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Roger vs Rafa

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Post by summerblues Sat Jan 11, 2014 2:36 pm

First topic message reminder :

This topic has been done to death but what would a good tennis forum be without it?  I am sure we will all implode once the two of them retire.  So here is yet another incarnation.  The old man is less and less likely to hold his own against the young(er) rival in the here and now, and I wanted to spare him humiliation of being demolished, so I erased his age disadvantage.

That is, I looked at the slam chase between Rafa and Roger relative to their age - i.e., I graphed their slam count as the function of their age.  The result is here:

Roger vs Rafa - Page 5 Uw4hv9i

A few obseravions:

1. This one is competitive, Fed can still hold his own against Rafa when I give him five years back and let them duke it out with no age advantage given to either one.

2. Rafa started much younger, so was well ahead by the time Roger started collecting slams, but then Roger shot up in his twenties and by age 26 he overtook Rafa.

3. If Rafa wins here in Australia, he will once again inch ahead of Roger.

4. It looks like the chase for 17+ could be very competitive.  Roger was doing extremely well until 29 - so much so that Rafa is unlikely to be ahead of him at 29 - but dramatically slowed down thereafter, which could allow Rafa to reach the finish line ahead of Roger.

I personally think it is a close call at this point.  For most of their careers I thought Fed would end up ahead of Rafa, and even now I would probably still give him slightly better than 50/50 odds, but it is very close - Rafa could well end up at 18+.


Last edited by summerblues on Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:51 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post by lydian Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:17 am

But WTF is always indoors HC...it could as easily for example be held in South America on clay...then WTF would be opposite way round. So I take WTFs won with a pinch of salt...a better compromise would be an outdoor AO type surface at year end. #1 weeks is a nice stat but what about %W:L over the course of a career? What about H2H domination over other Top5 and Top50 players? It'll never be an easy discussion.
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Post by Silver Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:27 am

Henman Bill wrote:For as long as Rafa is the holder of the French Open, he is the slight favourite for me. He can just keep adding FOs and get to the record almost with that. If he doesn't win any of the next 4 slams including next year's FO well that's what it would take for Roger to go favourite again.

This is very true, good assessment.

Obviously, if he gets to 18 by just winning RG each year, there's no way he'll be definitively considered the GOAT. But that's another question entirely. As lydian said, this debate isn't going to go away...ever. Short of a miraculous resurgence by Fed, or total domination by Nadal over the next few years.

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Post by CaledonianCraig Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:24 am

Well it depends on how you rate greatness and which parameters you view as most important. I have always gone by slam count first and foremost so if Rafa ends level on 17 with Roger then other facts will be rolled out. In Rafa's favour well lydian's last post touches on them. Roger has more WTF's to point to and then the discussion becomes opinionated.
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Post by Henman Bill Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:53 pm

lydian wrote:But WTF is always indoors HC...it could as easily for example be held in South America on clay...then WTF would be opposite way round. So I take WTFs won with a pinch of salt...

But the French Open is always on clay...it could as easily for example be held on indoor hard...then French Open would be opposite way round. So I take French Opens won with a pinch of salt...

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Post by Henman Bill Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:07 pm

In all seriousness Nadal has benefited tremendously from the slowing down of court surfaces in the last about 10-15 years especially at Wimbledon and the US Open. That's the 2 tournaments I would like to see faster.

WFT I think should be on a speed that gives all partipants an equal chance as clay courters that qualify tend to struggle. I think a slower hard or faster clay would be good.

Nadal does lack a WTF but Federer equally lacks Davis Cup and Olympics.

I have 3 major problems accepting Nadal as GOAT. 1: fundamentally I see aggressive tennis as more favourable and it would be a shame if a player who gets the ball back in court until his opponent makes an error would be statistically the GOAT. I hate playing against people like that. 2: Nadal is a very physical player but as raw talent is arguably not the greatest. 3: Statistically he doesn't look like he can put clear water between him and others, or even match them, on things like number of years holding the year end no 1 ranking.

I have 3 major problems accepting Federer as GOAT as well. The first is his head to head record against Rafa, and the second is the fact that his game looks vulnerable to implode at any minute, his game is brittle, a fine balance between brilliance and terrible, especially against a top opponent. At times he can be really plain bad and this is not very GOATy to me. A GOAT should have a more consistent brilliance. The third is that it's difficult to say that Federer is statistically the greatest of all time, open era sure, but Laver and Rosewall quite possibly would have more slams than Federer if the open era had come earlier, same for Pancho Gonzalez who had impressive head to heads against Federer and I think more years of being the no 1 player than anyone. And then there's Bill Tilden as well.

I don't think there is one GOAT.

For Federer vs Nadal, I would probably say Federer even if Nadal equals his slam count because of other stats and records. However if Nadal gets one more than Federer I would have to put them on a par.


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Post by slashermcguirk Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:33 pm

I think it is nadals record against all his competitors and rivals as the most impressive stat. It truly is remarkable! There is no doubt that he has faced far greater competition to win his slams than federer. He has also evolved his game so well and brings so much more than grinding groundstrokes. His forehand is one of the most devastating I have ever witnessed, he is a hugely under rated volleyer and has the best and most reliable overhead I have seen.

Not only that but also his number of masters series wins. I think the stats that stand out for federer are his spread of slam wins, weeks at number one and WTF wins. When at his absolute peak, he was incredible to watch, so effortless. His serve was a huge weapon but also his forehand, the backhand has definitely been vulnerable though.

Not in quite the same league but what makes djokovic an all time great for me is his 6 slam wins beating nadal on 3 surfaces, reaching 13 slam finals across all slams, over 100 weeks at number one as well as 19 masters titles. Also nearly single handedly winning Davis cup. His other legacy so far is 34 wins over fed and nadal in his career. I just hope Novak can get to 10 slams, I feel it might be 8 or 9 though

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Post by HM Murdock Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:03 pm

The spread of results puts Roger ahead of Rafa for me.

Of Roger's 17 slams, no single event accounts for even half of the total.

His record of 7 Wimbledon wins is the joint highest of the open era

His record of 5 US Open wins is the joint highest of the open era.

His record of 4 Australian Open wins is the joint highest of the open era

He only has 1 win at RG but that is supplemented by 4 other final appearances.

Rafa's record at RG is astonishing. Best ever at that tournament. But he is nowhere near the best ever at the other tournaments.

At present of course. Another USO and a couple of AOs would make his record much more compelling.

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Post by AFCWomble42 Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:16 pm

I am a Rafa fan (spent 9 days at RG) and therefore biased, but if there were two clay court slams, rather two hard court, the chances are that Rafa would already be ahead of Roger on the slam count. There is, however, no point in worrying about what ifs. The situation is what it is.
 
Personally, I quite like the idea of them both ending on 17 (or 18 or whatever).

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Post by Johnyjeep Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:45 pm

lydian wrote:But WTF is always indoors HC...it could as easily for example be held in South America on clay...then WTF would be opposite way round. So I take WTFs won with a pinch of salt...a better compromise would be an outdoor AO type surface at year end. #1 weeks is a nice stat but what about %W:L over the course of a career? What about H2H domination over other Top5 and Top50 players? It'll never be an easy discussion.

This has made me chuckle. WTF with a pinch of salt? What about H2H domination over top 5 or top 50 players?

The answer is really really easy. Ask any player or youngster what they want? WTF win against the best 8 players on tour? Or an impressive H2H record over top 5 (or top 50) players over the course of the career? H2H don't put trophies on the mantle piece. That is how any player is judged. To suggest other wise is just plain ludicrous. Do you think Davydenko has his H2H vs Nadal in prime position in his trophy cabinet or his WTF Trophy?

And until this H2H 'stat' was banded around to help Nadal in the GOAT department, I never heard it before as a measure of anything! Other than perhaps a mild indicator as to how any 1 match can go between two given players. Even then it can be misleading especially if players have played each other at different points in their respective careers. For example Federer and Djokovic. So if it can be misleading for 1 match how any earth can it mean anything over the course of anyones career.

And why isn't WTF held on clay? Yes it is a shame that not every decision in tennis is made to benefit Nadal. Some might suggest that playing it indoors neutralises both fast and slow court specialists. That this helps emphasise tennis/hand skills over endurance. That holding it on clay at the end of a long season would be detrimental to players health/fitness (with there being no lead-up events). That perhaps not all spectators want to see 3 set matches lasting 3 hours with the emphasis on retrival. I'm not knocking clay - but that is its nature. Like it or not. That perhaps holding it indoors gives a fair balance across surface types as their is no Grand Slam indoors. Although I accept this is changing in a fashion with modern stadiums. There are simply a fantastic amount of reasons not to hold it on clay. Which is probably why it has never been.

But hold on.....if it was (and it wasn't on Blue Clay; or held at altitude; and not held at the end of the season when Nadal traditionally struggles the most; so held in Barcelona around May time), Nadal would have plenty of WTFs.

Both Nadal and Federer (and every other player with a claim to greatness) has floors. Federer's however has the least.


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Post by lydian Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:00 pm

JJ - chuckle all you like but WTF is not a slam. Its an arbitrary end of year limited event which due to its timing and perennial northern hemisphere location, where its cold and dark, is held indoors for practical reasons not whats best for the tour reasons - especially given the tour plays indoors for just a fraction of the year and is hardly representative of how the top 8 players actually qualified for WTF in the first place. In other words, the tour plays outdoor HC and clay events for ~90% of the year, that's how the guys in the main qualify for WTF. Then for reasons as stated, they stick the thing indoors. Yes, its a great event to win but is just another indoor Masters event in my opinion given all top 8 players also go to Masters events and need 5 wins to claim those titles too (in fact they need to win 6 matches at Miami and Indian Wells!). Otherwise please tell me why WTF should be held aloft as a pseudo-slam of significance above other events? If you add WTF to Federer's Masters count that's 27 (Nadal) vs 26 (Fed)...so kind of evened out there.

The problem with looking at pure slam count is the variables within and quality of those wins - i.e. the subjectivity of quality beaten en-route. Also, winning 9 FO's is almost held as a weakness for Nadal to highlight his one dimensional achievements. Yet he has 5 slams off clay and that alone would push him up the all time list. But the French is lofted as the toughest slam to win, the most gruelling, the one that many of the past true greats couldn't win and yet he's practically done it every year for a decade...vs Federer...vs Djokovic - don't forget he's beaten Djokovic 6 times at Roland Garros. Isn't his RG record the now single most impressive achievement in the history of tennis?

Looking outside RG, as I stated the other day Nadal has head to beat Federer, Djokovic and Murray 13 times out of 14 slam wins. Federer and Djokovic 10 times alone. He's beaten Federer across all surface types in slam finals - Federer has only beaten him on grass. I agree his top 50 H2H record is completely ridiculous and likely will never be matched too. Its hindsight and bias-talk, but if not for Djokovic having that completely ridiculous purple patch from Spring 11 to Spring 12 (he's barely won a slam since), Nadal would already be level with Federer on slam count - and the guy has missed large chunks of career due to feet bone realignment straining his knees. Did Federer ever have such quantity/level of tough opponents to face en-route or in his slam finals? I feel not but its obviously subjective and I'm Nadal biased. Still...the question has to be asked.

An article only today raises this: http://www.oregonlive.com/the-spin-of-the-ball/index.ssf/2014/06/is_rafael_nadal_the_best_becau.html and we know Agassi's and McEnroe's recent opinions on the topic.

At the end of the day stats can be moulded to each of our bias...as the article says the 17 vs 14 slam difference may be offset by Rafa's 24-10 H2H. The #1 weeks by Nadal's domination over the Top50 players. In fact...I read that Nadal had a winning record vs. each one of the 127 players in this years French Open draw...has that ever been done before?

Another impressive thing to consider is that Djokovic had just gone 54-3 since losing to Nadal in the U.S. Open final, including four straight wins over him. Djokovic has also all but focused his career on winning the French Open and arrived in Paris fresh off a win over Nadal in the Rome final. Yet, cometh the hour, cometh the man...

Another interesting stat is that Nadal is 20-0 vs the big servers of Karlovic/Raonic/Isner/Gulbis and yet is thought as being only adept with slower moving balls. His returning stats are right up there, his career W;L% is the highest ever, and to speak to lack of aggression point above Nadal probably has the best FH of all time.

Of course there are many counters for Federer fans, that's the beauty of the sport and discussing metrics only covers so much...but we have to cede that the argument for Nadal is getting stronger and stronger with each passing year. And that statement alone also speaks to his longevity...which other player in history has won a slam for 10 consecutive years? None, next nearest was 8.

I'm not saying Nadal is GOAT, no-one is...I wrote that on BBC606 in 2008...but on the other hand I don't believe anyone else has an overall stronger shout either all considered and that's what this discussion is about right - who has the best shout for it?
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Post by HM Murdock Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:34 pm

lydian wrote:Another impressive thing to consider is that Djokovic had just gone 54-3 since losing to Nadal in the U.S. Open final, including four straight wins over him. Djokovic has also all but focused his career on winning the French Open and arrived in Paris fresh off a win over Nadal in the Rome final. Yet, cometh the hour, cometh the man...
I see this as a weakness in his case.

In the period since USO, Nadal has had 10 defeats. That's more defeats than Federer suffered in the whole of 2005 and 2006 combined!

Peaking for the big events is great, and Nadal does it very well. But it's easier to win the big events when you neglect other periods of the season. Nadal has a period of the season where he 'traditionally' has not played as well and a period where he tends to clean up. Federer in his prime brought his game week in, week out.

That's why slam count, although the most important metric, cannot tell the whole story.

H2H is a pretty ropey metric though. Hypothetically, if Novak were to edge ahead in the H2H, would the effect of that on Rafa's historical standing be anything greater than miniscule? It would make barely a dent on Rafa's legacy. So I can't see why having that H2H metric in Rafa's favour is such a big deal, if not having it would barely matter. Either it's an important metric or it's not. It can't be important if you have it, unimportant if you don't.

And is Nadal that far ahead of Federer anyway? Federer has a losing H2H against, what, two players? Nadal and Murray? So it's not as if this a measure in which he is seriously deficient.

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Post by Guest Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:40 pm

Let's see where they lie after their careers are finished.

I think one stat that boggles the mind is that Rafa has only had 1 1st round exit at the Slams in his career. Astonishing!

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Post by HM Murdock Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:46 pm

legendkillarV2 wrote:I think one stat that boggles the mind is that Rafa has only had 1 1st round exit at the Slams in his career. Astonishing!
Conversely, he has never made more than 5 consecutive semi finals.

Federer had 23. Djokovic had 14.

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Post by Johnyjeep Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:01 pm

All good points Lydian tbh.

I certainly think its better than a Masters event. Why? Because of its exclusivity. Masters are open to more winners. You say its abitrary? Why? Is it any more abitrary than any other tennis match? You get there by winning ranking points which are used to decide seedings at all tennis tournaments. The WTF is only arbitrary if ranking points and seedings, and any other competition on the tour that you have to attend by mandate, is also arbitrary.

I'm not saying it is pseudo-slam. But it is more exclusive and, due to the higher quality oppostion you are guaranteed to have to play - WTF hold mores signifance than any Masters.

You use the high quality opposition as a case for Nadals greatness but yet discount here, when, to even get to the competition, you have to be recongised as one of the best 8 players on tour.

So level of competition? This is tried and tested..but did you know that Rafa was in the draw for Roger's first Grand Slam win? That since Rafa has been a Grand Slam winner Federer has won 13 GS? Regardless of whether they faced each other - Rafa has faced the same opposition. If Roger has it easy for his Grand Slams - so has Rafa! Are we saying that any GS won before Rafa (or without facing Rafa) don't hold the same significance? Of course not.

Yes it is perennially held in the northern hemisphere? Why - that is where the overwhelmingly vast majority of land, people and infrastructure on Earth live. I'm not sure what else to say about that.

To say Nadal would be level with Federer but for Djokovics purple patch is if and buts that I'm not prepared to go into. Its a realm of fantasy that can be used to bolster anyones claims.

Rafa had a winning record against all 127 players in this years French Open - has that even been done before? The reason no one knows is because its not a thing! Will it also be the case for this years Wimbledon? Don't know. Don't care! Because it has no bearing on anything.

And the suggestion that the 17 to 14 GS is off-set by the H2H is also laughable. Again this H2H nonsense. You don't play against one player!!!!!! You play to win the tournament. If Rafa beats Roger and then loses to someone else do you think he would count that a success!!? Or am I misinterpreting what sport is all about?

I do cede that the argument for Nadal is growing stronger. I also maintain that the H2H thing is trotted out because it is an easy line to attack Federer. One of the few. With Nadal there are more. Is the GOAT someone who has never retained a title off clay? Never had back to back YE No.1 (so he has never dominated his own peers nevermind been best ever!), never won a WTF against the best the tour has to offer, so few weeks at No.1 (relatively speaking) compared to other candidates, GS tally is so loaded to one Grand Slam.


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Post by Josiah Maiestas Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:46 pm

HM Murdoch wrote:
legendkillarV2 wrote:I think one stat that boggles the mind is that Rafa has only had 1 1st round exit at the Slams in his career. Astonishing!
Conversely, he has never made more than 5 consecutive semi finals.

Federer had 23. Djokovic had 14.
Probably has helped him to rest then, such an unfair advantage.

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Post by antonico Fri Jun 13, 2014 3:43 am

Roger Federer's career achievements are such that we may never see anything like that in a long while. Maybe ever. He was World #1 for 237 consecutive weeks, and 309 weeks in total. But 237 straight weeks at #1 - in the Men's game of the 21st century - is astounding. As HM mentioned already, there were two seasons when Federer had less than 7 losses in each one! The 23 consecutive Major SF's reached is what Federer himself said - in 2011 - was his best achievement. When you consider what that requires physically - meaning no injury or other issues - is one thing. But to mentally stay in each and every match to win it is even more impressive. As we all know, any player can lose to anyone at any time. His achievement of having reached the Final of every Major at least 5 times is what makes him something beyond anything we've seen on a tennis court. Now granted, the players of the 70's to the late 1980's had a Calendar that looks far different than the Calendar of today. In fact up until the mid-late 1980's John McEnroe was getting guaranteed appearance fees to simply show up in Australia to play the Open. So the Australian Open was only a meager table scrap of the Grand Slam meal the other 3 Majors offered in terms of prestige, at least up until the later 1980's. But Federer playing in the era he was given to play in set a standard that his contemporaries have not reached, and will be the yardstick but which future greatness in tennis will be measured.

Rafael Nadal isn't as accomplished as Federer, but his given tennis a uniqueness all its own. Never has there been a dominance of a surface in the game as his on clay. If Federer and Sampras are to be lauded for their 7 Wimbledons, we should remember that Nadal has won four different tournaments at least 7 times each: French Open, Monte Carlo, Rome and Barcelona. As Rod Laver himself pointed out, Nadal's dominance of clay today is more remarkable than either Federer or Sampras on grass for the obvious reason that there are a lot more players who play their best on clay; far fewer players excel on grass so it's easier to be dominant. Nadal is the only one now close to Federer in terms of how often you reach each Major Final - 9 French, 5 Wimbledon, 3 AO, 3 USO. Whether he gets to two more Finals in either Australia or the US is debatable. And when you consider how many Majors Nadal has missed altogether - 2006 & 2013 Australian Open, 2009 Wimbledon, 2012 US Open, and 2004 French Open - he's made the most out of the ones he has appeared in.

Will Nadal surpass Federer at 17? Since Federer is still playing - with the possibility he could win one more - there's nothing but guessing involved. For Nadal, now age 28, this year's French Open showed just how remarkable he is there. He got through the two weeks of Roland Garros  and lost only two sets along the way. As he gets older, even the French Open could prove difficult for him, with rain crunching a schedule and forcing a 29yo Nadal to have to squeeze together back to back Best of Five matches on successive days. That can be a problem. On the other hand, if Federer, Agassi, and Andres Gomez can win The French Open at age 29 and beyond, you'd have to think Nadal would be able to also. I'm of the same idea of Pam Shriver. It would be fitting that Federer and Nadal - whose careers have been so intertwined together for so long that we even have a hybid of their names, Fedal, indicating one entity - will conclude their careers with the same number of Majors won. There is just a symmetry to that which seems a fitting end to their legendary careers.

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Post by TRuffin Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:08 am

Put Federer into any era though and he is dominant.. Put Nadal into the small wooden racquet era and he is not. Put him in the fast low bouncing grass Sampras era or fast era period and he is not.    The "great champions adapt" argument his fans use doesn't hold weight either.  Nadals success is built on what technology and conditions allow him to create.. that's simply a fact. I think Nadal would be a great tennis player anytime, in any era- but take away the ability to create unheard of spin and crazy high bounce, and there is nothing he could bring to the table that would make him an all time great. We can see what happens even in the rare occasions on the current tour when the bounce is gone and the players can hit through him.   Under old conditions- he simply would not have been able to create what makes him one of the greatest..  Certainly the style matchup advantage he had with Federer would be erased.  

Even today- look at Nadal on a true fast low surface like Halle--  what Wimby used to be.    What would have happened if Fed met Nadal on that surface as many times as they met on clay... u could reverse the H2H.

I don't think the weak era is a valid argument for Fed- he's won 13 Majors against the same exact competition as Nadal faced for all of his Majors--  and Fed has spent more time out of prime during that time than Nadal was out of prime in his early years when he was mainly winning on clay.    A young in prime Federer would have won those 4 Majors against any competiton.   If the argument is there though- I could just as easily argue that Nadals clay competition has been incredibly weak for most of his carreer. The only great clay courter for years was Federer- who simply has a horrible matchup problem on clay against Nadals style.  Federer rolled through the other clay competition though and clay was his worst surface.   Murray as much as you guys want to now think he's great on clay-- has been mediocre for most of his carreer...   certainly his worst surface. Djoko was average at best for years.   Certainly it can be said that all of Nadals top rivals worst surfaces is or was for a long time- clay.  Now djokovic has become a very good, maybe great clay courter and doesn't have the matchup problems Fed has......... and what happened? Nadal has taken his fair share of hits on clay. At the same time- Nadal continues to dominate Djokovic and the field on the clay title that matters- and  I can easily say Nadal is the best ever on clay and deserves that title.

We can pick at any Champions Major victories and find "weak" competiton ones..   Look at some of Sampras' wins-- were they any better than Fed's early ones?   Agassi won a full 20% of his Majors against two of the weakest draws or fields I've ever witnessed in a Major.   Look at Agassi's last two AO wins--  even today, Federer would win every major he entered if he faced that...     We can find weaker ones in Nadal resume as well.

Nadal has never and I don't think ever will hold #1 for one season start to finish.. Think about that.  From AO to WTF he has never been #1 that whole time. He has been passed for #1 multiple times by an older Fed and his own age rival.  He's never defended a non clay title once in his career. He's gone stretches of over two years without winning a title off of clay............ Clay court GOAT- yes.... but across all surfaces, no.  

In the end- they are both top 4 all time though. Just being Goat on one of the main surfaces certainly locks Nadal into that territory.   It's hard for anyone and I don't think you will find a fellow all time great- including Mac and Agassi that ranks Federer below #2 all time- even with Fed's holes in his resume which there are some.   No one's going to put Nadal below 4 or so..  so it's not really a big deal.  

I think Fed is going to sleep quite well at night with the knowledge he makes 70 million a year and is one of the very best of all time in his chose profession, and Nadal will very much be just as rested with his 30 million a year and one of the very best of all time guarantee as well.

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Post by CaledonianCraig Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:45 am

I put the highest premium on slams won and that is the yardstick I will measure GOAT's by.

Every tennis player's ambition is to win a slam (not a WTF, not an Olympics and not a Masters Series event). It is what every tennis player strives for, what they try to peak for and what they raise their game for. Other achievements are dressings and things to boast about on a player's CV. Measuring greatest of all-time though is all about slams won.
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Post by naxroy Fri Jun 13, 2014 7:12 am

goat or not, nadal is a giant of the sport, and has a place in history

and posibly in anybody´s choice of top 5 in history

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Post by TRuffin Fri Jun 13, 2014 7:24 am

naxroy wrote:goat or not, nadal is a giant of the sport, and has a place in history

and posibly in anybody´s choice of top 5 in history

In the end- that's the only fact-- both he and Federer are locked in as one the all time very elite greats...

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Post by Johnyjeep Fri Jun 13, 2014 7:59 am

TRuffin wrote:
naxroy wrote:goat or not, nadal is a giant of the sport, and has a place in history

and posibly in anybody´s choice of top 5 in history

In the end- that's the only fact--  both he and Federer are locked in as one  the all time very elite greats...      

Seconded.

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Post by skyeman Fri Jun 13, 2014 8:05 am

Both brilliant. Will become more clear {or not} once they retire.


Never have i seen the previous greats compared so much as these two. But really in a league of thier own. Or is social media having a large part to do with that!

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Post by naxroy Fri Jun 13, 2014 8:23 am

internet

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Post by Silver Fri Jun 13, 2014 10:07 am

What amazes me is how much stick these two actually get. For such great players, they sure have a lot of people trying to tear them down and devalue their accomplishments.

For example, hearing calls for someone's retirement when he's world #4 is probably unprecedented in the history of sport. Makes me laugh every time. Likewise with Nadal being shot to pieces at 28, as the best in the world going by rankings.

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Post by antonico Fri Jun 13, 2014 11:50 am

TRuffin wrote:Put Federer into any era though and he is dominant.. Put Nadal into the small wooden racquet era and he is not. Put him in the fast low bouncing grass Sampras era or fast era period and he is not.    The "great champions adapt" argument his fans use doesn't hold weight either.  Nadals success is built on what technology and conditions allow him to create.. that's simply a fact. I think Nadal would be a great tennis player anytime, in any era- but take away the ability to create unheard of spin and crazy high bounce, and there is nothing he could bring to the table that would make him an all time great.

This misses the point entirely of what makes any tennis player truly great. If your claim is that Nadal is the player he is merely because of his equipment, then why isn't everyone who uses the same equipment getting the same results he's getting? The whole theory you posit here is what doesn't stand up to even the most casual scrutiny. Nadal's greatness lies primarily in all of the things that make the greatness of a player in any era: complete concentration that rarely ever wavers; tremendous foot speed around the court; incredible foot work to get himself into a position to execute; exceptional hand-eye coordination - none of which have anything to do with a racquet, string, ball or surface. Borg won 6 French Opens with the same outdated racquet-style you say would hamper Nadal; he got more topspin than anyone out there in his day. Ask McEnroe about that. And you ignore the opposite effect - none of any Nadal rivals back in Borg's day would have had the ability to defend like they can against him now. If they could have, then Borg would never have won 6 French Opens, and would never have won 5 Wimbledons - which he did, incidentally. On the same type of court you say would send Nadal packing after the first round. Borg was no Serve/Vollyer. He won Wimbledon because of his other physical talents - the same ones Nadal has. And these physical attributes would have served Nadal just as well then as they do now - as they served Borg. Your thesis that Nadal is what his is because of Babolat is pure nonsense. Great Champions DO adjust - every day. Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have to make adjustments to their games every day just to keep themselves competitive with one another. And they'd adjust in any era.


Last edited by antonico on Sat Jun 14, 2014 3:58 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by summerblues Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:52 pm

antonico wrote:Great Champions DO adjust [...] And they'd adjust in any era.
Your post seems to imply (or am I reading it wrong?) that we would have likely seen the same champions under the old conditions as we see now.  I am not going to call it "pure nonsense" but it strikes me as unlikely to be true.  It is sort of like saying that a 100m runner could be equally good in 400m races because they "would adjust".  Sure, champions adjust, but within limits.  If the conditions change enough, you will definitely see different faces on top.  There might be some that might be able to straddle the differences between conditions better than others - at least as long as those differences are not too great - but surely we would not expect to see pretty much the same players being the champions in both sets of conditions.

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Post by naxroy Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:19 pm

10 years in a row winning a slam is pretty nice stat too

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Post by antonico Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:44 pm

summerblues wrote:
antonico wrote:Great Champions DO adjust [...] And they'd adjust in any era.
Your post seems to imply (or am I reading it wrong?) that we would have likely seen the same champions under the old conditions as we see now.  I am not going to call it "pure nonsense" but it strikes me as unlikely to be true.  It is sort of like saying that a 100m runner could be equally good in 400m races because they "would adjust".  Sure, champions adjust, but within limits.  If the conditions change enough, you will definitely see different faces on top.  There might be some that might be able to straddle the differences between conditions better than others - at least as long as those differences are not too great - but surely we would not expect to see pretty much the same players being the champions in both sets of conditions.

If all you have is sheer speculative doubt based on your analogy of a sprinter vs. a mid distance runner, then there isn't much you have in terms of arguing the point. The training for different running distances - let alone what each distance requires - makes the training fundamentally different. A tennis court is the same size it always is. You have to defend he same area no matter what era you play in. This is wholly different than running and training for two different distances that require you to train for them differently.

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Post by Johnyjeep Fri Jun 13, 2014 8:39 pm

Not to be pedantic Antonico, but all you have is sheer speculation as well. The truth is no one knows how any player would adjust given a different set of circumstances/conditions in a different time. Some might be able to adjust given what we know about their attributes in todays game. However some may not. Change human DNA by just 5% and you get a chimp. The point being that changing a certain set of criteria by only a small amount can bring about some pretty large differences!




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Post by lydian Sat Jun 14, 2014 12:05 am

Nadal has won enough titles across enough surfaces to indicate he's not just a slow surface guy. When you win 14 GS it shows there is a ridiculous amount of talent there.
However, you have to look at actual stroke mechanics to work out if a player could adapt across the era's.
Nadal plays a SW forehand and a Conti/SW backhand...take a look:

Roger vs Rafa - Page 5 Tennis-forehand-exercise
Roger vs Rafa - Page 5 Nadal+Backhand

These grips are what make him stand out from other "claycourters"...and even Djokovic...who play extreme Western FHs. It's what enables him to employ such variety of spins and shots.
For example, which other DHBH plays slice as much as Nadal? He plays with more variety that just about most other players except perhaps Federer...and its questionable if there's any difference there.

Nadal's SW FH grip is the principle reason why he can hit that top 2 all-time ridiculous running FHDTL (Sampras the other...). You simply cant do that with Western FHs...its why Djokovic cant!

The intrinsic grips and variety of shot selection mean he's able to handle all bounce heights and surface types. Yes he was brought up under clay conditions for sure, but I can almost guarantee he'd have adapted his game more radically in the 90s to faster surfaces. There's no reason why his AO results would be different in the 90s, for grass well he's won at Queens which is as fast as Wimb was pre-2001 inc. beating Karlovic en-route. USO would have been tougher from a serving perspective...you need a big serve (and FH) to win USO in the 90s but he's shown he can crank >130mph when needed - he has the innate timing needed.

Out of all the players on tour Nadal is the one who has adapted and changed the most across the years and this is because he "base" technique allows him to do so. In general his technique is pretty flawless, almost textbook except that he volleys and serves with a slight Conti/Eastern grip. Also, don't forget his movement...its what sets players apart fundamentally. That sort of all-time great movement would also make him a success in just about any era. His biggest challenge would be taking the ball earlier but he's often shown he can do that and move to the baseline to hit shots, its just not his preference due to his clay underpinnings. Talent always finds the way.
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Post by antonico Sat Jun 14, 2014 1:19 am

Johnyjeep wrote:Not to be pedantic Antonico, but all you have is sheer speculation as well.

Since Federer, Nadal, and most Particularly Djokovic have had to make some substantial adjustments in this era just to stay competitive with one another, I'd say I have evidence that the adjustments they make today in their games bodes extremely well that they - as individuals - can adjust to what they need to find to get to where they want to go. They've each been #1 for long stretches, and the improvement in one normally sparks improvement in the others. That's proof enough, given the subject matter.

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Post by Guest Sat Jun 14, 2014 1:32 am

You make some valid points lydian.

I think however, when assessing the adaptation skills of today's players in yesterdays conditions and environments we need to consider the lack of science, nutrition, levels of fitness, technology. This is why I don't even buy the argument that Federer would adapt to yesteryear's conditions.

Take 80's/90's Grass. I have never come close to seeing anyone play from the baseline bar Agassi and Lendl with great effect and ball striking and that yielded 1 Wimbledon title between them. Now the likes of Federer and more so Nadal, Djokovic and Murray in my view play from the baseline. Are we to seriously believe with old conditions and diets and equipments and science that these guys would adapt with the same level of success like they have now?

Not likely!

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Post by HM Murdock Sat Jun 14, 2014 1:46 am

lydian wrote: He plays with more variety that just about most other players except perhaps Federer...and its questionable if there's any difference there.
Good analysis but this bit is outrageous! You're praising the variety of the guy who famously said:
If I have to hit the ball twenty times to Federer’s backhand, I’ll hit it twenty times, not nineteen.... Losing your concentration means going to the net and hitting the ball to his forehand, or omitting in a rush of blood to serve to his backhand—always to his backhand—or going for a winner when it’s not time.
He may have the ability to hit a variety of shot but he still obsessively runs around his backhand and rarely comes to the net.

I've never heard anyone say "player X struggles with Nadal's variety". In fact, one only has to say "topspin cross court into the backhand" and we know exactly who is being described!

What is the equivalent handful of words that that could describe Federer's game?

Nadal is an all time great, no doubt, but let's not make him out to be an expansive player.

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Post by Jahu Sat Jun 14, 2014 2:01 am

Even Djoko has more variety and is not scared to be at the net or the more often lately drop-shots.

Nadal variety  picard 
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Post by HM Murdock Sat Jun 14, 2014 2:05 am

Jahu wrote:Even Djoko has more variety and is not scared to be at the net or the more often lately drop-shots.

Nadal variety  picard 
That's what frustrates with Rafa and Andy.

Novak has a fraction of their natural ability at the net but has specifically tried to improve and bring that aspect into his game.

Rafa and Andy, with their greater natural gifts, choose to stay back.

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Post by Guest Sat Jun 14, 2014 2:26 am

HM Murdoch wrote:
Jahu wrote:Even Djoko has more variety and is not scared to be at the net or the more often lately drop-shots.

Nadal variety  picard 
That's what frustrates with Rafa and Andy.

Novak has a fraction of their natural ability at the net but has specifically tried to improve and bring that aspect into his game.

Rafa and Andy, with their greater natural gifts, choose to stay back.

But then on the other side of the coin this guy actually adapted himself by becoming fitter when the likes of Djokovic and Nadal ate up the variety in his play.

Andy gave up variation to compete with fitter guys and it has paid off.

I can't see the change Novak is trying to implement is going to bear any fruit.

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Post by HM Murdock Sat Jun 14, 2014 2:37 am

legendkillarV2 wrote:I can't see the change Novak is trying to implement is going to bear any fruit.
It's been a huge improvement. A great addition to his game.

I don't think it will have much bearing on him winning another slam though, there are much bigger issues to address there.

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Post by antonico Sat Jun 14, 2014 4:11 am

legendkillarV2 wrote:I can't see the change Novak is trying to implement is going to bear any fruit.

This is extremely disingenuous to Djokovic. And it's simply not true. I'd argue Djokovic made the most difficult ascent in tennis: he went from spending basically 3 years as #3, and got to world #1 - and managed to stay there quite a while. It's much easier to get from #100 to #20 than it is to go from #3 to #1, especially when you have to leapfrog two guys named Federer and Nadal. The changes in Djokovic were not so much in his actual tennis - his shots are still essentially the same as they were prior to 2011. What improved vastly were: his fitness level, his movement around the court, and his implementation of specific patterns of points to deal with what was in front of him. To solidify patterns of play for success, you have to have the improved fitness and footwork. That's what improved dramatically - and the results show that. Both Nadal and Federer recounted that Djokovic in 2011 didn't change his strokes much at all - but it was these things about staying in the match mentally (now that he was secure in the fact his fitness level would ensure he wouldn't fatigue as he used to) that changed. He was recovering better from one shot to the next, and was better at getting points played on his terms. Djokovic believed in himself because he could now rely on his lungs and his feet more than he ever could before. Even then, you have to play the actual matches. But the Djokovic improvement from #3 to #1 is one of the most remarkable ascents we've seen in the game.

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Post by Guest Sat Jun 14, 2014 5:07 am

I am sorry but that is utter nonsense!!!

If it was easy to leapfrog the rankings from say 80 to 20 we would be seeing a lot more fresh faces and youth coming through on a more consistent basis. But guess what? We're not.

So the jump from 3 to 1 is no less difficult than a jump from 80 to 20

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Post by naxroy Sat Jun 14, 2014 5:23 am

its not strange that rafa beats nole in a best of 5 in clay. but it surprised me how rafa beat nole in the usopen, seeing what nole did to him in the next 4 matches

so theres something there with the slams and nole

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Post by HM Murdock Sat Jun 14, 2014 5:47 am

legendkillarV2 wrote:So the jump from 3 to 1 is no less difficult than a jump from 80 to 20
It is more difficult. Name a player apart from Djokovic who has done it after years at number 3

The points difference from 80 to 20 is about 1000 pts, often less.

Players who have made a that move over the last three years include Nishikori, Dimitrov, Gulbis, Isner, Janowicz.

The gap from 3 to 1 at the start of 2011 (which Novak had to overhaul) was 6,210 pts. The gap today is even larger.

antonico wrote:Djokovic in 2011 didn't change his strokes much at all - but it was these things about staying in the match mentally
Exactly right.

For most of 2011, he was able to play almost entirely "in the moment": the right shot at the right time, not getting nervous about future points, not worrying about past points that he didn't win.

It's this quality that he has lost in the last couple of years, especially at the slams.

I believe his game is better now than in 2011. But now he gets tense, he gets sloppy, he gets nervous, he gets distracted by difficulties, he loses concentration.

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Post by HM Murdock Sat Jun 14, 2014 6:02 am

naxroy wrote:its not strange that rafa beats nole in a best of 5 in clay. but it surprised me how rafa beat nole in the usopen, seeing what nole did to him in the next 4 matches

so theres something there with the slams and nole
True.

But, credit where it's due, Rafa's performance in USO final last year was fantastic. Incredible depth and weight on his shots. I think it would have taken Novak's red-lining A+ game to beat it.

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Post by Silver Sat Jun 14, 2014 6:46 am

HM Murdoch wrote:
lydian wrote: He plays with more variety that just about most other players except perhaps Federer...and its questionable if there's any difference there.
Good analysis but this bit is outrageous! You're praising the variety of the guy who famously said:
If I have to hit the ball twenty times to Federer’s backhand, I’ll hit it twenty times, not nineteen.... Losing your concentration means going to the net and hitting the ball to his forehand, or omitting in a rush of blood to serve to his backhand—always to his backhand—or going for a winner when it’s not time.
He may have the ability to hit a variety of shot but he still obsessively runs around his backhand and rarely comes to the net.

I've never heard anyone say "player X struggles with Nadal's variety". In fact, one only has to say "topspin cross court into the backhand" and we know exactly who is being described!

What is the equivalent handful of words that that could describe Federer's game?

Nadal is an all time great, no doubt, but let's not make him out to be an expansive player.

Nadal has a lot of variety, more than people think. As does Murray. But it's not about what you can play; it's what shots you will and do play. And in that respect, Federer shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence as Nadal. He's leagues ahead in that regard.

As you say HM, he's not an expansive player...even though he could be, and with ease. He chooses not to be, and so we shouldn't view him as one.

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Post by Guest Sat Jun 14, 2014 7:10 am

HM Murdoch wrote:
legendkillarV2 wrote:So the jump from 3 to 1 is no less difficult than a jump from 80 to 20
It is more difficult. Name a player apart from Djokovic who has done it after years at number 3

The points difference from 80 to 20 is about 1000 pts, often less.

Players who have made a that move over the last three years include Nishikori, Dimitrov, Gulbis, Isner, Janowicz.

Mats Wilander for one. Agassi another. Infact he was yo yoing in and out of the top 10 before becoming number 1 on 2 ocassions. Lendl another who done it twice. Sampras. So it isn't the most uncommon theme.

Granted players can fly up the rankings, but it doesn't make that climb easier. You forget that being at the top you get favourable draws.

Swings and roundabouts.


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Post by HM Murdock Sat Jun 14, 2014 7:43 am

Yeah, good shout on Wilander, I overlooked him.

Sampras and Lendl aren't quite the same thing. They kind passed through number 3. They held that ranking for months rather than years.

Just my opinion though, certainly not hard science.

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Post by naxroy Sat Jun 14, 2014 7:59 am

look at the rankings, how many points do you need to jump from number 100 to number 10
and how many to jump from number 3 to number 1?

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Post by Calder106 Sat Jun 14, 2014 8:37 am

If Nadal has so little variety in his game why haven't the other top players worked out how to beat him on a more consistent basis. Seems that only Djokovic has had spells of dominance over Nadal lately and these are temporary. Would have thought others would have come up with better game plans to win if Nadal's game is as predictable as some on here say.

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Post by Guest Sat Jun 14, 2014 8:42 am

HM Murdoch wrote:Yeah, good shout on Wilander, I overlooked him.

Sampras and Lendl aren't quite the same thing. They kind passed through number 3. They held that ranking for months rather than years.

Just my opinion though, certainly not hard science.

But they still toiled in the rankings. Take Sampras won the 1990 US Open and didn't make number 1 until 1993.

Take the case of Dominic Thiem. Has jumped from 137 start of the year to 55. It has taken him 21 matches to make 494 points this year. So on that ratio I don't think it is easy to jump up when you play so many matches for peanuts.

The number 3 player in the world at moment Stan has played 24 matches. It took him 7 matches to get 5 times what Thiem has earned!

Back to the discussion at hand.

My point about Djokovic is that even with the addition of net play, for me I don't think will bring him success. I think if anything Djokovic has one of the, if not most solid games around. It baffles the crap out of me how someone has great feel for a drop shot like he does looks like a horse on ice when playing a BH slice!

Djokovic's defencies in success is between the ears. He needs a 2010 Davis Cup kick in the arse!

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Post by antonico Sat Jun 14, 2014 10:56 am

legendkillarV2 wrote:
HM Murdoch wrote:
legendkillarV2 wrote:So the jump from 3 to 1 is no less difficult than a jump from 80 to 20
It is more difficult. Name a player apart from Djokovic who has done it after years at number 3

The points difference from 80 to 20 is about 1000 pts, often less.

Players who have made a that move over the last three years include Nishikori, Dimitrov, Gulbis, Isner, Janowicz.

Mats Wilander for one. Agassi another. Infact he was yo yoing in and out of the top 10 before becoming number 1 on 2 ocassions. Lendl another who done it twice. Sampras. So it isn't the most uncommon theme.

Granted players can fly up the rankings, but it doesn't make that climb easier. You forget that being at the top you get favourable draws.

Swings and roundabouts.

Agassi never lingered at #3 for three years with two guys ahead of him. When he won the US Open in 1994 he was unseeded. He reached #1 in 1995, lost it by the end of 1995, and then fell off the map to #141. Wilander reached #1, and lost it almost as fast as he got there. But to do it he had to win 3 Majors in 1 year, 1988. Djokovic got there, and managed to stay there a fairly long while. Longer than Wilander, to be sure.

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Post by summerblues Sat Jun 14, 2014 12:01 pm

antonico wrote:If all you have is sheer speculative doubt [...]
Well, when all is said and done, obviously I do not have proof positive.  Discussions like this always involve significant degree of speculation.

antonico wrote:A tennis court is the same size it always is. You have to defend he same area no matter what era you play in. This is wholly different than running and training for two different distances that require you to train for them differently.
You may or may not be right about it being wholly different from the two distances comparison (though I imagine you will ultimately agree that your counterargument about "tennis court being always the same size" is rather naïve and simplistic), but my comparison to the 400m vs 100m was purely conceptual - I was not trying to suggest that winning across eras is equally hard as winning both 100m and 400m.  My line of argument is essentially this:

Statement 1: "If conditions are sufficiently different, you will see different champions"

Statement 2: "Conditions in tennis now are different from conditions in the past"

Claim 3: "Difference in tennis conditions between now and in the past is large enough to materially influence relative success of various players."

Statements 1 and 2 strike me as rather non-controversial, so I think Claim 3 is the only point of contention - i.e., the question of whether or not the differences in conditions are large enough to influence materially who is successful.

You had made what sounded like a rather blanket statement that "[champions] adjust in any era".  From the context of your post (and also from your further response to me) I am inclined to think that you are suggesting that the same players (i.e., "the champions") would be the ones successful in any era.

I imagine you do not actually mean to say that your statement would be true regardless of how much conditions change, so I am guessing that what you are effectively saying is that tennis conditions have not really changed sufficiently to make different players be successful in different eras.

I beg to differ.  Though obviously there is no proof positive, what I have seen suggests to me that the differences are large enough and that the champions indeed struggle - mostly without success - to adjust.  While traveling in time cannot be done, we are lucky enough to be able to get some sense of the condition impact by looking at the performance across surfaces.  In the past, when there was a large difference between clay courts and grass courts, you would tend to see entirely different set of players in the later rounds of RG vs later rounds of Wimbledon.  Sampras, Ivanisevic, Bruguera, Lendl, Muster, McEnroe, Edberg, Wilander etc clearly "failed to adjust" from one surface to another.  Even today, with surfaces converging, we still have Rafa with 9FO and 2W, and Federer with 7W and 1FO, unlikely a coincidence.  Why should I assume, for example, that if conditions changed to become clay dominated, McEnroe would have adjusted and become a great clay court champion?  Perhaps, but the burden of proof would seem to be with you.

As a result, I see no reason to expect that champions would be able to adjust across eras.  What data, or other evidence, do you have to suggest otherwise?

summerblues

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