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Sport's greatest rivalry?

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Ben Dirs | 23:28 UK time, Tuesday, 19 June 2012

It will be of little consolation to Andy Murray that he had an on-court seat for arguably the greatest multi-player rivalry in tennis history: in the final reckoning, our good fortune is the British number one's rank bad luck.

American golfer Billy Casper called his recent autobiography 'The Big Three and Me': 30 years after his retirement from the PGA Tour, Casper is still defined by the deeds of others. And this is a man who won three major titles.

Had Murray been born 10 years earlier he might have replicated Casper's feat but as the years tick by a genuine fear is brewing that he will never pierce the iron curtain that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have thrown round men's tennis.

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray

Andy Murray would love to join the ranks of the tennis "Big Three". Photo: Getty

Some British tennis fans might find this hard to accept, but perhaps they should learn to savour the status quo: multi-player rivalries as we have in men's tennis at the moment happen rarely in any sport, which might explain why the very modern word 'Trivalry' has been coined to describe it (although not by me).

Rafael Nadal's victory in the 2012 French Open means 28 of the last 29 Grand Slam tournaments have been won by the fearsome threesome, while the three have also accounted for the runners-up trophy in more than half of those events.

If Murray is Casper, then Roger Federer is Arnold Palmer: winner of 15 major titles between 2003 and 2009, the ageing Swiss master, without doubt the most aesthetically pleasing of the three, has landed 'only' one since.

Just when observers had anointed Federer as the greatest tennis player ever, along came Nadal. And just when they thought Nadal might actually be greater than Federer, along came Novak Djokovic. Now no-one knows what to think.

But numbers tell only part of the story of any great rivalry. When all three men have hung up their racquets and the new breed are wielding weapons made of unknown materials from Mars, your average punter will only remember when Nadal beat Federer at Wimbledon in 2008; when Federer beat Djokovic at Roland Garros in 2011; when Djokovic beat Nadal in Melbourne in 2012.

And maybe they will be saying: remember when Murray conjured a miracle at Wimbledon in 2012 and beat the lot of them? We can but hope.

BBC Sport looks at other multi-player rivalries and asks: is Federer-Nadal-Djokovic about as good as it can possibly get?

Palmer, Player and Nicklaus - Golf's Big Three

Arnold Palmer tees off as Gary Player (second from left) and Jack Nicklaus (third from right) watch on. Photo: Getty

Between 1958 and 1970, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus notched up 20 major victories and 22 runners-up spots between them. A heady cocktail of charisma, outrageous natural talent, professionalism and commercialism, for many it was a case of 'The Big Three' and everybody else.

Palmer, with his movie star looks and swashbuckling approach to the game, was first on the scene, securing the 1958 Masters and winning 29 PGA Tour events between 1960 and 1963, including five majors. The man from humble Latrobe, Pennsylvania was the first superstar of the sport's burgeoning television age.

Player, South Africa's man in black, finished second at the US Open in 1958, won the Open in 1959 and the Masters in 1961 before it became a three-way battle for golfing supremacy in 1962, the only year all four Grand Slam tournaments were won by the illustrious triumvirate.

When Nicklaus trumped Palmer in a play-off for the first of his 18 majors, the 1962 US Open at Oakmont, members of 'Arnie's Army' taunted the new kid with cries of "Fatso". Their leader was rather more magnanimous: "Now that the big guy's out of the cage, everybody better run for cover."

Palmer won his seventh and final major at Augusta in 1964 and you might say 'The Big Three' became 'The Big Two-and-a-Half'. Player and Nicklaus attracted new rivals - Lee Trevino and Tom Watson chief among them - but that intense three-way rivalry is destined never to be repeated.

Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran - Boxing's Four Kings

Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler

Sugar Ray Leonard returned from a three-year hiatus to beat Marvin Hagler in 1987

There have been countless great rivalries in boxing - Robinson-LaMotta, Ali-Frazier, Holyfield-Bowe - but for sustained drama, for sheer quality and ferocity, for the majesty of its narrative, the nine-bout, almost decade-long round-robin between boxing's 'Four Kings' will surely never be matched.

The series began in June 1980, when Sugar Ray Leonard lost his world welterweight crown to Panama's Roberto Duran, the United States' new poster boy finding himself out-psyched and out-machoed by 'Hands of Stone'.

In the rematch, Duran, having been driven to distraction by the Ali shuffling, bolo-punching Leonard, shocked the world by quitting in the eighth round. The following year, Leonard came from behind to win a stirring battle against Tommy Hearns, a fight that had just about everything.

In 1983, Duran partially redeemed himself by taking middleweight king Marvin Hagler the distance, only for Hearns to knock Duran cold in two rounds in 1984. Hagler and Hearns went head to head the following year, a bloodied Hagler stopping Hearns after three of the most savage rounds in boxing history.

There were disappointing rematches between Leonard-Hearns and Leonard-Duran in 1989, but the last truly great fight of what many deem to be the sport's last golden age took place in 1987, when Leonard, having been inactive for three years, sent Hagler into retirement by winning a controversial decision.

Prost, Piquet, Senna and Mansell - Formula 1's best of enemies

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Of the eight drivers to have won three or more world championships, three of them were active during the 1980s. Chuck in chippy Brit Nigel Mansell and you had a mixture so combustive it is a wonder they allowed it on the F1 paddock.

Nelson Piquet, world champion in 1981, '83 and '87, was uppity and unpredictable, labelling Mansell "an uneducated blockhead" and fellow Brazilian Senna "a Sao Paulo taxi driver". Mansell, champion in 1992 after three second-placed finishes, was so suspicious of everyone around him he probably thought the pit girls were spiking his champagne.

But the most vicious rivalry was between Senna (champion in 1988, '90 and '91) and Frenchman Alain Prost (champion in 1985, '86, '89 and 93). As team-mates at McLaren, the two men fought like dogs. When they were separated in 1990, Prost moving to Ferrari, the relationship grew worse, with Prost calling Senna "a man without value" after their coming together at Suzuka.

The 1986 season was a four-way classic, with all four men in with a shout of the Formula 1 crown with three races remaining. Senna, driving an inferior Lotus, dropped out of contention after running out of fuel in Portugal, while a poor showing by Mansell in Mexico opened the door for McLaren driver Prost and Williams team-mate Piquet, with whom relations were sub-zero.

Going into the final race in Adelaide, Mansell led Prost by six points, Piquet by seven and claimed pole position. But the Englishman blew a tyre on lap 64 and Piquet was called into the pits for a precautionary stop, meaning Prost landed the win, nine points and a second consecutive drivers' title.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Not sure you can compare the current rivalry in tennis to the others because in F1 and boxing one person tended to dominate in any one season. This glorious tennis rivalry is probably unique because not one of them is going to win more than two majors this year.

    In future years Federer may be judged as the most successful but he's the one of the triumpherate that's most likely not to win a slam this year as his powers wane. Nadal is highly unlikely to win Wimbledon and this is probably Murray's best chance of a major because I don't fancy his chances of beating Djokavic or Federer on a hard court.

    Either way the Three Musketeers will go down in history as the greatest multi person rivalry (with Murray getting a slightly patronising mention as a fourth much like a fifth Beatle).

  • Comment number 2.

    What about the Borg, McEnroe, Connors years of the late 70s, early 80s? Surely on a par with the current three musketeers.

  • Comment number 3.

    The problem for Murray is in a large part psychological. In an interview during the French Open after the Tsonga match Djokovic said that not at any time did he think he was going to lose - not even during the five match points he had against him. This unswerving belief in his own ability is what is holding him back in the 'Big' matches such as the slam finals. There is no doubt that he can keep up with anyone on the tour physically which he has shown time and again over the years and is reflected in his world ranking.

    In a way one of his strengths is also a weakness since his headstrong and stubborn attitude which plays in his favour in a lot of matches also means that he is overlooking this incredibly crucial part of the game - especially now given the minute margins that dictate winning from losing in the modern game. He is slowly improving in this aspect shown by his recent semi-final with Djokovic at the Australian - however at no point did he really look like winning or convince me that he believed he could. His body language on court often betrays what he is really feeling and despite all his insistence that he 'believes he can win a GS' he never really shows this in his play.

    Murray needs a good sports psychologist on his side. Look at the difference in Ronnie O'Sullivan at this years world snooker championship after his work with a psychologist - no one even looked like getting close to beating him. This mental aspect is the next step for Murray if he does ever want to break his duck and get the Fred Perry/Bunny Austin monkey off his back.

    Otherwise great blog Ben.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great blog, I can never get enough of discussing these three. It's the most entertaining rivalry I've ever seen, and the fact that it's 3 people is all the better. Let's hope Wimbledon is the next chapter in it...

    http://samhopwood.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/wimbledon-2012-those-four-again.html

  • Comment number 5.

    "...is destined never to be repeated", "...will surely never be matched"... phrases that should never be used.

    Wasn't there some Swedish bloke a handful of decades back whose French Open record would surely never be bettered?

  • Comment number 6.

    I love that photo - Federer looks suave and media-friendly as always, Nadal looks like he really, really hates being forced to wear a suit and tie, Djokovic is clearly passing the time by replaying tennis matches in his head, while Murray... has cleverly replaced himself with a cardboard cutout and gone to the pub.

  • Comment number 7.

    Incomparable. The current state of mens' tennis is a sporting treat, the likes of which will never be seen again.

    #2 Even though McEnroe i my favourite player of all time, his era did not compare with Fed, Rafa and Nole. It is pugilism with a racquet.

    First Roger, such grace and effortless athleticism, disguising a burning desire. Then came Nadal, all brute strength, endless energy and a brutal forehand. Then, seemingly having been left behind, Djokovic improved his game 5-10% in order to compete at the top table - a determination honed in the war torn Balkans. Murray will be extremely fortunate to pick up anything other than scraps while these provide a feast for sports lovers.

    The boxing analogy (and from a knowledgeable source like Ben) is the best comparison. Those boys never knew when they were beaten (except Duran - 'no mas') and that is the similarity. Roger v Rafa Wimbledon 08 and Nole v Rafa Aus 12 was sporting theatre of the highest order - like boxers slugging it out, testing the endurance of their opponent and consistently having the nerve to pull something out of the hat when the odds were against them.

    Enjoy this rivalry. Tell your children and grandchildren about it. It won't happen again...

  • Comment number 8.

    @1. Nadal is highly unlikely to win Wimbledon? What is this based on, he has just won the French Open, playing some of his best tennis ever, has beaten Novak three times in a row (albeit on clay) and has either won Wimbledon or finished runner up the last 5 times he has played there... To then suggest Andy's best chance of winning is at Wimbledon having been beaten by Rafa all three times they have played at Wimbledon is a little crazy. Do agree with your last statement though.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great Zoomy - spot on

  • Comment number 10.

    I'd say the current tennis rivalries are more comparable to F1 now - ultra competetive but at the same time (on the surface) amicable. Two sports going through golden eras.

  • Comment number 11.

    Wonderful Zoomy, you,re right!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Ben,

    Good work as ever. Perhaps a mention of Connors/Borg/McEnroe would have been nice. That is what this era reminds me of although statistically the current three are even more dominant. In terms of other sport trivalry a little anglocentric yes but Ovett, Coe, Cram was pretty special wasn't it?

  • Comment number 13.

    andy murray will never win a slam, not because he hasnt got the talent, not because he isnt good enough, its because he believes he cant,

  • Comment number 14.

    Zoomy @ 6

    Agreed :-)
    At the same time, I think Nadal is looking at some incorrectly positioned water bottles or there is dirt on the court lines. That would explain the concerned look.

  • Comment number 15.

    Senna/Prost, Borg/McEnroe were great rivalries and just as epic in their times but this triumvirate of tennis have lifted sport to a new level.

    My own favourite was the 2009 Australian 5 setter, at the end of which Federer looked physically and emotionally spent having given it all and lost to Nadal. As an advertisment for tennis I would go for the 2011 FO semi which was a combination of athleticism and style and an example of how the game should be played.

    Their performances are the result of absolute dedication to achieve levels of physical and mental prowess not seen in other sports.

    To maintain that level over so many years in Federer's case is phenomenal.

    Their matches take on epic proportions with psychological twists and turns as one player takes ascendancy over the other, each maximising their particular physical attributes to try and give one last dramatic turn to the story.

    Whether you admire the elegance of the Federer game, the pugilistic athleticism of Nadal, or the incredible flexibility of Djokovic - all 3 players have brought a new dimension to the game and are modern day gladiators.

  • Comment number 16.

    @10,

    Don't know about that, with Tennis the chances are every major final will be contested by Nadal and Djokovic, with at best Federer or Murray reaching a final to mix it up.

    At least with F1 this year, you've had the unpredictability of 7 winners from the first 7 races. With the win for Williams being the only race won by a 'non top 4 team'.

    Nadal and especially Djokovic have dominated the sport for the last few years, in a sport that doesn't have the rule changes that come in year on year like F1. The domination (albeit short lived) from Vettel and RB now seems to have come to end due to the regulation changes and other teams upping their game.

    Domination in tennis is more pure as the game doesn't change, in F1 it's more fluent due to the ever coming rule changes from the FIA.

  • Comment number 17.

    What about the great sprint rivalry we have these days???

    Usain Bolt.... Oh yeh no1 is anywhere near him!!

    Or what about the great rivalry of the 90's in football in our country? Manchester United........ Oh yeh that was a white wash!!

    Or even in Formula 1 again during the early 00's Michael Schumacher....... Oh I give up. Good call BBC can't think of many more!!!

  • Comment number 18.

    The dominance over the majors by the "big three" is daunting. We shouldnt underestimate the difficulties Murray needs to overcome to win his first major - in those terms he's unlucky to be operating in this era. I'm hoping he can make the step-up. Hopefully winning a first major is the step-up required for this to truely become the "big four" from a historical perspective.

  • Comment number 19.

    Federer looks the only one ready for that photo. A class act.

  • Comment number 20.

    CAN WE STOP KIDDING OURSELVES THAT MURRAY WOULD'VE WON A GRAND SLAM IF HE HAD BEEN BORN IN ANOTHER ERA?

    FACE IT, HE'S NOT THAT GOOD. IT PROBABLY WOULD'VE BEEN ALOT WORSE HAD HE BEEN BORN EARLIER WHEN THE COURTS HAVEN'T BEEN SLOWED DOWN AND HOMOGENISED. THE FACT THEY'RE SLOWED DOWN, SUITS HIS BORING WAIT-FOR-OPPONENT-TO-MAKE-MISTAKE STYLE OF GAME.

    THANK GOD THAT TENNIS IS SAVED BY THESE THREE TENNIS GREATS, I FEAR FOR ITS REPUTATION IF MURRAY REALLY DID WIN A GRAND SLAM.

  • Comment number 21.

    For me the greatest was and always will be Senna/Prost. Two absolute legends of their sport not hiding their anomosity for each other in private or in public leading to some truley unforgetable races

  • Comment number 22.

    Roger is the best player of all time. Onthe other hand, Andy Murray is will never won the Wimbledon or a gland slam.

  • Comment number 23.

    @21

    At times it was Senna v Prost & Jean-Marie Balestre.

  • Comment number 24.

    If I may add a couple more...

    Rugby: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa: ongoing since 1987.

    Football: Italy, Germany, Argentina, Brazil: ongoing since 200 BC.

  • Comment number 25.

    Provided the powers that be do their best to keep things interesting, we may well be in the middle of one of the greatest ever rivalries with Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel. Could potentially go on for years.

  • Comment number 26.

    The beauty of the four GS taking place on four different surfaces means that the gladiatorial head-to-head nature of tennis and the scoring system means that it virtually impossible for one player to dominate his rivals consistently in, say, quite the way Tiger Woods did in golf. Best rivalry? Certainly individually for now, but across all sports in team competition over a long timespan I would have to say Yankees and Red Sox is a worthy proposal.

  • Comment number 27.

    good article.....i feel slightly incomplete. Sports greatest rivalry will always be a battle in the human element between sporting greats but can we not discuss in a broader sense the impact and influence of machinary/equipment. i think to MotoGP. The likes of Wayne Raney, Mick Doohan, Kevin Scwantz. the later rivalries between Rossi, Gibernau then Lorenzo. The boxing rivalry was great between Leonard and Hagler and Hearns but what about the era of Homes, Ali, Frazier, Foreman. Given the current lack of heavyweight greats, that was an era that eclipsed all in boxing with classic fights. I think there will be more boxing fights remembered from that particular era than there will be matches between Federer and Nadal. I maybe wrong on that. time will tell. On that point, i do regard Federer as the greatest ever to pick up a racket. If you turn your attention to football, there are many team rivalries which span decades, Barca Real Madrid, the Manchester rivalry. Merseyside. Turkish rivalries. I know this maybe crossing into another topic but worth considering. if you look at individuals and the rivalries in football within the same time era, the current messi vs. ronaldo argument is a great one to be having! will there be anotehr 2 footballers in the same league both scoring 60/70 goals a season again? i doubt it. if you put Neymar in that mix in a couple of years time, we may have another Trivalry! hate that word too! what about the rivalries between Hendry/Davies. Jimmy white against higgins and taylor? there are countless sports which have the rivalries that have produced great moments which will stand the test of time. my comments are simply to extend the article as to what i thought was a slightly incomplete article.

  • Comment number 28.

    Sampras, Agassi, Tiger Tim :-)

  • Comment number 29.

    Arkle versus Flyingbolt versus Mill House would be the greatest ever rivalry of the best ever steeplechasers and they were all around in the 1960s though Arkle was deservedly rated the greatest and whilst dealing with Mill House on four times of the five occasions they met,never raced against his younger stable companion Flyingbolt !

    Ironically,we are now blessed with three great unbeaten Flat racehorses too...Frankel,Camelot and Black Caviar, though they are unlikely to meet at any stage at all !

  • Comment number 30.

    Murray's best surface, and indeed the one he's had his most success on, is hard courts, so to suggest that Wimbledon is his best chance of winning a slam is crazy. If he does, and I don't think he ever will btw, it'll be the US or Aussie open where he's most likely to.

    As for past rivalries, not the same, but how about Patrick Vieira/Roy Keane LOL

    I'm a big snooker fan, and thought about Stephen Hendry/Jimmy White. But that wouldn't be right cos Hendry stuffed him most of the time LOL Maybe Alex Higgins/Steve Davis would be a better example.

    Snooker at the moment is wide open, with no dominant player.

  • Comment number 31.

    I think the rivalry between Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl was pretty intense, not maybe as dominating in the sport as the current "Big Three", but a little overlooked by people working in sports journalism.

  • Comment number 32.

    @ 20 agassi said murray could have i think his right to judge having played in a era and seeeing the present era who are you judge, not to mention he is one of the goat

  • Comment number 33.

    "There were disappointing rematches between Leonard-Hearns and Leonard-Duran in 1989"

    Did you watch the Leonard - Hearns rematch? It was superb with 2 knockdowns against Leonard and a controversial ending that had the fans screaming.

    Leonard - Duran 3 was pretty rubbish though.

  • Comment number 34.

    I think it is difficult to compare Sports like that. However one thing is for sure - when you have a big rivarly - be it two, three or four players, the Sport ultimately becomes more appealing.

    At the moment, Golf has a different winner in every major tournament. While the rankings provide some consistency when people look over the runners and riders going into a tournament - I'm not so sure that people will look back and say it was a golden era.

    I suppose, by it's nature, Golf will have a greater number of different winners but it's not really since the partly manufactured rivalry between Woods & Mickelson that there has been anything like what currently exists in Tennis.

    We must also say for Golf that current era, where there is no dominant force, makes the Woods era even more incredible.

  • Comment number 35.

    In th Boxing World NOTHING has come close to Muhammad Ali verus Joe Frazier versus George Foreman in the Heavyweight Division.......Only Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano can be mentioned alongside those names as far as I am concerned !

  • Comment number 36.

    How about England V Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini............

  • Comment number 37.

    Actually, let me rephrase my previous comment- whilst people will say this triumvirate is the best of all time I wouldn't say necessarily its the best era of tennis- it comes down to personal preference really.

    For mu taste I find the best tennis era of all time to be the 80's- Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander, Jim Courier and the young up-and-coming Americans- Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Michael Chang all competing for slams. I miss those days.....

  • Comment number 38.

    Look at these amazing matches and remind yourself about the fantastic moments they have produced
    2007 W F Federer Beats Nadal in 5
    2008 W F Nadal Beats Federer in 5
    2009 AO Nadal Beats Federer in 5
    2010 US SF Djokovic bts Federer in 5
    2011 FO SF Federer bts Djokovic in 5
    2011 US SF Djokovic bts Federer in 5
    2012 AO Djokovic bts Nadal in 5

    Think there will be plently more 5 setters between Nole and Rafa in the next years to add

  • Comment number 39.

    The problem with the BBC writing an article on the greatest rivalry in sports is that it is too British focussed, and so has a very narrow perspective. For example, anyone who alsoo knows something about basketball would likely want to include the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalry. I understand that the BBC is going to be primarily concerned with British sport, but it is time they at least attempted to know more about the outside world.

  • Comment number 40.

    For greatest rivalries I always turn my mind to the Daley Thompson/Jurgen Hingsen confrontations of the early to mid-eighties. In terms of talent the two were so evenly matched, but Thompson always had the upper hand in competition - the supreme competitor, and British to boot.

  • Comment number 41.

    Agreed Jamie 4202 ..we are undoubtedly living in the greatest era where Mens Tennis is concerned as the three of them will be remembered for many many years to come.......HOWEVER....as JP McEnroe will agree....ROD LAVER remains the greatest ever merely due to the fact he won not just one Grand Slam but TWO in 1962 and 1968,as well as being Champion in 1961 and 1969 also,and would no doubt have won all those in between in 63,64,65,66 and 67 but was not allowed to participate as he was a professional, and, they were only open to amateurs then ! Just think how many Grand Slam titles he would have added to the 11 he achieved in the limited years available to him !! None of the current players will ever hold all four titles in the same year as he did.......TWICE !!

  • Comment number 42.

    @ You mean its not American focused- no one plays American Football, Basketball or Baseball- whilst the other sports he just mentioned are not just British focused- they are world focused

  • Comment number 43.

    The fact that it is a "Trivalry" is mostly down to Roger Federer's superhuman-like way to defy the laws of ageing, as he has no right - at almost 6 years older than Djokovic, and 5 older than Nadal - to be still considered one of the major players in the game. A True spectacle would have been seeing all these 3 at the same age, i.e Fed circa 2007, playing against the other 2 now. There is no doubt that Federer, while being the most popular of the 3, is the least likely to win a major because he simply cannot reproduce the intensity required to play 7 best of 5 set matches over and over again. No one else - including Sampras and Agassi - brought this form into their 30s. When Sampras won the US Open at 31, there was not the level of competition that Djokovic and Nadal offer now - quite simply, he would not have won that final if he played either of those 2, rather than an equally ageing Agassi. It really is a rivalry, with a very watchable "Plus 1". It is to Federer's credit that we still put him in the same "generation" as Nadal/Djok, but really his generation was Safin, Nalbandian, Roddick, Hewitt, Haas, Ferrer - the players he grew up with of the same age... and where are any of them now ?

  • Comment number 44.

    I think we are currently seeing in F1 a new rivalry developing between Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel. All three are patently better than anyone else on the grid and this year are pushing each other more and more with every race

  • Comment number 45.

    Three of the all-time greats crossing swords in the same era - tennis fans really are blessed at the moment.

    In terms of it being the greatest ever rivalry, i think its a bit too nicey nice for that. I'm not saying they're all best friends but there needs to be a little more needle and bad feeling for it to be a great rivalry in my opinion.

    I agree about Murray - i don't think he'll win a grand slam. He's a fantastic all-court tennis player but as good as he is, i don't think he's quite good enough to beat 2 of these 3 guys over 5 sets in consecutive matches. Prove me woring Andy - please!

  • Comment number 46.

    They are not all their peak. Federer is on the way down. Djokovic is number one, but not an all time great.

    Inter v AC
    Rangers v Celtic
    Borg v Connors
    Navratilova v Evert
    Carl Lewis v Ben Johnson
    Bulls v Celtics
    Ali v Frazier


    This list goes on and one before ever getting to the current tennis guys.

  • Comment number 47.

    @46 Please don't share your ignorance with us. Borg's principal rivalry was with McEnroe, not Connors.

    Like the Carl Lewis / Ben Johnson one though - good guy vs bad guy enhances the rivalry (Like Daley vs Jurgen Hingsen).

    If we are comparing rivalries to Ben's blog, it should be based on individuals, not team sports.

  • Comment number 48.

    @46.

    How can you compare Rangers v Celtic or Inter v AC with Rafa, Novak and Roger!!

    Sort it out you chimp!!!

    Rangers v Celtic only win what they do because they have no challengers. The quality of their play is disgusting!!

    Inter and AC are never guaranteed to win everything!! Which I am sure we all agree on here Rafa, Novak and Roger do and even Murray!!!

    To be truly great rivalries you have to win it all between you!! Against each other!! And to add to that you have to capture the public's imagination so that by doing it, it does not become boring and predictable!! I think Italian and Scottish football are two of the worst league in the world!!

    But Tennis is never predictable because you can never guarantee which on of the three will win when they are against each other!!! And on his day Murray can beat them all!!

    And Surely you are not saying that Navratilova v Evert compares to these 3 juggernaughts?? You have lost the plot!!!

    Go and have a sleep and see if the illusions have faded tomorrow morning!!!

  • Comment number 49.

    Ali v Frasier was a 3 part epic!!

    Nadal and Djokovic is a monthly event these days as is Federer and Djokovic or Nadal and Federer!!

    You have posted that comment just to make yourself sound knowledgable but have made yourself look very silly!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    Great comments Ben, and in fact not only is it 28 of last 29 Slams - Federer also won 3 of the previous 5 so it's 31 or 34 with only Safin and Coria at '05 Ausie Open and '04 French stopping the stem of victories.
    Lot's of people who are daft as brushes commenting here, obviously knowing next to nothing abour tennis. I think Connors / Borg / McEnroe was a truly great rivalry, and Murray is a bit like the Gerulaitis of that Era! Of course Vitas won a couple of Aussie Opens but not against those other three.....although he did have to get past the mighty John Lloyd in the 1977 Final!!!!
    Fact is I prefer to listen to Andre Aggasi than some of the numpties here - and Murray is a far better player than many Grand Slam Winners of the Post Sampras/Pre Fed Era - like Hewitt, Kuerten, Ferrero, Coria, Safin, Ivanisevic. I'd also rate him above Rafter, Muster, Gomez, Kraijec, Stich and Korda, all of whom one at least one Slam betwenn '89 and '05.
    Del Potro is the sole victor other than the Big Three in the last 7 and a half years - think about it!!!

  • Comment number 51.

    Re. SupremeArkle at 13.38....
    Not true - Tennis only went Open in 1968. And Laver didn't win the GS in 1968 (Ashe won the US Open) - he won it in 1969.
    By (very) common consent amongst the Tennis officionados at the time, Laver would have been EXTREMELY unlikely to win Wmbledon in 1961/62 had it been Open. The recognised top 3 were Gonzalez, Hoad and Rosewall - all Pro's. Laver's chances would have proportionately increased with each passing year up until the Open Era, but again by common consent he only surpassed Rosewall in the Pro's around 1965.
    So se need to accept the genuine 'Open' Slam in 1969, but for an interesting read look at Jack Kramer's Biography 'The Game' for a list of the 'possible' winners of the 4 Slams during the Professional Era circa 1934-1968- facinating......

  • Comment number 52.

    Murray is nowhere near Rafter- sorry. And as for Muster, he was the clay court master and did relatively well in other surfaces as well. He would have been a much better player had he not suffered a terrible injury

  • Comment number 53.

    Hold on David...are you going to disagree with JP McEnroes assessment too ????

    You can not be serious !!!!!

    I stand corrected if Laver won his SECOND Grand Slam in 1969 rather than 1968 but the bottom line is...he did do exactly that and no-one has come remotely close to achieving all that in the same year since....please don't kid yourself that he would not have been Champion in between 1962 and 1968 either !! Laver reigns supreme !

    Meanwhile,the only way Murray will ever beat Federer at Wimbledon will be when age does finally catch up with the Fed, just as it did with Rocket Rod allowing our own Roger Taylor to take advantage and end his reign in 1970 !

    E.O.S

  • Comment number 54.

    Number 43 - echoed my sentiments entirely. I think Federer still being in the mix at age 30 is amazing, and it would be so interesting if the Federer of 2006 - when he posted a 92-5 win-loss record and won 3 out of 4 slams - were to go up against the Djokovic and Nadal of today. All three would be mid 20s and presumably at the peak of their powers. Federer's issues these days are about consistency more than anything, evidenced by the amount of errors he ships in matches against Djokovic and Nadal, but this is also testament to the amazing defence of the other two in making him play so many shots that would have been winners against the top players he faced 6 or 7 years ago. I do think the general slowing down and homogenisation of courts has played into the hands of Djokovic and Nadal in this respect, but this is not to denigrate what they have achieved in any way. I think what people have to concede is the fact that Federer's dominance forced players generally to raise their games in order to compete, and it certainly is the good fortune of anyone interested in tennis at present that this happened not just with one player in Nadal, but now with a second in Djokovic. Finally, and I think this is to me what still qualifies Federer as the greatest, is the longevity he has shown. The way Nadal especially but also Djokovic plays makes it extremely unlikley that they will still be at the top of the game by the time they hit 30. The amount of physicality required to play and defend the way they do is phenomenal but, as Nadal's knees will testify, is not sustainable over a 15 year career. Admittedly, it will take the emergence of someone pretty special to disturb the current status quo (although how many more years Federer will want to carry on, especially if he were to win a slam this year and win Olympic gold, is another question), so hopefully we have a few more years of great matches to look forward to. To me, whether you argue that this is the best rivalry ever or not, it's simply an incredibly entertaining and high quality time to be watching men's tennis.

  • Comment number 55.

    @47 Bit cheeky that Wilko - not to mention factually wrong.

    Borg v Connors was a rivalry which had (at least) 6 genuine seasons 76-81. Borg McEnroe had 4 genuine seasons 78-81.
    And if you want the numbers.....Borg/Connors met 23 times on Tour, and Borg/McEnroe 14.

  • Comment number 56.

    TonyBlair61...do you have any idea how much time training and punishment goes into a heavyweight boxers career ?? Now I personally prefer tennis every time and played myself to a good standard ,with Rod Laver being a boyhood hero,then again so was Muhammad Ali and the rivalry between him,Frazier and Foreman was intense beyond belief and if they fought each other any more often than they did they would all have passed away before they reached 50 years of age !!

    We are talking rivalries here and each Sport is measured on it's merits and programme schedule, and OBVIOUSLY tennis players play against each other far more often than boxers ever fight each other !

    Say no more !

  • Comment number 57.

    I have seriously followed Federer and Nadal since 2004 and then comes Del Potro and Djokovic. There are now such a talented Murray, Raonic, Berdych, Tsonga, and Dolgopolov. for Nadal's case, he really solid on clay this year due to his improvement in his serve and backhand. Physically he was better than Djokovic. This year, Djokovic is physically superior than Fed on clay and had new attacking strategy to Fed's backhand. Most variations by Fed on clay seemed useless. But, in Wimbledon, and with Fed is playing better than he previous had, I still believe that Fed is the man to beat in SW19 and Olympics. Physically, Fed is not far from Nadal and Djokovic. Murray is a talented player but he needs more variations and need more anger on his game. He needs to hate them all in order to win. He had been in finals of US Open and Australian Open, so he fits the bill to be one of the favourites. Hope Murray (not out of courts) will hate Nadal and Djokovic and not Federer. This year Wimbledon is going to be the best to watch, very tricky, suspense thriller, mind blowing, and clash of titans. Here is my prediction:

    1-Federer
    2-Del Potro/Roddick
    3-Murray/Nadal/Djokovic
    4-Raonic/Haas/Lopez
    5-Isner/Mahut/Berdych/
    6-Tomic/Fish/Tsonga
    7-Dolgopolov
    Why, because we are looking on grass!

  • Comment number 58.

    Ha - I like the McEnroe bit SupremeArkle!
    All good debate of course, but I do think I have a valid argument about the Open Era, it's so difficult to judge records until Open tennis arrived. Actually I'm sure 'The Rocket' would have won Wimbledon AT SOME STAGE between 1961-1967 had all the Pro's been playing, but not initially - he certainly wouldn't have been favoured to do so until 1965ish according to his own comments - and those of Emerson, Sedgeman, Kramer, Gonzalez, Perry, Budge, Riggs, Newcombe, Fraser, Ashe, Roche and numerous others......
    J P Mc always idolised Laver - as a fellow lefty of course. Not sure Mac does rate him the GOAT tho - I think he has changed his mind on that one!
    One last thing - Federer went to the French in both '06 and '07 looking to hold all 4 slams, and Novac did this year - is that not close enough for you:)

  • Comment number 59.

    I remember the 1986 F1. Wasn't that the one were Murray Walker uttered the famous line"....nothing can stop Mansell from winning the world title now" closely followed by Mansells tyre blowing. Poor Murray the man was a walking kiss of death.

  • Comment number 60.

    @BBC_NEWS_LADIES_ARE_HOT ...... not, may I remind you that you do not need to shout to make your point. However, on his day Murray has the game to beat Rafa, Novak and Roger. He is not a mug when it comes to tennis and his record at Wimbledon has improved but just fallen short in three semi's. I hope he goes to prove you wrong that Murray can win Wimbledon.

    Other sports to consider the Five / Six Nations rivalry between the Home Nations (no disrespct to Italy and France). The Ryder Cup betwen Europe and USA and finally the Asches between Australia and England.

    It is not just individuals who can bring excitement in the sporting arena and the best example of that was when England played the Australians for the Ashes in 2005. When was the last time you saw 10,000 people outside an already packed Edgbaston to see England triumph over the Aussies by 2 runs and go on to win the Ashes!!!

  • Comment number 61.

    @56.

    Yes boxing is brutal, and tehy were amazing fights normally involving Ali.

    But surely when you have three men who slam after slam put their body to the brink of performance. In fact cancel that. Nadal v Federer at Wimbledon 08 was beyond performance into the realm of super human. Boxers train for 12 rounds they know how to last that sustained time. Tennis players train and play for 5 sets which can last anything between 1 Hour 30 to as we have seen 8-9 hours maybe even more of brutal draining exhaustion!!!

    Any three men that can push their body beyond anything natural we have ever seen before comes in well in front of some boxers who hit each other for 36 rounds of 3 minutes!!!

    And too have 3 men who can do it as good as each other and better than anyone before. Is a privilage and a wonder all rolled in to one!!! By far greatest rivalry ever in sport and we are watching the greatest era of tennis we may ever see!!!

  • Comment number 62.

    Good comeback David Legge and I apprecate the Fed as being the best since Laver too...though he had to win the French title first in each year and failed to do so...so that isn't close in my eyes...whilst Novak had the cahnce of holding 4 titles at the same time...but not in the same season or year as Laver did...for sheer domination over his rivals Laver still has it and he remains the ONLY person to win the Grand Slam AND he did it twice...will we ever see that again in our lifetime ?

    BTW....My favourite Sports are Football and Horse Racing just ahead of Tennis and we are talking three way rivalries here which is what I mentioned in my previous comments...though for sheer passion you can't beat the rivalry of two teams and their supporters where local derbies are at stake and none more so than my own team Sheffield Wednesday when we play Sheffield United as 40,000 and 50,000 crowds EVEN in the third tier of English football would testify to on Boxing Day 1979 and as recently as this April !

    A thoroughly fascinating subject all-round !

  • Comment number 63.

    @TonyBlair61 - I agree, the greatest Era ever, and possibly one of the weakest in the Women's game perhaps?

    Equal Prizemonmey anyone!!

  • Comment number 64.

    Fair point TonyBlair61...but given the choice what would YOU rather be doing...standing across the other side of the net looking at Messrs Federer,Nadal or Djokovic....or be stood inside a boxing ring looking at Messrs Ali,Foreman and Frazier ??

    I know which one I would rather be doing.....anyone disagree ??

  • Comment number 65.

    @SupremeArkle - I think what I meant was that Roger WENT to the French in both '06 and '07 holding the other 3 titles - just as Novak was this year, so the scenario was identical - of course academic as he couldn't get past Rafa!
    I guessed you were a Racing man due to your Moniker:) I'm obviously Tennis - and Golf. I lived in Sheffield from 91-94 and saw some football at both Hillsborough and Bramhall Lane and couldn't believe the support. I remember someone saying that the two teams hold the WORLD record for any attendance at a match outside a Nations top division something like 86,000 I think in an old Div 1 match in the 70's? Incredible!

  • Comment number 66.

    Coe vs Ovett must be up there. There was a season where they practically swapped world records every other week!

  • Comment number 67.

    Don't think anyone would disagree at all. At the end of the day they were trained fighters to punch your face off. But just because they beat each other does not make it a great rivalry or the greatest rivalry ever. Especially when you consider they faced each other 3 times over 4 years.

    We are talking about these three pushing each other to limits never seen before in any sport on numerous occasions!!!

    We are talking about three men who have contested record finals at two of the slams!!

    Rafael Nadal v Federer - Wimbledon 08 - closing in on 5 hours
    Novak v Rafa - Australian Open 12 - closing in on 6 hours

    This is not including the 5 set Semi-Finals, we have seen over the past 5 years!!

    These men are machines who have pushed their body past normal limits not just once or twice but countless times v each other!! Remember Djokovic and murray played one of the greatest semi-finals ever seen back in the Australian Open!!!

    I am not doubting what Ali and Frasier were and did. But on Rivalry and greateness of rivalry alone these three are in a different league to anything we have ever seen before.

    And maybe people in this country don't like to admit as people see him as a failure but for Murray to have won what he has is an achievement. Let's cherrish what we have here and enjoy it whilst we can. IT WILL NEVER BE SEEN AGAIN!!!!

  • Comment number 68.

    I am a West Londoner from birth with Greek origins but have been on Radio 5 Live 606 phone-in many a time as a lifelong Wednesday fan since the 60s....so you were there when we were at Wembley 5 times in those years...and I went to all of them being the closest to Wembley Stadium born Wednesdayite....maybe you can move back there again to help bring some glory days back for us...we ARE on the way back, however !!

  • Comment number 69.

    Fair comments again TonyBlair61 about the great Tennis players of today...though Murray remains clearly behind the top three as far as the vast majority are concerned...however please never dismiss the intense rivlary which existed between Ali,Frazier and Foreman irrespective of the fact they only met each other a few times each in the ring !! Those heavyweight fights were the greatest ever seen whereas there have been countless great tennis matches over the years...granted the greater pace the game is played at nowadays but whereas we canot be certain when comparing like with like if Federer or Nadal or Djokovic would have beaten the likes of Laver and Borg etc we do KNOW that David Haye and Kiltschko etc would have been demolished by the three great boxers mentioned here !!

  • Comment number 70.

    Andrew Murray is a very consistent operator who has lots of reasons to be proud but in around 20 slam exits I see a man who's not quite enough rather than unlucky.

  • Comment number 71.

    @67 If you talking tennis and endurance of matches, then I am sure you forgotten the Isner v Mahut match in 2010. Here is the list of longest matches in Wimbledon History:

    Longest match by time and number of games
    2010 first round, 183 games, 11 hours and 5 minutes over two days
    This is the longest professional tennis
    match ever played at any level.
    John Isner 6 3 6(7) 7(7) 70
    Nicolas Mahut 4 6 7(9) 6(3) 68

    Longest singles final match by time played
    2008, 4 hours and 48 minutes
    Rafael Nadal 6 6 6(5) 6(8) 9
    Roger Federer 4 4 7(7) 7(10) 7

    Longest singles final match by number of games
    2009 77 games. This match also had the longest final in a Grand Slam final set by games.
    Roger Federer 5 7(8) 7(7) 3 16
    Andy Roddick 7 6(6) 6(5) 6 14

  • Comment number 72.

    Tennis brings out some great rivalries a deserved mention should be to

    Mcenroe/Borg and Connors although Borg quit left a void

    Agassi / Sampras - the returner vs the server classic

    Lendl/Becker /Edberg/ Wilander - this is overlooked because Lendl was formidable on every surface but grass, Wilander was at his peak by 1988 but both were overshadowed by Becker and Edberg at Wimbledon mainly

    how about the womens

    Navratilova/Every/ Graf


    as for bikes I think when the US riders dominated the premier class in the 80s it was some of the most intense battles

    from
    Mamola/ Roberts/ Spencer/ Lawson to

    Lawson/ Rainey/ Schwantz and Gardner ( the only non US title winner in the 80s)

    current motogp crop has been blighted by Rossi in a Ducati and soon Stoner#s retirement

    the alien 4 as they called

    Lorenzo, Stoner, Rossi and Pedrosa have not shown the same intensity because one of the three tends to get injured

    Rossi admitted that Gibernau for a while was his toughest opponent maybe with a slight dig at Biaggi in doing so

  • Comment number 73.

    Agree with the comment rubbishing football rivalries, that's a different argument. It's Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost for me, circa 1989 and 1990. The way it's portrayed in the brilliant Senna film is gripping. With their opposing styles and public criticism but grudging respect of each other, it was great theatre. That as well as them being perhaps the two greatest drivers of all time is what sets them apart in my view.

    The 'trivalry' can be equally entertaining, but I just feel, amazing as he is, Roger Federer is a couple of steps behind Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic and has been for at least a year now. If Nadal and Djokovic had arrived on the scene five years earlier it would have been epic. That said, I'd still love to see Federer, or even Andy Murray with a bit of luck, win Wimbledon. Not sure they will though barring a major upset.

  • Comment number 74.

    I've just noticed someone mentioned Jean-Marie Balestre; that's spot on. The FIA's treatment of Senna during the Senna/Prost McLaren years was ridiculous, but I think added to Senna's motivation in a way.

  • Comment number 75.

    Let me hit you with a curve ball here. How about a man that will not be high on everyones radar but who has dominated his profession since 1990 but doesn't get paid enough like your tennis or snooker stars. 15 times World Professional Darts Player Phil 'The Power' Taylor. He has won every title that can be achieved in darts and at the 52 he is still winning titles. His rivalry against Barnie is second to none.

  • Comment number 76.

    The Great Triumvirate!
    J.H.Taylor, James Braid and Harry Vardon.

    Thought someone would have mentioned the original.

  • Comment number 77.

    There's clearly no way of comparing achievements from different sports unless you're dispassionate AND knowledgable about the sports involved. Personally I prefer boxing to tennis, coincidentally I think that it's tougher & that the '4 Kings' had the greatest rivalry. I also rate football rivalries and coincidentally am a football fan. Obviously tennis players face each other more often but it could be also argued that their rivalry is a friendly one, to me it doesn't seem as fierce (furry ball lovers will no doubt disagree). There are probably fans of skiing, bowls and curling who are just as adamant that their proponents are fiercest rivals in a more competitive arena.

    Having said that, let's enjoy the rivalry while it lasts, for all we know in 5 years' time a Sampras or Serena type figure may be the clear #1 & these 4 unable to compete. They could be vying for second place or lose heart after injuries or unforeseen circumstances.

  • Comment number 78.

    I would only consider true great rivalries those where careers coincide; the examples of Federer and Nadal or Nicklaus and Palmer are examples of one champion taking over the reins of an aging war-horse. Give me examples of rivalries whose careers overlap more in their entirety like Ali-Foreman-Frazier.

  • Comment number 79.

    One of the greatest rivalries in sport in the 1980s' was between the Boston Celtics (w/ Larry Bird) and the LA Lakers (w/ Magic Johnson). Both teams were loaded with great players and led by 2 of the greatest players ever to play the game. Every game between them, from regular season meetings to the playoffs, was compulsive viewing regardless of what team you supported. I had just emmigrated to the US in 1982 so these 2 superstars really helped me enjoy a totally new sport.

  • Comment number 80.

    The photo reminds me of the Four Musketeers, Henri Cochet, Jean Barotra, René Lacoste, and Jacques Brugnon who were remembered as one. Would this group be the same?

  • Comment number 81.

    The difference in F1 is the quality of the equipment, or cars, each team builds has a massive influence on outcome.

    For the start of 2012, the Ferrari was way off the pace of other cars. It's like tennis, but Alonso has to use a ping pong bat when Vettel and Hamilton had the latest tennis racquets. Admittedly. he could still handle it and took points, and appears to have moved on to a Borg style wooden racquet.

    Another tough thing for Murray is that, unlike the womans game, nobody in the mens top 10 above him seems to be able to take out one of the big three in a tennis major. Usually this means as seed 4 he plays seed 1 in the semis and then seed 2 or 3 in the final. He could do with a break where Tsonga or Ferrer etc actually knock out one of the big three in the quarter finals to mix it up a bit.

  • Comment number 82.

    no. 75. I think your accurate description of Phil Taylor's dominance kind of defeats your point on rivalry. It's been a one-horse race for so long that to watch 10 finals in the hope that Barney might win one is a turn off for most people. Tennis at least has the benefit of different surfaces which change the balance and predictability.

  • Comment number 83.

    Murray is frustrating to watch at times, he's far too emotional. Fair enough the fist pumping and shouting after a tough point, but when he hits trouble it's all too evident. Then there's him favouring his back or whatever physical problem he apparently has as the match goes on. He must have noticed Federer across the net; the ice man, whether winning or losing, and goes into fifth sets looking like he could play for another week. I still think it's more likely Murray will join the big three than Federer will continue on, but he really has to address this. I'm sure he would much prefer to top one of the three than get some other kind of loophole like a Ferrer/Tsonga quarter-final upset or injury to one of them.

  • Comment number 84.

    @3
    Not sure why you mentioned Bunny Austin,he didn't win a grand slam,he lost in two grand slam finals,compared to Murrays three.Or did you mention it because he reached the Wimbledon final and lost.To get a monkey off your back you need to win.

  • Comment number 85.

    Murray is a great player, but he lacks the fire in his belly to focus and take them on.

    He has the game to do it.

    Djokovic and Murray were equal juniors, but the key difference as pro's is that at key moments in big matches Djokovic raises his game and Murray goes missing.

    The mark of a great champion is how he plays the championship points.

  • Comment number 86.

    What about Borg, McEnroe & Connors - The Original Big 3 / The First Big 3? Don't they count?

    As for Murray he is leagues behind the Top 3. He doesn't have the same mental and physical stamina as the Top 3. Murray is the Tottenham Hotspur of the tennis world. Promises so much and delivers nothing!

    Murray's got the game but he doesn't have the class and the quality. He doesn't have that va va voom!

  • Comment number 87.

    "Just when observers had anointed Federer as the greatest tennis player ever, along came Nadal. And just when they thought Nadal might actually be greater than Federer, along came Novak Djokovic. Now no-one knows what to think."

    Maybe best to stick to boxing yes? Nadal and Djokovic cannot hold a candle to Federer in terms of the GOAT discussion. If you think "no-one knows what to think" you are underestimating your readers' intelligence.

    We had a similar blog several years back talking about the Nadal - Federer rivalry. Surely one of the greatest in sports. That concept had a lot more merit than this current conjecture. Let us begin with Federer, he has hardly been a factor for the top 2 men at Slam level for the past 2 years. In terms of the game's dynamics that is too long a time to lump him in with the top 2 to create a triarchy of rivals. Of course you have to put Federer's name in there because he brings the gloss and shine of the true Greatest Of All Time, we understand why you do this, media papers and all that. Should you need more arguments as to why there are not as many ignorant of the current status of the title GOAT, feel free to ask.

    Back to the true rivalry, that between Nadal and Djokovic. Opinion is divided because while Federer and Nadal's was a rivalry of matchup (negative one for Federer), the current one is of psyche only. The way the matches play out between Nadal and Djokovic is very similar and there are rarely shots played that would surprise those watching (i.e. endless pushing behind the baseline). This seems tedious to many long time tennis fans (myself included) and as it is the tennis played between the top 2 players in the world it is the advertisement of the game. And it is a poor one I find, with long rallies bereft of much complexity in shot-making and pauses between points that flaunt the rules of the game.

    The rivalry between Djokovic and Nadal cannot yet be compared to that of Federer and Nadal and as such cannot really be discussed in comparisons to other sports (except with equally inferior rivalries).

    Murry really shouldn't be mentioned here but it is also understandable that you do. Him being British and hyped up as a contender each year.

  • Comment number 88.

    @26 I am sorry to inform you that for several years now the meaning of 'different surfaces' at the Grand Slam Tournaments has little meaning. The plexicushion at the AO plays almost as slow as RG and SW19 is not far ahead in terms of speed. Ball size, new grass type (and longer cut) have made Wimbledon a shadow of what a real grass court plays like (Halle for example). This is done for the sake of TV advertising revenues and plays into the hands of players like Nadal and Djokovic who prefer to wait for an opponent's mistake.

  • Comment number 89.

    @41 Amateur GS does not count. '69 one was against a field of mostly journeymen tennis players. Keep in mind that Pro players hardly even traveled to Australia until the 80's. Almost blasphemous in my own ears but I have to say (and the overal discussion on this matter leans this way) Laver is a solid top 10 of all time but that's all.

  • Comment number 90.

    @50 Might want to tone down your abuse of other posters, especially when you contend that Murray is superior to Grand Slam Tournament winners of the past. He hasn't won one, they have. You cannot teleport him back in time with ball/racquet/surfaces of that day and age and see what he does. But just to throw you a bone, I reckon he would most probably be a top 20 player due to the cunning and tactical prowess of players back then and Murray's tendency to implode.

  • Comment number 91.

    Russeljones states Laver is a solid top 10 of all time "but that's all" !!!!

    You seem to dismiss his Grand Slam achievements as though they are ten a penny and assumedly dispute the fact he still won 11 titles even though he couldn't play for FIVE years in between !

    I repeat a la McEnroe......"You can not be serious" and only Federer can be considered to run him close currently though Nadal and Djokovic close the gap each year !

    As for Murray.....well seeing his photo alongside the other three there is rather embarrassing as far as most are concerned....he's actually won how many Wimbledons,French,Australian or US titles so far...and moreover will he win any in the future ?

  • Comment number 92.

    What about Moto GP? we had the great rivalries in the Sheene Roberts era, then the Rossi era Gibernau, Lorenzo, Stoner there has been some reportedly bad blood between them and some fantastic on track racing that makes the rest tame in comparison.

  • Comment number 93.

    @ 91 If yu admit to not being much a tennis scholar you cannot pretend to be outraged in the face of solid arguments. The fact that the majority of opponents Laver faced were amateurs and his AO titles not contested by seasoned tour professionals is widely known. This is the reason he is not considered as the greatest ever. His major contemporaries all managed to compile a winning record against him or near enoh to defeat the notion that he "dominated" (79-63 vs Rosewall and 75-107 vs Gonzales - and that an aged Gonzales who even at 41 whooped Laver, no disrespect).

  • Comment number 94.

    Open era stats for you to consider Arkle

    Most GS titles
    1. Roger Federer 16
    2. Pete Sampras 14
    3. Björn Borg 11
    4. Rafael Nadal 10
    5. Jimmy Connors 8
    = Ivan Lendl 8
    = Andre Agassi 8
    8. John McEnroe 7
    = Mats Wilander 7
    10. Stefan Edberg 6
    Boris Becker 6

    GS finals
    1. Roger Federer 23
    2. Ivan Lendl 19
    3. Pete Sampras 18
    4. Björn Borg 16
    5. Jimmy Connors 15
    = Andre Agassi 15
    7. Rafael Nadal 14
    8. John McEnroe 11
    = Mats Wilander 11
    = Stefan Edberg 11

    Consecutive GS finals
    1. Roger Federer 10
    2. Roger Federer 8
    3. Andre Agassi 4
    = Rod Laver 4
    5. Jimmy Connors 3
    = Björn Borg 3
    = Björn Borg 3
    = Björn Borg 3
    = Ivan Lendl 3
    = John McEnroe 3
    = Ivan Lendl 3
    = Ivan Lendl 3
    = Mats Wilander 3
    = Jim Courier 3
    = Jim Courier 3
    = Pete Sampras 3
    = Rafael Nadal 3

    GS semi-finals
    1. Jimmy Connors 31
    2. Roger Federer 29
    3. Ivan Lendl 28
    4. Andre Agassi 26
    5. Pete Sampras 23
    6. John McEnroe 19
    = Stefan Edberg 19
    8. Boris Becker 18
    9. Björn Borg 17
    10. Rafael Nadal 15

    Consecutive GS semi-finals
    1. Roger Federer 23
    2. Ivan Lendl 10
    3. Ivan Lendl 6
    = Novak Djokovic 6
    5. Novak Djokovic 5
    = Boris Becker 5
    = Nadal 5
    8. Rod Laver 4
    9. Tony Roche 4
    = John McEnroe 4
    = Andre Agassi 4
    = Jim Courer 4


    All Four Slams Per Year
    Rod Laver 1969

    Three Slams Per Year
    Jimmy Connors 1974
    Mats Wilander 1988
    Roger Federer 2004
    Roger Federer 2006
    Roger Federer 2007
    Rafael Nadal 2010
    Novak Djokovic 2011


    All Four Finals Per Year
    Roger Federer 2006
    Roger Federer 2007
    Roger Federer 2009
    Rod Laver 1969

    All Four Semi-finals Per Year
    Rod Laver 1969
    Ivan Lendl 1987
    Roger Federer 2005
    Roger Federer 2006
    Roger Federer 2007
    Roger Federer 2008
    Roger Federer 2009
    Rafael Nadal 2008
    Novak Djokovic 2011
    Andy Murray 2011

    Most consecutive matches won at one Grand Slam event:
    1. Björn Borg (Wimbledon), 41
    2. Roger Federer (Wimbledon), 40
    = Roger Federer (US Open), 40
    4. Pete Sampras (Wimbledon), 31
    = Rafael Nadal (French Open), 31

    Most consecutive Slams played:
    1. Wayne Ferreira 56
    2. Roger Federer 48
    3. Feliciano Lopez 39
    4. David Ferrer 37
    5. Fernando Verdasco 34
    6. Tomas Berdych 33
    7. Albert Montanes 21
    8. Philipp Kohlschreiber 29
    9. Nicolas Almagro 28
    10. Novak Djokovic

    Most Grand Slam match wins
    1. Jimmy Connors 233 wins
    2. Roger Federer 234 wins
    3. Andre Agassi 224 wins
    4. Ivan Lendl 222 wins
    5. Pete Sampras 204 wins

  • Comment number 95.

    continued from #94

    Year-End Championships
    1. Roger Federer 6
    2. Ivan Lendl 5
    = Pete Sampras 5
    4. Ilie Nastase 3
    = John McEnroe 3
    = Boris Becker 3

    Most Weeks at #1
    1. Pete Sampras 286
    2. Roger Federer 285
    3. Ivan Lendl 270
    4. Jimmy Connors 268
    5. John McEnroe 170
    6. Björn Borg 109
    7. Rafael Nadal 102
    8. Andre Agassi 101
    9. Lleyton Hewitt 80
    10. Stefan Edberg 72

    Consecutive Weeks at #1
    1. Roger Federer (1) 237
    2. Jimmy Connors (1) 160
    3. Ivan Lendl (1) 157
    4. Pete Sampras (1) 102
    5. Jimmy Connors (2) 84
    6. Pete Sampras (2) 82
    7. Ivan Lendl (2) 80
    8. Lleyton Hewitt (1) 75
    9. John McEnroe (1) 58
    10. Rafael Nadal (1) 56

    Year End #1
    1. Sampras 6
    2. Federer 5
    3. Borg 4
    4. Connors 3
    = Lendl 3
    = McEnroe 3

    Highest Season Winning Percentage
    1. John McEnroe (1984) .965 82–3
    2. Jimmy Connors (1974) .959 93–4
    3. Roger Federer (2005) .953 81–4
    4. Roger Federer (2006) .948 92–5
    5. Björn Borg (1979) .933 84–6
    6. Ivan Lendl (1986) .925 74–6
    7. Roger Federer (2004) .925 74–6
    8. Ivan Lendl (1985) .923 84–7
    9. Ivan Lendl (1982) .922 106–9
    10. Björn Borg (1980) .921 70–6
    = Novak Djokovic (2011) 0.921 70-6

    Pretty much all the significant records of the Open Era

  • Comment number 96.

    Nice try Russeljones...HOWEVER the fact remains despite the head to head results you quoted there Rod Laver delivered when it mattered most and I would respect John McEnroe's opinion far ahead of yours and it was Laver who achieved the TWO Grand Slams NEVER achieved even once since and he was denied a possibility of five more in between 1962 and 1968...whilst the stadium in Melbourne is called the Rod Laver arena for a reason.....there are NO stadiums called the Ken Rosewall arena or Pancho Gonzalez arena.... and I still possess my Pancho Gonzales Spalding racket which I used to win my local areas under 18 boys singles and doubles titles in the early 70s, by imitating the traditional Laver serve and volley style !

    Rocket Rod remains the greatest for me and many others...no disrespect whatsoever !

  • Comment number 97.

    Thanks for those Open Era stats..though as you know Laver was playing from 1959 to 1970 inclusive !

  • Comment number 98.

    @97 I urge you to fill in Laver's achievements next to 23 consecutive GS seminifals and 34 consecutive GS quarterfinals :)

  • Comment number 99.

    Gbaby and I was living in Boston In the late 80s. Bird/ johnson was amazing. Thanks for reminding me of those series. Djokovic for me is the best. Came from nowhere and nothing to rule the world. Always loved the underdog.

  • Comment number 100.

    hi, football has nearly started so i must be brief. you can not compare team to individual sports. i do not follow golf, motor sport or boxing so do not know much about those rivalries. in snooker the argument can only be about who the greatest is and for me that would be Ronnie. i think that the finals of 08 09 when both Fed and Nadal were at their peak eclipse those of Nadal and Djoko. however apart from wmbldn 08 Nadal won them all. personally i loved McEnroe and hated Conners. but loved both Becker and Edberg. (only saw Wimbledon in those days) obviously Jimmy White was my favourite and hated Davis but he always won i actually cried when he was 11 - 0 up over Dennis in 85 only to be elated when taylor won. all in all i think that this tennis era is the greatest so far over all other sports too. (now i must attend to the German v Greek contest.

 

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