The international tennis media and people who keep a close eye on the game love to make comparisons between current players and those that have gone before them, whether recently or much farther back, like to the...
The international tennis media and people who keep a close eye on the game love to make comparisons between current players and those that have gone before them, whether recently or much farther back, like to the start of the Open-era in 1968. Certainly it is a topic that creates so much interesting opinion and discussion. However, it is very difficult to make comparisons as the game is constantly evolving. Techniques change. Training and diet change and equipment changes all the time. There has been a lot of suggestion that the current crop of players at the top of men’s tennis is the greatest generation the modern game has seen. But is it? Do you feel that the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray (yes we will include him even though he has not won a major yet, but I believe he will) is the greatest generation tennis has seen? My long-time friend Ivan Lendl was part of one group of players who could certainly attest to such a title. He was about with John McEnroe Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander. Just a little before that there was Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and McEnroe. How do you spilt such phenomenal talent? “I think it’s impossible to compare generations,” Lendl said. “However, the top guys (now) dominate more so than any other generation in that they (top three) have won 27 of the last 28 Slams.” The current top four – Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray have finished in the top four of the rankings in 2008, ‘09, ‘10, ‘11, the last four years. Incredibly they are the only foursome to finish in the top four for four consecutive years in the history of the ATP World Tour rankings which came into being in August, 1973. The closest any group gets to them was McEnroe, Connors, Lendl and Wilander who were in the top four three years in a row. Tennis legend Ken Rosewall who transcended the amateur and open eras and I am boastful enough to say lives three streets away from me, agreed it is difficult to compare but makes it clear that “there is more depth now than ever before and there are more good players around now”. “Gee, when you consider others who’ve done well it’s pretty hard to say their time slot wasn’t as good as today’s guys,” Kenny said. “With all due respect to the players, I enjoyed the tennis before because of the variety. With all the changes of techniques and surfaces … lots of us oldies were not around when this sort of tennis was being played. Overall, the tennis of the latter days is better but we were restricted with equipment and technique. “It really is too difficult to compare. There’s the generation question if Rod Laver is the greatest of all time; he was one of the best. To put him in the league of today or (Pete) Sampras, I don’t know if Rod would feel comfortable. His record is hard to beat and we may never see that again, so it is hard to compare players of that era with players of today.” In part two of the story we hear from Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Roger Federer.