Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Greatest Of All Time?

Roger Federer receives the Roland Garros trophy from Andre Agassi after winning the 2009 French OpenKing Fed wins all and let the GOAT stories commence. Is he really the Greatest Of All Time? Or is he just lucky to have won most of his Majors in the pre-Nadal era? Is it possible to be the greatest of all time and still have a losing record against the current number one player? Let’s start by discounting Sampras. If you can’t win a Major on all surfaces then you’re not the GOAT. Let’s ignore Emerson (as most do). He won most of his Majors while the top players were off in exile playing Pro tennis. Let’s similarly dismiss Andre Agassi’s greatness (which is not so easy for most to do). Sure he won on all surfaces over an erratic career but he was clearly inferior to Sampras, and we’ve already removed him.

This leaves Rod Laver – the Rocket – ironically he was called the Rocket cause of his lack of pace, not because he was speedy. Don’t you love modern commentators? Laver won the Grand Slam twice, the real Slam not this career stuff or Serena Slam, and he did it twice. But he only did it on two surfaces and he did it at the beginning and end of his career (the middle was spent in exile in the Pros). Let’s dismiss the first Slam as the top players were absent etc. and look at his record against the other top players. He dominated all of them including Pancho Gonzales, another candidate for the GOAT, although Gonzales was then nearing the end of his career.

The fact is it’s too hard to measure players from different eras and Slams are an awkward way of doing so since we can really only count them since 1968. Let’s just agree that both Laver and Federer are both exceptional players and perhaps have another look at Nadal in a few year’s time.

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