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Roger L. Simon

Wimbledon Report: Who’s the GOAT?

July 6th, 2014 - 9:24 pm

Fans love to debate who’s the GOAT — greatest of all time — in their favorite sports.  Mine are basketball and tennis and I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time surfing the ‘net reading posts evaluating the relative merits of Kobe, LeBron and Michael.  I’m an L.A. guy and am naturally biased for Kobe, but I realize LeBron and Michael may have greater claims.  Only Phil Jackson (aka Phil Jax) knows for sure. We’ll see next year.  Nevertheless, basketball is a team game and the answer to the question of the GOAT will always be elusive.

Not so tennis.  Not a team sport, it has evolved from a “gentleman’s game” into the ultimate mano-a-mano without boxing gloves.  Sunday’s spectacular Wimbledon final between  Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer was a case in point.  These two titans of the sport battled for nearly four  hours in an unrelenting struggle for tennis’ greatest prize, with Djokovic ultimately prevailing in five sets by the proverbial whisker.

We are in the Golden Age of Tennis.  Between Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Andy Murray, there has never been such high-level competition in the sport, nor has there been such an extraordinary level of fitness.  These guys rival NBA players and soccer stars in their ability to run and run, while at the same time striking the ball with incredible pace.  They are the best ever.

Who am I to say that?  Well, I have played and watched tennis devotedly since the age of six (64 years!) so I have a fair amount of experience with the sport.  I have seen everyone play from the era of Rocket Laver and Lew Hoad through Borg, McEnroe,  Becker, Sampras, Agassi, etc., etc.   I even saw the young (about 18) Jimmy Connors versus the aging (about 43) Pancho Gonzales in the finals of the now non-existent Pacific Southwest Tournament, played on the very court at the Los Angeles Tennis Club where I now try to avoid double-faulting on ad point several days a week (rotator cuff permitting).

So I’ve seen a lot of tennis, obviously, and, with some exceptions, the sport keeps getting better and better.

And who do I think is the GOAT?  Well, here I am going to get hooted down by a lot of tennis fans, but I have to say it is Novak Djokovic.  Yes, Federer and Nadal have more grand slam victories than he, but the game gets tougher and tougher, the competition steeper and steeper,  and since 2011 it is a different story.  Let’s look at the stats on the next page.

All Comments   (35)
All Comments   (35)
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I've watched tennis avidly, and played competitively, since the 60s. For decades, through all the marvelous talents who've had their time upon the stage, Rod remained my abiding hero. Yet only one player has left me feeling what even Laver could not -- that it was a downright privilege to have beheld him at his apogee. And that is Roger Federer. It's tough -- impossible for me -- to imagine any more aesthetically and athletically pleasing spectacle than this paradigm of grace, precision and inspiration executing his art. RF: the Nureyev of this wonderful game.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Rocket Rod Laver - no contest
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
So to me, the greatest is Roger, then Rafa.
Novak has to win 10 more slams to be the greatest
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's true that Djokovic has the best results since 2011. It's true that he sometimes displays a very high level of tennis.
But what about Roger and Rafa's results before 2011 (26 slams), do you just wipe them out?
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Federer is 32. He's won Wimbledon 7 times. He has 17 grand slam titles. For me he's the best historically. He's no longer 27-28. He still competes at a very high level.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is somewhat off subject, but I would suggest that the greatest innovation in tennis history was the invention and introduction of the Hawk Eye. We are able to enjoy masterpiece matches like the just completed Wimbledon final in no small measure to its use. I often wonder how different the behavior of the so called tennis "brats" of 30 years ago might have been if the Hawk Eye had been around then. One thing we have certainly learned is that the human eye is not a reliable instrument for making close calls.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Until Americans compete, not interested.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
As for basketball, Larry 'Legend' Bird.

Inside, outside the key - he was money. 3-pointers at nearly every spot - money. Getting his own rebounds, diving for the ball. Getting in the paint with bigger guys. Great chit talker. Played left-handed for fun and STILL scored 25+ points.. on the road!

His obvious love, dedication for the game was none the more apparent when he'd laid on the floor when on the bench because of his ailing back the last ~ 5 seasons of his playing career.

MJ was great. Truly.

Bird's rookie coaching season for the Pacers he's CoTY. After his 2nd season he walked away.

Legend..
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
All-round great player: Laver.

The guy could play on ANY surface. Awesome backhand. NEVER count him out because he could and did comeback often.

Let's not forget he won MANY tourneys after he'd gotten into his ahem, 'older years'.

Laver's all the more impressive because physically speaking, Laver wasn't intimidating looking.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
As well as Ken Rosewall, who made the US Open finals or semis at age 40 (think it was the finals). Have him be born in 1990, put the new equipment in his hands, and even at his brief stature he would beat many of the players on tour today.

About Lew Hoad, until he was seriously injured, he was considered perhaps the greatest talent ever.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Today's pro-tennis is really depressing when you compare how good today's players are with the incorrectness of their technique. Tennis used to be a sport where incorrect form could hold you back no matter your talent -- giving an advantage to people who could take lessons or would read books about correct technique, but not any more. Nobody anymore uses the techniques taught by my instructors and described in the many how-to-play-tennis books to be found in the library.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
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