5 US Open Dream Matches
by Dan Martin | August 24th, 2009, 10:49 pm
  • 119 Comments

Just for fun, I am trying something different. As the 2009 hard court season heads toward the finish line, I came up with some hypothetical matches between former U.S. Open champions. I am not going to try to update players to today’s equipment or for that matter try to retrofit a current player to past equipment. I mainly found these matches to be interesting due to either contrasting styles of play or the state of mind that each champion had when winning the U.S. Open.

Rules:
Honorable Mentions – Andre Agassi and Ivan Lendl

1. I am only going to use a given player once.
2. I won’t compare players who ever actually met at the U.S. Open.

Agassi and Lendl’s longevity and consistent excellence left them out of the mix. Agassi having faced Jimmy Connors, Lendl, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter, Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer in New York made it difficult for me to work him into a match. Lendl similarly faced Connors, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Edberg, Becker, Agassi and Sampras at the U.S. Open. Out of respect for the two, I would love to see if the mature Andre Agassi would have the physical and mental fortitude to overcome Lendl who was an obstacle to a less disciplined Agassi in 1988 and 1989.

5. Contrasts: Lleyton Hewitt 2001 versus Stefan Edberg 1992

This is a classic contrast in both style of play and personality. Edberg would be putting a high percentage of his first serves into play, hitting a second serve that is almost identical to his first, and attacking the net whenever possible. Edberg would play his ground strokes conservatively looking to minimize errors while waiting for a chance to move forward. Hewitt and Edberg shared speed, but the Aussie’s mentality would be to place returns at Edberg’s shoe tops, retrieve volleys and hit passing shots. In 1991 Edberg dominated Michael Chang, Ivan Lendl and Jim Courier to win the title. In 1992 everything was a struggle for Edberg as he came back from a break down in the 5th set three times just to reach the final. Hewitt in 2001 was a young player hitting his prime and was fit.

4. Monsters of the Midway: Boris Becker 1989 versus Marat Safin 2000

1989 is generally viewed as Becker at his best even if he had a strong 1991 and played great tennis from Wimbledon 1995 – Australian Open 1996. Marat Safin’s semifinal obliteration of Todd Martin and championship thrashing of Pete Sampras had to be seen to be believed. This would be a match up of two big, strong, young players who moved exceptionally well. Movement would be key as Safin would need to track down a lot of Becker volleys. Becker would need to avoid letting passing shots and return winners put him into the mentality of shying away from the net as this would spell disaster. Both men were capable of a lot of fireworks. Each could also make bad tactical decisions. These two powerhouses would collide in a monster movie type match.

3. Who Has Momentum? Patrick Rafter 1998 versus Andy Roddick 2003

It is hard to remember two players entering the U.S. Open with more momentum than these two did. Rafter won Super 9 titles at Canada and Cincinnati in 1998. Roddick won Masters Series events in Canada and Cincinnati in 2003. Rafter won the now defunct Hamlet event in New York, and Roddick won in Indianapolis. Rafter would try to slice the ball taking pace off of it as he hit to Andy’s backhand. Brad Gilbert had Roddick standing far behind the baseline to return in 2003 with the idea that his charge would hold easily so if Roddick got lots of returns in play he’d break serve eventually. Ceding that much ground to a serve and volley player would lead to lots of drop volley and angle volley winners. Rafter did return well in 1998, but this was generally a weaker aspect of the Aussie’s game. This match would likely see a lot of tie-break sets. Both guys had to be extremely confident based upon their momentum entering the U.S. Open. That alone would raise the fascinating question of whose confidence blinked first.

2. You Cannot be a Genius! John McEnroe 1984 versus Roger Federer 2006

Federer versus McEnroe would be akin to Isaac Newton versus Albert Einstein or Shakespeare versus Homer for the more literary minded. Love or hate them, no two players have had the adjective genius attached to their tennis more often than these two. Add in the fact that in 1984 McEnroe had complete confidence that he could do anything he needed to on a tennis court and that in 2006 Federer had that same vibe. Would each guy lose sight of the end goal of victory by trying to hit an unthinkable shot to show up the other? Quite possibly, but it would be worth seeing.

1. Mr. U.S. Open versus Mr. U.S. Open: Jimmy Connors versus Pete Sampras

Jimmy Connors reached his first U.S. Open quarterfinal in 1973 and last reached the semifinals in 1991. He won the event on three surfaces and won the fans’ hearts after some initial reluctance on the part of the New York crowd. Pete Sampras was born as a top level tennis player when he became the youngest U.S. Open champion in 1990. Pistol Pete provided a bookend to that introduction by winning the U.S. Open in 2002 to close his career. Each man won five U.S. Open titles and the two finished a combined 11 years at #1. If I had to pick a best year for each, I’d select 1978 for Connors and 1995 for Sampras. Jimmy beat McEnroe and Borg back-to-back in straight sets no less to win the inaugural hard court U.S. Open in 1978. Sampras’ 1995 four set victory over Agassi represented the culmination of a 52 week challenge to Sampras’ supremacy and Pete passed the test by staying cool, serving huge, volleying well and also hitting big ground strokes. I think in this case making a best case scenario for each combatant based upon their entire body of U.S. Open work is actually more fruitful than isolating a single year.

This match would have all of the contrasts found in the Edberg-Hewitt clash, but it would have the added bonus of seeing the two most decorated male U.S. Open champions of the Open Era serve and return with no quarter given. Sampras’ power game would make him the favorite. Jimbo would thrive on being the underdog.

This would have to be a night match. Sampras never lost a night match in New York. A 37 year old Jimmy Connors beat then world #3 Stefan Edberg 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 with the help of a rowdy night crowd. No one was better at night than Sampras, and no one was more dangerous at night than Connors. Something would have to give.

My Thoughts

If I had to pick, I’d say these guys would have a better than 50% chance at victory …

5. Edberg – Always found a way to win in 1992
4. Becker – More mentally tough
3. Rafter – He beat 3 big servers on his way to the 1998 title
2. Federer – More natural power to go with imagination
1. Sampras – Jimbo would need to make this a marathon, but Pete would probably get too many free points to let this happen

Who do you think would win these matches?


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119 Comments for 5 US Open Dream Matches

David Says:

Sampras v. Jimbo and and Fed v. Mac would be mismatches. No way the two greatest fast court players in the history of tennis would lose to “lesser” all-time greats with less power in every area of the game.

The other 3 matches would be intriguing though. I think I agree with you about Becker and Safin. Safin beat Pete that day because he got off to a quick start and steamrolled him. Could he have handled any type of adversity? I rather doubt it.

Edberg – Hewitt It’s hard not to compare this hypothetical match-up to the real match-up between Edberg and Chang in 1992. Hewitt’s a little bigger and maybe a slightly better returner than Chang so I’ll give this one to Hewitt in an extremely close match. If it’s 1991 Edberg, then I’ll take Stefan.

Finally, Rafter-Roddick. Another absolute pick ‘em. Like you say, there would have to be at least 2 tiebreakers. Maybe I’ll give Roddick the edge just because, in those critical tiebreak points, Rafter would have to execute 1 or more volleys to win points rather than just blasting the other guy away with his serve.


sensationalsafin Says:

You were right Dan, this article is awesome. I’m gonna play devil’s advocate just for the sake of healthy debate.

5. Hewitt – Let’s not forget he did dismantle, albeit older, Sampras in the final. Sampras had a bigger serve than Edberg, even at that time, and Hewitt had a blistering return at the time. Not to mention, a lot of the ridiculous volleys Edberg could hit, Hewitt could track down a lot of him due to his speed.

4. Safin – 2000 US Open Safin was a completely different Safin from any other time. That was the one tournament where he took his head out of the equation and just let his natural awesome tennis do the talking. And he had quite a bit of momentum coming in from the summer (I know he won atleast a Masters event during the 2000 summer).

3. Roddick – This one’s tough but Roddick could literally have blown anyone, Rafter included, off the court. His forehand and serve were booming. And even though his backhand was technically flawed, he was blasting it, too. It’s true both players had a lot of confidence, and Rafter did have a 97 title to boost him, but it would have been incredibly hard to beat Roddick on home soil that year (not that it isn’t now).

2. McEnroe – 1984 was the year he lost only 3 matches, that’s half as many as Federer lost. He could literally do anything. And even despite Federer’s power, McEnroe could absorb anything and he was able to hit the most ridiculous approach shots and come in to knock off some amazing volleys. And let’s not forget, Federer still wasn’t pushed that hard in 06, and no one rushed, nor rushes, the net quite like Johnny Mac did.

1. Connors – Phew this is getting hard. Not even Sampras or Agassi had the longevity that Connors did atop of the game. And in the 70s, Connors was at his peak and could beat just about anyone, even those naturally better than him. So why would Sampras be an exception. Sampras was losing to Agassi most of that year, the other greatest returner of all time. And if this was the first or just first in a long time meeting between the 2, edge Connors due to the fact that Sampras never fared well against an opponent the first time he played him.

These comments aren’t necessarily what I truly believe, I just thought it’d be fun to come up with why the others might be the favorites.


jane Says:

Dan, what an interesting imagination you have; did you notice you picked almost all of the volleyers? Except you picked Fed over JMac, possibly one of the best volleyers the game has seen.

I’d probably say:
1. Edberg
2. Safin
3. Rafter/Roddick is a toss up for me
4. McEnroe (You can not be serious!)
5. Sampras

Honorable mention: Lendl, but again, very tough to pick. Agassi would have the crowd, but that never bothered Ivan.

They are all so close; it’s tough to pick. It’s also tough to imagine or put out of one’s mind the differences in the pace/technology of the game and the age differences.

We need some CGI here!


Dan Martin Says:

David,

I am inclined to see Edberg 91 as an easy win over Hewitt, but yeah Edberg 92 did struggle vs. Lendl and Chang (Krajicek as well). Oddly his 4 set win over Sampras in 92 was in a sense easier, but Pete did seem ill at the close of his semifinal vs. Courier. Pete struggled with lefties until his 1994 Wimbledon win over Goran as well. Not to say that a 100% healthy Pete wins in 92. I think Jimbo’s best context would be Hewitt’s 2001 win vs. Sampras and Courier’s 1991 win vs. Sampras.

Obviously, Jimbo and Mac would need updating to compete with more powerful opponents. Mentally though McEnroe feeling invincible and playing another guy feeling invincible is interesting.

SensationalSafin – Safin in 2000 was awesome. I went back and forth with all 5 of these in some ways playing devil’s advocate etc. I also initially wrote it with Roddick coming out over Rafter, but then considered Rafter beat Goran in the rd of 16, Pete in the semis and Mark P. in the finals so I thought he did break some big servers in 98. Beating Pete and Mark P. looked better to me than beating Nalbandian (saving match point to do so) and Juan Carlos Ferrero. That was the hardest one for me to decide as I then wrote it as a 50-50 deadlock but figured that was being too cautious.


Dan Martin Says:

Jane, I did see my results and think hmmm I hit a one handed backhand and played a serve and volley game as a junior and now play an all court game – am I inherently biased? Well I probably am, but this is like a magic eight ball column – fun but just a novelty item.

I agree about the tech making Connors and McEnroe hard to gauge in this. Becker seems to me to be one of the easiest players to translate into today’s context but McEnroe or Wilander are kind of tough. Would Wilander be a better Gilles Simon or would he be demolished? Wilander 88 vs. Federer 06 was a match I considered.


jane Says:

I’d say Wilander would be a better Simon, but again it’s hindsight. Obviously he won slams and Gilles hasn’t. I’d pick Fed 06 over Wilander 88.

You must’ve seen Forest Gump, how they put him into scenes with President Kennedy, John Lennon etc. Wouldn’t it be kind of cool to do that with tennis players? Even better would be if some computer program COULD retrofit or futurefit the players.


sensationalsafin Says:

Regarding Rafter beating the big servers. Well, Mark P. is definitely a lesser player than Roddick was even then. And Goran was always a hothead, something Roddick has more under control. And as for Sampras, wasn’t 98 the year when Sampras said the “10 slams is the difference between Sampras and Rafter” quote after losing in Cincy. And the USO was a close 5 setter where Sampras was up 2 sets to 1. So you could say Rafter was in Sampras’s head a bit.

And the fact that Roddick beat 2 players who are generally better movers and are stronger from the ground on both sides means Roddick was returning extremely well.

But yeah, it’s still 50-50.


sensationalsafin Says:

Comparing Wilander to Simon really seems to diminish Wilander’s accomplishments. He was a much hungrier player than Simon. But it also takes more than hunger and will to win 3 outta 4 slams in one year. Even Nadal and Sampras were never able to do it (well for Nadal, that remains to be seen).

When you have as much talent as Connors and especially McEnroe, their games would have translated to the power game and new equipment. It’s hard to determine how, but to say they would’ve been blown away seems disrespectful to everything they’ve accomplished.


Dan Martin Says:

Jane it would be something worth seeing either way. I don’t want to have the writers of Rocky Balboa/Rocky VI sue me, but some sort of computer simulation using biometrics and logic based upon what would be the best adaptations for that player in a given era forward or backward would be interesting.

I think Wilander would have been a winner in today’s game as he was a smart player, but his distinction of being the last player to be #1 without a power game of any sort is really one to be proud of even if it makes him an oddity.


Dan Martin Says:

Looking at an early outline my initial pairings were:

Safin 00 vs. Lendl 86
McEnroe 84 vs. Agassi 99
Edberg 92 vs. Hewitt 01
Connors 78 vs. Rafter 98
Becker 89 vs. Roddick 03
Sampras 95 vs. Federer 06

but I wanted 5 matches and somehow I thought Jimmy Connors had to be in the final pairing as he is still the player I most associate with this event. That match up impacted the others and


Lee Says:

Sorry …. imo, Fed is good enough to beat them.
5. Fed 08 vs Edberg 1992 (def. Murray straight)
4. Fed 07 vs Becker 1989 (def. Djokovic straight)
3. Fed 06 vs Rafter 1998 (def. Roddick)
2. Fed 05 vs McEnroe 1983 (def. Agassi)
1. Fed 04 vs Sampras 1995 (def./crushed Hewitt)


David Says:

Jane:

Please tell me you’d be rooting for Fed over McEnroe. There’s gotta be one match where you’d be pulling for Fed.


sensationalsafin Says:

The point of this article is probably to stray away from only talking about Federer…

Anyways. Dan, for your early outline matchups:

1. Imo opinion, Safin’s natural talent is far greater than just about anyone elses and the 2000 USO was all-talent-Safin. But Lendl is a mighty warrior. So since I love Safin, I’m picking him in this matchup.

2. 84 McEnroe was freaking GOD! But 99 Agassi was simply awesome and he is known as a great returner. I’m going with Agassi because the guy knew how to take care of his serve, he was mentally tough at that point, and he’s one of the greatest returners (key against Mac).

3. Connors at his near-peak vs Rafter at his peak. Phew, you’re really testing me, Dan. Connors is also the greatest returner so he would eat up Rafter’s kick serves and probably take the net away. So I’m going with Jimbo.

4. Again, Roddick had monumental momentum going into the Open but I’m also picking him over Becker because it’s in the US.

5. It’s funny because everyone always asks who’d win at Wimbledon between prime Sampras vs prime Federer, but no one mentions the US Open. Sampras was a better fast court player, but in 06, Federer was the best fast court player. And on a hard court, Federer just has too many options. I’m picking Federer because he was just too unbeatable in 06. It could be argued that Sampras wasn’t even the best overall player in 95.


jane Says:

David, I’d pull for Fed over Wilander, probably, but not McEnroe. Contrary to many, I loved JMac.I might pull for Fed over Connors, depending how Jimbo was that night; have a like/dislike thing with Connors. I’d definitely pull for Fed over Nastase! ; )


NachoF Says:

I wasnt around to watch McEnroe but based on what I have seen/heard/read McEnroe was no genius.


David Says:

Jane:

Just joking with you :) I used to be a Fed fan, but I’ve lost enthusiasm. He needs to eat a little humble pie after all this success and his No. 15 robe, but I don’t know when that’s going to happen. Maybe Rafa can surge back to No. 1 but I won’t hold my breath.

Even so, Mac and Connors were just unforgivably bad sportsmen. At least Fed is respectful to umpires and linesmen.


blah Says:

I would say

Hewitt- In his prime he ate up serve and volleyers. He was also better than Chang in his prime.
Safin- 2000 Safin was probably close to the top form. He has more weapons than Becker and wasn’t a complete hothead yet… (right? can’t remember)
Roddick- This would probably be the closest match, with a few tiebreakers as people have said. I went with Rafter originally but switched to Roddick. Too much momentum, too big of a serve, and I think it was 98 that I remember that Rafter beat Sampras in a semi because Pete got injured halfway through. It looked like Sampras was on his way to winning.
Federer- I’ll take Federer in his prime years against almost anybody on the USO hardcourt. McEnroe would probably melt down mid match.
-I didn’t see enough of Connors game but Pete beat Andre in 95, who was on fire coming in. I would say Sampras’ calm and serve would probably help him win it.

Safin 00 vs. Lendl 86- Safin
McEnroe 84 vs. Agassi 99- I’ll go with Agassi because he was rising again and McEnroe could implode at anytime.
Connors 78 vs. Rafter 98- Haven’t seen enough of Connors, but I don’t think Rafter 98 at uso was as strong as some think.
Becker 89 vs. Roddick 03- Can you imagine the number of aces in this match? I would go with Roddick probably.
Sampras 95 vs. Federer 06- Federer in 06 on hardcourts- as I said, very hard to pick against.

This would have been a fun idea if done on Wimbledon. I’ll take Goran in 2001 against any and all.


blah Says:

^ That last line sounds weird. Dan, you came up with a great idea, next year this should be done on Wimbledon.


africanck Says:

I think that J.Mac was great but Fed would frustrate the hell out of him. the only player who could try and challenge Fed would be Pete Sampras and in our era Nadal.
Becker and Roddick I would go with Roddick and his great serve
Safin was awsome for a year, he even beat fe a few times, I think he would beat Lendl


africanck Says:

By the way Dan:
Great article keep up the good work, way to make us tennis fanatics think.

With regards to David:
Fed is still a humble guy he never boasts and all the other players respect him and speak highly of him. About him being humbled did he not lose the Australian open and Wimbledon last year…he was even crying at the Aussie open, how much more humble pie should he eat..he is awesome player and we need to see more Nadal fed matches thats what the tennis world loves!! No matter who wins


Dan Martin Says:

I can put something together for Wimbledon 2010. Australia 2010 could lead to Johan Kriek once again being thrown out there. It looks like the 1981 and 1982 Australian Open champion is doing some cool philanthropy – http://www.johankriektennis.com/philanthropy.php


David Says:

africanck

No doubt Fed is popular among his peers and I know he has won numerous sportsmanship awards. I also think he’s a role model in terms of pretty much never pulling any gamemanship in terms of fake injury time-outs, getting coaching from the crowd. I really respect that old-school fair play.

I guess I just didn’t like the No. 15 jacket (I know it was Nike’s idea) in particular. Is that really appropriate after winning an incredibly close final that was agonizing enough for the loser?

Also, I’d like to see Fed slip down a peg to test his sportsmanship. He wasn’t the greatest sportsman early in his career when he wasn’t winning everything. Would he still have the same attitude on court if he starts losing early at Slams?


Polo Says:

Isn’t life grand? I know I would not feel bad if Roger loses but he continues to win. What can I do but just smile and enjoy it. I have the same feeling for the US Open, I would be elated if he wins again but would feel just as good if my new favorite for a major wins, Andy, as in Andy Roddick. Andy just seems ripe enough for a good harvest. Honest, no digs or brown-nosing to anyone intended. No bitter response nor flattering retorts to my post needed either.

I cannot pick Nadal, even he does not expect to win although he will try his best as usual, maybe next year. Not Murray, still with insufficient majors scars, maybe next year. Not Djokovic, still doubtful to me but I could be wrong but no, not yet, maybe next year. No not del Potro, still not fit enough for majors battles, maybe next year. Gee, next year sounds even more exciting. Federer (Roddick too)will still be there but the playing fields maybe more equal for all these guys by then.


Dan Martin Says:

Before I started writing for tennis-x I wrote for another website and did a series of “What if?” matches where I did try to upgrade players to today’s equipment. I am not really interested in that sort of speculation as much these days, but would the tennis-x readers like to see more speculation along these lines? I am open to doing this sort of thing now and again.


Polo Says:

David said: Also, I’d like to see Fed slip down a peg to test his sportsmanship. He wasn’t the greatest sportsman early in his career when he wasn’t winning everything. Would he still have the same attitude on court if he starts losing early at Slams?

Federer has been to the peak of the tennis mountain. He has done all that he needed to do. I think he would be careful on his way down not to scrape himself. He has two lovely daughters (and a wife) holding his hands to guide him down slowly and gracefully. His will be a lovely round-trip tennis journey.


Polo Says:

No to “What if” writings. They serve no purpose. Ifs never happen and serve no purpose. It is a tool used by losers to ease the pain of failure. So it is not for me anyway.


Von Says:

Dan:

Good article, however, I cannot pick or comment because I’m unaware as to how the older players played, since I’ve only faithfully watched tennis from 1990 to the present time. Through the courtesy of the Tennis Channel I’m able to watch some classic matches between the past legends/greats, but that’s as far as my tennis knowledge goes.


Dan Martin Says:

Polo, I agree about too many ifs being unattractive. What about a series of the 10 most dominant champions of a given event i.e. Lendl in 1986 was more dominant compared to the field at the U.S. Open in 1986 and the tour in 1986 than Agassi was in 1994. Some champions make a surprise run to either realize potential or make one last stand and others win as a culmination/coronation of a great season. Maybe historical analysis of different years and players can achieve a sort of comparison without overreaching and saying if Nadal played in the 70′s …


Polo Says:

Dan, that I will read and it would be based on what actually happened and their real accomplishments against the field during their individual era. It will still leave room for a good discussion among readers without concocting scenarios that are purely imaginary.


Dan Martin Says:

Sounds like a good concept to me too Polo – avoiding the pitfalls of pure fiction but also placing some players side by side for discussion.


Mike Says:

No Vic Seixas?!


Polo Says:

Dan, if I may suggest another future article, since there have been an abundance of heated discussions about the mythological GOAT citing many scenarios for or against anybody’s pick, how about writing about former number ones and who were their number 2s, during their reign. For example, Federer’s claim for that greatest title is shot down by his detractors because of his head to head record against Nadal. But look, Nadal was his number 2 for so many years. Doesn’t that amount to something? Or has this been writen already and I missed it?


Veno Says:

Hey Von:

I have a good book you should read:
I think you’ll love it. It’s about human behaviour, in particular what determines their decision -making :)

It’s called: Predictably Irrational written by Dan Ariely


Giner Says:

Trying to match up players across generations eh? Sorry, but that doesn’t work. The older guys had weaker racquets and the game was less physical back then. I seriously doubt Edberg stands much of a chance against Hewitt, who happens to be an expert at beating serve-volley players.

I also don’t think Becker would beat Safin unless he implodes (not entirely unlikely). The old generation players I don’t give that much of a chance to.


Fed is GOAT Says:

I don’t think anyone could beat Fed at his peak (Fed of 2006), except a peak Nadal only on clay. That were pretty much his losses in 2006. And they were also all very close.

Fed at his peak would beat ALL of them, on e.g. Mcenroe or sampras or connors or lendl, on grass AND on hard. He would beat all of them on clay too (yes, even Lendl). I think only Nadal on clay could beat him. Even Borg on clay would be a close call- Borg was not a lefty, so he would never be able to exploit the ONLY slight weakness in Fed’s game, his backhand. ONLY nadal could exploit it, and that too because he was lefty.

Fed’s records speak for themselves.

In 2006, Fed played 17 tournaments, was in 16 finals, won 12 of those. missed a grand slam by a few points and one set. And so on and so on….


Fed is GOAT Says:

Even Mcenroe would not have been able to pressure Fed’s backhand the way Nadal has done, because of the vicious top spin nadal puts on it. After 1984, Mcenroe just suddenly faded away – he had a few good years, including one monster year in 1984. But that’s it.


David Says:

Gina

Yes, Hewitt does have some good wins against serve and volley players. But your comment that even peak 1991 Edberg “doesn’t stand much of a chance” is going way too far.

Rafter beat Hewitt in straight sets in 2001 at Cincinnati.

Sampras beat Hewitt pretty comfortably at the 2000 Open one year before Hewitt pummelled a noticeable tired Pete.

Taylor Dent played Hewitt tough in pretty much every match they played during Hewitt’s prime years.

Right there that’s enough evidence to be able to say that Edberg, one of the greatest sv players of all time, would have had an excellent chance against any version of Hewitt.


David Says:

Er, sorry, I meant Giner.


Voicemale1 Says:

Fed is GOAT Says:
“I don’t think anyone could beat Fed at his peak (Fed of 2006), except a peak Nadal only on clay. That were pretty much his losses in 2006. And they were also all very close.”

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Nadal beat Federer on a hard court in 2006, his “peak year”, as well as on clay. Nadal beat Federer for the title in Dubai, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Federer was coming of a win in Australia and Nadal was returning in Dubai off a layoff since October 2005 with the foot injury. True that 2006 was a terrific year for Federer, but he lost to Nadal on two surfaces that year (losing to him again in Monte Carlo, Rome and Paris). So maybe the other guys of yesteryear would have had a better chance against Federer at his “peak” than you think.


jane Says:

I think Fed lost to Murray on hard court in 2006 also (@ Cincy if I am not mistaken). That Rafa/Fed match at Dubai was a good one.


sensationalsafin Says:

Federer should have never lost that match in Dubai.


Voicemale1 Says:

sensationalsafin Says:
“Federer should have never lost that match in Dubai.”

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

But..he did…


sensationalsafin Says:

Well, Nadal was kinda in his head. But yeah. I mean it really comes down to the day for any of those match ups, including Federer. As tough as he was (let’s not forget he only lost to Nadal and was pretty off against a nothing-to-lose Murray that year) he could still have an off day. Federer at his best was pretty unbeatable. But McEnroe, Sampras, Lendl, these guys were champions, too, the ones Federer models himself after. So to say they couldn’t beat Federer at all is ridiculous. To say they’d definitely beat him is also ridiculous. To say it’d be an epic match is pretty spot on. I’d give the edge to Federer only because I think he’s the smartest player of all time and would adapt faster and better than the others.


Voicemale1 Says:

sensationalsafin Says:
“Well, Nadal was kinda in his head”-…and kinda still is.

“But yeah. I mean it really comes down to the day for any of those match ups, including Federer.” – Well, couldn’t you say that about anyone at any time? If so, why then hold up Federer’s losses with this sort of asterisk?

“As tough as he was (let’s not forget he only lost to Nadal and was pretty off against a nothing-to-lose Murray that year) he could still have an off day.” – I ask again: couldn’t you say that about anyone at any time? If so, why excuse the Federer losses then by stating what applies to everyone at any given time anyway?

“Federer at his best was pretty unbeatable.” – Umm, well…then again, you could obviously say so were Sampras, McEnroe, Lendl, Graf, Navratilova, and Seles also “pretty unbeatable” at their best too, right?. So why single out Federer?

“But McEnroe, Sampras, Lendl, these guys were champions, too, the ones Federer models himself after.” Agree totally with the first part of this statement; I have no clue who Federer modeled himself after.

“So to say they couldn’t beat Federer at all is ridiculous. To say they’d definitely beat him is also ridiculous.” – So…then…you’re saying Federer could just as easily lose as win to any of these guys? You better Watch Out – Federer Is GOAT isn’t gonna like that!

“To say it’d be an epic match is pretty spot on.” – Hmm..maybe. Not always do those matches billed as extravaganzas live up to their hype. Connors/McEnroe had an “epic” at Wimbledon in 1982 when Connors won in five sets. They played for the title again in 1984 and Johnny Mac won is straight sets in less then 90 minutes without breaking a sweat.

“I’d give the edge to Federer only because I think he’s the smartest player of all time and would adapt faster and better than the others.” – Hmm..well, if you say Federer could just as easily lose as win then I’m thinkin’ you gotta call it a pick ‘em, don’t ya? And about the “smart” thing. Wilander says Federer’s not all that smart – mostly because he keeps losing to Nadal in the exact same way: high balls to his backhand. I guess Mats thinks Federer should have long ago figured out a way to stop that from happening. I’m thinking because of that Wilander told Tennis Magazine this past spring Nadal’s the Smartest Guy On The Tour today. But Mats probably doesn’t really know anything about tennis today anyway.


sensationalsafin Says:

Nadal is also an incredibly smart player, but I still give Federer the edge considering how he’s dominated the TOUR, not just one player. I don’t feel like explaining the whole asterik thing.


Voicemale1 Says:

sensationalsafin:

No need to explain the asterisk thing. My questions are rhetorical. We all know what’s meant by statements like that. It’s a way to excuse the losses Federer incurs as, well, excusable. And simultaneously hold up all of his wins as proof of his domination. We get it. The mantra is: Federer’s wins are Indelible Exaltations Of Greatness; his losses are Incidental Irritating Inconveniences.


Gordo Says:

Dan – It’s nice how your mind works.

I want to go weirder with a dream match, but equipment differences would make this hard to imagine -

Laver ’69 vs Nadal ’08… on clay!

Two lefties who use topspin unlike anyone else. I would love to have seen that.


David Says:

sensationalsafin:

No one in their right mind would say that Fed and Rafa aren’t players with incredibly high tennis IQs. However, imo the reason Fed dominates the tour more than Nadal is because of his superior serve.

I can think of a handful of matches at Slams in which Roger was getting outplayed from the baseline yet he won anyway because of great serving on the day. One such match was the 06 AO against Davydenko and the other was the 08 AO against Tipsarevic.

Also, I don’t think he could’ve won this year’s Wimby final without an exceptionally great serving day.

Whereas in Rafa’s case, if he’s getting outplayed from the baseline, his serve isn’t good enough to bail him out.


Gordo Says:

Those poo pooing this ‘what if’ article – lighten up!

It’s just a bit of whimsy to pass the time and maybe detract from the boredom of the GOAT discussion. Nice for a change.

But it is a bit of silly fun. Kind of like picturing Humphrey Bogart playing Indiana Jones or Hitler having a great time at a bar mitzvah.

Sometimes we nered a little imagination, n’est-ce pas?

[ I SWEAR - these days before the US OPEN draw comes out seem like they are going to last FOREVER! :)]


sensationalsafin Says:

That’s not at all what I mean. I used to believe that. But at some point, I think last year, it hit me that Nadal at his absolute best against Federer at his absolute best would still win on clay. But Fed would win on the other surfaces. I think Sampras at his best would beat Fed at his best on an indoor surface or a really fast hard court (I don’t wanna get into any grass debates so I’m not saying anything about it). It’s too hard to say anything about Mac or Connors because they played before super equipment and supremely fit players. And it’s not like Fed’s never won when he should’ve lost (Wimbledon this year maybe, 07 USO final, etc). At the same time, Fed’s lost when he should’ve won.

Last year, Federer lost to Simon twice. Now, it’s pretty clear to anyone who knows tennis that Simon is a much lesser player than Federer, but why’d he win? Well, in Toronto, Federer just crumbled each time he was up a break, which was like 10 times in the 2nd and 3rd sets. He should’ve won, but lost. In the TMC, Federer was up a set and a break again. This time, I felt like Fed kinda gave away that lead but Simon really stepped up. And Fed was never in the third set and was beaten by Simon who was simply playing better. Idk about what other factors there were, but I saw the tennis. And in tennis, on any given day, anyone can beat anyone, Federer isn’t excluded from that, as good as he is. Federer has said it himself that he feels, at his best, he’s pretty much unbeatable. Sampras has said those things. McEnroe has said those things. Don’t you think there’s some truth in that? I’ve played enough competitive tennis to know that there are people who I could beat as long as I play my best. But on a given day, someone could be playing as well as they can on THAT day and it might not be enough. Sometimes the other player prevents his opponent from getting into enough of a rhythm to play his best (Nadal vs Fed anyone?). Players like Murray and Simon give Federer more rhythm than he’d like and they feed off that even more because rhythm helps them more than it helps Fed. Yet on Fed’s day, he can stomp on either one of these guys. Look at his record against Nalbandian and Hewitt. Two players who could get to any shot when they’re playing awesome, yet Federer has been able to just trounce them. Is it because Hewitt’s gotten slower? Well, hasn’t Federer? And didn’t Federer just cruise through Murray? Why, because he played the way he needed to. Something he was unable to do for WHATEVER reasons many times before. Is that an excuse? No. Because Federer could have been playing great on those days he lost to Murray (Madrid and TMC last year were incredible) but executed the wrong game plan and came out losing because he played wrong. Not bad, wrong. Is Federer the only who can play wrong? No. Look at Murray. He’s being criticized a lot for playing too defensively. He let Verdasco, Gonzo, Roddick, and most recently Federer (among many others) dictate play and since they were playing really well, they won. If Murray had played more aggressive against them, he probably could have won. Or made it closer. Or anything. Who knows? It’s not an excuse for Federer, it’s an excuse for ANY tennis player.


africanck Says:

Hey David

You have a point with the 15 jacket by Nike I agree that they make too big a deal out of who is the best player ever question too. We know you can’t say one guy its just not possible. Different eras.
About Fed being a good sportsman when he beat Sampras was it in 2001 I think, he was not that well known. He seemed to still be a good sportsman. I also felt for Roddick in the final of that Wimby win. I like Roddick and feel bad since Fed just has his number and beats him all the time. Same with Hewitt. I mean whats up with those guys they just can’t beat Fed.(although Roddick beat him once last year when Fed was in his slump after he lost to Mardy Fish..disgrace)
Anyway I think Fed has come down a notch, he has only won 4 tournaments this year not too good for him. Although he has won both slams..he is a guy he peaks in the big tournaments that is one thing that makes him so good.

Sensationalsafin
I liked your point about playing at his best. Its true when Federer is on he is unstoppable, but all tennis players have bad days or there rhythm gets thrown off. When Fed won Wimboldon this year he was not at his best how many 5 setters did he play, about 3 or 4 no? but he still won, its only Murray and Nadal who throw off Fed off his Rhythm an alot of it is in his head too since he has lost huge matches to Nadal he has some fear and extra respect for him.

By the way i always loved Marat Safin, can you tell me what happened to him, he was such a great player and could never be consistent why? Would love to get your feedback on that!


Long Live the King Says:

“that Nadal at his absolute best against Federer at his absolute best would still win on clay. But Fed would win on the other surfaces.”

>>>>> Amen to that! As has been pointed out on tennis-x, Nadal’s superior H2H Vs Roger is mainly due to the fact that they have met 11 times out of their 20 on clay, where Nadal is vastly superior. Of the other 9, Roger still leads the rivalry 5-4, this after conceding 5yrs in age (which in a physical sport like tennis is a LOT!) and the lefty advantage. (Quickly, name lefty GS champions other than Nadal in the last 20years, That is a total of 80 Grand Slams. Even better lets see Left-handed GS champs between 1990 and 2005 (before Nadal won his 1st GS. You will understand the unique problem Roger has been dealt. Atleast he has stood his ground and taken his beatings unlike the other guy who quit the sport in frustration of his inability to put one across his younger left handed foe)

Bottom line : Roger’s best trumps Nadal’s best on faster hard-courts, grass and indoor carpet. Nadal’s trumps Roger’s on clay and slower hard courts. (Maybe Nadal will still improve on the faster surfaces, maybe he won’t – we will see how things move from here, but for now this is how things are)


africanck Says:

Giner
I agree I don’t think Becker could beat Safin at his peak, the guy was amazing in some of his games. He beat Fed a couple of times as well, when Fed was at his best.
—————————————-
Also Sampras verse Jimmy no chance..Sampras would beat him in straight sets. Jonny Mac against Fed..no way Fed would crush him also in straight sets. Fed serve is so good and his power also. I really think Fed and Sampras were two of the most amazing players..along with Laver


Long Live the King Says:

Regarding Roger against any of the other greats, I donot think anyone with a big serve and power based offensive game will beat Roger even on the fastest of services. As Roger has shown in his career, he just LOVES to play the power based big-servers. He will absorb all their power and whip-up some of his own. It is the defensive players like hewitt, nalbandian, canas, nadal and murray that pose Roger problems. Most of them he has figured out over time. With Nadal and murray, however, time is not Roger’s friend.

If any of the past greats is going to give Roger a fight on any surface, it is going to be a tenacious one like Wilander, lendl or Borg. Not big servers/volleyers like Sampras, mcenroe or becker. They can at the most make a match close, but as we have seen in Roger’s career, he is just not rattled mentally by big servers. The defensive ones give him trouble, but in my opinion, they need to be on Rafa’s level of defense to pose Roger any threat, else they will be figured like hewitt, agassi and nalbandian.


Long Live the King Says:

I have to add, they need to be left-handed defensive players to exploit Roger’s Achilles heel – his backhand, else it is bye-bye and good night!


africanck Says:

DAN

I loved this article and think the idea of
a series of the 10 most dominant champions of a given event compared to the field at the U.S. Open .

Also the idea someone I think someone put as the dominant number ones along with the number twos, would make a great article comparing the two.

Anyway love the article prepare on for the 2010 Wimby


africanck Says:

Long live the king
You have it spot on. Only defensive lefty’s are his weakness. Although his backhand is a bit better, but the guys are getting faster and faster. Time is not on Feds side with regards to Murray and Nadal and even Djovic( if he gets better).

I am not sure how much longer Fed can stay number 1, what do you people think?


Gordo Says:

Regarding Federer being a good sportsman -

A relatively small thing he did during last Sunday’s final impressed me.

In the second set Federer was serving from the deuce side and his first serve looked to hit the centre line for an ace. As the crowd started to applaud Federer walk to the ad side to prepare to serve the second point just as Djokovic called for a review.

It would have been easier for Federer to remain in the spot where he would be serving the second point of the game, as I am pretty sure he himself believed his serve was good, but instead he returned to his initial position, as if he was going to have to serve a second serve from the deuce side if the review judged his previous serve out.

Seconds later the review showed that the ball was clearly in – an ace.

For all the claims of how arrogant Federer can be, I found this to be a small gesture of respect to Djokovic; Federer was not sending the message of “no, you’re wrong,” as some alpha males would.

I doubt many noticed this, but in a small way I think it illustrates one of the reasons why Federer is so well liked on the tour by his opponents.


Gordo Says:

Africanck – how long can Fed stay #1?

My guess is that should he win the US Open (And the way he is playing makes me think no one will take more than one set from him) I believe he will hold on to #1 until the end of the year, doing something that only Lendl has done – be #1 at a year end, not be #1 a following year and then regain it again at year end.

If that should happen he will be so close to two of his few possible remaining goals – 1) longest accumulated stay as #1 (I believe he has less than 40 weeks to go now) and 2) a consecutive, non calendar grand slam, which he would achieve by winning the Australian Open.

After that, his poor showings at Indian Wells and Miami in 2009 means he still would have points he could gain, so really he would not be in peril until the French Open, where the interesting thing would be not how Federer played, but rather where Nadal is seeded.

I fully believe that a healthy, in-form Nadal will win the French Open next year. If Rafa is not number 2 he might play Fed in the semis. Federer losing there might be the start of giving opponents a chance to catch Federer.

So my guess is – Federer will remain #1 for at least another full year, should he get off to the right start and hoist his 6th straight US OPEN trophy in a fortnight.

But incidentally, should Federer somehow win the US Open, Australia 2010 and Roland Garros 2010 he would be one slam away from tieing Budge’s 6 slams in a row by winning Wimbledon. That would be amazing and then the GOAT talk about him could rev up to unbefore seen heights.


africanck Says:

Gordo
Nice thought about the service call. He also asked the audience to applaud for Djokers game as well, I thought that was a nice gesture.
I tend to agree with your assessment of being number 1 for another year, I don’t see him doing it much longer all these guys are getting better and better and the top 4 guys now are all incredible, Fed’s game has to be really on to constantly beat them over the next year or two. But I do seeing him lose a few sets at the beginning. It seems he steamrolls the first set or two and then has trouble finishing them like both Murray and Djoker he has them both 6-2 and 6-1 but then had difficulty finishing them. I foresee a little of that in the US open as well.


Fed is GOAT Says:

2004-06 – Fed went 247-15. Of these, probably 5 or 6 were clay losses to Nadal. 8 slams. 34 titles total. No player in history has had such a stretch. That indicates that at his best, Federer was better than anyone at THEIR best. Sampras at his BEST lost 14-15 matches per year.

Federer had two off days in 2006 – Dubai (nadal) and murray (cincy). Two off days in a full year, where he played 97 matches (92-5). That’s better than any player, only Mcenroe’s 82-3 is better (but Mcenroe did it only in one year, not three years in a row).

Whichever way you slice it, NOBODY has killed their opposition like the Federer of 2004-06 (when he was 23-25 years old).

When Federer is playing at HIS best, his ONLY loss would be to a peak Nadal on clay. It has to be a tenacious, fit, fast, lefty to trouble a peak Federer.

Federer clearly has the most complete game of any tennis player I have watched in the last 35 years (starting with Borg and Connors). All of them either had less firepower, or more weaknesses.

If Federer had been playing the French Open in the 90s, or the 80s, or even the 70s, he would have won more titles..


Voicemale1 Says:

You can sum up the quintessential apex of Federer’s accomplishments this way. If Federer win the US open next month, it will be the third time in his career he will have been foiled in his attempt at a true Calendar Grand Slam by losing in the Final at one of the four events to Nadal.


Long Live the King Says:

To put it another way :

Federer is the Superman and Nadal his kryptonite.


David Says:

Fed is GOAT:

I know you’re probably referring to the Open Era, but the history of tennis goes back a long way before that. Was Fed’s run between 2004 and 2006 better than what Tilden did. According to Frank DeFord in his book “Big Bill Tilden,” Tilden never lost a match of any significance anywhere in the world for seven years.

Now, there can be all sorts of comments about lack of competition, guys playing in long pants, etc, but the fact is other players in tennis “history” have killed their opposition to the same degree that Fed did during the period you mentioned.


sensationalsafin Says:

The problem with Tilden’s era was that he just had to play the finals when he was defending champion. He never had any consecutive semis due to him never playing many semis since he was defending champ.


David Says:

That was the case at Wimbledon, I understand. Was it also the case at the U.S. Championships? I’ll have to check on that. The other thing back then was the importance of Davis Cup, and I don’t think there’s ever been a greater DC player than Tilden. The point is though that I don’t think it’s clear that Fed’s dominance over his peers is unprecedented in the history of tennis. There have been a lot of dominant players. And tennis tends to lend itself to that. In almost every decade, there’s been a player who dominates so much it starts to get boring after a while.


africanck Says:

Fed the goat

That 247-15 stat is incredible that speaks volumes enough said no one has ever done that

Long live the King
I don’t think Nadal is kryptonite but certainly close, fed does beat Nadal but not so often.


africanck Says:

So Goat
I am a big Fed fan but I also like Nadal and I really like some of the other guys who play exciting tennis like Simon and Tsonga.
I am curious to know how long you think Fed can remain at number #1. especially since all the other top 4 guys play brilliant tennis and are younger then Fed. How long can he stay on top, 1 year year and a half?


Mitch Says:

I think the Federer v. McEnroe match would be interesting. Fed’s passing shots would have to be on to consistently pass Mac over 5 sets…would be nice to see those volleys though.


Fed is GOAT Says:

David said:

“In almost every decade, there’s been a player who dominates so much it starts to get boring after a while”

No, that’s not really true. The way Fed dominated in this decade (247-15, 8 slams in 3 years, 11 slams in 4 years) – nobody has ever done that. Who did something similar in the 90s? In the 80s (perhaps Lendl came close)? in the 70s? etc….

The other guy who dominated a lot that nobody talks about it Rosewall. He won 4 legitimate slams in the open era, and 14 or 15 Pro Slams before. That’s more than Laver, who won 5 legitimate slams in the open era, and 8 Pro slams before that. Actually, Rosewall has the max number of slams, if you include the Pro Slams before the Open Era (Top players were all Pros before the open era, so the normal slams don’t really count that much).


Fed is GOAT Says:

If you look at it carefully, Rosewall’s record is superior to Laver’s. Yet people just talk about Laver, never about Rosewall. Why?

In the same way, Lendl doesn’t get spoken about as much as he should be.

People are just obsessed with Sampras, Borg and Laver as being the GOAT candidates along with Federer.

Perhaps Rosewall is the GOAT of men’s tennis, if its not Federer (Fed’s career is not over yet, so its possible that he might end up with more slams than Rosewall (counting the Pro Slams)).


tennisontherocks Says:

- Even though Borg never won US open, he was in finals 3 times and always had the ‘cool factor’. So I would add him to the list and would love to see him face off Agassi. More than the tennis, I just want to be there for the rock concert atmosphere.

- Would also love to see Roger facing Connors and see if Connors could get the crowd behind him. Connors was able to rattle Borg and will see how Roger holds up (I don’t remember seeing Roger playing in front of audience that’s not cheering for him).

- I would also add fews women’s matches to wish list:
Navratilova vs Serena or Venus
Navratilova vs Hingis
Sabatini vs Henin (just for the backhands).
Evert vs Hingis


Voicemale1 Says:

Tennis Channel broadcast the 1991 Australian Open Men’s Final between Becker and Lendl. Anybody who watched that could plainly see that those two were hitting the ball then with as much pace, power, placement than anything you’d see today. The Becker Serve and the Lendl Forehand, especially wen he had to hit it on the run, were as good then as anything Federer, Nadal, Murray or Djokovic could come up with today.

Federer’s forehand is as good to be sure, but he’s not as good hitting it on the run as Lendl and Sampras were. Federer hits his Forehand most effectively when he’s set up to do so, but when forced to run to it he hist most of those as the Squash Shot Slice forehand. I don’t remember seeing Lendl hit many of those, and probably because he was so supremely fit in his career that he got to most of those with his great footwork. Either of them in that kind of form would be a hefty proposition for anyone playing today.

The Sampras Federer exos told a lot. You’d have to say that other than on clay, Sampras in his prime vs. Federer in his prime that Sampras would have the edge for one reason: the Serve. Sampras has the slightly better First Serve, but has the much better Second Serve than Federer. So Federer would be under more pressure to hold serve more often. And as we’ve seen, Federer can get broken quite a bit – as Tsonga showed again in Montreal.


David Says:

Fed is Goat:

Again, I assume you’re just referring to the Open Era. That’s fine, but then you shouldn’t be saying “ever” and “in history.”

Even in the Open Era, Borg won 11 Slams without ever playing the Australian Open. He was the best grass court player in the world for 5 years, yet skipped the “other” grass-court Slam all those years.

Before that, Pancho Gonzales was considered the best player in the world for what, 8 straight years. I’d say that’s pretty dominant. Certainly enough to support my statement that it would get old to have the same player be the best for that long.

Tilden, as I mentioned before, didn’t lose a match of any significance for 7 years. I think that fits under the category of winning so much it gets boring.

And I haven’t even mentioned the only two players in men’s tennis who won the CYGS. So I think there’s plenty of evidence to back up what I said before.


Voicemale1 Says:

Since the US Open was contested on all surfaces at some point in its history, what about surface-specific matches?

Lendl-Federer on clay or hard court.

Becker-Sampras on grass or hard.

Agassi-Federer on clay or hard (not when Agassi was 34 when they met).

Becker-Federer on Grass

Henin-Graf on clay, hard or grass

Seles-Henin on clay or hard

Evert-Henin on clay

Hingis-Henin on clay, hard or grass.


Veno Says:

All the old champs(Big Bill Tilden, Pancho Gonzalez, Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver) should be revered because they paved the way for the Open Era champions and they were all great in their time. It is because of their greatness that tennis became what it is now and we as fans should never forget this!
But comparing them to the present top players is done predominantly based on feelings of nostalgia and so it should. However, to compare eras in tennis as a competitive sport only makes sense when you split between Open era and pre-Open Era(as is always done)
A professional sport, especially a commercially exploitable one, will always evolve through time. The margins withing you have to operate to make it to the absolute top grow smaller as the sport evolves and it is just this fact which makes the comparisons senseless imho(although it’s nice to hypothesize about clashes between stars of old and stars of new) besides the entertainment value you get from these fictional match-ups.

I’ve been following tennis for 25 years now and with all due respect to the greats of the 80′s and 90′s, the physicality and speed(Ivan Lendl was undoubtedly the player who had the most influence on increasing the physical part of the game) at which the game is played now(of course also helped by the string and racket technology)
is hardly comparable to 25 years ago.
Even Boris becker and Ivan Lendl in ’91 hammering serves and fhs to each other wouldn’t know what hit them if they would play against players on the tour now. Remember what Johnny Mac said after hitting soem practice balls with Rafa last year! One just has to look at their builds and physical appearance compared to the players now. Becker was 6’3″ about 185 lbs and was considered a big, strong and athletic guy then…He wouldn’t look like a “big” guy now if he were to shake hands with the bigger players on tour now. And although the big 4(Fed through Djokovic) aren’t as big(6’3″ Murray-6’1″ Nadal) as the “Gullivers”(up to 6’10″ Dr.Yvo) just look how fast they are and how incredibly hard they hit the ball.(yes. I know….string technology…but even without this I’m 100% sure that on average they hit the ball harder than 10 yrs ago, move faster than 10 yrs ago…even more so if you go back further in time)

What I described above is my subjective view as formed through 25 years of being an avid tennis fan and by no means was it my goal to diminish any of the accomplishments of all the top class tennis athletes from past generations.


Von Says:

Veno, I answered your post on the other thread.


Veno Says:

Which thread Von?


Veno Says:

Found it :)


Skorocel Says:

Long Live the King said: „I have to add, they need to be left-handed defensive players to exploit Roger’s Achilles heel – his backhand, else it is bye-bye and good night!“

I don’t think it’s his Achilles heel. Maybe against Nadal, but not against others. Technically, it’s an almost perfect shot. Even Laver once said, that of all Fed’s shots, he likes his BH the most. It’s just that against Nadal, it goes against the laws of logic and physics for Federer to be able to deal with those high topspin shots (which Nadal pummels to his BH almost ad nauseum).

=========

„As has been pointed out on tennis-x, Nadal’s superior H2H Vs Roger is mainly due to the fact that they have met 11 times out of their 20 on clay, where Nadal is vastly superior.“

Very true. Those 4 wins which he got against Roger outside clay (out of which 2 were in SLAM FINALS) certainly occured on the red dirt as well… LOL!

=========

„Bottom line : Roger’s best trumps Nadal’s best on faster hard-courts, grass and indoor carpet. Nadal’s trumps Roger’s on clay and slower hard courts.“

What best? They played 20 matches, and Nadal leads 13-7. That’s all what matters. Not if Roger or Rafa showed their „best“…


Veno Says:

oh brother, please let’s not get back into another endless discussion of Fed and Rafa’s H2H. Al has been said, from all points of view, repeatedly and then some…


Von Says:

Veno: @ 4:29 pm, you sound agonized there my friend. LOL.


Veno Says:

LOL, agonized, nope, but rolling the eyes….yes!


Dan Martin Says:

As a kid I loved Becker and Connors. I was never fond of Lendl, but over time I have to really give Lendl credit I would never have given him when he was playing due to being too young to get how good he was even if I was generally rooting for his opponent. Lendl won a lot of matches, played at a high level, forced a new era of fitness and professionalism on the tour in general if they wanted to keep up. Borg, Vilas and Connors were fit as were Solomon and Dibbs, but Lendl was the first guy for whatever reason to see a lot of others jump on board after he became more fit. Lendl switching rackets to a new string job with new balls being introduced has become a standard practice with some variations. Tennis became more professional due to Lendl and in my GOAT standings I now rank Lendl ahead of Agassi and McEnroe and think a strong case can be made he did more than Connors as well (that is more debatable in my mind). Lendl is not in the top top tier but I agree with Fed is GOAT that Lendl deserves more credit than he generally gets when people do retrospective looks at tennis.


Dave69 Says:

“Shakespeare versus Homer” – is that Homer Simpson?


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scineram Says:

Re: GOAT, in my book Pistol “non-factor 30% of season” Pete was never in contention. Also, Borg never won US Open on any surface. I put them firmly in the second tier. In the first tier I would name a top 5 in chronological order as Tilden, Gonzales, Rosewall, Laver, Federer. Lendl, ahead of Mac, and Connors are in third tier. Becker, Agassi (Nadal yet?) are in fourth. Edberg, not sure, maybe third.


JoshDragon Says:

What about Bjorn Borg 1980 vs Rafael Nadal 2008? I think that would be a really interesting match. I’d also like to see Roger Federer 2006 vs Pete Sampras 1995. I also agree with you on the McEnroe 1984 vs Federer 2006 would be a really great match up.

Also, Connors 1978 vs Roddick 2003 would be good.


sensationalsafin Says:

“Federer’s forehand is as good to be sure, but he’s not as good hitting it on the run as Lendl and Sampras were. Federer hits his Forehand most effectively when he’s set up to do so, but when forced to run to it he hist most of those as the Squash Shot Slice forehand. I don’t remember seeing Lendl hit many of those, and probably because he was so supremely fit in his career that he got to most of those with his great footwork.”

I just don’t understand what this means. Federer has crappy footwork? EVERYONE hits their most EFFECTIVE forehand when they’re set up. Although I would say Sampras’s running forehand was just insane. But Federer so ONLY hit the squash shot. I’m just shocked at this statement. Watch a few more Federer matches.


sensationalsafin Says:

But Federer DOESN’T only hit the squash shot.****


Voicemale1 Says:

sensationalsafin Says:
But Federer DOESN’T only hit the squash shot.****

Sweetheart…take a breath. And then a valium. You’d think Federer was your lover the way you bristle so…


sensationalsafin Says:

Valium is dangerous. I just don’t get why you say statements that are filled with wholes. That’d be like if I said well Lendl couldn’t really hit a backhand and only blasted forehands and Sampras couldn’t do a lot with his backhand and had to rely on his volleying only.


Voicemale1 Says:

Sensationalsafin:

Besides deep breathing and Valium (if you prefer Xanax, that’s equally sufficient) learn correct word usage. The way your sentence is written, the correct word you should have used is “holes” – which are gaps or opening – not “wholes”, which are entireties.


africanck Says:

Who ever said Federer has crappy footwork is way off.
The guy is sharp, the best of running shots down is Nadal that is indisputable. But to say a Number#1 in the world has bad foot work is completely off.

Also Voicemale 1 Fed in his prime against Sampras is still open to debate, but Fed is also a great service returner and I think his serve at times is great, just that its not as consistent as Pistol Petes was. But I think Fed’s all around game was better so I give Fed the slight advantage. So I would say if they played 10 times a year, I say Fed would win 6 of them. but he would clean Pete clock on Clay surfaces..


Polo Says:

I have been following tennis since the time of Bjorn Borg and I was impressed with him but he did not stay long enough and I don’t think he even played the Australian Open. For that, I would say he underachieved. From Borg’s time to the present, I have been really impressed by only 2 players, Lendl then and Federer now. At his prime, if you bet money on Lendl each time he played (except at Wimbledon), you could have gotten rich. The same holds true for Federer but change Wimbledon to the French Open and qualify it further by saying without having to play Nadal.


Polo Says:

Most people who compare Federer against Sampras and say that Sampras would come out on top because of his serve forget that Federer has been playing against Roddick for many years now and has beaten Andy consistently. Roddick’s serve is considered among the best ever and may even be better than Sampras’. Sampras, had he been playing now would have had trouble with not just Federer but also with Roddick and Nadal. He will probably be ranked fourth. I would not rank any of the players in Sampras’ generation higher than Roddick and Nadal. Sampras would never beat Nadal on clay. Sampras would face stiff competition against Roddick at Wimbledon and the US Open. I don’t even need to mention Federer because those 2 guys could take care of Sampras even before Sampras could get to Federer.


africanck Says:

Polo
Interesting observation about Roddicks’ serve. Its true he used to have one of the best in the game maybe still does but it seems since his shoulder injury last year its come down a notch.
But further to your point on Fed handling Sampras’s serve. Even Goran the giant has the best serve in the game and Fed breaks him regularly when the play so your right no ones serve can deal with Fed’s returns. He plays so graceful that’s why people don’t realize how good a return of serve he has..


Long Live the King Says:

“Federer’s forehand is as good to be sure, but he’s not as good hitting it on the run as Lendl and Sampras were.”

>>>>> One of the most stupid statements I have read on this blog. Federer’s forehand on the run is lethal. Sampras’ groundstrokes are laughable compared to the arsenal today’s players possess. If his ground game was as glorious as his worshipper here claims, how come he was such a non-factor on the clay?

Cant expect more from a federer-hater who has stooped low enough to wish impotency and what not on the Greatest Tennis player of all time.


Long Live the King Says:

Polo:

Good take on Sampras Vs Roger. Fed would have dominated him like he has dominated the big servers. As I said before, to give Roger trouble a player has to be strong on the left-hand side (either a lefty forehand like rafa or awe-some doublehanded backhands like murray, nalbandian, and to an extent djokovic and agassi). Last I checked Sampras had neither.


Voicemale1 Says:

Long Live the Kings:

“Cant expect more from a federer-hater who has stooped low enough to wish impotency and what not on the Greatest Tennis player of all time.”

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

And we shouldn’t expect anything more from a worshipping sheeple like you to do anything other than attempt to give your own hollow life meaning by living vicariously through a tennis player, one whom you want to celebrate through your own posting name as your “King”. If Federer’s gonna dress as androgynously as he does then he’s askin’ for it :). Lighten up, sweetheart.


SG Says:

And Fed can’t volley worth a damn compared to Sampras or Edberg yet he has 6 W’s. Fact is, the game has evolved (….or perhaps de-evolved if there is such a word) into a baseliners paradise. Sampras wasn’t a great claycourter to be sure. But, he never had a claycourters mentality to begin with. Playing on clay amounts to a defensive and mind numbing war of attrition. Every player in the top 10 today plays every surface the exact same way. A fact that wasn’t true 15 year ago.

When Sampras grew up, the two most important tournaments were the USO and Wimbledon. Australia was a blip on the radar screen. The FO? You’d be hard pressed to find a red clay court anywhere in America when he was growing up. Fed grew up on red dirt. Obviously his ground strokes will be more consistent. He learned to be more patient. Fed has more consistent groundies than Sampras did, not more explosive ones.

Racket technology has played a huge role in where tennis is today. So has the slower ball. Edberg would have had a tough time playing in today’s game. I don’t think that means Edberg wasn’t a great player. Bring Fed back to another time and he probably doesn’t have the luxury of staying in his comfort zone. In fact, we’ve seen that when Fed gets dragged out of his comfort zone he doesn’t really dominate his opponents at all. His matches become serving wars not unlike a lot of the matches Sampras played at the end of his career.


SG Says:

Long Live the King Says:
“Federer’s forehand is as good to be sure, but he’s not as good hitting it on the run as Lendl and Sampras were.”

>>>>> One of the most stupid statements I have read on this blog. Federer’s forehand on the run is lethal. Sampras’ groundstrokes are laughable compared to the arsenal today’s players possess. If his ground game was as glorious as his worshipper here claims, how come he was such a non-factor on the clay?

**************************************

And Fed can’t volley worth a damn compared to Sampras, Mac or Edberg yet he has 6 W’s. Fact is, the game has evolved (….or perhaps de-evolved if there is such a word) into a baseliners paradise. Sampras wasn’t a great claycourter to be sure. But, he never had a claycourters mentality to begin with. Playing on clay amounts to a defensive and mind numbing war of attrition. Every player in the top 10 today plays every surface the exact same way. A fact that wasn’t true 15 year ago.

When Sampras grew up, the two most important tournaments were the USO and Wimbledon. The two tournaments he thoroughly dominated. Australia was a blip on the radar screen. The FO? You’d be hard pressed to find a red clay court anywhere in America when he was growing up. Fed grew up on red dirt. Obviously his ground strokes will be more consistent. He learned to be more patient. Fed has more consistent groundies than Sampras did, not more explosive ones. Considering how great Fed’s groundies are supposed to be, shouldn’t he have 6 or 7 FO’s?

Racket technology has played a huge role in where tennis is today. So has the slower ball. Edberg would have had a tough time playing in today’s game. I don’t think that means Edberg wasn’t a great player. Bring Fed back to another time and he probably doesn’t have the luxury of staying in his comfort zone. In fact, we’ve seen that when Fed gets dragged out of his comfort zone he doesn’t really dominate his opponents at all. His matches become serving wars not unlike a lot of the matches Sampras played at the end of his career.


Dan Martin Says:

Fed growing up on clay may explain his better clay court results compared to Agassi or Sampras, but what explains Federer having 8 slams on hard courts (the all time lead but since Oz only went to hard courts in 88 and the US only went to hard courts in 78 so all time is not that long), the all time hard court match winning streak, 10 North American hard court Masters Series shields etc.? If he had been raised on hard courts like Sampras or Agassi would he be even more dominant on hard courts?


Von Says:

africanck: “Interesting observation about Roddicks’ serve. Its true he used to have one of the best in the game maybe still does but it seems since his shoulder injury last year its come down a notch.”

Are you saying this from your actual observations of Roddick’s serve as a fact or is it that you’re just reiterating what I wrote on the other thread in my speculation with David? If it is indeed a fact that you’ve made this observation, then I feel a lot better about my speculation and there really is a decline in the effectiveness, intensity and heat of Roddick’s serve. Please advise.


Skorocel Says:

Quote of the month (from Long Live the King): „Sampras’ groundstrokes are laughable compared to the arsenal today’s players possess.“

What can I say? LOL!


jimbojones Says:

Danny boy Martin – Federer having more hard court slams than players raised on hard courts is meaningless. The only meaningful thing is he was raised on clay and that explains why he was better on the dirt than Pete. That is the only way you can use that data because to reverse it to hard court success undermines everything the Helenic League of Tennis has tried to accomplish.


jane Says:

J-Mac says scheduling cost him the USO 1985 title:

http://www.tennis.com/features/general/features.aspx?id=183338


Voicemale1 Says:

Skorocel Says:
“Quote of the month (from Long Live the King): „Sampras’ groundstrokes are laughable compared to the arsenal today’s players possess.“

What can I say? LOL!

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

Agree Skorocel. This quote of Long Live The King is the one that’s really the most stupid one ever posted here. To paraphrase Mamet: he couldn’t find his crotch with two hands and a map.


SG Says:

Dan Martin Says:
Fed growing up on clay may explain his better clay court results compared to Agassi or Sampras, but what explains Federer having 8 slams on hard courts (the all time lead but since Oz only went to hard courts in 88 and the US only went to hard courts in 78 so all time is not that long), the all time hard court match winning streak, 10 North American hard court Masters Series shields etc.? If he had been raised on hard courts like Sampras or Agassi would he be even more dominant on hard courts?

******************************

Hey Dan,

As I was saying, a hardcourt, a grasscourt a claycourt…it really makes no difference today. All players play the same way. So, if Fed is the best player in the world in this environment (which he definitely is) than the surface becomes irrelevant. Fed has pretty much dominated all surfaces. Grass, slow hardcourts, fast hardcourts, clay (save Nadal of course). Yes, Fed is doing this because he is one of the all time greats…if not the greatest ever. But, as I said, when he gets dragged out of his comfort zone, the prince shows some warts.

Sampras didn’t have a “grind it out” mentality. I have always felt that Sampras was the greatest offensive player I have ever seen because he wanted to hit the winner. This mentality works well when your’re physically fresh and mentally charged. It’s not easy to do however in windy conditions or when it’s hot or when your game isn’t really clicking. It’s at these times that an attacking player can look say…average.

If you’re an excellent baseliner, chances are you’re results are going to be more consistent. It only makes sense because your game is going to be lower risk. But, put a supreme attacker up against a supreme defender and more often than not, the supreme attacker comes out on top.

Sampras was a very special player. He won 14 majors attacking the net. Look at some of his contemporaries who employed a similar strategy:

Becker – 6 Slams
Edberg – 6 Slams
Rafter – 2 Slams
McEnroe – 7 Slams
Ivanisevic – 1 Slam
Krajicek – 1 Slam

Pretty good list of guys. Most of them are Hall of Famers. The best of them (Mac), playing an attacking style, won only half the majors Pete did. And no one can say Mac wasn’t a gifted player. Mac’s best year (1984) was better than any year Pete ever had. And it’s at least as good as any year Fed ever had because had Mac played the AO, he would have won it going away.

Sampras was major-centric. He rarely brought his best stuff to the smaller events. He structured his year around 2 tournaments. If he happened to win the AO it was a bonus. Fact is, the FO and AO didn’t fully suit Sampras’ attacking game. If Sampras had committed to playing from the baseline to win the FO, it would have hurt him at Wimbledon or the USO. I’m willing to bet that Sampras wouldn’t trade one of his Wimbledon trophies for an FO. Maybe a USO trophy, but not Wimbledon.

I challenge anyone to name one serve and volleyer that has won the FO in the last 25 years. Fact is, there isn’t one. Some close calls…yes. But no winners. It doesn’t matter how talented you are (mac, sampras, edberg becker…), winning at the FO requires a specific game and a specific mentality. If you are missing either component, you won’t win in Paris. Fed has the specific game and the specific mentality. Sampras had the game but lacked the mentality. None of this however means that Sampras wasn’t good from the ground. His ground game was built to get him to the net. Not to wait out a 30 shot baseline rally.


sensationalsafin Says:

SG, have you read Sampras’s book? I don’t fully agree that Sampras didn’t have a “grind it out” mentatlity, but I think it comes down to your definition. To me, Sampras was a different type of grinder. He would hold serve and wait for his chance to get one break and win the set. His actual style of play was an attacker, definitely, but his mentality is a little more than at. As for only caring about 2 tournys, I disagree. Sampras was very slam-centric, and Wimbledon and the USO definitely weighed more than the AO to him. As for the French, Pete wanted that so bad. Especially in the mid 90s, Pete focused on the French a lot. And when he’d lose, he faced the same criticism Federer faces when he loses to Nadal. Pete was a champion and a stubborn one. When he went out to play on clay, he’d stay on the baseline against the toughest grinders. His coach would tell him to attack, critics said to take charge, but he wanted to show he could beat players at their own game (remind you of anyone?). Pete’s 1996 FO is one of the most impressive FO results I’ve ever seen. He beat, I think, 3 former FO champs. How he didn’t win the tourny is beyond even him. He lost to Kafelnikov in the semis, someone he owned during his career, because he just went away in the second 2 sets. But to say he didn’t focus on the FO is just nonsense. Specific game, yeah. But all champions have that specific mentality to win any given match, tourny, or slam.


Fed is GOAT Says:

SG says “None of this however means that Sampras wasn’t good from the ground.”

Sampras going 24-13 at the FO shows how good Sampras’s game was once his serve was neutered.

Sampras’s game was built on two strokes – first serve, and second serve. There have been better volleyers, and players with far superior groundstrokes and movement, but nobody had a serve like him. And the grass was faster, balls were lighter at Wimbledon (unlike today), so he won big time over there. Plus he really didn’t face any multiple slam winner at THEIR peak, other than Agassi in bits and pieces. So he won big time.

Re. Lendl, the poor guy had to face Mcenroe at his peak, Connors at near his peak, Borg at near his peak, Wilander at his peak, becker at his peak, Edberg at his peak, and then later on courier at his peak. Lendl deserves more credit than his 8 slams indicates.

As for GOAT talk, in the open era, its pretty clear now. Before that, Rosewall has the best records. The era before the 50s is just not comparable, since players like Tilden just played the “challenge” format in slams – you go straight to the final…..


Dan Martin Says:

SG I think you make a good point about surfaces not being as important today. I might tighten up the contemporaries list a bit for Sampras or explain a bit more. McEnore is 12 years older than Sampras and retired in 1992 so he would be the one I would strike for sure. Edberg and Becker did overlap a lot with Pete, but also were a bit older. Edberg 5 years older, and Becker 3 years older I think. Sampras, Becker, and Connors all impressed me by the gap between their first and final Grand Slam title. Connors went Wimbledon or Australian Open 74 (not sure which was earlier) to U.S. Open 1983. Becker goes July 1985 to January 96 and Sampras went Sept. 90 – Sept. 2002!


Fed is GOAT Says:

Federer’s game is not a “grind it out mentality” game at all. That is Nadal. Federer is an extremely attacking player. Serve and Volley is not the only form of offense. Federer looks to hit winners from the baseline all the time. What he has IN ADDITION to his offensive game is tremendous defence – IF NEEDED, he can be patient and can grind it out, though not to the extent players like Nadal and Ferrer and Murray do.

Sampras was just attack with less of defensive skills. And his attack was primarily serve and then volley, if needed. Not as much from the baseline.

Federer has much better defensive skills to absorb Sampras’s attacks – Sampras has much fewer defensive skills to absorb Federer’s attack. Sampras’s only advantage over Federer is his serve. Once the ball is in play, Federer would have won the majority of the points. On a very fast serve with Sampras serving the lights out – Sampras would probably win. Any other time (not a lightening fast surface, or Sampras not at his 100% serving peak even on a lightening fast surface), Federer would have won.

And Federer’s serve is no slouch either. Sampras would have had trouble breaking it…


sensationalsafin Says:

For someone who claims Fed is the GOAT, you sure don’t know much about tennis or even Federer.


Fed is GOAT Says:

Sensationalsafin,

All you can do is make uninformed inferences about what other people know or don’t know, right? About people you don’t know anything about? If you don’t have the ability to talk about tennis, don’t talk on this forum. If you want to get personal with people, there are other sites for people like you.


SG Says:

sensationalsafin….I didn’t mean to imply that Sampras didn’t try to win the FO. Of course he did. My point is that his game wasn’t built to win on clay. His game, the one Pete Fischer and Robert Lansdorp helped him build was made for winning Wimbledon first and foremost. Watching Sampras play, you’d never mistake him for Borg or Nadal. Sampras’s shots were flatter and hit with less room for error. Clay can really test your patience. Sampras’ game wasn’t a patient one. He wanted to be the one to land the first blow. Hitting flat shots is not an easy way to survive long term on red clay courts.

Federer is a defensive player. Yes, he has considerable offensive skills, but it is his defensive game that has helped him rack up his major count. And anyone who thinks that Federer would simply mash Sampras’ serve needs to look not further than the last three Wimby finals where Federer’s return of serve was held at bay by one man who is a big server and one who is not. I’ll go one further. I think Fed’s return game has been on a steady decline for the last few years. He wins a lot of matches with his serve. When he gets dragged into long rallies he isn’t all that dominant anymore.


jane Says:

SG says ” I think Fed’s return game has been on a steady decline for the last few years. He wins a lot of matches with his serve.”

I’ve said similar on these boards, and the stats bear it out. He blocks back a lot of returns. If guys would step in and attack those shortish returns they could at least have some authority in rallies from the start.

At Cincy it was clear that Fed was looking to end points quickly vs. Djoko & Murray; he’s aware of the pros and cons of getting into longer rallies with them. He was even going for his returns at times, but for the most part, he was just looking to get the ball in play. And given that Murray’s and Djoko’s second serves need work, he was good at taking advantage.


bk Says:

roger has too much fire-power for mcenroe. the tennis genius and creativity is the same, but federer is a more powerful, more athletic tennis genius. The only way john wins is if he somehow pisses roger off so much that fed completely loses his head.

Also, any match between connors and sampras is a complete mismatch: Pete had waaaaaaayyyyyy too much fire-power for jimbo and was simply a better athlete with a somewhat more complete game.

Pete by debilitating, humiliating walk-over


bk Says:

Also, I love the comments about laver versus rosewall; good stuff.

the reason why people are inclined to give Laver the edge over rosewall are as follows: a) the 2 slams (rosewall never could manage to win wimbledon); b) the fact that laver consistently had a winning head to head record against Rosewall from the early 1960s to the middle-1970s; and c) the fact that laver was so breathtakingly dominant during his peak years (1966,67,69 – even 1970 to a lesser extent). Rosewall, however, was a great player for longer than Laver and actually managed to win more pro grand slams than laver over the course of his career (though it does appear as though rocket won substantially more tournaments overall). the best way to sum up these two men (2 of the 5 or 6 greatest, I think) is thusly: Laver’s peak was greater than Rosewall’s peak, but Rosewall remained a dynamic player for longer (possibly because of Rocket’s back problems and possibly because Laver started to become preoccupied by his various business dealings circa 1972).

For some reason, a lot of people do not seem to care for Rosewall – probably because he has always seemed so dour and wooden – but he definitely deserves consideration in the GOAT debate. He can’t win, in the end, because of his record H2H against laver, his multiple failings at wimbledon, and his failure to capture the grand slam – but he belongs in the conversation for sheer, startling longevity.

the guy was/is a genetic freak.

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