Simon Reed

Who’s the GOAT? 12-Laver v 4-Connors

Simon Reed

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In the second of our Greatest of All Time quarter-finals, 12th seed Rod Laver takes on fourth seed Jimmy Connors in a clash that spans the ages.

Under our GOAT rules each match is three sets, one on each surface. Here's the rundown on the two contenders.

Rod Laver

Nationality: Australian

Seeded: 12

Grand Slam titles: 11

Australian Open: Winner (1960*, 1962*, 1969)

French Open: Winner (1962*, 1969)

Wimbledon: Winner (1961*, 1962*, 1968, 1969)

US Open: Winner (1962*, 1969)

* denotes amateur titles, preceding the open era

Jimmy Connors

Nationality: American

Seeded: 4

Grand Slam titles: Eight

Australian Open winner (1974)

French Open semi-finalist (1979, 1980, 1984, 1985)

Wimbledon winner (1974, 1982)

US Open winner (1974, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1983)

Simon Reed's verdict

Since these two players are essentially from different eras, this is where judging the GOAT becomes tricky. So you have to go on their respective records, and considering Laver's record was better than anybody's, I can't see beyond the Australian winning through to the semi-finals.

That said, their careers did overlap by a few years, and when they played each other in a one-off $100,000 winner-takes-all Challenge Match at Ceasars Palace in 1975, Connors was victorious, winning 6-4 6-2 3-6 7-5.

But that match came as Laver's career was on the wane while Connors, 14 years his junior, had turned professional only three years earlier.

Put Connors at his peak back on to the wooden racquets or take Laver 10 years on from his best and give him a graphite racquet, you have to say that Laver would have beaten him on every surface, including the grass at Wimbledon.

Had it not been for the years between 1963 to 1968, when Laver was banned from competing in Grand Glams, he would have won many more, for sure. The year he turned pro, he won every single Slam and during his outcast years on the circuit it's not unfair to say he would have gone on and won another seven or eight.

Add them to the 11 he won, and you can see he would have eclipsed Connors, who won only eight.

Laver was a fantastic player at the back, he had a decent serve, a backhand to die for and a super volley. Those attributes helped him complete the Grand Slam twice - once in the pre-Open era and then again in Open era.

Against Connors, the US Open would be the closest set. No one knew how to work a crowd better than Connors, so at his home event it would be frighteningly close, but I think Laver would edge it, possibly on a tie-break.

Connors would have tried every trick in the book, and maybe even some not in the book, but Laver was unflappable and just got on with things.

Final verdict

Laver wins 6-4 (clay) 7-5 (grass) 7-6 (hard)

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