GOAT Debate

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GOAT Debate

Post by Adam D on Tue 07 Oct 2014, 8:48 am

First topic message reminder :

For all GOAT debate posts, good or bad, better or worse, sickness and health.
We'll move stuff in here from other future threads, to keep it all together.

LF & JHM

Edit - I guess if this is to be for people who really want to have a GOAT debate, we'll have to remove posts from people who think the GOAT debate is worthless. So no opportunity for satire, humour or dismissiveness at the expense of the debate. Let's leave it to those who take it seriously and post accordingly. I think any poster's absence from this thread can be interpreted as having no interest in it. JHM.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by LuvSports! on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 10:34 am

From a 126mph serve they found it was a 9mph difference for when the ball reached the baseline.
I don't know enough to say the change but that seems quite pronounced.

HE do you think Karlovic was a better server than Ivanisevic? He won one slam in fast conditions.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Guest on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 11:04 am

Yes but was it with the same balls? Again they have changed over the years and again can have an effect on speed and bounce.

Let's not kid ourselves the courts were made slow. They just got slower in time that and ball changes and strings have suffocated the potency of power.


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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by LuvSports! on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 11:10 am

I'm not saying it was drastic but it did make a difference imo, but obvs i agree there has been a big slow down from goran winning in 01 to hewitt in 02.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Guest on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 11:21 am

I don't think it made such a difference that Federer stopped winning on a consistent basis. Take the US Open. Slowed down after 2002. Who benefited from that? Federer.

He won in slower conds. There's nought wrong with that. Just I don't rank his Slam wins any differently to Nadals in terms of conditions.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by LuvSports! on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 11:50 am

I aint that goblin poster btw Wink

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Guest on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 1:00 pm

Oh I know that Hug

The one thing that has impressed me about Federer is the enhancement of his game. Identifying the need to change his game to compete and remain successful.

When I saw Agassi win the AO in 2003 I remember just thinking wow that is amazing given the changes in the conditions to what they were in his peak, the injuries he was carrying and age. Then Federer wins Wimbledon at 2012 and nearly winning it this year.

Connors and McEnroe reaching Slam semis in their 30's with totally different racquets was another amazing feat.

If and when Nadals tennis starts to dry up in success, what parts of his game will he enhance to stay at the top? chin

That to me shows true quality of a player that can adapt to change.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Silver on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 1:05 pm

hawkeye wrote:Federer has the second best topspin dictating forehand in the game. And that's the most important shot isn't it.

No. Serve and return are still the most important shots, always have been and probably always will be.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by temporary21 on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 2:53 pm

They both massively enhanced their games as they've gone on. Nadal has turned himself into a dictating baseliner who falls back onto heavy defence when in trouble, or not playing well as opposed to just defensive. Federer was a serve volleyer, then an aggressive baseliner, then an all courter and now back to a more ultra aggressive net rushing style to adapt to conditions and his own age. Its mighty impressive on the whole.

Pete wasnt a serve bot, problem was he looked like one at Wimby because the surface dictated he only needed his serve for the most part. Watching him in early years on US hard court you could see just how much he could do. Of course Sampras had to regress his game to a near only serve volleyer as he got older which made him look worse.

I think the turning point was either the 1992, or 1998 wimby final. Sampras Ivanisevic finals, both extremely dull to those wanting rallies.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by temporary21 on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 2:55 pm

Silver wrote:
hawkeye wrote:Federer has the second best topspin dictating forehand in the game. And that's the most important shot isn't it.

No. Serve and return are still the most important shots, always have been and probably always will be.

Oddly, because those two shots are soo stellar nowadays, its the baseline shots that have become vital to actually getting an advantage in the game ow.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by summerblues on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 3:32 pm

temporary21 wrote:I think the turning point was either the 1992, or 1998 wimby final. Sampras Ivanisevic finals, both extremely dull to those wanting rallies.
Agree with that. I find today's heavily baseline game quite boring, but I still find the Sampras Ivanisevic Wimbledon matches the ultimate in tennis dullness - at least as far as high quality top level tennis goes.

That is why I can partly forgive those who created today's tennis conditions.

Also, by the late 90s tennis was effectively splitting into two sports - clay court vs the rest of the tour. Unlike most tennis fans, I am actually quite fine with increased homogenization of surfaces.

That said, I would prefer if those conditions could be changed to where S&V and all-court tennis can become more successful again.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Haddie-nuff on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 5:42 pm

It amazes me that Nadal is still only considered to be purely a base line player. Is it easier to class him as such or a convenient loss of memory

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9r5SL8j2oI

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by JuliusHMarx on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 5:59 pm

Every player, baseliner or not, serves and volleys occasionally. Sampras, Edberg are considered S&V'ers, but sometimes they served and stayed back.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Haddie-nuff on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 6:03 pm

Well there  you are Julius  I  wondered where you were hiding Very Happy

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by JuliusHMarx on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 6:10 pm

I was out all day looking for second example of Rafa serve & volleying Wink

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by LuvSports! on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 6:15 pm

Well cover me in eggs and flower and bake me for 40 minutes, he's a S&V player i knew it!

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Haddie-nuff on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 6:41 pm

LuvSports! wrote:Well cover me in eggs and flower and bake me for 40 minutes, he's a S&V player i knew it!

I would be most happy to do that for YOU LS especially if its 450 deg

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Guest on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 7:07 pm

The thing with homogenisation was that it went to far in one direction. I am not opposed to it because one player is winning who annoys all. I oppose it because the one improvement most players aspire to is increased fitness. I saw it with Murray (being a supporter) and now when his game is seeking improvement, it's proving very tough.

I would sooner grass stay as fast and then the hardcourts to be divided 50/50 from fast to slow. Like SB see a return to an all court game. Grass for me was never a surface that required camping on the baseline!

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Silver on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 9:40 pm

temporary21 wrote:
Silver wrote:
hawkeye wrote:Federer has the second best topspin dictating forehand in the game. And that's the most important shot isn't it.

No. Serve and return are still the most important shots, always have been and probably always will be.

Oddly, because those two shots are soo stellar nowadays, its the baseline shots that have become vital to actually getting an advantage in the game ow.

Yeah, particularly the return. Much easier to do it well now - this is the reason why a lot of people still plump for Agassi over Novak in the returning stakes, brilliant though the latter is.

The baseline play is what differentiates at the very top, but the fact remains that without a good serve and return, you won't win a damn thing. And even at the top, you still have outstanding returners (Novak) and servers (Fed, Raonic) who can cause people to marvel at the impact that the shot has, even among the cream.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by hawkeye on Sun 07 Dec 2014, 10:44 pm

Silver wrote:

The baseline play is what differentiates at the very top, but the fact remains that without a good serve and return, you won't win a damn thing. And even at the top, you still have outstanding returners (Novak) and servers (Fed, Raonic) who can cause people to marvel at the impact that the shot has, even among the cream.

Federer has an excellent serve. Other players can match him on power but it's the combination of power and precision that's deadly. His serve is much better than Nadal's. It says a lot about how good the rest of Nadal's game is because he is able to neutralize it.

In 2011 IMO it was Djokovic's return of serve that made a big difference particularly in his matches with Nadal. By this I mean the shot he hit the serve with. He can get the ball back at the servers feet (within inches of the baseline) before they have finished the serving motion. Since then Nadal has changed his tactics a little by taking a little speed off his first serve and this gives him more time to react to the return.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Haddie-nuff on Mon 08 Dec 2014, 12:00 am

hawkeye wrote:
Silver wrote:

The baseline play is what differentiates at the very top, but the fact remains that without a good serve and return, you won't win a damn thing. And even at the top, you still have outstanding returners (Novak) and servers (Fed, Raonic) who can cause people to marvel at the impact that the shot has, even among the cream.

Federer has an excellent serve. Other players can match him on power but it's the combination of power and precision that's deadly. His serve is much better than Nadal's. It says a lot about how good the rest of Nadal's game is because he is able to neutralize it.

In 2011 IMO it was Djokovic's return of serve that made a big difference particularly in his matches with Nadal. By this I mean the shot he hit the serve with. He can get the ball back at the servers feet (within inches of the baseline) before they have finished the serving motion. Since then Nadal has changed his tactics a little by taking a little speed off his first serve and this gives him more time to react to the return.


However there are those amongst us that think Nadal is unable to adapt his game.. you and I obviously believe differently Wink

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 12:56 am

OK, so I have worked out how many slams the top players from earlier eras would have won had they played in the Nadal/Federer/Djokovic era with 4 slams a year, and had players rarely missing a slam for any reason like today. It makes interesting reading. Stay tuned. I am not going to be able to post any more today, but it's coming soon.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Haddie-nuff on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 12:58 am


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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 4:35 pm

OK here is the chart of number of slams players would have won (allegedly) had they played 4 slams a year in an open field (more about the methodology to follow) with their real number of slams following after that.

Gonzales 26 2
Rosewall 24 8
Federer 17 17
Tilden 17 10
Laver 16 11
Sampras 15 14
Nadal 15 14
Borg 14 11
Connors 12 8
Lacoste 11 7
Perry 10 8
Agassi 10 8
Cochet 10 7
Vines 10 3
Budge 10 6
Mcenroe 9 7
Lendl 8 8
Djokovic 8 8
Sears 7 7
Renshaw 7 7
Larned 7 7
Wilander 7 7
Riggs 7 3
Newcombe 6 7
Emerson 0 12

The list includes any player than won 7 slams or more, with the addition of some notable pro players, specifically Vines, Riggs, Budge and Gonzalez that never won many real slams uisually because of turning pro very early.


Last edited by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 11:28 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 4:39 pm

Here's the list the other way around, ranked by real slams, and then the second figure being how many they would have won had they played in an open 4 slam a year field.

Federer 17 17
Sampras 14 15
Nadal 14 15
Emerson 12 0
Laver 11 16
Borg 11 14
Tilden 10 17
Perry 8 10
Rosewall 8 24
Connors 8 12
Lendl 8 8
Agassi 8 10
Sears 7 7
Renshaw 7 7
Larned 7 7
Lacoste 7 11
Cochet 7 10
Newcombe 7 6
Mcenroe 7 9
Wilander 7 7
Djokovic 8 8


Vines 3 10
Riggs 3 7
Budge 6 10
Gonzales 2 26


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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 4:55 pm

OK, so the idea is to estimate (of course, it will be subjective, and only an estimation) how many slams a player would have won had their been an open era with 4 slams a year, and had all players turned up for all of them like they do today.

Now, what I can see in the historical record is which events players played and which they didn't. What I cannot easily do is to determine which of the missed events were due to injury, suspensions, eligibility, or just didn't feel like playing. So I have to simply look at missed events. While it may or may not be fair to judge it this way, it is the only practical way.

I look at the number of slams missed (including slams that were suspended, or didn't exist; it must always be normalized for 4-slam year) between first and last win, judging those as ones that a player might have contended to win, and ignoring missed slams before first win or after last win. I then estimate the number of those they would have won had they played them, typically assuming a similar % to their real win % of the ones they actually played.

Amateur slams just before open era (1950-1968) were effectively second tier events that featured maybe 1 or 2 of the world's ten best players and were much easier to win than today's Masters, these are counted as zero. However in the 1930s and earlier slams had a full field and were top tier, so are counted as 1 slam. EDIT 19th April: Sorry, I made a mistake here I did not count all 1930s slams as full, I downgraded some slams that would in mid to late 30s as some top players had already turned professional. Only from about early to mid 30s and before did I count slams as full. Luckily there are no major GOAT contenders crossing the period when the slams transitioned from top tier to second tier (late 30s to 1950 ish) so this is not a major issue that there was a transitional period as the professional game developed.

For very early players, around 1900 or so, this is very tricky. Typically Wimbledon was a British tournament, and US Open a US tournament, and French Open french players only, with not much mixing. In theory whoever win Wimbledon was probably the best player and could have won all the others had they entered, tennis being more developed in the UK to start. So in theory applying the formula could generate all the GOATs from that period. But on the other hand, that's a nonsense, tennis was not a global game. In the end, I just left the slam numbers unchanged from around that time.

For pro slams, there were typically 2-3 a year not 4 so I count pro slams but increase them to account for this. However say a player played 3 pro slams a year. Instead of increase by 33% their number to adjust for 4 slams a year I only increased by half that. This is to account for the smaller fields and the fact that players only had to play 4 rounds. Had they played 7 rounds, they might have occassionally been knocked out in the earlier rounds.

if anyone is interested I have the excel sheet, I could probably post it online, or by email.


Last edited by Henman Bill on Sun 19 Apr 2015, 11:10 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by It Must Be Love on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 4:59 pm

Wait, why does Nadal go up to 15 ?

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 5:00 pm

To look at some specific cases.
NADAL
First of all I want to explain why I increased Nadal's slam count from 14 to 15. This is because he missed 4 slams in his career mostly or entirely due to injury. Had he played them, it's reasonable to assume he would have won an estimated 1.

While it's debatable whether such an injury adjustment it's fair, it's the only practical way to get a consistent methodology. I can see in the records Mcenroe, Laver, Borg and many others missed x slams and they were obviously missing a lot more than players today. So the only fair way is just to look at the number of slams players missed across the eras when attitudes and eligibility was different.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 5:01 pm

SAMPRAS
Sampras missed 4 slams in his winning period, mostly skipping AOs. Had he played in today's climate where everyone plays all the slams, even the AO, it's reasonable to assume he would have won an estimated 1 more. So change from 14 to 15.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 6:16 pm

BORG
Missed the 1977 French Open, and 7 AOs, 8 total between first and last slam win. Resonable to think he could have won 3 of those based on the rate he won slams he entered during those peak years. Causing a boost of his slam total from 11 to 14.

CONNORS
Boosted from 8 to 12; similar logic. Assume won 4 out of 13 missed.

MCENROE
Boosted from 7 to 9; simimlar logic. Assume won 2 out of 5 missed.

In more simple terms, these guys played in a 3-slam era so their totals are adjusted for a 4-slam era. Reality not quite as simple.

LENDL
He only missed 1 slam, so total stays at 8.


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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 6:20 pm

AGASSI
Missed 7 slams, he literally didn't turn up when he didn't feel like it. Unheard of today. If he played in today's era he might have played 7 more slams for another 2 wins, up from 8 to 10.

Of course, the slams themselves were slightly easier to win if not everyone was turning up for all of them. I've tried to factor this in slightly by rounding down etc. However, I think it's generally fair to say that in the era that top players doesn't turn up for slams all the time it meant top players won less slams and a few more than today went to the second tier.

Still, all straightforward so far, it's when we get to the open era start, and before, that things get messy.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 6:33 pm

LAVER
Laver won 11 slams, 6 amateur (second tier, count as zero) and 5 after the open era (count in full).
Had Laver played on the pro circuit earlier, I estimate he would have 1 more pro slam. (He was good enough to clean up on the amateur circuit in 1962 with the calendar year grand slam. In 1963, he first year as a pro, he won no pro slams, but he got to 2 finals.)
He won 8 pro slams at a time when there were consistently 3 a year (Gonzales and Rosewall often did not get that many). Adjusting for a 4 slam era makes 11, but accounting for the fact that they were small draws with the top 16 only, we can assume that he might only have won 10, if the draws had been 128 players instead like today.
So we have 10 pro slams + 1 had he turned pro earlier + 5 in the open era. Total 16.

Notably, he is only 1 different to Roger Federer, and the margin for error in the estimate is probably greater than 1. Therefore, Federer's 17 slams do not put him above Rod Laver, but only roughly on a par as an achievement.

Going back to work now, but if I have time I'll come on this evening and explain exactly why Rosewall and Gonzalez have such big totals, and how I estimated those in more detail.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 10:36 pm

ROSEWALL
Start with his actual, real number of pro slams (15, to Laver's mere 8). Not only that, but half of his dominant years he only played 2 pro slams, skipping the US Pro from 1958 to 1962 inclusive. (He played 3 a year after that.) Considering this I thought it reasonable to assume in a 4-slam era with 128 player draw he could have won 19 slams instead of 15. That assumes he would have a lower winning % in fact so could be conservative.

Assuming he had turned pro as a teenager he might have got 1 more say 20.

To that we add his 4 open era slams, making 24 total. We ignore his 4 amateur slams (although you could argue that by adding 1 to his pro total had he turned pro earlier, that can be seen as valuing his multiple amateur slams at 1 pro slam. Same could be said of Laver).

Ken Rosewall won every pro slam he attended from 1960 to 1963, 9 in a row. He won 15 of the 27 pro slams he entered across his whole career. Taking only the span inclusive of this first and last pro slam across his main dominance period that record improves from 15-12 to as stunning a figure as 14-7, which compares well with anything achieved by anyone since.

The open era came late for Ken Rosewall. At the age of 33 when the open era began at the French Open, 1968, would it be too late for Ken? Not so, he won that FO (the final against a Rod Laver at the peak of his powers who would go on to complete the CYGS the next year). Over the next few years Rod won the Australian Open twice and the US Open in his mid 30s, before reaching the Wimbledon and US Open finals in 1974 a matter of a few months before his 40th birthday!

Unfortunately, Ken Rosewall never won Wimbledon, the world's most prestigious tournament, something which may ultimately count against him in the GOAT race. However he was not able to play it from the ages of 22-33 inclusive. You could probably make the same claim on failing to win Wimbledon against most players if those years were excluded from their records. Ken did have a mighty good try, at the age of 19 and 21 he lost 2 fairly tight amateur finals. In 1970, against John Newcombe at the age of 35, the match went to a fifth set. And then against Connors he was easily dismissed in straights. Surely, had he played a whole career at Wimbledon he would have almost certainly have won the event multiple times.

Ken Rosewall is not held in quite the same regard as other tennis greats like Laver, Sampras or Federer. Perhaps because he was not rated as highly at the time to people that watched the game, perhaps because he was more consistent than flamboyant. And yet, statistically, he seems to be as close to GOAT as anyone.

Looking at his pro slam dominance he could conceivably, even quite likely, have won a CYGS had he had the opportunity to do so at his peak.

His head to head of won 63, lost 80 against Laver suggests he was just as "great" as Laver given that Laver had the advantage of youth in the rivalry - in the early years they did not play because Laver was an amateur so Rosewall did not have the opportunity to get ahead while Laver was 19,20 etc. But Laver did stack up some wins while Rosewall was old. Rosewall also leads Laver 6-4 in pro slams, 1-1 in slams.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 10:58 pm

GONZALES
So now, Pancho Gonzales, the man at the top of the list. First of all, he won the US Open in 1948 and 1949. Should those be counted as second tier, amateur events in the same way as I counted slams from 1950-1968 (Australian Open only)? The pro tour existed, but was just getting going. Kramer, the no 1 player at the time perhaps, had gone pro, but many others had not and the amateur field was very strong. In the end I decided to count these 2 slams as 1.

Now Gonzales won 15 pro slams even though only an average of 2 a year were held during the peak of his career! I judged he might have won 25 in an open era with 4 slams a year (not 30 because his winning % would likely have been lower than his home slam and also because of bigger fields in the open era).

So 25 plus the 1 from earlier makes 26.

Note that he never won either the French Open, or the French pro, combined across the 2 events he participated 6 times with 4 semi finals and 2 finals.

Like Rosewall, he also never won Wimbledon. But he only played it once as a young kid before turning professional and did not have the chance to play it again until he was 40, so we cannot read much into that. Like Rosewall, he did win the UK-held Wembley pro slam multiple times.


Last edited by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 11:25 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Gonzales should not be with a z at the end)

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 11:24 pm

So Gonzales is on 26. It's a clear margin above everyone except Rosewall, on 24. Unfortunately it's only an estimate, and with a difference of 2 and a margin for error of more than 2 in calculating the estimate, I can't really say Pancho G would have won more slams than Rosewall had he had 4 a year and played them all like the players of today.

So, what can settle it? As all you Federer fans will no doubt agree, it has to be the head to head.

Impressively, the older Pancho Gonzales actually leads the younger Ken Rosewall 107-75 (yeah, they didn't mess about in those days). They started playing when PG was 28 and an experienced Pro and KR was a 22-year old rookie just off the second tier amateur tier. PG leads 52-28 in that year. But even in 1960, when Gonzales turned 32, and was past his best, and Rosewall was turning 26 and at peak, Gonzales led 16-5. Even with PG was around 40 he was still holding his own in the rivalry.

It's also of note PG's record against Rod Laver. He is losing it 21-38 but during the span of the rivlary Laver was 26–32 and Gonzales was an ancient 36–42 years old! Well past his best while Laver was at his peak. Note also that Gonzales actually led in the first year (at age of 36 vs a 26 year old) and so if anything I think this set of results is more favourable to Gonzales.

So, in summary, Pancho Gonzales, is the true GOAT.

Still not convinced? Gonzales would have been year end no 1 either 7 or 8 times had their been computerized rankings in his day. Who, in the entire history of tennis, can beat that? Answer: no-one.

I would challenge anyone here to pick any player in tennis history, present (such as Federer, Nadal) or past, and take me on and make a compelling case that they are more of a great than Gonzales. I don't see how you can.


Last edited by Henman Bill on Tue 14 Apr 2015, 11:32 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : so I just noticed half the time I type GonzaleZ and the other half GonzaleS)

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by summerblues on Wed 15 Apr 2015, 2:16 am

HB, thanks for this series.  A very nice and informative read.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by biugo on Wed 15 Apr 2015, 2:51 pm

Thanks HB for this! An original and refreshing view on the debate

I think you gave too many slams to PG - although he's of course incredible.
Basically, 26 correspond almost exactly to his winning years ratio had he played 4 events a year:
- From Wembley 1950 to US Pro 1961: 12 years, so a potential 48 slam tournaments
- Winning ratio in slams from W50 to US61: 15/27 (!) or 56%
- 56% * 48 = 26.7

So your total is not at all downgrading his winning ratio. Hence you can take at least a couple slams off easily - so it's a tie with Rosewall (GOAT debates are always funnier with no clear winner Wink )

Another point that you actually made without adressing to fine tune the total: his performance in France (amateur, pro or open) - he never won any - so it minimes his potential performance on 4 slams (he was really the king of US Pro a bit like Rafa is the king of FO). So that's another way to take away a couple slams from Pancho to have him tied with Rosewall Smile

If you have the courage to do so (I certainly don't have it now) I think a way to fine tune the entire table would be to split the results by venue or surface (precisely to account for different performance on different conditions)
With Pancho considering French Pro as FO, Wembley as Wimby, US Pro as USO and Tournament of Champions as AO, we could get:

keeping the same ratios - 12 years from '50 to '61
AO: 75% - 9
FO: 0% - 0
W: 50% - 6
USO: 80% - 9.6
Total: 24.6
Let's say he'd had Nadal'd his way to 10 USO, but he would not have kept the consistency in AO (it's a ratio over 4 years only) but he would have won some FO
AO:6 or 5 - FO:2 or 3 - W:6 - US:10
And we get to 24 Wink

A last factor to take a littel bit of the evolution of the game into account is the popularity of the game and depth of field... Now it's truly global and mature (to the point that Americans and Australians are not outrageously dominating) so hidden talents like Mansour Bahrami happen less.

So you could factor the whole of your results with an ascending curve starting at x0.75 in 1920 and before, and going up to x1 from 1980 onwards (randomly chosen numbers - I've not put much thought into that)

It would still keep Ken and Pancho at a whopping 21-22 slams


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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Wed 15 Apr 2015, 6:39 pm

Thanks guys for commenting.

On your point: -

Winning ratio in slams from W50 to US61: 15/27 (!) or 56%
- 56% * 48 = 26.7


I had that 27 figure at 25 counting up on the wikipedia page for Pancho Gonzales so I get 15/25 or 60% winning %. I don't know why we have a discrepancy here, it could be a mistake, or it could be because of uncertainty about what events were actually pro slams. Not sure if you can figure that out, but it doesn't make a huge difference to the debate of course.

60% * 48 = 28.8.
I had originally stated 30 but I think that was because I roughly saw there were 2 slams per year, but actually it was 2.08 pro slams a year he had a chance to play, which explains why I slightly more precisely calculate 28.8 now vs 30 in the article.

I then downgraded the 30 to 25 on the basis of smaller draws and the assumption that his winning % would be lower at the other slams (FO, Australian) than his "home" US slam. (I then upgraded to 26 by counting his 2 amaetuer slams as equal to 1 pro slam.)

I suppose I can put that down to 1 based on the refinement above to that's back to 25 for Pancho.

With the other 1 discrepancy down to the 27/25 discrepancy we mentioned above.

Anyway, you could be right, 25 could be high, it would always be subjective.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Wed 15 Apr 2015, 6:46 pm

I think your other factor makes sense.

At the end of the day you can keep on and on refining data and adding various factors, which is why it is always going to be hard to get a definite answer.

Unless someone comes along and wins 30+ slams, 3 calendar year grand slams, the Davis Cup, Olympics, World Finals, 10+ year end no 1s, an undefeated year, positive head to heads against all major rivals, plays in an era with other greats, and plays the game in an attractive way, then there is never really going to be an end to the debate.

Personally I think PG is the GOAT now, but there is very little in it between him and others like Laver and Federer.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by biugo on Wed 15 Apr 2015, 10:05 pm

Henman Bill wrote:I think your other factor makes sense.
Unless someone comes along and wins 30+ slams, 3 calendar year grand slams, the Davis Cup, Olympics, World Finals, 10+ year end no 1s, an undefeated year, positive head to heads against all major rivals, plays in an era with other greats, and plays the game in an attractive way, then there is never really going to be an end to the debate.

That made me chuckle, just to imagine it Very Happy Very Happy (I guess that's part of a reason why some - like me - won't get tired of seeing Fed winning, because in 2004-06 he started to follow this kind of path. There are just a few types of heroes: the superman types like described, being just better at everything, the underdog, the one overcoming his ailments, demons, etc... and the bad guy gone good)

And about the discrepancy between 25 and 27, you've got the right number. I don't know how I ended up with 27 Shocked (I probably should check those documents I sent ot my client again... Shocked laughing )

Of course fine tuning is endless, but that's why GOAT debate can be fun! I have little knowledge of the past eras, so I'm usually sticking to Open era - but your argument for PG is interesting.
I would gladly dismisss it saying "pah! there was merely enough tennis players back then to play a football game, let alone cricket!" as an excuse to overlook these eras.

Besides PG, Fed, Nadal and the usual suspects from Laver to Sampras, players I find underrated and that I put up there are:
- Jimmy Connors (who actually got 100% wins in slams one year... but missing FO. He was no monkey on clay, and I'm quite sure with "what ifs" he would have brought a CYGS back home; his precocity and longevity were amazing, hence setting a right example as a professional sportsman; and he had quite a character, which you need to have a good story)
- Mansour Bahrami (because he's a kind of tennis artist, bringing fun and popularity to an upper class game - of course he's a Harlem Globe Trotters of tennis, so won't fit in a GOAT debate, but I think he's necessary to the tennis world, and not many players are!)

But it tennis amateurs and players throughout the ages were voting for the GOAT, Federer would definitely win it (he'll seduce the older and pre war crowd with his #15 outfit Wink )

If someone reads this and has some time in front of them: why not starting a GOAT poll, the way it's been done across all 606 sports? (go figure how to set seeds... but a debate Budge v. McEnroe, for example, could be fun)

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Thu 16 Apr 2015, 2:16 pm

In votes, debates, polls, I agree Federer would win it, but I suspect people are somehow conditioned to vote for the more recent player. Sampras was also annointed as GOAT in his time when he won the 14th slam (albeit to a lesser extent) and Laver, Borg, Mcenroe, and Connors were all touted as GOAT as well, the latter two perhaps only briefly at their real peak. GOAT is always someone recent. There has never been a consensus that the GOAT was someone from 50 years ago. When there is, that will really mean something.

I think people's dismissal of the pre open era could be based as much on their lack of emotional investment in the players, the fact that they haven't seen them play, the fact that the footage is grainy, and that they are their less in their consciousness, rather than fundamental merits. Statistically speaking, you cannot build much of a conclusive case that Federer is GOAT, only that he's the best since at least Laver. You can make a case that there is little to separate Federer from Laver, Ken Rosewall, Gonzales etc. And you can probably make the case, as I have, that Gonzales > Federer.

But I don't see the case that Federer > Gonzales can be clearly made without falling back on convenient, subjective arguments like that it wasn't as developed a global game, the pro slam draws were only 16, none of which to me seem to be compelling enough to me.


Last edited by Henman Bill on Thu 16 Apr 2015, 2:26 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Thu 16 Apr 2015, 2:25 pm

In some ways, neither Federer nor Nadal feels like GOAT when I watch them play.

Federer, because of his record against major rivals not being dominating enough for a one true GOAT, but also because when he goes to strike the ball there isn't the unerring confidence that it will find its mark 9 times out of 10, it is hit and miss, more like a flawed genuis than the one true GOAT. He isn't mentally strong enough to be GOAT.

Nadal, even if he was the statistical GOAT, in some ways I couldn't find it in my heart to accept him as GOAT, because sometimes his tennis is about physical and mental and not quite enough flair and elegance for GOAT. Also to me the right way to play tennis is agressively, not waiting for an error. There is something unsatisfactory about the thought of a fundamentally defensive, consistent playing being the statistical GOAT. He is technically good, but not technically great by the standards of GOAT contenders.

I wonder how I would have felt about PG in this regard, if I had seen him play. He was a strong server I believe, a powerful and mentally strong and astute player, but as far as I know he wasn't know for technical beautiful groundstrokes or redefining the elegance of the game. Observers of the time did not seem to rate him as the GOAT based on his level of play at his peak (Rod Laver rated Lew Hoad as the best player of this era), so longevity and amassing statistics are what's really behind it.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by biugo on Thu 16 Apr 2015, 8:41 pm

I'm overall to spent right now to make a developped answer to your points, especially because I mostly agree Smile : Of course, Fed would win the poll as he's the current star, and has a feel of the past with him; and of course pre-Open is readily dismissed by lack of knowledge or investment with these generations.

You're talking about Nadal's stats, and Federer impression on you when he plays, impression that's hard to see on past players too as you said. And moreover about Fed and Nadal vs older generations, I think it's pointless to pick a GOAT within players who are still on the tour. I'd actually happily narrow it down to players retired for 10 years at least, a bit like how the NBA doesn't open their Hall of Fame before a while too.

So I have another angle to look at the GOAT debate - which will please you though;) Let's look at the IMPACT players had on Tennis as a sport in general. Here I can bring back my Bahrami in contention too, why not, as it's not about the results. It's an opportunity to pick a Hall of FAme before a GOAT.

Pancho is still in contention for the title of course! Smile but we can add players like Suzanne Lenglen or Navratilova without being wrong - both are amongst the greatest of all time.

Who would you put in the main list?

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Sat 18 Apr 2015, 1:18 am

One thing in favour of Federer is his highlights video of the best 10 minutes of shots of his career is going to be hard to beat. Unless you're Bahrami.

There is an argument that Borg had more impact on the sport and made it more global, and that enhances his GOAT contention status, but I don't think that's fair and shouldn't be considered much, especially if it boils down to the fact he was fanciable. In words GOAT should not be about impact on the sport to me, especially if impact just means something like drew in TV audiences with witty comments and off field relationships for example. If it means developed new shots and tactics that's more of a point in favour of GOAT, but not a huge one.

I have a top 5 of Gonzales, Rosewall, Laver, Federer and Tilden.

In the top 10 I would add Sampras, Nadal, Borg and not sure who else. Probably Djokovic by the time he retires.

In the top 20-30 I would have Vines, Hoad, Riggs, Budge, Perry, Connors, Lendl, Agassi, Lacoste, Cochet, Mcenroe, William Renshaw, Newcombe, Wilander, Kramer. In no particular order and may be some others I've missed out.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by LuvSports! on Sat 18 Apr 2015, 1:30 am

Very good work hb.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Born Slippy on Sat 18 Apr 2015, 8:50 am

I think Budge with a CYGS would have to go at least into tier 2. He won 6 consecutive slams and then was immediately the best player upon turning pro winning 4 out of 5 pro slams he played before the war.

He apparently injured his shoulder badly during the war so, as well as the several years he lost, he was not the same player afterwards.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Born Slippy on Sat 18 Apr 2015, 9:01 am

I think Budge should probably be on 19-20 slams on the criteria used as well. Between 1939-45 he won 4 of 5 pro slams played. 4 slams a year would be 28 slams so 23 additional slams. 4/5 of that would be 19. Allowing for only boosting for pro slams by 50% that's an additional 9-10 on top of his actual total.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by Henman Bill on Mon 20 Apr 2015, 12:00 am

Budge I did find difficult and probably one of my least accurate estimates due to lack of knowledge of the period and fundamental issues (see below). I feel that players earlier than that (e.g. Tilden) in the amateur era it was the top tier, there wasn't much pro tier. By the 1950s amateur is second tier, pro is top tier.

But the late 30s is tricky. I did say in a comment above that I counted 30s amateur slams as full, but that was actually a mistake, or an oversimplification. I took Budge's 6 amateur slams and counted as 3.

I'm not really sure if that's fair or not but we have to consider Fred Perry had turned pro in 1937. In 1936 Budge lost to Fred Perry at both Wimbledon and the US Open. Immediately after Fred Perry turned pro Budge won his 6 slams in a row. Also, Ellsworth Vines had turned pro in 1934. So, anyway, I just in an open era I judged those 6 slams were worth 3.

As to the pro slams, the issues, and the reasons why my estimate is lower than yours, are:

1. Were pro slams as open at the late 30s and 40s as they were in the 50s or were a number of the best players still playing as amateurs? I wouldn't have counted each pro slam as full in the same way I would for 1950-1968. You seem to be counted his amateur slams if against as a full field, and his pro slams also as full in your calculation.

2. You say he won 4 of 5 slams played 1939-1945 but his last win was 1942, there were none played from 1943-45 so I don't think it's fair to extrapolate that winning % across 3 years where no events were held, especially since he won none after return to competition in 1946 (I see your point about the injury, but for fairness and simplicitly I cannot factor that in to the actual estimate because I don't know if others had a similar story).

3. His pro slam wins 1939-1942 might have been against a diminished field due to the war, maybe not 1939 events occuring before the outbreak of hostilities but certainly some potentially good European players might not have played his 1940 and 1942 tournaments wins. In 1940 US Pro, he did face Fred Perry in the final but in 1942 tournament it was 15 US players and one other who lost in the first round.

4. His 1939 French Pro was just 3 matches, QF, SF and F. His 1939 Wimbledon pro was a round robin event with a group of 4. There is an argument that, as I have devalued Laver, Rosewall's pro slams slightly on the basis that they were a draw of 16, Budge's should be devaluated even a little more as they featured even less players. (You may already have taken account of this point.)

On the other hand, in 1939 his head to heads against the two reigning kings of professional tennis, Ellsworth Vines, 22 matches to 17, and Fred Perry, 28 matches to 8. That's very good. I did notice that he's rated very highly based on peers comments, more so perhaps than say Ken Rosewall. But these kinds of things are not really part of my analysis.

I am not sure about 20 slams because of the points I give. Still, maybe my 10 was a bit low, maybe 15 could be argued for (split the difference?) which might put him in that second tier, and in the top 10 of all time.

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by kingraf on Tue 07 Jul 2015, 2:09 pm

This is it...
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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by TRuffin on Mon 14 Sep 2015, 4:06 am

This is odd to say after a loss- but FEDERER is only enhancing the goat credentials for him. I just don't see how anyone who understands the game, the level it takes to compete against all time greats a generation younger than you, the consistentcy he has can not rate federer #1 of the modern era.

I also think my prediction of a year ago is sure to happen. Djoko will pass nadal on the list and be seen as best player of his era and right behind fed

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Re: GOAT Debate

Post by TRuffin on Mon 14 Sep 2015, 4:07 am

This is odd to say after a loss- but FEDERER is only enhancing the goat credentials for him.  I just don't see how anyone who understands the game, the level it takes to compete against all time greats a generation younger than you, the consistentcy he has can not rate federer #1 of the modern era.

I also think my prediction of a year ago is sure to happen. Djoko will pass nadal on the list and be seen as best player of his era and right behind fed

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Re: GOAT Debate

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