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Australian Open versus Tennis Masters Cup

Could the 70's top-players have won more Grand Slam titles if they had entered the Australian Open more often? To Borg, Connors and McEnroe, the Australian Open not only seemed less attractive than the other three Grand Slams, the newborn Tennis Masters Cup too instantly captured their attention and energy. Created in 1970 as the Masters Grand Prix, this tournament was open only to the Top 8 players, making it the tennis worldchampionships...an unofficial championship though, for another, separate circuit existed with its own year-end 'worldchampionships'. In 1985, both circuits merged. The TMC has had four different names, today it is officially known as the ATP World Tour Finals.

 

Early pioneers Down Under

As raised in our Australian Open topic, the Australian Open was often skipped by most of our Top 10-players until 1983 :

Wilander and Lendl were the first of our Top 10-players who showed up at the Australian Open in their early career and participated almost every year. The Suede would be victorious three times, a record later broken by Djokovic, Agassi and Federer. Wilander's first title in 1983 would be the start of the 'Australian Open revival', as Lendl and McEnroe too participated in 1983's edition. McEnroe was defeated in the semifinals by Wilander, who went on to win the finals against Lendl. It was Lendl's 2nd Australian Open appearance after having lost in the 2nd round of 1980's edition. From 1983 on, he would return to Australia each year, which payed off with titles in 1989 and 1990. McEnroe returned to Australia in 1985 but lost in the quarter finals. In 1989, he would be beaten again in the QF, by Lendl this time.

Since this revival, all top-players are eager to start the new season with a good result Down Under. If Connors, Borg and McEnroe had participated more often, they might have won a few more Australian Open titles. On the other hand, they might have got injured/fatigued Down Under and have lost some of their actual slam titles. We tried to figure out a more objective approach, allthough a lot of side effects still might be ignored in both approaches we propose.

 

Honour Australian Open + Tennis Masters Cup

The more appropriate approach to compare the 70's players to today's icons, might be to add the TMC to the list of four Grand Slam tournaments and define the best players for the five big tournaments. The 10 best Grand Slam players would be ranked like this:

 

Player AO RG W UO TMC Total titles
Titles Finals Titles Finals Titles Finals Titles Finals Titles Finals
1. Federer
4
5
1
5
7
9
5
6
6
7
23
2. Sampras
2
3
0
0
7
7
5
8
5
6
19
3. Nadal
1
3
9
9
2
5
2
3
0
1
14
4. Borg
0
0
6
6
5
6
0
4
2
4
13
4. Lendl
2
4
3
5
0
2
3
8
5
9
13
6. Djokovic
5
5
0
2
2
3
1
5
4
4
12
7. McEnroe
0
0
0
1
3
5
4
5
3
4
10
8. Becker
2
2
0
0
3
7
1
1
3
8
9
8. Connors
1
2
0
0
2
6
5
7
1
1
9
8. Agassi
4
4
1
3
1
2
2
6
1
4
9
11. Edberg
2
5
0
1
2
3
2
2
1
2
7
11. Wilander
3
4
3
5
0
0
1
2
0
1
7

 

For each tournament, the Top 3 results are marked in bold. McEnroe is the only player who doesn't make it to any Top 3.

Sampras and Federer are far ahead of their competitors. Maybe the fast TMC courts did favor them, but even when we leave out their TMC titles, both players still are ahead of the pack.

Federer won all five tournaments, Sampras four. Both players share the records with each other1 at Wimbledon and the US Open, Federer was more succesful at Roland Garros, the Australian Open and the TMC.

Agassi is the only other player who won all five tournaments once, no one was yet able to win all five more than once. Federer reached at least five finals at all tournaments, Djokovic, Agassi and Lendl two, Edberg and Nadal one.

Sampras nor Lendl ever won all five tournaments, but they won four different tournaments at least twice. Federer however has four titles or more at four different tournaments. Connors won four different tournaments once or more, but he won two of those four tournaments only once. Borg won three different tournaments twice or more, McEnroe three times or more.

Only Federer reached all five finals in one calendar year and won four tournaments in one calendar year (three times, in 2004, 2006 and 2007). In 1980, Borg reached finals in all four big tournaments he entered regularly, McEnroe in 1984; both players won three of these four finals. In three calendar years, Lendl reached finals at four of the five big tournaments: 1984, 1986 and 1987. He won three finals in the last two years mentionned, and one in 1984.

If we leave out the Australian Open for the 70's icons, Borg reached at least four finals in all four tournaments he played frequently, McEnroe at least one final. Both players failed to win all four tournaments though: Borg lost four US Open finals, McEnroe his single Roland Garros final. Connors never reached the finals at Roland Garros.

 

Ignore Australian Open + Tennis Masters Cup

A 2nd approach to compare players over four decades might be to leave out the Australian Open & TMC titles:

This approach neutralises the faster courts of the TMC and compensates Borg's and McEnroe's desinterest for the Australian Open. It seems rather unfair for Connors though and for all players to whom the Australian Open & TMC did matter.

 

 

1 ...and with Connors at the US Open. Federer shares the Australian Open record with Agassi and Djokovic.

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