Jimmy Connors made some news about a week ago by saying that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer shouldn’t be considered in the conversation for the greatest tennis player of all time because they shouldn’t even be considered to be the best of their era. While he wasn’t overtly wrong in his statement, he clarified his statements on his podcast, Advantage Connors, this week. And his answer makes complete sense.
To be clear, though, Jimmy Connors never said Federer and Nadal weren’t great players. Anyone who may have suggested such on social media misinterpreted what he said and didn’t listen to him openly. But then I guess that’s part of what being a fan of a player is somewhat about: Blindness to anything that might imply the favorite player isn’t the best ever.
Per Jimmy Connors’ podcast, “(Tennis commentators) made the rules that the Grand Slams have become the important thing. You know, ‘He’s won this many Grand Slams and that’s why he’s the best.’ For me, I go back to every day, every match, every tournament, every year, it seems that that changed in the past 15-20 years, where it’s all about Grand Slams and how many you win.”
Jimmy Connors has to clarify his thoughts on Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic
I personally agree with Connors. I watched tennis at a time when it wasn’t just waiting every few months to see the top players, especially ones who had already won Grand Slams, until they show up at majors. Most tournaments were important, but the importance wasn’t just the tournament. The fun was watching multiple rivalries, not just a Big Three, play out over the course of a year.
That doesn’t mean I am the know-all of the sport, of course, but more passing on my experience watching tennis, and as a lover of the sport. Also, Novak Djokovic not playing as many tournaments overall now makes sense as he is 36 years old and the sport has placed more importance on Grand Slams. Djokovic really has nothing else to prove.
But, hopefully, Carlos Alcaraz won’t go from winning a few majors to basically only focusing on Grand Slam tournaments soon. Alcaraz might need a rest more than other players as he appears on the cusp of winning a lot of grueling Grand Slams in the next several years and those take a toll physically.
Getting back to the point Jimmy Connors was making, however, and tying that into Alcaraz, is that in 10 years we might be considering Alcaraz the best player ever simply because he has the most Grand Slam titles. Tennis greatness has become more of a numbers game instead of simply watching a player’s game over multiple tournaments a year and having what you see make the decision of who is the GOAT instead of just raw statistics.