Who’s The Greatest Man To Have Never Won A Grand Slam?
by Sean Randall | May 22nd, 2014, 12:43 pm
  • 55 Comments

By demand, this post/thread is dedicated to the debate of the best men in the Open Era to have never won a Grand Slam. I’ll start with some names:

Marcelo Rios: Reached No. 1 – only No. 1 to have never won a Slam?

David Nalbandian: Made a Wimbledon final, had the game and the talent, just not the luck and drive.

Tommy Haas: Never even made a final, what a shame.

Tomas Berdych: Arguably the best among the current under 30s to have never won.

David Ferrer: At 32 chances slipping.

from the older generation: Brian Gottfried, Todd Martin, Jose-Luis Clerc, Eddie Dibbs, Brad Gilbert, Harold Solomon, Tim Henman and Vitas Gerulitis.

To me, this is a really tough question. So I might just chicken out and say Nalbandian.


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55 Comments for Who’s The Greatest Man To Have Never Won A Grand Slam?

tramlines Says:

What about Davydenko?


SG1 Says:

Believe Vitas won an Australian though I may be wrong (1977 I think).

Marecelo Rios made it to No.1 though I don’t put him above a guy like Berdych. Miloslav Mecir would be right up there for me. Such a crafty and skillful player. Moved like a cat. Jose Luis Clerc was a nice player as you had mentioned in the article.

Todd Martin as well. Martin’s game should have been more potent given his size.


SG1 Says:

Mikael Pernfors also comes to mind. Saw him beat Martin in the final in Montreal a bunch of years ago. Great topsping lob and ROS.


SG1 Says:

What about David Ferrer?


Okiegal Says:

I am going to say the little bulldog, Daveeeed!


Ben Pronin Says:

Are talking in terms of talent level who never lived up or results wise who was never able to breakthrough?

As far as just pure talent, I have to go with Rios. That guy was a phenom.

Results wise? I want to say Todd Martin.

It’s funny because I keep thinking of Murray. Before his US Open triumph he was far and away the best non-slam winner, results-wise and talent-wise.

I don’t really like how Berdych turned out but in the last few years, he’s been as consistent as anyone outside the Big 4 and his talent level is really quite high.

Unfortunately I don’t know much about non-slam winners from before the 90s so I can’t comment much. Except Jimmy Arias. I watched a thing about him on the Tennis Channel several years ago and I remember that he was a highly touted young player who revolutionized the forehand technique but was never able to make the breakthrough at the highest level.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Nalbandian was always more potential than fact. He and Davydenko had the games to beat anyone, but for whatever reason never made consistent runs at Slams.

Todd Martin was great for a short period of time, made 2 slam finals and 4 semis, but was never much of a factor at Masters events.

Rios, well, he was a #1. He was unbeatable for a very short period. Except at the slams. He made 1 finals, ZERO semis, and a whack of 1st round exits. Basically, a poor man’s Safin.

Ferrer, Berdych, Mecir, were oh so close, for long periods of time, held back by true All Time Greats ahead of them.

According to Wikipedia, Davydenko made 4 Slam semis and 0 finals. Nalbandian made 5 semis, plus a finals (plus a YEC win, and a whack of Masters wins and finals). Mecir made 2 Slam finals, but only 2 other semis (plus a YEC win).
Berdych falls behind Nalbandian in Slam semis and Masters results.

Guess I have to go with Nalbandian.


Hippy Chic Says:

Well i would say Daveed probably,hes been very solid throughout his career,been a top 10 player for many years,no overwelming strengths or weaknesses,but without the other 4 he has been top of the next tear of players for many years,and a couple of years ago had the best year of all the players without a GS,purely subjective though?


Hippy Chic Says:

Yeah you would have to put Nalbandian and Daveydenko in there somewhere?


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Too bad Murray won a Slam, this would have been easy!


gonzalowski Says:

Alex Corretja lost 2 RG finals… but ok, it wouldn’t be my guy


roy Says:

davydenko is better than haas and i still think better than ferrer. davydenko was certainly better than ferrer through their 20s.

credit to ferrer for his form now but davydenko was the better player for most of their careers.

davydenko could not handle the match up with federer due to federer’s superior serve/net game but otherwise similar fast style. davydenko was a superior returner but it wasn’t enough. federer denied him the opportunity to make a slam final basically.

davydenko is one of the only players to beat nadal and federer in the same tournament (when they were HEALTHY) and did so TWICE.

he also won the tour final. and i believe he has the most masters on tour outside of the big 4.

that definitely makes him better than haas. berdych and ferrer made slam finals which is the only reason people would put them above. how many masters have they won? and ferrer never beat federer …

davydenko was also better than nalbandian who, after making the wimby final, did nothing much. he won the tour final, won back to back masters one year. then nothing.

davydenko is still suffering from the media image he was given.

if you are branded as ‘talented’ like haas and nalbandian you are great even though your records are inferior to others.

davydenko is seriously talented. one of the best ball strikers on tour with excellent timing and precision. the fact his volleys were crap doesn’t change how smooth and awesome his game could be.


Margot Says:

@TennisVagabond
Cheeky….;)
Surely Ferrer, without Rafa around surely he would’ve won RG?


Humble Rafa Says:

My left hand is its own man. Hasn’t won a grandslam yet.


Margot Says:

@Roy
You make a very good case for Davydenko AND he did win WTF one year, upsetting JMDP there, I seem to remember?


contador Says:

Robin Soderling


contador Says:

soda popper


RZ Says:

I’m trying to think of a player who made multiple GS finals without winning one. From the list above, all either made 1 final or none. Todd Martin reached 2, but so did Cedric Pioline!

Honestly, I’m tempted to say Robin Soderling. He had a really good run for a couple of years before mono stalled him.


RZ Says:

I could also make a case for Philippoussis but am too lazy too. :-)


armelwani Says:

Jo Wilfred Tsonga


Ben Pronin Says:

Yes Soderling! And Philippoussis! Talk about a guy with a crap ton of talent. Ironically he was almost the antithesis of Davydenko, got way too caught up with the media and glams of being a celeb.

It’s honestly upsetting to me that Ferrer was able to make a slam semi but Davydenko never did. Surely Davydenko is the best guy to never reach a slam final. His game went downhill after he broke his wrist. Amazing it went misdiagnosed and he kept playing with it for a little while. I don’t know what kind of quack doctors he saw that couldn’t tell his wrist was broken right away. A serious shame. While he definitely struggled against Federer from a technical standpoint, he also blew a crap ton of sets and matches by choking against him.

“Basically, a poor man’s Safin.” Safin, the greatest 2 slam wonder ever :)


The Great Davy Says:

Yes, I wonder who ???


mat4 Says:

And nobody mentioned my own fav, Miloslav Mečíř. His tennis was a thing of beauty, his double hander magnificent.

He was stupid enough to be the last player that played a major final with a wooden racquet…

Andy Murray makes me often think of Mečíř.


mat4 Says:

He basically played three years at the top: at 25, his career was over, because of a back injury.


kjb Says:

@mat4

Good call on Mecir! I think he won a Year end final and an olympic gold as well.


kjb Says:

I remember as a youngster watching him beat Edberg in the semifinal at the 88 Olympics on TV.


mat4 Says:

@kjb:

I liked the way he used to beat one of my other favs, Mats Wilander. Wilander was an exceptional player because he was able to play “restraining, negative tennis” at the highest level. Simon, today, is a bit in that vein but he almost always failed to do that against Mecir, although I think he was the one that discovered Mecir’s weakness — angles denying, playing down the middle.


mat4 Says:

And I just watched highlights from their match at the USO 1987: very modern, entertaining tennis.

I also noticed once again how much damage luxilon strings have done to the game.


pogi Says:

I’ll go with David. All David kill Goliath…But wait, whose David? Any of the 3 David is my vote…
1. David Nalbandian
2. David Ferrer and
3. David denko


TennisVagabond.com Says:

There were only a very few on this list that we ever could have believed could take a run at #1: Rios, because he gave us no choice, Haas and Philipousis. Maybe Nalbandian.
I don’t think anyone ever thought Mecir, Ferrer or Davydenko could be #1.
Haas’ results were nowhere near the other three, but I think P-Sis, Nalby and Rios deserve a second look because they’re results were comparable to Ferrer and Davydenko, PLUS they had that could-be-maybe-great sizzle.


tennismonger Says:

Probably Rios – he had that lefty/genius vibe going for him. But I have a soft spot for Mecir.

How about the little cat, Karol Kucera or the X-Man, Xavier Malisse? Those 2 made it to slam semis but not finals; they had huge talent.

Scary how close Roddick, Chang & Ivanisevic came to being in this discussion…


mat4 Says:

I simply don’t agree. Mecir played two slam finals, made the semi at all four slams, won the WCT, the Olympic gold, three MS and didn’t achieve this in a period of weak competition, quite the contrary, beating all time greats in the process. He played at his peak from 1986 to 1988, a time when Lendl, McEnroe, Wilander, Becker, Edberg, Connors were at the top, Agassi was coming fast, Noah still played…

I made my case.


Eric Says:

I would have to say over the last ten years or so, it’s clearly Davydenko or Ferrer. Nalbandian, honorable mention. Maybe if I thought about it some more and did some research I’d change my mind about the top guys, but Haas is ridiculous to put in this company.


Hippy Chic Says:

Elena Dementieva for the ladies perhaps?


Ben Pronin Says:

Mat4, I think you’re winning ;)

Here’s the thing about Ferrer. If he wasn’t losing to the Big 4 in this era, he’d just be losing to the top guys in another era. He’s not slam champ material. Nalbandian had it in him to an extent, at least.

I’m leaning towards Rios only because I’m more familiar with him.


Skorocel Says:

I’ll have to go with my countryman Miloš Mečíř here. And thanks to tennismonger for mentioning Karol Kučera as well! The guy was actually once trained by Mečíř himself and had a very similar style of play – hence the nicknames “Little Cat” (Kučera) and “Big Cat” (Mečíř). The guy was really a joy to watch when his game was on (particularly his returns were second to none), but unfortunately for him, he had a very weak serve, which often resulted in many DFs (the same goes for Mečíř as well).


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Matt4, you convince me. Upon further review, Mecir had similar or better Slam and Masters results to Nalbandian, and both are ahead of Davydenko, Ferrer and Rios.
Nalbandian faced Fed and Rafa, but Mecir faced a bigger cohort of giants.


Joe W Says:

1. Davy 2. Ferrer 3. Tim Mayotte


SG1 Says:

mat4 Says:
And nobody mentioned my own fav, Miloslav Mečíř. His tennis was a thing of beauty, his double hander magnificent.

——-

Actually,I mentioned Mecir at the beginning and I agree. I can’t think of a better player without a slam except for perhaps, Ferrer.


SG1 Says:

tennismonger Says:

Scary how close Roddick, Chang & Ivanisevic came to being in this discussion…

—————–

So true. I think Roddick is the best player with one slam. Chang a close second. I’d put Krajicek above Ivanisevic. Any guy who could dust Sampras on grass in the 90′s deserves a ton of cred.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Worst player with a slam?
Johanssen? Gaudio?


Ben Pronin Says:

Speaking of Gaudio, how about Guillermo Coria? Talk about a guy with loads of potential. I’m giving Gaudio the worst player with a slam award simply because he denied Coria greatness. That guy had a great game albeit terrible serve.

If Del Potro was healthy, I’d probably call him the best one-slam wonder. But as it stands, Roddick definitely takes the cake. I remember a few years ago he said he doesn’t feel like a one-slam wonder because usually those are the guys who randomly win a slam then fade back into oblivion (like Johansson and Gaudio) but he was a top ten player for a long time.


mat4 Says:

@SG1:

Sorry, I’ve seen your post but too late.

@Ben:

It’s one of the advantage of old age… unfortunately. Although… I almost put Kodeš on the list, forgetting that he won three slams when I was a kid.


mat4 Says:

About Coria: such a sad story. He was a true magician on clay, and I still don’t understand how he managed to lose that FO final. His career was over at 24. I think that, without that serve problem, he would perhaps be a real rival to Rafa on clay for years.


RZ Says:

I’m having a hard time picking a worst one-slam wonder. How about worst GS finalist? Martin Verkerk comes to mind. He was fun but disappeared after his lone slam final. Another contender would be Mariano Puerta.


Hippy Chic Says:

Thanks for the thread Sean,it was interesting to get some feedback on a topic that never gets discussed,even though it veered from none GS GOAT to 1 GS wonder lol….


Hippy Chic Says:

One slam wonder,hmm people will hate me for saying this,and i hate to say it as i like the guy,but Delpo hasnt done anything in GS since winning the USO in 2009,fair enough injuries have derailed him somewhat,but when fit hes lost many times in GS early to alot of lesser players,such alot of talent and potential,hes still an active player who could still add more,and it would be a shame if he didnt,but its almost 5 years since he won the USO and things get harder with each passing year not easier….


Ben Pronin Says:

Del Potro has, at least, been a fixture in the top 10, even top 5. He hasn’t exactly disappeared. He’s gone for injury but when he plays, the players respect and fear him. He falls into the Roddick realm of not-really-just-a-one-slam-wonder than a guy like Gaudio or Johansson who no one really takes seriously as a threat.


tennismonger Says:

OK Mat4 & SG1- not that you had to twist my arm much but I’m sold on Mecir.

I had leaned toward Rios since he was more recent & I’ll never forget how he made a total monkey out of Agassi @ Key Biscane back in his day; Rios had a ton of flash but Mecir was the steadier more consistent guy who came very close to tasting the champagne – “brilliance in slow motion,” if you will! ;-)

Hippy Chic, sorry for diverting the conversation to one-slam wonderland; I’ll take the credit/blame for that. Let me also add that I hate that term even more than, say, “clay-court specialist.” We can talk about that on another thread…

@ RZ – Don’t hate on Verkerk! He was OK for a big galoot & might have made more of a statement if not for injuries. in a bit of a coincidence, I stumbled upon a dusty old VHS last night: Verkerk vs Coria from FO ’03 – YES! Now to run off to Walmart & buy a VHS player…

@ Ben Pronin – yes, poor, poor Coria indeed…

As Brando mentioned, can’t ignore Soderling – mono made him a ghost of sorts…

Enjoy the FO, everyone!


mo kontan tennis Says:

Fernando Verdasco! Go watch Australian Open 2009.


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Roddick and DelPo as parallels? Interesting. Both were/ are definitely multi-Slam worthy players. Both had the world believing they were on their way to a lengthy stay at #1.
Roddick was simply obsoleted by Federer, who (though of similar age) came up to stardom after him.
Del Potro on the other hand, regressed and lost back his ground to those who came before him.
But yeah, Ben, neat parallel.
Hope Del Potro’s not done yet!


TennisVagabond.com Says:

Can we agree that of multi-Slam winners, Safin was in a class of his own for not approaching his potential?


rare Says:

From the open era, you have to have Raul Ramírez in there. Most of the guys mentioned so far had brief carreers. Ramírez was not only a Monte Carlo and Rome winner but #1 in the world in doubles for years and arguably one of the top five of all time. Long presence in singles’ top ten rankings. Soderling, Nalbandian? Pernforns? Please….


RZ Says:

@tennismonger – I wasn’t hating on Verkerk. He was entertaining and injuries certainly played a part in his disappearance. It’s just that he’s one of those players who most people didn’t hear about before or after that one tournament.


Chad Says:

Marcelo Rios- That guy had crazy talent. I’ve seen him do things with a ball and racket that I didn’t know were possible.

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