How good was Federer on clay compared to Sampras?

Rago

Hall of Fame
So, I was doing some catch-up on the threads posted on this forum over the past few months and found this interesting post (credit to @NonP).

Not this one. I've argued that what prevented Pete from achieving more on clay was not his thalassemia or even his movement but rather his frame of mind (the broken link in that post here).

These are Pete's %s of service/return games won on clay from '92-'97, before he "gave up":

1992 - 82.4/27.7
1993 - 86.0/33.3
1994 - 84.2/32.2
1995 - 77.8/31.6 (include stats from all of his four DC rubbers except the dead one vs. Gaudenzi)
1996 - 83.8/18.1
1997 - 81.0/28.4

So except in '95 when he struggled with his 1st-serve % all year and in '96 when he likewise had trouble breaking throughout the guy actually posted respectable #s on clay. ('97 was another unlucky season where he caught a stomach bug before his RG 3rd-rounder vs. Norman following two dominant performances.) Most players would love to "suck" so much on their worst surface.

Maybe being stopped by the likes of Courier and Bruguera (who actually won a higher % of games in their best CC seasons than either Fed or Novak has to date) had something to do with Pistol's early disappointing record at RG!

Oh and here are Fed's own %s from '04-'15 (haven't updated my spreadsheet w/his '19 #s yet):

2004 - 88.5/29.9
2005 - 85.2/35.2 (FYI stats from his sole DC rubber with 262th-ranked journeyman Alan Mackin are excluded - w/'em his %s would be 85.9/37.4)
2006 - 85.4/32.9
2007 - 83.8/30.3
2008 - 83.9/32.2
2009 - 90.3/27.5
2010 - 87.4/26.3
2011 - 87.8/24.2
2012 - 88.3/26.6
2013 - 84.3/28.0
2014 - 87.6/24.6
2015 - 88.8/25.2

Again I dunno know about you but from these #s I'd think twice about betting on Fed spanking Pistol on clay prime for prime. In fact I daresay it'd be a pretty decent matchup!
Discuss.
 

ChrisRF

Legend
Well, first of all the numbers are clearly in Federer’s favor. Even a few percentage points are a big lead at the top.

Then you must look at tournament results. Sampras usually went out very early on clay and was a top seed himself, so in contrast to Federer he usually didn’t play against great opponents while creating his stats (especially not against Nadal of course).

And I think nobody says Federer would "spank" him in a sense that he regularly scores bagels and breadsticks. But he would usually beat him solidly in straight sets.
 

Rago

Hall of Fame
Well, first of all the numbers are clearly in Federer’s favor. Even a few percentage points are a big lead at the top.

Then you must look at tournament results. Sampras usually went out very early on clay and was a top seed himself, so in contrast to Federer he usually didn’t play against great opponents while creating his stats (especially not against Nadal of course).

And I think nobody says Federer would "spank" him in a sense that he regularly scores bagels and breadsticks. But he would usually beat him solidly in straight sets.
Obviously Pete's backhand and stamina would be a liability against Federer's forehand on the mud but Sampras has beaten Courier, Bruguera and Muster at FO so I think he can give Roger a good match on clay.
 

Backspin1183

Talk Tennis Guru
I reckon peak Pete would win a set in a tie break against prime Fed. He was no slouch on clay. He would however get spanked in most sets between them on clay.
 

ChrisRF

Legend
Obviously Pete's backhand and stamina would be a liability against Federer's forehand on the mud but Sampras has beaten Courier, Bruguera and Muster at FO so I think he can give Roger a good match on clay.
Of course there would be a good match between them here and there. I just said a Federer win in straights would be the usual outcome.

And I think Federer in his peak clay form would have clearly outclassed the likes of Courier, Bruguera and Muster. Again not in every match, but usually. The only reason he didn’t win many more RG titles than all of those guys is Nadal.
 

Rago

Hall of Fame
Federer beat peak Djokovic on clay and stopped him from capturing a CYGS. Federer is the 3rd best clay court player of all time behind only Nadal and Borg.
Lighter balls and I don't think Federer is even top 5 of all time on clay.
 

Ace King

New User
Sampras with arguably the GOAT second serve, only won 49.28% of all his second serve points on clay against the field. That tells you all about his baseline powers on clay.

Federer with a similar second serve is at 55.57%. There is a gap of 6% which is huge. Sampras is 2 to 3 Tiers lower than fed on clay.

A more Fair comparison would be:

Points % on clay
Sampras
Total service points won - 64.58%
Total return points won - 38.14%

Roddick
Total service points won - 67.19%
Total return points won - 38.18%
 

ForehandCross

G.O.A.T.
Sampras with arguably the GOAT second serve, only won 49.28% of all his second serve points on clay against the field. That tells you all about his baseline powers on clay.

Federer with a similar second serve is at 55.57%. There is a gap of 6% which is hu
Well that's what I was about to say, second serve points won are more important metric.

I haven't watched Pete enough to comment on his results against big 3 but common sense says a big serve + decent enough ground game will win you games anywhere on any surface. Peak Sampras vs anyone but Nadal on Clay won't be a spanking.
 

Red Rick

Bionic Poster
Sampras with arguably the GOAT second serve, only won 49.28% of all his second serve points on clay against the field. That tells you all about his baseline powers on clay.

Federer with a similar second serve is at 55.57%. There is a gap of 6% which is huge. Sampras is 2 to 3 Tiers lower than fed on clay.

A more Fair comparison would be:

Points % on clay
Sampras
Total service points won - 64.58%
Total return points won - 38.14%

Roddick
Total service points won - 67.19%
Total return points won - 38.18%
The only reason that Sampras from Roddick on clay is Roddick played a stronger era.
 

Villain

Professional
Sampras with arguably the GOAT second serve, only won 49.28% of all his second serve points on clay against the field. That tells you all about his baseline powers on clay.

Federer with a similar second serve is at 55.57%. There is a gap of 6% which is huge. Sampras is 2 to 3 Tiers lower than fed on clay.

A more Fair comparison would be:

Points % on clay
Sampras
Total service points won - 64.58%
Total return points won - 38.14%

Roddick
Total service points won - 67.19%
Total return points won - 38.18%
I’m pretty sure they counted double faults twice during Pete’s era. If that’s the case then those stats mean very little.
 

Third Serve

Talk Tennis Guru
Fed would be winning an overwhelming majority of their clay matches. Some of them could be close (like how Fed dropped a set to Roddick at Madrid 2009; funny that he didn't struggle with any other player that tournament, including Nadal) but I would greatly favor Fed. He's simply the much better clay-courter. I'd say Sampras was two or three tiers below Fed on that surface.
 

BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
Obviously Pete's backhand and stamina would be a liability against Federer's forehand on the mud but Sampras has beaten Courier, Bruguera and Muster at FO so I think he can give Roger a good match on clay.
While Sampras had a lot of losses against journeymen on clay, against the top guns of his era he actually has very good score. There is not even one clay specialist of the 90s who spanked him regularly, not Agassi, Kafelnikov, Muster, Corretja, Bruguera etc.Against this background, I really think he could give Federer good matches and even beat him from time to time even though Federer would of course be more successful overall.
 

BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
Federer beat peak Djokovic on clay and stopped him from capturing a CYGS. Federer is the 3rd best clay court player of all time behind only Nadal and Borg.
This is ******** of course, Kuerten, Lendl and Wilander are comfortably ahead. It is even arguable who is better Federer or Djokovic. Even though I personally rate Federer higher it is as close as it can get - with one more FO Novak would definitely surpass him.
 

Rago

Hall of Fame
This is ******** of course, Kuerten, Lendl and Wilander are comfortably ahead. It is even arguable who is better Federer or Djokovic. Even though I personally rate Federer higher it is as close as it can get - with one more FO Novak would definitely surpass him.
Any particular reasons you rate Federer higher? He's 0-10 vs Nadal at MC-Rome-FO combined and hasn't won the aforementioned clay masters either.
 

Villain

Professional
This is ******** of course, Kuerten, Lendl and Wilander are comfortably ahead. It is even arguable who is better Federer or Djokovic. Even though I personally rate Federer higher it is as close as it can get - with one more FO Novak would definitely surpass him.
Nole is clearly better on clay. Each with one French Open win, but Nole has more clay titles, more clay masters, higher winning percentage. Nole has also beat Nadal on clay seven times where Fed is 2-14 against Nadal.
 

BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
Any particular reasons you rate Federer higher? He's 0-10 vs Nadal at MC-Rome-FO combined and hasn't won the aforementioned clay masters either.
I don’t really rate them based on how they fared against Nadal. Both were soundly beaten by him where it matters most. Sure Djokovic overall did a little better but he also faced weaker versions of Nadal. Federer’s win against peak Djokovic in 2011 has far more value for me than how they did against Rafa. Apart from this Federer still has one additional final at the FO.
 

Rago

Hall of Fame
I don’t really rate them based on how they fared against Nadal. Both were soundly beaten by him where it matters most. Sure Djokovic overall did a little better but he also faced weaker versions of Nadal. Federer’s win against peak Djokovic in 2011 has far more value for me than how they did against Rafa. Apart from this Federer still has one additional final at the FO.
I disagree with your opinion that Djokovic faced weaker versions of Nadal but overall, I can see where you're coming from.
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
Sampras is incredibly underrated here in general and also is undervalued on clay. In 1995, he basically single-handedly won America the Davis Cup in Russia by winning all 3 of his ties, and defeating a #1 player (and FO winner), Kafelnikov, in the final match.

To compare Fed with Sampras on clay, you have to specify if it's peak versus peak or just random clay level. Fed is obviously the far greater clay player, but Pete was no slouch. If we take Roger's clay peak (2006 Rome, 2011 FO against Djokovic) then Pete would be demolished 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. But if you take Sampras' 1995 clay peak against 2008 Fed, Pete would probably beat Fed.

In ten matches on clay between them, Fed 8-2.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
Well this is a pleasant wake-up surprise, for anyone from this corner not only to be perusing my old dissertations but to start a new thread on one of 'em. Welcome to the NonP Fan Club, @Rago!

To answer the Q, Fed was obviously the superior dirtballer but prime for prime Pete would get a handful of wins on clay. The same goes for indoor Nadal, Becker on clay, Lendl on grass or any ATG on anything, really. In fact I'd go so far as to say Pete/Boris on clay or Rafa indoors would get at least one win vs. Rafa/Borg or Pistol/Boris respectively even in a best-of-5, with the caveat that this series would be close to one of those round-robin tours in the pre-Open days rather than, say, a 10-year marathon at the Slam in question. All of these guys are born champs with much arsenal and variety to pull a Ferrer or Davydenko on any surface - that is, to be able to make some of the matches competitive before falling short each and every time.

One more thing:

Sampras is incredibly underrated here in general and also is undervalued on clay. In 1995, he basically single-handedly won America the Davis Cup in Russia by winning all 3 of his ties, and defeating a #1 player (and FO winner), Kafelnikov, in the final match.

To compare Fed with Sampras on clay, you have to specify if it's peak versus peak or just random clay level. Fed is obviously the far greater clay player, but Pete was no slouch. If we take Roger's clay peak (2006 Rome, 2011 FO against Djokovic) then Pete would be demolished 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. But if you take Sampras' 1995 clay peak against 2008 Fed, Pete would probably beat Fed.

In ten matches on clay between them, Fed 8-2.
This is more or less fair though I'd quibble a bit and make the matchup a tad more competitive. If '11 RG was indeed playing fast a la '96 - an often bandied-about claim I remain skeptical of in both cases - and Pete serves/hustles as well as he did vs. Bruguera and Courier on that "fast" clay I don't see anyone but maybe absolute peak Rafa/Borg downing him in straights. And that's probably not even the best dirtballing Pistol, though he did have the serve on his side that year.
 

King No1e

G.O.A.T.
Sampras made 1 RG semi in his career. Federer won the title. He also has 6 clay M1000's and had to beat the clay GOAT in 2 of them. Both are underrated on clay, though.

Neither of them are clay ATG's by any stretch, but Federer is in a different category than Sampras on clay.
 

netlets

Professional
Wilander, Guga and Lendl all have 3 FO titles, Vilas won 64 clay titles... based on career results, Fed’s not even in the discussion.
This logic doesn't do it for me. No way does Wilander have a better head to head against Fed in their primes on clay. Also, don't believe Guga would either. None of those players would have a RG title if Nadal was playing. Fed would have beaten all of the players above, with perhaps Lendl being the toughest for him on clay so maybe they are about even. If you take Nadal out of the equation, Fed has more RGs than all of the players listed above. Only Rafa and Borg are obviously ahead of him.
 

Zetty

Hall of Fame
This logic doesn't do it for me. No way does Wilander have a better head to head against Fed in their primes on clay. Also, don't believe Guga would either. None of those players would have a RG title if Nadal was playing. Fed would have beaten all of the players above, with perhaps Lendl being the toughest for him on clay so maybe they are about even. If you take Nadal out of the equation, Fed has more RGs than all of the players listed above. Only Rafa and Borg are obviously ahead of him.
If Guga doesn't have injury problems who knows how many he has. Thumped Fed pretty convincingly at the FO in 2004, when he was already on his way down.
 

TripleATeam

G.O.A.T.
Pete was never is the discussion for best clay courter in the world. Maybe in 94 he had a case for top 3. Unfortunately for him, there was always at least 2 players better than him on clay, often more than 5 or even 10 or more.

Fed first had Ferrero, Kuerten, Moya... those guys pre-05, but he was still winning Madrid and making Rome final. Then he had Nadal (and was second only to him for the longest time) who is the best clay courter to ever live. No shame in being 2nd to him. Arguably he loses the title of 2nd best on clay in 2010, briefly regaining it in 2011, before becoming 3rd. Then Murray and Thiem and Wawrinka surpass him in the coming years.

There was a good 8 years where Federer was in the top 3 clay courters of his day (05-12). Sampras always had several people better than him, no one as good as Nadal. Just pull Federer 05-09 out (any of those years) and he straight sets Sampras easily on clay.
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
Just pull Federer 05-09 out (any of those years) and he straight sets Sampras easily on clay.
I agree, but 2000-2003 Fed on clay would have lost a few matches to 1994-1995 Pete on clay. Remember Pete won Rome in 1994, though he had a relatively weak draw and a sitting duck (Becker), in the final. Boris never won a single clay title in his career.

The better question really would be if Pete takes a set off baby 2004-2005 Nadal on clay. I say the answer is an emphatic no.
 

TripleATeam

G.O.A.T.
I agree, but 2000-2003 Fed on clay would have lost a few matches to 1994-1995 Pete on clay. Remember Pete won Rome in 1994, though he had a relatively weak draw and a sitting duck (Becker), in the final. Boris never won a single clay title in his career.

The better question really would be if Pete takes a set off baby 2004-2005 Nadal on clay. I say the answer is an emphatic no.
Oh totally, 00-03 Fed wasn't very strong on clay (won Madrid, but went out R1 and R2 in most masters). 94-95 Sampras was in contention for top 5 clay players in his day, so I definitely think Sampras would've likely beat Fed without a dropped set if we compare those two times. But I would back Fed 05-12 against any Sampras.

Sampras vs any Nadal is still likely a wash. Even 2015 Nadal would likely have taken out Sampras.
 

MeatTornado

Talk Tennis Guru
Neither of them are clay ATG's by any stretch, but Federer is in a different category than Sampras on clay.
It's crazy how much one man can change the course of history. Without Nadal we might be talking about Federer as the greatest clay courter of all time. Instead his results aren't even ATG territory.

He could potentially be sitting on 3-5 RG titles in a row and as many as 6 or 7 total titles. And obviously a slew of extra Masters titles.
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
Sampras vs any Nadal is still likely a wash. Even 2015 Nadal would likely have taken out Sampras.
I think 1995 Pete could have beaten Rafa possibly once in B03 if we're talking Rafa's 2012 Madrid form (he lost to Verdasco) or 2015 Barcelona (he lost to Fognini). But if Rafa played Pete 30 times on clay even restricting it to BO3 matches, it would be something like 29-1 for Rafa. No shame in that, considering Rafa's staggering clay prowess.
 

King No1e

G.O.A.T.
It's crazy how much one man can change the course of history. Without Nadal we might be talking about Federer as the greatest clay courter of all time. Instead his results aren't even ATG territory.

He could potentially be sitting on 3-5 RG titles in a row and as many as 6 or 7 total titles. And obviously a slew of extra Masters titles.
Same for Djokovic. Both of them would be clay GOATs without Nadal in the mix.
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
This logic doesn't do it for me. No way does Wilander have a better head to head against Fed in their primes on clay.
The argument you're making is illogical however. The universal tennis logic is to look at a players resume. Of course I think Fed was the greater clay player than either Ivan or Wilander, but they have the numbers: three FO titles to Roger's one. Sure, that's heavily affected by Federer having to play Nadal in 5 finals and 1 semi there, but it is what it is.

Wilander and Ivan also won MC and Rome multiple times, Fed never won either. There's no one on the planet who would claim Federer had the greater clay career than Guga, Lendl or Wilander, all of whom won the French Open three times. There's no argument to be made for Federer when he won the FO only once.
 
The argument you're making is illogical however. The universal tennis logic is to look at a players resume. Of course I think Fed was the greater clay player than either Ivan or Wilander, but they have the numbers: three FO titles to Roger's one. Sure, that's heavily affected by Federer having to play Nadal in 5 finals and 1 semi there, but it is what it is.

Wilander and Ivan also won MC and Rome multiple times, Fed never won either. There's no one on the planet who would claim Federer had the greater clay career than Guga, Lendl or Wilander, all of whom won the French Open three times. There's no argument to be made for Federer when he won the FO only once.
2
 

Rosstour

G.O.A.T.
Lighter balls and I don't think Federer is even top 5 of all time on clay.
Numbers say otherwise. Fed would have 4-5 FOs at least without Rafa in the picture.

Sampras couldn't even reach a Final in the days of nameless clay specialists. He would get wrecked by Fed.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
I’m pretty sure they counted double faults twice during Pete’s era. If that’s the case then those stats mean very little.
Missed this earlier. Yes they did count DFs twice from '92-'99 (if mostly for the majors), and believe it or not @slice serve ace has completed the herculean task of correcting the #s for all the top 10-ish from that time frame:


So Pete averaged 53.3-55.6% between '92 and '97, and while you normally expect serve %s to drop a tiny bit on clay Pete's #s are probably about the same or even higher 'cause he S&Ved a fair bit on 2nd serves outside clay (the point is gone when you S&V and your opponent passes you, whatever else be damned). So probably not far below Fed's 53.6-58.3% from '04-'09.

Oh yeah, and almost everyone plays similar HC-style tennis on clay these days, which would help Pete even more. And seriously, you expect Pete friggin' Sampras in his prime to win less than 50% of his 2nd-serve points on anything?! :rolleyes: JFC/SMH

It's crazy how much one man can change the course of history. Without Nadal we might be talking about Federer as the greatest clay courter of all time. Instead his results aren't even ATG territory.

He could potentially be sitting on 3-5 RG titles in a row and as many as 6 or 7 total titles. And obviously a slew of extra Masters titles.
Frankly the if-not-for-Nadal logic is stupid, not to mention bogus. Fed devotees love to downplay the Fedal H2H by pointing out that in tennis you play against the field, not just one player. Which is fair enough, but then by the same logic you have to look at every opponent when you evaluate a player's resume. You can't just say the guy would've done better (or worse) if it hadn't been for this or that player, because then you're ignoring the rest of the field.

This is where those %s of return games won come in handy. These are against every opponent the guy faced in said years/seasons, and they show that Fed actually didn't do a whole lot better than prime Pistol on clay. In fact the only year he won more than 33% of his return games was '05 (as did Pete in '93, if just barely), and how far did he get at RG that year? That's right, because the guy happened to face Rafa in his FO debut before the final. How is that so much different from Pete bowing out in the '93 and '94 QF to Bruguera and Courier?

Of course the stock retort is that those guys were no Nadal, but things really aren't that simple upon closer scrutiny. Let's look at Rafa's '05 and '06 CC seasons since I've already mentioned his '05 RG run and Fed boosters love to cite that '06 Rome final as part of their my-hero-is-second-only-to-Nadal/Borg apologia. Barring DC Nadal won 65.1% and 62.1% of his games on clay in '05 and '06 respectively, and while 60+% is a rare achievement in its own right you can see that Rafa in '06 didn't even clear Courier's 64.3% in '92 and '93 and just barely in '05 despite playing a bunch of 3rd-rate events unlike Jim. And given Rafa's less-than-smooth sailing at RG you can bet he didn't top Courier's 67.5% in '92 or Bruguera's 68.8% in '93.

That's despite the #s suggesting that CC depth has indeed fallen since the early '00s. And make no mistake, Pistol was able to push that GOATing Bruguera to 4 sets (despite getting breadsticked once). In fact his 60.3% of games won on clay in '93 is just a hair below Fed's career-best 60.7% in '05 (remember, the 60% mark is a rare post-'90 achievement for anyone not named Nadal). Put that Fed in '93 against Bruguera and it's doubtful he gets past the QF. Ditto vs. Courier in '92, and we already know what happened vs. Guga in '04 even though Fed won an otherwise very good 59.7% of his games that year. In fact it's quite debatable whether even (younger) Rafa would be able to best these guys.

Now don't get me wrong, Fed is still clearly a better dirtballer than Pistol. And obviously far greater. I'm just saying, their records belie their comparative CC prowess prime for prime and it's silly to talk as if Pete would be lucky to win a set against Fed or Fed would be collecting a boatload of FOs in any other era. The actual numbers tell a different story, namely that of history leveling the playing field (at least until recently). You just need to dig a little deeper.
 
D

Deleted member 770948

Guest
Federer is brilliant on clay, Sampras is only good.
Federer would have won a bunch of French Opens if Rafa didn't exist, whereas Sampras would lose to all kinds of guys on clay....
 

Villain

Professional
Missed this earlier. Yes they did count DFs twice from '92-'99 (if mostly for the majors), and believe it or not @slice serve ace has completed the herculean task of correcting the #s for all the top 10-ish from that time frame:


So Pete averaged 53.3-55.6% between '92 and '97, and while you normally expect serve %s to drop a tiny bit on clay Pete's #s are probably about the same or even higher 'cause he S&Ved a fair bit on 2nd serves outside clay (the point is gone when you S&V and your opponent passes you, whatever else be damned). So probably not far below Fed's 53.6-58.3% from '04-'09.

Oh yeah, and almost everyone plays similar HC-style tennis on clay these days, which would help Pete even more. And seriously, you expect Pete friggin' Sampras in his prime to win less than 50% of his 2nd-serve points on anything?! :rolleyes: JFC/SMH



Frankly the if-not-for-Nadal logic is stupid, not to mention bogus. Fed devotees love to downplay the Fedal H2H by pointing out that in tennis you play against the field, not just one player. Which is fair enough, but then by the same logic you have to look at every opponent when you evaluate a player's resume. You can't just say the guy would've done better (or worse) if it hadn't been for this or that player, because then you're ignoring the rest of the field.

This is where those %s of return games won come in handy. These are against every opponent the guy faced in said years/seasons, and they show that Fed actually didn't do a whole lot better than prime Pistol on clay. In fact the only year he won more than 33% of his return games was '05 (as did Pete in '93, if just barely), and how far did he get at RG that year? That's right, because the guy happened to face Rafa in his FO debut before the final. How is that so much different from Pete bowing out in the '93 and '94 QF to Bruguera and Courier?

Of course the stock retort is that those guys were no Nadal, but things really aren't that simple upon closer scrutiny. Let's look at Rafa's '05 and '06 CC seasons since I've already mentioned his '05 RG run and Fed boosters love to cite that '06 Rome final as part of their my-hero-is-second-only-to-Nadal/Borg apologia. Barring DC Nadal won 65.1% and 62.1% of his games on clay in '05 and '06 respectively, and while 60+% is a rare achievement in its own right you can see that Rafa in '06 didn't even clear Courier's 64.3% in '92 and '93 and just barely in '05 despite playing a bunch of 3rd-rate events unlike Jim. And given Rafa's less-than-smooth sailing at RG you can bet he didn't top Courier's 67.5% in '92 or Bruguera's 68.8% in '93.

That's despite the #s suggesting that CC depth has indeed fallen since the early '00s. And make no mistake, Pistol was able to push that GOATing Bruguera to 4 sets (despite getting breadsticked once). In fact his 60.3% of games won on clay in '93 is just a hair below Fed's career-best 60.7% in '05 (remember, the 60% mark is a rare post-'90 achievement for anyone not named Nadal). Put that Fed in '93 against Bruguera and it's doubtful he gets past the QF. Ditto vs. Courier in '92, and we already know what happened vs. Guga in '04 even though Fed won an otherwise very good 59.7% of his games that year. In fact it's quite debatable whether even (younger) Rafa would be able to best these guys.

Now don't get me wrong, Fed is still clearly a better dirtballer than Pistol. And obviously far greater. I'm just saying, their records belie their comparative CC prowess prime for prime and it's silly to talk as if Pete would be lucky to win a set against Fed or Fed would be collecting a boatload of FOs in any other era. The actual numbers tell a different story, namely that of history leveling the playing field (at least until recently). You just need to dig a little deeper.
That’s awesome, thanks for the link. It makes no sense that the ATP/ITF used to count DFs that way.
 

Rago

Hall of Fame
Missed this earlier. Yes they did count DFs twice from '92-'99 (if mostly for the majors), and believe it or not @slice serve ace has completed the herculean task of correcting the #s for all the top 10-ish from that time frame:


So Pete averaged 53.3-55.6% between '92 and '97, and while you normally expect serve %s to drop a tiny bit on clay Pete's #s are probably about the same or even higher 'cause he S&Ved a fair bit on 2nd serves outside clay (the point is gone when you S&V and your opponent passes you, whatever else be damned). So probably not far below Fed's 53.6-58.3% from '04-'09.

Oh yeah, and almost everyone plays similar HC-style tennis on clay these days, which would help Pete even more. And seriously, you expect Pete friggin' Sampras in his prime to win less than 50% of his 2nd-serve points on anything?! :rolleyes: JFC/SMH



Frankly the if-not-for-Nadal logic is stupid, not to mention bogus. Fed devotees love to downplay the Fedal H2H by pointing out that in tennis you play against the field, not just one player. Which is fair enough, but then by the same logic you have to look at every opponent when you evaluate a player's resume. You can't just say the guy would've done better (or worse) if it hadn't been for this or that player, because then you're ignoring the rest of the field.

This is where those %s of return games won come in handy. These are against every opponent the guy faced in said years/seasons, and they show that Fed actually didn't do a whole lot better than prime Pistol on clay. In fact the only year he won more than 33% of his return games was '05 (as did Pete in '93, if just barely), and how far did he get at RG that year? That's right, because the guy happened to face Rafa in his FO debut before the final. How is that so much different from Pete bowing out in the '93 and '94 QF to Bruguera and Courier?

Of course the stock retort is that those guys were no Nadal, but things really aren't that simple upon closer scrutiny. Let's look at Rafa's '05 and '06 CC seasons since I've already mentioned his '05 RG run and Fed boosters love to cite that '06 Rome final as part of their my-hero-is-second-only-to-Nadal/Borg apologia. Barring DC Nadal won 65.1% and 62.1% of his games on clay in '05 and '06 respectively, and while 60+% is a rare achievement in its own right you can see that Rafa in '06 didn't even clear Courier's 64.3% in '92 and '93 and just barely in '05 despite playing a bunch of 3rd-rate events unlike Jim. And given Rafa's less-than-smooth sailing at RG you can bet he didn't top Courier's 67.5% in '92 or Bruguera's 68.8% in '93.

That's despite the #s suggesting that CC depth has indeed fallen since the early '00s. And make no mistake, Pistol was able to push that GOATing Bruguera to 4 sets (despite getting breadsticked once). In fact his 60.3% of games won on clay in '93 is just a hair below Fed's career-best 60.7% in '05 (remember, the 60% mark is a rare post-'90 achievement for anyone not named Nadal). Put that Fed in '93 against Bruguera and it's doubtful he gets past the QF. Ditto vs. Courier in '92, and we already know what happened vs. Guga in '04 even though Fed won an otherwise very good 59.7% of his games that year. In fact it's quite debatable whether even (younger) Rafa would be able to best these guys.

Now don't get me wrong, Fed is still clearly a better dirtballer than Pistol. And obviously far greater. I'm just saying, their records belie their comparative CC prowess prime for prime and it's silly to talk as if Pete would be lucky to win a set against Fed or Fed would be collecting a boatload of FOs in any other era. The actual numbers tell a different story, namely that of history leveling the playing field (at least until recently). You just need to dig a little deeper.
Really awesome write-up here; Sampras would have a decent shot at making a French Open final or two in this current era.

Federer doesn't make 5 FO finals in the 90s either.
 

Villain

Professional
Really awesome write-up here; Sampras would have a decent shot at making a French Open final or two in this current era.

Federer doesn't make 5 FO finals in the 90s either.
Give Pete a 95” racquet with a poly cross and he’ll hold his own on clay against anyone.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
Really awesome write-up here; Sampras would have a decent shot at making a French Open final or two in this current era.

Federer doesn't make 5 FO finals in the 90s either.
Pete would likely make at least 1-2 FO finals now but the more important Q (at least for moi) is whether he'd be motivated to continue his efforts in his later career and how that would affect the rest of his resume. My fanboy answers are yes and not much, but that's assuming he'd be part of the current Big 3/4 which would motivate him further. And today's HC style and 32 seeds would also help.

I actually think Fed would have decent chances of still making 5-ish FO finals had he gotten started in the '90s. Not all in the '90s, mind you, but he'd likely compensate in the later years before the emergence of Rafanole. Like I said history has a funny way of evening out things.

Give Pete a 95” racquet with a poly cross and he’ll hold his own on clay against anyone.
Even as a fanatic I don't think his smaller racquet was his main problem. It was rather his mindset, as I explained in that 1st link @Rago included in the OP.
 

Rago

Hall of Fame
I actually think Fed would have decent chances of still making 5-ish FO finals had he gotten started in the '90s. Not all in the '90s, mind you, but he'd likely compensate in the later years before the emergence of Rafanole. Like I said history has a funny way of evening out things.
But why do you think Federer would have decent chances of making 5-ish FO finals in 90s as well?

Lack of surface homogenization wouldn't help his case; it's also worth noting that it's his worst surface and he started off on a long losing streak on clay. With the deeper field, it should surely be WAY harder for Roger to replicate his current successes at FO.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
But why do you think Federer would have decent chances of making 5-ish FO finals in 90s as well?

Lack of surface homogenization wouldn't help his case; it's also worth noting that it's his worst surface and he started off on a long losing streak on clay. With the deeper field, it should surely be WAY harder for Roger to replicate his current successes at FO.
You may recall Fed didn't reach all of his 5 FO finals in the '00s. His last one came in '11, and 2 more SFs and QFs after that.

So let's say he makes about 2-3 finals in the '90s. Still plenty of time to get the remaining 2-3 in the '00s. Hence my more precise "gotten started in the '90s" wording.
 

Rosstour

G.O.A.T.
But why do you think Federer would have decent chances of making 5-ish FO finals in 90s as well?

Lack of surface homogenization wouldn't help his case; it's also worth noting that it's his worst surface and he started off on a long losing streak on clay. With the deeper field, it should surely be WAY harder for Roger to replicate his current successes at FO.
It's not his worst surface. It's just Rafa's best surface.

Fed himself says that this narrative of him not liking the clay is incorrect, he grew up playing on clay and loves it.

If there were no Nadal to win the title every year in his sleep, I doubt very much Federer would have ever skipped it.

His reduction in clay schedule isn't about not liking clay or not being good on it; it's strategically avoiding a battle no one can win.
 

Benben245

Banned
"How good is Nadal on clay compared to Sampras" ....rephrased, its not that much different of an answer. huge gap
 

Mainad

Bionic Poster
1 Slam plus 4 other finals plus 6 Masters vs no Slams nor finals and 1 Masters suggests that Federer was very good indeed on clay compared to Sampras.
 
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