Before Andy Murray ascended to the No. 3 spot in the world rankings this week, it was reasonable to suggest that the top two players in the world (Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal) made up the best top two of all-time. It's a debatable point but not an absurd one. What would be absurd is to contend that the current top 10 is the greatest ever, but that didn't stop a British writer from doing so.
In an article posted on the gambling site Betfair, Simon Mundie raises the possibility that the current ATP Tour top ten is the strongest ever. This claim was triggered by the impressive fact that the top eight players in the rankings all advanced to the semifinals of the Rogers Cup in Montreal, the first time that has happened in the 36-year history of the rankings.
Mundie suggests that the greatness of Federer and Nadal balances nicely with the consistency of the other eight players -- Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilifried Tsonga, Nikolay Davydenko, Gilles Simon and Fernando Verdasco -- to make for impressive "strength of depth".
I'm not so sure. It's a fine top 10, but one that only boasts four Grand Slam winners (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Roddick). That is largely due to the fact that Federer and Nadal have been so dominant, but their dominance has little bearing on the fact that Tsonga, Verdasco and Simon have only made one Grand Slam quarterfinal. Calling a tennis player "consistent" is sort of like saying a girl has a "great personality". It's a backhanded compliment in most cases. The only thing consistent about Tsonga is his fourth-round losses. (Too harsh?)
So if this isn't the best top 10 ever, which is?
Throw a dart at the weekly rankings from 1992 through 1995 and you'll likely come up with a better one. After sifting through the lists, here's the best I could find:
1) Pete Sampras
2) Jim Courier
3) Stefan Edberg
4) Boris Becker
6) Petr Korda
7) Ivan Lendl
8) Andre Agassi
10) Michael Stich
Every player in that top ten won a Grand Slam event and nine of them (Stich being the exception) ascended to either No. 1 or No. 2 in the rankings at one point in their career. There may be a better top 10 out there from this time period as the top five stayed pretty steady for a few years and other Grand Slam winners/future No. 1s like Richard Krajicek, Sergi Bruguera and Thomas Muster danced in and out of the bottom part. But it's pretty safe to say that the '93 lineup would win in a walkover against its '09 counterpart.
And what about the top ten from November 16, 1987:
1) Ivan Lendl
2) Stefan Edberg
3) Mats Wilander
4) Boris Becker
5) Miloslav Mecir
6) Jimmy Connors
7) Pat Cash
8) Yannick Noah
9) John McEnroe
10) Andres Gomez
The only man not to win a Slam on that list (Mecir) has an Olympic gold medal. The current top 10 has a long way to go before they can match a resume like that.