Clay Court GOAT

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by timnz, May 18, 2009.

  1. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
  2. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Panatta was a fantastic clay court player but he didn't beat Borg again after Borg reached his best years starting in 1977. He took Borg to five sets in 1978 in the Italian Open final which was one of the most bias matches I have ever seen in terms of lines calls. The linescalling was to be nice unbelievable. Borg also had objects tossed at him but somehow won the match. Maybe Stan Smith overcame more in his Davis Cup match against Tiriac but I'm not sure.

    Pecci was another player who was fantastic when he was on his game. Borg actually led in the third set of that French Open final they play I believe by 5-2. Just one more game to win in straights but Pecci played three great games to tie and eventually win the set.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  3. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    Now that you mention it, Smith always played great DC tennis , he was extremely motivated for DC, in John mc Enroe´s way.While he was a lousy clay courter, he somehow managed to beat the likes of Nastase,Tiriac,Pala and Kodes on clay, just when they played DC.

    Who do you think was the more complete man, Kodes or Smith? While Stan´s record is great indoors and grass and bad ( except heroic DC ties) on clay, Kodes never outstood indoors but has an amazing clay and grass record.Tough call.At FH, fi, they both shared wins...
     
  4. Q&M son

    Q&M son Professional

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2008
    Messages:
    925
    Location:
    Trenque Lauquen, BA, Argentina.
    Great player, agree.
     
  5. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    The ATP doesn't have the best records but Smith was pretty good on clay. I recall him winning a few clay court tournaments in his day.

    http://www.atpworldtour.com/Tennis/Players/Sm/S/Stan-R-Smith.aspx?t=mr

    Here's Jan Kodes on clay. Yes I agree Kodes' clay court record was better because of his French titles but Smith wasn't bad.

    http://www.atpworldtour.com/Tennis/Players/Ko/J/Jan-Kodes.aspx?t=mr

    Kiki,

    For fun, please compare Smith and Kodes at their peaks stroke by stroke. There is no wrong in this analysis. You brought it up on who was the more complete player.

    A couple of no brainers. Smith on serve, volley and overhead. Kodes on backhand and speed.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2012
  6. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    Kodes had a better BH, return and speed, while Stan dominated at the serve and overhead.I´d give Smith a small edge at the FH, but Kodes was as good if not a better volleyer, if you don´t count S&V ( which aided so much Smith because of his big serve and terrific reach).They are quite even.Both had great courage, too.
     
  7. The-Champ

    The-Champ Legend

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    Messages:
    6,541
    Location:
    Sweden
    Where does Nadal stand now in Clay GOAT list? Has he tied or surpassed Borg?
     
  8. timnz

    timnz Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2008
    Messages:
    4,661
    Nadal number 1 clay court player of all time now

    I created this thread in May of 2009 (before the French Open that year). At the time Nadal was behind Borg in Roland Garros wins - he only had 4 at that stage - so I had Nadal at second. But given that Nadal is at 7 now (and with all his other clay titles) - I think we now have to proclaim him number 1 all time on the surface. He will eventually get the record for the most open era clay titles (Vilas holds that record for the time being), but even if he doesn't he still is the best of all time on that surface.

    (I will say that I am certain that Borg would have won the 1977 and 1982 French Opens if he had competed in them - but that's down to him - Nadal shouldn't be penalised because Borg didn't show up).
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2012
  9. ctromano

    ctromano Rookie

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2006
    Messages:
    191
    no no no...

    #1 NADAL
    #2 Borg
    #3 Evert
    #4 GUGA
    #5 MUSTER
    #6 Federer
     
  10. timnz

    timnz Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2008
    Messages:
    4,661
    Federer's legacy on Clay

    Do we view Federer's losses to Nadal on Clay (being the majority of matches they have played against each other) in a more positive light? After all Federer lost to the best player of all time on the surface! Hence, he isn't doing at all bad playing Nadal hard on all but one of the matches (I am only aware of the French Open 2008 being the only time that Nadal completely overwhelmed Federer on that surface). Keep in mind that Clay is Federer's worst surface. So playing the best clay player of all time on your worst surface - not so bad if you lose. And to get a couple of wins - well that's just cream.

    My feeling is that it is exactly the same case with Borg and McEnroe - if the majority of matches they had played had been on clay (as it turned on, they didn't even play one). McEnroe might have just 1 victory on clay against Borg at most.
     
  11. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    What? Federer #6? Mixing Evert in with the men? Silly!
     
  12. Benhur

    Benhur Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2007
    Messages:
    2,562

    Even before this RG it was rather clear Nadal had the best overall record on clay, at least in the open era, unless you believe RG should be the one and only measure. The most important tournaments in the red clay season were much the same then as now: MC, Rome, RG... and Nadal has a whole bunch of titles in all those tournaments, a lot more than Borg. He also has more clay titles overall, and his career winning percentage on the surface is an astonishing 93%, almost 7 full points ahead of Borg -- an enormous difference, really. It is very hard, probably impossible, to find that level of domination by any player on one particular surface for such a long period (Sampras on grass, dominant as he was, had a 83.3 winning percentage by comparison).
     
  13. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    But there are also questions on how good Nadal was when he was starting to beat Federer on clay. Nadal was a teen when he was defeating Federer on red clay. My opinion is that Nadal is a superior player on clay now to his teen years. I think he has a better serve, backhand, volley and he hits harder. So how do we judge Federer's performances against Nadal in the early days when he would on occasion defeat Nadal on clay?

    As far as the great clay players of all time here are some candidates in no order.
    Borg
    Rosewall-Rosewall won a ton of French Pros, many of them on red clay at Roland Garros. He also won the French Championship (now the French Open) as an amateur and the first French Open in 1968 over Rod Laver. And you can add a lot of other top clay tournaments that he won.
    Nadal
    Tilden
    Kuerten
    Wilander
    Lendl
    Laver
    Lacoste
    Cochet
    Muster
    Bruguera
    von Cramm
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
  14. jean pierre

    jean pierre Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2006
    Messages:
    796
    And Vilas ? Stronger than Muster, Kuerten or Brugera !
     
  15. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Simply forgot to list Vilas. He was a great player and I think his style would be perfect for today's game.

    Like I've written in the past, I would love to see an arm wrestling match between Vilas and Nadal, left arms of course.
     
  16. jean pierre

    jean pierre Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2006
    Messages:
    796
    It would be great.
     
  17. FedericRoma83

    FedericRoma83 Rookie

    Joined:
    May 6, 2012
    Messages:
    185
    Nice list, I'll add Vilas, Trabert, Gimeno (for a while in the mid 60s he was able to beat both Rosewall and Laver on clay). I'll also add the Dohertys and Tony Wilding, they dominated Monte-Carlo when it was the greatest clay tournament.
     
  18. krosero

    krosero Legend

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2006
    Messages:
    5,645
    If you lose to the claycourt GOAT most of the times that you meet him on clay, that's is no great knock. Not in general -- though I do think Federer should have won the Rome match in '06. He flubbed those two match points, but purely skill-wise, he had the claycourt GOAT beaten in that match.

    The difference between Nadal and Federer on clay is decisive, but it is not as stark as Borg's superiority over Vilas, who is universally acknowledged as a great claycourter.

    i would agree that Nadal got better on clay, but the bulk of his improvement as a tennis player came on other surfaces. Especially on hard court -- he went from being essentially a nobody, to winning two majors and a gold medal on that surface. His improvement on clay is not so dramatic. That's the surface best suited to his game, for one thing. And that surface is the one on which players tend to mature the earliest (think of Chang and Wilander winning RG at 17, Borg at 18, Nadal at 19). Maybe the reason for that is that a baseline game is easiest to develop when young, whereas other things like SV take longer (not that Nadal serve-and-volleys, but you get the point).

    Basically I'm saying that Nadal in 2005, on clay, rather than on other surfaces, was closest to his later peak.

    On the point about Federer beating Nadal when Nadal was young: those two wins, in Hamburg and Madrid, were fairly late. Hamburg was in '07, just a year away from Rafa's first straight-set sweep of RG. Madrid was in '09 and surely Nadal had hit his claycourt peak already.

    I'm not sure that he's improved as a claycourter to any significant degree since '08. Maybe you could argue that in '10 he was slightly better, but I really think on clay you need young legs, and I'm not sure he's as fast today as he used to be.
     
  19. The-Champ

    The-Champ Legend

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    Messages:
    6,541
    Location:
    Sweden
    It could very well be that clay is his best surface. He said he grew up on it. Without Nadal, people today would probably say CLAY is federer's best surface. He probably would have had 6 FOs and truckloads of masters on it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
  20. The-Champ

    The-Champ Legend

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    Messages:
    6,541
    Location:
    Sweden
    I am of the opinion that Rafa's peak level on clay was 2005-2008. After that, his footspeed has started to decline bit by bit. Today is he still very fast but certainly not in the same ballpark. That footspeed was what enabled him to withstand peak federer on clay. As a Nadal fan I truly believe that if you put peak federer on clay today, he would destroy Nadal. Both Bruguera and Moya recently claimed that in 2005-2006 they thought Federer was the better claycourter but Nadal's speed and movement and the never give up attitude was what enabled him to come out on top. It wasn't until 2007 they started believing Rafa was the better one on the red dirt.

    Nadal in 2005

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sgak8FGvNo0
     
  21. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,771
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    1. Nadal
    2. Borg
     
  22. timnz

    timnz Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2008
    Messages:
    4,661
    Federer's best surface

    Sorry there, I just don't think that correlates with the record. His wins on faster surfaces seem to come much easier to him. Look at his WTF record for example. He enjoys a more attaching game that Roland Garros and the Australian Open just don't suit - being the two slow Grand Slams. He IS strong on clay - but that is just because his game is so solid overall. But I don't think any commentator would say it is his best surface. His best surface I think is fast hard court (so US Open).

    Federer's losses at Roland Garros exactly parallel Nadal's losses at the WTF. Nadal can do well - eg make the finals in his peak fast court year (2010) but it isn't enough really to put him over the top on his worst surface (indoor). The French Open is more well known and has a higher profile that the WTF hence the Federer losses are talked about more than the Nadal losses at the WTF.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
  23. The-Champ

    The-Champ Legend

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    Messages:
    6,541
    Location:
    Sweden
    I don't think so. Nadal has only made one final there, whereas federer has made the finals of every clay court tournament he entered during his peak but was beaten by Nadal. Take Nadal out of the equation and we would saying federer is right up there with Borg. Without Nadal, he was untouchable on clay during his peak years. The WTF in last couple of years has been slow. Nadal is pretty much always washed up at the end of season, that for me is the major factor why he never could never make an impression there. He will never win it I think. Nadal can play on fast courts, he proved this by winning Madrid indoors as early as 2005 and by reaching the Paris indoors as well. Nadal always plays his best in the first half of the season and because the big indoor tournaments are played in latter half when he is already drained, he cannot make an impact.
     
  24. krosero

    krosero Legend

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2006
    Messages:
    5,645
    Agreed to that, Federer plays much more "first strike" tennis than Nadal. It's why his winners, and consequent errors, are always higher than Nadal's. And that sort of aggressive game pays off better the faster the surface is. Clay tends to blunt it, and to reward consistency and a low error count.

    Without Nadal he'd have 6 French Opens but also 7 Wimbledons. He would still have 5 USO and 4 AO -- his lower counts in the hardcourt majors due to the fact that Djokovic's best surface is hard court. Djokovic has already beaten Federer twice at the AO and twice at the USO.

    Overall though, those numbers would not be evidence that clay was Federer's best surface. If anything grass would be seen as his best (going strictly by major count which is not all there is to it).
     
  25. Vegito

    Vegito Professional

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2008
    Messages:
    1,017
    Location:
    Mataderos
  26. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2009
    Messages:
    25,115
    Location:
    Cwmbran, Wales
    Hans Nusslein as well. Tony Trabert is another.
     
  27. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Two other great choices with whom I failed to put down.
     
  28. TMF

    TMF Talk Tennis Guru

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2009
    Messages:
    21,376
    I agree Evert shouldn't be in the mix, but how is it Fed at #6 is silly when Muster is at #5? Most experts have Fed above Muster.
     
  29. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2012
    Messages:
    1,954
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    It's really hard to compare players of different eras. But just for fun, I'd go with Nadal, Borg, Rosewall, Vilas, Kuerten, Federer, Lendl ... at their peaks, of players that I've seen play on clay. There have been so many great clay court players. It's very hard to choose. But in my mind the players I mentioned seem to me to be the best I've seen, with Nadal the best.
     
  30. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    What's ridiculous is that there are no players on that list prior to the 1980's if you don't count Chris Evert.

    Players like Tilden, Budge, Nusslein, Perry, Cochet, Lacoste, Segura, Rosewall, Laver, Nastase, Vilas, Trabert, Gimeno, Santana, Orantes, Wilander and Ivan Lendl were awesome clay court players. How Muster finished ahead of some of his peers like Wilander and Lendl is beyond me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2012
  31. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
    Messages:
    1,699
    I said this a few weeks ago, but Lendl's clay court credentials are incredibly underrated. Over the years I've seen people ranking the likes of Kuerten, Federer, Vilas and Muster above him on clay, which is absolutely absurd. None of those 4 players compare to him on the surface.

    It's close between Lendl and Wilander on clay, but I would go with Lendl as his overall clay court CV is slightly better, and in my opinion his peak standard of play on surface was better than Wilander's. Wilander himself has admitted that as well.
     
  32. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    I agree with you totally. Lendl in fact has an argument for being the player of the Open Era. I'm not writing he is definitely but he's in the running. The guy won 146 tournaments in his career and 8 majors in 19 finals.

    As far as his clay court credentials are concerned, Lendl won more clay court tournaments than Kuerten won total tournaments in his career according to the ATP website. And of course he won three French Opens.

    Lendl just in general is vastly underrated. He was incredible at his best.
     
  33. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
    Messages:
    1,699
    Yes and given Lendl's proficiency on carpet, hard courts and even grass, it wasn't as if he was padding out his record on clay by entering every small clay court tournament under the sun when he had bigger fish to fry on other surfaces.

    He was also a multiple champion at each of the 4 most prestigious clay court titles away from RG; Rome, Monte-Carlo, Hamburg and Barcelona. Plus he had winning clay court h2hs against Wilander (6-4) and Vilas (7-5), and beat Muster and Bruguera on clay in 1992.

    From 1984-1987 his record at RG was W, F, W, W which shows how dominant he was there.
     
  34. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,771
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    Latest edition:

    1. Nadal
    2. Borg
    3. Rosewall
    4. Wilding
    5. Cochet
    6. Lendl
    7. Wilander
    8. Lacoste
    9. Kuerten
    10. Laver
    11. Borotra
    12. Drobny
    13. Vilas
    14. Santana
    15. Bruguera
    16. Pietrangeli
    17. Courier
    18. Muster
    19. Federer
    20. Kodes
    21. von Cramm
    22. Emerson
    23. Nastase
    25. Trabert
    26. Orantes
    27. Panatta
    28. Agassi
    29. Connors
    30. Nusslein
    31. Tilden
    32. Gimeno
    33. Frank Parker
    34. Roche
    35. Sven Davidson
    36. Jack Crawford
    37. Fred Perry
    38. J.E. Patty
    39. Decugis
    40. Segura
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2012
  35. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2007
    Messages:
    12,771
    Location:
    Bierlandt
    I did note that the Bleacher report issued a list of clay-court GOATs recently:
    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1347476-greatest-clay-court-players-in-tennis-history

    Here is that list distilled for the men:
    1. Nadal
    2. Borg
    3. Cochet
    4. Lacoste
    5. Wilander
    6. Lendl
    7. Kuerten

    It mostly corresponds to our list, but with a two serious oversights, specifically Rosewall and Wilding. As is well-known on here, Wilding was, I believe, entirely undefeated on clay for a number of years.

    I submit that Rosewall was an excellent clay-courter, with many clay-court wins to his name.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2012
  36. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    I put Kuerten above Lendl on clay.
     
  37. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    While some positions can be moved above or bottom, the lsit is very good and takes into account all the best cc players ever.
     
  38. kiki

    kiki Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    18,714
    In fact, back in 1980 when Lendl reached the top 4, other than winning the DC and making the Masters finals and WCT semis, all on carpet, almost 90% of Lendl´s best results were achieved on clay.Won Houston and Barcelona, reached semis at Rome and Hamburg.he also excelled on hard courts, particularly beating Borg twice, but his most consistent results were on clay.

    In 2 years, however, he would be much more feared on carpet or hard courts, since he played less and less cc tournaments.
     
  39. forzamilan90

    forzamilan90 Legend

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2010
    Messages:
    5,565
    I think Nadal, Borg, and Rosewall are the three best ever on clay in that order.
     
  40. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2012
    Messages:
    7,773
    Fine list.
     
  41. Nadal_Power

    Nadal_Power Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2010
    Messages:
    506
    Why is that?
     
  42. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    Because I think he was a better clay court player.
     
  43. Prisoner of Birth

    Prisoner of Birth Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,786
    Well played.
     
  44. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2012
    Messages:
    7,773
    Found your list excellent but miss Segura!
     
  45. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    Kuerten is one of those special players whose career had so much more promise than his health permitted. IMO, he had what it took to be an all time great. He also had an amazingly positive attitude on the court that you rarely see in tennis.
     
  46. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    On clay, at his best I believe Kuerten was superior to Lendl but on record I think Lendl was better. It's close. Kuerten is one of the few players I believe would have a good chance to beat Nadal at his best on red clay.

    The guy had a very underrated serve also and he could play well on faster surfaces.
     
  47. Nadal_Power

    Nadal_Power Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2010
    Messages:
    506
    He was a joke on Carpet and Grass, and his Indoor record is nothing special with just above 50% of wins
     
  48. pc1

    pc1 Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    He was getting better imho and he did win some hard court and indoor tournaments.

    I think his greatest clutch matches was when I believe he defeated both Sampras and Agassi in consecutive rounds to win the Masters Cup.

    http://www.atpworldtour.com/Tennis/Players/Ku/G/Gustavo-Kuerten.aspx?t=mr
     
  49. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    It is very close. But, IMO, Kuerten was an inherently more talented player and his game, both his stroke mechanics and his tactical approach to the game, was better suited to clay than Lendl's. I also think that a healthy Kuerten would be an even match for Nadal or Borg on clay.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2012
  50. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    True. He also beat a screaming, hot tempered, Federer at Indian Wells on hard court.
     

Share This Page