Tennis is experiencing the goldiest of all Golden Ages



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It’s strange how normalized greatness is during the golden age of something. For example, if you look at music, hip-hop peaked in the 90s for many people like classic rock in the 60s and 70s. But even when 2Pac and Biggie were at the top, rappers like Nas and Jay-Z were out of the picture for the title belt. (There was a two-year period from 1968-70 when The Beatles and Led Zeppelin were still together, Jim Morrison was alive, and The Rolling Stones were active.)

You could say they produced all four of their best albums – ready to die, Reasonable doubt, illmatic, All eyes on me — over a two-year period from 1994 to 1996, but Nas dropped out of the GOAT talk long ago (ed. note: the opinion expressed here is the author’s only and does not reflect the feelings of our staff as a whole ). It’s also impossible to quantify a rapper as one of the greatest ever since music is subjective and album sales are more of an indication of popularity than quality. Moreover, a few years ago people stopped buying albums.

Enter sport, where everything is measurable by data and most arguments can be solved through competition. There have been many golden eras: the MLB had the 1950s, boxing had the 1970s, some would say the NBA’s greatest run was the 1980s through the 1990s.

But tennis, well, tennis has the Golden GOAT of golden times right now.

You can pick between Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic for best men’s player, but when you add in Serena Williams, the GOAT in tennis regardless of gender, there’s no era even close to what we’ve seen (and are) still witnessed) in tennis for the past more than two decades. Williams, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have 85 Grand Slam titles and 123 Grand Slam finals between them. One of the four has won a Grand Slam every year since 1999.

We’re worth almost a quarter of a century of these players who matter more than the rest of the field. I can’t think of another era that has had anything to do with the subject’s Mount Rushmore being made up of people who were active at the same time.

It would be as if Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell would battle it out for a few decades and each walk away with six to eight titles apiece, which isn’t even possible.

When I first thought about this idea, I thought of maybe narrowing it down to just the men, but Williams contributed more to tennis’s sense of inevitability than the other three. You knew one of Federer, Nadal or Djokovic would win; it was a matter of which one. At Williams, it was shocking when someone else kept up with her, let alone her winning.

Fans of the Andys – Roddick and Murray – revere them despite their lack of Grand Slam dominance, simply because they rivaled the best to ever do it. It’s similar to the way people view Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, and the rest of the NBA greats in the ’90s who made Jordan work for a title.

There are no examples of tennis’s level of greatness in other sports. I reluctantly agree that Tom Brady is the best footballer ever. But who is his competition? If you merged Eli and Peyton Manning into one player, merged Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, and merged Aaron Rodgers with Brett Favre, you’d have what tennis just had — and that’s just quarterbacks.

Boxing comes close for several reasons, the main one being the sport that went from punch drunk to just drunk in the 90s and 2000s. It’s Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and then you pick from two between George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Tommie “Hit Man” Hearns, and Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran. However, any boxing list that Mike Tyson leaves out is more likely to be contested than an Iron Mike KO.

You really have to look for legit compositions, and skiing came close. Lindsey Vonn and Marcel Hirscher recently retired, but they were still skiing and winning races when Mikaela Shiffrin started her run. They have three of the top four places on the list of all-time World Cup wins, and if Ingemar Stenmark had been born in the ’80s rather than competing in them, skiing would have had its own golden age worth living with tennis. to compete.

In the 1950s, baseball had Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, and Stan Musial. That’s a pretty good group considering the history of baseball. If the pitchers of the 1950s had some bigger and better names, and baseball less great players, you could make the case — especially if you left out the whole steroid era.

Golf has a similar following to tennis as both are immensely popular with a certain enduring demographic despite operating on the margins of sports talk. So unlike baseball, basketball, and football, interest rarely rises or falls dramatically enough to affect the quality of the sport. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Tom Watson more or less overlapped, but Palmer’s last big win came in 1970, a year before Watson turned pro. And of course you can’t talk about golf GOAT without Tiger Woods.

Competing GOATS (as far as career goal records go) derailed hockey’s odds as Wayne Gretzky and Alexander Ovechkin each plotted their own eras. The same goes for the NBA with Jordan and James. Speaking purely of programs, Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma had a nice monopoly on the College Football Playoff. That said, I’ll die before my fingers leave ’90s Nebraska on a list of the best college soccer teams of all time.

I keep going back to other real renaissances, including the Renaissance. Donatello’s ass jumped in a few decades or he and the rest of the Ninja Turtles would stand a chance.

Anyway, cheers! To the GOATS!

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