Jimmy Connors Named Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

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Jimmy Connors Named Best Male Tennis Player of All Time
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Tennis Now

Being called the "best" in any sport is a high honor.

In the world of tennis, many have used this title time and time again when mentioning the careers of Pete SamprasAndre Agassi and Roger Federer. But the one who gets to stand above them all with, science by his side, is Jimmy Connors.

Given the GOAT by a study published this month in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, Built by Northwestern University statistical physicist Boffin Filippo Radicchi, he ran all the matches played by professional tennis players between 1968, the start of the open era and 2010.

Built similarly to the data system used by Google for ranking web pages, Radicchi pulled digital data from thousands of matches as well as the Association of Tennis Professionals website. 

Under his system, players are quantified by importance and ranked with a "tennis prestige" score. This score is given by a player's competitiveness, the quality of his performance and number of victories.

"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...Players who have yet to retire are penalized with respect to those who have ended their careers. Prestige scores strongly correlate with the number of victories, and active players haven't played all the matches of their careers yet," explained Radicchi. 

"One of the reasons Jimmy Connors ranks on top is because he played for more than 20 years and had the opportunity to win a lot of matches against other very good players."

According to Radicchi's calculations, Federer has 39 quality victories. Nadal has just 21, while Connors had 178 points.

"I'll run this algorithm again in 10 years and see if the ranking is still the same," he says.

 

Top 30 Rankings

1. Jimmy Connors

2. Ivan Lendl

3. John McEnroe

4. Guillermo Vilas     

5. Andre Agassi

6. Stefan Edberg

7. Roger Federer

8. Pete Sampras

9. Ilie Năstase     

10. Björn Borg

11. Boris Becker

12. Arthur Ashe

13. Brian Gottfried

14. Stan Smith

15. Manuel Orantes

16. Michael Chang

17. Roscoe Tanner

18. Eddie Dibbs

19. Harold Solomon

20. Tom Okker

21. Mats Wilander

22. Goran Ivanišević

23. Vitas Gerulaitis

24. Rafael Nadal

25. Raul Ramirez

26. John Newcombe

27. Ken Rosewall

28. Yevgeny Kafelnikov

29. Andy Roddick

30. Thomas Muster

 

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