The best ever in tennis debate gets its cue from the final of the ATP Finals. The declaration of the winner at the year end finale sounds the bugle for the best ever in tennis debate. And, with it, tennis writers clamor to justify their favorite as the best ever. Can the journalists and bloggers be blamed for keeping the sport alive, while the ATP calendar is on a holiday hiatus?
Even the players and past greats can’t get enough of the best ever in tennis debate
Pat Cash recently picked Djokovic as the best ever in tennis, even though he prefers watching Federer more. Sampras believes Federer claims the best ever spot followed by Laver.
So, who really is the best ever? How would one even begin to define the best ever? Should it be defined by the winning record or the artistry of a player’s game? Or a combination of both?
Do the Big Three even qualify for the best ever mantle?
Novak is not only three shy of the highest ever slam count but also not easy to watch. He is more of a retriever and counter puncher and lacks elegance on and off-court. He may, one day, overtake both Nadal and the Maestro in the slam count but will still lack the elegance to be remembered for ever by anyone except the most fanatic of fans.
Nadal’s record stands heavily clay dominated. 65% of his slams and about 70% of the overall titles are on the clay! Nothing more needs to be said to discredit Nadal’s claim to the best ever. It cannot be disputed, however, he is the best ever clay court player.
Also read: The Big Three & Murray
Federer’s poor record, at his peak, against Nadal is often held against him. Roger, however, enjoyed a positive record against Djokovic during his peak and until 29. The Maestro is the best and most complete player to watch. His stubbornness to avoid a larger racket head frame until recently, however, cost him countless matches and titles against not only Nadal but also other heavy top-spin players.
And, more importantly, neither of the, so called, Big Three claimed every slam at least twice or won the calendar Grand Slam ever.
Only the Rocket rules
Rod Laver, on the other hand, won the calendar Grand Slam twice! Laver also won 200 singles titles, the most ever in tennis! From 1964 to 1970, he won ten or more titles each year for seven consecutive years. The Rocket excelled on all of the surfaces and ranked number one both before and after the start of the Open Era in 1968.
Conclusion: Until one of the Big Three wins 200 titles or two calendar Grand Slams, it’d be best to count them out of the best ever debate based on stats alone. Debates over the best ever in retrieving, counter-punching, elegance, completeness of tennis, etc. could, however, still be meaningful.