The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 TeasersiSteve Blog
Federer vs. Nicklaus
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeThanksLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, age 36, won his 20th major championship this weekend at the Australian Open. (There are four majors per year in both tennis and golf.) This puts him four out ahead of Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who is 31, and still piling up majors, and six ahead of the retired American Pete Sampras.

The current open system of tennis majors only extends back to 1968. Prior, the majors were only open to amateur, so it’s unclear how many earlier professionals would have won. The most intriguing example is Australian Rod Laver who all four grand slam titles as an amateur in 1962, then turned pro and couldn’t play in any majors for five years until 1968 when they allowed pros and he immediately won all four grand slam events. If you assume during Laver’s five years away from the majors that he would have won, say, two of the four each year, that would give him 10 more or 21 compared to Federer’s 20. But that’s just a crude estimate. Federer has actually won 20.

Number 20 also ties Federer with golfer Jack Nicklaus’s contention that, while he has won 18 major professional championships, he also deserves credit for his two U.S. Amateur championships he won before turning professional in 1962. In Jack’s view, his famous 1986 Master’s championship at age 46 was #20 for him, not #18. Using Jack’s count, he became the greatest golfer of all time 1973 when he surpassed 1920s amateur Bobby Jones’ 13, including the US Amateur and the British Amateur.

Tiger Woods has won 14 pro majors, for behind Jack, but giving him credit for his 3 US Amateurs, he has 17. In La Jolla on Sunday, at Torrey Pines where Tiger won his last major at the 2008 US Open on a bad knee, Tiger, now 42, tied for 23rd out of about 144 entrants. That’s not great, but considering that not long ago he seemed likely to join Prince and Tom Petty in the pain pill hereafter, that’s a big improvement.

I blogged on iSteve almost exactly ten years ago:

Tiger Woods and Roger Federer
STEVE SAILER • JANUARY 31, 2008 • 600 WORDS • 30 COMMENTS

Tiger Woods has always focused on breaking his idol Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships. He currently has 13. By this age, Nicklaus had 9, so that would put Woods on pace for 26. …

Yet, Woods has a worthy contemporary competitor — not on the golf course, but on the tennis court. Swissman Roger Federer, who won’t turn 27 until August, has won 12 Grand Slam titles. If he stays hot, he could overtake Woods, at least for a few years.

There are four Grand Slam tournaments each year — Australian, French, Wimbledon, and US — so they are a fair comparison to golf’s four major championships….

So, if Federer maintains the same pace as Sampras, he’ll win about 17 Grand Slam titles.

That Nicklaus holds the golf record with 18 while Sampras holds the tennis record with only 14 mostly shows how much better Nicklaus was than all other golfers before Tiger, whereas it’s not at all clear who was the best tennis player before Federer. The top ten tennis players in terms of major championship victories have won 102, while the top 10 golfers have won 96, so the two sports are directly comparable.

 
Hide 76 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. The top ten tennis players in terms of major championship victories have won 102, while the top 10 golfers have won 96, so the two sports are directly comparable.

    That stat surprised me, but surely it doesn’t hold ten years down the line. There have been many more single Major winners in golf in that time. Which is what you’d expect with a sport that happens on a greater variety of stages, and is more prone to luck and differing conditions than tennis.

  2. Why are we discussing two obviously racist sports? Same with JZ being shut out at the Grammys.

  3. Pretty amazing that Nadal has won so many in the same time frame, and then you get Djokovic and Murray. I know Nicklaus also had top class rivals, unlike Woods. Don’t know about Laver. What to explain Federer’s resurgence; Managing his decline, his rivals burning out sooner, PEDs? He always made it look effortless so perhaps he just doesn’t require the same physical effort, or hasn’t had to expend it already. Football players who have had unnaturally long careers are those that have used their brain more, and not needed to use physical effort or rely on pace.

    • Replies: @keuril

    What to explain Federer’s resurgence; Managing his decline, his rivals burning out sooner, PEDs?
     
    He bided his time until his rivals burned out. Watch some matches of Nadal in his prime and decide for yourself if this is what a natural human is physically capable of.
  4. So many differences before one can compare:

    If this was Federer’s last (at 36) and if you match up with Nicklaus’ last )at 46)—that’s forty more opportunities for Jack to get his 20.

    Jack had to play the field, while Fed played one opponent at a time.

    Fed’s Major commitment was over 2 weeks, while Jack’s was 4 days. Fed played 7 rounds over the two weeks, while Jack played 4 rounds over 4 days.

    Regardless, it’s always fun to witness greatness.

  5. Tiger’s the best golfer ever. Not really close in my opinion. Jack, is probably the greatest champion but his level of competition wasn’t anywhere near Tiger’s. Orville Moody wasn’t winning majors in Tiger’s era. This is an interesting debate.

    I played some tennis growing up but find it tedious to watch even when played by the likes of Federer and Nadal. Is the sport still rife with steroids? Has Serena had to run to her panic room recently?

    • Replies: @Marty
    Orville Moody wasn’t winning majors in Tiger’s era.

    Rich Beem? Y.E. Yang?

  6. Speaking of tennis, have you been following the story of Australian Open quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren? He has been found guilty by the media of giving alt-right arguments fair consideration.

    http://www.news.com.au/sport/tennis/tennys-sandgren-has-every-right-to-be-fuming/news-story/79addf6f47b3c94d91c45b68cae2f9d5

  7. While Rod Laver won more than 200 singles titles at all levels, its worth noting that he achieved that playing as an amateur and as a professional at the same time, and against his great countryman Ken Rosewall who was his contemporary, though four years older.

    Rosewall won 8 amateur Grand Slam titles to Laver’s 11, and 15 “Pro-slam” titles to Laver’s 8.

    Rosewall’s years as a pro coincided with all of Laver’s years as a pro, but Rosewall had bowed out of the amateur game in 1956 to turn pro, the very year Laver got going as an Amateur circuit champion.

    If Rosewall hadn’t been around during Laver’s pro years, Laver would almost certainly have won even more tournaments. But Rosewall’s absence during the first part of Laver’s amateur career helped Laver.

    Had Rosewall stuck around in the amateur game from 1956 to the early Sixties, when Laver turned pro, I’m pretty sure Laver would have picked up fewer Grand Slam titles.

    • Replies: @sb
    Agree-that is certainly the widespread view in Australia
    This counting majors caper is really of recent vintage .
    In tennis players once retired young to get a real job and ,maybe , start family life .Well that's what all the Australian players of the past say when reminiscing

    As for golf there was the PGA and then the rest of the world until maybe the 70s .
    Non US players from earlier times didn't much relocate to the US which is really neccessary if you want to do well on the PGA Tour -which has 3 of the majors .(Did Gary Player actually relocate to the US ? - I had the impression he was regularly travelling from South Africa )
    , @MarkinLA
    All the comparisons are difficult due to the infusion of advertising money that has made professional sports so lucrative. I remember reading that Bjorn Borg did not play at Australia because the purses were so small compared to the costs and it was too far away in time away from the tour in Europe and the US where he made most of his money.

    I remember watching Wimbledon and Chris Evert saying she won there once and her prize was 7500 pounds. That would have been around 15,000 dollars which would have only been equal to a man's yearly salary in the US. So of course, the pro careers of minor stars didn't last as long as they do now.

    I think it is definately harder now to win major events because the lower level talent is much better than in the past. I also think it is harder to win a major golf tournament than a major tennis tournament. In tennis the first three rounds are usually a given for the top talent. You also only have to play better then your opponent on that day not the 10-15 people at the top of the leaderboard. In golf, somebody can have the best 4 days of his life and win his one and only major. This seldom happens in tennis. In tennis you may be able to survive a bad day but you usually won't win a major with even one bad day.
  8. Anonymous [AKA "Eric Tennis"] says:

    With respect to Laver, the best method to estimate how many grand slams he would have ended up with may be to count his Pro Championships, as all of the best players played on the pro circuit at that time and there were four “majors” to match the current four majors. Doing so gives the Rocket a total of 19 slams, pretty darn close to where you were thinking Steve.

    • Agree: ScarletNumber
    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
    In addition to the three pro majors, there was also an Australian Pro Tournament from 1954 to 1966. Laver won it in 1964 and in 1965 it was played twice in both Adelaide and Perth, with Laver winning both. Counting 1965 as one, this gives Laver two more majors, pushing his total to 21.
  9. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I am no expert and could hardly care less about golf or tennis, but Mr. Woods declined substantially after his public humiliation as an indiscriminate, faithless husband. When I back then told my friends who follow golf that it would be a long time before he overcame the bruised ego to win another major, they scoffed. He hasn’t.

    Shattered confidence would seem to be especially damaging to a golfer. I wonder why pundits have allowed him to take the knee, as Mr. Sailer does here.

    • Replies: @Ivy
    Woods got hit with a one-two, Dad dying and humiliating divorce. His support network largely evaporated and he imploded. Emotional stability and maturity, or absence thereof, impact even those rare talents, and serve as cautionary tales for mere mortals. Some Vegas sports book guys probably track similar attributes.
  10. Hey commenters,

    Steve linked to a site a while back that offered pairs of books with contrasting views on a topic, one with the liberal/mainstream view and the other with the conservative view. Does anybody have the website address? I couldn’t find the post with some googling.

    • Replies: @Triumph104
    OT:

    https://www.unz.com/isteve/countersearch/
  11. Federer has benefitted from his own relative good health compared to his peers. Andy Murray missed the Australian Open and Novak Djokovic was obviously limited by injury. The next tier of players hasn’t really risen up to challenge this group as much as you would expect. Federer could easily win a couple of more majors.

    I can’t see Tiger winning another major. While he played better on the weekend, he made the cut on the number at a course where he has always played well. Given the number of young golfers playing well consistently, I don’t see how puts together another week good enough to win a major, let alone three or four more.

  12. You can’t assume that Laver would have won another 10 or more Grand Slams if pros had been allowed to compete, if only because Ken Rosewall also would have been competing. Rosewall is about 4 years older than Laver, and he turned pro long before Laver ever won a Grand Slam as an amateur. There were other top pros in the period from 1960 through 1962, and from then through 1967, who would have given Laver a run for his money.

  13. The player who easily benefitted the most from the No pros at the Grand Slams was Rpy Emerson, who until Pete Sampras had the most titles with 12. But Emerson’s last Grand Slam was in 1967. Emerson never won a Grand Slam with Rosewall playing, and I think he won only 2 when Laver was playing

  14. Not comparable. Different times, different rules, different everything …. Who’s better mathematician, Viete (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Vi%C3%A8te ) or Grothendieck (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Grothendieck )? Meaningless question ….

  15. Federer is either an extreme outlier or he has found the right cocktail of drugs to avoid detection, but maintain his peak well past his peak. My guess would be the latter. Tennis has worked hard to maintain a clean image by not taking testing too seriously. That means the bare minimum WADA labs offer. They catch more players for recreational drugs than PED’s.

    The more sophisticated stuff like designer peptides and EPO require expensive and complex tests to detect. Tennis has done little in this area, beyond the barest of bare minimum. A guy like Federer has the means and the opportunity to avail himself to the latest techniques. That’s why it is a good bet that he is not winning at 36 because of clean living.

    • Replies: @Barnard
    PED allegations have followed Rafael Nadal is entire career. I don't know how to fairly compare current players when it is likely so many are using PEDs. When the best player and his strongest opponents are all likely using PEDs does that level the playing field?

    Serena Williams is another very obvious case of playing at a prime level well past what should be her prime. We will see how she does coming back after childbirth. Kim Clijsters waited over a year to come back after childbirth, Serena was talking coming back in six months, although still hasn't played yet. Clijsters was also ten years younger than Serena when she had her baby. I am not willing to believe Serena has played her entire clean. The WTA has fairly obviously given Venus Williams an exemption for drugs for treatment of her Sjogren's syndrome. Here is an article speculating on how Venus is still able to play tennis at a high level while suffering from a disease where the two most common symptoms are fatigue and joint pain.

    https://www.sjogrenslife.com/venus-williams-and-sjogrens-syndrome/
    , @boomstick
    Federer is thought by some to be drug-free. In several places he's himself called for better testing.

    https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/brian-boyd-federer-happy-to-talk-about-drugs-so-why-does-nobody-want-to-ask-1.3157855


    There is absolutely no evidence that Federer is anything but a clean athlete. He not only is the most graceful player the game has ever seen, but also the most efficient. His almost ballet-like movement and perfect technique means his body hasn’t been pummelled as much as other top players in the game.

    But that isn’t the point. Federer needs to be subject to the same scrutiny as every other athlete who accomplishes remarkable feats. He has said himself “naivety says that tennis is clean”.

    But blinded by his aura and celebrity status, the hard questions are not being asked of him. We believe Federer is clean, but such questions need to be routinely asked.
     

  16. Try as I might…..I’m sorry Steve, I just can’t get into tennis….

    • Replies: @keuril

    Try as I might…..I’m sorry Steve, I just can’t get into tennis….
     
    Thanks for that brilliant insight.
    , @Twodees Partain
    Same here. Either game is interesting to the players while it's being played, but I've never understood the attraction of watching others play a game, let alone the conversations about it. I would rather get laid than watch porn, but to each his own.
  17. @PiltdownMan
    While Rod Laver won more than 200 singles titles at all levels, its worth noting that he achieved that playing as an amateur and as a professional at the same time, and against his great countryman Ken Rosewall who was his contemporary, though four years older.

    Rosewall won 8 amateur Grand Slam titles to Laver's 11, and 15 "Pro-slam" titles to Laver's 8.

    Rosewall's years as a pro coincided with all of Laver's years as a pro, but Rosewall had bowed out of the amateur game in 1956 to turn pro, the very year Laver got going as an Amateur circuit champion.

    If Rosewall hadn't been around during Laver's pro years, Laver would almost certainly have won even more tournaments. But Rosewall's absence during the first part of Laver's amateur career helped Laver.

    Had Rosewall stuck around in the amateur game from 1956 to the early Sixties, when Laver turned pro, I'm pretty sure Laver would have picked up fewer Grand Slam titles.

    Agree-that is certainly the widespread view in Australia
    This counting majors caper is really of recent vintage .
    In tennis players once retired young to get a real job and ,maybe , start family life .Well that’s what all the Australian players of the past say when reminiscing

    As for golf there was the PGA and then the rest of the world until maybe the 70s .
    Non US players from earlier times didn’t much relocate to the US which is really neccessary if you want to do well on the PGA Tour -which has 3 of the majors .(Did Gary Player actually relocate to the US ? – I had the impression he was regularly travelling from South Africa )

  18. It’s difficult to compare the different eras of tennis; different rackets, surfaces, etc. As a tennis amateur and off-and-on follower of the pro game, I’d say Federer and Nadal are great players and great rivals who would have been great in any era. However, during the relatively short time he was dominant, Pete Sampras was the best player I’ve ever seen. He thrashed some strong opponents, and would likely have embarrassed many stars of previous eras.

  19. If it’s possible to have a more impressive record than Federer’s total GS haul, along with his overall career titles and match wins (second only to Connors–whose record is dubious given that many of those were on a different tour arranged by his agent), is his record of playing 1200+ tournament level matches without ever defaulting a single one. That record will simply never be touched. Given the absolute stress of a tennis match for something that matters (and those who’ve never done it simply have no concept of it), that is truly incredible. Cal Ripken has nothing on RF.

    One thing I have noted is an attempt at normalizing the fatuous ‘greatest male player nonsense’. Why put in that qualification when men and women play the exact same game with the same racquets, courts, usually balls, and even together on the same court (in mixed doubles)?

    Serena Williams is a pretty good choice as the greatest female player of all time, but Federer is the greatest player to have ever put a racquet in hand, full stop.

    • Replies: @Anon
    But I don't think Federer has enhanced his physique with chemicals, and I do suspect Serena, even if it's not politically correct. Off the court, she is masculine enough to put on makeup and look like Caitlyn Jenner. And I'm not trying to insult.
  20. No one counts amateur and professional titles, matches, etc. in one’s career. That would be akin to combining Peyton Manning’s NCAA stats with his NFL stats. By this measure, OJ Simpson would be second all time in total yards rushing behind Emmitt Smith (of course, Emmitt would still be out ahead of him since he’d get to count his NCAA career).

    An amateur is not in the same league as a professional. If he were, then he would get paid for his efforts. And no, Jack, they’re not going to count the titles you won when you were 12 thru 17 either. After all, under 18 is also technically an amateur.

    Nice try, but that’s not how it works.

    This is just total asinine.

    • Replies: @Philbert Desanex
    perhaps you are unaware but Jack Nicklaus qualified for and played in several major championships as an amateur beginning at age 17. He won the US Amateur in 1959 and 1961 at age 19 and 21. He finished in the top 4 of the US Open golf tournament in 1960 and 1961 as an amateur, at age 20 and 21, prior to winning it for his first major title in 1962 as a first-year professional. Your comment is what's asinine
  21. @PiltdownMan
    While Rod Laver won more than 200 singles titles at all levels, its worth noting that he achieved that playing as an amateur and as a professional at the same time, and against his great countryman Ken Rosewall who was his contemporary, though four years older.

    Rosewall won 8 amateur Grand Slam titles to Laver's 11, and 15 "Pro-slam" titles to Laver's 8.

    Rosewall's years as a pro coincided with all of Laver's years as a pro, but Rosewall had bowed out of the amateur game in 1956 to turn pro, the very year Laver got going as an Amateur circuit champion.

    If Rosewall hadn't been around during Laver's pro years, Laver would almost certainly have won even more tournaments. But Rosewall's absence during the first part of Laver's amateur career helped Laver.

    Had Rosewall stuck around in the amateur game from 1956 to the early Sixties, when Laver turned pro, I'm pretty sure Laver would have picked up fewer Grand Slam titles.

    All the comparisons are difficult due to the infusion of advertising money that has made professional sports so lucrative. I remember reading that Bjorn Borg did not play at Australia because the purses were so small compared to the costs and it was too far away in time away from the tour in Europe and the US where he made most of his money.

    I remember watching Wimbledon and Chris Evert saying she won there once and her prize was 7500 pounds. That would have been around 15,000 dollars which would have only been equal to a man’s yearly salary in the US. So of course, the pro careers of minor stars didn’t last as long as they do now.

    I think it is definately harder now to win major events because the lower level talent is much better than in the past. I also think it is harder to win a major golf tournament than a major tennis tournament. In tennis the first three rounds are usually a given for the top talent. You also only have to play better then your opponent on that day not the 10-15 people at the top of the leaderboard. In golf, somebody can have the best 4 days of his life and win his one and only major. This seldom happens in tennis. In tennis you may be able to survive a bad day but you usually won’t win a major with even one bad day.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
    Wimbledon refers to the 1974 and 1976 winner as Miss C.M. Evert and the 1981 winner as Mrs. J.M. Lloyd with no indication that they are the same person. Talk about sticklers for etiquette. And none of this silly Ms. shit.
  22. As far as the two sports being comparable, what effect does the number of players in each tournament have? Aren’t there generally a lot more players in a golf tournament? And in tennis, you only play against one opponent at a time, instead of against the entire field.

  23. I recall Ken Rosewall from the old days. To this day he is still considered by many as the greatest tennis player of all time.

  24. Nicklaus never took steroids. Federer has draw attention to his “skinny arms”, but maybe he has given up and got on the bandwagon. If Federer is clean he is the greatest, but we will never know.

  25. Very interesting piece Steve.

    I think to compare Laver with Federer is not right. The competition today is far greater than what was faced before–population increase and probably an increase in athleticism due to training and better environmental conditions such as rich food.

    Laver would not have been a match for Federer–any more than Jerry West would have been a match for Michael Jordan.

    The Flynn effect applies to sports too.

  26. In the 50s and 60s, tennis was a glorified country club sport with a very limited talent pool. Wooden rackets meant the ball traveled slowly and stayed slow, so it didn’t hurt and perhaps even helped to be short like Rosewall and Laver. It is highly unlikely that they could even make a Division I college team nowadays, much less compete against top pros. Comparing them to the top modern players is meaningless.

    • Replies: @blank-misgivings
    I doubt that. Laver was competitive against Borg in the few matches they played, Borg was equal to Lendl, Lendl was competitive with Sampras, and Sampras with Federer. Transitivity may not be total but it suggests Laver would be competitive today, especially with modern equipment.
  27. @LondonBob
    Pretty amazing that Nadal has won so many in the same time frame, and then you get Djokovic and Murray. I know Nicklaus also had top class rivals, unlike Woods. Don't know about Laver. What to explain Federer's resurgence; Managing his decline, his rivals burning out sooner, PEDs? He always made it look effortless so perhaps he just doesn't require the same physical effort, or hasn't had to expend it already. Football players who have had unnaturally long careers are those that have used their brain more, and not needed to use physical effort or rely on pace.

    What to explain Federer’s resurgence; Managing his decline, his rivals burning out sooner, PEDs?

    He bided his time until his rivals burned out. Watch some matches of Nadal in his prime and decide for yourself if this is what a natural human is physically capable of.

  28. I remember hearing that women’s tennis was the only female sport that could outdraw or equal the men’s version of their sport. Then the Williams “sisters” got in.

    Anyway, Tiger’s drop off from machine to sporadically talented is interesting. Was it steroids that helped him early, and he was forced off them for some reason? Or did his wife-divorce-cheating-porn star drama combined with then dating the chatty Lindsey Vonn just mentally unbalance him? Tiger’s always been tightly wound, that could be a culprit.

    As for Federer, I think he has been using steroids, just not the ones were used to. A 36 year old winning as he does is unusual. He’s likely using HGH or something similar to allow him to bounce back like he did as a kid.

  29. This is the sort of issue that makes for sports reporting and sports controversies. The figures seem comparable but they disguise enough incommensurables that anyone can dispute almost any assertion. For example I might argue that Pancho Gonzales was the best of all time. After all ‘Big Pancho’ was voted Number One more times than anyone else before or since. He was the first tennis star I had ever heard of. I remember him fondly.

    I am tempted to give the “Best of all Time” title to Bobby Riggs because he was probably one of the most entertaining players ever. He re-created himself as a celebrity when he was older than we expect athletes to ever be, and he had been the top player in legitimate rankings. Nicklaus and Federer were very skilled and very successful but both were a little boring. If you wanted entertainment – and all sports is essentially entertainment – then neither one was nearly as amusing as Ilya Nastase.

    Showmanship counts for something – at least with me.

  30. @The Z Blog
    Federer is either an extreme outlier or he has found the right cocktail of drugs to avoid detection, but maintain his peak well past his peak. My guess would be the latter. Tennis has worked hard to maintain a clean image by not taking testing too seriously. That means the bare minimum WADA labs offer. They catch more players for recreational drugs than PED's.

    The more sophisticated stuff like designer peptides and EPO require expensive and complex tests to detect. Tennis has done little in this area, beyond the barest of bare minimum. A guy like Federer has the means and the opportunity to avail himself to the latest techniques. That's why it is a good bet that he is not winning at 36 because of clean living.

    PED allegations have followed Rafael Nadal is entire career. I don’t know how to fairly compare current players when it is likely so many are using PEDs. When the best player and his strongest opponents are all likely using PEDs does that level the playing field?

    Serena Williams is another very obvious case of playing at a prime level well past what should be her prime. We will see how she does coming back after childbirth. Kim Clijsters waited over a year to come back after childbirth, Serena was talking coming back in six months, although still hasn’t played yet. Clijsters was also ten years younger than Serena when she had her baby. I am not willing to believe Serena has played her entire clean. The WTA has fairly obviously given Venus Williams an exemption for drugs for treatment of her Sjogren’s syndrome. Here is an article speculating on how Venus is still able to play tennis at a high level while suffering from a disease where the two most common symptoms are fatigue and joint pain.

    https://www.sjogrenslife.com/venus-williams-and-sjogrens-syndrome/

  31. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Steve, an interesting angle you might want to pursue is the longevity of Federer and Tom Brady, both of whom apparently eschew PEDs, or at least muscle building PEDs like steroids. Federer is quite slim. He looks like what athletes and fit guys used to look like 50 years ago. Brady makes a big point about not lifting weights and not trying to be muscular but rather flexible and “pliable”, because he says that’s better for longevity and performance. Interestingly, that’s sort of what old coaches and trainers used to believe back until the 60s or so. They thought that if you lifted weights you’d become “muscle bound” and be slow and a worse athlete at your sport.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Tiger became hugely muscular for a golfer in 2006-2007 when he was seriously considering quitting golf for the Navy Seals. He got hurt in a Navy Seals training exercise, which triggered the rest of his cascade of physical problems.

    I think Tiger's Navy Seals dalliance is one of the more interesting under-reported stories.

  32. @Neoconned
    Try as I might.....I'm sorry Steve, I just can't get into tennis....

    Try as I might…..I’m sorry Steve, I just can’t get into tennis….

    Thanks for that brilliant insight.

  33. Federer is past his peak but has declined very slowly because his advantage is primarily having the best tennis mind ever (maybe McEnroe equals it) combined with first-rate but not best-ever physical gifts and a strong constitution and work ethic.

    Djokovic and Nadal were physically superior and their peaks came slightly after Federer’s peak but because a greater proportion of their advantage was in the more rapidly deteriorating musculoskeletal superiority, and because they had to push their bodies harder than was compatible with a long career in order to reach the top, they are more sharply diminished. Murray was steadier and won his majors whenever they were temporarily both not at their best.

    The way to discount for quality of rivals is to count how many times they finished “1st or 2nd”. By this measure, Nicklaus surpasses Federer and Woods trails badly.

    • Replies: @Polymath
    Tom Brady should be in this comparison too, like Federer he is having a late-career resurgence, and he's even older and had an even longer drought. Although it's a team game, there are more stats to judge by so one does not have to rely on just championships or 2nd places. Peyton Manning, Brees, and Rodgers were slightly better than Brady in certain respects and Roethlisberger, Favre, Montana, Marino, and Elway are also in the conversation, but not only is a consensus emerging that Brady is the best ever, he is comparable to Federer in many other respects.

    Both Brady and Federer will fall off a cliff eventually, but both will do so at the oldest age at which that has ever happened in their sports; Warren Moon fell off the cliff when he hit 42, Rosewall when he hit 39. So I expect 1 more great year from Brady and 2 more from Federer.

    , @Steve Sailer
    "The way to discount for quality of rivals is to count how many times they finished “1st or 2nd”. By this measure, Nicklaus surpasses Federer and Woods trails badly."

    On the other hand, Woods' incredible ability during his 1999-2008 prime to win when he was in contention in major championships suggests he was, at his peak, the best ever golfer. Nicklaus did dumb stuff like play it conservative off the tee and then when he got the lead, stop hitting driver (he was the best driver of his age and could have been better if he'd gone for distance rather than an elegant trajectory) and start hitting one-iron, a club so difficult to hit that it has pretty much disappeared.

    Woods almost never beat himself on the golf course, while Nicklaus's excessively intellectualized cautious thinking got him in contention a huge amount but tended to make him runner-up more than necessary.

  34. @Polymath
    Federer is past his peak but has declined very slowly because his advantage is primarily having the best tennis mind ever (maybe McEnroe equals it) combined with first-rate but not best-ever physical gifts and a strong constitution and work ethic.

    Djokovic and Nadal were physically superior and their peaks came slightly after Federer's peak but because a greater proportion of their advantage was in the more rapidly deteriorating musculoskeletal superiority, and because they had to push their bodies harder than was compatible with a long career in order to reach the top, they are more sharply diminished. Murray was steadier and won his majors whenever they were temporarily both not at their best.

    The way to discount for quality of rivals is to count how many times they finished "1st or 2nd". By this measure, Nicklaus surpasses Federer and Woods trails badly.

    Tom Brady should be in this comparison too, like Federer he is having a late-career resurgence, and he’s even older and had an even longer drought. Although it’s a team game, there are more stats to judge by so one does not have to rely on just championships or 2nd places. Peyton Manning, Brees, and Rodgers were slightly better than Brady in certain respects and Roethlisberger, Favre, Montana, Marino, and Elway are also in the conversation, but not only is a consensus emerging that Brady is the best ever, he is comparable to Federer in many other respects.

    Both Brady and Federer will fall off a cliff eventually, but both will do so at the oldest age at which that has ever happened in their sports; Warren Moon fell off the cliff when he hit 42, Rosewall when he hit 39. So I expect 1 more great year from Brady and 2 more from Federer.

    • Replies: @Polymath
    I forgot Pancho Gonzales, which was a bad error. He was world class through age 41. So maybe Federer has a few more years.
    , @LondonBob
    Sir Stanley Matthews improbably played top level football until he was fifty, before PEDs. It is rare for players to make it past their mid thirties.
  35. You said “for” instead of “four”. You alt righters are idiots and everything you say must be discounted.

  36. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    No one counts amateur and professional titles, matches, etc. in one's career. That would be akin to combining Peyton Manning's NCAA stats with his NFL stats. By this measure, OJ Simpson would be second all time in total yards rushing behind Emmitt Smith (of course, Emmitt would still be out ahead of him since he'd get to count his NCAA career).

    An amateur is not in the same league as a professional. If he were, then he would get paid for his efforts. And no, Jack, they're not going to count the titles you won when you were 12 thru 17 either. After all, under 18 is also technically an amateur.

    Nice try, but that's not how it works.

    This is just total asinine.

    perhaps you are unaware but Jack Nicklaus qualified for and played in several major championships as an amateur beginning at age 17. He won the US Amateur in 1959 and 1961 at age 19 and 21. He finished in the top 4 of the US Open golf tournament in 1960 and 1961 as an amateur, at age 20 and 21, prior to winning it for his first major title in 1962 as a first-year professional. Your comment is what’s asinine

  37. @Polymath
    Tom Brady should be in this comparison too, like Federer he is having a late-career resurgence, and he's even older and had an even longer drought. Although it's a team game, there are more stats to judge by so one does not have to rely on just championships or 2nd places. Peyton Manning, Brees, and Rodgers were slightly better than Brady in certain respects and Roethlisberger, Favre, Montana, Marino, and Elway are also in the conversation, but not only is a consensus emerging that Brady is the best ever, he is comparable to Federer in many other respects.

    Both Brady and Federer will fall off a cliff eventually, but both will do so at the oldest age at which that has ever happened in their sports; Warren Moon fell off the cliff when he hit 42, Rosewall when he hit 39. So I expect 1 more great year from Brady and 2 more from Federer.

    I forgot Pancho Gonzales, which was a bad error. He was world class through age 41. So maybe Federer has a few more years.

  38. Hard to compare tennis with golf. You actually have to watch a pro tennis tournament live, courtside, to see how fast the ball travels and the amount of spin that they impart to the ball. Both sports have benefited from advances in equipment and balls , but tennis courts are always the same dimensions and golf course are never alike and often “tricked up” for a pro event. I will say that pro tennis players are far better athletes than golfers, as they actually play against an opponent. Golfers compete against a course. Rick Martin the late HOF Buffalo Sabre winger held the record low total at a few courses in WNY. I doubt he could have won a set against any top 25 pro tennis players.

    • Replies: @Marty
    the amount of spin that they impart to the ball.

    This is a good point. In the late '80s I thought I was a pretty good tennis player. An acquaintance set up a match for me in Glendale with a guy who'd played #6 at UCLA on the Teltscher-Fleming team. I didn't win a single point, reason being I'd never seen a kick serve that bounced above my head. The guy never even hit one hard flat serve, just all softballs that kicked beyond my reach. Fun fact: the guy who set up the match had Ted Williams as his flight instructor in 1942, and handled Casey Stengel's estate.

  39. @Neoconned
    Try as I might.....I'm sorry Steve, I just can't get into tennis....

    Same here. Either game is interesting to the players while it’s being played, but I’ve never understood the attraction of watching others play a game, let alone the conversations about it. I would rather get laid than watch porn, but to each his own.

  40. @DPG
    Hey commenters,

    Steve linked to a site a while back that offered pairs of books with contrasting views on a topic, one with the liberal/mainstream view and the other with the conservative view. Does anybody have the website address? I couldn’t find the post with some googling.
  41. In the pain pill hereafter! I like that line for some reason.

  42. @Danindc
    Tiger’s the best golfer ever. Not really close in my opinion. Jack, is probably the greatest champion but his level of competition wasn’t anywhere near Tiger’s. Orville Moody wasn’t winning majors in Tiger’s era. This is an interesting debate.

    I played some tennis growing up but find it tedious to watch even when played by the likes of Federer and Nadal. Is the sport still rife with steroids? Has Serena had to run to her panic room recently?

    Orville Moody wasn’t winning majors in Tiger’s era.

    Rich Beem? Y.E. Yang?

    • Replies: @Barnard
    Those are two golfers who went head to head with Tiger directly and beat him and then proceeded to do nothing the rest of their careers. There were several others like Shaun Micheel, Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton who all won majors when Woods should have been playing at peak performance. Woods wasn't a factor when any of them won. Professional golf is a very difficult sport to dominate.
  43. OT

    You mentioned this case of criminal alien earlier.

    >In a major victory, a federal judge has ordered the immediate release of immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir from detention in New York, calling it “unnecessarily cruel.” Ragbir is the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. He’s been held since he was detained last month following a check-in with ICE.

    (https://www.democracynow.org/2018/1/29/breaking_fed_judge_orders_immediate_release)

    Imperial Judiciary is a serious threat to any immigration control.

  44. If Federer hadn’t happened to play at the same time as the all time best clay court player, he’d be up in the 20’s for grand slam titles. Of course Nadal did happen to come along at the same time, but the point is, partly, that Federer is the fairly rare tennis player who is very good on all surfaces. Sampras could never do anything on clay, Borg never won the US Open for some reason, etc. Nadal is actually another player who has managed to win on all surfaces.

  45. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    OT: Several historically black colleges have graduation rates less than 15%, or even 10 or 5%. That’s mindbogglingly bad. Considering the faculty must be doing everything they can to get the students through, that’s amazing.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/local/year-graduation-rates-many-hbcus-lower-than-percent/TH1IXkSReeQEFQnnMjbxQN/

    It makes me wonder if the whole thing just isn’t a loan racket whereby students shake down Uncle Sam for loan money and party it away, never intending to graduate or pay it back.

    • Replies: @J.Ross
    If so, that would join the comparable rackets in migrant warehousing, war profiteering, obamacare and environmental programs. And since their commonality is ripping off tax money, all would be vulnerable to merciless fiscal probity.
    , @Buffalo Joe
    Anon, an article in the Buffalo News a week or so ago stated that NY community colleges have graduation rates as low as 12%. There has to be a financial gain because most NY community colleges require that you simply graduated high school, no admissions testing. It also shows that too many students pursue college at any level.
  46. @Anon
    OT: Several historically black colleges have graduation rates less than 15%, or even 10 or 5%. That's mindbogglingly bad. Considering the faculty must be doing everything they can to get the students through, that's amazing.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/local/year-graduation-rates-many-hbcus-lower-than-percent/TH1IXkSReeQEFQnnMjbxQN/

    It makes me wonder if the whole thing just isn't a loan racket whereby students shake down Uncle Sam for loan money and party it away, never intending to graduate or pay it back.

    If so, that would join the comparable rackets in migrant warehousing, war profiteering, obamacare and environmental programs. And since their commonality is ripping off tax money, all would be vulnerable to merciless fiscal probity.

  47. @Marty
    Orville Moody wasn’t winning majors in Tiger’s era.

    Rich Beem? Y.E. Yang?

    Those are two golfers who went head to head with Tiger directly and beat him and then proceeded to do nothing the rest of their careers. There were several others like Shaun Micheel, Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton who all won majors when Woods should have been playing at peak performance. Woods wasn’t a factor when any of them won. Professional golf is a very difficult sport to dominate.

    • Replies: @Danindc
    Those guys all dedicated their entire lives to golf. Moody had a 14 year Army career....great man though.
  48. @Anon
    OT: Several historically black colleges have graduation rates less than 15%, or even 10 or 5%. That's mindbogglingly bad. Considering the faculty must be doing everything they can to get the students through, that's amazing.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/local/year-graduation-rates-many-hbcus-lower-than-percent/TH1IXkSReeQEFQnnMjbxQN/

    It makes me wonder if the whole thing just isn't a loan racket whereby students shake down Uncle Sam for loan money and party it away, never intending to graduate or pay it back.

    Anon, an article in the Buffalo News a week or so ago stated that NY community colleges have graduation rates as low as 12%. There has to be a financial gain because most NY community colleges require that you simply graduated high school, no admissions testing. It also shows that too many students pursue college at any level.

  49. @Polymath
    Federer is past his peak but has declined very slowly because his advantage is primarily having the best tennis mind ever (maybe McEnroe equals it) combined with first-rate but not best-ever physical gifts and a strong constitution and work ethic.

    Djokovic and Nadal were physically superior and their peaks came slightly after Federer's peak but because a greater proportion of their advantage was in the more rapidly deteriorating musculoskeletal superiority, and because they had to push their bodies harder than was compatible with a long career in order to reach the top, they are more sharply diminished. Murray was steadier and won his majors whenever they were temporarily both not at their best.

    The way to discount for quality of rivals is to count how many times they finished "1st or 2nd". By this measure, Nicklaus surpasses Federer and Woods trails badly.

    “The way to discount for quality of rivals is to count how many times they finished “1st or 2nd”. By this measure, Nicklaus surpasses Federer and Woods trails badly.”

    On the other hand, Woods’ incredible ability during his 1999-2008 prime to win when he was in contention in major championships suggests he was, at his peak, the best ever golfer. Nicklaus did dumb stuff like play it conservative off the tee and then when he got the lead, stop hitting driver (he was the best driver of his age and could have been better if he’d gone for distance rather than an elegant trajectory) and start hitting one-iron, a club so difficult to hit that it has pretty much disappeared.

    Woods almost never beat himself on the golf course, while Nicklaus’s excessively intellectualized cautious thinking got him in contention a huge amount but tended to make him runner-up more than necessary.

  50. @Anonymous
    Steve, an interesting angle you might want to pursue is the longevity of Federer and Tom Brady, both of whom apparently eschew PEDs, or at least muscle building PEDs like steroids. Federer is quite slim. He looks like what athletes and fit guys used to look like 50 years ago. Brady makes a big point about not lifting weights and not trying to be muscular but rather flexible and "pliable", because he says that's better for longevity and performance. Interestingly, that's sort of what old coaches and trainers used to believe back until the 60s or so. They thought that if you lifted weights you'd become "muscle bound" and be slow and a worse athlete at your sport.

    Tiger became hugely muscular for a golfer in 2006-2007 when he was seriously considering quitting golf for the Navy Seals. He got hurt in a Navy Seals training exercise, which triggered the rest of his cascade of physical problems.

    I think Tiger’s Navy Seals dalliance is one of the more interesting under-reported stories.

    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
    My hypothesis is that steroid-fueled muscle growth overloads the joints: the tendons and ligaments don't appreciate accordingly. Maybe somebody will prove me wrong.

    I was always puzzled why a beast like Sean Witherspoon never made it through a whole NFL season. Huge first round bust. At that level, I thought you could blow away linemen with the expanding air from your flexed biceps and quarterbacks would sack themselves. Then you do your victory march down the field and pull up the goalpost with your bare hands. Again, my hypothesis was that his impressive musculature was too much for his joints.
  51. Tennis, football, basketball, golf, and auto racing are five big sports in this country, and in each of those sports, there is – I think – no consensus pick for the greatest (consensus pick meaning, more or less, that there is one person who is considered by twice as many informed people to be the greatest as all the others combined … ).
    But baseball has Babe Ruth, who more than 2/3 of baseball fans consider the greatest ever, I think, with Ty Cobb and a couple of random pitchers getting most of the other third, and hockey has Gretzky – – – .

    So I would rather see Ruth or Gretzky play baseball or hockey, in their prime, than watch any other sport – of course, if I had a time machine, I would not spend a second watching sports – but that is a whole other issue….

    However, leaving more or less meaningless statistics aside, it is easy to distinguish between the major sports (absent a little PED confusion) as to what age the greatest athletes in that sport peak at. Almost all sports are early 30s for great-player peaks (with the average good player, across the board, peaking in late 20s), although big QBs peak a little later, in their mid 30s, which is another reason why the most interesting position to watch in football is QB (when you are watching a game with an elite QB). NASCAR greats seem to peak later on, too, while baseball, basketball and tennis are more boring than they should be because the rules make it hard for great athletes to peak later on in life, at a time when they would be more interesting athletes. For example, the most interesting innings in baseball are when some 42 year old junk-throwing leftie (there are no junk-throwing righties) has to retire 3 batters while the bases are loaded. It happens more often than you might think.

    On the bright side, Nimitz and Halsey peaked around 60, Sophocles peaked in his 70s, and Hokusai peaked in his 90s (or was that Hiroshige?)

    And I hear that Tom Seaver is becoming a better vintner, year after year, although I have not found the time to try his wines.

  52. Tennis, football, basketball, golf, and auto racing are five big sports in this country, and in each of those sports, there is – I think – no consensus pick for the greatest (consensus pick meaning, more or less, that there is one person who is considered by twice as many informed people to be the greatest as all the others combined … ).
    But baseball has Babe Ruth, who more than 2/3 of baseball fans consider the greatest ever, I think, with Ty Cobb and a couple of random pitchers getting most of the other third, and hockey has Gretzky – – – .

    So I would rather see Ruth or Gretzky play baseball or hockey, in their prime, than watch any other sport – of course, if I had a time machine, I would not spend a second watching sports – but that is a whole other issue….

    However, leaving more or less meaningless statistics aside, it is easy to distinguish between the major sports (absent a little PED confusion) as to what age the greatest athletes in that sport peak at. Almost all sports are early 30s for great-player peaks (with the average good player, across the board, peaking in late 20s), although big QBs peak a little later, in their mid 30s, which is another reason why the most interesting position to watch in football is QB (when you are watching a game with an elite QB). NASCAR greats seem to peak later on, too, while baseball, basketball and tennis are more boring than they should be because the rules make it hard for great athletes to peak later on in life, at a time when they would be more interesting athletes. For example, the most interesting innings in baseball are when some 42 year old junk-throwing leftie (there are no junk-throwing righties) has to retire 3 batters while the bases are loaded. It happens more often than you might think.

    On the bright side, Nimitz and Halsey peaked around 60, Sophocles peaked in his 70s, and Hokusai peaked in his 90s (or was that Hiroshige?)

    And I hear that Tom Seaver is becoming a better vintner, year after year, although I have not found the time to try his wines.

  53. @The Z Blog
    Federer is either an extreme outlier or he has found the right cocktail of drugs to avoid detection, but maintain his peak well past his peak. My guess would be the latter. Tennis has worked hard to maintain a clean image by not taking testing too seriously. That means the bare minimum WADA labs offer. They catch more players for recreational drugs than PED's.

    The more sophisticated stuff like designer peptides and EPO require expensive and complex tests to detect. Tennis has done little in this area, beyond the barest of bare minimum. A guy like Federer has the means and the opportunity to avail himself to the latest techniques. That's why it is a good bet that he is not winning at 36 because of clean living.

    Federer is thought by some to be drug-free. In several places he’s himself called for better testing.

    https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/brian-boyd-federer-happy-to-talk-about-drugs-so-why-does-nobody-want-to-ask-1.3157855

    There is absolutely no evidence that Federer is anything but a clean athlete. He not only is the most graceful player the game has ever seen, but also the most efficient. His almost ballet-like movement and perfect technique means his body hasn’t been pummelled as much as other top players in the game.

    But that isn’t the point. Federer needs to be subject to the same scrutiny as every other athlete who accomplishes remarkable feats. He has said himself “naivety says that tennis is clean”.

    But blinded by his aura and celebrity status, the hard questions are not being asked of him. We believe Federer is clean, but such questions need to be routinely asked.

  54. @Deckin
    If it's possible to have a more impressive record than Federer's total GS haul, along with his overall career titles and match wins (second only to Connors--whose record is dubious given that many of those were on a different tour arranged by his agent), is his record of playing 1200+ tournament level matches without ever defaulting a single one. That record will simply never be touched. Given the absolute stress of a tennis match for something that matters (and those who've never done it simply have no concept of it), that is truly incredible. Cal Ripken has nothing on RF.

    One thing I have noted is an attempt at normalizing the fatuous 'greatest male player nonsense'. Why put in that qualification when men and women play the exact same game with the same racquets, courts, usually balls, and even together on the same court (in mixed doubles)?

    Serena Williams is a pretty good choice as the greatest female player of all time, but Federer is the greatest player to have ever put a racquet in hand, full stop.

    But I don’t think Federer has enhanced his physique with chemicals, and I do suspect Serena, even if it’s not politically correct. Off the court, she is masculine enough to put on makeup and look like Caitlyn Jenner. And I’m not trying to insult.

  55. Golf majors are much harder to win, because tennis has seeding which guarantees that the top players will not meet each other in early rounds, and because in golf, often changing wind and weather conditions or a drying course on the first day, mean that one half of the draw on the first day will supply nearly all the top finishers and potentially dangerous rivals under the right conditions are excluded by the cut. A top ten finish in a golf major in unfavorable conditions may be a stupendous achievement.

  56. @keuril
    In the 50s and 60s, tennis was a glorified country club sport with a very limited talent pool. Wooden rackets meant the ball traveled slowly and stayed slow, so it didn’t hurt and perhaps even helped to be short like Rosewall and Laver. It is highly unlikely that they could even make a Division I college team nowadays, much less compete against top pros. Comparing them to the top modern players is meaningless.

    I doubt that. Laver was competitive against Borg in the few matches they played, Borg was equal to Lendl, Lendl was competitive with Sampras, and Sampras with Federer. Transitivity may not be total but it suggests Laver would be competitive today, especially with modern equipment.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Laver was really good.

    Keep in mind that Federer, while tall, is not some once-in-a-century physical specimen.

    It's not unreasonable to think Laver would be out around Federer's 20 in major championships if he had been eligible in 1963-1967. On the other hand, Laver probably wouldn't have taken the Grand Slam in 1962 if pros had been eligible.

  57. @Barnard
    Those are two golfers who went head to head with Tiger directly and beat him and then proceeded to do nothing the rest of their careers. There were several others like Shaun Micheel, Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton who all won majors when Woods should have been playing at peak performance. Woods wasn't a factor when any of them won. Professional golf is a very difficult sport to dominate.

    Those guys all dedicated their entire lives to golf. Moody had a 14 year Army career….great man though.

  58. @blank-misgivings
    I doubt that. Laver was competitive against Borg in the few matches they played, Borg was equal to Lendl, Lendl was competitive with Sampras, and Sampras with Federer. Transitivity may not be total but it suggests Laver would be competitive today, especially with modern equipment.

    Laver was really good.

    Keep in mind that Federer, while tall, is not some once-in-a-century physical specimen.

    It’s not unreasonable to think Laver would be out around Federer’s 20 in major championships if he had been eligible in 1963-1967. On the other hand, Laver probably wouldn’t have taken the Grand Slam in 1962 if pros had been eligible.

  59. @anonymous
    I am no expert and could hardly care less about golf or tennis, but Mr. Woods declined substantially after his public humiliation as an indiscriminate, faithless husband. When I back then told my friends who follow golf that it would be a long time before he overcame the bruised ego to win another major, they scoffed. He hasn’t.

    Shattered confidence would seem to be especially damaging to a golfer. I wonder why pundits have allowed him to take the knee, as Mr. Sailer does here.

    Woods got hit with a one-two, Dad dying and humiliating divorce. His support network largely evaporated and he imploded. Emotional stability and maturity, or absence thereof, impact even those rare talents, and serve as cautionary tales for mere mortals. Some Vegas sports book guys probably track similar attributes.

  60. @Buffalo Joe
    Hard to compare tennis with golf. You actually have to watch a pro tennis tournament live, courtside, to see how fast the ball travels and the amount of spin that they impart to the ball. Both sports have benefited from advances in equipment and balls , but tennis courts are always the same dimensions and golf course are never alike and often "tricked up" for a pro event. I will say that pro tennis players are far better athletes than golfers, as they actually play against an opponent. Golfers compete against a course. Rick Martin the late HOF Buffalo Sabre winger held the record low total at a few courses in WNY. I doubt he could have won a set against any top 25 pro tennis players.

    the amount of spin that they impart to the ball.

    This is a good point. In the late ’80s I thought I was a pretty good tennis player. An acquaintance set up a match for me in Glendale with a guy who’d played #6 at UCLA on the Teltscher-Fleming team. I didn’t win a single point, reason being I’d never seen a kick serve that bounced above my head. The guy never even hit one hard flat serve, just all softballs that kicked beyond my reach. Fun fact: the guy who set up the match had Ted Williams as his flight instructor in 1942, and handled Casey Stengel’s estate.

    • Replies: @middle aged vet . . .
    Tennis is funny that way. I have, like many golfers, made 30 foot putts on courses where guys who have won majors missed, in the course of their careers, sometimes even on weekends when they were winning said majors, 10 foot putts, on almost the same greens where I made a 30 foot putt. But in tennis, I could play for hours against a mediocre pro, and the only points I would score would be when the pro double faulted.

    Cool that you knew someone who knew Ted Williams in his non-baseball life. Casey Stengel seemed sort of interesting, too, but it does seem kind of sad to spend your whole life playing a kid's game. even sadder when that is what you do when you are really old. At least Ted Williams was lucky enough to get the chance to fight for his country. Very impressive.

  61. @Anonymous
    With respect to Laver, the best method to estimate how many grand slams he would have ended up with may be to count his Pro Championships, as all of the best players played on the pro circuit at that time and there were four "majors" to match the current four majors. Doing so gives the Rocket a total of 19 slams, pretty darn close to where you were thinking Steve.

    In addition to the three pro majors, there was also an Australian Pro Tournament from 1954 to 1966. Laver won it in 1964 and in 1965 it was played twice in both Adelaide and Perth, with Laver winning both. Counting 1965 as one, this gives Laver two more majors, pushing his total to 21.

  62. @MarkinLA
    All the comparisons are difficult due to the infusion of advertising money that has made professional sports so lucrative. I remember reading that Bjorn Borg did not play at Australia because the purses were so small compared to the costs and it was too far away in time away from the tour in Europe and the US where he made most of his money.

    I remember watching Wimbledon and Chris Evert saying she won there once and her prize was 7500 pounds. That would have been around 15,000 dollars which would have only been equal to a man's yearly salary in the US. So of course, the pro careers of minor stars didn't last as long as they do now.

    I think it is definately harder now to win major events because the lower level talent is much better than in the past. I also think it is harder to win a major golf tournament than a major tennis tournament. In tennis the first three rounds are usually a given for the top talent. You also only have to play better then your opponent on that day not the 10-15 people at the top of the leaderboard. In golf, somebody can have the best 4 days of his life and win his one and only major. This seldom happens in tennis. In tennis you may be able to survive a bad day but you usually won't win a major with even one bad day.

    Wimbledon refers to the 1974 and 1976 winner as Miss C.M. Evert and the 1981 winner as Mrs. J.M. Lloyd with no indication that they are the same person. Talk about sticklers for etiquette. And none of this silly Ms. shit.

  63. @Marty
    the amount of spin that they impart to the ball.

    This is a good point. In the late '80s I thought I was a pretty good tennis player. An acquaintance set up a match for me in Glendale with a guy who'd played #6 at UCLA on the Teltscher-Fleming team. I didn't win a single point, reason being I'd never seen a kick serve that bounced above my head. The guy never even hit one hard flat serve, just all softballs that kicked beyond my reach. Fun fact: the guy who set up the match had Ted Williams as his flight instructor in 1942, and handled Casey Stengel's estate.

    Tennis is funny that way. I have, like many golfers, made 30 foot putts on courses where guys who have won majors missed, in the course of their careers, sometimes even on weekends when they were winning said majors, 10 foot putts, on almost the same greens where I made a 30 foot putt. But in tennis, I could play for hours against a mediocre pro, and the only points I would score would be when the pro double faulted.

    Cool that you knew someone who knew Ted Williams in his non-baseball life. Casey Stengel seemed sort of interesting, too, but it does seem kind of sad to spend your whole life playing a kid’s game. even sadder when that is what you do when you are really old. At least Ted Williams was lucky enough to get the chance to fight for his country. Very impressive.

  64. @Polymath
    Tom Brady should be in this comparison too, like Federer he is having a late-career resurgence, and he's even older and had an even longer drought. Although it's a team game, there are more stats to judge by so one does not have to rely on just championships or 2nd places. Peyton Manning, Brees, and Rodgers were slightly better than Brady in certain respects and Roethlisberger, Favre, Montana, Marino, and Elway are also in the conversation, but not only is a consensus emerging that Brady is the best ever, he is comparable to Federer in many other respects.

    Both Brady and Federer will fall off a cliff eventually, but both will do so at the oldest age at which that has ever happened in their sports; Warren Moon fell off the cliff when he hit 42, Rosewall when he hit 39. So I expect 1 more great year from Brady and 2 more from Federer.

    Sir Stanley Matthews improbably played top level football until he was fifty, before PEDs. It is rare for players to make it past their mid thirties.

  65. Speaking of tennis, back in my day, you couldn’t be suspended for talking trash on the tennis court.
    Insanity…

    https://nypost.com/2018/01/29/white-tennis-player-to-black-player-at-least-i-know-my-dad/

  66. Over the last 10 years golf and tennis are also interesting in how the competitive balance of each sport has diverged. Tennis has been dominated by the big three at the top, with Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka each picking up three.

    Meanwhile golf has seen its majors victories much more widely distributed. During the last 10 years, McIlroy has won four, but zero since 2014. Spieth has won three. The race at the top is much more competitive in golf.

    It would be interesting to study the training grounds of both golf an tennis over the last 20-25 years to see if there are patterns in the youth programs that might help explain this divergence.

    • Replies: @Isidore the Farmer
    My first theory is that the steep decline in the quality of American tennis players during the first two decades of the 21st century is the biggest factor helping Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic run up their major victory counts. Of course, this raises an even more interesting question. Why, exactly, did American tennis decline in quality so severely and so suddenly?
    , @Steve Sailer
    Golf is back to the post-Nicklaus pre-Tiger style of the late 1980s-early 1990s when Greg Norman was the top talent but didn't quite have the killer knack. So there were a lot of different champs, just like post-Tiger.

    It would be interesting who would have won the most additional majors without Tiger's 14. Phil Mickelson has won 5 majors and finished 2nd or tied for 2nd 11 times, although I don't recall that many times he finished second to Tiger. I could imagine that if Tiger had never played golf, Phil would have won 8 or 9 majors and been clearly the best golfer since Tom Watson and probably since Nicklaus.

    I started watching golf on TV in Nicklaus's peak year of 1972 and was a huge fan. But Tiger was just a lot better than Jack. Mickelson seems pretty comparable to Palmer. Tiger was like Jack, except Tiger was more ruthless and effective. Jack had a lot of interesting theories about what was smart golf but a lot of them turned out to be wrong. Tiger just did what was most effective (other than not caring all that much about having the latest tech clubs).

    With Nicklaus, it was always like he'd hit his one iron off the tee for the first three rounds to play it safe (and all the sportswriters would rave about how smart he was being) and come to Sunday down by 6 strokes, so he'd take out his driver finally (and he was only the greatest driver in all of golf and probably in the history of golf up to that point) and he'd shoot 65, but still lose to Trevino by one stroke. Trevino was a dumpy little Mexican, but he was the only golfer who demonstrably wasn't intimidated by Nicklaus, winning four majors with Jack coming in second place.

  67. @Isidore the Farmer
    Over the last 10 years golf and tennis are also interesting in how the competitive balance of each sport has diverged. Tennis has been dominated by the big three at the top, with Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka each picking up three.

    Meanwhile golf has seen its majors victories much more widely distributed. During the last 10 years, McIlroy has won four, but zero since 2014. Spieth has won three. The race at the top is much more competitive in golf.

    It would be interesting to study the training grounds of both golf an tennis over the last 20-25 years to see if there are patterns in the youth programs that might help explain this divergence.

    My first theory is that the steep decline in the quality of American tennis players during the first two decades of the 21st century is the biggest factor helping Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic run up their major victory counts. Of course, this raises an even more interesting question. Why, exactly, did American tennis decline in quality so severely and so suddenly?

    • Replies: @Isidore the Farmer
    Another way of showing this is that during the open era there have been 14 men win 5 or more grand slam titles.

    Americans have the most names on the list:

    America (4): Sampras, Agassi, McEnroe, Connors
    Sweden (3): Borg, Vilander, Edberg
    Australia (2): Laver, Newcombe
    Switzerland (1): Federer
    Spain (1): Nadal
    Serbia (1): Djokovic
    Czech Republic (1): Lendl
    Germany (1)

    Note that Americans are first on the list, despite not winning a single grand slam since 2003. I believe the absence of American competition in major tennis is the #1 cause for the dominance of the big three over the last 15 years. Even 1-2 American players among the quality of an Andy Murray could have dramatically altered the competitive balance, given the nature of match play.

    The disappearance of American male tennis is one of the more interesting sports stories of this century.
    , @MaMu1977
    Tennis isn't sexy.
  68. @Steve Sailer
    Tiger became hugely muscular for a golfer in 2006-2007 when he was seriously considering quitting golf for the Navy Seals. He got hurt in a Navy Seals training exercise, which triggered the rest of his cascade of physical problems.

    I think Tiger's Navy Seals dalliance is one of the more interesting under-reported stories.

    My hypothesis is that steroid-fueled muscle growth overloads the joints: the tendons and ligaments don’t appreciate accordingly. Maybe somebody will prove me wrong.

    I was always puzzled why a beast like Sean Witherspoon never made it through a whole NFL season. Huge first round bust. At that level, I thought you could blow away linemen with the expanding air from your flexed biceps and quarterbacks would sack themselves. Then you do your victory march down the field and pull up the goalpost with your bare hands. Again, my hypothesis was that his impressive musculature was too much for his joints.

    • Replies: @The Last Real Calvinist
    I think there's something to your hypothesis.

    Baseball of course has constant problems with pitchers (and sometimes position players, even) blowing out their ulnar collateral ligaments, and the NFL has ongoing, almost overwhelming injury troubles.

    It would be interesting, if it's in any way possible, to track the incidence of catastrophic tendon/ligament injuries such as blown Achilles tendons and full biceps tendon tears. Did those kinds of injuries happen with any significant frequency before the heavy lifting/PED era?

  69. @Isidore the Farmer
    My first theory is that the steep decline in the quality of American tennis players during the first two decades of the 21st century is the biggest factor helping Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic run up their major victory counts. Of course, this raises an even more interesting question. Why, exactly, did American tennis decline in quality so severely and so suddenly?

    Another way of showing this is that during the open era there have been 14 men win 5 or more grand slam titles.

    Americans have the most names on the list:

    America (4): Sampras, Agassi, McEnroe, Connors
    Sweden (3): Borg, Vilander, Edberg
    Australia (2): Laver, Newcombe
    Switzerland (1): Federer
    Spain (1): Nadal
    Serbia (1): Djokovic
    Czech Republic (1): Lendl
    Germany (1)

    Note that Americans are first on the list, despite not winning a single grand slam since 2003. I believe the absence of American competition in major tennis is the #1 cause for the dominance of the big three over the last 15 years. Even 1-2 American players among the quality of an Andy Murray could have dramatically altered the competitive balance, given the nature of match play.

    The disappearance of American male tennis is one of the more interesting sports stories of this century.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    What happened?
  70. @Isidore the Farmer
    Over the last 10 years golf and tennis are also interesting in how the competitive balance of each sport has diverged. Tennis has been dominated by the big three at the top, with Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka each picking up three.

    Meanwhile golf has seen its majors victories much more widely distributed. During the last 10 years, McIlroy has won four, but zero since 2014. Spieth has won three. The race at the top is much more competitive in golf.

    It would be interesting to study the training grounds of both golf an tennis over the last 20-25 years to see if there are patterns in the youth programs that might help explain this divergence.

    Golf is back to the post-Nicklaus pre-Tiger style of the late 1980s-early 1990s when Greg Norman was the top talent but didn’t quite have the killer knack. So there were a lot of different champs, just like post-Tiger.

    It would be interesting who would have won the most additional majors without Tiger’s 14. Phil Mickelson has won 5 majors and finished 2nd or tied for 2nd 11 times, although I don’t recall that many times he finished second to Tiger. I could imagine that if Tiger had never played golf, Phil would have won 8 or 9 majors and been clearly the best golfer since Tom Watson and probably since Nicklaus.

    I started watching golf on TV in Nicklaus’s peak year of 1972 and was a huge fan. But Tiger was just a lot better than Jack. Mickelson seems pretty comparable to Palmer. Tiger was like Jack, except Tiger was more ruthless and effective. Jack had a lot of interesting theories about what was smart golf but a lot of them turned out to be wrong. Tiger just did what was most effective (other than not caring all that much about having the latest tech clubs).

    With Nicklaus, it was always like he’d hit his one iron off the tee for the first three rounds to play it safe (and all the sportswriters would rave about how smart he was being) and come to Sunday down by 6 strokes, so he’d take out his driver finally (and he was only the greatest driver in all of golf and probably in the history of golf up to that point) and he’d shoot 65, but still lose to Trevino by one stroke. Trevino was a dumpy little Mexican, but he was the only golfer who demonstrably wasn’t intimidated by Nicklaus, winning four majors with Jack coming in second place.

  71. @Isidore the Farmer
    Another way of showing this is that during the open era there have been 14 men win 5 or more grand slam titles.

    Americans have the most names on the list:

    America (4): Sampras, Agassi, McEnroe, Connors
    Sweden (3): Borg, Vilander, Edberg
    Australia (2): Laver, Newcombe
    Switzerland (1): Federer
    Spain (1): Nadal
    Serbia (1): Djokovic
    Czech Republic (1): Lendl
    Germany (1)

    Note that Americans are first on the list, despite not winning a single grand slam since 2003. I believe the absence of American competition in major tennis is the #1 cause for the dominance of the big three over the last 15 years. Even 1-2 American players among the quality of an Andy Murray could have dramatically altered the competitive balance, given the nature of match play.

    The disappearance of American male tennis is one of the more interesting sports stories of this century.

    What happened?

    • Replies: @Isidore the Farmer
    I don't personally think it's been studied well enough to speak confidently on the subject. That's one of the reasons it is an interesting phenomenon (to me). You see all kinds of ambassadors talking about the need to get youth interested in the sport, but none of them seem to know exactly why American youth lost interest in the sport to begin with.

    An interesting factor on the topic, because it relates to immigration policy, is that American kids receive just under 50% of the available tennis scholarships to American universities. But, is that because Americans lost interest in playing tennis or did American kids lose interest once the development path became over-crowded by foreigners? I'm not sure...

    There are a few articles on the overall subject, but most are often based on people throwing out various guesses. Nothing definitive that I've seen.
    , @The Anti-Gnostic
    In Atlanta, lots of condominium and townhome developments built in the 70s and 80s, even some office parks and hotels, had or still have tennis courts. Nearly every public park had a few courts. The sport was big when the Boomers were physically active. It doesn't take a lot of room and, back then anyway, the equipment wasn't too expensive. Like basketball, but for white people.

    Pick-up basketball probably replaced pick-up tennis. Again, pretty simple rules and skillset for a casual game, not a lot of space required, and the equipment is financially in range.

    Golf has the same problem as tennis. And it's even more time-consuming, complex, and takes tons of space and expensive, specialized equipment. It's pretty much exclusively a UMC-and-up activity at this point.
    , @Unladen Swallow
    I remember some HBO documentary a while ago ( Maybe Bryant Gumbel's show ) did a segment on the decline of men's and women's tennis in the US. Their conclusion was that it was combination of fewer players and the fact that players were giving far less effort on the court compared to say players from Spain. They tested the cardio of teenage players in the two countries and found that the Spanish players were simply working much harder when they practiced.

    I remember a guy I used to work with who played college tennis at a small school, he said among female players a lot of them came from Eastern Europe, something like close to half, this was about 10-12 years ago. I don't know if that really captures it though since most of the top players on tour don't go to college or the handful that do rarely finish. I don't know if anyone has nailed all the reasons down.

  72. @Steve Sailer
    What happened?

    I don’t personally think it’s been studied well enough to speak confidently on the subject. That’s one of the reasons it is an interesting phenomenon (to me). You see all kinds of ambassadors talking about the need to get youth interested in the sport, but none of them seem to know exactly why American youth lost interest in the sport to begin with.

    An interesting factor on the topic, because it relates to immigration policy, is that American kids receive just under 50% of the available tennis scholarships to American universities. But, is that because Americans lost interest in playing tennis or did American kids lose interest once the development path became over-crowded by foreigners? I’m not sure…

    There are a few articles on the overall subject, but most are often based on people throwing out various guesses. Nothing definitive that I’ve seen.

  73. @Steve Sailer
    What happened?

    In Atlanta, lots of condominium and townhome developments built in the 70s and 80s, even some office parks and hotels, had or still have tennis courts. Nearly every public park had a few courts. The sport was big when the Boomers were physically active. It doesn’t take a lot of room and, back then anyway, the equipment wasn’t too expensive. Like basketball, but for white people.

    Pick-up basketball probably replaced pick-up tennis. Again, pretty simple rules and skillset for a casual game, not a lot of space required, and the equipment is financially in range.

    Golf has the same problem as tennis. And it’s even more time-consuming, complex, and takes tons of space and expensive, specialized equipment. It’s pretty much exclusively a UMC-and-up activity at this point.

  74. @Steve Sailer
    What happened?

    I remember some HBO documentary a while ago ( Maybe Bryant Gumbel’s show ) did a segment on the decline of men’s and women’s tennis in the US. Their conclusion was that it was combination of fewer players and the fact that players were giving far less effort on the court compared to say players from Spain. They tested the cardio of teenage players in the two countries and found that the Spanish players were simply working much harder when they practiced.

    I remember a guy I used to work with who played college tennis at a small school, he said among female players a lot of them came from Eastern Europe, something like close to half, this was about 10-12 years ago. I don’t know if that really captures it though since most of the top players on tour don’t go to college or the handful that do rarely finish. I don’t know if anyone has nailed all the reasons down.

  75. @The Anti-Gnostic
    My hypothesis is that steroid-fueled muscle growth overloads the joints: the tendons and ligaments don't appreciate accordingly. Maybe somebody will prove me wrong.

    I was always puzzled why a beast like Sean Witherspoon never made it through a whole NFL season. Huge first round bust. At that level, I thought you could blow away linemen with the expanding air from your flexed biceps and quarterbacks would sack themselves. Then you do your victory march down the field and pull up the goalpost with your bare hands. Again, my hypothesis was that his impressive musculature was too much for his joints.

    I think there’s something to your hypothesis.

    Baseball of course has constant problems with pitchers (and sometimes position players, even) blowing out their ulnar collateral ligaments, and the NFL has ongoing, almost overwhelming injury troubles.

    It would be interesting, if it’s in any way possible, to track the incidence of catastrophic tendon/ligament injuries such as blown Achilles tendons and full biceps tendon tears. Did those kinds of injuries happen with any significant frequency before the heavy lifting/PED era?

  76. @Isidore the Farmer
    My first theory is that the steep decline in the quality of American tennis players during the first two decades of the 21st century is the biggest factor helping Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic run up their major victory counts. Of course, this raises an even more interesting question. Why, exactly, did American tennis decline in quality so severely and so suddenly?

    Tennis isn’t sexy.

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to All Steve Sailer Comments via RSS
PastClassics
The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
Which superpower is more threatened by its “extractive elites”?
How a Young Syndicate Lawyer from Chicago Earned a Fortune Looting the Property of the Japanese-Americans, then Lived...
Becker update V1.3.2