As the second & third Grand Slams of the year approach with haste, I am feeling a little tired of hearing comments of unrest surrounding Andy Murray’s world no.1 tenure. I can concede that apart from winning in Dubai it has been a start of the year to forget for the Scot. To be fair, he normally has a slow start and has been frustrated with injury, but this year was an opportunity to consolidate the position for the long term. He has not achieved that and I suspect he will lose top spot sometime in the autumn unless he can have a similar period of dominance from here on in. That does not seem likely given the form of the old guard Roger & Rafa. Neither can we count out Djokovic at this stage (whose fall from grace has been much more stark in comparison to Murray’s, especially after what he achieved this time last year) or some of the rising generation. Of course the likes of Raonic, Del Potro, Wawrinka will all be looking to make an impression.
So far Andy has spent 28 weeks at no.1, but his current form is not the only thing taken into account for that ranking. Lets not forget the gargantuan effort he made only a few months ago to get there. I suspect he will do what he always does, which is to adjust his game and tap into his raw desire to win and hopefully he will pick up some form in the grass season. By no means will Andy be considered along the likes of Rafa, Roger or Novak when history looks back on him, but neither will he be considered a weak no.1. Maybe we could reserve that title for the likes of Roddick, Safin or Ferrero in what was generally a weak transitional generation by comparison. So where does he stand in the list of all-time greats. That is an argument which the generations will have fierce debate over and arguably it is not possible to compare such phenomena, but I will give an attempt here, and would welcome said fierce debate if you feel so emblazoned to do so. I have kept only to the open era as I believe beyond then, really is beyond comparison for logistical reasons. I have taken into account grand slam wins, record against peers and all round ability. Here goes…
|1. Roger Federer – for the obvious reasons -most grand slams, multiple surface talent, multiple playing styles, longeivity of career, class, weeks at no.1, many other records, his competition etc etc. Many others can stake a claim to the GOAT but none, I believe, have as strong a case, through sheer weight of numbers.||11. John McEnroe – An unbelievable competitor that forced his way into the Borg/Connors era. Famous sometimes for the wrong reasons. Pretty awesome at doubles too. 170 weeks at No.1, 11 GS finals, 4 won|
|2. Pete Sampras – he probably thought after finally beating Emerson’s record, no one would get close for a while. Nope, thanks to Roger, most have his records have been taken! Dominated the 90s although only faced Agassi as serious opposition, who went AWOL for a while. Never could do it on the clay with Kuerten and others specialising on the surface.||12. Andy Murray – probably doesn’t deserve to be this high, so probably a slight bit of bias on my part. I am basing this on that he still has time in his career to do things that will warrant him being considered in the same class as his great coach Ivan Lendl. In reality he is currently about 16th. 11 GS finals, 3 won, 28 weeks and counting at no.1, Davis cup winner, consecutive olympic golds. Also faced the most intense rivalry with no.’s 1, 3 & 4 on this list!|
|3. Novak Djokovic – Some may disagree with Novak being higher than Rafa on this list and I personally am not a Novak fan. I just think Novak has more to his game and has dominated longer than Rafa in a time of amazing players. So despite having less Grand Slams, he has been in the same number of finals and I suspect he can catchup, at least with Pistol Pete. Also completed a calendar Grand Slam. The first person since Laver to achieve it. Where Roger faltered twice in the last match at the French Open, Novak failed once also, but finally did it defeating Andy Murray last year. I don’t care what Jim Courier says about it not being a true calendar slam, simply because it wasn’t achieved in a tradtional year. He still held all four at once, which is essentially the same. The ranking system works on the same principle. Sadly, Novak has not been the same since achieving it.||13. Ken Rosewall – 16 GS finals, 8 won. Won the first 5 of his grand slams in the amateur era in 1953, came back almost 2 decades later to win 3 more in the open era. That is a remarkable feat, where aussie tennis legends were in abundance|
|4. Rafael Nadal – has been the scourge of both Federer & Djokovic. An unprecedented 9 wins in a single grand slam at the french open, coupled with sheer determination to catcup to Roger on all surfaces, and then comeback from injury to dominate even Novak for a year. He’s even at it again now. He may well surpass Pete Sampras, but it seemed unfair to have 3 current players 1,2 & 3. There is very little to decipher between Novak, Rafa and Sampras.||14. Mats Wilander – Was part of an intense rivalry with Lendl/Edberg & Becker which compares to today’s golden generation. 11 GS Finals, 7 Wins, 20 weeks at no.1|
|5. Bjorn Borg – Many of my parents generation would argue for Borg being the greatest. If his career hadn’t been cut short at 26 by his own doing, who knows what could have happened. Unfortunately, we’ll never know, which is why he is in 5th.||15. Stefan Edberg – 11 GS Finals, 6 Won, 72 weeks at no.1. The consummate professional and got slams under his belt in a highly competitive time.|
|6. Rod Laver – It is well known that the rocket completed the calendar grand slam twice, once in the amateur era and again at the beginning of the open era. Doing it once is an incredibly difficult feat (as Roger & Novak have discovered), but twice is incredible. Again another contender for the GOAT, but it is the all roundedness of Federer that edges it for me.||16. Boris Becker – Has the weaker record of his contemporaries in his era, but always seemed to have Edberg’s number when it came to h2h’s. Similarly he matched well to Wilander & Lendl in that respect. 10 GS Finals, 6 Won. Unbelievably only 12 weeks at number one. He was the Murray of his gifted generation.|
|7. Roy Emerson – technically shouldn’t be on this list as he never made it to the open era, but did hold the record for most grand slams won for such a long time. He also was around during Australia’s highly competitive Golden tennis era.||17. John Newcombe – Yet another multiple grand slam champion from Australia that spanned both the amateur and open era’s. Even managed to be ranked no.1 for 8 weeks in the new ranking system. 10 GS Finals, 7 won.|
|8. Ivan Lendl – The Iron man of tennis. Probably should have been higher on this list given his many losses in slam finals, being his one weakness. Had the edge of his contemporaries during his time.||18. Jim Courier – Came at the end of the Lendl era and beginning of the Sampras, so made the most of his transitional period scoring 4 Grand slams. Also spent over a year at no.1!|
|9. Jimmy Connors – A man who simply loved the sport. He had a career spanning and incredible 25 years at the time spent an unprecedented 260 weeks at no.1. 9th seems a bit low for Connors, but ultimately those above him did slightly more outstanding feats.||19. Lleyton Hewitt – Lleyton showed so much promise when he burst on to the scene in the early naughties. He seemed like the obvious heir to the Sampras throne, dominating men’s tennis for a year despite his stature. Much to Tim Henman’s malaise, who thought he’d finally get his chance at Wimbledon. If you said to people back then that he would only score 2 Grand Slams, they would have laughed in your face. So perhaps he underachieved, but he was the embodiment of the professional sports person, always giving his all. He also had his fair share of injuries, but mainly he has Roger Federer to thank for halting his run of slams. Did spend an impressive 80 weeks at no.1 despite being in a transitional era.|
|10. Andre Agassi– Andre was a class act. He was the forefather of the baseline tennis we know today. He could move is opponents any which way. He also achieved what Sampras couldn’t – a french open and a career slam – most of which in his thirties. Had he not had his little sabbatical maybe Sampras wouldn’t have as many as he does.||20. Gustavo Kuerten – only just makes this list due to having 3 grand slams (all at the french), and spending a surprising 43 weeks at no.1. I could have chosen Ashe for his contribution to tennis. Vilas for his 4 slams or Wawrinka for his 3, but none rose to the summit above all their rivals, so Kuerten it is.|
18-20 are quite vulnerable on this list. Who do you think from the next gen could break onto it in the future. Do you agree/disagree? Let me know below!