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.