Wednesday, July 17, 2013

stop that racket

So, Wimbledon, belatedly. Actually, if I can just get you to imagine some sort of summary/analysis thing complete with plaudits for Andy Murray (who I think is wholly admirable, just in case this all sounds a bit grudging) here then that'll save me actually having to write it.

Let's go off on a tangent instead. Now it used to be said that Wimbledon and the French Open were the two niche, "specialist" events on the Grand Slam calendar (the other two, now that they've settled down into being hard-court events, providing the level playing-field) - the French favouring the relentless baseline sluggers and Wimbers favouring the serve-volley merchants. As it happens if there's one thing that the recent success of Murray, Djokovic and Nadal (and even Roger Federer) at Wimbledon proves, it's that this is really no longer true, and that these days Wimbledon is a sort of quirky sub-division of the hard court season. Look back at the list of winners and you'll see that the last "proper" serve-volleyer to win the Wimbledon men's singles was Goran Ivanisevic in 2001. Nonetheless I felt obliged to do the research and find out what the stats say is the most "specialist" event of the four. The way I translate that is: here's a list of all the winners of each of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments in the Open era (i.e. since 1968) who never won any of the other Grand Slam tournaments.

Australian Open
  • Mark Edmondson (1976)
  • Roscoe Tanner (Jan 1977)
  • Vitas Gerulaitis (Dec 1977)
  • Brian Teacher (1980)
  • Johan Kriek (1981, 1982)
  • Petr Korda (1998)
  • Thomas Johansson (2002)
French Open
  • Andres Gimeno (1972)
  • Adriano Panatta (1976)
  • Yannick Noah (1983)
  • Michael Chang (1989)
  • Andres Gomez (1990)
  • Sergi Bruguera (1993, 1994)
  • Thomas Muster (1995)
  • Gustavo Kuerten (1997, 2000, 2001)
  • Carlos Moya (1998)
  • Albert Costa (2002)
  • Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003)
  • Gaston Gaudio (2004)
  • Pat Cash (1987)
  • Michael Stich (1991)
  • Richard Krajicek (1996)
  • Goran Ivanisevic (2001)
US Open
  • Manuel Orantes (1975)
  • Patrick Rafter (1997, 1998)
  • Andy Roddick (2003)
  • Juan Martin Del Potro (2009)
So the numbers are: Australian Open 7, French Open 12, Wimbledon 4, US Open 4. Actually I think there's a case for saying that the French is even more of a statistical outlier than that makes it sound, because the Australian Open has only really been regularly attended by the top players since the late 1980s - for instance Bjorn Borg only ever played in it once, Jimmy Connors twice and John McEnroe twice during his Grand Slam-winning years. Cut down the qualifying period to since, say, 1990 and the numbers become 2, 8, 3, 3. I also strongly suspect that the US Open figure may come down as I think that it's highly likely (injury permitting) that Juan Martin Del Potro will win more Grand Slams.

As a further tangent it's interesting to note that while the French Open has been played on clay throughout its lifetime, and likewise Wimbledon on grass, the other two have had a more varied history: the Australian Open was played on grass up until 1987, and on various flavours of hard court since, and the US Open was played on grass until 1974, on clay from 1975 to 1977 and on a slightly different kind of hard court thereafter. Honestly, make your minds up.

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