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Sports Then and Now



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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Who’s No. 1? 16 Women in Tennis Who Held the Top Spot Longest 22

Posted on February 27, 2011 by JA Allen

Two women who dominated on tour: Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

Points given in a WTA sponsored tennis tournament are used to calculate a players ranking and who ultimately is the No. 1 player on the women’s tour.

Points gained are totaled for one year. Then as the event rolls around again on the calendar, the points earned last year fall off and new points won replace them.

Various tournaments have different point values with the slams offering the most points. For example, the winner of a major receives 2000 ranking points.

The further a player advances in the tournament, the more points she will earn.

Ultimately for the women on tour, only the player’s best 17 tournaments count toward total ranking points. That means a player cannot simply add to her ranking total by entering every tournament.

Historically, for the women’s tour, ranking did not even appear as a statistic until 1921.

Back then rankings were subjective, based on human observation, often a professional panel. Certainly there was no universal system. Calculation of rankings were not point-based until 1975.

Despite the inadequacies of past record-keeping, evidence exists that indicate a number of very talented female players held the No. 1 ranking and dominated the women’s game prior to 1975.

We will use prior subjective rankings and convert those records to an appropriate number of weeks in order to rank the dominance of the top 16 female tennis players since 1921.

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The 10 Greatest Female Australian Open Champions 5

Posted on January 20, 2011 by JA Allen



Serena Williams was the last Australian Open champ in 2010.

Most of the ladies crowned as champions of the Australian Open hailed primarily from Australia back in the early days of this prestigious tennis tournament.

Distance from European capitals and the United States kept the Australian Open a happening mainly for locals, although there were foreign winners from time to time.

Overall Australians have won 43 Australian Open titles, 33 during the Amateur Era and 10 during the Open Era. Their first championship came in 1922 and their last in 1978.

The Aussies are all hoping Samantha Stosur can add to their total by winning the championship in 2011. The time is now for a  native to win the trophy––it has been 33 years, after all.

With defending champion Serena Williams not playing in 2011 because of injury, this year is wide open for the ladies as they look to crown a new champion.

Female champions from the United States are second having won 22 Australian Open titles, 7 in the Amateur Era and 15 during the Open Era.

Half of the ladies in this Top Ten list are logically from Australia and many of them represent titles won during the Amateur Era which began back in 1922.

But all have outstanding results in the “Happy” Slam now held annually in Melbourne.

10. Australian Joan Hartigan Bathurst: Won in 1933, 1934, 1936 – 3 Finals, 3 Wins, 2 Consecutively.

Joan Hartigan Bathurst won three Australian Open titles in her career.

Australian Joan Hartigan-Bathurst played her first Australian Open Championship in 1931 and her last one in 1947. She won three championships during her long career.

Traveling outside of Australia, Hartigan-Bathurst also made the semifinals at Wimbledon twice. She never, however, traveled to play in the United States championships.

During her years playing on tennis courts around the world, Hartigan-Bathurst won three Australian Open titles, made the semifinals twice and the quarterfinals four times.

In 1933 Hartigan-Bathurst defeated Coral Buttsworth to win her first Australian Open title 6-4, 6-3.

The Aussie repeated as champion the following year defeating Margaret Molesworth 6-1, 6-4 in 1934.

Her next Australian Open Championship came in 1936 when Hartigan-Bathurst won over fellow Aussie Nancy Wynn Bolton 6-4, 6-4.

Overall she played in 10 Australian Open Championships, winning three times. Her win loss record was 48-7 giving Hartigan Bathurst a winning percentage of 87.27.

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U.S. Open Tennis: Greatest Lady Champions of the Modern Era 3

Posted on August 17, 2010 by JA Allen

Great Rivalries built the women's game into a prime spectator sport.

Heading into the 2010 U.S. Open, uncertainty reigns as several of the top seeds are currently sidelined with injuries.

First of all are the reports of Serena Williams’ recovery from foot surgery––leading to speculation that the younger Williams sister may not be fit enough to challenge for the U.S. Open championship.

Additionally will be the absence of Justine Henin with a right elbow injury suffered during a fall at Wimbledon. The pain and suffering could extend perhaps to Venus Williams who has pulled out of both Cincinnati and Montreal with pain in her left knee that prevents her from practicing.

Add to that wounded Russian Maria Sharapova who battled Kim Clijsters in the final in Cincinnati pulling out of the Rogers Cup after twisting her ankle during the match.

The end result is that a clear favorite for being crowned as this year’s champion remains shrouded in doubt––even though the odds seem to favor the younger Williams sister.  Will she notch another win in New York?

As we rate the top U.S. Open champions since 1968 on the women’s side, we look at both the number of final wins plus the number of appearances in U.S. Open finals.  If those are equal we look at the total winning percentages of each player.

Read the rest of this entry →

Top 9 Female French Open Finalists: Chris Evert Best of the Best 5

Posted on April 21, 2010 by JA Allen
Chris Evert is No. 1 for the Ladies Tour at the French Open

Chris Evert is No. 1 for the Ladies Tour at the French Open

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––years or decades?

Further, how do you determine who is No. 1 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 woman made it to the French Open finals since 1968 (Open Era) as the initial demarcation of greatness. To be considered she must have made it to the finals of the French Open at least 3 times.

Within the number of appearances, measure the wins against the losses in a given number of tries.

No. 1 Chris Evert ––Nine French Open Finals

Chris Evert winning seven of nine final appearances remains the undisputed leader on the clay at the French Open in Paris surpassing even her male counterparts in some estimations.

Evert won 7 French Open titles in 9 final appearances.

Evert won 7 French Open titles in 9 final appearances.

Clay brought out the strengths of Evert’s game––her patience, determination and her ability to construct points. She was tireless and unflappable on the red clay at Stade Roland Garros––hence her nickname, the Iron Princess.

The fact that she owns the clay court record with an 125-match win streak from 1973-1979 illustrates her prowess on the surface. During that run she lost only seven sets.

It was the one surface on which Evert generally prevailed over her arch-rival Martina Navratilova whose one weakness might have been the slow clay. They met in four finals on the red dirt with Evert coming out on top in three––all Evert’s wins over the Czech were three-set finals.

In all Evert appeared in nine finals at the French Open in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, winning them all except in 1973 and 1984.

Evert’s winning percentage stands at 92.4% [73-6].

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Queens of the Court: Monica Seles, What If? 2

Posted on January 10, 2010 by JA Allen
It is hard not to wonder just how great Monica Seles could have been were it not for the attack in ?????.

It is hard not to wonder just how great Monica Seles could have been were it not for the attack in Hamburg.

Monica Seles, a former world No. 1 tennis player, released her memoir Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self on April 21, 2009.

The autobiography details her bout with depression and her subsequent food addiction after being stabbed in a tennis tournament in Germany.

It also describes dealing with her father’s cancer diagnosis and eventual death, which devastated a daughter who was very close to her dad. Finally it follows her journey back to the game and her aim for a life beyond tennis.

Later on July 11, 2009, Seles was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, drawing attention to her story by a generation of tennis fans who may have missed her extraordinary rise to the top of the women’s game in the ’90s.

The Early Years

Monica Seles was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia on Dec. 2, 1973 but she became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1994. She started playing tennis when she was five years of age.

Her father, Karoly Seles, coached her and was the one who helped her develop her unique two-handed style with both the forehand and the backhand. He also contrived special moments that made the day-to-day practices fun for the little girl.

She was one of many tennis talents discovered and developed by Nick Bollettieri, training in the Bollettieri Tennis Academy for two years. Read the rest of this entry →

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