| LONDON, March 3
LONDON, March 3 A scientist from Northwestern
University in Illinois has claimed to have solved the debate
over who is the best male tennis player of all time.
The disappointing news for disciples of Roger Federer and
Rafael Nadal, however, is that Filippo Radicchi's painstaking
number-crunching of 133,261 matches played since 1968 suggests
that American Jimmy Connors is the greatest of them all.
Federer, who since 2003 has claimed a record 16 grand slam
titles, comes in at number seven and Spain's Nadal, the current
world number one and nine-times major winner, lurks down at
number 24, below the likes of Eddie Dibbs and Tom Okker.
Connors, a pugnacious left-hander who was No. 1 in the ATP
rankings for 160 consecutive weeks from 1974-77 and won a record
109 titles including eight grand slams, topped the list ahead of
his former rivals Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe.
Pete Sampras, whose record of 14 grand slam titles was
eclipsed by Federer, is one place below the Swiss at eight while
Swedish great Bjorn Borg only just scrapes into the top 10.
Collecting ATP data from the past 43 years, Radicchi
believes his system using a "diffusion algorithm" outperforms
other methods used to try and end the "greatest of all time" or
GOAT debate that splits tennis fans.
"We performed a complete analysis by determining the best
players on specific surfaces as well as the best ones in each of
the years covered by the data set," Radicchi said.
"In this particular ranking system, it's more important to
win a single match against a very good player than many matches
against not-so-good players."
Explaining Connors' position as the best player, Radicchi
said his system rewarded the American's longevity which enabled
him to continue playing until well into his 40s.
"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," Radicchi said.
While Nadal has dominated on claycourts for the past six
years, Argentina's Guillermo Vilas is ranked as the best of all
time on the surface, according to the study, while Connors,
surprisingly, tops the grasscourt list with Federer third.
American Andre Agassi is ranked the greatest player on hard
courts, with Federer down in fifth behind Connors, Lendl and
For those crying foul about the absence of Rod Laver, the
last player to win the calendar grand slam, the Australian was
identified as the best between 1968-71, when the ATP rankings
system was not yet established.
(Editing by Ed Osmond, To query or comment on this story