The Present

The Future

Ramanathan Krishnan

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The legend on the 10 ten greatest tennis players of the century

The ten great tennis players I am going to mention are in no particular order. I have not seen those who played before me, but only heard and read about them in books. So, I am making a judgement of their performances from what I have read. I have played against players like Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, etc during my playing days. After my time, along with my son Ramesh, I watched many like Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe play. I didn't play with them because I was too old at that time! I have watched them perform in a different era, the professional era. My list of the best players are:

Bill Tilden 1. Bill Tilden: I consider him great even though I have not seen him play. He played even before my father's time. He made tennis look very simple and he was a very orthodox player. He can also be described as a complete player. Remember, the facilities available were very limited in those days. The amazing aspect about him is that he won his last Wimbledon in his fortieth year in 1940. And, today people burn out in their twenties. Imagine a man winning Wimbledon at the age of 40! In those days, they used to go by ship to a venue to play. It was an altogether different era. Some even call him the greatest player.

Fred Perry 2. Fred Perry:He won the Wimbledon title three times in a row. He was the last Englishman to do so. He won all the tournaments in the world. The greatest thing about him was that he was a table tennis champion before he became a tennis champion. He was a great Davis Cup player and a great athlete too. Those days, they used to wear full pants while playing. After his playing days, he was involved in the textile business.

Donald Budge 3. Donald Budge: This American was the first man to win a Grand Slam in tennis, winning the Australian, French, US and Wimbledon titles in the same year. He was red-haired.

4. Henri Cochet: During his playing days, he was part of the French Davis Cup team. There were three great players in the French Davis Cup team and they were called The Three Musketeers. Cochet was the shortest among them but as far as the game was concerned, he was the tallest.

Poncho Gonzalves 5. Pancho Gonzalves: He recently died of cancer. He turned a professional at the very young age of 19 and won the US Open.

6. Lew Hoad: I will include the Australian player who recently died of cancer. I played with him and known him well too. He was a powerhouse. On a given day, nobody could beat him.

Rod Laver 7. Rod Laver: The inimitable Laver won the Grand Slam twice in his career. Budge won it once, but Laver won it twice. Both of them were red-haired! It so happened that the two great names in the history of tennis were red-haired! One was an American and the other an Australian. I played during his time -- in the fifties and the sixties and we were there together at Wimbledon. He was such a great player mainly because of his great temperament. He had very good nerves too. Temperament and nerves are very important factors in any sport. I consider him as one of the all-time greats. Many people think he is an all-time great because of the results.

It is not likely that anybody else will beat his record of two Grand Slams. Even Sampras won't. Lew Hoad and Rod Laver were two players whom I knew well and I can tell you they were the finest human beings. Apart from being great tennis players, they were real gentlemen too. They were the finest examples of humility and sportsmanship.

Bjorn Borg 8. Bjorn Borg: Now I am coming to the era of professional tennis. I had stopped playing by then. I will say the style of play of this era is different from ours. One name that will always remain in the history of tennis is that of Bjorn Borg who won five Wimbledon titles. I have seen him play.

John McEnroe 9. John McEnroe: I have to name John McEnroe. He was a little eccentric, but was a super tennis player.

Pete Sampras 10. Pete Sampras: He also has won five Wimbledon titles. In a crisis, he is the best tennis player. Not many can produce best tennis at such moments but Sampras can. That is why he is one of the greatest.

About the players of the new era, I can say one thing -- they are great fighters. They are great athletes too. If you are not a good athlete, you cannot become a good player.

As told to Shobha Warrier

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