Greatest Match Finisher?

Are you a winner/loser?

When it comes down to a deciding third or fifth set in a men’s pro match, who would you guess would be the all-time leader for winning percentage?  Unless you happen to see it on Tennis Channel like I did, you would probably be choosing the wrong guy.

Who Is It?

It is NOT Borg, McEnroe, Federer, or Djokovic … it is Kei Nishikori.

Ironically, they posted this graphic before the Japanese star lost an incredible third set to Gael Monfils at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. (P.S. was this graphic created by our friend Joel Drucker?)

What Is The Reason?

So why is one player better than another in critical deciding sets?  Could it be they are calmer?  More focused?  Or is it as Jimmy Connors is attributed as saying, “Losers are people who are afraid to win.  And winners are people who are afraid to lose.”???

What do you think?

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at

My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me what clubs are carrying it!

3 thoughts on “Greatest Match Finisher?

  1. I suppose it’s not surprising that of the 5 players listed 4 of them can be described as ‘attritional’ in style who were/are willing to hang around for as long as it takes (used to be music to my ears), but probably better for neutrals, especially TV viewers, to watch at least one of the gladiators giving his all to try & win quickly or go down with all guns blazing – Federer, Rafter, Edberg, Becker, Ivanisovic !
    But for me, I prefer a 30 shot rally in Paris rather than 4 or 5 at Wimbledon any day !

    Howard, I agree… Isner, Dr. Ivo and other big serve boomers are no fun to watch. You on the other hand…. george

  2. George:

    While Nishikori’s record is impressive, I believe I can beat it (sort of). I am pretty sure I am in contention for the record of the most number of three set matches ever played — and LOST — over the years at Tennis Fantasies at Newk’s.

    In fact, there were some weeks in the early days when I can remember playing three setters for all of my singles matches at Newk’s, and only winning one of the three (if I was lucky). But even assuming an average of only one three setter lost for each week that I have attended, which is quite realistic, that is still a record of losing an estimated 23 such matches over the years, since through last year I had attended every year from 1993 on (except 2000). I defy anyone to beat THAT record!!

    All of which goes to prove that my original tennis coach was right when he advised me to stick with playing guitar.

    PS. It used to be much harder to play three setters at the beginning of Tennis Fantasies than it has been in the last decade or so, because they only played full three setters in the early days as I recall; the 10 point Super Tiebreaker in lieu of the third set was not introduced until more recently. In fact, I can remember a three year stretch when I met the same opponent, who shall remain nameless, three consecutive years in a row — in 1994, 1995 and 1996 — and each match went to three sets and lasted between 3 1/2 hours and 4 hours per match (and then we had to go out and play doubles right after). He won two of the three setters and I won the last of them…. and he never came back again after I finally won. I am sure there is a message in that somewhere.

    Marty, you are no doubt The Biggest Loser we have! 🙂 george

  3. Darn, I was hoping the answer would be Jimmy Connors. He gets left out when discussing the GOATs…due to being lower in the Grand Slam count…but in my mind, he stands as one of the top guys based on tournament and match wins. If I had to pick someone to play for my life, he would be up there with Roger and Rafa!

    Mark, i agree… like him or not, he was a great competitor! thanks, george

Comments are closed.