Debating Kel Round 2 – Is Wimbledon the Greatest Slam?

I have to admit Wimbledon is the tournament that captured my imagination most as a fan

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Which is the Greatest Grand Slam in Tennis?

Kel – Hi Dan.

I think this is a very good debate to have right now as the Wimbledon fever slowly arrests the tennis world.  For me this has always come down to Wimbledon or the French Open.  I’ll have to go with Wimbledon though.  For starters, every player dreams of winning Wimbledon.  Roger Federer once said his career could have ended right after Wimbledon 2003, and he’d have been happy.  I think that speaks volumes about the power of this grand slam.  It is played on the rare and yet original surface of the game, back when it was known as lawn tennis.  Roger was right.  Wimbledon is so powerful a slam, that we tend to remember its one time winners, more so than we remember one time winners of other majors.  Think Krajicek, Ivanisevic, Cash, Stich, Hewitt.  How easily do tennis fans recall these players when compared to players like Gaudio, Moya, Ferrero or Costa?  You have to admit that this alone already puts Wimbledon in a class of its own.

Dan –Hi Kel,

I agree Wimbledon occupies a special place in terms of prestige.  I think the US Open has typically had the highest standard of play of all of the majors due to the surface being pretty fair to multiple styles.  The US Open has not produced many one-time major winners.  I think only Andy Roddick, Juan Martin del Potro, and Marin Cilic are one-time major winners since the US Open went to hard courts in 1978.  Two of those three players are still active even if a second major seems unlikely for either at this point.  Hewitt did win the 2001 US Open so his 2002 Wimbledon title does not leave him as a one-time major winner.
The Australian Open has also offered a pretty fair surface since 1988, but for a long time the Australian Open had substandard fields of players.  Jimmy Connors only played down under twice, Andre Agassi skipped the Australian Open until 1995, and the Australian Open was held twice one year when it switched from January to December and then was not held at all in 1986.  That leaves Roland Garros.  The French Open certainly has a lot of prestige, but in the 1970s it was viewed as holding a position below the US Open and Wimbledon.  In the past decade, all four majors have been played on surfaces that have fewer differences in bounce.  That likely helps Roland Garros not be the play ground of clay specialists in the vein of Muster, Costa, Gaudio, Bruguerra, Gomez, and Coria.
As a fan, I think Wimbledon has the most historical prestige, but I do think winning in New York may be the harder task across the decades.

Kel – Hi Dan,

I’ll start by making a correction.  I didn’t refer to Hewitt as a one time major winner.  I referred to him as a one time Wimbledon Champion.  “Wimbledon is so powerful a slam, that we tend to remember its one time winners, more so than we remember one time winners of other majors.”  You could argue that winning the U.S open added to Hewitt’s champion’s aura – winning any other slam would have – but if he had won just the U.S open, he wouldn’t be remembered the way he is now.
As for standard of play, I do respectfully beg to differ.  Wimbledon has produced dizzying standards of play particularly when as a fan, you appreciate it more in the semis or finals.  We’ve had a barrage of memorable finals at Wimbledon both for the historic meaning and the standard of play.  2006, 2007, 2009, 2014, and even last year.  It hasn’t been quite the same at the U.S open.  The U.S open makes up for this with a typical electric night session feel.  The American atmosphere will always be that much more… hype, than the British but there’s a reason the 2008 final in Wimbledon is considered the greatest final ever played.  Keep in mind I’m only looking at the last ten years (2006 – 2016).  The widely regarded greatest final before 2008?  Borg vs McEnroe in 1980.  Guess where that happened.

Dan – Hi Kel,

I think Wimbledon had become pretty monotonous prior to slowing the surface and balls down in 2002.  Sampras could serve and do other things.  Krajicek had a nice game to go with his huge serve.  Goran moved well for a guy with a big serve, but his volleys were suspect.  Stich had a nice all-court game.  However, Wayne Arthurs coming from nowhere to hold serve for 3 straight matches due to having a huge lefty serve and finally succumbing to a great returner in Agassi would not happen on another surface. Michael Stich beating defending champion Stefan Edberg at the 1991 US Open Wimbledon Championships WITHOUT ever breaking Edberg’s serve would not happen on any other surface.  Even on the slower grass Ivo Karlovic beat defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the 1st round.  Had Wimbledon not slowed the surface down the tennis would have become unwatchable.  What we saw in the 2006-present championship matches has been hard court tennis played on a grass court.  Since 2002 players can profitably attack and defend on grass courts.  Prior to that, fans could expect one counter-puncher per decade to win Wimbledon (Connors 1982 & Agassi 1992).  A fair surface produces great tennis more often than super slow or super fast surfaces.  Wimbledon learned that lesson in 2002.  The US Open taught that lesson in 1978.
Post Script – Hewitt beating Pete Sampras, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and Andy Roddick during his 2001 US Open run was much more impressive and memorable than his 2002 Wimbledon wins over David Nalbandian, Tim Henman, and Sjeng Schalken.  On this occasion, the better matches round for round were played in New York.  I think the same holds true at a macro level.
High Octane Tennis Prior to 2002



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mike Swanquis says:

    Like the debate/discussion format!

    Totally agree that in the ’90s Wimbledon was generally the least watchable of the Slams (though it never lost its mystique–in America the NBC coverage with the song and the cheesy British clichés always stirred the soul!)

    1. Dan Martin says:

      This was a hard one to debate. I think Wimbledon is the most prestigious and since 2002 has been pretty awesome. Some years it was hit or miss prior to that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s