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Alternative Slam Count
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jhar26 Offline
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Alternative Slam Count
Since tennis history of the majors on the womens side has been much less affected by the fact that professionals weren't allowed to compete we can more or less take a look at whoever won the big four to see who are the best players in history. Of course there are always things like Lenglen turning pro at 26, the interference of two world wars, Court winning 11 AO when many of her fellow greats were missing in action, Evert not competing in three FO and lots of AO in the 70's, and so on that prevent it from being 100% objective. But it's safe to say that the slam count on the womens side gives at least a somewhat dependable idea of who the best players in history are.

On the mens side though the pre-open era is a complete mess. But let's not forget that there were three professional majors before 1968 - the US pro tennis championships, the Wembley Championship and the French pro Championship. The results of these are now ignored when it comes to adding up the majors that players have won, even though they would more often than not have produced the more likely winners of "the real" slams if professionals had been allowed to compete. I know that this is a highly flawed theory and that some of the amateurs would probably have won some of the majors that they did win even if the pro's had been there. But it's still less flawed than taking a look at the names of the winners of "the official" slams and accepting those players as the best of their time.

So here's what I tried to do out of personal curiosity, but perhaps some of you might find it interesting as well. I just added up any pre-open players number of official slam wins with those they may have won in the pro ranks. This is of course highly controversial since it means that there were up to seven slam titles available each year. But it was the lesser of two evils because if I had only considered the winners of the pro slams it would have meant only a maximum of three slams per year and entirely ignoring the achievements of a guy like Roy Emerson.

-1 KEN ROSEWALL...23 *
-2 ROD LAVER...19 *
-3 ROGER FEDERER...17


-4 Pete Sampras...14
-" Pancho Gonzalez...14
-" Bill Tilden...14
-7 Roy Emerson...12
-8 Bjorn Borg...11
-" Rafael Nadal...11
10 Fred Perry...10
"" Don Budge...10


12 Jimmy Connors...8
"" Ivan Lendl...8
"" Andre Agassi...8
"" Ellsworth Vines...8
16 John Newcombe...7
"" John McEnroe...7
"" Mats Wilander...7
"" Henri Cochet...7
"" William Larned...7
"" Renà Lacoste...7
"" William Renshaw...7
"" Richard Sears...7
"" Tony Trabert...7
"" Frank Sedgman...7
26 Novak Djokovic...6
"" Boris Becker...6
"" Stefan Edberg...6
"" Jack Crawford...6
"" Tony Wilding...6
"" Laurence Doherty...6
"" Bobby Riggs...6
33 Jack Kramer...5

* The number of slam titles by one or the other or both may be just a bit inflated since in the early 60's Laver was winning amateur slams all over the place while Rosewell was doing the same thing with the pro's. If they both had played on the same circuit something would obviously had had to give.

Sorry for any possible mistakes I might have made. Smile
19-Apr-2013 06:41 AM
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britbox Offline
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RE: Alternative Slam Count
(19-Apr-2013 06:41 AM)jhar26 Wrote:  Since tennis history of the majors on the womens side has been much less affected by the fact that professionals weren't allowed to compete we can more or less take a look at whoever won the big four to see who are the best players in history. Of course there are always things like Lenglen turning pro at 26, the interference of two world wars, Court winning 11 AO when many of her fellow greats were missing in action, Evert not competing in three FO and lots of AO in the 70's, and so on that prevent it from being 100% objective. But it's safe to say that the slam count on the womens side gives at least a somewhat dependable idea of who the best players in history are.

On the mens side though the pre-open era is a complete mess. But let's not forget that there were three professional majors before 1968 - the US pro tennis championships, the Wembley Championship and the French pro Championship. The results of these are now ignored when it comes to adding up the majors that players have won, even though they would more often than not have produced the more likely winners of "the real" slams if professionals had been allowed to compete. I know that this is a highly flawed theory and that some of the amateurs would probably have won some of the majors that they did win even if the pro's had been there. But it's still less flawed than taking a look at the names of the winners of "the official" slams and accepting those players as the best of their time.

So here's what I tried to do out of personal curiosity, but perhaps some of you might find it interesting as well. I just added up any pre-open players number of official slam wins with those they may have won in the pro ranks. This is of course highly controversial since it means that there were up to seven slam titles available each year. But it was the lesser of two evils because if I had only considered the winners of the pro slams it would have meant only a maximum of three slams per year and entirely ignoring the achievements of a guy like Roy Emerson.

-1 KEN ROSEWALL...23 *
-2 ROD LAVER...19 *
-3 ROGER FEDERER...17


-4 Pete Sampras...14
-" Pancho Gonzalez...14
-" Bill Tilden...14
-7 Roy Emerson...12
-8 Bjorn Borg...11
-" Rafael Nadal...11
10 Fred Perry...10
"" Don Budge...10


12 Jimmy Connors...8
"" Ivan Lendl...8
"" Andre Agassi...8
"" Ellsworth Vines...8
16 John Newcombe...7
"" John McEnroe...7
"" Mats Wilander...7
"" Henri Cochet...7
"" William Larned...7
"" Renà Lacoste...7
"" William Renshaw...7
"" Richard Sears...7
"" Tony Trabert...7
"" Frank Sedgman...7
26 Novak Djokovic...6
"" Boris Becker...6
"" Stefan Edberg...6
"" Jack Crawford...6
"" Tony Wilding...6
"" Laurence Doherty...6
"" Bobby Riggs...6
33 Jack Kramer...5

* The number of slam titles by one or the other or both may be just a bit inflated since in the early 60's Laver was winning amateur slams all over the place while Rosewell was doing the same thing with the pro's. If they both had played on the same circuit something would obviously had had to give.

Sorry for any possible mistakes I might have made. Smile

Highly controversial indeed!

If you are allowing players in the pre-open era to share seven slams then it dilutes them surely?

I've looked at various takes on what constitutes a "slam" when you weigh in the split pro/amateur era and come to the conclusion that there are deep flaws with all methods.

For instance, in some samples, people have only counted "pro slams" as being valid in the split era. This is nonsense as there were sometimes only 12 or 16 people competing. Compare that with 128 in the modern era + all the qualifiers beforehand. Also, in that framework, guys like (a then unseeded) Boris Becker would never have been rewarded with a Wimbledon title.

Others have dismissed Australian Open titles and done a comparison across the board. This is also deeply flawed as in the modern era, the Australian Open is equally valid as any other.

No way, any of the players mentioned would have won their full lot if the amateur/pro field had been combined - which renders your argument deeply flawed.

There is no correct argument - but in most theories, Rosewall does top the list for majors, usually followed by Federer.
19-Apr-2013 09:07 AM
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jhar26 Offline
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RE: Alternative Slam Count
(19-Apr-2013 09:07 AM)britbox Wrote:  
(19-Apr-2013 06:41 AM)jhar26 Wrote:  Since tennis history of the majors on the womens side has been much less affected by the fact that professionals weren't allowed to compete we can more or less take a look at whoever won the big four to see who are the best players in history. Of course there are always things like Lenglen turning pro at 26, the interference of two world wars, Court winning 11 AO when many of her fellow greats were missing in action, Evert not competing in three FO and lots of AO in the 70's, and so on that prevent it from being 100% objective. But it's safe to say that the slam count on the womens side gives at least a somewhat dependable idea of who the best players in history are.

On the mens side though the pre-open era is a complete mess. But let's not forget that there were three professional majors before 1968 - the US pro tennis championships, the Wembley Championship and the French pro Championship. The results of these are now ignored when it comes to adding up the majors that players have won, even though they would more often than not have produced the more likely winners of "the real" slams if professionals had been allowed to compete. I know that this is a highly flawed theory and that some of the amateurs would probably have won some of the majors that they did win even if the pro's had been there. But it's still less flawed than taking a look at the names of the winners of "the official" slams and accepting those players as the best of their time.

So here's what I tried to do out of personal curiosity, but perhaps some of you might find it interesting as well. I just added up any pre-open players number of official slam wins with those they may have won in the pro ranks. This is of course highly controversial since it means that there were up to seven slam titles available each year. But it was the lesser of two evils because if I had only considered the winners of the pro slams it would have meant only a maximum of three slams per year and entirely ignoring the achievements of a guy like Roy Emerson.

-1 KEN ROSEWALL...23 *
-2 ROD LAVER...19 *
-3 ROGER FEDERER...17


-4 Pete Sampras...14
-" Pancho Gonzalez...14
-" Bill Tilden...14
-7 Roy Emerson...12
-8 Bjorn Borg...11
-" Rafael Nadal...11
10 Fred Perry...10
"" Don Budge...10


12 Jimmy Connors...8
"" Ivan Lendl...8
"" Andre Agassi...8
"" Ellsworth Vines...8
16 John Newcombe...7
"" John McEnroe...7
"" Mats Wilander...7
"" Henri Cochet...7
"" William Larned...7
"" Renà Lacoste...7
"" William Renshaw...7
"" Richard Sears...7
"" Tony Trabert...7
"" Frank Sedgman...7
26 Novak Djokovic...6
"" Boris Becker...6
"" Stefan Edberg...6
"" Jack Crawford...6
"" Tony Wilding...6
"" Laurence Doherty...6
"" Bobby Riggs...6
33 Jack Kramer...5

* The number of slam titles by one or the other or both may be just a bit inflated since in the early 60's Laver was winning amateur slams all over the place while Rosewell was doing the same thing with the pro's. If they both had played on the same circuit something would obviously had had to give.

Sorry for any possible mistakes I might have made. Smile

Highly controversial indeed!

If you are allowing players in the pre-open era to share seven slams then it dilutes them surely?

I've looked at various takes on what constitutes a "slam" when you weigh in the split pro/amateur era and come to the conclusion that there are deep flaws with all methods.

For instance, in some samples, people have only counted "pro slams" as being valid in the split era. This is nonsense as there were sometimes only 12 or 16 people competing. Compare that with 128 in the modern era + all the qualifiers beforehand. Also, in that framework, guys like (a then unseeded) Boris Becker would never have been rewarded with a Wimbledon title.

Others have dismissed Australian Open titles and done a comparison across the board. This is also deeply flawed as in the modern era, the Australian Open is equally valid as any other.

No way, any of the players mentioned would have won their full lot if the amateur/pro field had been combined - which renders your argument deeply flawed.

There is no correct argument - but in most theories, Rosewall does top the list for majors, usually followed by Federer.
I know, and I admitted as much myself. Wink But as you say, there is no correct way of doing it.

What I find so remarkable is that Lew Hoad 'only' won four amateur slams and just the one professional slam, and only if you include the "tournament of champions" which was only staged for five years as a major - which I didn't do. Now four (or five) slam wins makes for a remarkable career by normal standards, but we're talking about one of the guys who is by many considered to be one of the very best in history - right up there with Laver, Federer, Rosewall, Gonzalez, Sampras and the like. For someone that good four slams puts him way below those guys. So I wonder on what his stellar reputation is based.
19-Apr-2013 09:50 AM
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britbox Offline
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RE: Alternative Slam Count
Hi jhar,

This is a good take. Again with deep flaws and now a few years out of date but an interesting read nevertheless. This guy used to post on tennis.com back in 06/07 and was a wealth of knowledge.

http://chaognosis.wordpress.com/2008/09/...unt-slams/
19-Apr-2013 10:00 AM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: Alternative Slam Count
(19-Apr-2013 09:50 AM)jhar26 Wrote:  What I find so remarkable is that Lew Hoad 'only' won four amateur slams and just the one professional slam, and only if you include the "tournament of champions" which was only staged for five years as a major - which I didn't do. Now four (or five) slam wins makes for a remarkable career by normal standards, but we're talking about one of the guys who is by many considered to be one of the very best in history - right up there with Laver, Federer, Rosewall, Gonzalez, Sampras and the like. For someone that good four slams puts him way below those guys. So I wonder on what his stellar reputation is based.

That's a good post. I think we run into the strange priorities of the old pro here. The professional slams weren't seen as being as prestigious as winning a 'real' slam, from which the professionals of course were excluded. So the pro player then went on a bizarre tour of competitive exhibitions with their main rivals and the odd tournament. The main aim was to be the best, and to make money. It wasn't huge money either.

Lew Hoad's rep is based upon his performances against the very best of his day. He more or less got to own all of them. He was formidable and he was the only player Pancho Gonzales (another putative goat) bowed down to. Other have said that Hoad beat Laver always when it mattered (kinda like Ralph and Wodger, but in black & white newsreel Tongue ).

Hoad also suffered a lot from injuries, which would have curtailed his career. But from contemporary accounts, his reputation is sterling-cast and unimpeachable as being one of the best players of them all...
19-Apr-2013 10:36 AM
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jhar26 Offline
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RE: Alternative Slam Count
(19-Apr-2013 10:00 AM)britbox Wrote:  Hi jhar,

This is a good take. Again with deep flaws and now a few years out of date but an interesting read nevertheless. This guy used to post on tennis.com back in 06/07 and was a wealth of knowledge.

http://chaognosis.wordpress.com/2008/09/...unt-slams/
Yes, I agree - interesting, although not entirely fair on Emerson or the AO champs. But there is no way to be fair really, but this is a good attempt.

(19-Apr-2013 10:36 AM)Kieran Wrote:  
(19-Apr-2013 09:50 AM)jhar26 Wrote:  What I find so remarkable is that Lew Hoad 'only' won four amateur slams and just the one professional slam, and only if you include the "tournament of champions" which was only staged for five years as a major - which I didn't do. Now four (or five) slam wins makes for a remarkable career by normal standards, but we're talking about one of the guys who is by many considered to be one of the very best in history - right up there with Laver, Federer, Rosewall, Gonzalez, Sampras and the like. For someone that good four slams puts him way below those guys. So I wonder on what his stellar reputation is based.

That's a good post. I think we run into the strange priorities of the old pro here. The professional slams weren't seen as being as prestigious as winning a 'real' slam, from which the professionals of course were excluded. So the pro player then went on a bizarre tour of competitive exhibitions with their main rivals and the odd tournament. The main aim was to be the best, and to make money. It wasn't huge money either.

Lew Hoad's rep is based upon his performances against the very best of his day. He more or less got to own all of them. He was formidable and he was the only player Pancho Gonzales (another putative goat) bowed down to. Other have said that Hoad beat Laver always when it mattered (kinda like Ralph and Wodger, but in black & white newsreel Tongue ).

Hoad also suffered a lot from injuries, which would have curtailed his career. But from contemporary accounts, his reputation is sterling-cast and unimpeachable as being one of the best players of them all...

I see. Strange that his reputation is for the most part based on exhibition matches, although I suppose these were treated far more seriously than today's exho's where everyone just clowns around a bit.
(This post was last modified: 19-Apr-2013 02:12 PM by jhar26.)
19-Apr-2013 02:07 PM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: Alternative Slam Count
(19-Apr-2013 02:07 PM)jhar26 Wrote:  I see. Strange that his reputation is for the most part based on exhibition matches, although I suppose these were treated far more seriously than today's exho's where everyone just clowns around a bit.

Exactky. In the old days, the top players would spin around the globe (planes, trains and autos) playing exhibition tournaments. Just looked this up on Hoad's Wiki page:

Quote:His first year as a pro was a series of head-to-head matches with the reigning king of professional tennis, Pancho Gonzales. Hoad won 18 of the first 27 matches, but Gonzales surged back to finally defeat Hoad by 51 matches to 36. Gonzales, whom some consider to be the greatest tennis player of all time, always maintained that Hoad was the toughest, most skilful adversary that he had ever faced. "He was the only guy who, if I was playing my best tennis, could still beat me," said Gonzales in a 1995 New York Times interview. "I think his game was the best game ever. Better than mine. He was capable of making more shots than anybody. His two volleys were great. His overhead was enormous. He had the most natural tennis mind with the most natural tennis physique."

Bizarre as it seems, these old boys played each other literally hundreds of times. And some of them would be proper exhibition stuff, but mostly it was fiercely competitive. This was how they decided who was the best: a series of straighteners...
19-Apr-2013 02:22 PM
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El Dude Offline
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RE: Alternative Slam Count
I think the only way to get a sense of the "real Slam counts" including pre-Open Era is to create a system, an abstract number. That way you're not giving equal value to different tournaments.

But of course if you really get into it then you have to give less value to the Open Era Australian Open, at least until the late 80s or so. So it becomes a matter of where you want to cut things off.

I created a "Slam Greatness Quotient" in which I gave 12 points for an Open Era Win, 5 points for a Final, 2 for a SF, and 1 for a QF. I dabbled with points for pre-Open Era and thought that the best quick way to do so would be to give equal points for pre-Open Era Slams and Pro Slams: 6/3/2/1, or something like that - or about half what an Open Era slam gets. Using that system, and without looking at really old players, I got the following rankings for the top 10 players of the post-WW II era:

285 Rosewall
263 Federer
238 Laver
204 Sampras
175 Lendl
173 Connors
167 Nadal
163 Borg
163 Agassi
155 Gonzales

I don't know if this works, but it works decently. I think that by any system we should come up with the same three players as the three greatest of all-time (or at least post-WWII): Rosewall, Laver, and Federer in some order. And I think the top ten above works pretty well. I like the fact that it doesn't include Roy Emerson, who using this system actually ranks just below the next group:

127 McEnroe
120 Edberg
116 Wilander
113 Newcombe
113 Becker
113 Djokovic
106 Emerson

I didn't check any of the "second tier" pre-Open Era greats like Hoad.

The biggest problem with this system is that data isn't always available, so it might be best to stick with wins and runners-up. I definitely prefer to go beyond just wins, though. Maybe that will be my next study.

Another thought is to create a Tennis Frontier system for ranking all-time greats. It would take time, a lot of discussion and negotiation, but might be fruitful. At the least what I can do is start another thread later today that presents the system I discussed above and asks for suggestions on how to amend or improve it, then go from there.
24-Apr-2013 07:30 AM
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jhar26 Offline
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RE: Alternative Slam Count
Well, I don't know if it's any use to you, but I'm currently trying for my own amusement to put a list together of the most accomplished women in tennis history. This is probably somewhat easier to do than for the men because the pre-open era wasn't affected as much by great players not competing on the same tour. My 'formula' is somewhat complicated and I try to be as fair as possible, although in the end it's something I aim for in the knowledge that it can't really be achieved. Still, for what it's worth, here's the points system I use....

Grand Slam tournaments
W: 16 points
RU: 10 points
SF: 6 points
QF: 3
4R: 1

Grand Slam Bonus Points:
20 for a calender year grand slam, 16 for four in a row but not the same year, 12 for a career grand slam, 8 for three in a row or three in one year, 4 for winning three of the four throughout a career.

YEC/Olympics
W/G: 10 points
RU/S: 6
SF/B: 3

Premier Mandatory/Premier5/Tier One (The equivalent of a masters 1000 on the mens side):
W: 4 points
RU: 2
SF: 1

Premier (Equivalent of masters 500):
W: 2 points
RU: 1

International/Tier three, four or five:
1 point for winning one

For non-slam/YEC tournament wins from before 1988 when the tier format got in place I give 2 points to a winner and 1 point to a runner up.

Year end rankings:
10 points for the number one, nine for the number two, and so on up until 1 point for the number ten.

For players from before the, say, mid 80's most of the data and stats I can find is incomplete. For players from the pre-open era it's always incomplete. Therefore I only consider the points collected from year end rankings and slams when comparing a player from, say, the 60's to a current one. And even though 99% of the time I will rank them according to the points system that I just presented, I've allowed myself a bit of liberty on some very rare occasions. Like for example: Sabatini's points total is bigger than Mandlikova's, but not by a huge margin. But considering that Mandikova won four majors as opposed to Sabatini's one I though it more logical to rank Hana ahead of Gaby. But I wouldn't have done it if the gap in points totals had really been huge.

Enough rambling from me. I don't know if it made any sense, but for what it's worth....Wink
24-Apr-2013 12:17 PM
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