Men’s tennis time-line: it is my attempt to gather in one place in chronological order, all the most important events (also most intriguing records and curiosities) of the Open Era, beginning with the year 1968. In contrary to my e-book, I concentrate below mainly on singles and only on the main level competitions. If you think I have overlooked something which was worth mentioning, please post it on this page 🙂 And please, keep in mind that there is absolutely no need to discuss here an issue of starting with “1” as the first year of a decade…
List of Grand Slam men’s singles champions (all-time)
The first decade of the Open Era  […1970-1979…]

– The Grand Prix tennis circuit is launched in 1970; twenty years later it will be replaced by the ATP tour, which merges Grand Prix and World Championship Tennis (existed since 1968)…
– It’s a decade of three players from different continents: two left-handers, North American Jimmy Connors, South American Guillermo Vilas (both b. 1952), and right-handed European Bjorn Borg (b. 1956), who rules the circuit in the late 70s/early 80s… he triumphs in Paris & London constantly contributing to the popularization of tennis in Europe (TV is the dominant broadcast in the 70s); Borg & Connors are the only elite players using double-handed backhands… they revolutionize tennis with their persistent play from the back of the court on slower surfaces (on grass they implement S/V regularly)… the end of the decade marks emergence of the third excellent left-hander John McEnroe (b. 1959)

– Other distinctive players of the 70’s are those who began careers as amateurs: Jan Kodes, Stan Smith & bad-boy Ilie Nastase (all born in 1946, Nastase is the best in the decade as far as “Masters” is concerned), three years younger, clay-court specialist Manuel Orantes (b. 1949), also gentleman Arthur Ashe (b. 1943; first Afro-American in the tennis elite), and John Newcombe (b. 1944, one of the bests in the world already in the late 60s; the man who introduced risky second serves to the game), they symbolize the end of a “romantic tennis” based on constant attacking to the net and playing defensive lobs; the sport turns to be physically more demanding with introduction of steel racquets (improvement of the wooden ones too) and increased number of hardcourts – athletes need to sit during change of ends
– 🇺🇸Taking into account nationality, it is the American decade: the United States win 5 out of 10 Davis Cup editions (“Challenger round” is rejected, so it’s tougher to win the trophy), producing numerous Top 10 players: Vitas Gerulaitis (b. 1954), Brian Gottfried, Harold Solomon (both b. 1952), Eddie Dibbs, and Roscoe Tanner (both b. 1951, he is known as the biggest server in the 70s), Latin Americans have a few Top 20 guys; Italy is the strongest European representative (Adriano Panatta is the leader)… Australia, the strongest nation in the 50s & 60s, is in retreat
– Grass is the most important surface, the last decade in history (3 out of 4 majors are held on it, US Open in the years 1970-74… with a ‘sudden death’ rule)
– Grand Slam events are uneven, the best players do not want to play at the Australian Open in late December (56 & 64 draw there); Roland Garros and US Open have problems with finding the best format for themselves (some editions are entwined by “the best of three” and “the best of five” matches…); the professional structure is shaped in three tiers: main-level (Grand Slams, Grand Prix circuit, Team Cups), Challengers and the lowest Satellites
– The season-ending ‘Masters’ for the best players of the year is introduced, the ’round robin’ system which is known today, has been valid since the third edition (1972). In the first six years, the tournament changes its location each year, in the years 1976-79 is held in the United States

– One super important modification of sets is introduced (1970): tie-breaks at 6-all… ‘never-ending’ sets are not allowed anymore except the fifth set and all Davis Cup rubbers (the decisive third set in some tournaments still requires the two-game advantage, especially outside the United States); significant change of rules regarding the most important stroke in tennis repertoire, now players are allowed to leap into the air as they strike the ball
– Doubles competitions are dominated by Australians and Americans. Foremost distinguish singles players like Newcombe and Smith belong to the elite in doubles too. Other best doubles players are: Bob Hewitt, Frew McMillan, Gottfried and Raul Ramirez of Mexico (nobody very good from that country is seen for another 40 years)
The second decade of the Open Era  […1980-1989…]
– It is a decade of Ivan Lendl (b. 1960), the Czecho(Slovak), who competes with US-boys Jimmy Connors & John McEnroe in the first half of the decade, and Europeans Mats Wilander (b. 1964), Stefan Edberg (b. 1966) & Boris Becker (b. 1967) in the second half
– 🇸🇪In the aftermath of Bjorn Borg‘s successes in the 70s (he prematurely retires at the beginning of the decade), the tennis world is invaded by a group of blond-haired Swedes trying to imitate their tennis icon in his game-style (except Edberg); Sweden participates thanks to them in seven straight Davis Cup finals (the structure of competitions is modified in 1981), due to injuries a few Swedes finish their careers before they turn 25; the United States still have many players who win tournaments and advance to the Top 20, but no US player born in the 60s advances to a Grand Slam final
J.McEnroe, in the early 80s, is the best player in the world not only in singles but in doubles too (aided by Peter Fleming). The tradition of Australian superiority in doubles is kept by players like Mark Edmondson, Paul McNamee, Peter McNamara and John Fitzgerald. “The Swedish invasion” manufactures two excellent doubles specialists: Anders Jarryd and Edberg, however, the latter leaves regular doubles competitions in the late 80s to focus mainly on his singles career
– Players get rid of the wooden equipment in the early 80s; steel and aluminium racquets are replaced by graphite ones towards the end of the decade (the serve becomes a dominant stroke on faster surfaces)… players like Kevin Curren, Slobodan ZivojinovicYannick Noah and Becker are considered “big servers” delivering double digits of unreturned serves each tie-break set outside clay, they’re very tough to be broken when keep high percentage of 1st serves in… intriguingly Noah is unable to produce good results on grass
– Development of a new defensive style on clay-courts (grinders & pushers) based on patient waiting for opponent’s errors, the Spaniards and Latin Americans lead the way (Andres Gomez is the most skillful); these guys along with a few Top 10ers who play at very slow pace (J.McEnroe, Lendl, Becker) make matches much longer than in the 70s, it leads to the reduction of time allowed between the points in the end of the decade
– In North America (Florida) thrives a new school of tennis based on top-spin forehands and two-handed backhands
(Nick Bollettieri’s idea); US prodigies Jimmy Arias (one-handed BH) & Aaron Krickstein are representatives of this trend in the first half of the decade, Michael Chang & Andre Agassi in the second half (Chang’s not a Bollettieri‘s pupil though); other American Gene Mayer becomes the only Top 10 player of the Open Era to hit balls using both hands off both wings (early 80s)
– Tennis returns to the Olympics (regular sport in the years 1896-1924); first as an exhibition event in 1984 (only under-21 players allowed), then as an official sport four years later – the most tricky player of the 80s, (Czecho)Slovak Miloslav Mecir (b. 1964) becomes the first Gold medallist… Pat Cash (b. 1965) is the other very dangerous player facing members of the strict elite, yet tormented by back injuries, like Mecir, is unable to normally compete in the 90s
– It’s the best decade for Jewish players given not only those representing Israel, but also those born in the Americas (the future excellent coach Brad Gilbert achieved the most)
– Twilight of the Cold War triggers appearance of many young faces from the Soviet Union (soon-to-be Russians & representatives of other nations in ’92… Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Georgia) and CzechoSlovakia (soon-to-be two separated countries in ’93)… also Yugoslavia is split in ’91 which leads to the formation of strong Davis Cup teams of Croatia & Serbia (this happens in the 2000s though)
– The Grand Slam events are broadcasted on TV quite regularly in the English speaking world (statistics are displayed), they are unified in terms of the draw (128 competitors) since 1988 when Australian Open moves from Kooyong to Flinders Park, thus the importance of hardcourts is raised at the expense of grass
– The two best South African players become naturalized Americans: Johan Kriek in 1982 (double Australian Open champion) & Curren in 1985 (runner-up of Australian Open & Wimbledon)
– Apologizing for net-cords becomes a new etiquette in the mid 80s (it would become a standard at the end of the Century)
The third decade of the Open Era  […1990-1999…]
– The emergence of the ATP Tour in January 1990 (events of lower status than Grand Slams were previously known under the names of two circuits: Grand Prix, with a season-ending event in New York and WCT, with a season-ending event in Dallas)
🇺🇸After a slight decline in the mid 80s, US tennis revives, and three of its representatives dominate competitions: Nick Bollettieri’s Florida “children” Jim Courier, Andre Agassi (both b. 1970), and above all, one year younger Pete Sampras
– Other distinctive players, operating mainly on the baseline, are Yevgeny Kafelnikov (b. 1974), Michael Chang (b. 1972), Sergi Bruguera (b. 1971), and Thomas Muster (b. 1967) – they win majors, are among the best on specific surfaces (hard & clay) and fight with varying results to become No. 1
 – It is a decade of “serve & volley” players; the best of the decade, Sampras, uses this style on every surface… in the first half of the decade guys like Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Guy Forget, and Michael Stich are constant threat for him; to lesser extent the Australians (Patrick Rafter, Mark Philippoussis) and the Brits (Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski) in the second half of the decade; Wayne Ferreira (semi serve-and-volleyer), Goran Ivanisevic, Richard Krajicek, and Todd Martin, actually throughout the 10-year period play on equal terms against SamPe; the rulers of two previous decades (Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl) hadn’t such a tough opposition; it is connected to new technologies (wooden racquets are already dead in the 90s, aluminium ones are dying, the heads of graphite racquets are enlarged and better strings are to disposal) and rapid increase of the serve speed connected to it; at the beginning of the decade only a few tallest guys hit the ball above the head ~200 kph (125 mph), at the end of 90s, make it even players 180 cm (5’11”) – it causes that on faster surfaces more and more matches depend on a few points at the end of sets, luck & randomness play bigger role than ever before… super-gifted Petr Korda who doesn’t like to play S/V, is also one of the toughest Sampras’ rivals; other left-handed super talent, Marcelo Rios is the last under 5’11 feet (180 cm) number 1… it’s a pretty balanced decade comparing efficiency of playing one- and two-handed backhands (in the first 100 years of tennis history, one-handed backhands were the vast majority)
 – The season-ending ‘Masters’ tournament changes its location, throughout the 80s it was held in New York, in the 90s in Germany (Franfurt 1990-95, Hanover ’96-99), also in Germany the entire decade is held the most profitable event Grand Slam Cup (Munich) in which the winner earns more money than all participants of a major in the 80s! Grand Slam Cup informally replaced an event held in Dallas (WCT) – the only two events of the 80s & 90s, outside Slams, in the “best of five” format for semifinals & finals; big invitational events disappear
 – Doubles is ruled by two pairs of distinctive singles guys: Australian (Todd Woodbridge / Mark Woodforde) and Dutch (Jacco Eltingh / Paul Haarhuis)… Kafelnikov will be remembered as the last player who was able to win a major in both, singles and doubles… Jonas Bjorkman is also worth mentioning as an excellent doubles specialist who achieved a lot in singles
– Three Slams & Masters remove net-judges in the second half of the 90s, the most conservative French Open will join in 2005… umpires in the 90s are younger & livelier, they walk down from their chairs to check the marks on clay-courts
– Davis Cup rubbers are played with tie-breaks (except deciding 5th sets); Futures are introduced as one-week tournaments of the rank below Challengers, yet at the level of Satellites more or less, so players ranked ~250 and worse participate in them

– The number of violations in a match leading to default is reduced from four to three (J.McEnroe becomes the first “victim”); a reduction from 30 seconds to 25 between points (ATP) and to 20 seconds (ITF) 
– Flow of information: it’s possible to follow many tennis events round by round on TV (Eurosport is a pioneer, began broadcasting in 1989), first tennis websites appear in the mid 90s, ATP builds database (match-stats, tie-breaks) since 1991… tie-breaks in doubles will be included since 2000
The fourth decade of the Open Era […2000-2009…]
– Actually, it is a decade of two “headband” 185 cm players… right-hander, brilliant technician, Roger Federer (b. 1981) and left-hander, unique specimen of unseen athleticism before, Rafael Nadal (b. 1986); they win together 21 out of 40 Grand Slam tournaments! Nadal establishes himself as the best clay-court player in history (81 consecutive wins on the red surface), Federer becomes the best grass-court player in history (65 consecutive wins on the green surface)
– After the “serve-and-volley” 90s, tennis changes its direction of the on-court movement from vertical to horizontal: the baseline is the main area of conducting rallies in the 00s, double-handed backhand becomes more popular; with the development of new technologies (new flexible racquets allow to play with more spin creating tighter angles), receivers get an advantage over net-attacking players once they make a successful return, understands it even Federer, he retreats his offensive attitude in 2004 and it allows him to play French Open finals in the years 2006-2009, meanwhile Nadal finds his way to reach three consecutive Wimbledon finals displaying “clay-court” tennis; it’s staggering that after so many decades when players adapted different strategies on clay & grass, in the late 00s actually the same type of tennis is played on both surfaces
– In the first half of the decade, on faster surfaces rule Lleyton Hewitt (b. 1981) and Marat Safin (b. 1980), on slower surfaces Juan Carlos Ferrero (b. 1980) is the most efficient… explosive Andy Roddick (b. 1982) is dangerous throughout the decade everywhere except clay… long-haired guys born in 1976, Gustavo Kuerten and Carlos Moya are worth mentioning as successful players at the turn of two decades as well as Alex Corretja (b. 1974); at the end of the decade appear three players who seem to threaten the almighty “Fedal” in the decade to come: Novak Djokovic & Andy Murray (b. 1987, both from countries without big tennis traditions: Serbia & Scotland) as well as Juan Martin del Potro (b. 1988), the first two-meter tall player without problems moving on the baseline… Nikolay Davydenko (b. 1981) is the best player of the decade deprived of a major final, he plays “Masters” five years in a row
– Argentina produces as many as six Top 10 players (David Nalbandian is the main force), neighboring Chile has two distinctive players throughout the decade (Fernando Gonzalez, Nicolas Massu) who make amazing feats representing national colors
Andre Agassi becomes the third man (joining fellow Americans Jimmy Connors & John McEnroe) to reach major semifinals in three different decades and the first one who achieves the highest level of competitiveness in his teenage years (highest ranking – 3), his 20s (high. rank. No. 1) and early 30s (high. rank. No. 1)
– 🇪🇸Spain is the most powerful tennis nation winning four Davis Cups; the Spaniards remove the “clay-court specialists” label, glued to them in the previous two decades
– Tennis becomes more and more a global sport, to the Top 50 advance players from countries without tennis traditions (Belarus, Thailand, Cyprus, Latvia, Finland), instead the sport declines in two European main forces of previous decades: Sweden and Germany, partially also in the United States
– Liberalization of tennis fashion: white is not a dominant color of outfits anymore (except Wimbledon where a retractable roof is installed in 2009 to soothe ~100 years of rain frustration), and players wear sleeveless or collarless T-shirts, they wear national colors during Davis Cup ties and Olympic matches, longer shorts are a norm (they were adapted in the mid 90s)… modification of hand-shakes (“hand hugs” replace “bone crushers”)… Babolat becomes one of the most popular brands of racquets

– The season-ending ‘Masters’ tournament is held on four continents, mostly in Asia (Shanghai – five times); Satellites are eliminated
– The decade produces specialization in doubles: the best singles players begin to avoid participating in doubles tournaments – it leads to cutting the third set, introducing the so-called “super tie-break” instead of. The biggest successes enjoy identical US twins, Bob & Mike Bryan, other most prominent players are teamed up with different partners, among the best are veterans (born in the 70s): Leander Paes, Daniel Nestor, Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi (it’s a sign you can achieve a lot in doubles in your 30s)

– Paradox: the ball is struck harder, but tennis slows down in perception; the beginning of the decade brings grass modification, at the end of the decade the events played on carpet are removed from the calendar, matches become longer (especially at the end of the decade) because there are longer, more intense rallies, and players need longer breaks between points to regulate the breath (the time-rule is often violated)… number of seeded players at Slams is extended from 16 to 32… since the beginning of the decade one very important rule is modified: 90-second breaks for sitting after the end of each set (previously players were sitting after odd sets: 6-1, 6-3 or 7-6, for sixty seconds) and no sitting after the first three games of a set… limitation of “the best of five” finals; introduction of the Hawk-Eye system (March 6, 2006)
– Internet: appear websites about players made by fans (official tournament websites as well as the ATP/ITF websites were available at the end of the 90s), and it’s possible to follow matches point-by-point on LiveScores, archive articles from newspapers are uploaded… at the end of the decade also LiveStreams from Centre Courts are available, in poor quality
The fifth decade of the Open Era  […2010-2019…]
– It’s a decade like any before in terms of domination of a few players; five guys born in the 80s win multiple major titles: Novak Djokovic (15), Rafael Nadal (13), Roger Federer (5), Andy Murray (3 + 2 Olympics)… the so-called “Big 4″… unexpectedly Stan Wawrinka wins 3 titles… another title goes to Marin Cilic
– Other distinctive players born in the 80s who shape the decade: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (the only net-rusher among them), Kei Nishikori, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych & Juan Martin del Potro
Murray is the first player in history to capture two Olympic gold medals in singles (2012 – London, 2016 – Rio)
– The best were: Ivan Lendl in the 80s, Pete Sampras in the 90s, Federer in the 00s – that was clear, in the decade of 10s the rivalry between Djokovic & Nadal is crazy, but I have to admit that the 10-year period belongs to the Serb: he is slightly better in number of major titles & seasons finished at the top of the pyramid (5 vs 4), he triumphs at the season-ending event (“Masters”) as many as 4 times (in succession!) while Nadal doesn’t win this prestigious event even once, the Spaniard is better only in the team competition (edges 2-1 in Davis Cups); Djokovic & Federer ferociously compete at “Masters” the entire decade (seven meetings) as the event is held in London, “O2 Arena”
– Given ageing throughout modern history (players who turned 30 were close to the end of careers) it was the decade that should have been dominated by players born in the 90s, nothing like that happened though, players born in the 80s were the best second decade running, it meant a shift of “veterans” from 30 to 35 y.o…
– It’s tough to indicate the best player born in the “wasted” 90s generation, arguably Grigor Dimitrov (b. 1991) does the most, mainly thanks to an unexpected triumph at “Masters”, however, other one-hander Dominic Thiem (b. 1993) is was able to sneak through to the major finals (he did it twice in Paris), Milos Raonic (b. 1990) is also successful, he’s arguably the best server of the decade… at the end of it finally appear a few more gifted players born at the end of the 90s 
The World Team Cup is removed from the calendar after being there for three full decades; a few years later appear a new team competition: The Laver Cup – Europeans will be facing Americans, and the same year (2017) is resurrected “Masters” for the best players under-21 (this concept was rejected in the 90s), it’s called The Next Gen, and special rules are applied
The Davis Cup is modified in the last year of the decade becoming a new team event to be played within a week at the season end, before it happens tie-breaks in the 5th set are introduced in 2016; Australian Open, as the second Slam, introduces tie-break in the 5th set (up to ten points), in 2019
– 2017: it’s finally possible to play under the roof at the US Open (Aussie Open 1988, Wimbledon 2009), the officials decided to invest money in this project because several finals were interrupted by rain
– 2018: there is a 25-second shot clock implemented (ATP, ITF) which counts down breaks between points; the idea is to shorten matches… prior to that year there was 25 seconds for ATP, 20 seconds for ITF, but the rule was regularly violated which led to enormously long matches Bo3 and Bo5 (i.a. between Nadal & Djokovic)
The Bryan brothers are the best in doubles for another decade, but the time of their Grand Slam triumphs is limited to the year 2014; Mike finishes his career with 18 major titles, Bob with two fewer
– Spain is still the strongest tennis nation, but two Davis Cup titles go to Czechia consisted of only two players in fact (Berdych & Radek Stepanek); it’s a decade of big regress in the US tennis, catastrophic in Sweden, meanwhile Kazakhstan regularly plays in the team competitions thanks to players born in Russia
– There are two giants who take drama to a new level: Ivo Karlovic (211 cm) & six years younger, three cm shorter John Isner: these two, with heights characteristic for volleyball or basketball, are involved in countless tie-breaks and dramatic matches in which 1-2 points separate winner from loser
– The hawk-eye system becomes a norm in all the biggest events outside clay (the introduction of the system in 2006) as well as the lack of net judges… smaller events (so-called ATP 250) with a 28 draw (instead of 32) become a standard, it makes much easier for Top 4 seeded players to get titles

– In terms of game-styles, the trend of the previous decade is maintained: the majority of matches are played from the baseline regardless of the surface, the game becomes exceptionally demanding, and all the best players have specialists of physical preparation in their teams

– Tennis fans may analyze progress of matches point-by-point, and watch the vast majority of matches thanks to LiveStreams on the Internet; a lot of archive matches are uploaded on YouTube, biographies on Wikipedia are abundant in details about careers… smartphones are common, fans may deliver their own tennis content with plenty of photos & videos; Twitter becomes a quite important platform in terms of tennis information, on Instagram players share fragments of their lives
The sixth decade of the Open Era  […2020-2029…]

3 Responses to TIME-LINE

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