It’s a slow day at the office, so I’ve been cruising around the message boards, and reading the comments, and naturally the big debates rages on with Federer vs. Sampras in the greatest of all-time match-up, or the GOAT as they say. I stated my case for a few weeks back, and if you haven’t read it I basically said that Roger still has some work to do. But he’ll get there and become the GOAT.
Now for many of you, especially you Federphiles, you guys say your guy is already there. He’s already the greatest. And I can see where you are coming from. If that’s what you think, so be it. I have my criteria and you have yours. But if you think he’s already done enough, won enough titles, set enough records, I with you on that.
But what I’m not with on is that many of you Fed freaks argue that part of your guy being the GOAT is that Pete played in a time with little depth/competition, players not being at their peak and players having little in the way variety and fitness. In my mind, that’s complete garbage.
When I look back just ten years ago, at the year-end Top 10 of 1996 when Pete finished No. 1 I see seven Hall of Fame players. To refresh, here’s the 1996 Top 10: Sampras, Chang, Kafelnikov, Ivanisevic, Muster, Becker, Krajicek, Agassi, Enqvist and Ferreira. Maybe you Fed freaks see fewer, but I see at least seven.
Now when I check this week’s Top 10, I see three, maybe four among Federer, Nadal, Ljubicic, Nalbandian, Davydenko, Roddick, Robredo, Blake, Baghdatis, Gonzalez. Obviously Federer, Nadal and Roddick get in. Maybe Baghdatis and maybe Blake if he can get a Slam.
Again, Fed freaks, you say it’s tougher now so show me more? Is Davydenko, Robredo or Ljubicic going to the Hall?? Even if they won a Slam are they really worthy players?
Let me ask you this then, of the current Top 10, how many of them would have been in the 1996 year-end Top 10?
In my mind, I see Federer, Nadal, Roddick and maybe Blake. Fed probably No. 1, Nadal maybe No. 3 and Roddick around No. 8.
But if you think Roger’s facing stiffer competition, then again you got more current guys in there than guys from 1996. So then explain how Robredo is better than Muster, how Davydenko better than Kafelnikov, Ljubicic better than Ivanisevic or even Roddick better than Krajicek. Does Nalbandian really kill Chang at the French? Or Blake kill Becker at the US Open? I don’t see it, but apparently many of you guys do.
Oh wait, I hear you guys say, but it’s deeper now. Yeah, it is. But a decade ago when you get deep into a tournament you run into Hall of Fame players. Now you run into Tommy Robredo or Mikhail Youzhny or Nikolay Davydenko, Ivan Ljubicic and Fernando Gonzalez. Not exactly the cream of the crop when you think of guys who can win and do win big matches.
Meanwhile back in the day, Pete was dealing a lot more with guys who won Slams. Guys who knew how to win. The only guys Roger deals with that mentality are Rafa, Andy, Lleyton and Marat, with the last two perpetually injured of late.
But Federer fans somehow are willing to argue that beating Davydenko in the US Open semifinalist would be tougher than say Kafelnikov. Yeah, I’m sure Roger would rather have played Yevgeny, or Boris or Krajicek in the US Open semis than Davydenko. Whatever…
And with so many guys unable to pull out the big win, it’s no wonder “journeyman” type players like Paul Goldstein, Justin Gimelstob, Fabrice Santoro, and even Jonas Bjorkman are still plugging away and even able to post some of their best career results.
Is Jonas Bjorkman better now than when he was 10 years ago. Or is everybody so bad on grass he’s able to get to the semifinals at Wimbledon this year?
As for the argument players are strong and fitter now, well, they are. So what. I play tennis and if I worked out 8 hours a day two straight months It doesn’t automatically make me a better tennis player, or golfer or basketball player. Maybe I can run quicker and/or hit the ball harder, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be a better tennis player, does it? Sure it will help, it should, but it’s no guarantee. I’m not going to volley better, or hit my backhand crisper or return better. So I’m not totally buying that argument.
And I also don’t buy that players have more variety now. If they do, tell me how the current Top 10 has more variety than the Top 10 of 1996. In 1996 I see three guys who did the serve/volley pretty well in Sampras, Becker and Krajicek, and another in Kafelnikov who definitely knew a thing or two about volleying. But you Fed freaks claim the current crop is more skilled and has more variety? Well, show me, because I don’t see three guys let alone two that have the skills of the boys 10 years ago. But I must be wrong.
I’ve also heard the “Pete couldn’t play on clay” argument. I’m down with that, he was nothing special on the dirt. But the guy did have some nuts. Let me ask you Fed freaks this, how many former French champs has Roger beaten at Roland Garros. Answer: One, that being Carlos Moya. At the 1996 French Open, Pete beat Bruguera and Courier – both former French champs – in five sets. Bruguera by the way also reached the French final the following year. Not bad. Roger of course got dusted by Kuerten a few years back along with his losses to Nadal.
Of course Pete also won the Davis Cup on clay against Russia. So he’s had some pretty big wins on the dirt, far bigger than anything Roger’s done up to this point on clay. Or maybe I’m wrong again. Maybe Roger’s had some huge clay wins like Pete, but I’ve simply forgotten them. So fill me in if you can, I’m all ears. Give me some big match clay wins for Roger.
Bottom line for me is Roger’s going to go down as the greatest. So Fed freaks you are probably going to get your wish, it’s going to happen. So until then settle down and quit getting worked up when someone says otherwise. And quit bagging on Pete and his career, the guy beat some pretty fantastic players, go see for yourself or watch some old tapes. Above all Federphiles, quit going insane over this subject, take your meds and just let it play out. Roger would probably be the first to agree with that. It promises to be fun…
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