We like to think of tennis as a linear sport, where players continue to improve and records keep falling.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis identifies that is not always the case, as some masterful players from yesteryear posted career-best numbers that still have not been broken. Below are five players who put up amazing metrics in previous decades that have stood the test of time.
1. Mats Wilander: Hard-Court Break Points Converted Leader (45.58%)
Wilander played from 1981 to 1996, and spent 20 weeks ranked No. 1 in late 1988 and early 1989. He collected 33 titles, including three Grand Slams in 1988. Wilander was most comfortable on clay, where he won 20 of his 32 titles, including the first eight of his career.
But Wilander was also a very successful player on hard courts, winning nine titles, including the Australian Open and the US Open in 1988. Wilander remains to this day the career leader in break points converted on hard courts, at 45.58 per cent (201/441) from 61 matches.
2. Stefan Edberg: Hard-Court First-Serve Return Points Won (33.64%)
Edberg competed right around the same time as Wilander, turning pro in 1983 and finishing up in the same year in 1996. Edberg won more titles than Wilander, with 42, and spent 72 weeks at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.
We tend to think of Edberg’s prowess more on the serving side with his flashy serve-and-volley tactics, but his career return numbers were better than his serving stats. He is ranked 18th best with return games won, and just 38th best with service games won.
Edberg still remains the career hard-court leader with first-serve return points won at 33.64% (3667/10,901) from 219 matches.
3. Alberto Berasategui: Second-Serve Return Points Won (56.31%)
The 5’8” Spaniard played from 1991 to 2001, winning 14 titles (all on clay) and reaching a career-high of No. 7 in 1994. He is our sport’s career leader with second-serve return points won at 56.31 per cent (7670/13621) from 477 matches, although Berasategui played 77 per cent (368/477) of his matches on clay courts, where is often easier to return serve.
4. Andre Agassi: Hard-Court Second Serve Return Points Won (56.08%)
Agassi’s career spanned from 1986 to 2006, and he spent 101 weeks at No. 1 along the way. Agassi won 60 titles, and had one of the most ferocious second-serve returns in the history of our sport.
If the second serve “sat there” to be hit, Agassi routinely stepped in and crushed it. He remains the career leader on hard courts with second-serve return points won at 56.08 per cent (11,141/19,868) from 584 matches.
5. Goran Ivanisevic: Grass-Court First-Serve Points Won (89.68%)
Ivanisevic played 85 matches on grass in his career, capturing the Manchester title in 1991 and Wimbledon in 2001, the last tour event he won.
Ivanisevic played from 1988 to 2004, reaching a career-high of No. 2 in 1994. His left-handed serve was a nightmare for opponents, especially on grass, and he remains the career leader in first-serve points won on grass at 89.68 per cent (4938/5677).
These five players dominated in their era with their own unique talents, and players in today’s game have not yet been able to catch them.