Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?. - TennisForum.com
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Old May 16th, 2008, 08:58 PM   #1
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Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

I don't believe I've ever seen a thread that compared the careers of Jana Novotna and Sabatini to find out who the better player was. Usually, when you talk about Sabatini and Jana Novotna, the first thing people bring up is the choking. I really don't want to get into that, as its been discussed time and again. However, you can't ignore it either. Jana choked against Steffi at '93 Wimbledon, and Sabatini choked big-time against Mary Joe Fernandez at '93 Paris.

Instead, lets compare their careers by crunching the numbers to find out who the better player was. I know that numbers never tell the whole story, but they don't lie either. Here are the most important raw numbers to digest:

1. Jana Novotna and Sabatini each won a Slam singles title. Jana won at '98 Wimbledon, while Sabatini captured the '90 US Open.

2. Jana played in 4 Slam singles finals, and Sabatini played in 3.

3. Jana retired with 24 singles titles and 76 doubles titles. Gaby finished with 27 singles titles and 12 doubles.

4. Highest singles ranking was #2 for Jana, and #3 for Sabatini.

5. Sabatini's career singles record was 632-189, while Jana's career singles record was 571-225. That works out to a win percentage of 77% for Sabatini, and 72% for Jana.

6. Jana's career doubles record was 697-153, and Sabatini's doubles record was 252-96. That's a win percentage of 82% for Jana, and 72% for Sabatini.

7. When you combine the number of singles and doubles matches they played in, you get 1,646 for Jana and 1,169 for Sabatini. That means Jana played 477 more matches than Sabatini.

As I said, the numbers never tell the whole story. There are a couple of intangibles to consider. Sabatini had to beat Steffi to win her slam title, while Jana beat Natalie Tauziat for hers. No disrespect against Natalie, but I'm sure Jana was much happier seeing Natalie across the net instead of Steffi!. Since Sabatini had to face Steffi, Sabatini's draw was much harder than Jana's. Also, in career head-to-head matches, Sabatini leads Jana 10-3. However, in many of those matches, Jana pushed Sabatini to 3 sets. So even though Sabatini holds the clear edge in head-to-head, Jana was certainly no pushover for Sabatini.

Before I looked up all those numbers, I would have given the edge to Sabatini as the better player. After I did the research, I would now say the career numbers certainly favor Jana over Sabatini. But I'll let you be the judge, as to who the better player was.
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Old May 16th, 2008, 10:09 PM   #2
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

compelling comparison. though for some reason, i look at those numbers and see sabatini clearly ahead, in that she had more wins & fewer losses & more tournament wins while playing almost 500 fewer matches! add in her clear h2h advantage, and gaby gets the nod.

but as always, it depends what you think of as a great player. Novotna's doubles successes give her some big additional push to play with but doubles is right for her playing style. I'd think she liked doubles more than singles.

no doubt, gaby's career-ending SF loss at RG when up 6-1 5-1 before losing...and I love theoreticlas when others hate them... gives her basically another GS final earned, albeit honorary. Its just splitting hairs when you look at the slam numbers at this point anyway. she lost some semis to chris in the slams as well, and probably would have beaten other players, like say novotna, had it been a lesser hurdle than evert. but there you have it, you see those numbers supporting novotna. everyone is different.
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Old May 16th, 2008, 11:06 PM   #3
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

Interesting thread. I think Gaby was a better player overall and she would have been a wonderful #1 during her peak in 90/91..she surely deserved a #2 ranking at least.

Jana was a great player too but I just can't see her as #1 even in her peak.
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Old May 16th, 2008, 11:32 PM   #4
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

Hi daze11,

You make a valid point about Sabatini having more wins & fewer losses than Jana. I guess the fact that Jana played nearly 500 more matches than Sabatini carries more weight with me. If nothing else, it tells me Jana had to endure the strain of playing all those extra matches.

Yes, I do believe the raw numbers favor Jana over Sabatini as the better player. I think most people consider Jana the better doubles player, and Sabatini the better singles player. What I'm trying to find out here, is who people consider the better overall player(singles+doubles)?.

The way I see it, Jana's doubles success far outweighs Sabatini's singles success. To me, that's the real tie-breaker between the two. Going by the numbers, Jana is just below Sabatini for singles success. When I researched this, I was very surprised just how close Jana is to Sabatini in singles. So I can only give Sabatini a "slight" edge over Jana in singles. But when your talking doubles, it's a different story: Jana's 76 titles to Sabatini's 12.

Also, when you combine the number of overall titles, Jana has the big edge:

100 titles for Jana, 39 for Sabatini. That gives Jana 61 more titles than Sabatini. I'm afraid that's a stat I just can't ignore.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 12:02 AM   #5
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

Gaby won her only GS doubles title she has as a teenager and then focused on singles...she was capable to go all the way in doubles too but never really cared about it
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Old May 17th, 2008, 12:17 AM   #6
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike25 View Post
The way I see it, Jana's doubles success far outweighs Sabatini's singles success. To me, that's the real tie-breaker between the two. Going by the numbers, Jana is just below Sabatini for singles success. When I researched this, I was very surprised just how close Jana is to Sabatini in singles. So I can only give Sabatini a "slight" edge over Jana in singles. But when your talking doubles, it's a different story: Jana's 76 titles to Sabatini's 12.
my point was that novotna was a better doubles player because she played serve & volley - for me, it is almost meaningless in terms of being an over-all player because if the non-singles sport was something that favored baseliners, gaby would have tons of titles & novotna not. so alas, in my view, it tells us only this: Novotna was a better serve & volleyer.

so doubles is just a game that favors that one aspect of a player's arsenal; doesnt make them a better 'overall' player.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 03:24 AM   #7
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

I bumped Ranked These Four because there's a lot of discussion on that topic there in a section where people rated Novotna, Sabatini, Martinez and Pierce.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 06:08 AM   #8
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

Quote:
Yes, I do believe the raw numbers favor Jana over Sabatini as the better player. I think most people consider Jana the better doubles player, and Sabatini the better singles player. What I'm trying to find out here, is who people consider the better overall player(singles+doubles)?.
If we're rating overall (with doubles thrown in) than the choice is obvious-Jana.


Limit the discussion to singles and Gaby's 2 YEC titles to 1 for Jana make all the difference to me.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 12:50 PM   #9
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

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Originally Posted by Rollo View Post
If we're rating overall (with doubles thrown in) than the choice is obvious-Jana.


Limit the discussion to singles and Gaby's 2 YEC titles to 1 for Jana make all the difference to me.
Agree. When comparing these two it is pretty close and in the end it comes down to how much value one puts on Jana's clear doubles superiority. If one ignores doubles Gabi definately gets the edge.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 08:31 PM   #10
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

The question is: who is the better player and in that category Gabriela has the edge. The only thing Jana does better, is the serve. Netgame, Gaby is just as good. Baseline, Gaby is much better. When on, she gave Steffi more trouble than Jana.
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Old May 18th, 2008, 08:01 AM   #11
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike25 View Post
I don't believe I've ever seen a thread that compared the careers of Jana Novotna and Sabatini to find out who the better player was. Usually, when you talk about Sabatini and Jana Novotna, the first thing people bring up is the choking. I really don't want to get into that, as its been discussed time and again. However, you can't ignore it either. Jana choked against Steffi at '93 Wimbledon, and Sabatini choked big-time against Mary Joe Fernandez at '93 Paris.

Instead, lets compare their careers by crunching the numbers to find out who the better player was. I know that numbers never tell the whole story, but they don't lie either. Here are the most important raw numbers to digest:

1. Jana Novotna and Sabatini each won a Slam singles title. Jana won at '98 Wimbledon, while Sabatini captured the '90 US Open.

2. Jana played in 4 Slam singles finals, and Sabatini played in 3.

3. Jana retired with 24 singles titles and 76 doubles titles. Gaby finished with 27 singles titles and 12 doubles.

4. Highest singles ranking was #2 for Jana, and #3 for Sabatini.

5. Sabatini's career singles record was 632-189, while Jana's career singles record was 571-225. That works out to a win percentage of 77% for Sabatini, and 72% for Jana.

6. Jana's career doubles record was 697-153, and Sabatini's doubles record was 252-96. That's a win percentage of 82% for Jana, and 72% for Sabatini.

7. When you combine the number of singles and doubles matches they played in, you get 1,646 for Jana and 1,169 for Sabatini. That means Jana played 477 more matches than Sabatini.

As I said, the numbers never tell the whole story. There are a couple of intangibles to consider. Sabatini had to beat Steffi to win her slam title, while Jana beat Natalie Tauziat for hers. No disrespect against Natalie, but I'm sure Jana was much happier seeing Natalie across the net instead of Steffi!. Since Sabatini had to face Steffi, Sabatini's draw was much harder than Jana's. Also, in career head-to-head matches, Sabatini leads Jana 10-3. However, in many of those matches, Jana pushed Sabatini to 3 sets. So even though Sabatini holds the clear edge in head-to-head, Jana was certainly no pushover for Sabatini.

Before I looked up all those numbers, I would have given the edge to Sabatini as the better player. After I did the research, I would now say the career numbers certainly favor Jana over Sabatini. But I'll let you be the judge, as to who the better player was.
You are obviously biased towards Jana anand did not give us the whole numbers... lets see


Titles wise Novotna has a bunch of Tier III events win (8 at least which is 30% of her grand total wins), where she dipatched second Tier rivals, while lets say Gaby for example won 3 Tier II Amelia Islands beating Graf in the finals.

Jana took part in 9 grand slam semifinals, lets compare that to Sabatini's 18.

Ranking wise:
Sabatini spent 10 straight seasons in the top ten (1986-1995) while Jana was there for 7 interrupted years (1991-1994 and 1996-1998).
Sabatini spent 6 straight years in the top 5 (1988-1993) Jana spend 3 straight years (1996-1998).
Sabatini spent 4 seasons in the top 3 (88,89,91,92) Jana 2 seasons (97,98)

People also tend to forget the head to head stats, i don't even have to name but Gaby is way better than Jana in this category against the best players in the game.

Gaby not only gave Graf tons of troubles but also beat Seles on clay while Monica was at the top of her game 1991 and 1992 Rome finals. Jana only beat Seles after the stabbing.
And between the two
Gabriela SABATINI (ARG) Leads Jana NOVOTNA (CZE) : 11 to 3 *
http://www.itftennis.com/womens/play...onent=20000114

To sum it up, for me Sabatini was the better singles player, with a slight but clear margin.
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Seasons in the top ten: Sabatini 10 Conchita 9
Straight Seasons in the top ten: Sabatini 10 Conchita 6
Seasons in the top 5: Sabatini 6 Conchita 5
Straight seasons in the top 5: Sabatini 6 Conchita 4
Tier II and above titles
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Record at the Masters
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Record against the best players
Sabatini 40% Martinez 21%
Head to Head
Sabatini leads 9-6 over Martinez
FWTT Hard 111(111 + ny)Carpet 104(104 + ny)Clay 107(107 + 4) Grass 100(100 ny)
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Old May 18th, 2008, 08:06 AM   #12
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

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Originally Posted by spiceboy View Post
Interesting thread. I think Gaby was a better player overall and she would have been a wonderful #1 during her peak in 90/91..she surely deserved a #2 ranking at least.

Jana was a great player too but I just can't see her as #1 even in her peak.
Spiceboy, the only reason why Sabatini did not achieve the world number one in 1991 was ONLY beacause she opted to PLAY the Canadian Open and Los Angeles 1991, instead of playing the RANKING and letting the AVERAGE go up by erasing her 1990 results in those events (which were not that good), had not Gaby played those events there was no way Monica or Graf been number one the weeks prior to the Usopen.

In counter part had the post 1996 Ranking system being played at the time and Gaby would have been number one after Los Angeles 1991.

I showed this two arguments to LDVTennis and Calimero not too long ago in a Graf forum.
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Sabatini vs Martinez ?
Seasons in the top ten: Sabatini 10 Conchita 9
Straight Seasons in the top ten: Sabatini 10 Conchita 6
Seasons in the top 5: Sabatini 6 Conchita 5
Straight seasons in the top 5: Sabatini 6 Conchita 4
Tier II and above titles
Sabatini 24 Martinez 17
Record at the Masters
Sabatini has 2 titles 2 Runner up and 3 SF
Martinez has 0 titles, 0 RU, and 0 Sf
Record against the best players
Sabatini 40% Martinez 21%
Head to Head
Sabatini leads 9-6 over Martinez
FWTT Hard 111(111 + ny)Carpet 104(104 + ny)Clay 107(107 + 4) Grass 100(100 ny)
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Old May 18th, 2008, 08:23 AM   #13
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

Sabatini, undoubtedly.
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Old May 18th, 2008, 11:02 AM   #14
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

In Singles it's Sabatini, no question. Twice the years in Top 5 and a lot more Grand Slam SFs - it gives her the edge. However, if singles and doubles together are considered then the vote goes to Novotna (my personal favorite of the two).
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Old May 18th, 2008, 12:19 PM   #15
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Re: Who was the better player: Gabriela Sabatini or Jana Novotna?.

Gaby, undoubtably. Doubles are cool and everything, but I dont think they are important when comparing two players. Given a choice, 99% players would pick a singles GS over 10 in doubles. Gaby had a better singles career and had a much tougher competition than Jana. She was a much bigger threat to the three top players of her time (Graf,Seles and Navratilova) than Jana ever was.
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