Are Big 4 Overrated?

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Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Sun May 29, 2016 11:40 am

The title is meant to be maybe more provocative than real, but here is an item that had been nagging on my mind the last few years:

MfC brought up the fact that 12 of top 16 seeds made their seeding - and it could well have been more had Nadal/Tsonga not been injured:
Mad for Chelsea wrote:Looking at the R4 players, there are only 4 top 16 seeds who haven't made it: two of those are Nadal and Tsonga of course, who had to withdraw.

This just continues the pattern I had noted during AO - seeds (and not only the very top few) are making their seeding more easily than they used to in the past.  Here are some numbers I listed during the AO:

summerblues wrote:Here are the numbers of top 16 seeds who made it into the round of 16 at the AO from 1990 onward, in chronological order:

1990-99: 9, 6, 6, 9, 10, 9, 7, 10, 4, 5 - average: 7.5
2000-09: 7, 10, 6, 7, 10, 9, 9, 14, 9, 12 - average: 9.3
2010-16: 11, 12, 9, 13, 10, 11, 13 - average: 11.3

The pattern is clear.  From 1990-99, there was not a single year where the number was above 10.  From 2010-16, in contrast, there has only been one year where the number was below 10.

I have now done the same thing for the FO - and the same thing happens there:

1990-99: 9, 7, 6, 10, 5, 8, 10, 6, 6, 7 - average: 7.4
2000-09: 10, 9, 8, 8, 5, 10, 9, 9, 5, 12 - average: 8.5
2010-16: 10, 10, 11, 12, 9, 12, 12 - average: 10.6

So, a similar pattern of seeds advancing more easily now.  The first time we see more than 10/16 is in 2009, but now it has happened in four out of last five years.

I quickly eyeballed Wimbledon and USO - it does not look like the pattern is quite as pronounced there, but even there I think it has gotten a little easier to advance for the seeds.

I do not have a firm theory as to why this is happening, but one possibility is that it has something to do with today's conditions.  It could be more homogeneous surfaces meaning the same 16 players are best on any surface, it could also mean that baseline game allows for less luck and makes it harder for weaker players to upset better ones.  Who knows.

But, if it does have anything to do with the current game, then it does beg the question as to whether current top players' dominance is propped to some extent through the conditions that make it easier for them to dominate.  Would Fed/Rafa/Djoko, and to a lesser extent Andy, have been as consistent in the old conditions?  Or, equivalently, if it is true that Sampras played in the conditions where it was more difficult to be consistent, does it not elevate his 14 slams a little bit relative to the current top players?

I cannot quite put my finger on it, and I am not really certain one way or another, but my hunch is that some portion of the current crop's dominance (though not all of it) is likely due to conditions that are more supportive of such dominance.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Sun May 29, 2016 6:10 pm

Yeah, and only the tennis and logic geniuses of 606v2 have been able to discern that, while every commentator and legend disagrees. I have unfortunately, lost faith completely in the logical reasoning of most of you. You guys have been crowing how there is nothing unique about the big 4 except Federer of course since I can remember. Fortunately, 99.99999999999 percent of people outside the bubble of this forum disagree.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Sun May 29, 2016 6:37 pm

socal1976 wrote:Yeah, and only the tennis and logic geniuses of 606v2 have been able to discern that, while every commentator and legend disagrees. I have unfortunately, lost faith completely in the logical reasoning of most of you. You guys have been crowing how there is nothing unique about the big 4 except Federer of course since I can remember. Fortunately, 99.99999999999 percent of people outside the bubble of this forum disagree.


Very true socal. However, pundits and ex-players only talk up yoday's players to promote the sport - well at least that is what you will be told. I have listened to many ex-players (legends themselves) enthusing over the high standard of players and play today so who do we believe? Legendary players who have played the sport at the highest levels winning many slams or posters with less tennis knowledge and bias.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Sun May 29, 2016 6:53 pm

CaledonianCraig wrote:
socal1976 wrote:Yeah, and only the tennis and logic geniuses of 606v2 have been able to discern that, while every commentator and legend disagrees. I have unfortunately, lost faith completely in the logical reasoning of most of you. You guys have been crowing how there is nothing unique about the big 4 except Federer of course since I can remember. Fortunately, 99.99999999999 percent of people outside the bubble of this forum disagree.


Very true socal. However, pundits and ex-players only talk up yoday's players to promote the sport - well at least that is what you will be told. I have listened to many ex-players (legends themselves) enthusing over the high standard of players and play today so who do we believe? Legendary players who have played the sport at the highest levels winning many slams or posters with less tennis knowledge and bias.
Fully agree, but take it further than that. When this group out performs both the crop that came before and the crop after them, logic would dictate in most cases that represents the quality of the guys 27-31. Instead, the logical wunderkins of 606v2 see this as evidence that there is nothing unique about that group, funny how they thought fat Dave and the big serving frat boy were so special when they were rolling over for Roger. There is an agenda at work here Craig and I think both of us have been smart enough to sniff it out.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Sun May 29, 2016 7:42 pm

So the big 4 nearly always need to beat the very best of the rest to make their appointed slots in the SF and that is somehow easier than beating some of the nobodies the likes of Agassi and Sampras (or Fed in his earlier years) faced?


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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by lydian on Sun May 29, 2016 7:44 pm

Absolutely summerblues...and to be frank your thoughtfully and well researched OP deserved a much better response than the usual 'us vs. them' forum paranoia from socal...for which this topic is a fuse to perceived denigration of Djokovic.

However, Socal doesn't think it weird that we had 40...yes 40...years of no former tennis great - all those yesteryear talents - being able to win all 4 slams in close proximity after Laver. No, we're meant to observe that all of sudden with Federer achieving the GS between 2007-2009...Nadal 2008-2010 and now Novak almost certainly 2015-2016, that nothing has changed in tennis and these 3 guys, because they are all time goats can achieve something the former greats couldn't? I don't buy it personally.

Most observers can see surface slowing (which is undeniable) has led to the convergence of conditions, the reduction of specialists, and the ability to dominate the tour more easily than ever before because players games don't have to be adjusted anywhere near as much from one surface to another. This doesn't denigrate the current players achievements relative to others around the same time but surely it means we cannot and should not compare their records versus former greats who did not have the same conditions to benefit them. Yes the current guys still have to beat their contemporaries (who may be as good as former top 10-20ers) but the opportunity of dominating them in the same way from slam to another, or Masters, is different. In the 90s for example...Muster would easily beat Sampras on clay, and Sampras would easily beat Muster on grass. Now...with current conditions, one would tend to beat the other most of the time on all the surfaces because there is a vastly reduced amount of difference in styles of play needed to dominate the tour.

So back to OP, yes I also noticed most seeds are progressing through most draws recently too but didn't comment. We are basically seeing the flow of best players by ranking achieving the same procession of progress through each tournament - this clearly supports the outcome of homogenisation. Therefore, the very best players in this modern scenario basically win everything.

As for what happens after this group of greats have passed, then it comes down to how good the next crop at the top are versus their contemporaries....but they'll have the same opportunity to amass slams that the current 3 have had, which will be enhanced if the field around them happens to be relatively weaker. I don't see a Nadal/Djokovic/Federer type coming along...if there was one we could spot I would suspect with the new crop of 18/21 year olds we have they would probably achieve a great deal!


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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Sun May 29, 2016 7:49 pm

Yeah BS, excellent point.  It is pretty clear that this shows how professional and committed as a whole the tour is. And frankly it hasn't always been that way. I remember Ruffin telling a story about how in the late seventies how promoters tried to fill up slots in these lower tournaments with local pros and whoever they could. Remember that in the past the money wasn't there for a guy let's say ranked outside the top thirty to get this level of coaching and training. Plus of course sports medicine has also advanced.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by lydian on Sun May 29, 2016 7:54 pm

Yes but we're talking about slams and Masters, not the whole tour list of events or obscure tour events where draws are harder to fill with top quality players. For the very top events it concerns mainly the top 50 guys and I believe the top 50-100 has probably always been pretty committed.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Sun May 29, 2016 8:00 pm

lydian wrote:Absolutely summerblues...and to be frank your thoughtfully and well researched OP deserved a much better response than the usual 'us vs. them' forum paranoia from socal...for which this topic is a fuse to perceived denigration of Djokovic.

Yes I am paranoid because of Djokovic denigration as opposed to the laughable logic the nostalgics put forth. If that is your opinion fine. I mean was it a logical claim by you that a 10 percent increase in ball size would slow down big servers, and illogical of me to produce a government funded study by scientist who said that a small increase in ball size does nothing to slow down a big serve. Sure I am the paranoid fanboy, and you the impartial thinker. I mean I am paranoid, you took issue with me claiming that Novak and Roger are more durable than Nadal. Or how you knock Novak for unfairly using oxygen and air pressure while stem cells and PrP are a ok for Nadal.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Sun May 29, 2016 8:06 pm

lydian wrote:Yes but we're talking about slams and Masters, not the whole tour list of events or obscure tour events where draws are harder to fill with top quality players. For the very top events it concerns mainly the top 50 guys and I believe the top 50-100 has probably always been pretty committed.
Slams are even worse with their big fields they were throwing complete stiffs out there in the early rounds. You underestimate the impact of increased professionalism and money that has flooded the game. I remember cliff drysdale ttold a story of how he got to the semis of Wimby in the seventies and his reward was a gift certificate for some shorts, this in the early pro era. Not something that would encourage a lot commitment on the part of pros I would think.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Sun May 29, 2016 8:07 pm

So if we say since homogenisation then the greatest youngsters produced have been from generation of Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Monfils and Tsonga etc.

Homogenisation has not affected RG I would say so we can judge records of past and present and Nadal stands as the greatest clay courter of all-time so that is a caveat to today's generation.

In any case we still return to all these ex players and legends of the sport or noted pundits, ex-coaches etc who have seen many generations of players come through who speak so very highly of today's generation.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by lydian on Sun May 29, 2016 8:33 pm

Yes clay has changed the least. Although it is said there is far less top dressing than before and RG changed to balls that fly through the air more (remember the pros commenting on it a couple of years back).

Yes they all speak highly of today's generation but that does not provide definitive categorisation nor do they fully know or appreciate when answering the changes in the current tour vs when they played.

I just think it's useless to compare tennis from 1960-1980, 1980-2000, and 2000-present...completely different "epochs" of 20 year periods in terms of how the game is played.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by lydian on Sun May 29, 2016 8:39 pm

Yes socal, I don't deny the tour was different back in the day some players also smoked and partied to the small hours with glamorous women. It was a different time...which is kind of my point. However, the conditions on tour were very different. We know that 3 greats alone...Borg, McEnroe and Lendl...probably similar to Nadal, Federer and Djokovic in some respects...could not win all the slams. Were they any less talented? I think not. Had they been around today I'm sure they would have been winning all the different slams. Beyond them you would also expect the seeded players to progress in a more uniform way across tour events too due to similarity of conditions.

So, fine let's keep the current conditions but stop comparing any records of the current guys to ANY retired pro who played in the 90s or earlier.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Sun May 29, 2016 8:41 pm

lydian wrote:
I just think it's useless to compare tennis from 1960-1980, 1980-2000, and 2000-present...completely different "epochs" of 20 year periods in terms of how the game is played.
 I can fully agree on that point, good post. However, it's human nature to want to have an all encompassing and firm answer to things. That is why we have this obsession with top ten list and greatest of all time debates

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Sun May 29, 2016 8:43 pm

Yes of course things change lydian. I liken it a lot to snooker where in the 70s and 80s the tables, balls used and cloth used to cover the tables were very different to today as was the style of snooker played. However, these ex-players etc are well-positioned to judge as many of them are still involved in the sport either as pundits or coaches so they understand the game very well.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Sun May 29, 2016 8:46 pm

lydian wrote:Yes socal, I don't deny the tour was different back in the day some players also smoked and partied to the small hours with glamorous women. It was a different time...which is kind of my point. However, the conditions on tour were very different. We know that 3 greats alone...Borg, McEnroe and Lendl...probably similar to Nadal, Federer and Djokovic in some respects...could not win all the slams. Were they any less talented? I think not. Had they been around today I'm sure they would have been winning all the different slams. Beyond them you would also expect the seeded players to progress in a more uniform way across tour events too due to similarity of conditions.

So, fine let's keep the current conditions but stop comparing any records of the current guys to ANY retired pro who played in the 90s or earlier.
See when you start talking sense I can agree with you, it's unfair in my opinion for you to try to dismiss my fact and logic based criticism as paranoid Djokovic fanboyism, it's not very nice, and I don't do it to you.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Guest on Sun May 29, 2016 8:47 pm

socal1976 wrote:
lydian wrote:
I just think it's useless to compare tennis from 1960-1980, 1980-2000, and 2000-present...completely different "epochs" of 20 year periods in terms of how the game is played.
 I can fully agree on that point, good post. However, it's human nature to want to have an all encompassing and firm answer to things. That is why we have this obsession with top ten list and greatest of all time debates
Human nature has a lot to answer for. Sometimes it is just a question of hearing and responding to the call of nature.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Guest on Sun May 29, 2016 8:52 pm

Dear Summerblues,

thanks for putting together that analysis and presentation of the data.  Some appreciate your efforts.  It certainly presents an opportunity for an interesting discussion to develop from it,

All the best, N.S.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Sun May 29, 2016 9:04 pm

Nore Staat wrote:Dear Summerblues,

thanks for putting together that analysis and presentation of the data.  Some appreciate your efforts.  It certainly presents an opportunity for an interesting discussion to develop from it,

All the best, N.S.
+1, although I disagree with pretty much everything SB says.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by lydian on Sun May 29, 2016 9:45 pm

Socal...I have never called you a Djokovic fanboy and never will, those are terms you're kind of self- applying. I enjoy the debate, let's keep personal tags out of it Smile
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Sun May 29, 2016 10:40 pm

Born Slippy wrote:So the big 4 nearly always need to beat the very best of the rest to make their appointed slots in the SF and that is somehow easier than beating some of the nobodies the likes of Agassi and Sampras (or Fed in his earlier years) faced?
Well, possibly so.  I see two possible items at play:

First - homogenization.  For example, I imagine and hope we agree it is clearly easier for one player to be successful at both RG and W now than in the 1990s.  So, the trade-off is:  On one hand, a player now has a better chance to be competitive at both slams, but on the other hand everyone else does too - so the player has to compete against the whole field rather than against say 50% of it.  Which one lends itself to more slams for the very top players?  Not immediately clear, but I suspect that the current setup does.

Second - it is possible that, in addition to homogenization, the current conditions (for whatever reasons) distinguish better players from worse players more sharply than old conditions - i.e., that it is harder for a weaker player to beat a stronger one.  Again, it is not immediately obvious whether this would tend to produce more or fewer slams for the very top players (on one hand, the conditions make it easier to distinguish in each individual match who is better, but on the other hand it will also mean that the top players will likely have to play more high seeds in the later rounds).  But once again, I suspect on balance it would likely tend to help the very top players more than hurt them.

I agree it is not immediately obvious which way it goes.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Sun May 29, 2016 10:42 pm

lydian wrote:Socal...I have never called you a Djokovic fanboy and never will, those are terms you're kind of self- applying. I enjoy the debate, let's keep personal tags out of it Smile
Ok great buddy, because through both our knowledge bases and opposing view points I think a lot can be learned by more casual fans who might have an interest.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Sun May 29, 2016 10:44 pm

socal1976 wrote:Yeah BS, excellent point.  It is pretty clear that this shows how professional and committed as a whole the tour is. And frankly it hasn't always been that way. I remember Ruffin telling a story about how in the late seventies how promoters tried to fill up slots in these lower tournaments with local pros and whoever they could.
A couple of items:

First, I am not saying that the Big 4 (and specially Big 3) are no good - just suggesting that maybe they are not quite as good as the raw slam counts suggest.

Also, would your point about lack of professionalism not work the other way around?  I imagine that - from the 1990s onward at least - the tour was professional enough for top 16 players.  So if there was lack of professionalism, it would have been further down.  But that should have made it easier - not harder - for the top 16 seeds to advance.  Just the opposite of what we have seen.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Sun May 29, 2016 10:44 pm

I would agree with much of that summertime blues. That is previous post about homogenisation etc.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Sun May 29, 2016 10:47 pm

Nore Staat wrote:Dear Summerblues,

thanks for putting together that analysis and presentation of the data.  Some appreciate your efforts.  It certainly presents an opportunity for an interesting discussion to develop from it,

All the best, N.S.
Thx NS.  But I like socal.  Forum is best when there are all kinds around.

Some are hotheaded, and clearly so.
Some are levelheaded, and clearly so.
Some are hotheaded, but try hard to appear levelheaded.
Socal is from the - least numerous - fourth group Smile.

So it is certainly very good to have him around.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Guest on Sun May 29, 2016 10:59 pm

Another thing to consider that I think has maybe changed over the past years, which has something to do with the construction of teams around players, which is possible because of the money in the game at the top level .... is ...

... information.  Analysis of the opponent using tapes and digital recording, so that there are no surprises, and game plans and tactics can be discussed and implemented.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Sun May 29, 2016 11:24 pm

summerblues wrote:
socal1976 wrote:Yeah BS, excellent point.  It is pretty clear that this shows how professional and committed as a whole the tour is. And frankly it hasn't always been that way. I remember Ruffin telling a story about how in the late seventies how promoters tried to fill up slots in these lower tournaments with local pros and whoever they could.
A couple of items:

First, I am not saying that the Big 4 (and specially Big 3) are no good - just suggesting that maybe they are not quite as good as the raw slam counts suggest.

Also, would your point about lack of professionalism not work the other way around?  I imagine that - from the 1990s onward at least - the tour was professional enough for top 16 players.  So if there was lack of professionalism, it would have been further down.  But that should have made it easier - not harder - for the top 16 seeds to advance.  Just the opposite of what we have seen.
The 90s wasn't up and down with lots of players winning because of professionalism. It was like that because big servers dominated the tour on fast conditions. It's exactly one of the reasons I loath fast court/serve centric tennis. A great server with one shot can basically play any opponent to a draw on a fast court. Therefore one or two points on break point or in a tiebreaker decides every match. It turns the match into near crap shoot even for the better player especially on a faster surface. Also conversely, the surface specialist you love and I loathe on clay in the 90s would train all year round and sell out their technique to ambush the Sampras', Edbergs, and Beckers of the world who by any measure where better all around players. Basically, I look at these surface specialists as borderline cheating. That should answer your questions into the more varying results of the 90s, wimby was faster and the clay was slower so that one trick ponies could more easily ambush better players.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 12:11 am

summerblues wrote:
Born Slippy wrote:So the big 4 nearly always need to beat the very best of the rest to make their appointed slots in the SF and that is somehow easier than beating some of the nobodies the likes of Agassi and Sampras (or Fed in his earlier years) faced?
Well, possibly so.  I see two possible items at play:

First - homogenization.  For example, I imagine and hope we agree it is clearly easier for one player to be successful at both RG and W now than in the 1990s.  So, the trade-off is:  On one hand, a player now has a better chance to be competitive at both slams, but on the other hand everyone else does too - so the player has to compete against the whole field rather than against say 50% of it.  Which one lends itself to more slams for the very top players?  Not immediately clear, but I suspect that the current setup does.

Second - it is possible that, in addition to homogenization, the current conditions (for whatever reasons) distinguish better players from worse players more sharply than old conditions - i.e., that it is harder for a weaker player to beat a stronger one.  Again, it is not immediately obvious whether this would tend to produce more or fewer slams for the very top players (on one hand, the conditions make it easier to distinguish in each individual match who is better, but on the other hand it will also mean that the top players will likely have to play more high seeds in the later rounds).  But once again, I suspect on balance it would likely tend to help the very top players more than hurt them.

I agree it is not immediately obvious which way it goes.

The reason there is more cross-over of success is because of pretty much accepted coaching nowadays. Everyone learns to play the same and is immense from the baseline with western or semi-western grips but not so great at the net. The courts themselves still play very differently as I'm sure we will see at Wimbledon when the likes of Karlovic, Raonic and Federer will become near impossible to break. I think that probably makes it easier to win Wimbledon but, in theory, it should be far harder to win the other slams, as there are no longer any players who shouldn't be at least competent on hard or clay.

I suspect you are going to find out pretty quickly when they are gone just how good the big 4 were. We've already seen with just small dips that even they can be vulnerable early on (see Rafa's recent record at Wimbledon as an example). I don't expect the next gen to have the same total domination or consistency.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 12:34 am

The lowest number of seeds making it through was at Oz 99. Back then it was only 16 seeds so there was a bit more danger early on. However, a quick look at the top 8 seeds and what happened to them shows us what a desperately weak draw it was and how poorly they did:

1. Rios (withdrew before the tournament started);
2. Correjta (lost R2 to Christian Ruud);
3. Rafter (lost R3 to Enqvist - fair enough that one);
4. Moyà (lost R1 to Kiefer);
5. Agassi (made it to R4 but lost to Spadea!);
6. Henman (lost R3 to Rosset);
7. Kucera (made QF - lost Lapentti);
8. Rusedski (lost R2 Goldstein).

First, that's a truly awful set of seeds and second they managed, in general, to lose to players who really weren't very good.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:02 am

Nore Staat wrote:Another thing to consider that I think has maybe changed over the past years, which has something to do with the construction of teams around players, which is possible because of the money in the game at the top level .... is ...

... information.  Analysis of the opponent using tapes and digital recording, so that there are no surprises, and game plans and tactics can be discussed and implemented.
Yes.  As a result, it could be that the difference between the top 10-20 and the rest in terms of "level of professionalism" may actually be bigger than it used to be - improved professionalism of the ones further down notwithstanding.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 2:08 am

summerblues wrote:
Nore Staat wrote:Another thing to consider that I think has maybe changed over the past years, which has something to do with the construction of teams around players, which is possible because of the money in the game at the top level .... is ...

... information.  Analysis of the opponent using tapes and digital recording, so that there are no surprises, and game plans and tactics can be discussed and implemented.
Yes.  As a result, it could be that the difference between the top 10-20 and the rest in terms of "level of professionalism" may actually be bigger than it used to be - improved professionalism of the ones further down notwithstanding.

Surely the gap would be lower now? The top guys in the 90s were all still rich enough to afford the very best teams. The guys lower down would have had far less finance available to them. Nowadays, anyone in the top 50 can easily afford all the stuff NS mentions.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:10 am

socal1976 wrote:It turns the match into near crap shoot even for the better player especially on a faster surface. Also conversely, the surface specialist [...] in the 90s would train all year round and sell out their technique to ambush the Sampras', Edbergs, and Beckers of the world who by any measure where better all around players.
Yes, very much yes.  But this is very much in agreement with what I am saying, no?

On faster surfaces, Sampras had to play matches that were essentially crapshoot as you call it.  On slower surfaces he could not win because specialists would prevent it.  Yet he amassed 14 slams.  It could well be, that given those conditions, 14 slams were more difficult to collect then than now.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:14 am

socal1976 wrote:Also conversely, the surface specialist you love and I loathe on clay in the 90s
This is incidental to this thread, but I am not saying that 90s tennis is what we should go back to. By 90s, technology already impacted tennis - and not always in happy ways. I had said before that I found 90s differences between surfaces too extreme.

But the question of "was it more difficult to collect 14 slams in the 90s?" is not really related to the question "is current tennis more entertaining than 90s tennis?", so I do not really think we need to go further down this road on this thread.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:22 am

Born Slippy wrote:The reason there is more cross-over of success is because of pretty much accepted coaching nowadays.
For the purpose of assessing how difficult it is - relatively speaking - to collect a large number of slams it is secondary why the play has been homogenized.  The fact that it has is what matters.  Whether it is due to the conditions or coaching does not matter so much.  That said, it is an interesting topic in its own right.

Born Slippy wrote:I don't expect the next gen to have the same total domination or consistency.
I do not either.  Clearly the Big 4 (and especially the Big 3) are outside the norm in this regard.  It is not like I am suggesting that Federer with his 17 slams is in reality barely equivalent of Becker with his 6.

I am just suggesting that - at the margins - these things can make difference.  And once you start comparing players like the Big 3 against the likes of Sampras or Borg, the difference could be material.

At the end of the day, all debates like this one are attempting to compare incomparables, so it is all rather hypothetical anyway.


Last edited by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:32 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:25 am

Born Slippy wrote:Surely the gap would be lower now? The top guys in the 90s were all still rich enough to afford the very best teams. The guys lower down would have had far less finance available to them. Nowadays, anyone in the top 50 can easily afford all the stuff NS mentions.
Possibly.  I do not really have an opinion on this.  But if the gap is lower now, then one would expect top 16 to have harder time making their seeding, rather than easier.  So all the other offsetting factors must act even stronger to counterbalance this.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Mon May 30, 2016 3:06 am

summerblues wrote:
Nore Staat wrote:Dear Summerblues,

thanks for putting together that analysis and presentation of the data.  Some appreciate your efforts.  It certainly presents an opportunity for an interesting discussion to develop from it,

All the best, N.S.
Thx NS.  But I like socal.  Forum is best when there are all kinds around.

Some are hotheaded, and clearly so.
Some are levelheaded, and clearly so.
Some are hotheaded, but try hard to appear levelheaded.
Socal is from the - least numerous - fourth group Smile.

So it is certainly very good to have him around.


I like you to SB, and we have had good back and forth from opposite view points and it has never been anything but pleasant. Ps thanks for putting me in my own category, which is as we all know the genius/visionary category. I also appreciate any posters regardless of viewpoint who give me facts and stats to feast on.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Mon May 30, 2016 3:22 am

summerblues wrote:
socal1976 wrote:It turns the match into near crap shoot even for the better player especially on a faster surface. Also conversely, the surface specialist [...] in the 90s would train all year round and sell out their technique to ambush the Sampras', Edbergs, and Beckers of the world who by any measure where better all around players.
Yes, very much yes.  But this is very much in agreement with what I am saying, no?

On faster surfaces, Sampras had to play matches that were essentially crapshoot as you call it.  On slower surfaces he could not win because specialists would prevent it.  Yet he amassed 14 slams.  It could well be, that given those conditions, 14 slams were more difficult to collect then than now.

Yes true I am still amazed at how many close matches on grass he pulled out , the guy is one of the most underrated competitors in sports, some guys are just clutch, in basketball clutchness is huge. Who takes that last shot? Sometimes there are great scorers who routinely fail in that situation, then there are guys like former
Laker forward Robert Horry, who would avg virtually nothing in terms of points or field goal percentage, but who made huge plays in the clutch at the death over and over again. Pete would be considered as a basketball player to be more like Kobe or Jordan who were both great scorers and even better in the clutch.


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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Mon May 30, 2016 3:31 am

So SB do you favor a set of conditions that would turn wimby into a glorified crap shoot between the biggest servers? Plus, should we reward a big server anymore for having that great weapon it is already the most important shot along with return. I mean depending on how far you take this a guy with a huge serve and a challenger level game outside the serve could win Wimbledon. I don't want to see that frankly.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Mon May 30, 2016 3:39 am

Nore Staat wrote:Another thing to consider that I think has maybe changed over the past years, which has something to do with the construction of teams around players, which is possible because of the money in the game at the top level .... is ...

... information.  Analysis of the opponent using tapes and digital recording, so that there are no surprises, and game plans and tactics can be discussed and implemented.

That is a great point Nore and I agree fully coaching and training has improved immensely as more money has come in. And part of that is it is harder to be surprised even by a player you may have never seen. It won't take a set and half to figure him out as a top guy your team will scout with media or live and come up with the gameplan.

I mean the lavers or even Connors of the world didn't have space age academies and all this knowledge and a team of coaches and assistant coaches or consultants. All this stuff helps and advancements in coaching professionalism and knowledge of sports medicine has really impacted this as well.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 3:50 am

Just done a quick comparison between Agassi and Murray, Andre made 26 out of 61 grand slam SF in his career and Andy has made 18 out of 40. Murray slightly higher (45% compared to about 42.5%). 

If we compare peak years (21-31) then Andre made 15 out of 33 and Andy 18 out of 31 (45% to 58%). 

I assume we can agree Andre's best surface was hard court, so (to take out the homogenisation issue) the below is a list of defeats before SF at Oz and US only in his peak years: 

- Krickstein (US91) - R1 (rank 47)
- Courier (US92) - QF (rank 1)
- Enqvist (US93)- R1 (rank 61)
- Rafter (US97) - R4 (rank 14)
- Beresategui (Oz 98) - R4 (rank 25)
- Clement (US00) - R2 (rank 37)
- Kucera (US98) - R4 (rank 9)
- Spadea (Oz99) - R4 (rank 44)

And Murray's:

- Verdasco (Oz09) - R4 (rank 15)
- Cilic (US09) - R4 (rank 17)
- Wawrinka (US10) - R3 (rank 27)
- Wawrinka (US13) - QF (rank 10)
- Federer (Oz14) - QF (rank 6)
- Djokovic (US14) - QF (rank 1)
- Anderson (US15) - R4 (rank 14)

As Andre skipped a few Oz Opens, his 8 defeats (to Murray's 7) are in less tournaments. They are also to notably inferior players. On his best surface, his record is still inferior to the weakest of the big 4.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 4:00 am

socal1976 wrote:So SB do you favor a set of conditions that would turn wimby into a glorified crap shoot between the biggest servers? Plus, should we reward a big server anymore for having that great weapon it is already the most important shot along with return. I mean depending on how far you take this a guy with a huge serve and a challenger level game outside the serve could win Wimbledon. I don't want to see that frankly.
I do not either.  I had said before on other threads that I did not like the 90s style Wimbledon - even less so than current baseline rallies.

But tennis before the 90s favored attacking play without allowing undue dominance of servers - that is what I would like to see.  We talked about it before and we agree that to go there we would likely have to limit or eliminate today's power baseline game.  I would happily go there, you would not.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 4:10 am

BS, re Agassi vs Murray comparison - three things:

First:  Well, if my theory holds and it indeed used to be easier for weaker players to beat stronger ones, then it is not quite fair to suggest that Agassi's losses to lower ranked players suggest he was not as good as Andy.  I think some of Andy's consistency may well come from it being easier to be consistent nowadays.

Second (and likely more important):  Agassi is not exactly a fair comparison in this regard.  Big chunks of his career were wasted and you happily included them in his "prime years".  At the time he lost to Rafter at the USO '97 for example, his ranking was somewhere around #100.

Third:  While the thrust of this thread was to suggest that the "Big 4" may be "overrated", I think it would apply more to the Big 3.  If it is easier to dominate now, then I would say Fed's/Nole's/Rafa's totals may be inflated a bit (relative to the older greats).  Berdych/Tsonga and the like may have lost out because they may have been able to win a slam here and there in the old conditions.  Murray is somewhere in-between.  His consistency could be propped to some extent by the conditions, but in terms of the slam count he may be a net loser - he may be losing out more by the conditions favoring dominance of the Big 3 than gaining by conditions allowing him to dominate the rest more easily.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 6:36 am

There are only two players from the 90s who can really be compared to the big 4 - Sampras and Agassi. Andre's SF percentage is very similar to Pete's and they both suffered some odd early defeats. Murray's stats, of course, include 3 defeats where his back issues were probably a factor. 

Personally, my view is that, particularly in Oz, the players were less prepared in the 90s (or didn't bother going at all), so you got more shocks. If they did go, they could rack up some pretty easy slams (check out Andre's last two slam wins for examples). Both Sampras and Agassi were less consistent than the big 4 and therefore more susceptible to early defeats. I don't see a basis for devaluing the big 3 slam counts.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Guest on Mon May 30, 2016 7:05 am

If everything is read as a narrative then things such as "overrated" become meaningless.  Each player has a record and the record speaks for itself.  Each are confined to the time period and each time period has its own issues and its own "problems to solve".  These types of arguments (GOATS etc) are fun but I believe are ultimately symptoms of the ideological mind that believes in universal ideal forms.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by sportslover on Mon May 30, 2016 7:29 am

Nore Staat wrote:If everything is read as a narrative then things such as "overrated" become meaningless.  Each player has a record and the record speaks for itself.  Each are confined to the time period and each time period has its own issues and its own "problems to solve".  These types of arguments (GOATS etc) are fun but I believe are ultimately symptoms of the ideological mind that believes in universal ideal forms.

Pretty much spot on!

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 8:07 am

Born Slippy wrote:Both Sampras and Agassi were less consistent than the big 4 and therefore more susceptible to early defeats.
Hah, yes, obviously true.  The question I was pondering was why this was true.

Was it true simply because they happened to be susceptible to early defeats, or was it also caused by external circumstances such as conditions that tended to produce more early defeats.  I am suggesting it was at least partly due to the latter.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 8:14 am

NS:

I am not sure where exactly you are headed with your narratives and ideological minds (which may or may not have also been religious or scientific) but I think I will not follow you there.

Still, I do agree that GOAT debates etc are ultimately of limited benefit (though fun).  Not so much because of those minds or narratives, but simply because they are both ill-defined and too broad in scope.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Mon May 30, 2016 8:26 am

Agassi I think was just more susceptible to ups and downs in terms of focus and fitness, I know from reading his book that he had a lot of demons to deal with before he felt comfortable and had his mind in the right place let's remember he at some point in this period completely fell out of the top hundred and was playing challengers, that just doesn't happen with top guys now.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Guest on Mon May 30, 2016 8:50 am

My postman is very good.  I asked him what drove him in his job.  He said he wanted to be the Goat of postmen.

A sportsperson can only beat the opponents of his own time, under the conditions of his own time.  They cannot beat sportspeople of a different era that may have been competing under different conditions associated with the sport of the time, the technology of the time, the society of the time.  In fact they wouldn't care about the past or the future, they would only care about the present and the future present where they were still competing.  If there are records to be broken and they are very good - they may be able to break them.  But the meaning of records change in time.  A four minute mile 70 years ago is not the same as a four minute mile of today.  Track surfaces change, footwear changes, training changes, knowledge changes, there are meteorological conditions to consider, altitude, pacemakers etc.  But who was the best miler of all time?  A meaningless question cannot be answered.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 9:15 am

Just did a comparison of WTA from 1990-99 at Oz and 2010-16:

90-99 : 8, 11, 12, 13, 10, 9, 12, 11, 10, 10 (average 10.6)

10-16 : 9, 8, 10, 9, 10, 7, 8 (average 8.7)

I can't see a reason why the men's average would go one way and the ladies the other, for any other reason other than quality of players.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

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