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  • Who is the greatest tennis player of all time?

    It's easy to name the current star as the best ever. But is Federer better than Borg or McEnroe or Connors? (Don't bring up Sampras' name, since he shouldn't be mentioned with these three in the same breath.) I don't think Rod Laver or Don Budge ever won a major on a hardcourt. So just who is the best tennis player of all time? I have to go with the "Rocket," Rod Laver, as the best of all time.

  • #2
    Pete Sampras was an amazing player so why is it wrong to call him the best ever?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Mocra
      Pete Sampras was an amazing player so why is it wrong to call him the best ever?
      Because Sampras was a one-trick pony(though it was a helluva trick!).

      A pure serve and volley player, with no baseline game, as evidenced by his inability to reach even the finals of the French, much less win it. It is indeed hard to consider him the equal of Borg, and even Federer was/is more well-rounded(but for Nadal, Federer would have a few French titles, and without argument be the best ever). Nadal has the potential to top them all if his hardcourt game progresses.
      There are no strings on me

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      • #4
        Here's some quotes from tennis greats not in contention for this title. Andre Agassi, when asked who were the five greatest tennis players ever, said, "Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras." Stan Smith, former Wimbledon champion, asked about 5 years ago if Sampras was the greatest ever, "I think you still have to go with Laver." Jack Kramer, great from the 40s, said if he had to pick one man to play one match for Planet Earth in the Universal Davis Cup, said he would pick Lew Hoad.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by bambam
          Here's some quotes from tennis greats not in contention for this title. Andre Agassi, when asked who were the five greatest tennis players ever, said, "Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras." Stan Smith, former Wimbledon champion, asked about 5 years ago if Sampras was the greatest ever, "I think you still have to go with Laver." Jack Kramer, great from the 40s, said if he had to pick one man to play one match for Planet Earth in the Universal Davis Cup, said he would pick Lew Hoad.
          Johnny Mac has picked Federer on more than one occasion.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by bambam
            Here's some quotes from tennis greats not in contention for this title. Andre Agassi, when asked who were the five greatest tennis players ever, said, "Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras." Stan Smith, former Wimbledon champion, asked about 5 years ago if Sampras was the greatest ever, "I think you still have to go with Laver." Jack Kramer, great from the 40s, said if he had to pick one man to play one match for Planet Earth in the Universal Davis Cup, said he would pick Lew Hoad.
            It would be good to check carefully over the Hoad-Gonzales matches in the Kramer circuit. I know that many people well versed in tennis, say Hoad at his best (and his form after 1955 was up and down) was virtually unbeatable. (My vote goes to Gonzales by the way, and I have seen him play, easily beating Sedgeman, the Wimbledon Champ of that time). One point of interest. I believe in his second Wimbledon Final, Hoad beat Ashley Cooper in 3 sets, giving up something like 2-5 games total. The next year (with Hoad a pro) Cooper became Wimbledon Champ.

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            • #7
              The Fed Express has said it's Laver.
              "Long may you run"- Neil Young

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              • #8
                In regard to Sampras, I'd say his one trick was so good that he never needed to develop many others. I don't have much doubt he could have developed a better baseline game (he had a deadly ability to hit bullet line shots with either hand on the run from the baseline), but why bother? Sampras was relentlessly efficient and wanted to put an end to points ASAP. Maybe he just got bored or didn't like running around (he was a bit chubby as a kid!) playing long rallies when he didn't have to.

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                • #9
                  How do you think Sampras would do against Nadal on grass?

                  I think it's clear he'd get smoked against Nadal on clay so won't even ask that.

                  I'm as big a Fed fan as there is but the gap is gone with Nadal (except on hard court as I hope we'll see at Flushing Meadows).
                  "Long may you run"- Neil Young

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mellow Johnny
                    How do you think Sampras would do against Nadal on grass?

                    I think it's clear he'd get smoked against Nadal on clay so won't even ask that.

                    I'm as big a Fed fan as there is but the gap is gone with Nadal (except on hard court as I hope we'll see at Flushing Meadows).
                    I think Sampras on grass was the greatest ever on that surface, at his best, even better than Federer or Laver. He would have been smoked on clay, and was not a great clay-court player, but important to remember he did once win the Italian Open, the second biggest clay-court tournament, so he wasn't that bad. Remember, McEnroe and Connors never won the French either. Remember that Sampras was the best for a long time, in addition to being so superb on grass, and excellent on hard courts. Anyone who doesn't think longevity means much should go look at the boards this January when some people were ready to anoint Djokovic the next greatest ever player, but what has now become of that?

                    Hoad was supposed to be almost unbeatable for about 2-3 years in the mid-50s but back injuries shortened his time at the top.

                    But if I had to pick one - I pick Laver. Two Grand Slams (1962, 68) and he was not able to play the Slams from 1963-67 because he turned pro. Had he played from 1963-67, considering that bookmarked those years by winning all four of the Slams, he would probably have won another 10 or more Slams.

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                    • #11
                      Laver a very good call.

                      But when talking best all-around players, don't forget the only man in history to win a career Super Slam - the four Grand Slam tournaments, plus the Olympics - Andre Agassi.
                      There are no strings on me

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                      • #12
                        I didn't follow tennis all that closely when I was a lad, but from a neophyte fan's point of view, Laver certainly left the biggest impression on me. While today's guys (particularly Federer & Nadal, obviously) can get (good) returns on things perhaps unheard of in the past, I gotta think that monster racquets with huge sweet spots have changed the nature of the game mightily, swinging the pendulum a bit back in the rocket's favour.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by catson52
                          Originally posted by bambam
                          Here's some quotes from tennis greats not in contention for this title. Andre Agassi, when asked who were the five greatest tennis players ever, said, "Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras, Sampras." Stan Smith, former Wimbledon champion, asked about 5 years ago if Sampras was the greatest ever, "I think you still have to go with Laver." Jack Kramer, great from the 40s, said if he had to pick one man to play one match for Planet Earth in the Universal Davis Cup, said he would pick Lew Hoad.
                          It would be good to check carefully over the Hoad-Gonzales matches in the Kramer circuit. I know that many people well versed in tennis, say Hoad at his best (and his form after 1955 was up and down) was virtually unbeatable. (My vote goes to Gonzales by the way, and I have seen him play, easily beating Sedgeman, the Wimbledon Champ of that time). One point of interest. I believe in his second Wimbledon Final, Hoad beat Ashley Cooper in 3 sets, giving up something like 2-5 games total. The next year (with Hoad a pro) Cooper became Wimbledon Champ.
                          I never forget one sentence from an interview with Jack Kramer in the English mag World Sports in 1958. Kramer talked about the legendary Hoad-Gonzales series. "Early in that series Pancho was playing the best tennis of his life, yet Hoad was beating him regularily until his back gave out"

                          Kramer himself was certainly one of the all time greats. He had a great record against Gonzales.

                          One thing about Sampras. He sure did not have anybody like a Nadal around.

                          Agassi can't be compared to Nadal.

                          I suppose I still think Laver is the greatest but it gets hard.

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                          • #14
                            How to measure the GOAT of tennis???

                            For pure dominance it is hard to pick against Laver... if pros had been able to play in the major tourneys when he was in his prime then Laver would surely have put the grand slam wins record out of any modern player's reach. Still, he was just a little guy ( I had the honor of meeting him a couple of times), and it is hard to imagine him matching up physically with modern stars.

                            Gonzales was so dominant that the early pro-tour changed the rules for him (a la the Lew Alcindor no-dunk rule in NCAA hoops). For a while they eliminated second serves, thinking that it would force Pancho to take some pace off his serves and level the odds a bit. Instead, he was undeterred and his opponents were the ones who got more tentative.

                            Sampras at his best was, I think, right in the mix with Federer and Nadal. And they are a cut above the earlier generation of the 70's and 80's.

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                            • #15
                              Something being overlooked is the change in racket technology. How would the modern players do with the wooden racket, which emphasizes shot-making and takes some power out of the game? And vice-versa. I don't think any sport has been changed more by technology than tennis.

                              Something very interesting about tennis is the different surfaces and that no player has won a grand slam since the US Open went to hardcourt. If a player can ever pull off that sweep, it would be hard to deny him GOAT, IMO.

                              Could Nadal win a baseline game against the patient, great shot-making of Borg? Could Federer play with McEnroe's great all-around game? It's hard to pick, but I have to go with Laver. However, the comments on Lew Hoad cought my attention. I know nothing about him, but he must have been great.

                              BTW I pay little attention to the claims that today's players are more athletic. The players of yesterday were plenty athletic. That is a write-off.

                              Edit: Interesting quotes from Wiki on Pancho Gonzales. Sports Illustrated wrote: "If earth was on the line in a tennis match, the man you want serving to save humankind would be Ricardo Alonso Gonzalez." And Bud Collins said: "If I had to choose someone to play for my life, it would be Pancho Gonzalez."

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