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http://www.tennisone.com/Larson/Larsonnews.home.htm
by Bob Larson

Excuses, Excuses
How often have you heard it: "Hingis was only a transitional #1." "Graf only won all those Slams because Seles was stabbed." "Sanchez-Vicario only won all those Slams because Seles was stabbed." "Evert only won all those Slams because Navratilova was too unfit/too young/too unstable/too whatever...."

All these arguments have some merit -- but the best player is always measured against her competition. Would (say) Billie Jean King, wood racquet and all, be able to beat Lindsay Davenport on a modern hardcourt? It seems most unlikely. Grass, maybe. Hardcourt -- nah. Would Monica Seles, had she not been stabbed, have bumped Steffi Graf into oblivion? It seems unlikely, given that Graf already had 11 Slams by then.

Similarly, to say that Martina Hingis was a "transitional" player between Graf and Venus Williams ignores the fact that, for all you can prove from results so far, it is not Hingis but Venus who is transitional: Venus was the transitional player between Hingis's falling apart with injuries and the rise to the top of Serena Williams.

Everything depends on something else. If Graf had still been at the top of her game in 1997, then Hingis might not have been -- but if Graf had still been on top in 1997, it might be because she hadn't used herself up so thoroughly in 1988-1989. Who can say? It's all hypothetical anyway.

So we thought we'd try something. Suppose, for the sake of the argument, that all the top players had "freak" years -- years in which some funny circumstance allowed them to have exceptional results. Suppose we took away those freak years. How does it affect their status?

This, of course, gets tricky, because it assumes we can somehow grade players across eras. And it is our firm opinion that you can't grade players that way. Can't be done. Not possible. There are too many variables. Surfaces. Number of years since the start of the Open Era. Number of tournaments. Ranking system. Even the emigration laws of the various countries hosting tournaments. But we're going to produce a formula, arbitrarily and by fiat, and crank the data, and see what happens.

We had hoped to examine all past #1 players or players with four or more Slams in the Open Era. But it's not possible; the WTA data is too inaccurate for early players (up to and including Goolagong). So our list omits Court, King and Goolagong; we will look at Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and Hana Mandlikova. Just to give a couple of extra references, we will throw in the top doubles players of recent years (Natasha Zvereva, Gigi Fernandez, Helena Sukova, Pam Shriver, Jana Novotna). We will examine all data through Wimbledon of this year.

We will count both singles and doubles, while giving much greater weight to singles. Here are the criteria we propose to use (and you can crank your own formulae if you like; we'll give you the data):

Singles Slam win: 10 points
Singles title other than Slam: 3 points
Doubles Slam win: 4 points
Doubles title other than Slam: 1 point
Year-end rankings: 5 for each year-end #1, 3 for #2, 2 for #3, 1 for #4.
BONUS: Grand Slam in Singles: 5 points
BONUS: Grand Slam in Doubles: 3 points
BONUS: Highest singles ranking reached: 5 points for #1, 3 for #2; 1 for #3
BONUS: For reaching #1 in doubles: 3 points

Note: In utter frustration at the WTA's treatment of Seles, we're going to give her 0 points for her 1995 ranking but 4 for her 1996 ranking. Events which bear no points (Olympics, Fed Cup, Hopman Cup, Grand Slam Cup) are not included.

First, here is the data we use to compile the above results:


Player.....SSla STit DSla DTit YERa GSs BeRank D#1
Austin........2...29....0....4....9.........1
Capriati......3...12....0....1....5.........1
Davenport.....3...37....3...35...18.........1....Y
Evert........18..154....3...32...50.........1
Fernandez.....0....3...17...68....0.......>10....Y
Graf.........22..106....1...11...48..Sing...1
Hingis........5...40....9...37...20..Doub...1....Y
Mandlikova....4...27....1...15....6.........3
Navratilova..18..167...31..171...57..Doub...1....Y
Novotna.......1...24...12...76....8.........2....Y
Sanchez-Vic...4...29....6...64...13.........1....Y
Seles.........9...52....0....6...18.........1
Shriver.......0...21...21..106....4..Doub...3....Y
Sukova........0...10....9...68....0.........4....Y
WilliamsS.....6...22....6...10....5.........1
WilliamsV.....4...27....6....9....9.........1
Zvereva.......0....4...18...80....0.........5....Y

Key: "SSla" = Singles Slams won, "STit" = Singles titles won, "DSla" = Doubles Slams won, "DTit" = Doubles titles won; "YERa" = Year-end rank (calculation of "value" based on formula above); "GSs" = Disciplines in which won a Grand Slam; "BeRank" = Best career (singles) ranking; "D#1" = Doubles #1

Applying the formula, we get the following points for each player:


Player......SingPts..DubPts...Total
Austin..........115.......4.....119
Capriati.........67.......1......68
Davenport.......155......47.....202
Evert...........643......41.....684
Fernandez.........9.....122.....131
Graf............530......14.....544
Hingis..........180......70.....250
Mandlikova......116......18.....134
Navratilova.....689.....270.....959
Novotna..........90.....115.....205
Sanchez-Vic.....133......85.....218
Seles...........242.......6.....248
Shriver..........68.....175.....243
Sukova...........30......98.....128
WilliamsS.......118......28.....146
WilliamsV.......123......27.....150
Zvereva..........12.....137.....149

The first column of numbers shows the points the player earned for singles; the second, her points for doubles; the third is the total points.

Sorting this based on total points, we get:


Player......SingPts..DubPts...Total
Navratilova.....689.....270.....959
Evert...........643......41.....684
Graf............530......14.....544
Hingis..........180......70.....250
Seles...........242.......6.....248
Shriver..........68.....175.....243
Sanchez-Vic.....133......85.....218
Novotna..........90.....115.....205
Davenport.......155......47.....202
WilliamsV.......123......27.....150
Zvereva..........12.....137.....149
WilliamsS.......118......28.....146
Mandlikova......116......18.....134
Fernandez.........9.....122.....131
Sukova...........30......98.....128
Austin..........115.......4.....119
Capriati.........67.......1......68

I.e., combining singles and doubles, Navratilova is our strongest player and Capriati our weakest.

As a footnote, since she might become #1 this week, Kim Clijsters currently has a total of 48 singles points and 15 doubles points (total of 63 points); she may pass Capriati this year even if she doesn't win a Slam! (In fact, she might do it this week if she wins San Diego and becomes #1. Though, if we could, we'd be tempted to discount her doubles results in this Hingis-less, Novotna-less, Williams-less year.) Her best year is of course this year, with 15 singles and 11 doubles points.

For those who wish to separate singles and doubles, here are the rankings based on singles only (if you wonder why Navratilova comes out so strong, it's that her huge edge in total titles offsets Graf's slight lead in total Slams. This is also why Hingis still leads Serena. A different formula, stressing Slams more and titles less, might have changed this.):


Player......SingPts..DubPts...Total
Navratilova.....689.....270.....959
Evert...........643......41.....684
Graf............530......14.....544
Seles...........242.......6.....248
Hingis..........180......70.....250
Davenport.......155......47.....202
Sanchez-Vic.....133......85.....218
WilliamsV.......123......27.....150
WilliamsS.......118......28.....146
Mandlikova......116......18.....134
Austin..........115.......4.....119
Novotna..........90.....115.....205
Shriver..........68.....175.....243
Capriati.........67.......1......68
Sukova...........30......98.....128
Zvereva..........12.....137.....149
Fernandez.........9.....122.....131

Not surprisingly, the doubles specialists fall to the bottom -- though it's interesting to see that Novotna's unspectacular-but-solid career outshines Capriati's one year of brilliance.

Just for completeness, let's sort based on the doubles, too.


Player......SingPts..DubPts...Total
Navratilova.....689.....270.....959
Shriver..........68.....175.....243
Zvereva..........12.....137.....149
Fernandez.........9.....122.....131
Novotna..........90.....115.....205
Sukova...........30......98.....128
Sanchez-Vic.....133......85.....218
Hingis..........180......70.....250
Davenport.......155......47.....202
Evert...........643......41.....684
WilliamsS.......118......28.....146
WilliamsV.......123......27.....150
Mandlikova......116......18.....134
Graf............530......14.....544
Seles...........242.......6.....248
Austin..........115.......4.....119
Capriati.........67.......1......68

Obviously Navratilova wins this. That was predictable; while there may be debate over the best singles player of all time, there can't be any real doubt about the best doubles player. The genuinely interesting thing here (if you ignore how weak Capriati is) is Hingis's number. On the numbers, Hingis looks like she could have threatened Zvereva on the "career greatness" scale, and might even pass Shriver; if she were to become a doubles specialist (and we remain convinced she could play doubles, even if she can't play singles), her numbers project out second only to Navratilova's!

But this is all a mathematical game, and not the point. We're looking at which players benefited most from a particular year. But we're out of space for today; that will have to wait for next time.
 
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Very interesting.... shows just how overrated Jen is and Kim can become!
 

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where are players pre 68?
 

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irma said:
where are players pre 68?
Due to the bad administration back then, he couldn´t come with exact numbers of that era.
 

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oke I only looked at the stats
 

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sunset said:
that was an interesting article, thanks TBE :)
Yes, very cool!
 

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Interesting read, but someone really has too much time on his hands..
 

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Considering how little the sisters have played/ are playing they sit pretty high on the list already.....fully expect them to keep rising too!

Too bad he doesn´t give points for winning all four slams, regardless if they were in the same year.
 

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Great read, really interesting, thanks! I enjoyed his theory, certainly some validity to it.
 

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That is a VERY interesting list, and even with the much lower rate given to doubles, it's surprising to see Shriver/Zvereva up there, proving they had nice singles careers too.


Seeing Evert higher then Graf is abit surprising, but Evert racked up a lot of titles. Seles' doubles results (lack thereof) really hurt her ranking, but it proves how amazing she was in singles to be up at #5 overall with only 6 doubles points. Hingis' numbers are interesting too, proving she wasn't "transitional" at all.
 

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I am OK WITH Navratilova :hearts:as the GREATEST player ever (Anyone but Steffi would do ) ;)

I am OK with Seles :hearts: :worship: at # 4 (with an * next to her name) and Graf at # 3 (with a double * next to her name ) too

Thanks for the article !
 

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he really does have too much time on his hands! :rolleyes:
i can never dispute that navratilova is the greatest doubles tennis player of all time, but i find it hard to reconcile her as the greatest in singles. it's the same scenario as with the men - offer me the career of sampras or agassi and i'll take andre's every time. i want to retire, look through my trophy cabinet and see at least one there from all 4 majors. if i'm martina, i see a fantastic array of trophies and titles, testament to my great domination in many eras, but i see no olympic golds and i'm reminded that for each and every one of the 30 or so years i played the game, i never once managed to win all 4 majors to myself in one season - i had to share, was beaten at the last hurdle, blew it at the first, lost it at the french. now steffi on the other hand...... :worship:
 

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steffilover said:
he really does have too much time on his hands! :rolleyes:
i can never dispute that navratilova is the greatest doubles tennis player of all time, but i find it hard to reconcile her as the greatest in singles. it's the same scenario as with the men - offer me the career of sampras or agassi and i'll take andre's every time. i want to retire, look through my trophy cabinet and see at least one there from all 4 majors. if i'm martina, i see a fantastic array of trophies and titles, testament to my great domination in many eras, but i see no olympic golds and i'm reminded that for each and every one of the 30 or so years i played the game, i never once managed to win all 4 majors to myself in one season - i had to share, was beaten at the last hurdle, blew it at the first, lost it at the french. now steffi on the other hand...... :worship:
:rolleyes:
 

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Thanks for posting this....it must be the season for "The greatest ever" discussions (again)...........As this analysis shows, Chris Evert is often unjustifiably overshadowed by Graf........... (and I like the fact that she is mid way in the doubles!)
 

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I think it's an interesting look at the issue, but I would enhance it by giving additional points for winning doubles with various partners...

IMO Shriver was lucky to hook up with Martina N. early on, so her doubles titles shouldn't worth as much as someone like Martina H....
 

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Wow what a bunch of bullshit.

This, of course, gets tricky, because it assumes we can somehow grade players across eras. And it is our firm opinion that you can't grade players that way. Can't be done. Not possible. There are too many variables. Surfaces. Number of years since the start of the Open Era. Number of tournaments. Ranking system. Even the emigration laws of the various countries hosting tournaments. But we're going to produce a formula, arbitrarily and by fiat, and crank the data, and see what happens.
First he says such a comparison cannot be made. Which it cannot. Like the said there are too many variables. However then he goes on and does it anyway. Is the man an idiot? Yes.
 

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TheBoiledEgg said:
Obviously Navratilova wins this. ...layer.[/QUOTE] There isn't. Margaret Court.
 

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i always knew that Hingis was under-appreciated! :worship:

lovely article. thanks for posting it TBE. :kiss:
 
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