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Another Idiotic 'Best Ever' Tennis List

There is no more irrelevant and lazy journalistic exercise than to compile a “greatest of all all time” (GOAT) list for any sport. Yet this practice has reached near epidemic proportions since such compilations became a seemingly daily occurrence around the start of the new millennium.  

And the recent Tennis Channel list of the "100 Greatest Players of All Time" takes things to new heights of the absurd as its tabulation combines men and women. This is an insult to both genders as there are enough players to make a separate list for each. Since men and women obviously don’t compete against each other, the only reason I can think why they did such a thing was out of purely PC reasons, to have both on equal footing.

And it’s not just sports that fall prey to the lightweight candy of such simplistic barroom discussions, as movies and, especially, popular music have been subjected to the needless rankings that arrogantly – and misguidedly - seek to edify, yet really only serve to bolster the mediocre. For example, take the most recent Rolling Stone magazine 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list for rock music. Even though anyone with a vast knowledge of rock music will acknowledge that 90 percent of the best music was made before 1980, 33 percent of the albums on the aforementioned list were from 1980 onward. Of course, this is all opinion but that’s the point – grading or ranking something should be subjective.

Yet these lists are entirely too objective – one always gets the sense from those who are playing god with assigning a fixed ranking to a player or movie or song is taking into consideration too many facets that had nothing to do with the actual worth of the work being analyzed.

For example, in the Tennis Channel list that was just unveiled this past week, Arthur Ashe resides in the 28th position, an insultingly elevated ranking to any tennis fan aware of the sport’s rich history. And this is not to diminish Ashe in any whatsoever; he was a three-time Slam winner (out of five Slam finals), and his stature as a giant in the sport for everything he did off the court is forever cemented.

But to rank Ashe - as a player - ahead of Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzalez, Lew Hoad, John Newcombe, Mats Wilander, Jim Courier and Novak Djokovic is so utterly ridiculous as to render the “list” irrelevant just on this one fact. Of course there are always arguments that a certain player was better than so-and-so. But it’s not as if Ashe was ranked ahead of just one or two of these players. I’d challenge anyone to make a case that Ashe was as good a player as any of them.

Not to single out Ashe, as there are many glaring, idiotic failures of judgment in this unnecessary list. Bill Tilden is one such case. For so many years any such mention of the greatest players of all time in tennis would have included Tilden among the top few; just as Rod Laver, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer are routinely named - justifiably - as the top three now by most historians.

Yet, on this Tennis Channel ranking, Tilden is notched below Andre Agassi and John McEnroe. Neither of the latter two had the extended period of dominance that Tilden did. Tilden was the Babe Ruth of his sport in the 1920s – indeed, they were contemporaries. To have Tilden slotted in a relatively low position is blasphemous and, again, shows a complete lack of perspective as everything is so biased toward the present day. Consider, all of the players in the top 10 on the Tennis Channel manifest – men and women – played in the open era. To have such disregard for past eras is an affront to the advanced sensibility of the more astute tennis observers.

Return of Venus

From the absurd to the sublime. For all tennis fans it was a pleasure to see Venus Williams once again playing tennis, and securing a victory over a top player. On Friday at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Williams defeated reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Venus had not played since the 2011 U.S. Open as she continues to struggle with Sjogren's syndrome, an auto-immune disease that results in joint pain and swelling, as well as dry mouth and eyes. And seeing her exhibit such joy upon playing so unexpectedly well is a welcome sight.

"I mean, I've got nothing to lose," Venus pointed out. "Like literally — I have nothing to lose. So I think if there's anyone on this tour besides me and maybe (Alisa) Kleybanova (a Russians player who’s also playing her first event in some time at the Sony Ericsson, as she’s recovering from treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) — we have the least amount to lose than anyone on tour. Everything, every shot is a victory and a blessing."

Now that’s perspective. Something the Tennis Channel list lacks.

Award-winning columnist Tim Joyce provides regular commentary for RealClearSports on Sundays and Tuesdays. Email: joyce.timothy@gmail.com

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