Are Big 4 Overrated?

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Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Sun May 29, 2016 1:40 am

First topic message reminder :

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 summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 12:03 am

Born Slippy wrote:Just did a comparison of WTA from 1990-99 at Oz and 2010-16: [...]
Hah!  I like this.  That strikes me as fair point.  Men's and women's games are different, so it is not totally obvious that this comparison is certainly useful (for example, I do not think different surface conditions ever created as much of surface performance divergence in women's game).

But still, all in all, I agree that I cannot off-hand think of any obvious systemic reason why men would trend one way and women the other way, and that your explanation seems natural.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 12:10 am

Nore Staat wrote:In fact they wouldn't care about the past or the future
You may want to double check with Tiger Woods.

Nore Staat wrote:[...]competing under different conditions associated with the sport of the time, the technology of the time, the society of the time. [...] A meaningless question cannot be answered.
I agree with all that, it is just that I have it under "ill-defined" rather than "narrative and ideological minds".

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Henman Bill on Mon May 30, 2016 3:16 am

Interesting, and the numbers do look statistically significant.

Here are my thoughts. The first reason I am confident in, the rest are pure speculation and may not stand up to logical analysis, so just throwing them out there for discussion.

1. Homogeneous-ness. I first thought of this while reading the OP, so not my idea, but I am pretty sure it it part of the reason.

2. The overall slower surfaces meaning upsets are harder. You can't cause an upset as easily just by smashing at 90mph from the baseline and hoping your luck or eye is in that day. However, it is more Wimbledon and US that have slowed so this one is only valid perhaps if the similar pattern is shown there.

3. In 1990s top 4 ranked players themselves were going out early more often. It could be players 1-4 losing more easily in those days rather than 5-16! However, at a glance that would explain at the absolute most less than half of the difference. I count 5 early exits for Sampras for example (before R4) in the years ranked number 1, more than today's big 4. A similar story for others, probably. Possibly some overlap here with reason 1 - a lot of Sampras exits early on were at the FO.

4. These days every slam is important. However, in the 1990s the AO was less important so some might not peak there, and there was less deadly focus on everything. It was less intense, no big deal if you have a bad event at your less than peak slam, as long as you win at another. So some players might have been thinking - I'll play Wimbledon since I feel like a trip to London and my mate is there, but not been fully keyed in. Not really so likely today. More professional attitude.

5. Physical conditioning may be better these days so in the 90s maybe some people were crashing out early because they were turning up at events 70% fit or with slight injuries. But now the science of fixing injuries, and recovery, and nutrition, and entourages gets everyone into tip top shape a bit faster. A bit of an overlap with reason 4, although 4 is more about attitude and mental focus, while this is more about the fact that sports injuries really do heal faster nowadays.

6. Due to the greater amount of money in the sport nowadays, with prize money being focused on the top end of the game, anyone who gets into the top 16 is so well off that they can really consolidate their position with spends on entourage, coaches, nutrition, and whatever else. (Maybe NS was hinting at a similar idea.) (This one can only be true if prize money has really increased at a faster rate for latter rounds than early rounds.) Conversely, if tennis is not supporting younger talent, or rewarding journeyman, we can say that a few players that could have caused shock results gave up the game to do something else rather than have a career plodding around the 50 or 100 rankings, leading to less strength in depth over time.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Henman Bill on Mon May 30, 2016 3:20 am

Born Slippy wrote: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.

I think the women's game is easier to explain. In the 1990s there was less strength in depth. A huge gulf between the #1 and #50. Steffi Graf would cruise through the early rounds. The game was less developed in those days. Now, there is more strength in depth.

The players on the women's tour ranked #20 and #50 are much better than they used to be in the 90s.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by lydian on Mon May 30, 2016 10:19 am

Born Slippy wrote:There are only two players from the 90s who can really be compared to the big 4 - Sampras and Agassi
What about...
Courier - won 4 slams, finals at Wimb, WTF & USO, held #1 ranking for 58 weeks.
Kuerten - won 3 slams, won WTF, #1 ranking
I think they could hold a flame to Murray if you're talking big 4 (3+1).
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 10:39 am

lydian wrote:
Born Slippy wrote:There are only two players from the 90s who can really be compared to the big 4 - Sampras and Agassi
What about...
Courier - won 4 slams, finals at Wimb, WTF & USO, held #1 ranking for 58 weeks.
Kuerten - won 3 slams, won WTF, #1 ranking
I think they could hold a flame to Murray if you're talking big 4 (3+1).

I wonder when everyone thinks homogenisation started? I say that because Courier had good results across the surfaces, Sampras was a SF at RG, Agassi won all four slams in a career that spanned the 90s into the 00s so looked like players had the grasp of all court conditions then.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Calder106 on Mon May 30, 2016 10:48 am

I know that this does not quite fit with the stats but I feel that the increase in seeds from 16 to 32 in 2001 helps explain why the numbers in the 90's were lower. If you are protected against playing another top 32 player in rounds 1 and 2 it allows a player to play their way into the tournament.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 10:50 am

lydian wrote:
Born Slippy wrote:There are only two players from the 90s who can really be compared to the big 4 - Sampras and Agassi
What about...
Courier - won 4 slams, finals at Wimb, WTF & USO, held #1 ranking for 58 weeks.
Kuerten - won 3 slams, won WTF, #1 ranking
I think they could hold a flame to Murray if you're talking big 4 (3+1).

Would be a long list of players if I had to list all the players these guys lost to before the SF of a slam! As mentioned above, Murray has made 18 SF out of 40 slams (45%). Courier and Kuerten made 11 out of 42 and 3 out of 33 respectively (26% and 9%). They just aren't sensible comparators to the big 4 at all.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 11:46 am

I've listed the SF strike rates below for most of the big names from the 80s onwards to see if there is a pattern. I've adopted a cut-off of age 31 to avoid diminishing the stats of those who played on later. 

Djokovic 29/45 (64%)
Connors 22/35 (63%)
Borg 17/27 (63%)
Lendl 27/44 (61%)
Federer 32/53 (60%)
Nadal 23/46 (50%)
Mcenroe 18/38 (47%)
Agassi 20/43 (47%)
Murray 18/40 (45%)
Sampras 23/52 (44%)
Becker 18/45 (40%)
Edberg 20/54 (37%)
Wilander 14/42 (33%)
Courier 11/42 (26%)
Roddick 10/46 (22%)
Hewitt 8/51 (16%)
Kuerten 3/32 (9%)

I've also had a quick look at the QF strike rates of Ferrer and Berdych (as the best of the rest of the current gen). Ferrer is 13/52 (25%) and Berdych is 13/50 (26%). An equivalent in the 90s would be Todd Martin who had 10/34 (29%). 

It looks as though the 80s players have similar stats to those today. I think my view is the top 90s guys happened to be less consistent (Agassi due to focus and Sampras possibly due to his occasional illness issues).

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Guest on Mon May 30, 2016 11:55 am

Some interesting responses.  There is much to agree with in what has been written by many to explain the reason why male seeds tend to reach the latter stage of tournaments.
a) Seeding to 32 rather than 16.
b) More professional attitude in winning all four slams.  Remember getting to Australia was more of a hastle in the past as well as expensive.  Plus all the acclimatising that was needed in going from the depths of winter for a northern hemisphere based player (Europe, US, Canada) to the heat of the Australian summer.   
c) Effective slowing down of the court - means that less risk of a top player being blitzed out of a tournament.
d) Homogenisation of the surfaces.
e) More money at the top: elite players have a team around them to look after the preparation side of things.
f) More information available to assess the opponent beforehand and prepare for them.
g) Greater professionialism: there is so much money in the game the top players can focus on the sport and their matches 100% with the knowledge they won't ever have to work again in their lives, let alone having to supplement their players "income" by doing proper work.
h) Have I missed out anything?

Of course the women's game has gone in the opposite direction --> maybe because today in the women's game it is all about power play and the women generally can't sustain it.  But I have to confess I don't pay much attention to it solely for the reason that it has become a screeching contest.  Or that was the reason why I stopped watching women's tennis.


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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 11:57 am

I think I've probably included everyone with 5 or more slam finals in that list but let me know if I've missed anyone. Obviously, Kuerten doesn't match that criteria but I've left him in anyway.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by banbrotam on Mon May 30, 2016 1:39 pm

I find this thread a bit depressing, in posters desperate need to debunk the Top 3/4 myth

The reason for the lower average is simply because the men's draw is full of talented players who should be higher up the rankings, but are such mental lightweights they are not. Hence they can beat anyone outside the Top 8 on their day and do so with more frequency than those of yesteryear

The reason for this relative large group of talented underachievers, is that they don't believe they can ever compete with the Top 4, so mentally cop out and earn a good living averaging No.50


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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by banbrotam on Mon May 30, 2016 1:45 pm

Born Slippy wrote:I've listed the SF strike rates below for most of the big names from the 80s onwards to see if there is a pattern. I've adopted a cut-off of age 31 to avoid diminishing the stats of those who played on later. 

Djokovic 29/45 (64%)
Connors 22/35 (63%)
Borg 17/27 (63%)
Lendl 27/44 (61%)
Federer 32/53 (60%)
Nadal 23/46 (50%)
Mcenroe 18/38 (47%)
Agassi 20/43 (47%)
Murray 18/40 (45%)
Sampras 23/52 (44%)
Becker 18/45 (40%)
Edberg 20/54 (37%)
Wilander 14/42 (33%)
Courier 11/42 (26%)
Roddick 10/46 (22%)
Hewitt 8/51 (16%)
Kuerten 3/32 (9%)


So 4 out of the 9, are the current Top 4, but of course pundits overrate them picard


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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:07 pm

Quite a few interesting suggestions added here overnight. Thanks all. I suspect it will be a combination of many of these reasons that matters.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by lydian on Mon May 30, 2016 2:12 pm

I don't read the same conclusions at all.

In the 80s/90s you had much more variation of surfaces so naturally the top guys wouldn't be consistently in SFs across the slam calendar. Why else would Sampras, Agassi, Becker, Wilander, Edberg and Courier be so low compared to Murray...or maybe the depth of strength of competition was higher back then...or both Wink

To me it just confirms that today's seeded guys can be more consistent due to ease of playing similar game across all slam surfaces/conditions.

In other words, why even bother try comparing slam & seeded results of 10s to 00s to 90s to 80s...it's a waste of time.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:17 pm

Born Slippy wrote:It looks as though the 80s players have similar stats to those today. I think my view is the top 90s guys happened to be less consistent (Agassi due to focus and Sampras possibly due to his occasional illness issues).
Interesting about the 80s guys.  Maybe I should extend my numbers with top 16 seeds further back to include 70s and 80s - if I can find time and data.

The fact that the 80s are similar to the current guys seems to me like it may point further to homogeneity as the culprit.  I remember at one point a few years ago, in a different context, looking at homogeneity more explicitly.  I think I looked at the intersect between RG and W quarterfinalists each year.  If I remember it correctly, 1990s - unsurprisingly - had much fewer players that were making QFs in both tourneys, but - maybe a bit more surprisingly - 1980s and the current period were not all that different.  So that pattern kind of lines up with what you have here.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:19 pm

Yes Lydian, I tend to agree with your take. Especially 1990s guys I think had it hardest to be consistent - that is when the condition divergence was most pronounced.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:23 pm

banbrotam wrote:The reason for the lower average is simply because the men's draw is full of talented players who should be higher up the rankings, but are such mental lightweights they are not. Hence they can beat anyone outside the Top 8 on their day and do so with more frequency than those of yesteryear
I do not understand this at all.  What average is lower?  The average in the OP is higher now than in the past.  Also, it looks like seeds are losing with lesser frequency than before, not more frequency, no?

Am I misreading you?

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 2:32 pm

Homogenisation of the court speeds seems to have become an issue around 2002. It is when Henman made his famous remark about how slow the Wimbledon courts had become. It was also around this time that they began adding sand to paint used on the DecoTurf surface at the US Open slowing it down.

However, all homogenisation does is that it means each slam is an open shop to all so there are more players that are comfortable playing on it whereas prior to homogenisation that was not the case. If you loved fast courts you had a portion that thrived but toiled on slow courts and vice versa so although it limited the amount of slams they were competitive at it also limited the amount of players that had a fighting chance at those slams surely?
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 2:37 pm

CaledonianCraig wrote:so although it limited the amount of slams they were competitive at it also limited the amount of players that had a fighting chance at those slams surely?
Definitely, it does both of those things.  I said the same earlier in this thread too.

But I suspect the combination of the two is not entirely a zero-sum game, and it gives the top players a little better chance to scoop up many slams now.  I am not suggesting a hugely better chance, just a little bit at the margins.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 2:47 pm

But does it change slam winning dynamics? Whereas Sampras on lightening fast Wimbledon courts maybe had a dozen who could cope and thrive on those courts (eradicated largely by his big serve) it is not such a closed shop today. Many are highly capable grass-courters but invariably you will still get the best man winning whichvis all that matters. The talent still shines through.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by banbrotam on Mon May 30, 2016 3:03 pm

summerblues wrote:
banbrotam wrote:The reason for the lower average is simply because the men's draw is full of talented players who should be higher up the rankings, but are such mental lightweights they are not. Hence they can beat anyone outside the Top 8 on their day and do so with more frequency than those of yesteryear
I do not understand this at all.  What average is lower?  The average in the OP is higher now than in the past.  Also, it looks like seeds are losing with lesser frequency than before, not more frequency, no?

Am I misreading you?


Sorry, I meant the higher average. I'm not convinced you can draw any conclusions as the number of seeds changed from 16 to 32, during this time. Often this means a player ranked in the 20's has got there based on one slam or a couple of masters runs - but has been in poor form for six months. They will be easier to play against in the last 32, than any player on form. Of course it goes the other way as well 32 seeds makes the top 16 more vulnerable

The talented players that frequent rankings 30 to 60, will cause those inconsistent top players, i.e. 10 to 29 more problems today than they did yesterday, but the superior consistency of today's uppermost players compensates for this

So even though it looks easier, as there are more seeds getting through - that is surely because the usual suspects get through more frequently than they used to do

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Calder106 on Mon May 30, 2016 3:07 pm

Think too much weight is being put on homegenisation. The same courts play differently on different days and even on the same day in terms of speed. It has been argued on here (not by myself) that if Djokovic had played Federer at Wimbledon in the same conditions as Federer played Murray on the Friday (Sunday slower than Friday) the result would have been different. Also at the AO playing a night match is quite different to playing in the heat of the day. Even yesterday in Paris the courts would be heavier after the rain.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Henman Bill on Mon May 30, 2016 3:07 pm

homogeneous Wimbledon was probably around 2001-2002 but US Open was still quite fast in 2006.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Henman Bill on Mon May 30, 2016 3:09 pm

Calder106 wrote:I know that this does not quite fit with the stats but I feel that the increase in seeds from 16 to 32 in 2001 helps explain why the numbers in the 90's were lower.  If you are protected against playing another top 32 player in rounds 1 and 2 it allows a player to play their way into the tournament.

good one. would have included this if I'd figured it out. for sure this will explain part of the difference. however may only be a secondary reason though.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Henman Bill on Mon May 30, 2016 3:10 pm

good timing (as it turns out) with the rain today.

i hope we get some lively threads like this in July or other quiet periods, though.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by summerblues on Mon May 30, 2016 3:19 pm

CaledonianCraig wrote:But does it change slam winning dynamics?
My hunch is that it probably does - a little bit.  But I agree it is not all that obvious which way it goes.

CaledonianCraig wrote:but invariably you will still get the best man winning whichvis all that matters. The talent still shines through.
This sounds nice, but I think it is really not true.  Who is the "beat man" and what exactly constitutes "talent" depend on the task at hand.  Different men will be best for different tasks.  Sampras was the best man for Wimbledon but not for RG.  It is not clear that if you jumble conditions up, that the same guys come out on top.  Yes, there are certain parts of their make-up that will be good in any conditions (competitiveness, work ethic, etc) but some will be conditions-dependent (natural stamina, hand-eye coordination etc will not play exactly the same role in all conditions).  When you combine it all together, it will not necessarily be the exact same guys that come on top in all conditions.

I think one of the reasons why people tend to say that in the end "talent shines through" and "best man wins" is because they want to believe it.  It provides an appealing narrative - more so than just suggesting that the ranking of players is some function of their characteristics and of prevailing conditions, and with conditions jumbled up, the ranking would jumble up also.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 3:33 pm

No I have to disagree with that.

Whatever the court conditions/speed it is the same for all and now that they are largely homogenised more players are accustomed to the conditions. There is no excuse such as the court is too fast or too slow to suit as was the case say pre-2002. In any case lest we forget I'd say the big four had to adapt as well as they would have grown up playing/practicing on faster courts which they were proven to be successful on either at slam level (for Federer) or junior slam level for the rest. They have adapted and thrived in conditions that are the same for all and to not feel this is not down to talent is not true in my opinion of course. Novak has that wonderful elasticity that I have seen from nobody before. His ability to slide in contorted positions and still hit a telling shot is talent. Rafa's revs he can put on shots is talent and Andy's ability to pull rabbit's out of hats when all looks lost with ridiculous shots is talent. Roger's talents? Well they are numerous.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Mon May 30, 2016 3:45 pm

Calder106 wrote:Think too much weight is being put on homegenisation. The same courts play differently on different days and even on the same day in terms of speed. It has been argued on here (not by myself) that if Djokovic had played Federer at Wimbledon in the same conditions as  Federer played Murray on the Friday (Sunday slower than Friday)  the result would have been different. Also at the AO  playing a night match is quite different to playing in the heat of the day.  Even yesterday in Paris the courts would be heavier after the rain.
Exactly, just look at slam distributions it is clear homogenization is overblown as a reason for the success of the big 4 in particular the top 3. Borne Slippy said that once the big 4 is gone then we will realize how special they truly were. It wasn't more similar surfaces that allowed fed and then Nadal, and Novak to attain dominance across surfaces. They are just that good. Murray to of course but to a lesser level. I doubt we will see another ten slam champion for at least a decade after these guys are gone. Yes it was a long shot that we should get three at nearly the same time. But, that's the thing about a one million it does occur.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by lydian on Mon May 30, 2016 4:24 pm

How can homogenisation be overblown when Murray is achieving similar slams QF/SF to Sampras, Agassi, Edberg, Courier etc?
Similar conditions enable Murray to be consistent in a way the other guys could never be due to large conditions variation.
It's a complete no-brained to me. Every surface has changed...AO faster, Wimb slower, USO slower and RG faster...and you guys are trying to say that's had ZERO impact on the results since? To me it's turned the ATP into a Formula One type procession from one race to the next...same guys coming in the same relative positions.

Like I said at the start...not one of the former multislam greats could win all 4 slams in close proximity for 40 years after Laver (it took Agassi 7 years to complete the set)...then you get Federer doing in 2007-2009...Nadal 2008-2010 and Djokovic 2015-2016 (likely). So like buses 3 come all along at once...if that doesn't show something fundamental has changed in the game then I don't know what does.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 4:29 pm

Nore Staat wrote: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.

Indeed. thumbsup
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 4:35 pm

lydian wrote:How can homogenisation be overblown when Murray is achieving similar slams QF/SF to Sampras, Agassi, Edberg, Courier etc?
Similar conditions enable Murray to be consistent in a way the other guys could never be due to large conditions variation.
It's a complete no-brained to me. Every surface has changed...AO faster, Wimb slower, USO slower and RG faster...and you guys are trying to say that's had ZERO impact on the results since? To me it's turned the ATP into a Formula One type procession from one race to the next...same guys coming in the same relative positions.

Like I said at the start...not one of the former multislam greats could win all 4 slams in close proximity for 40 years after Laver (it took Agassi 7 years to complete the set)...then you get Federer doing in 2007-2009...Nadal 2008-2010 and Djokovic 2015-2016 (likely). So like buses 3 come all along at once...if that doesn't show something fundamental has changed in the game then I don't know what does.

There is a reason why no player won all four slams for so long though and it had nothing to do with homogenisation. The Australian Open has only begin to be taken seriously since I'd say the late 1980s. Until then the best players often didn't bother to make the long trek down under until the prize money increased and flights etc got them there quicker.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Mon May 30, 2016 4:44 pm

CaledonianCraig wrote:
lydian wrote:How can homogenisation be overblown when Murray is achieving similar slams QF/SF to Sampras, Agassi, Edberg, Courier etc?
Similar conditions enable Murray to be consistent in a way the other guys could never be due to large conditions variation.
It's a complete no-brained to me. Every surface has changed...AO faster, Wimb slower, USO slower and RG faster...and you guys are trying to say that's had ZERO impact on the results since? To me it's turned the ATP into a Formula One type procession from one race to the next...same guys coming in the same relative positions.

Like I said at the start...not one of the former multislam greats could win all 4 slams in close proximity for 40 years after Laver (it took Agassi 7 years to complete the set)...then you get Federer doing in 2007-2009...Nadal 2008-2010 and Djokovic 2015-2016 (likely). So like buses 3 come all along at once...if that doesn't show something fundamental has changed in the game then I don't know what does.

There is a reason why no player won all four slams for so long though and it had nothing to do with homogenisation. The Australian Open has only begin to be taken seriously since I'd say the late 1980s. Until then the best players often didn't bother to make the long trek down under until the prize money increased and flights etc got them there quicker.
Excellent point Craig and it explains how many players like Mac or Borg failed to do it they never even really tried or went to the event. 


@lydian long shots come in all the time, who won the premier league. Let me put it another way do you foresee any of the current youngsters becoming ten slam winniners and career slam winners? I bet we won't see consistency like this and another player threatening the level of the top three for at least a decade.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 4:48 pm

Of course. And lets remember homogenisation works both ways as in those that are coming through now have same homogenised courts so if that is the chief reason for domination then in 10 years time we should have Kyrgios on around 10 slam wins, Thiem on 8 and Zverev on 5.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by socal1976 on Mon May 30, 2016 5:15 pm

CaledonianCraig wrote:Of course. And lets remember homogenisation works both ways as in those that are coming through now have same homogenised courts so if that is the chief reason for domination then in 10 years time we should have Kyrgios on around 10 slam wins, Thiem on 8 and Zverev on 5.
I don't see that happening, by the way they slowed Wimbeldon down in 1999, USO in 2002. Why didn't we see a homogenization of winners in the early 2000s? Great players of that level often come in bunches. We had Rosewal, Laver, Emerson in the 60s and it happened again now.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Guest on Mon May 30, 2016 5:17 pm

With the homogenisation of the courts I think to a significant degree that homogenisation is not entirely due to the courts "slowing down" but also due to the racket technology acting as a leveller: larger racket heads on lighter racket frames and grippier strings that allow more control in the ball placement ... and maybe higher bounce of the ball on the surface rather than lower bouncing skidding surfaces.   I think Socal may have said a few things about this in the past.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 5:25 pm

socal1976 wrote:
CaledonianCraig wrote:Of course. And lets remember homogenisation works both ways as in those that are coming through now have same homogenised courts so if that is the chief reason for domination then in 10 years time we should have Kyrgios on around 10 slam wins, Thiem on 8 and Zverev on 5.
I don't see that happening, by the way they slowed Wimbeldon down in 1999, USO in 2002. Why didn't we see a homogenization of winners in the early 2000s? Great players of that level often come in bunches. We had Rosewal, Laver, Emerson in the 60s and it happened again now.

Yes but those who feel that today's players benefit homogenisation by having slams that are easier to win then surely the youngsters of today and a few years down the line will just as easily become multiple slam winners (like you I don't think they will) so why is that? Plainly, not in the same class.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 5:37 pm

Split of SF made by surface for selected players (for Lendl the hard court stats are US only as I couldn't be bothered checking which year Oz became hard court). Note the clear cross-over in percentages between hard and grass throughout the players. Note also the relative consistency between Agassi's numbers across all three surfaces.

Lendl:

Hard: 9/13 (69%)
Clay: 5/12 (42%)
Grass: 7/11 (64%)

Agassi:

11/22 (Hard) (50%)
5/13 (Clay) (38%)
5/11 (Grass) (45%)

Sampras:

14/25 (Hard) (56%)
1/13 (Clay) (8%)
8/14 (Grass) (57%)

Rafa:

9/22 (Hard) (41%)
9/12 (Clay) (75%)
5/11 (Grass) (45%)

Andy

9/22 (Hard) (41%)
3/8 (Clay) (38%)
6/10 (Grass) (60%)

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by Born Slippy on Mon May 30, 2016 5:47 pm

lydian wrote:How can homogenisation be overblown when Murray is achieving similar slams QF/SF to Sampras, Agassi, Edberg, Courier etc?
Similar conditions enable Murray to be consistent in a way the other guys could never be due to large conditions variation.
It's a complete no-brained to me. Every surface has changed...AO faster, Wimb slower, USO slower and RG faster...and you guys are trying to say that's had ZERO impact on the results since? To me it's turned the ATP into a Formula One type procession from one race to the next...same guys coming in the same relative positions.

Like I said at the start...not one of the former multislam greats could win all 4 slams in close proximity for 40 years after Laver (it took Agassi 7 years to complete the set)...then you get Federer doing in 2007-2009...Nadal 2008-2010 and Djokovic 2015-2016 (likely). So like buses 3 come all along at once...if that doesn't show something fundamental has changed in the game then I don't know what does.

Surely it makes sense for Andy to be achieving similar numbers to Edberg and Becker? He is going to end up with around 40-45 titles (the same as them), around the same number of slam finals and around the same number of Masters. Courier obviously isn't in the same league as he only maintained his level for a couple of years.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 5:57 pm

Homogenisation is what the players have been dealt today and they have to get on with it. As I said lydian it is all about adapting. Remember that when Federer began courts were quicker and he adapted, When Andy, Novak and Rafa were learning the game and succeeding in junior slams courts were quicker as well so they all had their adapting to do.

In any case we could say Wimbledon court speeds in the 90s must have been like a wet dream to Pistol Pete as in ideal as he could wish and US Open surfaces also favoured his game lots so lets not pretend it was so much tougher to win slams pre-homogenisation. If anything I'd suggest it was more of a closed shop as how many of the players in tha day and age could compete equipment-wise with the very best and coach-wise?
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by lags72 on Mon May 30, 2016 6:43 pm

CaledonianCraig wrote:

......................................................................

In any case we could say Wimbledon court speeds in the 90s must have been like a wet dream to Pistol Pete as in ideal as he could wish and US Open surfaces also favoured his game lots so lets not pretend it was so much tougher to win slams pre-homogenisation. If anything I'd suggest it was more of a closed shop as how many of the players in tha day and age could compete equipment-wise with the very best and coach-wise?

Surely CC you would acknowledge that Borg's achievements really were something special, winning Wimbledon + RG combined year after year ....... ? Nobody else came remotely close to mastering the transition so regularly & effectively, and even the time gap between the two was much less back then.

This was an age when the surfaces played so differently that many clay-courters actually gave Wimbledon a miss in their schedule (pretty much unthinkable today !), commenting dismissively that grass is for cows

IIRC, it happened in reverse too - although not to the same extent.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 6:55 pm

lags72 wrote:
CaledonianCraig wrote:

......................................................................

In any case we could say Wimbledon court speeds in the 90s must have been like a wet dream to Pistol Pete as in ideal as he could wish and US Open surfaces also favoured his game lots so lets not pretend it was so much tougher to win slams pre-homogenisation. If anything I'd suggest it was more of a closed shop as how many of the players in tha day and age could compete equipment-wise with the very best and coach-wise?

Surely CC you would acknowledge that Borg's achievements really were something special, winning Wimbledon + RG combined year after year ....... ? Nobody else came remotely close to mastering the transition so regularly & effectively, and even the time gap between the two was much less back then.

This was an age when the surfaces played so differently that many clay-courters actually gave Wimbledon a miss in their schedule (pretty much unthinkable today !), commenting dismissively that grass is for cows

IIRC, it happened in reverse too - although not to the same extent.

Of course it was a great achievement. Every slam win is a great achievement and it always will be either pre-homogenisation or post-homogenisation. And in any case as I have said lets remember that Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray plus the likes of Wawrinka, Cilic, Tsonga and Del Potro all learned their trade first on pre-homogenisation courts and had to adapt and did. That says to me that they could manage in reverse if the courts had not been homogenised.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by banbrotam on Mon May 30, 2016 7:03 pm

lydian wrote:How can homogenisation be overblown when Murray is achieving similar slams QF/SF to Sampras, Agassi, Edberg, Courier etc?
Similar conditions enable Murray to be consistent in a way the other guys could never be due to large conditions variation.
It's a complete no-brained to me. Every surface has changed...AO faster, Wimb slower, USO slower and RG faster...and you guys are trying to say that's had ZERO impact on the results since? To me it's turned the ATP into a Formula One type procession from one race to the next...same guys coming in the same relative positions.

Like I said at the start...not one of the former multislam greats could win all 4 slams in close proximity for 40 years after Laver (it took Agassi 7 years to complete the set)...then you get Federer doing in 2007-2009...Nadal 2008-2010 and Djokovic 2015-2016 (likely). So like buses 3 come all along at once...if that doesn't show something fundamental has changed in the game then I don't know what does.


Murray can play on any surface. It's disingenuous, to assume that the homogenisation helps him. If anything he'd be far more of a challenge to Novak if we had a few more, say, low bouncing fast courts. For me Murray is at his most vulnerable on the normal slow hard courts. It's fair to say that most of the current crop benefit from this 'sameness', but the debate is about the Top 4 been overrated

I'd accept that Nadal might not have won all four if the conditions were like they were in early 90's. Novak might have been like a Lendl at Wimby, but I still think he'd have done the slam. Roger, definitely - and more than once

I get you frustration, but it's equally frustrating to imagine that these four (and yes I include Murray) would not have been equally as successful in the mid 90's and for that 10 years.

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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 7:12 pm

banbrotam wrote:
lydian wrote:How can homogenisation be overblown when Murray is achieving similar slams QF/SF to Sampras, Agassi, Edberg, Courier etc?
Similar conditions enable Murray to be consistent in a way the other guys could never be due to large conditions variation.
It's a complete no-brained to me. Every surface has changed...AO faster, Wimb slower, USO slower and RG faster...and you guys are trying to say that's had ZERO impact on the results since? To me it's turned the ATP into a Formula One type procession from one race to the next...same guys coming in the same relative positions.

Like I said at the start...not one of the former multislam greats could win all 4 slams in close proximity for 40 years after Laver (it took Agassi 7 years to complete the set)...then you get Federer doing in 2007-2009...Nadal 2008-2010 and Djokovic 2015-2016 (likely). So like buses 3 come all along at once...if that doesn't show something fundamental has changed in the game then I don't know what does.


Murray can play on any surface. It's disingenuous, to assume that the homogenisation helps him. If anything he'd be far more of a challenge to Novak if we had a few more, say, low bouncing fast courts. For me Murray is at his most vulnerable on the normal slow hard courts. It's fair to say that most of the current crop benefit from this 'sameness', but the debate is about the Top 4 been overrated

I'd accept that Nadal might not have won all four if the conditions were like they were in early 90's. Novak might have been like a Lendl at Wimby, but I still think he'd have done the slam. Roger, definitely - and more than once

I get you frustration, but it's equally frustrating to imagine that these four (and yes I include Murray) would not have been equally as successful in the mid 90's and for that 10 years.

I'd certainly agree with you with regards to Murray being better suited to faster courts. Lets remember he won the Junior US Open in 2004 when the court speeds had yet to be homogenised there so that blows one theory out of the water. Also if homogenisation of courts is so key how come, say Henman never went from semi-finalist at Wimbledon pre-homogenisation to exiting in the early rounds? He still managed QF's as his years advanced after the court speeds had been slowed.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by lydian on Mon May 30, 2016 7:29 pm

I'm not frustrated lol. I just don't think any of you, for whatever reason I don't know, buy into the impact of homogenisation.
AO has been taken seriously by players since the 90s but that wasn't the point. Socal, Wimb is acknowledged as changing across 2001-2002. Not 1999. USO changed from 2003 onwards...more and more sand. They then replicated this across the tour as a whole.

Murray is a good player, but not as good as Agassi and yet Agassi couldn't reach many grass or RG finals. Sampras couldn't transition to clay...the surfaces were so different that you had to specialise to succeed in one area. Guys don't have to do that now...they play the same game on every surface. So you get the same results...and all the seeds progress much better than before.

As a tennis purist I bemoan homogenisation.
Even the great Federer says there is a need for more variety of surfaces. Why would he say that?
Therefore, I rest my case...and we've gone from bespoke A la carte tennis to the same buffet fayre served up at each event.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 7:36 pm

lydian wrote:I'm not frustrated lol. I just don't think any of you, for whatever reason I don't know, buy into the impact of homogenisation.
AO has been taken seriously by players since the 90s but that wasn't the point. Socal, Wimb is acknowledged as changing across 2001-2002. Not 1999. USO changed from 2003 onwards...more and more sand. They then replicated this across the tour as a whole.

Murray is a good player, but not as good as Agassi and yet Agassi couldn't reach many grass or RG finals. Sampras couldn't transition to clay...the surfaces were so different that you had to specialise to succeed in one area. Guys don't have to do that now...they play the same game on every surface. So you get the same results...and all the seeds progress much better than before.

As a tennis purist I bemoan homogenisation.
Even the great Federer says there is a need for more variety of surfaces. Why would he say that?
Therefore, I rest my case...and we've gone from bespoke A la carte tennis to the same buffet fayre served up at each event.

Homogenisation happened. No denying it. But also like I say don't assume that if it hadn't happened that the same players would not have been the most successful ones anyway. Federer began pre-homogenisation and adapted as did the rest of the main players today and were successful on FAST courts pre-homogenised at junior level. To assume that they benefited is presumptious as the signs are clearly there that all they did was adapt to a change in conditions.

Also Henman did not go from Wimbledon semis to Wimbledon early exits because of slower courts. He still managed QF's before exiting but that could equally be put down to his advancing years.


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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by bogbrush on Mon May 30, 2016 7:39 pm

How Lydian musters the patience to keep explaining the obvious to some of you is beyond me.

A four year old would realise that if the courts are very different it becomes much harder to win all four and to amass very large numbers, but somehow this baffles some posters. His example of Muster & Sampras then (when each would dominate the other depending on surface) to what would happen now (one having the edge across) was clear and correct.

Obviously this counts as failure to worship Djokovic so socal goes off ranting in every direction, but that's only to be expected.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 7:44 pm

bogbrush wrote:How Lydian musters the patience to keep expediting the obvious to done if you us beyond me.

A four year old would realise that if the courts are very different it becomes much harder to win all four and to amass very large numbers, but done how this baffles some posters.

Obvious this counts as failure to worship Djokovic, so socal forgoes off ranting in every direction, but that's only to be expected.

BB there are many many things that have changed over the years in tennis. Remember homogenisation is the same for every player today so it is still a level playing field. No doubt serve and volley is a dying art now but equally if you never had a big serve at Wimbledon in the 90s there was little point in playing. In the 70s Wimbledon grass courts were slower so servers were not the order of the day then so every era you could complain had spells when it wasn't fair for this type or that type of player and no doubt it will always be the case.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by bogbrush on Mon May 30, 2016 7:49 pm

Completely misses the point.

This isn't about daft concepts like 'fair', it's a logical statement that homogenisation encourages domination by the few. If the courts had been homogenised to fast grass in the 90's Sampras would have how many Slams? 25? Because they weren't he had to make do with 14 because the transition to Paris eluded him.

If, on the other hand, all four were as different as chalk and cheese, one favouring speed so that Ivo's serve was unbreakable, one slow so the service is a handicap, one with no bounce at all and gripping slice, one with gigantic high bounce, what chance round you see for dominance?

In truth this is so obvious I can't believe it needs explaining.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

Post by CaledonianCraig on Mon May 30, 2016 8:03 pm

bogbrush wrote:conpleteky misses the point.

This isn't about daft concepts like 'fair', it's a logical statement that homogenisation encourages domination by the few. If the courts had been homogenised to fast grass in the 90's Sampras would have how many Slams? 25? Because they weren't he had to make do with 14 because the transition to Paris eluded him.

In truth this is so obvious I can't believe it needs explaining.

That is going on a pure assumption though. Pre-homogenisation Federer started his career and adapted and certainly Djokovic, Nadal and Murray learnt their trade on courts that were pre-homogenisation and even had success at junior level on fast courts so as I said to lydian you are presuming that if things hadn't changed (court speed-wise) then results today would have been different. No evidence of that whatsoever. Also remember that the likes of Wawrinka, Tsonga, Cilic and Gasquet all came through around the same time so what prevented them from being the dominant forces?

And lets not forget that other factors aided players in the 90s to ensure domination. Wimbledon had a surface that suited Sampras more than he could have dreamed about. Nobody could live with his game in those conditions so was that really great for the sport? Also cash in the sport meant only the very best players could afford the very best equipment and best coaches so a smaller pool of players were competitive. That is not the case today.

If, as you claim, homogenisation encourages domination by the few then lets wait and see if that claim is backed up in a few years time. I mean once the current generation have quit the sport the door is open to the next three or four to dominate. Can you see Kyrgios ending up with say 8 slams, Thiem with 6 slams and Zverev with say 5 for example by 2025. I can't.
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Re: Are Big 4 Overrated?

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