Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now



Greatest Kings of the Court at Wimbledon 7

Posted on June 20, 2012 by JA Allen

Roger Federer defeated defending champion Pete Sampras in the 4th round of Wimbledon in 2001.

Since 1950, the lush lawns of Wimbledon have staged some of the greatest tennis matches of all time.

Many of those battles have been waged on Championship Sunday as two finalists faced off on opposite sides of the net to determine who would claim the vaunted title that year.

Throughout the decades the champions seemed to come in waves from Australia early on, then Sweden, the United States and lately from Switzerland, Spain and most recently from Serbia.

The twelve greatest champions of the past 60 years won multiple titles after working through the draw to reach the final at the All-England Club.

Until recently, most truly successful played serve and volley tennis—a game which seemed unbeatable on grass.

Now, however, base-liners rule Centre Court.

Base-line players supplanted serve and volleyers as the seemingly less aggressive game style dominated, enhanced by new racket technology while the grass surfaces reportedly slowed significantly.

As Wimbledon gets underway in 2012 world No. 1 Novak Djokovic hopes he will capture his second Wimbledon championship.

Rafael Nadal desperately wishes to seize his third title on the grass while Roger Federer anticipates winning the Wimbledon trophy for the seventh time and, in the process, recapture the No.1 ranking.

As usual, the Wimbledon championship is eagerly anticipated with much riding on the outcome.

See whose name is added or moved up on the Wimbledon winners list once the fortnight ends.

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The Ten Greatest Players Never to Win the French Open 5

Posted on May 27, 2011 by JA Allen

The French Open is the only major played on clay.

Regarded by many players as the most difficult grand slam to win, the first French Open was held in 1891. But it was not until 1925 that the tournament moved to the grounds of Stade Roland Garros.

The French Open is the only major still played on clay.

Playing tennis on clay was once deemed a special art. Roland Garros became the arena for clay court specialists.

Even today’s players utilize a particular skill set to do well on the clay court surface––which not only slows down the ball but can produce a high bounce.

It takes great patience, but learning to play on clay also provides a good foundation for doing well on all surfaces.

Winning in Paris is essential to winning a grand slam. Very often, lack of success at Stade Roland Garros has kept many a player from winning that elusive fourth major.

Few players have won a grand slam––all four majors in a calendar year. For the men, there was Don Budge in 1938 and Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969.

For the ladies, Maureen Connolly Brinker won in 1953, Margaret Court in 1970 and Steffi Graf in 1988. These three ladies all won calendar year grand slams.

Additionally, many players have won a career slam––winning at all venues during the course of a tennis player’s career.

The men who have won career slams are Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

For the ladies the career slam belongs to Maureen Connolly Brinker, Doris Hart, Shirley Fry Irvin, Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams.

Many great players have been stopped because they could not negotiate the clay.  Following are the top 10 players who could never find a way to win that elusive French Open title.

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Review: High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe…by Stephen Tignor 2

Posted on May 04, 2011 by JA Allen

By Stephen Tignor

Those of us who lived through the final hours of the Borg-McEnroe tennis rivalry in the early 1980s continue to embellish the mystique surrounding those epic matches relying upon imperfect memory and wish fulfillment.

This is because as the matches fade into history, our faint recollection of the events heighten the excitement of each pivotal point recalled.

Ultimately when Borg sinks to his knees on the war-ravaged lawn of Centre Court in 1980, we sink into the 3-inch shag carpeting in front of our console TVs exhilarated all over again.

There was nothing quite like their battles waged with wooden rackets during those two turbulent summers when It’s Still Rock’N’ Roll to Me, Workin’ My Way Back to You, and The Boy From New York City were topping the charts and we lip-synched and strutted along with the rest.

Author Stephen Tignor’s poignant rewind entitled High Strung––Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, And the Untold Story of Tennis’s Fiercest Rivalry details the denouement and climax of what many consider tennis’ most memorable rivalry.

The opening salvo comes as the brash, loud American teenager meets the cooly, serene Swede on the hallowed grounds of the All England Club in the summer of 1980––where Borg was a God and McEnroe the unwelcome American interloper.

Tignor, with colorful expressive language, mimics the highly rhythmic yet repetitive lyrics of the times. He paints his collage of those days with broad vibrant strokes, detailing most often the Borg-McEnroe rivalry.

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Roger Federer: How Does He Stack Up Against the 10 Greatest of All Time? 3

Posted on April 14, 2011 by JA Allen

Roger Federer wins Wimbledon in 2009.

In over a century of judging the hits and misses of men’s professional tennis, tournament rules have come and gone. Styles of play rose and fell with the passage of time.

Technology has increased speed, spin and accuracy as rackets evolved and athletes became bigger, stronger and faster.

In light of constant evolution, it becomes difficult to compare players from one generation to the next because unlike baseball, tennis has never been a game noted for rote statistics.

That is not to say the stats were not there, but as a professional organization, no one thought to keep numbers comparing players in a consistent and forward-thinking manner. Sometimes even the most rudimentary facts about a match are missing.

Even today, there is no consensus about just what statistical measures are important in judging the overall careers of the top men in tennis.

The statistics that seem to matter most currently are: (1) the number of grand slam victories; (2) the number of weeks or total length of time holding the No. 1 ranking; (3) the number of year-end tour championship wins over the best eight men in the field, and (4) the number of Master’s Shields won. Many other statistics considered important by the ATP are detailed here

This ranking looks at players of the modern era, since 1968, although a great case can and should be made for male tennis stars who played before the Open Era.

Compare Federer’s numbers to the stats of others with him in the top 10, especially those who have won slams on all surfaces.

These 10 players in the modern era have set the bar for the rest following in this 21st century.

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What Have Been the Greatest Upsets in U.S. Open Tennis History? 1

Posted on August 19, 2010 by JA Allen

Night Sessions at the U.S. Open are momentous occasions.

Looking at the modern era or from 1968 forward, how many times has the number one seed or one of the top seeds gone down to defeat unexpectedly in New York during the U.S. Open?  Here are some of the most famous upsets listed here in chronological order.

1975 Jimmy Connors (1) vs. Manuel Orantes (3), Finals

Ornates won 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. In 1975 Jimmy Connors, the No. 1 seed defeated his arch rival Bjorn Borg in the semifinals while Spain’s Manuel Orantes defeated the No. 2 seed Guillermo Vilas in a very difficult match to reach the final, facing Jimmy Connors.  The Open at Forest Hills was being played on clay in 1975.

Connors was having a bad year, for him, losing his Australian Open crown to John Newcombe and his Wimbledon trophy to Arthur Ashe.  His back was against the wall as the American faced the Spaniard Orantes, trying to retain his hold on the No. 1 ranking.

The clay surface obviously benefitted Orantes.  But Connors had defeated the Spaniard in six of their last seven meetings and felt confident going into the match that he would win again.

Orantes never let the American into the match.  The Spaniard played slow, denying Connors pace, never allowing him to establish a rhythm. Orantes lobbed and passed Connors at the net with amazing accuracy.

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The Greatest U.S. Open Tennis Champions of the Modern Era 4

Posted on July 22, 2010 by JA Allen

The United States Open has hosted some of the greatest matches in tennis history.

In a another month we will be heavily invested in the last grand slam tournament of the season, the 2010 U.S Open to be held in Queens, New York, at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Last year’s winner of the U.S. Open men’s trophy, Juan Martin del Potro will not be on hand to defend his championship.  The Argentine has been sidelined most of 2010 after surgery for a wrist injury.

The question remains whether Roger Federer will reestablish his dominance in the event or if a new champion will crowned as the next U.S. Open winner.

Some believe Federer’s era has past. But most have adopted a “wait and see” attitude.  Time will tell whether the Swiss continues to add to his impressive record at the U.S. Open, moving him up the ladder on the list of greatest champions.

An examination of  the top U.S. Open champions since 1968 should focus on both the number of finals won plus the total number of final appearances.  If those totals are equal then consider the total winning percentages of the respective players.

Of all the tennis professionals who have participated in the modern era at the U.S. Open, the number of men who have multiple wins is few.  It is a very difficult accomplishment––making it to the final of a major and then winning the tournament––most of all, doing it more than once.  The following men are great champions.

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    • Joe Cronin: Player-Manager
      October 1, 2017 | 8:21 am
      Joe Cronin

      Joe Cronin

      In recognition of the start of the baseball playoffs, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month a man who managed pennant winning teams in Washington and Boston and spent more than decade as a player-manager.

      When the Boston Red Sox acquired Joe Cronin following the 1934 season they didn’t just get an All-Star player, they also got a new manager.

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