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French Open Champions: Best 8 in the Modern Era 14

Posted on May 13, 2012 by JA Allen

Rafael Nadal has won 6 or the last 7 French Open titles.

More than any of the other majors, the French Open often produces a special kind of champion who loves to burrow down and blast his way through the red clay.

What is more, today, these French Open supernovas often manage to translate the skills that allow them to win on clay to other surfaces.

Winning on clay demands players excel in developing points using the brain as well as brawn—utilizing defensive skills, often as the launching pad for offense. The clay-court match requires playing with a huge measure of patience—hence, the phrase grinding it out becomes relevant in tennis.

Many professionals point to the lack of clay courts in the United States as one of the reasons for the reported failure of U.S. tennis during the past two decades.

The number of clay courts in the United States has dwindled dramatically. Today’s American youngsters learn to play almost exclusively on hard courts, foregoing the lessons imparted to their European and South American counterparts on homeland clay courts.

Of course, grass and clay courts are far more expensive to maintain which explains why these special surfaces are dying out in most places.

When you look at the ATP calendar, the clay court season lasts approximately two months—from April to the first week in June.

The grass season is even shorter—one month.  The rest of the calendar is played on artificial surfaces of various textures and rebound strength.

The French Open has been played since 1891. Starting in 1928, the tournament was played on the red clay courts of Stade Roland Garros in Paris.

Naturally, no tennis aficionado can talk about the greats of tennis history without mentioning the great Four Musketeers of French tennis: Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and René Lacoste who were responsible for the great enthusiasm the French have for tennis.

Since the modern era began in 1968, however, there have been only a handful of multiple winners of the French Open.  The top eight French Open Champions of the Open Era have won the title more than once since 1968.

If titles are equal, then the number of finals reached is considered. If all else is equal, the winning percentage becomes the final determining factor.

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Counting Down the 15 Greatest French Open Champions of the Open Era… 1

Posted on April 29, 2011 by JA Allen

The French Open Grounds surrounding Stade Roland Garros

Thoughts now turn to the red clay of Stade Roland Garros––the next Grand Slam championship on the calendar.

The French Open begins on May 22 following the Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

The French Open has often presented obstacles to many of the top players.  Pete Sampras never won on the red dirt nor did John McEnroe, although he came very lose in 1984.

Maria Sharapova could never capture this title and the Williams sisters never found the dirt to their liking, although Serena Williams did win the title in 2002 with her sister Venus as the runner-up.

In all eight men and seven women have won multiple championships since the Open Era began in 1968.

How do you measure the greatness of an athlete within their respective sport? What factors determine the degree of greatness over a period of time, be it years or decades?

Further, how do you determine who is number one in any given list or ranking?

First you must find a pattern and then you must determine the significant components of the ranking—does each factor merit being used as part of the overall equation? Sometimes it does, without question, like the score in a game. The highest or lowest score wins as in football or golf.

It is not always a simple task to determine who is the greatest because such discussions invariably have subjective components.

For this ranking, first consider the number of times a man or woman won the title.  Add in as well the number of times a player made it to the French Open finals since 1968 (Open Era) as the initial demarcation of greatness.

To be considered the player must have won the French Open more than once since 1968.

It should be noted that Rod Laver did win this tournament twice in 1962 and 1969, once in the Open Era. He also made the finals in 1968.

Roger Federer made four consecutive finals from 2006-2009, winning the title once in 2009.

That just proves how difficult it can be to win this tournament multiple times as these 15 players have done.

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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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The 20 Greatest Male Australian Open Champions of All Time, Part 2 3

Posted on January 18, 2011 by JA Allen

No. 10 John Bromwich (Won 1939 and 1946 – RU 1937, 1938, 1947, 1948, 1949 ) 7 Finals, 2 Wins.

Another of the great Ausssie's to play the game, John Bromwich won in singles and doubles.

Born in Sydney, John Bromwich was an innovator who helped usher in the two-handed forehand.

Primarily a doubles player, Bromwich could also obviously hold his own on the singles court.

He won his first Australian Open in 1939, defeating fellow Aussie Adrian Quist 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.

After the war in 1946, Bromwich again captured the Australian Open title over fellow Aussie Dinny Pails 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2. It was a hard-fought contest.

Bromwich was also runner up five times in 1937, 1938, 1947, 1948 and 1949.

In 1937 Bromwich fell to his doubles partner Vivian McGrath and in 1938 to American Don Budge.

In 1947 Bromwich lost to Dinny Pails, in 1948 to Adrian Quist and in 1949, he lost to fellow Aussie Frank Sedgman.

In all, Bromwich appeared in seven Australian Championship finals, winning twice.

No. 9 James Anderson (Won 1922, 1924, 1925) – 3 Finals, 3 Wins.

James Anderson won three Australian Open titles in the 1920s.

Australian James Anderson won the Australian Open three times in the 1920s when the tournament was titled the Australasian Championships––back in the days when not many players traveled down under to participate.

Between 1919 and 1925 Anderson played in 15 Davis Cup ties for Australia and was well-known on the tennis circuit.

In 1922, Anderson defeated Aussie Gerald Patterson 6-0, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

In 1924, he defeated Richard Schlesinger also from Australia 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Finally in 1925, Anderson upended Patterson again 11-9, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

In 1927, the tournament name changed to the Australian Championships.

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Miloslav Mecir: The Man Who Could Have Been King of Tennis 11

Posted on May 07, 2010 by JA Allen

Miloslav Mecir played tennis in the 1980s--known as the Swede Killer.

You have to admit that there is a huge difference between sultry singing in the shower and performing live at the Met to a packed house filled with critics.

This has implications beyond being able to carry a tune…and being fully clothed.

Besides the necessity of possessing outstanding vocal abilities, you would also need to overcome performance anxieties as you stood in front of an impressive audience thinking it knows exactly what you should be doing—never hesitating to point out your perceived flaws.

The same is doubly true on the playing field.

Monday-morning quarterbacks exist in all fields of endeavor. For example, the tennis player who exhibits all the talent and ability in the world must still overcome his or her own internal jitters in order to win.

This series will highlight tennis players who should have made it to the top of the game but who failed in big moments to win the most critical matches because of (1) nerves, (2) belief, (3) prolonged injury, or (4) the special category belonging to those who won a major but could never repeat the feat.

Miloslav Mecir

The “second-best” player who stands out most in my book is the Big Cat, Miloslav Mecir. The Slovak had an uncanny ability to annoy players from all corners of the globe during the 1980s, but he never made it all the way to the top.

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Top Ten French Open Legends from Agassi to Borg 2

Posted on April 17, 2010 by JA Allen
Top two active French Open finalists, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Top two active French Open finalists, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

What is it about the red clay at Stade Roland Garros that lifts some players to great heights while stopping others dead in their tracks? Is it a lack of patience or mental acumen that causes some great players to shut down on the red dirt?

The fact remains that in order to get to the very top of the men’s game, you must find an answer to the clay courts at the French Open.

For this ranking first consider the number of times a man made it to the finals of the French Open as the demarcation of greatness. Next consider the wins against the losses within a given number of tries.

No. 1 Bjorn Borg––6 French Open Finals

Bjorn Borg won the French Open six times in six tries.

Bjorn Borg won the French Open six times in six tries.

Bjorn Borg still reigns supreme in the record books at Stade Roland Garros, even after he retired from the game at age 26 almost 30 years ago. The red dust became the soul of his game. No one before him or since has ruled the red clay in Paris more definitively than the man from Sweden.

Borg won 41 consecutive sets and holds the record at the French Open.

He won the French Open six times starting in 1974––followed by victories in 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1981. He never lost in a French Open final.

If you think about how many more French Open titles Borg might have won had he continued, the mind boggles because no one was close to defeating him. But then, we will never know––nor should such thoughts linger when estimating his place in tennis history.

Borg’s winning percentage at the French Open was 96% (49-2).

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