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Tilting at Windmills

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January 7, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

FEDERER AND HISTORY....I'm not convinced yet that Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player in history. But I'm certainly open to the idea. Paul Bailey makes the case in the Observer today.

Kevin Drum 8:31 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Comments

He's undoubtedly the best player right now, but a player should be retired for at least a couple of years before declaring him G.O.A.T.

Posted by: The Crowd Goes Wild! on January 7, 2006 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

There could theoretically be a case to be made for 2nd, next to Martina, but that's about as far as reasonableness will go...

Posted by: cdj on January 7, 2006 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

A typical Eurowienie. He writes "It is perhaps no surprise, then, that some of the Swiss's greatest games of recent times have been in defeat" IN DEFEAT. They don't say that about Lance or Tiger.

Posted by: Max on January 7, 2006 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

Federer could conceivably be getting close to that Borg, style bright-flame-that-burned-too-short style "greatest ever" player. But he's got a looong way to go before getting to that Sampras/Emerson/Laver style of continued dominance.

Posted by: dj moonbat on January 7, 2006 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Always good to see a Ramesh Krishnan reference....

Posted by: Thlayli on January 7, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

I call bullshit!

Connors, Borg, Johnny Mac, and Laver would have wiped him in their prime.

He might have beat Guillarmo Vilas and Nastase, though.

Posted by: Mike Timmons on January 7, 2006 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

Steffi Graf is the greatest tennis player of all time. I have spoken.

Posted by: Grotesqueticle on January 7, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Too soon to say it....way too soon!!!

Posted by: Anurag on January 7, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Steffi Graf would have been so dominant if Monica Seles wouldn't have gotten injured. I didn't like Seles at the time, but I think she would have given Graf more of a run than anyone else did.

Posted by: gq on January 7, 2006 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

If Federer wins the French Open then his claim to GOAT is pretty solid. The competition today is so much better than it was for Laver, and even Sampra, I'd argue.

Posted by: fnook on January 7, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Who? I stopped watching tennis after Ivanisevich (sic?) when tennis ended and became "Power Serve 101"

Posted by: hidflect on January 7, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

fnook: I don't know about that. Where are the Agassis, Couriers, Beckers, etc. of this generation? There were a lot of greats while Sampras played.

Other than Federer, I don't know that I'd put anyone else playing now on the same plane as Sampras' competition. Of course, it's possible that it's the very presence of Federer that prevents anyone else from achieving anything. Who knows...

Posted by: Milind on January 8, 2006 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

Sampras is the greatest Wimbledon champion of all time. He is not the greatest player of all time however. Half of Sampras's 14 GS wins were at Wimbledon and he never even reached the finals at the French. When Sampras was at his peak (93-97), the rest of the men's field was weak. He beat Agassi four times and Ivanisevic twice in GS finals but they are the only men he met more than once. Sampras was great in the finals going 14-4, but besides Agassi (8-7 in GS finals) the were no other rivals. Navartilova went 10-4 against Chris Everett and 2-4 against Steffi Graf in GS Finals by comparison.

Sampras is the Roy Jones Jr. of tennis.

Posted by: Andre on January 8, 2006 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

I've been watching tennis since the late 60s. I think Federer is more impressive than any player I have seen in that time---definitely better than Sampras.

Posted by: marky on January 8, 2006 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

He's undoubtedly the best player right now, but a player should be retired for at least a couple of years before declaring him G.O.A.T.

Posted by: James on January 8, 2006 at 2:50 AM | PERMALINK

Steffi Graf is the greatest tennis player of all time.
Indeed!!!

Posted by: freedom on January 8, 2006 at 3:07 AM | PERMALINK

I would say Federer could be considered the most talented player in history but I agree with a previous post that it is premature to annoint him greatest ever. There are many feats of alltime greatness achieved by players throughout tennis history e.g., Laver winning the Grand Slam twice; Borg winning Wimbledon five years in a row (and also won the French six times - four of which were in a row during the Wimbledon streak - that will likely never be repeated or surpassed) and longest winning streak in matches; Connors with most titles, most career matches won, and longest number of consecutive weeks ranked #1 (260); and Sampras securing the most Grand Slam titles and ranked #1 the most number of weeks (286). I call it a toss up although Borg was my favorite and wish he hadn't retired early.

Posted by: David Olson on January 8, 2006 at 3:39 AM | PERMALINK

A typical Eurowienie. He writes "It is perhaps no surprise, then, that some of the Swiss's greatest games of recent times have been in defeat" IN DEFEAT. They don't say that about Lance or Tiger.

Posted by: Jenny on January 8, 2006 at 4:22 AM | PERMALINK

The comments by "Jenny" (4.22am) and "freedom" (3.07am) above appear to be interestingly concealed spam; any chance you could delete them (and this)?

Thanks.

Posted by: Jasper Milvain on January 8, 2006 at 7:04 AM | PERMALINK

Andre: Let's be careful now, because half of Federer's 6 GS titles are at Wimbledon as well, and he too has advanced only as far in the French as Sampras ever did (the semis). So by that standard, Federer certainly has the chance to be the best ever (by this reasoning, he'd have to stop winning so many Wimbledons and win the French), but it's certainly too early at the moment.

Posted by: Milind on January 8, 2006 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Steffi Graf is the greatest tennis player of all time. I have spoken.

Posted by: tttlll on January 8, 2006 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

OK, I'm an old fart. But Pancho Gonzalez was the greatest player of all time. Or maybe Laver. Gonzalez was a tough out in his 40s. By that time, Federer will have been retired for a decade.

Posted by: JMG on January 8, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Had Ronald Reagan concentrated more on his tennis, he would have been the greatest of all time.

Posted by: rdw on January 8, 2006 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Ditka.

Posted by: Walt Pohl on January 8, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Are you people drunk? Navratolova was the best, period.

Sampras? LOL, not only is he one-dimensional but he turned me off with his crying on the court and acting like he was always at his limit. He was/is a sympathy whore.

Cyclist Tyler Hamilton employs a similar act.

For the men, Borg would have to be considered the best. The fact he won 5 titles each on completely different surfaces tells you all you need to know.

Posted by: Chris on January 8, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

One of my uncles, who is generally considered something of an authority on tennis, once said that Federer was definitely one of the best that has ever lived. So at the very least, Kevin, you appear to be on the right track. (What's more, this uncle is a Republican and has donated to the RNCC, so believe it or not, you agree with one on something!) It made me want to watch his matches a lot more.

I just I remembered to watch tennis more often. It's one of the few sports that I can watch on television without being bored most of the time.

Posted by: Brian on January 8, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

who cares? it is tennis. bah.

Posted by: steve c on January 8, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

dj moonbat and Andre comments caught my eye.

The thing about Borg, nobody else has come close to matching then combination of his 6 French Open and 5 Wimbledon. Most players, if they win one, they cannot win the other at all.

Aggase has won both, but he could never dominate either the way Borg did. Traybert (sp) did win a couple of French, as well as the U.S. Open. But gee, 5 of one and 6 of the other? Amazing.

rdw: at long last rdw you made me laugh.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 8, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I have been watching Tennis since the early eighties. Federer is the most talented player I have seen. He has power, finesse, variety and mental toughness. Being was a huge, huge fan of Sampras, it is hard for me to admit that Federer is better. But Federer just has too many more weapons than than Sampras.

Having said this, he would have to win the French Open to be considered one of the greatest of all time. Right now I'd rate Laver higher than Federer just because of his record and because he won the French. But if Federer wins the French Open he'd be up there.

Posted by: ppk on January 8, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think a more accurate comparison for Federer than Sampras would be McEnroe. Federer came one match short of matching McEntroe's phenomenal 1984. If he doesn't flame out, we could get a glimpse of what McEnroe could have been.

Posted by: WaxonWaxoff on January 9, 2006 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Milind - I was not asserting that Federer was the GOAT. Way to early to tell and you are clearly right in that he would need to win a couple of French Opens. I merely believe Sampras is overrated though his winning percentage in GS finals is an amazing 78%. I believe Navratilova is the greatest tennis player ever - 18 GS singles titles, 40 GS doubles titles and 9 GS mixed doubles titles. And she faced the 2nd and 3rd best women players of all time in 20 finals.

lil old Jim - Borg's 11 GS titles considering he only played the Australian once is pretty amazing.
If he could have claimed a couple of US Opens I think he would be the near consensus GOAT.

Posted by: Andre on January 9, 2006 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

But he's got a looong way to go before getting to that Sampras/Emerson/Laver style of continued dominance.

Posted by: tttlll on January 9, 2006 at 7:47 AM | PERMALINK

What are the metrics? In 1984 McEnroe showed about as much dominance as we are likely to see (his one week spot was the French Open, which, if memory serves he was up 2 Sets to none and 4-1 against Lendl but then somehow lost). His Wimbledon victory over Connors was about as convincing a win as you could imagine.

As for Borg, it was a very young McEnroe that ended his streak. And it is worth noting that the Dunlap he used to beat Borg, was very different than the Dunlap 200G that he used later in his career ( racquet technology is an important story in this discussion)

(I doubt Tyler Hamilton broke his collar bone for sympathy)

Posted by: theCoach on January 9, 2006 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: 歌曲,流行, on January 9, 2006 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

hello

Posted by: test on January 9, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

For the men, Borg would have to be considered the best. The fact he won 5 titles each on completely different surfaces tells you all you need to know.

Posted by: jenny on January 10, 2006 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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