I have written several posts comparing the accomplishments of Bjorn Borg, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer; I most recently offered my take on that subject here. I maintain that Borg should still be considered the greatest Open Era (post 1968) player and that anyone who tried to pass that crown to Federer acted prematurely. I consider Pete Sampras to be the second greatest Open Era player and I think that Nadal and Federer's places in that pantheon are yet to be determined. Nadal's head to head dominance over Federer coupled with the powerful Spaniard's ascension to the top of the ranking list are two strong pieces of evidence that my initial assessment well over a year ago--before Nadal beat Federer at Wimbledon and took over the number one ranking--was quite correct, although some readers who have posted comments here vigorously disagree.
Raymond Lee has extensively researched Open Era tennis for various articles that he has written for Tennis Week. He recently sent me an email offering his perspective about these issues and he granted me permission to quote some of the contents of that message:
"One of the reasons I wrote some of these tennis articles was because of the misuse of the information given in tennis. For example the reason Sampras is often mentioned as the GOAT is because he holds the official record of 14 majors. That's great and true but it isn't mentioned that he played in over 50 majors, if memory serves I believe it's 52. Borg won 11 in 27, Budge won 6 in 11.
It's like saying I'm a better free throw shooter than Larry Bird because I made 100 free throws in one day. Of course I may have attempted 1000 free throws and shot at a percentage of 10% while Bird made 99 out of 100 for 99%. By their logic, I'm a better free throw shooter because I made one more than Bird."
In a subsequent email, Lee added, "Borg was described by Arthur Ashe as a player without stroke weaknesses. I don't think I can say that about Roger Federer. Don't get me wrong I think Federer is a fabulous player but I try to put things in perspective."
Borg's lack of weaknesses and his Grand Slam dominance over an eight year period (1974-81) are persuasive reasons to still rank him ahead of every other Open Era player. Sampras displayed impressive longevity in setting the record for Grand Slam singles titles won (14, three more than Borg) but Sampras had an Achilles heel on the clay courts of the French Open. Federer has won 13 Grand Slams and perhaps he will match or surpass Sampras' mark but Nadal has clearly established himself as the best active player--and how can Federer be the greatest of all-time when he is not even the greatest of his time while still in his (late) prime years?