Ranking the greatest athletes in the history of a sport is a complex task that always leads to debate. Many say Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player of all time, while others like John McEnroe are giving their vote to Rafael Nadal. Some go back in history and point to Rod Laver, and some may throw Pete Sampras into the discussion. But if you ask Andre Agassi, Federer, Laver and Nadal are in a different class from Sampras.
Agassi, who won eight majors and is one of only three players in the Open Era to win all four grand slams, joined HuffPost Live on Monday and broke down the greats of all time.
Agassi had a notorious rivalry on and off the court with Sampras and termed Pete his “nemesis,” though he stated Pete was the “best of his time.” However, Agassi says he puts Federer (and Nadal and Laver) in a class above Sampras, despite Sampras winning 14 grand slams.
“I think Federer is a class above, quite frankly. You’re talking about a guy who dominated pretty much on every surface, minus one guy on clay. He’s won everything,” Agassi told Marc Lamont Hill of HuffPost Live on Monday. “Pete was obviously off the hook on faster courts, but during the clay season players wanted to play against him. It was opportunity to get a win over him, it was an opportunity to beat him. You didn’t have that luxury with Fed. He’s really the world class, all-around player. Until Nadal, you would say that Fed’s probably the best of all time.”
Agassi was then asked to rank Federer against Nadal.
“I personally think that Nadal has an argument to be made for the best of all time. If Nadal is sitting at a table with Federer and Federer says, ‘I’m the best ever,’ my first question would be ‘well then how come you didn’t beat me because I beat you twice as many times? And, hey, by the way, you know I won everything including gold medal and Davis Cup.’”
“At the same token, Federer has separated himself during a few years, like nobody else, and he’s done it more consistently,” Agassi told Hill. “To be able to make the argument for both guys playing in the same generation is pretty remarkable.”
Agassi is one of the best players of all time, but he doesn’t put himself in the same class as the top three. He considers Laver, Federer and Nadal to be in their own class above the rest.
“I’m way down the list from all of them,” Agassi said.
Despite putting Sampras a tier below Federer, Laver and Nadal because of his weakness on clay, Agassi gave a lot of credit to Pete when it came to their rivalry.
“[Sampras] played the bigger moments than I did, flat out,” Agassi admitted. “I thought the same thing every set we ever played: this guy doesn’t know how to play tennis, he just has a big serve, and at the end of the set I’d go ‘how the hell did he win that set?’”
Sampras did it enough to win 14 majors, which is second to Federer.
While I think that Nadal is closing in on Federer, I still would have Fed as the best. And I think Novak Djokovic is going to be in this discussion as well after he wins the French Open and pockets a few more Australians, US Opens, and Wimbledons.
One group of players who get left out in this discussion are Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. Those three players hardly ever competed in the Australian Open because the tournament did not hold the significance it now does. Not only was Australia far away from most players, but the tournament was held at the end of the year, so most of the players skipped it. It wasn’t until 1987 that they permanently moved it to January, making it the first major of the season instead of the last, and therefore a more desirable tournament to compete in. You might have been able to add a few more grand slams to McEnroe’s total of seven, Connors’ total of eight, or Borg’s total of 11 had the Australian mattered and been more appealing then. Now can you imagine how the best all time rankings discussions would change had those guys played the Australian?Google+