FOG, the vulnerability to fast court players I actually did adress in my earlier posts, before you came up with your theory.
Originally Posted by hawk eye
I doubt if you're aware of it, but the 90's were very much an era of specialists. You had guys that were amazing on clay but couldn't do anything on grass, like Bruguera, Muster, Kuerten. It all had to with the variety in court surfaces that nowadays is just not here.
Then you had the fastcourt specialists who got the major part of their wins at (fast) hardcourt and grass, like Sampras, Becker, Edberg, Becker, Krajicek, Stich, Ivanisevic.
Some of those guys could also make a decent run on clay, but none of them ever actually won RG.
Basically that means that fast court specialists did better on clay than vice versa. I's pretty obvious as well: for instance McEnroe, Edberg and Stich all reached FO finals. After Borg, none of the great claycourters like Bruguera, Muster and Kuerten reached the latter stages of Wimbledon.
A fast court game translates better to clay then a claycourt game translates to fast court, especially grass. Heavy topspin groundstrokes from the baseline with more extreme grips is just not effective on the old, fast and low bouncing grass. The only who could pull that off whas Bjorn Borg, but he was exceptional fysical talent who could move an make passing shots like no one else, and could serve & volley effecively as well.
In your earlier post you wrote:
As a result, the top clay courters were not necessarily the more talented players of the moment: they were the best of the rest.
This doesn't leave much room for another explanation than that in your vision, the top claycourters were less talented than the top fast courters.
It's true that you didn't say 'less talented players chose the clay courts', but whether one says they 'chose' the surface to succeed, or whether one says 'clay was the surface where was room available for them' doesn't make much of a difference. In your theory it boils down to this: they couldn't expect to do much on fast courts, so they made clay their bread and butter.
Now I've taken a closer look at the players you mention to illustrate that the clayfield wasn't that strong. The likes of Sampras (not that strange, the best player of the decade making a SF at his least favorite major), Stich and other fast court players I've already coverered above.
Some other players you mention were out-and-out claycourt specialists, who won multiple titles on the dirt and were top 10 at one point in their careers: Berasetequi, Mantilla.
Meligeni was also a pure claycourt specialist, who reached a QF in RG as the hightlight of his career. Not something that's examplary for a weak 90's clayfield.
Gomez and Norman were great allround players with a clay preference. They also fared well on some other surfaces. Norman reached a nr. 2 in singles but had to retire early due to injuries. Gomes reached nr.4 ammd was a very gifted lefty who won many titles, also in doubles.
In fact the only one who could be labeled a journeman is your list is Filip de Wulf, with obviously clay being his best surface.
These cases don't prove there was lack of competition in the 90's clayfield, just like the runs of Stoltenberg, Washington and Wheaton at Wimbledon aren't prove of a weak grasscourt field.
The effective split of the field by surfaces allowed player to become surfaces specialist. But being a specialist doesn't mean that they were better player on the surfaces than generalist from a decade later.
Yes, I do think it actually does mean that. Playing mainly on clay makes you a better player on that surface than when it's just another one the surfaces you compete on the tour, where the hardcourts dominate the scene. The different surfaces still play differently, though not (remotely) as much as in the 80's and 90's.