Saturday, July 14, 2007

Throwing my hat into the GOAT debate

A hectic work week has slowed me down from making some posts, but I'm back; right on time for some good ol' debatin'!

In what is the most obvious no-brainer of all time, Pete Sampras is going into the Hall of Fame today, along with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (well done, Barcelona Bumblebee!), Sven Davidson and Russ Adams. But truly the day really belongs to the Pistol.

With Federer winning his fifth Wimbledon title in a row and all the talk about him being the greatest ever, I'm actually gonna go out and say I'm still gonna give the nod to Pete. (And I'm not even that big a Pete fan; I've always been an Agassi guy.) And while R-Fed probably will break all of Pete's records, unless he shatters them, say 20 Slams to Pete's 14, then he'll come up second best in my mind.

The main reason I say this is because what Pete has going for him is the level of competition he faced, which dwarfs Federer's in a big way. I took a look at the top 25 rankings on the ATP tour 10 years ago the week after Sampras won his fourth Wimbledon and compared the guys among the elite to the ones now. In 1997, all but four of the top 25 had made or would go on to make at least one Grand Slam final in their careers. The top 10 then was ridiculous: Sampras, Chang, Ivanisevic, Muster, Kafelnikov, Corretja, Bruguera, Enqvist, Rios and Moya. Kuerten and Rafter, two future number ones, hadn't even made it to that point yet. And what about Andre? He was starting his descent to the famous 141 in the world by then.

As for Federer's top 25, only 10 have made Slam finals to this point (and one of them is Moya!) You can say that Federer just has the game on lock right now (with Nadal as the only one really offering a challenge). But for Pete, every late stage of a tournament he was playing, he was taking out guys with Hall of Fame-worthy careers. I think it's still going to take a while for some of the guys Federer is playing to mount a challenge to him at a Slam, which says something both about the ability of the guys he's playing and (a positive nod) to his ability.

Anyway, the level of competition seals the deal for me in the Sampras-Roger debate.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Tennis today kind of reminds me of the lyrics from the song from The Graduate "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns it's loneley eyes to you." Back then, tennis was great. It had taken the nation by storm. Until tennis can gain that statue again, todays stars or greats will never be as good as the players of yesteryear. The competion is just not there anymore.

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