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View Full Version : From all the clay court legends, who would have the best chance against Nadal?


Pirao
04-15-2009, 01:25 PM
Excluding Borg since I'm sure a lot of people would say him (and not without reason). So who do you guys think would have the best chance? Kuerten, Muster, Kafelnikov, Vilas, Lendl, Wilander, Bruguera, Courier or whoever?

grafselesfan
04-15-2009, 02:06 PM
Out of those you named their chances in order:

1. Kuerten 1999-2001
2. Lendl mid-late 1980s
3. Vilas mid-late 1970s
4. Courier early 1990s
5. Muster 1995-1996
6. Wilander mid-late 1980s
7. Bruguera 1993-1995



8. Kafelnikov

Atleast half of those would have close to no shot though IMO. Kafelnikov forget it, the bakery shop would be out for Nadal vs Kafelnikov on clay. Muster, Wilander, and Bruguera would have a very hard time ever beating prime Nadal on clay IMO, maybe a flukish type win in a smaller tournament. The first 4 are the only ones with a fighting chance, and in that order. Even Federer of 2005-2007 has a better shot vs Nadal than atleast half of those would on clay. More than peak Muster as peak Muster is just a less outstanding version of the Nadal game and mentality, and someone prone to choking at the French.

boredone3456
04-15-2009, 02:29 PM
The only ones who would realistically have a shot in my opinion would be Kuerten, Vilas, and to a much lesser extent Lendl. Courier I really don't think so unless he was having a really really good day. Kafelnikov no, Muster I agree with you grafselesfan was just a less impressive version of Nadal's style and mentally not as tough, so no. Wilander I highly doubt it, Bruguera was good but I think Nadal would be able to wrong foot him more often then not. Vilas and Kuerten would have the best shot as both were clay court demons in their own rights and mentally I think could tough out a long 5 setter with Rafa.

!Tym
04-15-2009, 02:58 PM
Disagree a good bit. Bruguera in the form of the 93 French semis against Medvedev has a chance. I feel there was a bit more mystery and variety in the angles, pace, and spin he could generate. Bruguera's "zone" level of play was up there with the best I've ever seen. Nadal is ALWAYS bringing it...Bruguera SOMETIMES brought it, and rarely for an entire match from start to finish. That's the biggest difference to me. Nadal to me is more like Muster, a much more one-dimensional kind of spin, meaning he's coming at you as hard and as fast (with the spin) as he can every time until either you puke or he pukes...which never happens since both of these guys are in such good shape.

Muster would also have a shot. There's only guy I can think of who could run NADAL into the ground until he wanted to puke, and that's Muster. Nadal's unbelievably fit, but I've seen him look a little ragged or tired before too. Muster at his peak had imo the BEST fitness and endurance of anyone in tennis history, PERIOD.

Nadal would win the majority, but I'd really like to see what he'd do and how he'd react when he looks across the net and see a guy who not only matches his determination and will...BUT also wants to KILL him too and absolutely REFUSES to be intimidated by Rafa.

Muster is one of the few one-handers who would NOT be affected by Nadal's spin. He's also a left hander himself.

Imo, both Bruguera and Muster would be able to "handle" Nadal's topspin. ESPECIALLY if they used poly strings too.

Lendl would also have a chance. He has the legs and endurance and mental toughness to "hang in" points as/when needed, but he also has the capability to hit a REAL flat ball. Imo, he would need to find a balance between a Sampras' one-two punch (big serve, FLAT forehand going for the outright winner) type mentality, and a defensive mode mentality to keep Nadal guessing. Just going for flat winners only would be a mistake imo, as with Nadal's legs it'd be too difficult to keep up percentage wise.

In some respects, I'd like to see Lendl adopt the strategy he used so effectively against young Agassi. Of course, it'd be a much more difficult match due to Agassi's then middling "Taco Bell" fitness regimen. However, he has attributes and the kind of strokes that could serve as a counter to Nadal's spinnyness. I don't see Lendl's uber heavy "wand" being pushed around too easily by Nadal's flystick Babolat.

Kuerten would be hit or miss against Nadal...just as he always was. He was a guy who could lose in straight sets to Alberto Costa one year and be match points down against Michael Russel then beat Federer in straight sets another year WELL past his prime type guy. Kuerten to me was the Petr Korda of clay...but with more heart. Kuerten's "heart" sustained him and pulled him through more often than not on his subpar, "just off and spraying" days. His throat slashing, Freddy Kreuger, POWER angles matched with his huricanrana like power and spin on even just STANDARD baseline rally shots...plus the big serve, made him one of those guys like Korda where you just raise the white flag, call it a day, pack it in early, and save your energy for the next day when he was having one of his good days. To me, Kuerten would have that wild, inconsistent fastball pitcher's chance. Like Nolan Ryan, day-in, day-out, not as great some others, but on his day, he was a no-hitter waiting to happen. Kuerten's wins to me would appear like Tsonga's in that he MUST try to overwhelm the senses with the Ka-BOOM effect. If he can keep up the Brazilian-bangled fireworks from start to finish he wins, simple. If he doesn't (which would happen most of the time)...he loses, simple.

Imo, that would be the story on most cases here. Imo, at their absolute best Bruguera, Lendl, and Kuerten would all be able to pull off wins against Nadal. The problem for them would be they that they really would have to be at their ABSOLUTE best. Nothing less would suffice...but then again, that's kind of like what it's like today. Also, Federer imo is NOT the caliber of clay courter as above-mentioned guys at their peak. Absolutely not. He's close, but he'd get out Nadal'd by any of them at their best no questions imo. Federer would break down with too many errors against the spin/power/heaviness of peak Muster and Bruguera, we already saw what sub-prime Kuerten did to him, and Lendl would simply have the attitude of HELL no, I ain't lose to you, pretty boy. He would make it ugly, and look to BRUISE Roger's ego imo, ruff him up in a back alley before the match type attitude.

Wilander would have the least chance. With him, I just don't see where he would be able to hurt Nadal. I think as a not too tall guy, Nadal's shots would get too high on him. I KNOW he wouldn't be able to keep Nadal honest with the occasional WOW power shot like all the other guys are capable of. I think Nadal could settle into a comfortable groove against Wilander on clay, and just routine him or worese until kingdome come. Wilander's craftiness and net mixing ability and endurance would get outweighed by Nadal's relentless legs and heavy as cannonballs shots. I think Wilander would feel out "athete'd" against Nadal. Could he win? Yes, but more so than any other other guys I mentioned, he'd have to rely more on hoping Nadal has a bad day rather than focusing on what HE can do good today.

On FAST court surfaces, however, I would give Wilander the Nalbandian chance. On a fast surface that doesn't bounce up much, I could see Wilander being able to take Nadal's shots off the bounce much more effectively and turning that pace/spin against him with pinpoint precision. His deceptively slithery style volleys would also be much more effective.

CyBorg
04-15-2009, 02:58 PM
I think would high-IQ-variety types of players would drive Nadal nuts. This means Wilander, Bruguera. Bruguera wasn't really a consistent year-to-year, tourney-to-tourney player. He often played poorly in smaller events. He came up big in important occasions.

Bruguera in this sense is a kind of opposite of Vilas. Vilas was a great year-to-year player, but in my opinion wasn't a big moment type of guy. Sure we can cite his French Open and US Open victories, but from what I've seen of him he wasn't firey enough. Vilas was a guy who could play 50 clay court matches a year, sometimes more. He'd win a lot of events, almost always play very well. But I don't think his repertoire had enough surprises to beat Nadal in a big match. It was certainly not good enough against Borg. What Bruguera could do really well is alter the pace at which he played - he loved hitting with massive topspin, but he's always change things up, just to drive the opponent nuts. There's no one out there right now that does this.

Courier/Muster are aggressive baseliners. Courier in particular won on mental strength and consistency, but I see little to his game that would trouble Nadal. He lost in back-to-back RGs to a more crafty Bruguera. I think Muster was better, but I also don't see enough in his game to surprise Nadal. But he'd never back down for sure.

Kuerten had that great backhand up the line that would also give Nadal fits. That would be a great matchup. Lendl excelled at a lot of things that Federer is good at, but with a better backhand and I think better endurance deep into clay court matches. He's the best player of those listed. But this is all about match-ups. The best opponent isn't necessarily the toughest match-up.

So think high-IQ and variety. Notice that these kinds of clay courters are pretty much extinct now. There is a lot of aggressive baseliners and aggression alone doesn't intimidate Nadal. Tommy Robredo is a tough pne, but has a fairly one dimensional game. Davydenko doesn't change speeds. We know Federer/Djokovic can be taken out of their comfort zone. When they play Nadal they are helpless, because they can only play the game one way, and when forced to try something new they inevitably fail.

Nadal's best trait is his smarts. To beat him in a big match you have to have an opponent who is as smart as Nadal and also very crafty, with good vision, ideas and who won't get flustered. Wilander and Bruguera are two names that stuck out in particular. If you want to go further back, then Rosewall - maybe the smartest player in history and a clay court great.

flying24
04-15-2009, 02:58 PM
I agree with boredone and grafselesfan. Kuerten, Vilas, and Lendl the only ones with a shot. Maybe less so Lendl as he isnt as natural on clay, his most natural surface is a hard court. Courier playing great maybe, but he would have to be playing at 100% form and confidence. 1992 is probably the only year for him to have a shot.

mental midget
04-15-2009, 02:59 PM
good question. nobody's got a great shot, but imo-

courier. maybe not the most accomplished clay courter on the list, but this is about the matchup:

big, strong guy. two hands on the backhand to fight off that whacky spin. wouldn't get tired, and would be up for the fight. also, a big serve, huge forehand, and not incompetent at net.

CyBorg
04-15-2009, 03:00 PM
Wilander would have the least chance. With him, I just don't see where he would be able to hurt Nadal. I think as a not too tall guy, Nadal's shots would get too high on him. I KNOW he wouldn't be able to keep Nadal honest with the occasional WOW power shot like all the other guys are capable of. I think Nadal could settle into a comfortable groove against Wilander on clay, and just routine him or worese until kingdome come. Wilander's craftiness and net mixing ability and endurance would get outweighed by Nadal's relentless legs and heavy as cannonballs shots. I think Wilander would feel out "athete'd" against Nadal. Could he win? Yes, but more so than any other other guys I mentioned, he'd have to rely more on hoping Nadal has a bad day rather than focusing on what HE can do good today.

Interesting. We have a bit of a disagreement here. I think that Wilander had precisely the smarts to trouble Nadal. It's precisely the fact that he could win a point in so many ways.

Agree on Kuerten. I was a bit stumped with that one. Very hit and miss.

pc1
04-15-2009, 03:06 PM
Excluding Borg since I'm sure a lot of people would say him (and not without reason). So who do you guys think would have the best chance? Kuerten, Muster, Kafelnikov, Vilas, Lendl, Wilander, Bruguera, Courier or whoever?

I have a friend of mine who works for a tennis magazine and we were discussing this last year and we both came to the conclusion that Kuerten, with his beautiful backhand and forehand groundstrokes would have the best chance to defeat Nadal. He thought Kuerten's backhand and the fact Kuerten was very tall could handle the heavy high bouncing topspin better than a Federer. Kuerten also had one of the best serves on the tour at his peak. That would be some great clay court match if Kuerten was on his game and Nadal was healthy and on his game.

Lendl and Wilander wouldn't be bad either.

grafrules
04-15-2009, 03:07 PM
Kafelnikov is a dumb name to even include on the list here. He would be spanked by Nadal on clay, well on any surface probably but especialy clay. Even prime Moya or prime Ferrero are better names to include than Nadal. Atleast they have given him occasional trouble on clay in their old ages, and they are both superior clay courters to Kafelnikov, especialy Ferrero.

PERL
04-15-2009, 03:49 PM
Wilander would have the least chance. With him, I just don't see where he would be able to hurt Nadal. I think as a not too tall guy, Nadal's shots would get too high on him. I KNOW he wouldn't be able to keep Nadal honest with the occasional WOW power shot like all the other guys are capable of. I think Nadal could settle into a comfortable groove against Wilander on clay, and just routine him or worese until kingdome come. Wilander's craftiness and net mixing ability and endurance would get outweighed by Nadal's relentless legs and heavy as cannonballs shots. I think Wilander would feel out "athete'd" against Nadal. Could he win? Yes, but more so than any other other guys I mentioned, he'd have to rely more on hoping Nadal has a bad day rather than focusing on what HE can do good today.

On FAST court surfaces, however, I would give Wilander the Nalbandian chance. On a fast surface that doesn't bounce up much, I could see Wilander being able to take Nadal's shots off the bounce much more effectively and turning that pace/spin against him with pinpoint precision. His deceptively slithery style volleys would also be much more effective.

Wilander was a bit taller than Muster and with a two handed backhand. In terms of strategy and stamina he was one of the best I’ve ever witnessed. Much more talented than Muster as well if not as intimidating. Look what Simon did to Nadal on carpet to translate what Wilander could have done to Nadal on clay. I can see them go to a five setter. Not a routine imo. Unfortunately the heads to heads won’t help, Wilander owned a 30 years old Vilas and Muster was too young when he faced him, not very helpful.
Kuerten, Wilander, Bruguera, Lendl in that order would stand a chance imo.

egn
04-15-2009, 06:32 PM
Kuerten. The two would in my opinion produce more interesting matches than Borg v. Nadal. It was unfortunate Kuerten ran into so many problems in his career. If Kuerten was in top form in 2005 him and Nadal might have made an amazing match. Why..everyone else summed it up.

grafselesfan
04-15-2009, 06:39 PM
Clay isnt a surface that rewards age. Kuerten's prime on clay probably would have only lasted until 2004 or so anyway. 2005 and 2006 wasnt prime Nadal either. 2005 is the one year they may have been the top two clay courters though. After 2005 I am pretty sure Kuerten would have been too old for the surface.

I think without his hip problems Kuerten may have ended up with 5 French Opens. I think he would have won 2 out of 3 between 2002-2004, getting upset at 1 of the 3 (have no idea which one though).

pc1
04-15-2009, 06:42 PM
Kuerten. The two would in my opinion produce more interesting matches than Borg v. Nadal. It was unfortunate Kuerten ran into so many problems in his career. If Kuerten was in top form in 2005 him and Nadal might have made an amazing match. Why..everyone else summed it up.

When Kuerten was "on" his game. You almost got the feeling on red clay that it didn't matter who was on the other side of the net, he was just going to hit a ton of winners and he won't be stopped. I can't think of many who can do that on red clay.

That's the Kuerten I want to see play Nadal and that will never happen.:cry:

egn
04-15-2009, 06:47 PM
When Kuerten was "on" his game. You almost got the feeling on red clay that it didn't matter who was on the other side of the net, he was just going to hit a ton of winners and he won't be stopped. I can't think of many who can do that on red clay.

That's the Kuerten I want to see play Nadal and that will never happen.:cry:

Yea Kuerten actually I liked the fact that he was played a lot of offense at his best. There was times Kuerten was making some great net points on clay. Especially in his match against Norman.

obsessedtennisfandisorder
04-15-2009, 08:35 PM
Kuerten vs nadal would be a very interesting matchup, firstly because
at 6'3 i don't think nadal fh would be a problem for kuerten...secodnly
kuerten had good net sense on clay, and knew how(and when) to attack the net and finish off points or hit the outright winner.

It has already been noted....who is the next best claycourter after nadal and fed (at 6'1)?

Secondly, why no serve and volley option? I 'd love to see prime rafter or
edberg up against nadal.

!Tym
04-15-2009, 08:37 PM
Wilander was a bit taller than Muster and with a two handed backhand. In terms of strategy and stamina he was one of the best I’ve ever witnessed. Much more talented than Muster as well if not as intimidating. Look what Simon did to Nadal on carpet to translate what Wilander could have done to Nadal on clay. I can see them go to a five setter. Not a routine imo. Unfortunately the heads to heads won’t help, Wilander owned a 30 years old Vilas and Muster was too young when he faced him, not very helpful.
Kuerten, Wilander, Bruguera, Lendl in that order would stand a chance imo.

Wilander's not short by any stretch of the imagination, and Muster not tall. But basically, I just feel that there are two things that really help with handling heavy top. Either extreme height and lengthiness like Kuerten, or being really robustly built in the upper body like guys like Corretja, Costa, Muster...even Yzaga.

The other factor is stroking technique. You're right two-hands does help a lot, but I also feel that Wilander used more traditional techniques. I feel if he grew up today, he'd be a much worse volleyer, but with a much bigger forehand and a more westernized grip and technique. Some guys could generate huge power with traditional techniques, guys like Sampras, Lendl, Korda, prime Connors, etc...Wilander wasn't one of them.

This said, you really brought up someone I hadn't considred and that is Simon. Wilander does remind me a LOT of him come to think of it. This said, Wilander was before my time. I only watched him late in his career when not only was he much older and slower, but also was at the point where he simply didn't care that much. You could just tell by his demeanor. He seemed to have a could take it or leave it air to him. Actually, I still get that air from him on the seniors tour. He seems to me like a guy who REALLY was into it for awhile, and then he accomplished the pinnacle of what he thought was possible for him...then, eh, no more "real" motivation. After that, it was more or less just going through the motions I felt. You can't really fake the kind of fire in your belly you need to be a top player. Wilander at the end was still competitive, but I never got the sense from him that he was going the extra mile in practice or in off-court training or even as far as expending everything he had in him to chase down a ball juuust out of his reach.

I was definitely a fan of his smooooth game and strokes, though, such a minimal of energy expenditure. I guess I would say he felt like a Simon with dignity in the way that he played. Just something about Simon's slinky body doesn't make his looks too "pretty" or aesthetically appealing to me.

This said, on clay, I just don't see Wilander being able to threaten Nadal. The variety is no doubt there, but I feel like his great strengths of endurance and speed and consistency would be countered by Nadal. I feel Muster would have a better chance simply because he's a lefty himself for one (give Nadal a little of his own medicine with the inside-out lefty forehand), and that I think Muster is the only one guy who could make NADAL feel like his fitness wasn't maybe quite as good as he thought it was. As I said though, on a faster hard court, I would give Wilander a much better shot.

World Beater
04-15-2009, 09:06 PM
muster was a scary player but i would take nadal against muster every single time.

muster had the mental and physical fortitude to possibly stay with nadal but he just doesnt have the game or the athleticism to stay with nadal.

muster was as tough as they come but nadal has too much game for him. nadal's ball would have sent muster into a tailspin and nadal varies the spin and trajectory of his shots very effectively. he is the total percentage player.

kuerten was hit/miss...on his best day he could take nadal out but most of the time he would lose to rafa. bruguera was really talented but again just not enough mental toughness and focus as nadal on clay.

you would have to go the time of lendl, borg etc to find some challengers.

CEvertFan
04-15-2009, 09:12 PM
Besides the obvious choice of Borg I would say either Wilander, Lendl or Kuerten at their absolute peak would have the best chance of beating Nadal on clay.

Pirao
04-16-2009, 01:57 AM
People, please don't complain about not having every good clay court player in my first post, I just put the 1st ones that came to mind, naming every french open champion would be too much lol. If you don't see someone in my first post you want to comment on, then just add him to the discusion!

So far looks like Kuerten is the favourite, followed by Lendl and Wilander.

can you imagine a FO when each and everyone of these players participated? that would be something.

crabgrass
04-16-2009, 05:43 AM
not including borg who i regard as the greatest claycourter ever i'd have lendl and wilander as players who'd do well against nadal.
lendl's best surfaces are generally considered hardcourts and indoors but his record on clay is very impressive also, 3 french titles out of 5 finals, 2 italian open titles, 2 german open titles, 2 titles at monte carlo and 2 US claycourts are among his 28 career clay victories.
In terms of big groundies and fitness levels i think lendl & nadal are pretty well matched and i could envision them going 5.
i think some underate wilander due to the fact that unlike nadal or lendl he didnt pound the crap out of the ball, wilander was a big match player though
and was usually at his best in big finals...he also could stay out there as long as it takes and throw in the fact that clay was his best surface and i think nadal has a real battle on his hands.
At their best muster,vilas and kuerten are all capable of beating nadal on a given day though how regularly i'm not quite sure.
cochet & lacoste were great claycourters also but obviously it's almost impossible to form any opinion on how they'd match up against rafa.

Carlo Giovanni Colussi
04-16-2009, 06:04 AM
Having no clear opinion at all I shouldn't write a post here but I've collected some others' opinions in that forum about claycourters Panatta, Rosewall and Muster :

Panatta
Adriano had a great first serve and fine touch volleys and athletic coverage at the net, plus solid goundstrokes and a great feel as to when to approach the net. He was able to pressure when required but also had the patience off the ground to stay with his opponent.

Rosewall :
Ken wasn't as dominant as Nadal (or Borg) on clay -- but it was a different time and he was as dominant as one could be I guess during those times (the early 60's). Rosewall was so great on all surfaces which made his game more complete and versatile (and tricky) than Rafa -- and therefore Rosewall goes ahead of Rafa as well on clay

Muster :
Nadal passes FAR better than Muster ever did imo. Muster's problem on the past was generally that he wasn't good at setting up the pass in combinations, the way Bruguera would. He was a straight forward bullish kind of guy but lacked the finess or intuition to say mix in soft with hard to get player's guessing and off balance at the net.

pc1
04-16-2009, 08:45 AM
Having no clear opinion at all I shouldn't write a post here but I've collected some others' opinions in that forum about claycourters Panatta, Rosewall and Muster :

Panatta
Adriano had a great first serve and fine touch volleys and athletic coverage at the net, plus solid goundstrokes and a great feel as to when to approach the net. He was able to pressure when required but also had the patience off the ground to stay with his opponent.

Rosewall :
Ken wasn't as dominant as Nadal (or Borg) on clay -- but it was a different time and he was as dominant as one could be I guess during those times (the early 60's). Rosewall was so great on all surfaces which made his game more complete and versatile (and tricky) than Rafa -- and therefore Rosewall goes ahead of Rafa as well on clay

Muster :
Nadal passes FAR better than Muster ever did imo. Muster's problem on the past was generally that he wasn't good at setting up the pass in combinations, the way Bruguera would. He was a straight forward bullish kind of guy but lacked the finess or intuition to say mix in soft with hard to get player's guessing and off balance at the net.

In reading the question again I realize I wasn't locked into the choices given. I could name some more players besides the ones I will but I thought it would be fun analyzing potential clay court match ups.

Rosewall
Carlo is right. I would give Rosewall on clay an excellent chance against Rafa. Rosewall would punish Rafa's second serve to the backhand and his volley would be the last word. Both are super fast and Rosewall is more consistent than any player Rafa has ever play plus he hit with great pace. In some ways they are similar because both can hit great shots from defensives positions, super consistent, super fast. Ken had a better backhand, Rafa a better forehand, Rafa has a better serve and Ken had the better volley.

Rosewall would probably drop shot and lob Rafa often, as he did with many players. It would be something to watch.

Nastase
Nastase at his best would be a problem for anyone. He had a super forehand and a very good backhand and touch that rivals anyone that ever lived. Nastase was very quick at the net and could pick off many passing shots that you think would be winners. His variety, angles and drop shots would give Nadal problems. I would still favor Nadal but Nastase would win his share.

Panatta
Panatta was one of the most gifted players that ever lived. Carlo summed it up that he had good groundies but he had great net coverage and often would fling himself to pick off a potential passing shot. Rafa would win but I can see an inspired Panatta occasionally winning.

Vilas
I don't see Vilas winning very often against Nadal. Nadal is a bit faster and he very well may be more consistent than Vilas. Vilas' stamina however is legendary and it may even surpass Nadal's. There is a story about Vilas practicing for many hours before his 1977 U.S. Open final against Connors. He played Connors later that night and defeated him in four sets and looked like he could play ten more sets. Bottom line is Vilas doesn't have the variety, the net game, enough consistency or the power to bother Nadal.

Borgforever
04-16-2009, 09:41 PM
I agree with the lists pc1 and Carlo provided and CyB's thoughts on Mats W, who could seriously and intelligently stay with Rafa thanks to Mats great speed and groundie consistency. But I do see Rafa as winner of most of his matches against Mats though -- but great matches they would be I think...

Biggest threat to Rafa IMO? Ken Rosewall -- when at his peak could do it all as well as being probably as fast as Rafa -- the makings of a great and extended collision...

Me being who I am I cannot resist touching the third rail here -- what about Björn Borg vs Rafa in my eyes?

Björn being so fast and owning such powerfully precise counter-punching groundies and passingshots would either pressure Rafa to cool down the most intense power-hitting or it would be amped up (with the imminent risk of a major increase in his UEs) trying to escape Borg's speed.

In the third set of the RG 1978 final Borg really starts to hit big on his FH. Very powerful strokes despite being created with the tiny wooden badminton racquet of the day. From mid 1980 to 1981, 82 Björn started hitting harder anticipating the slugger tennis that was to come. His AKAI match is proof of the direction of his improvement. Give The Ice-Man, say a Cortex, and he would easily pull off the thunk-strokes of today -- given how crazily hard and spinny his strokes were with the inferior equipment of his era there's actually a lot of logic that suggest he would've been able to hit even harder with even more spin than they do today. The same goes for Laver and other old-timers if they get the tech-boost of today in their arsenal.

Rafa has never really met anyone with the speed, competitive sense and consistency of Borg (and probably Rosewall) and since their records are way stronger than Rafa's as of today -- I give the edge to them for now...

Although Rafa is gaining on them rapidly in my view. A couple of years from now their edge could be erased. I hope Rafa makes it...

Carlo Giovanni Colussi
04-16-2009, 11:50 PM
Hi pc1 and Borgforever,

just a remark : it wasn't my opinions expressed above so I don't deserve your "praise". I've picked them up from jeffrey's, !Tym's and ... Borgforever's arguments in that forum.

pc1
04-17-2009, 04:06 AM
Hi pc1 and Borgforever,

just a remark : it wasn't my opinions expressed above so I don't deserve your "praise". I've picked them up from jeffrey's, !Tym's and ... Borgforever's arguments in that forum.

Still you did add them to the forums and it was interesting.:)

Great stuff Borgforever. Interesting analysis. I agree with you, AGAIN.

CyBorg
04-17-2009, 05:35 AM
Rafa has never really met anyone with the speed, competitive sense and consistency of Borg (and probably Rosewall) and since their records are way stronger than Rafa's as of today -- I give the edge to them for now...

The footwork among his "opponents" is brutal. Nadal and Borg would just run down every ball. It would be a dream matchup.

I'm curious to see what Verdasco can do this year - he's not a bad player.

pc1
04-17-2009, 09:43 AM
The footwork among his "opponents" is brutal. Nadal and Borg would just run down every ball. It would be a dream matchup.

I'm curious to see what Verdasco can do this year - he's not a bad player.

It would be fabulous to watch.

alfa164164
04-17-2009, 10:32 AM
Interesting to see how everyone completely dismisses Kafelnikov over Kuerten given how close they played on clay in Guga's prime:
1997 Roland Garros QF 6-2, 5-7, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4
2000 Roland Garros QF 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
2001 Roland Garros QF 6-1, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4
Granted Kuerten won these matches, but there wasn't alot that seperated them. (BTW Kafelnikov did have a H2H edge on hardcourts over Guga.)
Anyways, back to the point, I too would give Guga a better chance against Nadal, it is almost funny though how little respect Kafelnikov gets. He also won the Doubles title the same year he won his sole French Singles title. I'd take Kafelnikov over Nadal given equal partners in a French Doubles tournament!

CyBorg
04-17-2009, 12:18 PM
Interesting to see how everyone completely dismisses Kafelnikov over Kuerten given how close they played on clay in Guga's prime:
1997 Roland Garros QF 6-2, 5-7, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4
2000 Roland Garros QF 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
2001 Roland Garros QF 6-1, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4
Granted Kuerten won these matches, but there wasn't alot that seperated them. (BTW Kafelnikov did have a H2H edge on hardcourts over Guga.)
Anyways, back to the point, I too would give Guga a better chance against Nadal, it is almost funny though how little respect Kafelnikov gets. He also won the Doubles title the same year he won his sole French Singles title. I'd take Kafelnikov over Nadal given equal partners in a French Doubles tournament!

I think on a good day Kafelnikov would be very tough. He had a robotic-kind of stroke efficiency. Very solid from both sides. Tended to break down sometimes after a couple of hours of grind - the Kuerten matches I think paint this picture too. Kafelnikov would often cocktease for two sets and then lose it. There's enough of this in the game already and we all know that Nadal just stays with you and then delivers the knockout punch when you're exasperated. That is unless he dominates you from beginning to end, which has been happening more over the past year.

Kuerten would often bring his a-game late into matches, which is why a lot of posters here would love to see the Guga-Nadal matchup.

GameSampras
04-17-2009, 12:56 PM
Kuerten, Vilas, Borg, Bruguera would all get their fair share of wins off Nadal on clay

flying24
04-17-2009, 02:23 PM
Interesting to see how everyone completely dismisses Kafelnikov over Kuerten given how close they played on clay in Guga's prime:
1997 Roland Garros QF 6-2, 5-7, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4
2000 Roland Garros QF 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
2001 Roland Garros QF 6-1, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4
Granted Kuerten won these matches, but there wasn't alot that seperated them. (BTW Kafelnikov did have a H2H edge on hardcourts over Guga.)
Anyways, back to the point, I too would give Guga a better chance against Nadal, it is almost funny though how little respect Kafelnikov gets. He also won the Doubles title the same year he won his sole French Singles title. I'd take Kafelnikov over Nadal given equal partners in a French Doubles tournament!

Kuerten was a good matchup for Kafelnikov. The matches between them on clay were closer than their abilities on clay. Anyway the 2000 quarterfinal was one of Kuerten's worst matches, and the 1997 quarterfinal was when Kuerten was a virtual unknown and Kafelnikov was favored to win.

There is nothing about Kafelnikov that were bother Nadal much on clay.

flying24
04-17-2009, 02:26 PM
The 10 former players since 1990 (excluding Federer, Djokovic or anyone current) who in their primes who would have the best chances vs Nadal in order would be:

1. Kuerten
2. Vilas
3. Wilander
4. Lendl
5. Courier
6. Muster
7. Bruguera
8. Ferrero
9. Moya
10. Agassi (yes Agassi would have more shot than Kafelnikov although still close to nothing)

matchmaker
04-17-2009, 04:22 PM
Kuerten, he could take a high bouncing topspin shot to his backhand and just hit a winner out of it, either crosscourt or DTL.

He also had a serve that would pay handsome dividends.

I really think a prime Kuerten would stand a very reasonable chance against Nadal.

Moreover he was a player from the heart, with tremendous courage when backed by the audience.

Zimbo
04-17-2009, 07:41 PM
I have to say this thread has brought out great discussion and opinions by everyone. It’s always difficult if not impossible and unfair to compare generations. With the Babolat and Poly strings as his weapons no past great playing with their old racquets and style, with the exception of Kuerten, has a chance against Nadal. (note: Kuerten is the most recent clay legend, thus his level is closes to Nadal). Nadal’s level of clay court play is at a completely different level that no one has ever seen before. Now, lets use our imagination. Lets imagine how past greats would play with the current technology or imagine Nadal’s game with lets say early graphite, things would get interesting.

I agree with iTym’s assessment of both Bruguera’s and Kuerten chances. If they brought their A games they could beat Nadal. Kuerten, like the majority here agrees, probably has a better shot.

As for Lendl, he probably could hang with Nadal most consistently day in and day out. It wouldn’t matter if it was a FO final or a smaller tourney first round showdown, Lendl would show up and battle Nadal from start to finish. Lendl’s big serve, forehand, and fitness would always give him a chance. Not only does Lendl have the big weapons he was someone that could also play very defensive and consistent tennis. This I think would give Nadal fits. Someone who could consistently stay with him but at any given moment hit a huge forehand to end the point or to set up the next shot for a winner. This consistency is what I believe Fed lacks. Fed isn’t patient enough to wait for the right time to smack that forehand. Lendl wouldn’t get as flustered if his huge forehand came back a few times the way Fed gets flustered. The one big weakness in Lendl’s arsenal is that Nadal would take advantage of his one handed backhand. Though Lendl has a good if not great backhand it could still be exploited (unlike Kuerten). I could see Nadal hitting 80-90% of all balls to the Lendl backhand. The spin on Nadal’s forehand would give Lendl fits.

As for Wilander vs. Nadal, I had to sit and contemplate this one for a while. iTym makes a great point here. Mats doesn’t really have any weapons that could hurt Nadal. He doesn’t have that ONE SHOT that could end points. However, as Cyborg stated, Mats smarts, consistency, and game plan could drive Nadal crazy. Mats has the speed and anticipation to track down a lot of balls, as Borgforever stated, and his willingness to stay out there for 6 hours could lead to a titanic battle. This match up reminds me a little of the Wilander and Lendl match up. On paper Mats had nothing on Lendl. If you examine their series, Lendl dominated it, especially at the smaller tourneys. But as Crabgrass stated, Wilander was a big match player. In those big matches, Mats held his own with Lendl. I agree with iTym, at Nadal’s best Mats has little chance. However, one has to remember Mats greatest strength was to come up with a game plan (tactical and mental game plan) that would make the other player not play at his best. Mats did it to ever great player he faced in his prime. (Lendl, Becker, Edberg, Mac, and Connors)

For Muster, I actually think he has the least chance to beat Nadal, even though I think their battles would be like WWII. I don’t think that the brute force tactic would work against Nadal. I just feel that Muster would try to out Nadal, Nadal, and it wouldn’t work. Both are extremely fit, both are extremely mentally tough, both would give 110% on every point, but the tiebreaker would go to Nadal for his superior foot speed. In the end I don’t think Muster could come up with a plan B once he realized that Nadal could get back just one more ball then he could.

Villas. I don't know his game well enough to have an opinion.

CyBorg
04-17-2009, 07:55 PM
The part about Wilander not having the one shot to end the point is tricky.

You see, Wilander was old-school - he was a clay expert before the courts were sped up and the power game was incorporated.

Wilander, at his time and with the conditions of the time, didn't need that "one shot" as much as he would today or even in the 90s. They still had 100-shot rallies in the late-80s on clay, remember.

I'm sure that Nadal would be every bit of an elite player he is right now under those conditions, playing a somewhat different style. But he wouldn't be hitting the same kinds of big winners. A hypothetical match between him and Wilander would be a long, long fight with countless extended rallies.

Zimbo
04-17-2009, 08:13 PM
The part about Wilander not having the one shot to end the point is tricky.

You see, Wilander was old-school - he was a clay expert before the courts were sped up and the power game was incorporated.

Wilander, at his time and with the conditions of the time, didn't need that "one shot" as much as he would today or even in the 90s. They still had 100-shot rallies in the late-80s on clay, remember.

I'm sure that Nadal would be every bit of an elite player he is right now under those conditions, playing a somewhat different style. But he wouldn't be hitting the same kinds of big winners. A hypothetical match between him and Wilander would be a long, long fight with countless extended rallies.

I agree 100%. In addition, if Wilander played now, he could hypothetically have that 1 big weapon. We will never know.

prosealster
04-17-2009, 11:33 PM
Interesting to see how everyone completely dismisses Kafelnikov over Kuerten given how close they played on clay in Guga's prime:
1997 Roland Garros QF 6-2, 5-7, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4
2000 Roland Garros QF 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
2001 Roland Garros QF 6-1, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4
Granted Kuerten won these matches, but there wasn't alot that seperated them. (BTW Kafelnikov did have a H2H edge on hardcourts over Guga.)
Anyways, back to the point, I too would give Guga a better chance against Nadal, it is almost funny though how little respect Kafelnikov gets. He also won the Doubles title the same year he won his sole French Singles title. I'd take Kafelnikov over Nadal given equal partners in a French Doubles tournament!

playing close to guga doesnt mean anything...mike russel also played guga close at rolland garros i recall, guga also doent come into stride till SF and final at FO...kafelnikov was lucky to win a french open by playing the likes of sampras and stich when there was no decent claycourter around.. ...the guy doesnt have any other big clay titles..i also believe the high topspin from nad would be difficult for kafelnikov's forehand.....guga on the other hand...dosnt get bothered by high bouncing balls much...and has a reliable way of dealing with them on his backhand side - hit it on the backfoot...(where as fed tries to hit it on the rise)

CyBorg
04-18-2009, 08:09 AM
playing close to guga doesnt mean anything...mike russel also played guga close at rolland garros i recall, guga also doent come into stride till SF and final at FO...kafelnikov was lucky to win a french open by playing the likes of sampras and stich when there was no decent claycourter around.. ...the guy doesnt have any other big clay titles..i also believe the high topspin from nad would be difficult for kafelnikov's forehand.....guga on the other hand...dosnt get bothered by high bouncing balls much...and has a reliable way of dealing with them on his backhand side - hit it on the backfoot...(where as fed tries to hit it on the rise)

Winning the French Open is also a quantitative struggle - seven matches in two weeks. Just because you've challenged a player like Kuerten in a single match does not mean you'll perform as well in the matches to come.

Kafelnikov clearly started to fizzle out in those matches after the third set. Kuerten not only won the matches, but had more left for the rest of the event!

pc1
04-18-2009, 09:31 AM
Winning the French Open is also a quantitative struggle - seven matches in two weeks. Just because you've challenged a player like Kuerten in a single match does not mean you'll perform as well in the matches to come.

Kafelnikov clearly started to fizzle out in those matches after the third set. Kuerten not only won the matches, but had more left for the rest of the event!

I think you're right Cyborg. I watched a lot of the Kuerten-Michael Russell match on television and once Guga got into stride you knew Russell was dead.

Guga was one of those players on red clay that you felt could accelerate into another level above anyone else and once he reached that level, he often seemed unstoppable.

A lot of us are talking about weapons to finish off a point, well Guga had both backhand and forehand plus a huge serve. Guga's serve was one of the best in tennis at the time.

The part about Wilander not having the one shot to end the point is tricky.

You see, Wilander was old-school - he was a clay expert before the courts were sped up and the power game was incorporated.

Wilander, at his time and with the conditions of the time, didn't need that "one shot" as much as he would today or even in the 90s. They still had 100-shot rallies in the late-80s on clay, remember.

I'm sure that Nadal would be every bit of an elite player he is right now under those conditions, playing a somewhat different style. But he wouldn't be hitting the same kinds of big winners. A hypothetical match between him and Wilander would be a long, long fight with countless extended rallies.

I agree with you here also. As far as Mats Wilander is concerned, Mats wasn't exactly a moonballer, he hit with decent pace but Mats in some ways would be similar to an Andy Murray today. He could slice the ball, topspin, he had a good volley and a good serve plus excellent court coverage and great stamina. In other words he had no real weaknesses that anyone could focus on. Nadal could never use his strategy of looping high topspin to Mats' backhand because Mats' backhand was like a backboard and he could also drive those shots back, unlike a Federer today.

In his prime his concentration was magnificent and he never beat himself. Mats could hit the ball very well on the rise if he needed to and his passing shots were super.

He also was an excellent defensive player with a very good lob. Mats was a master of winning a point he had no right to win.

Nadal may be able to beat Mats but he would have known he was in a struggle.

Wilander was one of the elite clay court players of all time in his day.

!Tym
04-18-2009, 02:15 PM
Several people have brought up how high bouncing balls didn't effect Kuerten hardly at all, and this is really true. Not only did he use western grips on both his backhand and forehand, but he was also UNUSUALLY lanky in build imo.

Bruguera is listed at 6'2" which is pretty dead-on, Malivai Washington and his fellow commentator even stated during a Courier seniors event about two years ago, he seems a little taller than that. And to that Washington laughed and said, yeah, he's a little bigger than 6'2, more like 6'3".

Well, this, however seems off. As Becker is DEFINITELY taller than Bruguera and he's listed at 6'3". And Stich DEFINITELY seems taller than Becker by more than just one or two inches, more like 3, and Stich's listed at 6'4" generally.

Guga was listed at 6'3", but he was NOTICABLY taller than Bruguera when they shook hands at the net and during the ceremony. I'd say at least two inches, more like 3.

Guga always looked taller to me than just 6'3". He certainly looked taller than Moya for example who was also listed at 6'3".

Any input on this? While it's nitpicking, I think even the most casual observer could tell you that Guga's height and extreme lankiness had a lot to do with him feeling so comfortable against high-bouncing topspin shots. Put it this way, what for Arazi would be literally stretching his limits, would for Kuerten be right in his wheel house, right in his "IDS", or "ideal strike zone" as Tennis Magazine once coined it.

To me, Guga always seemed AT LEAST, 6'4". Probably more like 6'4.5".

Sampras to me seemed maybe about 6' and a half, same with Courier, both slightly shorter than 6'1", and Rafter slightly taller than his listed 6'2". Stich slightly taller than his listed height. Chang slightly shorter. Agassi and Muster pretty bang on at 5'11"...and I SWEAR, Ivo Karlovic has got to be shorter than his listed height, I'm talking a good 6'9 and a half at BEST!!! Sheesh, the nerve of that guy lying about his height like that!

Btw, Moya never seemed 6'3" to me, more like 6'2.5" or even 6'2". Kafelnikov seemed pretty bang on at 6'3" though.

tennis-hero
04-18-2009, 04:44 PM
[off topic]

sometimes its just so good to read the former pro section

tennis fans

discussing the greatest sport in the world

with knowledge and a passion for the sport

damn this is the best board on the net :D

great thread