Who's the GOAT: Laver edges Lendl

Eurosport - Thu, 25 Feb 07:43:00 2010

Rod Laver against Ivan Lendl was always going to be a fascinating match as both players dominated their respective eras while at the top of their games.

Tennis legend Rod Laver in action at Wimbledon - 0

And that was reflected in the voting, with Laver edging Lendl in our closest encounter so far.

Your comments tended to favour Lendl slightly, with several people pointing out Laver's record might look quite different had he been up against the top professionals in the early years of his career.

Yet tellingly, those of you who saw both of them play firmly believed that Laver would come through - suggesting that the voters have picked a worthy winner.

Poll result of the Greatest of All Time tournament first round match: Ivan Lendl against Rod Laver:

Rod Laver - 58% - 2346 votes

Ivan Lendl - 42% - 1727 votes

Best of your comments:

saif_6969 gave a solid, balanced analysis - "It's real hard to pick a winner amongst these greats... Laver always made things look easy as he was a natural tennis player. As for Lendl hard work, made him great. I'd go for the naturally gifted one winning in each of the surfaces."

And ionut.moraru also thought things through carefully - "Laver is like Pele, no one compares with him... but of course, Pele would not stand a chance against Terry, Maldini or Baresi. It's the same here: Lendl would just edge Laver, but Rod remains the greatest of all time."

lappieslou reflected many people's opinions - "Lendl will give Laver a serious run for his money, but, alas, will have to face it that Laver is a cut above him. Well done, Laver - pity the younger generation could not have watched you."

ronald.davidson had a rare perspective on the match having witnessed both men compete at the tops of their game - "I'm one of the five per cent who did see both play and I certainly can say in all honesty that I preferred watching Laver... Even though Laver was a 'natural' and Lendl trained so hard, I would think that if the competition were based on forearm size then Laver would win very easily!"

stanfast.t21 backed the Aussie player as well and feels he should go all the way in the tournament - "Perhaps the measure of greatness is by how much a player is better than his contemporaries. By this measure I consider Laver to be the best ever."

jepharrison sees Laver as not just an all-time great in tennis, but sport as a whole - "Sport becomes magical when a player has the sport flowing effortlessly through him/her. George Best had it, Steffi (Graf) got there, (Usain) Bolt has it, and Rod Laver played like a God in 1969."

Plenty who backed Lendl, such as dilpickle.t21 - "Lendl revolutionised the game during the mid-eighties and, whilst plenty may argue that wasn't for the better, his influence on modern tennis is shamefully overlooked by most. Quite simply, there is no way Laver would have beaten Lendl on clay or hard courts from about 1985-89 - just watch McEnroe's efforts to do so during that period and you'll come to the same conclusion."

One of the most perceptive comments came from sremmal16, who pointed out that Laver's record is flattered as well as diminished by the years that saw him excluded from Grand Slams for being a professional - "Laver won six of his 11 Slam titles during his time as an amateur - a time in which many of his fiercest opponents, including Ken Rosewall (who beat him 11-2 in 1963) and Lew Hoad (who beat him 8-0 the same year)... No doubt he would have won multiple Slams in the five years where he himself was excluded, but of his prior six he may have only had 2 or 3 left had he been competing against the professionals."

Similar comments came from dandelionmancipar about Laver's lack of competition, and he also questioned the Australian's physical limitations - "The facts are - Laver was a small guy. How many small guys (under 175 cm) are there in top 100 nowadays? Rod wouldn't stand a chance nowadays, Federer on the other hand might also be a great player had he played in the 60s."

p2douglas brought up the issue of mental strength, claiming that each player thrived - " It is not just a question of winning, it is a question of winning when it counts! And Laver usually won when it counted."

scourge_werepire backed Lendl all the way, however, insisting that the limited range of surfaces in the 1960s flattered Laver's record - "Laver would win on grass, Lendl would win on clay and on hard court. If laver didn't have a hard court Slam, then it's too bad for him... Saying that Laver won the calendar slam is very irrelevant if we look at the conditions in which he did it: three on grass and one on clay. if nowadays there were only Slams played on two surfaces, clay and grass, Roger Federer would have won way more than 16 Slams."

Wynotmeme is also right behind Lendl, claiming that his clay court genius is reminiscent of a certain Spanish player - "I'd go with Lendl... Lendl created winners where other players would have been dying in the red dirt, very much like Nadal... In Lendl's time there was no greater nor more talented player than McEnroe, yet Lendl took everybody's number, anywhere except in Wimbledon."


Top half

1-Roger Federer

---------------------> Roger Federer 6-0 6-2 6-0

16-Jim Courier


8-Mats Wilander

---------------------> Boris Becker 6-2 4-6 7-5

9-Boris Becker


5-Ivan Lendl

---------------------> Rod Laver 6-2 5-7 7-6

12-Rod Laver


13-John Newcombe

4-Jimmy Connors


Bottom half

3-Bjorn Borg

14-Ken Rosewall


6-Andre Agassi

11-Rafael Nadal


7-John McEnroe

10-Stefan Edberg


15-Guillermo Vilas

2-Pete Sampras

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