This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – brightrecruits.com can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today

Blog

Who is the best male tennis player of all time?

atmosphere.jpg
No, it’s not Tim Henman. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

By James Dacey

With the Swiss superstar Roger Federer looking like he may well scoop his 17th grand slam title this week at the Australian Open, it is a debate that will fill the stands in Melbourne.

In fact it’s a conversation sports lovers have all time and it usually results in heated exchanges ended by a friendship-saving “let’s agree to disagree”. And it gets even more farcical when you start comparing players from different generations: on the one hand professionalism and standards of equipment tend to increase as the years go by; on the other hand, a sportsperson is necessarily of their time and can only ever be asked to beat the opponent put in front of them.

Well, a researcher in the US has attempted to take a more scientific approach to this question for the case of tennis. Fillippo Radicchi a chemical engineering researcher at Northwestern University, Illinois, has scrutinized the results of all tennis matches played by professional male tennis players during the period 1968–2010. He has then represented these matches as basic “contacts” between “actors” in a complex network where multiple matches between the same players add weight to those specific connections in the network.

tennis network.jpg


By plugging in all the results, Radicchi has managed to rank players based on an algorithm similar to that used by Google’s PageRank in web searches. The algorithm places players in order based on their “centrality” in the complex network. And so the result is…

The number one greatest player in the history of tennis, according to this ranking, is Jimmy Connors, the American player who won 8 grandslam titles during a career that spanned from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s. Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe come in at number two and three respectively, making it an all-American top three. Meanwhile, Federer, who holds double the number of grand slams as Connors, comes in at a modest seventh place. You can see the full list here:

tennis rankings.jpg


The reason Connors topped the list is probably explained by his extremely long and successful career. “Among all top players in the history of tennis, Jimmy Connors has been undoubtedly the one with the longest and most regular trend, being in the top 10 of the ATP year-end ranking for 16 consecutive years (1973–1988),” explains Radicchi in his research paper, which has been posted on the arXiv preprint server.

Radichi also applies the same ranking algorithm to each decade independently and in this case Federer does come out top for the period 2001–2010. Likewise Pete Sampras bossed the 1990s, Ivan Lendl was the man to beat in the 1980s and Connors had his heyday in the 1970s.

So that’s it, the debate is settled? Somehow I doubt it…

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

One comment to Who is the best male tennis player of all time?

  1. mt

    An old lady just made me “bet my bippy on it”. I hope I win because I don’t know what my bippy is or how it’s been wagered.

Leave a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Guidelines

  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="http://www.google.com">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="http://iop.org/">IOP</blockquote>
IOP
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/index.html">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux