Greatest Tennis Players of all time "GOATs"

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Greatest Tennis Players of all time GOAT:
NOTE1: This is really the greatest tennis players of all time, the top guys on the list are contenders for GOAT IMO.
NOTE2: This is just my ranking based on research and comments from many other knowledgeable tennis historians. Will consider and appreciate any comments for changes or additions to these evolving lists.
NOTE3: This listing is based on majors which can be considered differently depending on era. One breakdowon has Gonzales with 24, Rosewall with 24, Laver with 19, Federer with 17. Another has Rosewall with 20, Laverer with 19, Federer with 17, and Gonzales with 15, Tilden, Borg, and Sampras with 14, Nadal with 13.


Criteria for Greatest Tennis Players of all time GOAT:


Greatest Tennis Players by Decade:


Three (3) Greatest Tennis Players by Decade:

Note: This is preliminary list compiled by Carlo Giovanni Colussi as posted on the TW boards 4/2009 and Carlo stated that "my list could change a little in future years when I will have collected more results and have made numerous new analysis. Sorry for not listing women but I'm not competent at all"

60's : Gonzales was possibly the best in 1960, was #2 in 1961 at 90% (or #1 at 10%), #3 in 1964 (and could have finished at #1 or 2 had he played the South African pro tour) and from 1965 to 1967 in the pro ranks didn't play much and in particular didn't enter most of the majors but on one tournament could beat everyone and if we compare him with the best amateurs in 1967 he beat Stolle something like 5-2 in direct meetings, Stolle being close to the amateur #1 spot in 1966 (Emerson, Roche, Stolle and Santana were all very close that year) with his wins in the Davis Cup, the US amateur and the German amateur. In 1968 or 1969 he was still able to win events equivalent to the Super 9 or Masters 1000 (Pacific Southwest and Howard Hugues Open in 69). Gonzales was better than Gimeno in 1960, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1969 (Gimeno was better in 1962-1963 because Gonzales only played 1 match in 2 years and was better than Pancho in 1966-1967 only because he played throughout those years while Gonzales only played half of the time but in direct meetings Gorgo continued to dominate Andres).

When Gimeno played the same circuit than Emerson, Gimeno was slightly better than the Aussie, be it in 1960 (until July) or in 1968 and 1969 so we can guess (but I recognize it isn't a proof at all) the Spaniard was better than Emmo between late 1960 to 1967. We can also guess that in 1966-1967 Emerson and Stolle were close. In 1967 Gimeno had always better results in the pro ranks than Stolle (except in the South African tour in September) and in direct meetings Gimeno beat Stolle that year 8 matches won to 2. In fact in 1967 Gimeno was very close to Rosewall and Stolle was less good than Laver-Rosewall-Gimeno and even Ralston in the pro ranks. So it is very likely that in 1967 Gimeno was superior to Emerson assuming that Stolle and Emerson were close that year (I recognize a great hypothesis). Gimeno was never the #1 in any given year in the 60's but he greatly rivalled the best pros (for instance in 5 years (1963-1967) Gimeno won 22 tournaments where he beat either Laver or Rosewall and in particular 7 tournaments where he beat both giants. I don't think Emmo would have been able to do that). When Gimeno and Emerson played again the same circuit in 1968 both had equivalent results but Gimeno led 6-2 in head-to-head that year. In conclusion I don't even see at all Emerson in the Top4 of the sixties. I think that in his very best years Emerson was at best the #4 in the world. Emerson certainly not : in his best years he was never in the Top3.

Last remark about the 60's : From 1960 (French Pro) to 1971 (Australian Open) among the 31 majors (here I take into account the 3 Pro Slam tournaments, Wembley-French Pro-US Pro, from 1960 to 1967 and the true Slam events from 1968 to 1971 (I slightly get beyond the pure 60's) where either Rosewall or Laver entered (so it includes majors where both players entered) 29 of them were won by those 2 giants of the game. Astonishing: Rosewall won 16 such majors in that period and Laver won "only" 13... Only Ashe (US Open 1968 ) and Newcombe (Wimbledon 1970) could break that gigantic series!
The advantage of this list is that we have always the same events (at least from 1960 to 1967) but sometimes one of these events hadn't always very strong fields.
If I pick up in my own list (which is of course subjective and therefore debatable) of the 4 greatest events of each year of the 60s (see other relataed posts on TW board) :
Rosewall won 17 or 18 of them, Laver 17, Gonzales 4, Ashe 1 and Hoad 0 or 1. It is probable that I underrate a little bit the amateur players's feats but I don't think too much.

Of course we can't judge players only on their results in majors because many other criteria (proposed by members of that forum such as urban, jeffrey, and others) shall be used (number of years No. 1 (but some years the #1 is unclear), dominance during peak years, head-to-head records against contemporaries, number of tournaments won (including pro match series), number (and percentage) of matches won/lost (consistency), number of Masters, Super Nine events and their equivalents, consistencsome extra points for different surfaces, especially grass and clay (for versatility), quality of opposition (the most difficult criterion to rate), etc...).

In the 70's there is no doubt about Borg the best and Connors his second. The 3rd place is very debatable.
Newcombe would be an obvious choice had he been consistent but if you clearly see his record there are huge "gaps".
In 70, 71 and 73 he won each year the greatest event by far of those years (Wimby 70, 71 and Forest 73) but in each of these years his record outside those events was weak and in my mind he was never the #1 of any of these calendar years. In 1971 he could have been the best but he failed miserably in the US Open (he lost to Kodes who himself in his turn lost to Smith) and because he injured in the doubles of that event he missed nearly all the end of the season. I think that in 70 and 71 Laver was probably the best and in 73 Nastase was without any doubt the best. Let's continue with Newk : in 74 he was perhaps the #2 (very good WCT record), in 1972 he was possibly #6 and in 1975 he was close to the Top10 (except his win from Connors in the Australian he almost did nothing because of injury and mental burnout). So if we consider the entire decade Newk was far from being a top player all along (he was almost absent in the second half of that decade).

I think that Nastase as #3 in the 70's is not a bad choice though Nastase had no consistency at all but however I think he was better than Newcombe. Nastase won 4 or 5 majors (that is equivalent of the modern Slam tourneys) if I consider my own subjective list (US Open 72, Garros 73, Masters 73 and Masters 75 (I don't know if the Italian 73 was one of the majors). It is comparable to Newk's stats (Wimby 70, Wimby 71, US Open 73, WCT 74).

Nastase was globally better ranked than Newk in the whole decade. Nastase was in the Top10, 7 years in a row : from 1970 to 1976. In 1977 he was close to the Top10 (and #9 at the ATP ranking) and in 1978 in the Top20 so Nasty had better years than Newk in the 70's.
For instance in 1973 Nastase lost as many matches as Newcombe (around 16 matches each) but won twice as many matches as Newk (around 114 for Nasty while Newk only won about 57 matches), that year Nastase won 17 tournaments while Newk only won 4 (or 5 or 6 I don't remember).
In 1972 Nastase was #2 but had many successes, 12 tournaments wins including the US Open (the greatest event of the year), the Masters where he beat at last his nemesis of the year (Smith). Newk had never such "full" years. Newk's best year in terms of consistency was 1974 when he won 10 tournaments and was perhaps the #2 behind Jimbo.
In the 70's only, Nastase won 75 tournaments (including 56 "ATP statistics" tournaments) whereas Newk won "only" 32 tournaments (in their whole career Nastase won 87 tourneys and Newcombe 70).

In terms of versatility Nastase won majors on every surface (US Open on grass, French on clay, Masters on indoor court, and also on outdoor hard court (though they weren't majors until Flushing in 78 )) while Newk never won a major on clay (his best win on that surface was the Italian in ... 1969 so outside the 70's).
In head-to-head meetings Nastase led Newcombe something like 5-0 in the 70's (Newcombe's only win from Nasty was in October 1969 at Las Vegas in the 1st round so once again out of the 70's).
In terms of potential on grass, the very best Newk was clearly superior to the best Nasty : Newk was the best grasscourter of the first half of the 70's whereas Nasty was a bit lucky to win Forest Hills because he didn't meet either Smith (beaten by Ashe), Newcombe (defeated by Stolle), Laver (injured), Rosewall (then Nastase's true nemesis) and he sort of distracted Ashe in the 4th set in the final. But on slow surfaces Nastase was clearly better than Newk because Nastase had a very better all-around game than Newk.
I forget other criterias but in my mind there is no doubt that if we consider only the 70's Nastase was ahead of Newcombe (and Smith who was as Newk pretty absent from 1975 to 1979). But there is no doubt that in the 60's Newk was clearly better than Nasty.

In the 80s Wilander was clearly the #3. Many think that Becker or Edberg should deserve that place but they just forget that around half of Becker's and Edberg's feats were realized in the 90's. If we just consider the 80's Wilander was superior to Boom-Boom and Stefan : in particular Wilander had a great record before 1985 while Becker's and Edberg's was virtually nil in the first half of the 80's.

About the 90's I can't really decide between Courier and Agassi. Both had many downs. Agassi wasn't good at all in 1993, 1997 and Courier in the late 90's. Agassi won on every surface (Courier failed at Wimby in 1993) but Agassi was never a #1 except in 1999 and even in that year it was by default because had Sampras not injured at Indianapolis, Pete would have probably won the US Open and therefore would have been once again #1.
Courier, he, was clearly #1 in 1992 and not by default at all and in 1991 he was perhaps the #1 (for the moment in my opinion Edberg was the best in 91 but I wouldn't swear) and in head-to-head, Courier led Agassi 6-3 in ATP events of the 90's (1-2 in the 80's). So I'm not sure that Agassi was ahead Courier in the only 90's (but in the 2000's Agassi's record is not far from his 90's record while Courier's 2000's record is virtually nil).

In the 2000's apparently almost everyone seems to think that the Federer-Nadal-Hewitt is the winning trio in that order.


Male tennis players No. 1 since 1913 (See notes below list)

Above rankins based on below wikipedia webpage:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_number_one_male_tennis_player_rankings
Below are some of the comments from "chaognosis" TW poster who was one of the contributing authors.
The Number 1 rankings above is ontroversial ... though it is a good attempt at correcting the obviously false all-amateur 'number one' rankings you find in books like Bud Collins's Total Tennis. The problem, of course, is how to weight amateur success and pro dominance in the pre-open years. The original author of that article I know to be a big fan of Pancho Gonzales, and he has written many of the tennis articles so that they are 'pro-Gonzales' in one way or another. I myself am less inclined to give the pros a free pass over all the amateurs from 1948-1967. For example, Hoad's lackluster pro debut in late 1957 does not PROVE that he was 'under the best pros' in his great year 1956 ... it rather shows that he was not well suited to the pro format, though he did improve in 1958 and '59. Also, I find it very hard to compare Emerson's great amateur years in the mid-60s with Rosewall/Laver as pros; much like comparing amateur Perry and pro Vines in in the mid-30s.

In my own view, Cochet should retain number one status in 1931 over Tilden (this would be controversial). Perry should be the undisputed number one for 1934-36, and Budge for 1937-38, leaving Vines only 1932. Kramer I believe was better than Riggs already in 1946 and remained at number one into the early '50s. I give Hoad 1956, but the rest of the mid-to-late '50s go to Gonzales. Rosewall has 1961, '63, possibly '64, while Laver gets his Grand Slam year (1962) and the late '60s. I put Newcombe second to Laver in 1967, and I give him full number one status in 1970 and '71, and possibly even '73 (though I could be biased as I much prefer him over Nastase).

For the open years, the article makes many of the right calls. Ashe was the true number one for 1975. I give Vilas 1977, but Borg certainly gets 1978-80. McEnroe gets 1981, '83-84, while Connors was number one in 1982 for his Wimbledon/US wins. Lendl gets 1985-87, then Wilander gets 1988 and Becker gets 1989. Edberg has his two years (1990-91), followed by Courier (1992), then six straight years for Sampras ... though Agassi is a close number two in 1995. Agassi gets 1999, Kuerten gets 2000 (narrowly over Safin), Hewitt has two years (2001-02). I actually give Federer 2003 over Roddick, on the basis of Wimbledon and the form he reached at year's end, winning the Master's Cup. That is a close call though. And of course, Federer at number one for 2004-present.

Below are some of the comments from "urban" TW poster who was another contributing author.


The Wikipedia article was originally, as Chaognosis said, made by editor, who favored Gonzales quite a bit, was revised by a French contributor, who dug deep into the researches of McCauley, Sutter and others.Alongside some other guys, I did some contributions on the discussion side, which went into the article. Yes, it is sometimes controversial, but on the other hand, the ATP webside stats, on which most journalists and so called experts rely, are highly incomplete or simply wrong. You only have to look on the ITF webside and the many events in the early open era, which are completely ignored by the ATP, to see that. The problem for pre open era is, that it is speculation, to rank the pros against the amateurs, because they played different circuits. As Chaognosis points out, who knows, what Hoad would have done in his great year 1956, with all the pros in the field. So its more a compilation of the professional Nr. 1 over the years. Also, in the early 70s, its difficult to reconstruct solid rankings, because there was no computer ranking, and many majors were played by depleted fields. For instance for 1970, on modern ranking calculations, on the basis of the gradual points system of majors, Super Nine Events, and smaller events, Laver would have been Nr. 1 with ca. 1100 points, with Rosewall second with 950 points, and Newcombe, the Wimbledon winner, a distant third. I agree with some observations by Chaognosis, but i would rank Nastase over Newcombe in 1973, due to his more consistent record. The ATP computer rankings, with its often intransparent arithmetics, didn't tell always the true story: Connors certainly wasn't Nr. 1 in 75, or 77, or 78, but he was real Nr.1 in 1982, when the computer had Mac first.


Misc statistics and records of many great players



Discussion of the GOAT picks from GOAT candidates and great tennis writers and authors


Amateur vs Professional issues

The amateur-pro rankings are difficult and speculative, and can change from period to period. We had often discussion on this board about the status of Emerson, and i tried always to hold a middle ground here. In his prime, in the mid 60s, he would probably have won some majors, regardless the pro competition, especially given his fitness in the context of the big draws. Sedgman in 1952 was maybe co Nr.1 overall, in 1953 as a pro, he had a positive record vs. Gonzales, and lost a tight head to head tour on canvas vs. Kramer, who didn't play much in 52.Trabert in 55 had Rosewall and Hoad in the field, not Gonzales, Sedgman and Segura. Hoad played great tennis in 56, and Laver in 1962 would have to fear Rosewall and to a lesser degree Gimeno the most over the long term. Hoad would be still dangerous, but probably not on a day to day basis and under big draw conditions. Gonzales didn't play in 62. I would rank amateurs Emerson and Santana quite on par with Gimeno, so the six best players for 62 would be Rosewall or/and Laver, Emerson, Gimeno, Hoad and Santana. The problem would be under the conditions of big tournaments with 128 draws - as i said above - the ranking of Hoad. All these rankings are speculative and open to discussion.

The most prominent amateur events from the late 40s and early 50s as majors, but none after that. It's a cruel sitution for us tennis fans, because we are accustomed to consider Sedgman's, Trabert's, Hoad's, Laver's accomplishments in such prestigious venues as Wimbledon as historical exploits, but sadly a realistic look at the draws can't let us call these events majors. The very best amateurs (Sedgman in '52, Hoad in '56, Trabert in '55, Laver in '62) were probably already top 5 in a pro-am combined ranking, but their foes in the amateur Slams were too much below them to be called actual competition. Of course you know this, but the Open Era record of Emerson, 12-times Slam titlist, speaks volumes....
Tennis Championship Results


Famous Great Player Tennis Rackets

Pancho Gonzales Tennis Rackets
Don Budge and Ellworth Vines Tennis Rackets
Bill Tilden Tennis Rackets
Rod Laver Tennis Rackets
Ken Rosewall Tennis Rackets
Lew Hoad Tennis Racket and book
John Newcombe Tennis Rackets
Jack Kramer Tennis Rackets
Jimmy Connors Tennis Rackets
John McEnroe Tennis Rackets
Pete Sampras Tennis Rackets
Arthur Ashe Tennis Rackets
Andre Agassi Tennis Rackets
Many Famous Player Tennis Rackets


References ...

Much of this information is not recorded well and somewhat unclear in many tennis history books. Alot also comes from knowledgable tennis historians and discussions on discussion boards like the TW website. Some of the alias authors include urban, SgtJohn, and chaognosis. Other sources include Arthur Wallis Myers of London's The Daily Telegraph, P.A. Vaile, Ray Bowers, Bud Collins, Joe McCauley, Judith Elian, Lance Tingay, Tennis (US magazine), Tennis Magazine (France), ITF (International Tennis Federation), ATP Awards


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