Comparing the top players of different generations is a complex task.
Could “Big Bill” Tilden have held his own against Rod Laver ? How about Helen Wills Moody facing Steffi Graf ? Imagine Jack Kramer and Pete Sampras going full force against each other if both were at their best.
All of the experts share the feeling that each decade in this century has showcased a new cast of top-notch players. Early round matches-once a formality for the leading competitors-have become increasingly challenging assignments for the favorites. The level of play across the board on both the men’s and women’s tours is better than it has ever been before.
Nevertheless, it does not automatically follow that the champion of today would defeat yesterday’s Pancho Gonzales toppled Rod Laver twice only months after Laver’s second Grand Slam. Pancho was forty-two when he pulled the latter upset, Laver not yer thirty-two. Ken Rosewall reached the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open when he war Thirty-nine. Jimmy Connors remained a major force deep into his thirties, and made it to the U.S. Open semifinals when he was thirty-nine.
The great players must be judged by the scope of their accomplishments, by their consistency as frontline competitors, and by their ability to produce their best under pressure. In making my assessment of the top ten men and women of all time, I have graded these players primarily on the strength of their records, on their consistency over long periods of time, and by examining their peak performances in the summertime of their careers. In compiling these rankings, I have attempted to do justice to the great players of every era.