champions past and present. Federer is above them all, however. There's something so classic and beautiful about his play. But still, there are plenty of matches where I'm thrilled by other players. I happen to adore the emotion that rafa displays.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 04/21/2010 at 01:53 AM

Re: the Geellis 11:27 comments:

I've seen Borg play in person and I've seen Rafa play in person.

Borg was every bit as fast and tennis-strong as Rafa. Unlike Rafa, Borg didn't physically break down a few weeks a year, on the average.

Anybody who thinks that an in-his-prime Borg wouldn't be at the top or near the top on the current ATP tour doesn't know tennis.

Regarding Laver, in his 30s and past his prime, Laver could still take sets off a near-his-prime Borg.

Perhaps, modern rackets and strings would benefit current players than these rackets and strings would have benefitted Laver in his prime.

But, using wood rackets and gut strings, Laver, Rosewall, Hoad, Roche, etc. would hold their own against today's top players using the same rackets and strings.

The game played with today's technology is considerably different than that played with the tennis technology of the 60s and the 70s.

Better in some ways, worse in others.

Volleying at the top levels, for example, is much worse than that displayed by Laver and Roche, for example.

To say that Federer, if allowed to go back in time and take on Laver or Roche with 1960s-70s racket/string technology, would easily prevail over these Aussies, would be a ludicrous statement.

Posted by eclipse22 (rafagirl) 04/21/2010 at 02:38 AM

having read these discussions that tend to go up in flames in the nadal vs fed debate over the years, can we all agree what a relief it is to be able to bicker once again on this neverending topic!!
maybe you'll admit it, some have ,but all roger fans clearly missed rafa secretly ,seriously what other opponent riles you like rafa,brings out the hardcore fan in you defending records, titles h2h, importance of this over that,clearly a hero is only as good as his nemesis is evil, that's why their rivalry is so exciting unlike a fed-roddick! (its hard to muster up a modicum of excitement).
One little tournament won ,and some are quivering in their boots "he's back shoot" others are over-elated(guilty) although i am trying to be reasonable but its really hard to dampened my woohoo mood after 11months,
remember when fed had a similar drought even thought it was easier for him as he still won a few titles here and there but believe me, i remember in AO 09 , i thought i wonder if fed think if he'll ever win anything again with rafa on the other side who would have thought that be the same year he'd win the french ,regain wimby, loose USopen...c'est la vie! c'est le sport! same venue different outcome!

so yeah i'm salivating at the idea of this rivalry been renewed if they can both stay healthy at the same time,sorry other players,and with same motivation be it masters or slams,even though i'm a fan of rafa, i never tired of seeing these two playing each other and i rarely mind the outcome as much as i would against any other opponents of them! that said victory against fed in a slam has a unique flavor...defeat too lol....

Posted by Jamesss 04/21/2010 at 03:08 AM

Apparently the TMC issue was already made, I hadn't read the comments yet. I also found mauelsantanafans comment on not comparing Federer and Nadal interesting. I'm wondering, do these stats also influence on that:

16-6
4-1
5-1
5-0
+270-46
237-46
63-37
4-0
24-8
(92-5)-(82-11)
65-12 going on
12-11 but 8 was better
3*3-0*3
8-5
23-5
10-2
12 in 5-6 in 5
40-7 going
40-5

Do these also affect on not comparing them?

Posted by bmars250 04/21/2010 at 05:19 AM

Hey Anna, I wasn't actually refering to the hardcourt as neutral between fed and rafa but for every1 else on tour becoz they have a higher chance of winning there than on clay were rafa dominates or grass were fed dominates. And as much as rafa has reached the last 3 wimbledon finals and won 1, it doesnt mean he is better than fed on grass the same goes for fed on clay even if he has reached the last 4 RG finals and won 1.

Posted by bmars250 04/21/2010 at 05:22 AM

Jai, i didnt mean he is guaranteed 3 masters on clay but his chances of 3 or more are higher becoz he can easily get 2 on clay and 1 anywhere else as reflected by all his previous seasons

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Just Do It 04/21/2010 at 05:55 AM

Steve, you have opened up Pandora's box.I thought this post was about Sam winning her 2nd title and Rafa winning MC.

Same old,same old I see.lol!

Rafa fans can wish all they like.Unless Rafa is injured he cant just skip Madrid it is a mandatory tournament.Next year under the ATP rule he can skip a MS event.

Slice Yes he has finally grasped he cant play every tournament.Took sometime didnt it

Manuel.Yes Borg was the fittest athlete I have seen up to date.His body indeed didnt break down like Rafa's at all.He could play all day and then some.A true visionary of the game.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Just Do It 04/21/2010 at 06:11 AM

Zolarafa Good to see you posting here.I have missed you.Your one Rafa fan I have truly missed.

Posted by embug 04/21/2010 at 06:54 AM

Stosur knew she was having a good day, the moment she stepped on court. Her practice had gone well. She she went directly to the zone and did not pass go.

Zvonareva, though, in her press conference said she could've done better. That she wasn't executing well. But, like you Steve, all I witnessed was a full-out win. Clean and clear win.

It was the shortest final in the 37-year history of the Family Circle Cup. Stosur had the first four games in 10 minutes. The crowd was shocked into silence. Exuberance came as Zvonareva smashed the racquet. They loved that and her and wanted more tennis partly because of the Wozniacki retirement the previous day. Like ... come on - I paid to see tennis, a lot of tennis.

During the week I asked Sam how her up/down moods on court impact her tennis. She seemed to shrug off the implication and felt she worked out the emotions well enough.

Posted by John 04/21/2010 at 07:01 AM

Jamesss

13-7 H2H
16-16 MS
23 years old-28 years old

Posted by John 04/21/2010 at 07:13 AM

23-8 on clay

I will keep informing.......

Posted by zolarafa 04/21/2010 at 07:20 AM

Aussiemarg,

I miss you too. Although I sometimes read your comments. Just don't have the time to post more often. How did you enjoy Monte Carlo? I am so glad Rafa pulled out of Barcelona. Finally some reason!
I hope he can win Rome and pull out of Madrid. I really don't care about the rankings and the points at this moment. Don't want to see Rafa injured again!

Posted by Jamesss 04/21/2010 at 07:24 AM

John, so it took 12 minutes to find one new stat positive for Rafa, it took me about 5 minutes to give 19. So heres another stat:

19*(12/5)=45,6-1.

Just like Msf said, really no comparison.

Posted by zolarafa 04/21/2010 at 07:29 AM

aussiemarg,

I think Rafa's knee problems started because he has flat feet! he has to wear insoles to compensate for that. I read somewhere that his initial foot problems were related to that. In 2005 he had a major injury, pulled out of Shanghai and was told he may not be able to play tennis again. The problem with his knees are some sort of post traumatic artheritis or something like that.

Also I am not sure how many hard court tournaments Borg played (or even how many tournaments per year). Rafa's knee problems usually start during the hard court season. At Borg's time perhaps the players did not have to play so many tournaments and maybe that is one reason they did not have as many injuries.

Posted by Geellis 04/21/2010 at 08:12 AM

@Freddy,
I think we completely agree on your point. I merely stated in more colorful language (though I'm pretty certain the logic was just as sound) what you stated simply. Namely, that the game has evolved and thus "best in Era" is the better terminology. I think you should re-read the post. Im sum, it was no different than your response.

@manuelsantanafan
Your answer is not and cannot be logical. It's simple, no one, but perhaps you, disagrees with the idea that the players are bigger, stronger and faster. Therefore, the balls are going, on average WAY FASTER. Therefore, you could NEVER have seen a Borg as fast as a Nadal or Federer, because he would NEVER have had to chase a ball that was moving as fast as the balls hit by today's players. Period, end of discussion. For these reasons it's not physically possible (now read this carefully) that you SAW Borg move as fast as Nadal/Federer. You only recall now, thinking that Borg was as fast. Again, just watch the video man. It couldn't be clearer. WE don't have to rely on you recall (or the adoration, wow factor, etc. that perhaps clouds it now) to get the answer to this question. The video makes it clear that Borg was STANDING STILL compared to Nadal.

And re your point "Anybody who thinks that an in-his-prime Borg wouldn't be at the top or near the top on the current ATP tour doesn't know tennis"

I'm so over this refrain by the old guys. Just turn on your television, pop in a tape of Borg, watch him cover the court and then pop in a tape of a Nadal match and watch him cover the court. As a result of racquet and string development (as well as fitness improvements of the entire field of professional tennis players necessitating that the best be much, much more fit than the best of earlier eras), the game has simply become much faster than when Borg played.

And Laver, Serena Williams would beat him if you put them on the same court. That's how much the game has evolved since his time. Again, 5'8"??? If he could keep up with Federer/Nadal that would make him not only the GOAT, that would make him superhuman. That, at his size, he could do what he did, tells you about the state of the game then. No One would ever imagine today that a player of his stature could scale the top of the rankings. And why not?? Cause it's not physically possible. Things like angle of serve (and their relative lack of it, think Karlovic here and you'll get an extreme form of what height adds to serve), power, Nadal's ball kicking up above their head, etc. would make it impossible for a player of such stature to become number one today.

Finally, I appreciate the history of the game. Thanks to youtube and such, I've watched tons of footage from back in the day. But sorry, dude, for the reasons I've enunciated above (and not to mention that the "openness" of the open era has ushered in a level of competition that dwarfs that experienced by Laver) the old guys would have been killed. If you respond, recall all of the points

Speed of game (due to physical stature, racquet/string tech etc)
Therefore speed of players
Size/strength of players (yielding a much faster game)
Global talent pool (no longer just a two/three nation sport)
Advances in Sports/Nutritional Science and their adherence/utilization by modern athletes

These are the reasons the old guys get killed.

Posted by JohnP 04/21/2010 at 08:35 AM

THe GOAT debate will never reach a conclusion. I remember after McEnroe won the US Open in '84 thinking, "This guy's unbelievable, the best. He's going to win all the majors, win more majors than anyone, and be the GOAT." I'm sure others were thinking him possibly the GOAT at the time. Little did I/we know what was around the corner. There's no way that anyone thought at the time that Mac would not win another major. (Unfortunately, his loss to Lendl at the French in '84 casts a shadow over his career; with his talent, he could have accomplished so much more.)

The point: you never know what's coming, you never know who is just around the corner. Sampras hardly had time to rest on his accomplishments. Any argument suggesting (e.g. in 2003) that Sampras was the GOAT (Carillo, possibly others, said as such), tenuous though it might be, has been erased by what Federer has done in the last 7 years. As we speak, there is some kid, somewhere, in the world who could win 25 majors. We don't know.

In the meantime, let's enjoy the privilege of the Nadal-Federer era. We, the tennis fans, are the winners. Those who don't care about tennis are the losers. To have two ambassadors like Rafa and Fed representing our sport (while the character/integrity of other sports' ambassadors have, more often than not, been tarnished) is a great thing.

For years, I thought - and rightly so - that the '80 Borg-McEnroe WImbledon final was the greatest match I had ever seen. And I thought, "if a match can top that one, then I'd certainly like to see it." Well, I think we saw it two years ago at Wimbledon. We couldn't ask for more than what's going on in our sport in the last few years.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,Rafa Just Do It 04/21/2010 at 08:54 AM

Zolarfa I too dont care how many points Rafa has or if he gets back to no 1 either.Like you I dont want anymore time outs.I am glad he has finally seen reason and isnt pushing his body to the limits.Yes Rafa had that bad problem under foot in 2005 and it did seem at one point that he may not play tennis again.Borg didnt have the injury problems Rafa had for sure.

Posted by Anna 04/21/2010 at 09:34 AM

I love the fact that we are having the Fed-al discussion again.
We missed it for most of 2008 with Fed's mono, and most of 2009 with Nadal's knees. Hopefully this spring/ summer they will both be fully fit and we'll see what'will happen. Although clearly, I believe that Nadal's motivation and passion at this point is way higher than Fed's.
Also, I don't mind Rafa's reaction between points, as someone mentioned. It shows his passion. I loved watching the Nadal-Coria match the other day on the tennis channel. He jumped off his chair to start the match, and they had to call him back to take a picture because he was running to serve. I love this kind of passion. It underscores to me how lucky we are to have Federer and Nadal, two greats who actually love the game, unlike let's say Agassi (who hated it) and Sampras (who loved it but loved to win even more)

Posted by manuelsantanafan 04/21/2010 at 11:16 AM

Geelis, you write at 8:12: "And Laver, Serena Williams would beat him if you put them on the same court."

If you are talking about the 70-plus old, post-stroke Laver, perhaps you are correct.

If you are talking about Laver in his 20s and 30s, you are making an ass of yourself. Find one--just one--person generally regarded as a tennis expert who agrees with that nonsense and let us know when he or she supported such a belief.

Regarding your premise that bigger and stronger equates to better tennis playing, get back to us when Karlovic, Isner, and Querry are winning Masters Shields and majors on a regular basis.

Posted by Anna 04/21/2010 at 11:32 AM

I actually believe that Laver and the "old guys" would not be able to compete today, if they were playing at the same level, with the same rackets and the same level of practice. The game has evolved, and indeed, I think it is very likely that a 20 year old Serena would beat a 20 year old Laver. But just like the sport has evolved, they would have evolved.
Does that make any difference in Laver's or Borg's legacy? No.
Does that take them out of the GOAT equation? Absolutely not.

Posted by Kombo 04/21/2010 at 11:47 AM

Vamos Gulbis

Posted by joe 04/21/2010 at 11:52 AM

I'm a Kim fan but she is one thick women!

Posted by freddy 04/21/2010 at 12:15 PM

@Geellis - I think there is a subtle distinction b/w my position and yours, keeping the tone / colour in language out of it. The difference is that I believe the greatest players across eras are equals, under same conditions; while the sense I get reading your post is that you don't. To me Borg = Rafa in every way...Budge = Laver...Tilden = Gonzalez = Sampras...and Fed is unique (!! there's my Fed Kadism coming through).

On Borg's foot speed - I remember reading long back that Borg once was timed faster than Sweden's Olympic sprinters over 100m...it had something to do with his unusually low pulse rate...Borg was the fastest I've seen - no question about it. I'm not being coloured by nostalgia - forget the footage - he really was an unbelivable athlete. You'd have a hard time convincing anyone who saw Borg live that he wasn't.

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 04/21/2010 at 12:23 PM

"Moreover, how does Laver, at a wopping 5'8" and about 155lbs soaking wet, stand up to the likes of federer (6'1 180) or Nadal (6'1+ 185lbs) or Tsonga (6'2" 195lbs)? I'll tell you. He doesn't."

Geellis... so there were no tennis players in the 60s who stood at a mighty 6'1 or 6'2? Laver never beat anyone taller than him? Your lengthy comments are a tedious exercise in sophistry. To say that the game has developed and therefore if Federer was born in 1938 (albeit equipped with his current technique and playing a game utterly unlike anything played in the 60s) he would trounce Laver is gibberish. That the game "evolves" doesn't mean it is superior to the game played in the 20s or in the 60s, just that the game has adapted to different circumstances. Federer himself has said his volleying technique is lacking when compared to the likes of Tony Roche. Does it make sense to denigrate court craft and lionise explosive athleticism? Given a racquet with a head size of 65 or 70 sq in, strung at 80 lbs with natural gut, I'd much rather have Laver's hands and technique than Rafa's legs.

Posted by eric 04/21/2010 at 12:25 PM

always good stuff, steve.

Posted by Nam1 04/21/2010 at 01:17 PM

"that's why i'm a Federer fan, as he takes victories ever so gracefully"

What about how he takes his losses? Sobbing into a mike in front of thousands of fans..

:))

Sorry!! I could not resist!! I apologize in advance for fuelling the flames!! Note the requisite "smileys".

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