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Marshmallow
Jan 8th, 2008, 02:14 AM
What exactly is the Criterea for a Tennis 'Great'? The Justine Henin article in the other thread, states that she is recognised as a 'great' - but doesn't say by who, or based on what.

Is it the number of slams won? They players ability/technical performance?

Can i hence take it, that of the existing players, Serena, Venus and Justine will all be considered 'greats'? :shrug:

Dan23
Jan 8th, 2008, 02:29 AM
The term does get thrown loosely in articles and on TV but think a tennis 'great' would be a player who has been around for some time (5 years+ maybe) and achieved a lot in that time (multiple GS titles and time at #1).

So JH/SW/VW would probably all qualify for that....Hingis and possibly Davenport too. In the mens you'd have Federer obviously and maybe Safin, Hewitt verging on it? Nadal is yet to do the time.

mankind
Jan 8th, 2008, 02:39 AM
There are more "greats" on the womens circuit because there is no Federer. Hewitt does not qualify as a great, not by a long shot, neither does Safin although he could have been. Federer and Nadal would be the only greats currently in the ATP, whilst WTA has Henin, Williamses, Davenport. This is based on longevity and achievements at slams, and, in Nadal's case, his performances at RG and Wimbledon, achievements as a teen, weeks at No.2, etc.

karin1492
Jan 8th, 2008, 03:53 AM
I think there is also a difference between a "great" and a "legend." I don't think that any of the girls playing right now qualify as a legend. Don't get me wrong, I think that the Williams sisters and Henin may end up as legends once their careers are over. However, I don't think that their results necessarily qualify them as "legends." If any of them win enough grand slams to get to double digits, then I think that that would qualify them as "legends." The bar is set extremely high, because of all of the success of previous women such as Graf, Court, and all the other women who have won 10+ slams.

While on the men's side, Federer obviously qualifies as a legend. His total domination of Wimbledon, and men's tennis in general since 2003, obviously qualifies him as a legend. Also, considering that he is second all time in Grand Slam titles qualifies him as a legend as well. The bar is set kind of low on the men's side, because they have not had people who continually dominate for a period of time on all surfaces like Federer.

AcesHigh
Jan 8th, 2008, 03:53 AM
You have to make adjustments and honestly, it's all relative. In a time of Agassi, Sampras, Federer... 3 slams over a career is just not enough by any means.

Meanwhile, in an age of parity(sp?) on the women's tour.. shorter careers, so many injuries, you have to make adjustments like I said and notice that today's players will be judged differently.

Justine, Serena, Venus, Hingis were all great players who.. if not for serious injuries or put togethe in the same era, would have compiled double-digit slam numbers. I'm a little more conservative with the word "great" or "legend" and I would only consider Serena a tennis great and not even a legend, but it's because with the "Serena Slam" she achieved something only a handful have done. Hingis, Venus and Henin seem much more pedestrian.

Wayn77
Jan 8th, 2008, 04:03 AM
Oh gawd.

What starts out as a fairly simple, straightforward question gets more complicated the more I chew on it.

Forget the always intriguing but ultimately futile argument of comparing differing eras, past players with the current batch etc.

There are many "great" players within a broad spectrum of "greatness".

I will play safe:

Any player that has been/is number 1 in the world, and has won a Slam - can be considered "great".

A legend? Now that is an entirely different argument.....

Volcana
Jan 8th, 2008, 04:14 AM
A 'great' and a 'legend' are vastly different things. A 'legend' is somebody who is still talked about years later. Helen Wills Moody is a legend. 19 slam singles titles, 31 slam titles overall, possibly the single most dominant woman's tennis player ever. Except for two defaults due to injury she made the finals of EVERY slam she ever played. And she never played the Australian, so she won all those titles only playing three slams a year. She is THE player that forces people to add the caveat, 'in the Open Era' to discussions about the elite of women's tennis. As great as Suzanna Lenglen and Maureen Connoly were, people can make excuses about there being more competition now, etc. Wills Moody won so damn much, those arguments pale. THAT'S a legend.

In my book, there are six 'legendary' players in the history of the women's game. Court, Graf, Navratilova, Evert, Wills Moody and King. Venus, Serena, Henin, Seles, Connolly and Lenglen just aren't in the same class as those six. And if it weren't for 'Battle of the Sexes II', King wouldn't be on that list.

'Great', OTOH, is a subjective term that's even applied to one-slam wonders like Sabatini. Every player who ever held the #1 ranking would probably qualify as 'great'. There's a lot of 'great' of there, but is it remembered 20, 30 40 years later? How many people on this board have no idea who Maureen Connolly was? But, 'won more slam singles titles than Navratilova' is a pretty short list.

Is Henin a 'great' player? Sure. If she retired tomorrow, would she be remembered 50 years from now? Only by tennis historians.

AcesHigh
Jan 8th, 2008, 04:17 AM
I think what the original poster meant was a tennis "great" which is different than a "great" tennis player.

OrdinaryfoolisNJ
Jan 8th, 2008, 04:24 AM
In my opinion, the word legend shows a dominance over most of the person's competitors throughout their competitive years. This includes both slams and regular tournaments. The player has to have been universally feared, and lived up to the claim by having a predominate number of wins, and has to have in some way uplifted the sport.

Federer is the only legend playing as an individual right now in my opinion, as he's already got the numbers to overtake for greatest of all time in terms of slams and weeks and number one, the fear factor, dominance, his record in non GS tournaments. The Bryan Brothers certainly vie for doubles legends along with a couple of the women's doubles teams playing right now.

The William's sisters still have time to achieve legend status as individuals. But their injuries and inability to play through them as INDIVIDUALS make them greats to me, but not that ultimate status just yet. This could change.

Still, Serena has the Serena Slam and Venus has reached that upper echelon of Wimbledon singles victories as well. IF they can break the double digits in terms of GS, they will end up legends as individuals.

Certainly, they are legends in terms of being sisters and dominating number one and two!!! That is a rare thing, and qualifies them as legends in that regard.

Both Williams' also helped solidify (for me the change power started with Graf, Seles, and Capriati) the change from the old game using more strategy in play to win, to the new ground power game (which in my opinion, hasn't necessarily been a good thing as its taken the beauty out of tennis, ie the net game -- but still it has been a major change in how the women's game is played). They've been helped in that regard by a change in equipment, strings, etc, but also by their own power and speed as athletes.

I personally believe that Serena and Venus could both end up legends as individuals before their careers end. But again, as sisters playing the sport both at such high a level, they are already legends in that regard.

I don't believe in giving players a bye for injuries or anything else that happened in their careers. Although I'm tempted with Seles! What happened to her was criminal (literally), and in my opinion, allowed Graf to achieve a level of GS success (as was the intention of the guy who stabbed Seles) that she most likely would not have done had Seles continued to progress as she was.

Still, at the end of the day, Graf has the 22 singles slams on record regardless of what happened or what anyone thinks. Most of the legends, Chris, Martina N, Graf, Billie Jean, Court, Lenglen, etc., have had to play through some tough periods and find a way to eventually come through on top. But Seles had an extraordinary event effect the overall outcome of her career achievements and status (considering her rise top the top before the time of the attack).

wtatennisballer
Jan 8th, 2008, 04:25 AM
The term legend is universal in sports . In tennis terms, how many slams you've won. You're only as good as how many slams you won after all is said and done

MrSerenaWilliams
Jan 8th, 2008, 05:49 AM
Mo Connolly HAS to be considered as a legend. A calendar GS makes you a legend. Just at that alone.

Before her horse accident, she had the best numbers ever :shrug:

Denise4925
Jan 8th, 2008, 06:13 AM
Why has no one mentioned Althea Gibson? She is certainly a legend. She may not have as many GS titles as those mentioned, but because of the color of her skin, her great play and what she overcame and achieved certainly qualifies her as a legend, as it will Venus and Serena. I believe Justine is and will be considered a tennis great, but she will have to achieve so much more to achieve legendary status.

I agree that it can't be measured by GS titles and No. 1 status alone. There are so many variables that distinguish one player from another that would catapult one for one reason with the same tennis stats as another, but leave the other behind as just a great (which is no small feat BTW).

MrSerenaWilliams
Jan 8th, 2008, 07:50 AM
Althea Gibson? Who's she? :scratch:

I guess if Roger Fed didn't know about her, then she isn't that important :rolleyes:

AnnaK_4ever
Jan 8th, 2008, 10:36 AM
Althea Gibson? Who's she? :scratch:

I guess if Roger Fed didn't know about her, then she isn't that important :rolleyes:

OTOH, Jankovic knew she was a kid when Gibson was playing :lol:

When we talk about "legends" Lenglen, Wills-Moodie, Connolly, Court, BJK, Navratilova, Graf come to the mind.

Marshmallow
Jan 8th, 2008, 10:42 AM
Thank you guys for the responses, all very interesting and much appreciated. I've picked up a few things, noteably that a "tennis great" and a "tennis legend" are considered separate groups. But still the Criterea for either group is unclear.

Dominance seems to be the primary characteristic for Legend status, and ability/quality of play - the main feature of a Tennis great. BUT... then which group people like Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson belong. I mean they didn't have as stellar performances as others, but are still celebrated for other a number of reasons WITHIN TENNIS. So then you can't really call them 'greats' in ability, but they didn't have dominance either as legends. But they are as i mentioned celebrated.

Or maybe i'm confusing myself and the issue. :shrug:

Thanx for the contributions nonetheless.

mankind
Jan 8th, 2008, 11:20 AM
Yes, Althea Gibson is perhaps considered a legend not for reasons of sheer dominance of the sport, but for wider social issues implicated in her success.

In a similar but different strand, could Henin be one day regarded as a legend for what she achieved as a "shorter than the norm" player (albeit only one centimetre shorter than "legend" Chrissie Evert)?

Ninny
Jan 8th, 2008, 11:36 AM
In a similar but different strand, could Henin be one day regarded as a legend for what she achieved as a "shorter than the norm" player (albeit only one centimetre shorter than "legend" Chrissie Evert)?

In the tennis world maybe .... the opinion of some posters on this board ... definitely not :)

thrust
Jan 8th, 2008, 01:28 PM
The term does get thrown loosely in articles and on TV but think a tennis 'great' would be a player who has been around for some time (5 years+ maybe) and achieved a lot in that time (multiple GS titles and time at #1).

So JH/SW/VW would probably all qualify for that....Hingis and possibly Davenport too. In the mens you'd have Federer obviously and maybe Safin, Hewitt verging on it? Nadal is yet to do the time.
Justine, Serena, Venus, Davenport are great performers for their time. Tennis today is a much different game then is was even in the Graf era. Federer, obviously is great, Safin and Hewitt are not and never should be considered great. Safin has squandered an enormous talent, which borders on shameful. Hewitt, though I don^t consider him a great player, has performed up to his potential and perhaps, beyond

Forehand_Volley
Jan 8th, 2008, 01:35 PM
Is Henin a 'great' player? Sure. If she retired tomorrow, would she be remembered 50 years from now? Only by tennis historians.
Maria Sharapova will probably be remembered long after Henin for many other things besides tennis. Does that make Maria a better tennis player?

The moral of this story is, fifty years from now, when the wrinkles have set in and the grandchildren are plentiful, tennis historians will decidedly list the greats. Its that legacy which makes someone legendary (see Wills Moody and Lenglen).

thrust
Jan 8th, 2008, 01:41 PM
Suzanne Lenglen is a legend. In her prime she was unbeatable for several years. She even defeated Wills in their only meeting.

sweetpeas
Jan 8th, 2008, 05:34 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Althea Gibson? Who's she?

I know your"l joking!!!!!!!!!!!Did you see this year"s u.s opening?

Denise4925
Jan 8th, 2008, 05:46 PM
BUT... then which group people like Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson belong. I mean they didn't have as stellar performances as others, but are still celebrated for other a number of reasons WITHIN TENNIS. So then you can't really call them 'greats' in ability, but they didn't have dominance either as legends. But they are as i mentioned celebrated.



Are you kidding me Marsh? Althea had great ability. She was a multiple grand slam champion.

Here is why she is considered a legend and remembered 50 years after her time.

A trailblazing athlete who become the first African American to win championships at Grand Slam tournaments such as Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Doubles and the United States Open in the late 1950s. Gibson had a scintillating amateur career in spite of segregated offerings earlier in the decade.

She won 56 singles and doubles titles during her amateur career in the 1950s before gaining international and national acclaim for her athletic prowess on the professional level in tennis.

Gibson won 11 major titles in the late 1950s, including singles titles at the French Open (1956), Wimbledon (1957, 1958) and the U. S. Open (1957, 1958), as well as three straight doubles crowns at the French Open (1956, 1957, 1958).

In 1957, she was the first black to be voted by the Associated Press as it Female Athlete of the Year. She won the honor again in 1958. After winning her second U.S. Championship, she turned professional.

What could she have done if there was no segregation and there was actually a professional tour?

missvarsha
Jan 8th, 2008, 06:02 PM
Hmmm. I think there have to be two additional criteria to be a legend - at least some of the general public has to be aware of who you are (not just obsessed fanatical fans) and you have to have bought something unique to the table - something that then went on to influence the game at large.

The very fact that the names of Lenglen, Wills-Moody etc. come up 60 or 70 years after their careers are over means they are legends. None of us were around that time, but if you pick up a tennis book you will see how Lenglen single-handedly changed the style of play and fashion in tennis. Similarly, Navratilova and Evert had not just their grand slam wins, but their amazing rivalry - 80+ matches ! Can you imagine anyone even close ? The hottest contemporary rivalry is Serena vs Justine at only - 12/13 matches. Graf had not just her calendar GS and years of dominance, but she was the first modern power player - nowadays everyone hits big, but when Steffi started playing she was the only one and she simply thwacked everyone else off the court. The Williams sisters have the potentials to be legends, because again, not only did they win a lot they did it in a unique way - not playing juniors, rarely warm ups, etc. etc. Plus their is their social impact on the game, particularly in the US.

Based on this, Henin, while she is definitely a tennis GREAT - multiple grandslams, #1 etc. has not really done anything yet to be a legend.

Marshmallow
Jan 11th, 2008, 12:18 AM
Are you kidding me Marsh? Althea had great ability. She was a multiple grand slam champion.

Here is why she is considered a legend and remembered 50 years after her time.

What could she have done if there was no segregation and there was actually a professional tour?

:lol:

Denise I would NEVER, EVER intentionally detract from Althea Gibsons ability, or legacy. She was without a doubt a great player, of great ability - a legacy hindered by segregation rules.

I was mostly pointing to the fact that the term 'legend' as agreed (i use that loosely) by earlier posts - mentioned dominance as a criterea for legend status. Althea was a great player - but she never dominated (at least i don't think). You had players who in her era won more slams (namely Doris Hart - who is relatively unknown). But of course, who knows how far althea would have gone without segregation.

She is most def. a legend though.

Marshmallow
Jan 11th, 2008, 12:19 AM
Hmmm. I think there have to be two additional criteria to be a legend - at least some of the general public has to be aware of who you are (not just obsessed fanatical fans) and you have to have bought something unique to the table - something that then went on to influence the game at large.

The very fact that the names of Lenglen, Wills-Moody etc. come up 60 or 70 years after their careers are over means they are legends. None of us were around that time, but if you pick up a tennis book you will see how Lenglen single-handedly changed the style of play and fashion in tennis. Similarly, Navratilova and Evert had not just their grand slam wins, but their amazing rivalry - 80+ matches ! Can you imagine anyone even close ? The hottest contemporary rivalry is Serena vs Justine at only - 12/13 matches. Graf had not just her calendar GS and years of dominance, but she was the first modern power player - nowadays everyone hits big, but when Steffi started playing she was the only one and she simply thwacked everyone else off the court. The Williams sisters have the potentials to be legends, because again, not only did they win a lot they did it in a unique way - not playing juniors, rarely warm ups, etc. etc. Plus their is their social impact on the game, particularly in the US.

Based on this, Henin, while she is definitely a tennis GREAT - multiple grandslams, #1 etc. has not really done anything yet to be a legend.

I think that's a really good point.

Tennisstar86
Jan 11th, 2008, 12:24 AM
Henin is "Great" there are several great players, but she has a long way to go to be a legend one day. Venus and Serena arent Legends yet, but will surely be legends one day.... as they will be rememebered... Will Justine? Tough to say.... shes got a lot more winning to do to do it....

Ejective Stop
Jan 11th, 2008, 01:43 AM
Althea Gibson was certainly a great player, but she really only dominated after her main obstacles, Connolly, Hart and Fry, left the tour for various reasons. Connolly won everything, and really, I can't see how anyone could not put her in the "legends" category, but she was injured (for reasons totally unrelated to tennis as well), and Hart and Fry turned pro. Now, I don't know about the possible psychological effects of racism in the game and whether that would have hindered her from a greater performance, but she did play quite a bit, and the numbers show that when Gibson played these three players, she lost most of the time. The only real reason for considering her a legend at all, when she was approximately the fourth best player of her generation, would be because she was a successful, Grand Slam-winning African-American player in a segregated era. And if there had been a pro tour, she might still have been playing Hart and Fry, who really seemed to have her number.

thrust
Jan 11th, 2008, 02:04 AM
Had Althea Gibson had the opportunity to play on the tour earlier, she would have won more Slams. She was about 30 when she was able to compete on a regular basis. She was a great player and a legend.