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Since 1983, men's tennis has had a very strong tradition and clear hierarchy of tournaments: (1) Grand Slam tournaments, including Wimbledon, the US Open, the French Open, and the Australian Open; (2) the Tennis Masters Cup; and (3) the Davis Cup. Before 1983, however, and in particular before the start of the open era in 1968, the hierarchy of professional tournaments changed virtually every year. For example, in 1934, the U.S. Pro was a high-class tournament with all the best players, but just two years later, this tournament was ordinary because only professional teachers (no leading touring pros) entered the event.

Professional tennis before the start of the open eraEdit

Before the start of the open era and in addition to numerous small tournaments and head-to-head tours between the leading professionals, there were a few major professional tournaments that stood out during different periods:

  • Some survived sporadically because of financial collapses and others temporarily stood out when other important tournaments were not held:
    • Bristol Cup (held at Cannes or at Beaulieu) in the 1920s
    • Queen's Club Pro (in 1928)
    • International Pro Championship of Britain in Southport in the 1930s
    • World Pro Championships in Berlin in the 1930s
    • U.S Pro Hardcourt in Los Angeles, California in 1945 (the only significant professional tournament that year)
    • Philadelphia Pro 1950–1952
    • Pro Tournament of Champions, held in Los Angeles in 1956 and at Forest Hills thereafter (when it was not merged with the U.S. Pro)
    • Masters Pro Round Robin in Los Angeles in 1957 and 1958
    • Australian Pro in 1954, 1957, and 1958
    • Madison Square Garden Pro in 1966 and 1967
    • Wimbledon Pro in 1967
  • There were a few team events modeled on the Davis Cup, such as the Bonnardel Cup in the 1930s and the Kramer Cup from 1961 through 1963.
  • Three traditional "championship tournaments" survived into the open era, often having all the leading players but sometimes having very depleted fields. The most prestigious of the three was generally the London Indoor Professional Championship. Played between 1934 and 1990 at Wembley Arena in England, it was unofficially usually considered the world championship until 1967.[citation needed] The oldest of the three was the United States Professional Championship, played between 1927 and 1999. From 1954 through 1962, this tournament was played indoors in Cleveland and was called the "World Professional Championships." The third major tournament was the French Professional Championship, played usually at Roland Garros from 1934 (perhaps before but the data are unclear) through 1968. The British and American championships continued into the open era but soon devolved to the status of minor tournaments.[citation needed]

Because of the instability of the professional tour, the greatest tournaments in a given year could be the three "championship tournaments" (such as in 1964) or other tournaments (such as in 1959 when the greatest tournaments probably were the Forest Hills Pro, the Masters Pro in Los Angeles, and almost all the Australian pro tournaments).

However these three tournaments were considered by some tennis experts[who?] as the three tournaments of the professional Grand Slam (until 1967). Some years as in 1948, only one of them was held, the U.S Pro in this case, and even in 1944 none was organized : this explains why professionals players have less impressive records than those of the modern players but it doesn't mean that the banished players of the pre-open era were less great than their open era colleagues.

As with any statistics, those of tennis players should be put into the correct context because:

a) they are mixing performances of the amateur circuit (until 1967), the professional circuit (until 1967), and the open circuit (since 1968)

b) they don't always take into account the greatest events of a given year (such as the 1959 example above).

For instance, Ken Rosewall's amateur successes between 1953 and 1956 were achieved without having to compete against world-class professionals like Frank Sedgman and Pancho Gonzales. Likewise, when Rod Laver captured the amateur Grand Slam in 1962, he did not have to face opponents such as Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Pancho Segura and Andrés Gimeno, all professionals, and therefore his 1962 Grand Slam is not seen as impressive as his 1969 Grand Slam which he won in the open era.[citation needed] In 1967 Laver was omnipotent on fast courts, winning all the greatest pro tournaments that year, Wimbledon Pro (grass), the U.S. Pro (grass), Wembley Pro (indoor wood, fastest surface ever used in tennis) and the French Pro (indoor wood). In the official statistics as published by the ITF or ATP these tournaments are seldom listed because only the amateur tournaments were taken into account. Yet Laver's supremacy in 1967 was undisputed: in his statistics (19 major tournaments) three of the four previous tournaments are listed. The one tournament not chosen is 1967 Wimbledon Pro because it was a one-off event and not a "Grand Slam pro" tournament but it was probably the greatest pro event of the 60s and in particular of 1967.[citation needed] It indicates that the Grand Slam label in the pre-open era is not always attributed to the greatest tournaments of a given year.

In reality to fairly compare pre-open era players' records with open era players, it would be necessary to select from the tennis beginnings the four greatest events of each year, knowing it would change every year (some years it is difficult to choose the four greatest tennis events). Thus, for instance, Ken Rosewall's record of 23 victories, indicated above, would be reduced to about 21 tournaments "equivalent to the modern Grand Slam tournaments": Wembley Pro 1957, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 – New York City-Madison Square Garden Pro 1966 – French Pro 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966 – French Open 1968 – U.S. Pro 1963, 1965 – US Open 1970 – Australian Open 1971 – WCT Finals 1971, 1972.[citation needed] In that list, on one hand have disappeared all Rosewall's great amateur successes (Australia 1953, 1955 – Roland Garros 1953 – U.S. 1956) and also the 1972 Australian Open without eighteen of the twenty best players, but on the other hand have appeared some pro tournaments which weren't one of the three classic ones (see Ken Rosewall's article).

Most major singles titlesEdit

The three professional tournaments (Wembley Pro, French Pro, U.S. Pro) until 1967 are sometimes referred as the professional Grand Slam tournaments by tennis historians, such as Robert Geist or Raymond Lee (in his Greatest Player of All time: A Statistical Analysis article).[1]

The following table includes those major professional titles before the Open Era. The top 13 players for all times are listed as follows which is as of French open 2019. Grand slam titles are different from the Pro slams and this list comprises winners of both type of titles

Player Total Grand Slam Tournaments a Pro Slam Tournaments
Australian French Wimbledon U.S. French Pro Wembley Pro U.S. Pro
  Ken Rosewall b 23 1953, 1955, 1971, 1972 1953, 1968 1956, 1970 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966 1957, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 1963, 1965
  Roger Federer 20 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017, 2018 2009 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
  Rod Laver c 19 1960, 1962, 1969 1962, 1969 1961, 1962, 1968, 1969 1962, 1969 1967 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967 1964, 1966, 1967
  Rafael Nadal 19 2009 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019 2008, 2010 2010, 2013, 2017,2019
  Novak Djokovic 16 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019 2016 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019 2011, 2015, 2018
  Bill Tilden d 15 1920, 1921, 1930 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1929 1933, 1934 1931, 1935
  Pancho Gonzales 14 1948, 1949 1950, 1951, 1952, 1956 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961
  Pete Sampras 14 1994, 1997 1993, 1994,1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002
  Roy Emerson 12 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967 1963, 1967 1964, 1965 1961, 1964
  Henri Cochet e 11 1926, 1928, 1930,
1932
1927, 1929 1928 1936
  Björn Borg 11 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980
  Fred Perry 10 1934 1935 1934, 1935, 1936 1933, 1934, 1936 1938, 1941
  Don Budge 10 1938 1938 1937, 1938 1937, 1938 1939 1939 1940, 1942

Notes:

a Grand Slam tournaments of the Open Era are marked in bold font.

b Rosewall's wins at the Wembley Pro in 1968 and the U.S. Pro in 1971 are not included in the list of his "major" titles because those tournaments were not major events after the start of the open era in April 1968.

c Laver's wins at the Wembley Pro in 1969 and 1970, the U.S. Pro in 1968 and 1969, and the French Pro in 1968 are not included in the list of his "major" titles because those tournaments were not major events after the start of the open era.

d Including World Hard Court Championships in 1921 (official clay court world championships).

e Including World Hard Court Championships in 1922 and World Covered Court Championships in 1922 and 1923 (official wood court world championships).

StatisticsEdit

The draws of Pro majors were significantly smaller than the traditional Grand Slam tournaments; usually they only had 16 or even fewer professional players. Though they were the top players in the world, this meant only four rounds of play instead of the modern six or seven rounds of play.

As of US Open 2019.

Active players are marked in boldface.

Player Total Era Surface Time Span Win/Loss Win %
Amateur Pro Open Grass Clay Hard Indoor Age Span Years
  Ken Rosewall 23 4 15 4 8 6 N/A 9 18–37 20 1953–1972 246–46 84.24
  Roger Federer 20 N/A N/A 20 8 1 11 N/A 21–36 16 2003–present 336–53 86.38
  Rod Laver 19 6 8 5 12 2 N/A 5 21–31 11 1960–1969 180–36 83.33
  Rafael Nadal 19 N/A N/A 18 2 12 5 N/A 19–32 14 2005–present 242–34 87.68
  Novak Djokovic 16 N/A N/A 16 5 1 10 N/A 20–31 12 2008–present 251–41 85.96
  Bill Tilden 15 10 4 N/A 11 4 0 0 27–42 16 1920–1935 156–30 83.87
  Pancho Gonzales 14 2 12 0 2 0 N/A 12 20–33 14 1948–1961 103–29 78.03
  Pete Sampras 14 N/A N/A 14 7 0 7 N/A 19–31 13 1990–2002 203–38 84.23
  Roy Emerson 12 12 N/A 0 10 2 N/A N/A 24–30 7 1961–1967 174–39 81.69
  Henri Cochet 11 8 1 N/A 3 5 0 3 20–34 15 1922–1936 113–20 84.96
  Björn Borg 11 N/A N/A 11 5 6 0 N/A 18–25 8 1974–1981 141–16 89.81
  Fred Perry 10 8 2 N/A 7 2 0 1 24–32 9 1933–1941 120–22 84.51
  Don Budge 10 6 4 N/A 6 3 0 1 22–27 6 1937–1942 95–18 84.07

Most singles titlesEdit

As of Miami 2019.

Active players are marked in boldface.

Rank Player Titles
1   Rod Laver 200
2   Jimmy Connors 149
3  /  Ivan Lendl 146
4   Jaroslav Drobný 139
5   Ken Rosewall 133
6   Bill Tilden 130
7   Anthony Wilding 118
8   Pancho Gonzales 113
9   Roy Emerson 110
10   John McEnroe 104
11   Roger Federer 102
12   Björn Borg 101
13   Bobby Riggs 95
14   Ilie Năstase 87
15   Rafael Nadal 84
16   Gardnar Mulloy 80
17   Budge Patty 78
18   Novak Djokovic 75
19   Manuel Santana 74
20   Arthur Ashe 73
21   Martin Mulligan 72
22   John Newcombe 70
23   Guillermo Vilas 68
24   Pete Sampras 64
25   Stan Smith 60
=   Andre Agassi 60
27   Tony Trabert 57
28   Vic Seixas 56
29   Nicola Pietrangeli 54
30   Tom Okker 51

Sources: ATP; Michel Sutter, Vainqueurs Winners 1946–2003, Paris 2003; Joe McCauley, The History of Professional Tennis, London 2001; Robert Geist, Der Grösste Meister Die denkwürdige Karriere des australischen Tennisspielers Kenneth Robert Rosewall, Vienna 1999 ; Tony Trabert in "Tennis de France" magazine; ATP ; John Barrett editor,World of Tennis Yearbooks, London 1969 to 1983

Before 1972 tennis results were not automatically registered as they are now with the ITF (International Tennis Federation) and the ATP. Many have been lost or never even recorded. In particular, many professional results before 1968 have disappeared or are contradictory (for instance Ray Bowers, who gives a very detailed account of the 1926–1945 pro era called "History of the Pro Tennis Wars" in the "Tennis Server" Web site, categorically affirms that there was no 1936 Wembley Pro tournament (and no 1938 edition too) while McCauley lists a final result). However the most important ones have been preserved. ATP data is far from being exhaustive. They only begin in 1968 and they omit many results until 1971–1972 and even after. For example, there are no results of the New South Wales Championships in 1973 (Mal Anderson) or in 1974 (Tony Roche).

Therefore, the global numbers listed here are at least equal if not superior to those of the ATP (even the modern players as Connors, Lendl, McEnroe, Nastase, Ashe or Borg have more titles here (for instance Borg won his first tournament at Helsinki in 1973 and it doesn't appear in the ATP statistics)). Other remark : Michel Sutter chose about 150–200 tournaments each year including some invitation tournaments or tournaments which were at the time (before the nineties) the equivalent of the challenger series tournaments of today. When those tournaments appeared in the early nineties Sutter listed them in his book. Sutter, being the main source of that part of the article, such tournaments are counted in this list (this explains for instance why Federer has four more wins than his ATP wins number).

Most pro toursEdit

In the years before the open era, male professionals often played more frequently in tours than in tournaments because a head-to-head tour between two tennis stars was much more remunerative than a circuit of pro tournaments and the number of professional tournaments was small. For example, Fred Perry earned U.S. $91,000 in a 1937 North American tour against Ellsworth Vines but won only U.S. $450 for his 1938 victory at the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships. Vines probably never entered a tournament between the London Indoor Professional Championship in October 1935, which he won, and the May 1939 edition of that tournament, which he lost. In 1937, Vines played 70 matches on two tours and no matches in tournaments. Even in the 1950s, some professionals continued to play numerous tour matches. During his first five months as a professional (January through May 1957), Ken Rosewall played 76 matches on a tour against Pancho Gonzales but only 9 matches in tournaments. As an example of the small number of professional tournaments held before the open era, Joe McCauley has determined that for 1952, only 7 professional tournaments were played by the top international players, and 2 other professional tournaments (the British Pro and the German Pro) were reserved for domestic players. It was only during the 1960s that professional tournaments became more significant than tours.

The prevalence of head-to-head tours and the small number of professional tournaments makes it necessary to consider the tours when comparing male players from before the open era with male players during the open era. The following lists the pre-open era professionals who won the most tours based on the information currently available.

Rank Player Tours
1   Pancho Gonzales 7
2   Ellsworth Vines 5
3   Jack Kramer 4
  Don Budge 4
5   Bill Tilden 3
6   Karel Koželuh 1
  Bobby Riggs 1
  Ken Rosewall 1

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ [1] Archived 2007-11-17 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit