Former world No 1 tennis player Stan Smith believes past legends Pete Sampras, Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg are on par with the sport’s current “Big 3”.
The “Big 3” of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have dominated tennis for the past 15 years, amassing 60 Grand Slams singles titles (20 each) between them.
Sampras won 14 majors, with Laver and Borg claiming 11 each.
However Smith, who won the US Open in 1971 and Wimbledon in 1972, puts the above-mentioned trio in the same bracket as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.
“I think there are six that are the best in history. Sampras, Laver, Borg and the ‘Big 3’,” Smith told La Nacion. “Fortunately these three continue to play. Tennis fans around the world had the opportunity to see three of the best at the same time. It is a special era, which will end in a few years.”
Sampras quit at 31, Borg at 26, while Laver wasn’t allowed to play Grand Slam tennis between 1963 and 1967 because he turned professional.
“One of the questions I ask myself about a guy like Laver, who played 17 Grand Slam finals and won eleven, and who did not play the majors for almost six years, is how many more he could have had,” Smith added. “He could well have won 10 more titles in those 24 tournaments that he did not play, because he dominated before and after.”
Smith, interestingly, added that he felt Federer was the only of the current generation who would have also enjoyed success with the old wooden racquets.
“I think the only one who would have had great achievements is Roger Federer, because he has a very fair, precise style of play. In fact, for many years he played with a small hoop racquet.”
The “hoop” racquet Smith is referring to is the smallish 90 square inch Wilson Pro Staff that Federer played with between 2002 and 2013, before moving to the 97 square inch RF97 Autograph version in 2014.
Picture: Rod Laver – Australian Open/Twitter