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NeverWoz
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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.

-----------------------------------

Courtesy of The Boiled Egg in GM.

I thought this was really interesting, considering people have tried making thier own systems before, using only GS's. Using doubles and singles titles IMO creates a very accurate list.
 

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"I hate it when they compare champions"- Chris Evert
 

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The point values are not as balanced as in my "Greatness-O-Meter", (too much for doubles)but their top 3 are in the same order that Greatness-O-Meter points put them.
 

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Thanks for sharing, Andrew. Definitely an interesting perspective. He gets bonus points for finally giving Rev. Madge her due.
 

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Both very interesting articles but in the long run each is just another one person's opinion.

From my own perspective, while I love statistics and seeing how lists work out I just don't think applying a points system can be conclusive in any way. From the outset there is subjectivity as to what values you award.

No disrespect to my American friends but I generally find when one of your countrymen produces "lists" there is always a bias towards American players, perhaps sometimes subconciously, which is why I am greatly impressed with the Raymond Lee article which I find inherently fair. (Although maybe I am wrong and Mr Lee is not American?!).

The only quibble I would have is that while Lindsay Davenport was/is one of my favourite players of later years she really should not feature seriously IMO in any list of the all time greats.
 

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Interesting article and point of view; I only disagree about giving 3 points to any tournament other than the Slams, I think YEC deserves some extra point compared to the regular Tour tournaments.
 

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Interesting article and point of view; I only disagree about giving 3 points to any tournament other than the Slams, I think YEC deserves some extra point compared to the regular Tour tournaments.
And to put Tier I, Tier II in the same line with Tier III and Tier IV is beyond ridiculous :rolleyes:
 

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I've been a tennis fan for 21 years, and I watched soooooooooooo many matches through out those years. Steffi Graf is the greatest ever, all the grand slams and titles she won speak for her, but she provided tennis fans with so many amazing matches, it was really fun to watch her play, I can't remember how many times i thought she was going to lose and she ended up winning. not so many players has that will and mental power. to be fair Dinara safina has that too :)and yah one thing that separated Steffi Graf from her rivals: she was not a drama queen!
 

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IMO M.Court and M.Navratilova are the greatest players ever. Graf's career was definitely influenced by the stabbing, the extend is debatable but nobody can deny the impact. Hingis had one good year - when Seles and Graf were injured. Connolly's and Evert's record in terms of consistency can hardly be passed and Evert missed a lot of French and Australian Opens in the 70s. Capriati? I'm still wondering how someone with so few tournament titles became a number 1. Evert is right: Don't compare champions. Cause one thing is for sure: There isn't one single player who's the best in ANY area.
 

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Yes it is a great article. I like the idea of including doubles but this list does have it's flaws. The doubles results are still given too little credit, non-slam titles should be divided into YEC/I/II/III/IV, and points should be given for slam RU'S/SF/QF. Obviously it's very difficult to get a perfectly accurate list as there are so many things to take into consideration.



The only quibble I would have is that while Lindsay Davenport was/is one of my favourite players of later years she really should not feature seriously IMO in any list of the all time greats.
Of course she should. She has been a model of consistency in the modern game, in singles and doubles. Her 55 singles titles and 37 doubles titles add up to a total of 92 WTA titles- few others have numbers like that.
 

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Only thing about that is the Williams sisters doubles points. They didn't play much doubles together in the last 5 years. If you could calculate their abilities particularly at Wimbledon where they are awesome in how many pts they would acheive. To me, they are the best doubles team on grass.
 

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Some people find it conviently to leave singles and doubles out like RKM you do not have to insult a player to get your own player above. Martina could play from the back court luckily for us she found this boring. Some of us have followed tennis fom the seventies and some follow it since the William sisters do you think all these people old and young draw the same conclusion? I do'nt think so.
 

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"I hate it when they compare champions"- Chris Evert
+1

Another quote from Johan Cruyff, it's about football (soccer), but when I first read it I immediately thought about the endless talk about GOAT in tennis.
I totally agree with him.

"Beyond the fact that comparisons are always odious, how can you say categorically that one is better or worse? If in addition they are not even from the same era, so not the same soccer ?" - Johan Cruyff.
 

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Here is another way to determine who is the greatest player ever (well, of the Open era)... in a tournament where you decide! Vote here:

http://www.netbrawl.com/bracket.php?bracketid=234
An exercise like this while noble in its intent is really a waste of time. In the end the player with the biggest fan base will win.

One glaring omission is the fact that it doesn't take surface into account. In many match-ups I would nominate a different winner depending on what surface it was played on.
 

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Doubles only for earning money.don't count both doubles and mixed doubles. Steffi is best ever,because of,firstly leave stats,lady's tennis became popular world wide because of her,no player has more weapons like her.graf has the god's forehand,backhand slice,powerful service,best footwork,rallies,drops etc!.if you say about stabbing,then i say about her dad problems in 90.at the time seles became no.1,because of graf never play as usual.and seles is grunting.in case of navi,she played until 39 years and won title when rivals are weak/too young/old.martina is very lucky like federer.shes really selfish bitch behind the mask.even her service is weak and only works for vallies,but steffi has better game at all.clearly,billie jean king said that if you consider both singles and doubles,then martina is no.1 and if you consider singles only,then steffi is no.1. I hate to discuss more about goat polls.
Please learn how to write a proper sentence.
 

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Please learn how to write a proper sentence.
oh sorry,sorry.i'm too lazy to typing,but not now!

what points i like to say:
1)Don't consider doubles statistics or any achievemets at the point of 'who is greatest',because for me,doubles made for professional tennis players.I mean every player can't become a champion,but they come to tennis(sport) as a professional.So that ITF should save them for living.and then doubles invented.
Unfortunately singles champs also come here and reduce the benefits of doubles' champions.

2)why i like to say Steffi is greatest:

Other side of statistics,Steffi played the most beautiful tennis.Her playing style is unique and we can findout who is playing oncourt without watching her face.we can easily findout her even we are standing far to court.and tennis became popular because of Graf.even pete sampras also said the same.

Her speciality:
->God's forehand
->Backhand slice
->High tossed powerful service
->Best footwork
->also good at rallies,volleys,drops...etc!

3)why not navratilova:
Definitly she's one of the greatest players,but not no.1.
She won 167 singles titles,but played until 39 years.
*won 9 wimbledons ,here only one wimbledon is impressive,its against c.evert.
and in 90 wimbledon,Steffi never played as usual,she suffers from her dad scandal.Once visit her semis match.
*Martina avoids play Steffi on clay courts after losing in 87 fo final.
*If she is greatest,she shouldn't lost in that way in 88 wimbledon final.
*Martina is single and she has more freedom than married women.so that she retired in 94 at age 39 and coming again in doubles after some years.
*The beautiful game of her is only serve and volley,but Graf is good at everywhere.
*she won 18 grandslams only even she played until 39.
*Once she said that 'Steffi is the best all-around player of all-time regardless of surfaces' in 1996

4)Seles stabbing:

We really sorry for the incident.who can support gunther?
but also consider these points please,
*Steffi never play as usual in beginning of 90s ,because of dad scandal.At the time she lost many matches and top rank to seles.
*She beats Seles two out of two matches in 91,even she participated in minimal no.of tourneys.
*In 92 fo final,Steffi impressed more than the winner Seles, with her game.Some bad points killed her voctory.
*Graf revenged her in 92 wimbledon final also.
*In 93 ao final,Graf lost concentration by the bad call from umpire,but she didn't behave like hingis.
After the match she became stronger like before at the time of hamburg and she's near to top rank..Unfortunately seles was stabbed.
+She won next 4 slams,but there is no change at wimbledon us,ao even seles didn't stabbed.
*In 94 Graf lost many matches to other players.it's one of worst years for her.
*95,96 both years' are pure victories like 88,89.
*If someone called her knife no.1,then please let me ask some questions!
->is Seles grunting no.1? OR No.1 when Graf absent with dad scandals?

So,don't judge someone without knowing complete info.


Don't make GOAT polls,we all are happy,if we consider players like,

Martina and Evert are heroes of 80s.
Graf and Seles for 90s.Williams and Henin for 00s.

still you like to ask who is greatest,
my list is here,

1)Steffi Graf
2)Martina Navratilova
3)Helen Wills Moody
4)Chris Evert
5)Monica Seles
6)Billie Jean King
7)M.Connoly
8)S.Lenglen
9)Henin/Serena/Venus
10)M.Hingis
 
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