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Steve R.

Men's Tennis - Who Is The Greatest Of All Time?

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DonRocks   

The greatest male player of the open era is John McEnroe, whose beautiful, subtle, nuanced serve I'd much rather see than one of these cannonballs that the current players are able to deliver thanks not to their ability but to their racquets. And when I say greatest male player, I obviously don't refer to McEnroe's singles record in grand slam events. He has 148 career titles, which doesn't even include mixed doubles or any of his Davis Cup success. Roger Federer has 87 titles. Rafael Nadal has 72.

And Rod Laver has 200. :)

Several very credible old-timers say Pancho Gonzales was the greatest player ever to pick up a racquet, and that Lew Hoad was right up there with him.

I've probably mentioned this in the past, but if I haven't, it's as good of a time as any: when I was 12 years old, I went to Don Budge Tennis Camp at the McDonough Campus in what is now Owings Mills, MD. My parents dug deep into their pockets to send me there for three weeks, to buy me clothing, equipment, etc., and I'll never forget that they did that for me - it was more expensive than our family could afford (and damn, I wish they were around right now so I could thank them again).

Anyway, at the end of the three-week session, there was an exhibition doubles match with Don Budge and three of the counselors (this was in 1974, and Budge was 59 at the time). As part of the festivities, every camper got to play a few points against Don Budge (with a couple hundred parents in the audience), Budge being only player besides Rod Laver to win a calendar-year Grand Slam (Laver did it twice, once as an amateur, and once as a professional). Budge being eight years older than my parents, it was as thrilling for them to experience as it would be for one of us watching our kid hit tennis balls with Björn Borg. There was no "achievement" involved in doing this - every single camper got to participate - but in terms of "Holy Shit!", this ranks right up there with Shirley Povich having being friends with Walter Johnson.

Budge won his Grand Slam in 1938 - almost 80 years ago; Laver won his in 1962 and 1969.

I'm borderline ashamed to say that the campers put on a play for the parents  - a parody of The Tonight Show - and I was, um, Ed McMahon, <_< and at one point went over to the piano and played "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." I remember doing Carnac The Magnificent, and as McMahon, I was the sidekick. The kid who played Carson/Carnac answered one unseen question (in a mystical accent), "And zee answer eez ... Dohn Budge!" then opened the envelope and read the question: "What do you do when a stampede is coming towards you, with the running cattle narrowly missing you by mere inches on both sides?" (Hey, part of this website is a chronicle of my life for my son to read in future years, so I apologize for including these silly anecdotes - rest assured, I'm the only person in the world who remembers such minutiae.)

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And Rod Laver has 200. :)

No, Rod Laver does not have 200 open-era titles. He's probably the overall best male tennis player of all time, including the pre-open and open era, but he has only 102 open-era singles plus doubles titles, while McEnroe has 148, far and away the most for the open era (Jimmy Connors is 2nd with 124).

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DonRocks   

Despite my recent postings about Djokovic - who has just recently emerged as "The Best of The Best" in terms of The Big 3 - if everyone were to drop dead, right now, right this second, it would be Federer.

Djokovic is now, just now, conceivably being projected (by me) as a legitimate, future candidate for GOAT. Nadal is done, and Federer needs to hope Djokovic gets hit by a bus - it's *got* to be killing him, knowing he's *inches* away from staving off Djokovic, but he can't do it, at least not right now.

Djokovic will need to win a half-dozen more Majors to earn the title - the thing is ... he can. Maybe.

How can Rafael Nadal *possibly* be considered the *Third Best Player* of his era? Well, guess what: It's happening. 9 out of 10 French Opens. Damn.

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DonRocks   

I'm not sure this merits its own topic, but I'd like to nominate Juan Martín del Potro as "Most Underrated Player in History" - he's the only "non-Big Four" player to win a Grand Slam between the 2005 French Open and the 2013 U.S. Open (that's 35 tournaments) - in the 2009 U.S. Open, he beat Nadal in the semifinals and Federer in the finals.

del Potro is *great*, but nobody really knows him because he's been overshadowed by a handful of space aliens (plus he's been forced to battle injuries).

---

And as long as I'm off-topic, I'd like to nominate Jack Sock for "Sportsman of the Year" for this amazing display where he *advised an absolutely dumbfounded Lleyton Hewitt to challenge a serve that he knew was in*! 

Almost as if to prove the existence of karma, Sock just won an Olympic gold medal in mixed doubles.

---

Oh my goodness! Jack just liked my Tweet! I'll call everybody when I come back down from Cloud Nine.

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DonRocks   

This is so amazing that it needs commentary. It's Nadal vs. The Stalker:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.00.08.png

The Stalker gets ready to hit a heavy topspin serve:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.00.17.png

And kicks it out wide to Nadal's backhand, stepping in to stalk a short return:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.00.26.png

Nadal is pulled wide, and stretches to hit a backhand return, The Stalker is one-step closer in:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.01.02.png

Nadal is now *backwards* after hitting his return. The Stalker closes in even more:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.01.19.png

Nadal gets it back, and starts sprinting to the other side of the court, while The Stalker prepares to hit a volley:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.01.32.png

The Stalker wisely goes *behind* Nadal, who has committed to sprinting across the court, forcing Nadal to apply the brakes:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.01.40.png

Two words are going through Nadal's mind right now: "Oh, fuck."

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.01.47.png

But Nadal is Nadal, and somehow gets his racket on the ball:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.02.12.png

And Nadal sends it cross-court, The Stalker moving accordingly, and Nadal beginning to change direction again:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.02.20.png

Oh, if The Stalker could have only kept this volley a foot lower:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.02.34.png

The slow, red clay lets the ball bounce high, giving Nadal barely enough time to get there:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.02.43.png

But can only scoop the ball up - once again, Nadal is at The Stalker's mercy:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.03.05.png

The Stalker steps around to hit a backhand out wide, sending Nadal on another impossible sprint:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.03.25.png

And I mean, Nadal is in *big* trouble, but do you see the mistake The Stalker is making here? Look at that hole on the left side:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.03.32.png

I've seen this shot several times, and I'm *still* not sure how Nadal is hitting it, but he somehow gets it back on one bounce, facing backwards:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.03.38.png

"Oh ... fuck ...":

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.03.54.png

But, oh my God, The Stalker is lining up for something incredible:

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.04.03.png

Yes! A between-the-legs shot with Nadal pulled off the court!

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.04.16.png

But no, not even The Stalker can pull this one off. It's Nadal's point.

Screenshot 2016-12-24 at 01.04.24.png

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DonRocks   

Now that some time has passed, I'll take a shot at this (I'm not including players before 1960 because I just don't know):

Absolute Greatness
1. Federer
2. Nadal
3. Djokovic
4. Sampras (I'm not sure if any pure serve-and-volley player should be on this list)

Relative to Their Time
1. Federer
2. Laver
3t Borg
3t Sampras (I wouldn't know which to choose)

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DonRocks   
On 7/4/2014 at 4:23 PM, DonRocks said:

Yes, but.

The emphasis has shifted at the highest level to "collecting Grand Slams" as opposed to winning the most tournaments - this pretty much started with Pete Sampras. Jimmy Connors used to go out and win a tournament every week, it seemed.

You also included doubles in your McEnroe tally, and none of the top players play doubles anymore (because they're too busy trying to win Grand Slam singles titles). Before this week, I would have named the Williams sisters as an exception to this (but I'm too busy saying WTF? (*))

Now, Federer has taken this "Grand Slam-only" concept a step further, and made it "selected Grand Slams-only," as he deliberately skipped the clay-court season in 2017. It turns out (after he won Wimbledon this morning) that this was a move of absolute brilliance, as he has now won 2 out of the 3 Grand Slams played this year (he would have gotten killed by Nadal in the French, and that might have made him tired for Wimbledon; now, he has a legitimate shot at the U.S. Open). 

If I were Nadal, I'd play about five tournaments a year, and make them all on clay - he could win another 2-3 French Opens if he did this.

What in God's name has happened to Djokovic?

I just read through this entire conversation, and it's really interesting.

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DaveO   

I'm not sure how I happened on this video but here is an entire playoff basketball game from 1981 featuring the Celtics vs the 76ers, with Larry Bird, Dr J and a cast of 2 dozen. 

In watching I was struck by how different the game is now vs then with the biggest difference being the importance of the 3 pt line spreading out the game and necessitating players with different skills and strengths.  Shooting is of course one skill but the ability to fly around out to the 3 pt line rotate and race back inside requires different types of players now vs then and vice versa.

i think the same is true for tennis--actually more so.  It makes it hard for me to join the "who is best debate" The game is radically different and the practice and then skills Borg displayed so long ago were based on the technology of the time and his ability to raise his skills within that environment.

Which tennis payers of the different eras would adjust to the game in different periods and dominate the most?

Well I don't know but I sure liked Johnny Macs style and touch in his era.  Federer displays a grace that seems to indicate an ability to transcend eras at least in my mind.

i'm not jumping in on the GOAT debate but I wish the technology would allow more net play so as to revisit the days when Johnny Mac displayed touch genius and others could strive to match or better it. It was a fun period to watch

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Steve R.   

Just thought that this would be an opportune time for me to re-state my opinion on the answer to this thread's question:  Federer.

I've now been playing/watching tennis for over 50 years, started with front row seats for matches involving Laver et al (our H.S. tennis team was taken to MSG for pro tennis matches in '67-69 with courtside seats) & cannot remember being awed by anyone as much as by Federer.  That's really saying something, as it's much easier to awe a 15 year old than a 65 year old.

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DaveO   
40 minutes ago, Steve R. said:

Just thought that this would be an opportune time for me to re-state my opinion on the answer to this thread's question:  Federer.

I've now been playing/watching tennis for over 50 years, started with front row seats for matches involving Laver et al (our H.S. tennis team was taken to MSG for pro tennis matches in '67-69 with courtside seats) & cannot remember being awed by anyone as much as by Federer.  That's really saying something, as it's much easier to awe a 15 year old than a 65 year old.

Opinions are great.  They merit respect.  An opinion backed up by substance of one sort or another merits more respect (or is subject to debate with with different substance) ;)

One thing bothered the bejeebies out of me.  I'm your contemporary and I played high school tennis. (I was lousy-though I played doubles competition as a soph--no big deal)  My high school never got nuttin'.  No front row seats anywhere.  Not in tennis, baseball, football, etc etc etc.  Nuttin'.

I guess that is the difference between New York City and Jersey!!!!:angry:  As a junior and already established as high school newspaper sports editor (in the final month of that year) I got to interview Willis Reed who spoke at our school sports awards ceremony.  I heard we had to pay him to get out there. (Regardless a great thrill) Another example of NYC vs Northern NJ  :P 

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Steve R.   
50 minutes ago, DaveO said:

Opinions are great.  They merit respect.  An opinion backed up by substance of one sort or another merits more respect (or is subject to debate with with different substance) ;)

One thing bothered the bejeebies out of me.  I'm your contemporary and I played high school tennis. (I was lousy-though I played doubles competition as a soph--no big deal)  My high school never got nuttin'.  No front row seats anywhere.  Not in tennis, baseball, football, etc etc etc.  Nuttin'.

I guess that is the difference between New York City and Jersey!!!!:angry:  As a junior and already established as high school newspaper sports editor (in the final month of that year) I got to interview Willis Reed who spoke at our school sports awards ceremony.  I heard we had to pay him to get out there. (Regardless a great thrill) Another example of NYC vs Northern NJ  :P 

Hey, don't knock H.S. doubles.  Although I played singles in my senior year, I wasn't #1 singles since our coach had recruited a sophomore who could kick my ass (still can, since he's still a teaching pro) & I knew I wasn't even top 10 in NYC singles.  I had played doubles previously and had (in my Junior year) come in 2nd in the NYC "Mayor's Cup" H.S. Doubles Tournament (with my partner of course).  At any rate, feeling the need for revenge, we teamed up again in my senior year and won the tournament.  So, 47 years later I still have bragging rights to having once been the best H.S. doubles player (forget my partner, he was just window dressing) in NYC.

Our coach was a tennis fanatic who was the only sports coach not a gym teacher (he taught Social Studies) at the school.  He recruited off the basketball courts (where I was out-heighted and out-classed by too many others to get off the bench), he recruited from junior programs, he recruited from asking teaching pros who their promising lesson takers were.  At a time when you were supposed to go to the H.S. in your geographic neighborhood, we sure had some "adjacent neighborhood" guys around.  Needless to say, he was plugged in to indoor winter training courts (almost no other H.S. had this) & high level tennis promoters.  Hence the tickets.  And some racquets.  And balls.  Basically, the HS said "I see nothing, I hear nothing, I know nothing" and had nothing to do with any of it (except accepting the City Championship accolades each year). 

As for your claim that the tickets were "the" difference between NJ and NYC -- well, there's another opinion that I can state without needing to back it up with "substance" & you may not like that one either. :ph34r:

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