Poll

Rafter or Kafelnikov?

Kafelnikov
1 (7.1%)
Rafter
12 (85.7%)
Tie for me
1 (7.1%)

Total Members Voted: 14

Voting closed: November 15, 2005, 04:28:50 PM

Author Topic: Kafelnikov vs Rafter?  (Read 12441 times)

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Offline kittens25

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« on: November 15, 2005, 04:28:50 PM »
Which of these two now retired 2-time slam winners would you rate higher as a player, now that both of their careers are done.   Obviously it is probably a close call, which is why I found it interesting to decide between the two.
One thing I want to make clear is this is based strictly on tennis merit, not on combination of tennis merit, personality, popularity, charisma, looks, etc...in which case it would be Rafter hands down obviously.      ;)

           Rafter's 2 slam titles are both U.S Opens, 97 and 98.   Kafelnikov has won slams at two different sites, the 96 French Open and 99 Australian Open.     Some might give an edge to Kafelnikov winning his 2 slams at 2 different events, but one could argue Rafter winning back to back slam titles at the same event is the more impressive feat, something Kafelnikov came close to doing with his runner-up finish at the 2000 Australian Open.    The latter brining me to my next point, Kafelnikov by reaching the 2000 Australian Open final, has reached 3 slam finals, but Rafter by reaching the 2000 and 2001 Wimbledon finals, has reached 4 slam finals, 1 more.     As well, while some may think it is unfair to consider some slams greater than others, many consider Wimbledon and the U.S Open to be worth more than the other two, which would clearly favor Rafter.     Kafelnikov has never won a Masters Series title, absolutely amazing that a 2-time slam winner, and brief World #1, never won a Masters title.    Rafter has won 2 of those.     Rafter reached World #1 on the computer for only 1 week, Kafelnikov was World #1 for many more weeks in 1999, an edge to Kafelnikov, although he took the World #1 coming off 6 straight first round losses bringing some skepticsm to reaching that #1 ranking, it is fair to keep in mind it was based on results over a 52-week period.     Rafter has however reached the semis of all 4 slams, 1 Australian, 2 French, 3 Wimbledon, and 2 U.S Open; Kafelnikov has reached 4 Slam semis, 1 Australian, 2 French, 0 Wimbledon, and 1 U.S Open.     Kafelnikov has an additional rankings edge however, he maintained a top 10 ranking for 7 straight years, and spent much more time in the top 3 and top 5 than Rafter.    Overall I would give the edge to Rafter.

Offline Tennis4you

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2005, 04:36:15 PM »
I need to read those stats when I have more time then I will vote...  Rafter would be my first guess.  He was close at Wimbledon too.
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Offline kittens25

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2005, 04:49:12 PM »
I also find Rafter was more competitive with the best players, he had fair success vs the likes of Sampras, Agassi,
and other top players.    Kafelnikov did not, I remember him being embarassed by Sampras, Agassi, and even Rafter fairly often.     Although with the depth of the mens game, both were susceptable to being upset by unseeded players, or players outside the top 20, Kafelnikov also seemed more vurnerable to these type of losses than Rafter; he just managed to play often enough, and win often enough against players outside the top 20, outside the top 10, and outside the top 5, to keep a very high ranking; even with alot of losses to players well outside the upper echelon as well, and very little respectability vs the very top guns.    Just my general memories of the two.     I also recall Kafelnikov having a lopsided losing head to head to a younger Lleyton Hewitt, and being humiliated by Hewitt in the semis of the U.S Open 2001, when Hewitt won his first slam title.     He just seemed like a bit of a pushover for top players, while Rafter was much more respectable vs them.

             Also Rafter had a streak in the summer of 98 where he won the three biggest hard court events of the year, Canadian Open, Cincinnati, U.S Open; Kafelnikov never did something like that.     Circumstances around their slam titles that I recall?    Well Kafelnikov did not have to play heavy favorite Muster to win the 96 French Open, because Muster was upset by Stitch in the 4th round, other major contenders for that French Open, Albert Costa, Alex Corretja, Andre Agassi, and Michael Chang, were upset in the first 3 rounds;  he played Krajiceck, Sampras, and Stich, in the final 3 rounds, far from the best clay courters, to win the title.   Still everybody was entered in the event, which is significant.     When he won the 99 Australian Open, Sampras was not even entered, and Agassi, Rafter, and Phillipousis, the 3 top picks of most people were upset before the quarters as well; he beat Tood Martin, Tommy Haas, and red hot Tommy Enquist in the last 3 rounds to win the title, still pretty tough competition, but unlike the 96 French Open, the favorite and World #1 at the time did not even enter the event.     Rafter won the 97 U.S Open without having to play Sampras, who was upset in the 4th round, he did however beat Michael Chang, the 2nd tournament favorite in the semis on the way to winning the title, his quarterfinal victim was Magnus Larsson, final was Greg Rusedski, every contender was entered.      Rafter won the 98 U.S Open, and this time beating Samrpas in the semis, although Sampras did incur a legitimate injury partway through the match, and lost the last 2 sets after being up 2 sets to 1; his final victim was Mark Phillipousis, every top player was entered at this U.S Open.       I find Rafter's 2 slam wins against slightly tougher opposition, with less beneficial circumstances, although it is pretty close.

Offline cakes

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2005, 01:52:27 PM »
As always, a great indepth analysis by kittens!  

Of course some of us would merely vote him in on his physical attributes and looks!  Where are you CGW?

Offline BitterBlueBong

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2005, 06:03:34 PM »
After reading Kitten's initial post, I'll say Rafter by a slight margin.

Offline kittens25

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2005, 10:20:49 AM »
BitterBlueBong, were you following mens tennis at the time Rafter and Kafelnikov played?   Just curious.    

         I still remember the incredable two Wimbledon semis he played with Agassi in 2000 and 2001, and the unbelievable but heartbreaking Wimbledon final he played with Ivanisevic in 2001.

Offline Tennis4you

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2005, 10:23:42 AM »
That match against Ivanesivic had to be one of the best matches I had ever seen, just from the standpoint of emotions alone.  Simply amazing.  I had tears in my eyes after that one.  But you might not be human if you didn't.

I voted Rafter.
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Offline kittens25

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2005, 10:44:32 AM »
Quote from: "Tennis4you"
That match against Ivanesivic had to be one of the best matches I had ever seen, just from the standpoint of emotions alone.  Simply amazing.  I had tears in my eyes after that one.  But you might not be human if you didn't.

I voted Rafter.


Yeah it was hard to watch in a way too though, I really wanted it for both of them, but Ivo just a bit more since he had never won a Grand Slam and had been a perennial hopeful at Wimbledon for over a decade, in fact he probably should have won in 92, 95, and 98 when he choked on key points in the deciding match each time(95 was a semi but he would have beaten tired Becker in the final comfortably).     Still I really wanted Rafter to win a Wimbledon title too, it is sad he never got one, and that he did not stick around another year or two to try for it.    It was definitely a match of mixed emotions.

Offline BitterBlueBong

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2005, 11:40:58 AM »
Quote from: "kittens25"
BitterBlueBong, were you following mens tennis at the time Rafter and Kafelnikov played?   Just curious.    

         I still remember the incredable two Wimbledon semis he played with Agassi in 2000 and 2001, and the unbelievable but heartbreaking Wimbledon final he played with Ivanisevic in 2001.


I was only following in passing. I didn't keep up with men's or women's tennis nearly as much as I have in the past say, five or six years -- so I'm at your mercy when it comes to analysis.

Offline christopher07

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2005, 02:53:02 PM »
Rafter, on talent alone.
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Offline kittens25

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2005, 08:35:31 AM »
Quote from: "BitterBlueBong"
I was only following in passing. I didn't keep up with men's or women's tennis nearly as much as I have in the past say, five or six years -- so I'm at your mercy when it comes to analysis.


Kewl, thanks.     So you did catch a glimpse of the very end of his career perhaps(not that that would be much at all to go by).

Offline BitterBlueBong

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2005, 12:03:29 PM »
Quote from: "kittens25"
Quote from: "BitterBlueBong"
I was only following in passing. I didn't keep up with men's or women's tennis nearly as much as I have in the past say, five or six years -- so I'm at your mercy when it comes to analysis.


Kewl, thanks.     So you did catch a glimpse of the very end of his career perhaps(not that that would be much at all to go by).


Can't say I remember either of them all that much, but I do remember people almost begging to have Rafter come back. Didn't Kafelnikov retire after Davis Cup or something?

Offline kittens25

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2005, 02:07:46 PM »
Quote from: "BitterBlueBong"
Quote from: "kittens25"
Quote from: "BitterBlueBong"
I was only following in passing. I didn't keep up with men's or women's tennis nearly as much as I have in the past say, five or six years -- so I'm at your mercy when it comes to analysis.


Kewl, thanks.     So you did catch a glimpse of the very end of his career perhaps(not that that would be much at all to go by).


Can't say I remember either of them all that much, but I do remember people almost begging to have Rafter come back. Didn't Kafelnikov retire after Davis Cup or something?


He was going to retire if Russia won Davis Cup in 2002, but played another year(2003)before retiring.   He is now trying to make a career as a card gambler I believe.

Online Babblelot

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2005, 03:28:13 PM »
kittens, I addressed this in one of those "40 greatest players of the last 40 years" threads.

I'll look for my comments, but I put forth an argument for Kafelnikov.

bab...Outside looking in...Yevgeny Kafelnikov

1 AO title
1 RG title
2 USO SF
1 RG SF
2 RG QF
4 GS doubles titles (5 finals)
8th player in Open Era to join 25-25 club (26 s titles; 27 d titles)
career high ranking: #1
609 - 306, 915 matches (0.666)

isc...Plus led Russia to Davis Cup Championship, and gave Sampras fits in his prime*, way more accomplished than Gabrielle Sabatini or Novotna...

*debunked by kittens below

bcs...Rafter vs. Kafelnikov is almost too tough to compare.

Rafter looks better in terms of Grand Slam title accomplishments in singles with 2 US Opens and 2 Wimbledon finals vs. Kafelnikov's Australian Open and Roland Garros titles and 1 AO finals appearance.

If you look at the number of titles won, Kafelnikov has Rafter by a lot. Kafelnikov has 26 titles to Rafter's 11.

If you consider career win/loss percentage, Kafelnikov has Rafter beaten by a few % points with a 67% (609 - 306, 915 matches) win average to Rafter's 65% (358 - 191, 549 matches) win average.

If you include doubles, well of course Kafelnikov (surprisingly being the baseliner) has a better record.

And Davis Cup, Kafelnikov played more matches and helped Russia win a couple of titles.

What do you guys say? Kafelnikov or Rafter? Or are they impossible to compare?

bb47...Do not forget that Kafelnikov was a top 10 for longer than anyone of his generation save Sampras. So I would choose Kafel over Rafter (though Rafter was more fun to watch) for his consistent presense in top 10, he was winning uglier than Rafter, but winning more consistently nevertheless.

bab...Excellent point, bb47. I was thinking along those lines, too. While Rafter was a late bloomer (IIRC, injury impeded his progess in '95) and retired early, his success was rather short lived. Kafelnikov, by contrast, as you point out was much more consistent.

yr-end....Kafelnikov.....Rafter
'94...........#11..........#21
'95...........#6............#66
'96...........#3............#62
'97...........#5............#2
'98...........#11..........#4
'99...........#2...........#16
'00...........#5...........#15
'01...........#4...........#7

*both briefly ranked #1

pc...Kafelnikov also won Olympic gold which should count for something.


bab...
In-Yevgeny Kafelnikov*
Out-Gabriela Sabatini

*Although Rafter is my 2nd all-time favorite player behind John McEnroe, I'd argue that Kafelnikov belongs ahead of Rafter, whose injury plauged career was very much a "blip." (I suppose Yevgeny just wasn't sexy enough to make the cut.)
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Offline kittens25

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2005, 09:50:06 AM »
Thanks for that information Babbelot.   There were alot of things there I did not know in such great detail.    You are right that Rafter is behind Kafelnikov in ALOT of areas.   You are also right Kafelnikov had a much longer period of success and as a contender.     However Kafelnikov not winning a Masters Series title, is a glaring flaw for me, since those are the second biggest events after the Slams, also as you said two U.S Open titles and 2 Wimbledons seem more impressive than two Aussie Open finals, 1 Aussie title, and 1 French title.    I am actually surprised Rafter is so close in career match winning %, to me that shows how superior he was in his few peak years, since Kafelnikov was solid almost his whole career, his lowest rank was barely outside the top 10 from 94-2001 I believe.  

I also disagree about the part of Kafelnikov giving Sampras fits at his peak, the only time he did that outside clay was the 94 Australian Open early round match.   Other than that Sampras always won comfortably and often humilated Kafelnikov, I still remember their two 97 matchups which were embarassing for Kafelnikov.

You are right though, that on longevity, consistency, and overall durability it would probably have to be Kafelnikov.      I also wasnt factoring in the doubles that strongly before, but you are right that when players are close that is probably something that should be looked at.    Similar to how when arguments of Graf vs Navratilova are brought up, the doubles sways me somewhat.

One last thing you are right on is that there is no sexiness or glamour or excitement around Kafelnikov.   He is probably one of the most boring and unpopular of the top players in history.    It can sway various people against him subconsciously, myself included.

Offline kittens25

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2005, 09:59:07 AM »
Sampras vs Kafelnikov head to head: Sampras leads 11-2            

1994 Australian Open-2nd round- Sampras wins 6-3, 2-6, 1-6, 9-7
1994 World Team Cup(clay)-round robin-Sampras wins 6-3, 6-3
1995 Year-end Championships-round robin-Sampras wins 6-3, 6-3
1995 Davis Cup final(clay)-Sampras wins 6-2, 6-4, 7-6
1996 World Team Cup(clay)-Kafelnikov wins 6-3, 6-2
1996 French Open semis-Kafelnikov wins 7-6, 6-0, 6-2
1996 Basel(hard)semis-Sampras wins 7-6, 6-3
1996 Year-end Championships-round robin-Sampras wins 6-4, 6-4
1997 Cincinnati(hard)quarters-Sampras wins 6-2, 6-2
1997 Paris Indoors(indoor)semis-Sampras wins 7-6, 6-3
1997 Year-end Championships-final-Sampras wins 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
1998 Year-end Championships-round robin-Sampras wins 6-2, 6-4
2001 Indian Wells(hard)semis-Sampras wins 7-5, 6-4

Offline Tennis4you

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2005, 10:04:15 AM »
Kafelnikov hated playing Sampras.  He thanked Sampras in the post match interview when he won the AO for Sampras not playing the tourney that year.  :)
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Online Babblelot

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2005, 01:14:43 PM »
Quote from: "Tennis4you"
Kafelnikov hated playing Sampras.  He thanked Sampras in the post match interview when he won the AO for Sampras not playing the tourney that year.  :)

Wait a minute!

I'll concede the Kafelnikov v. Sampras argument someone else made and I neglected to research (thanks kittens).

Having said that, here, Kafelnikov's merit must be measured against Rafter, not Sampras.
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Offline kittens25

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2005, 01:20:13 PM »
Quote from: "Babblelot"
I'll concede the Kafelnikov v. Sampras argument someone else made and I neglected to research (thanks kittens).

Having said that, here, Kafelnikov's merit must be measured against Rafter, not Sampras.


That is very true, we shouldnt lose sight on who we are comparing here.    I do believe one thing in Rafter's favor is better success against the greatest players, like Sampras and Agassi though.    Just off the top of my head I remember him challenging them more often, he beat Agassi in two straight Wimbledon semis, the type of big wins in back to back years Kafelnikov never came close to, in fact his biggest head to head wins in any grand slam where Krajiceck at the U.S Open and French Open, Sampras on his by far worst surface-clay at the French Open, and Martin, Enquist, and Norman(in his best year)at the Australian Open.     None of those are enormous wins IMHO.        I will try and look up the Rafter-Sampras head to head.

Online Babblelot

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Kafelnikov vs Rafter?
« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2005, 04:37:01 PM »
Quote from: "kittens25"
Sampras vs Kafelnikov head to head: Sampras leads 11-2            

1994 Australian Open-2nd round- Sampras wins 6-3, 2-6, 1-6, 9-7
1994 World Team Cup(clay)-round robin-Sampras wins 6-3, 6-3
1995 Year-end Championships-round robin-Sampras wins 6-3, 6-3
1995 Davis Cup final(clay)-Sampras wins 6-2, 6-4, 7-6
1996 World Team Cup(clay)-Kafelnikov wins 6-3, 6-2
1996 French Open semis-Kafelnikov wins 7-6, 6-0, 6-2
1996 Basel(hard)semis-Sampras wins 7-6, 6-3
1996 Year-end Championships-round robin-Sampras wins 6-4, 6-4
1997 Cincinnati(hard)quarters-Sampras wins 6-2, 6-2
1997 Paris Indoors(indoor)semis-Sampras wins 7-6, 6-3
1997 Year-end Championships-final-Sampras wins 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
1998 Year-end Championships-round robin-Sampras wins 6-2, 6-4
2001 Indian Wells(hard)semis-Sampras wins 7-5, 6-4

Sampras 12-4 v Rafter
2001 US Open, Hard, R16 NY, U.S.A. Hard R16 Sampras 6 3   6 2   6 7   6 4        
2001 Indian Wells TMS, Hard, Q California, USA Hard Q Sampras 4 6   7 6   6 4            
2000 Wimbledon, Grass, F England Grass F Sampras 6 7   7 6   6 4   6 2        
1999 Cincinnati, Hard, F OH, U.S.A. Hard F Sampras 7 6   6 3                
1999 World Team Cup, Clay, RR Germany Clay RR Rafter 3 6   4 6                
1998 US Open, Hard, S NY, U.S.A. Hard S Rafter 7 6   4 6   6 2   4 6   3 6    
1998 Cincinnati, Hard, F OH, U.S.A. Hard F Rafter 6 1   6 7   4 6
           
1997 Singles Championship, Hard, RR Germany Hard RR Sampras 6 4   6 1                
1997 Grand Slam Cup, Carpet, F Germany Carpet F Sampras 6 2   6 4   7 5            
1997 AUS V USA SF, Hard, RR Washington, DC, USA Hard RR Sampras 6 7 6 1 6 1 6 4        
1997 Cincinnati, Hard, R16 OH, U.S.A. Hard R16 Sampras 7 6   6 4                
1997 Philadelphia, Hard, F PA, U.S.A. Hard F Sampras 5 7   7 6   6 3            
1996 Hong Kong, Hard, R16 Hong Kong Hard R16 Sampras 6 3   7 6                
1995 Indian Wells, Hard, R16 CA, U.S.A. Hard R16 Sampras 6 4   6 7   6 1            
1994 Tokyo Outdoor, Hard, Q Japan Hard Q Sampras 6 1   5 7   6 1            
1993 Indianapolis, Hard, Q IN, U.S.A. Hard Q Rafter 6 7   7 6   6 7

Further, I don't buy the argument that Kafelnikov's SF! win over Sampras at RG should be discounted since it's Pete's worst surface. (1) it was, after all, the semis, as opposed to an early round match; (2) of the three, only Kafelnikov won slams on both hard and claycourts*. If winning RG isn't such a big deal, then why do many slight Pete for never having won it????

*Rafter's two slams came on the same surface (USO).

other*
Rafter's 2 slams came 12 months apart ('97, '98)
Kafelnikov's 2 slams came nearly 3 years apart ('96, '99)
*testimony to Kafelnikov's staying power on the tour
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