Physicist's ranking of greatest Open Era players doesn't add up
There's nothing like a really strange list to get the tennis community up in arms. You know, the one that ranks Roger Federer No. 7 since the onset of the Open Era (1968). One's immediate impulse to create a more authentic list -- and I'll admit, I can't resist the temptation.
The debate was rekindled in a study recently published in the
Unfortunately for Mr. Radicchi, his findings come off as the tennis equivalent of statistical claims that Derek Jeter is a lousy shortstop, or that Kobe Bryant is a poor shooter in the clutch.
But before going further, here's the outcome of his mathematical study:
1. Jimmy Connors
Right off the bat, you're outraged.
Lendl, Vilas and Edberg ahead of Federer: Impossible. Radicchi notes that "players who have yet to retire are penalized with respect to those who have ended their careers," but how can you possibly claim, by any measure, that these guys had more "important victories" than Federer?
Vilas ahead of Borg, who simply dominated him on his favorite surface (clay): Difficult to fathom.
Gottfried at No. 13: And in football, Icky Woods ahead of Jim Brown.
Eddie Dibbs and Harold Solomon, who did their best to put everyone to sleep, ahead of Nadal, Rosewall and Newcombe: Amazing.
Nadal was listed to have scored only 21 victories "against very good players" in his career to date (compared to Vilas' 93). That's just astoundingly wrong.
Raul Ramirez. I'm pretty much speechless now.
Let me step in here to offer the opinions of some real experts. During some down time at the 2006 U.S. Open, I asked Bud Collins, Steve Flink and Joel Drucker -- writers and historians of the highest order -- to rank their all-time top 10. This was only a couple of days after Agassi announced his retirement, and it was determined that current players (Federer, Nadal) would be exempt from the lists, since their accomplishments were ongoing.
Removing their choices from the pre-Open Era days, here's how they voted:
For my choices, I'm going to include active players. It would be the list as it stands at this very moment. I don't think there's any point going past the top 20 in the Open Era. I'm very big on reputation within the game, and performances at the majors. I'll start from the bottom, believing each new name has a slight edge on the last: