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Post Info TOPIC: Greatest Players of All Time - according to Tennis Abstract

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RE: Greatest Players of All Time - according to Tennis Abstract

JonH comes home wrote:

Jeff is doing another series centred on 1973 - hes done 3 articles this week and many more are planned

For those like me who love tennis from that era, its interesting - no British players mentioned yet

 Jeffs 1973 series features a Brit this story , Mark Cox.


the story is about an event in Denver and the consequent WCT Finals line up. But the picture is taken from an iconic British tennis venue, much missed in my opinion! 


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A very British centric article in his 1973 series, this time about the Federation Cup and our loss to Romania, which was a major shock - article is called " A British Disgrace"

The Federation Cup barely registered on the packed tennis calendar. The international women's team competition was still relatively new: The ILTF launched it in 1963. The arrival of the Open era almost immediately shunted it to second-tier status, as the game's stars increasingly focused on prize money, none of which was available here.
1973 couldn't have driven the point home any more clearly. At the same time that women's teams from South Africa to Norway to Korea competed for the Cup, $100,000 was at stake in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Needless to say, plenty of stars were missing at the quaint, old-world club in Bad Homburg, Germany where the one-week event was held.
Virginia Wade, however, was always ready to wear the colors. She had played every installment of Federation Cup since 1967. She led the British squad to runner-up finishes in each of the previous two years, falling to the hosts--Australia in 1971, South Africa in 1972--each time. Aside from another Cup stalwart, Evonne Goolagong, Wade was the best player there.
She had extra motivation, as well. The British team was well-financed, with cash prizes for players who recorded wins. The arrangement was not entirely novel, but the fact that it became public--even discreetly--was rare.
The Brits knew there were no guarantees, especially if it came down to a final against Goolagong and the Aussies. But Wade's side had never, in a decade of Federation Cup play, failed to reach the semi-finals. With so much top-tier talent missing, anything less was unacceptable.
The 30-country field was whittled down to eight in a just a few days of best-of-three-match ties. Two nations didn't play at all: Poland refused to compete because of South Africa's participation, and Chile's team didn't show up at all. (It's possible they stayed home for the same reason.) There were few early surprises. The United States needed a deciding doubles rubber after an unknown Korean named Jeong Soon Yang upset Patti Hogan. But the Americans weren't expected to make a deep run anyway: The four-time champions were missing a football team's worth of stars. Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, and Nancy Gunter were at Hilton Head, and Chris Evert was finishing her senior year of high school.
On May 4th, Great Britain took on Romania in the quarter-finals. Romania was well-known for its exploits in the men's game: Ilie Nstase was arguably the best player in the world, and with Ion iriac, he had made his country a perennial Davis Cup contender. The women had no such résumé. Veteran Judith Gohn was no threat against someone like Wade, and unknowns Mariana Simionescu and Virginia Ruzici were 16 and 18 years old, respectively.
Embed from Getty Images
Simionescu (left) and Evert in 1980, when both were married to fellow tennis pros
Wade dispatched Gohn with ease, handing off the baton to Joyce (Barclay) Williams, a 28-year-old Scot who had reached the quarter-finals of the US Open two years earlier. Alas, the British number two had no way of preparing for this crucial rubber. Lance Tingay captured the youthful verve of Simionescu:
She exploded into action, this strong, jolly lass of only 16, who laughed when she hit winners, laughed when she had winners hit against her and laughed when she fell over. And what fine winners hers were!
Simionescu's forehand was "forked lightning," the best weapon off that wing of any of the women in Bad Homburg. While she was every bit as inconsistent as you'd expect of a hard-hitting, inexperienced teen, she pulled out the victory, 6-3, 6-8, 6-3.
That left the stage open for Virginia Ruzici. Veteran journalist David Gray, who sang Simionescu's praises nearly as heartily as Tingay did, judged Ruzici to be even more talented. The Romanians played as if they had nothing to lose, and the attack of Gohn and Ruzici snatched the deciding doubles rubber from Wade and Williams, 7-5, 6-2.
More than anything else, the British defeat was a reminder that women's tennis was--finally--truly global. A dozen years earlier, the only international women's competition was the Wightman Cup, which pitted the Brits against a United States squad each year. Now there were 28 more nations to contend with, most of them outside the Anglosphere. Romania hardly had a presence in the women's game just a few years earlier; now they were two rounds away from a Federation Cup title.
This being 1973, though, it wasn't that simple. Romania, like Poland, objected to the inclusion of South Africa in international sporting competitions. All of the sudden, the surprise victory against the UK set up a semi-final against South Africa. The Romanian coach had instructions from the upper reaches of his government to default such a tie if it arose. The country's Davis Cup team had done so just five years earlier.
ILTF and federation officials spent the rest of the day in a flurry of diplomacy. For five hours, phone calls and telegrams bounced back and forth between Bad Homburg and Bucharest. The semi-final was rescheduled from Saturday morning to Saturday afternoon to give the negotiations more time. At last, the Romanians agreed to play. The potential for glory was, at least this time, on this stage, greater than the implicit approval of the apartheid regime.
The unexpected political brouhaha had at least one positive effect: It pushed the British loss out of the UK papers. No one was happy about the early exit, but it was easy to forget. This was, after all, just the Federation Cup. There were bigger events in tennis happening around the world, and the next two months would bring a crop of exploits and controversies guaranteed to keep British tennis fans focused elsewhere.


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Interesting to read in the latest in Jeff Sackmann's 1973 series of articles

"As players were belatedly eliminated from the Roland Garros draw, they hurried straight to Rome. The first Italian results came in on this day as well, before the French quarter-finals had even begun. Organizers at the Italian Open had a tournament to run, and they weren't about to wait just because it was raining in Paris."

I checked and it seems in those days, the Italian followed France and France didnt have quite the same cache as it does now; indeed, it was best of 3 sets through the mens until around the last 8.

Folks focus on slam wins as a measure of greatness, and many knowingly nod at the Aussie Open and comment on how it didnt used to have the status or quality; the same went for France, perhaps less so, and even the US Open through the 70's was a mix of best of 3, moving from grass, to green clay, to hardcourts eventually in 1978.

Only Wimbledon seemed to have the same status it has now.


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Tennis Abstract published this article today saying what the 2024 out turn would look like following last years in depth assessment.

In essence, Djoko would be moving up to 3rd above Martina N. Laver still leads, Steffi second.

Lower down, Iga Swiatek would come into the top 128 at 101, the only new player since 12 months ago

Heavy Topspin

Iga Swiatek and the Updated Tennis 128

Dec 13
My Tennis 128 list was largely finalized before the start of the 2022 season. I made a few adjustments as the year went along, notably bumping up Ashleigh Barty several places after her Australian Open title. Since then, though, there has been little reason to update the list. While many all-time greats are still playing, most of them--with one major exception!--are no longer at the top of the game. The young stars taking their place are still building their résumés.
The method I used to construct the ranking used each player's peak performance, their top five years, and their overall career, all measured by Elo. It is possible for a youngster to crack the list with an extremely high peak, but because two of the three components of the algorithm rely more on longevity, it's not easy. The formula was designed to compare entire bodies of work, so placing a mid-career Iga Swiatek or Carlos Alcaraz (or Naomi Osaka or Daniil Medvedev) was not the point. All we can do is see how a player like that would rate if their career ended today.
Swiatek, with her fourth major and her best year-end Elo rating, makes the cut. Despite a career that spans only a few seasons, Iga slots into the list just ahead of Barty, right behind Dorothy Round, at 101st overall.
Thus, the Tennis 128 grows to 129. (I'm not about to say goodbye to the great Beverly Baker Fleitz.) And for now, that's as much as the list will expand. No other newcomers quite qualify.
On the women's side, Aryna Sabalenka ranks about 200th, and Coco Gauff stands around #250. Two returning WTAers are also worth keeping an eye on this year. Angelique Kerber comes in around 160th, and Osaka ranks in the neighborhood of #180. It's unlikely that any of these players will crack the 128 by the end of 2024, but especially if Gauff or Sabalenka turns in a particularly dominant season, it is possible.
The player with the best shot at becoming a 128er next year might surprise you. Alexander Zverev didn't miss the cut by much when I first made the list, and while he hasn't improved his position much in the meantime, he continues to inch toward inclusion. He stands at the edge of the top 140, and a single strong season could force me to make room. About 15 places behind him, in the mid-150s, is Medvedev.
The ATP's prize youngsters, Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, both remain outside the top 200. Again, this is more a matter of their short careers than any knock on their performance thus far. Alcaraz is around 205th, while Sinner ranks another 20 places down the list. Like Sabalenka and Gauff, they'll probably need multiple seasons to reach the Tennis 128 threshold.
For some of you, I know, the real action is at the top of the table, not the fringes. A handful of high-profile retirements and injuries meant that 2022/23 turned out to be a great time to make an all-time ranking that would remain valid for several more years. The one fly in the ointment, of course, is Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic ranked fourth (behind Rod Laver, Steffi Graf, and Martina Navratilova), and at this point in his illustrious career, there's only so much he can do to climb higher. Today's game is a bit weaker than it was at his peak, and Novak probably is, too: His Elo rating stands at 2,227, compared to 2,435 at the end of the 2015 season. The most substantial difference between him and Laver is peak rating: Rocket rates better than anyone else by a wide margin.
Still, Djokovic's persistence at the top of the game alters the calculation. When I first built the ranking two years ago, his career--that is, the part of my formula apart from peak rating and best five years--ranked fourth behind Roger Federer, Bill Tilden, and Ken Rosewall. Now he's up to second place, so close to Fed that a mere top-ten finish in 2024 would move him to the top of this category, too.
What it all adds up to is this: Move over, Martina. Djokovic is the new number three. Another season like this one, and he'll displace Steffi, as well. The gap in peak ratings makes it unlikely he'll ever catch Laver, but don't tell Novak, or else he might figure out how to reach the top of this list, too.

I'll be writing more about analytics and present-day tennis in 2024. Subscribe to the blog to receive each new post by email:

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