How good was Federer on clay compared to Sampras?

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that roland garros title in the absence of rafa would always tilt this argument in favour of fed because the world cares only about numbers........when you make comparisons across eras, often what's forgotten is the fact that both played in totally different times with different overall conditions........

sampras had to train and practice baseline rallies for roland garros and practice serve and volley for wimbledon.........naturally you can only be one style of player.........fed never had to deal with such difficulty in his career, he only required one kind of preparation for all four slams.........he knew his baseline game was enough to take care of everyone on any surface except rafa during his prime years, just like how sampras knew his serve and volley was enough to take care of everyone at wimbledon........


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Federer is in an entirely different league from Sampras on clay. For a start, he moves infinitely better on that surface as he knows how to glide, whereas Sampras was taking his hard court footwork on clay. Plus he has far more variations in his game, and naturally imparts more spin, especially on the forehand.

Peak Fed vs. peak Pete on clay, I would fancy Fed to win 9 times out of 10.


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I'm bumping this thread 'cause I just made a starling discovery... turns out Pete belongs in pretty select company even on clay! Let me quote from my exchange with @TheFifthSet (in a group chat), with the for-real?! bit in bold:

-rgw %’s were a little higher on every surface in the 90s than they are now, clay included. If we’re going to compare the efficacy of their return games, raw return games won won’t always be terribly revelatory.
Yeah but after '05 there's really no one who comes even close to the 40% mark regularly apart from Rafa and Ferru (Nalby and Muzz did win 40.8% and 42.9% in '09 and '11 respectively while managing a pathetic 69.6% and 72.1% on serve). That says something, no?

And I did take note of this downturn which is why I've also been also emphasizing the overall 60% threshold, which elevates Pete (as you saw), Guga, Coria, Fed, Novak and Murray ('15 rather than '16) into the pantheon... but no one else*!

*FYI all those guys in the 40% RGW Club, apart from Costa (topping out at 58.9% in '98) and Nalby, won 60% of overall games at least once, though Chang made it just barely (an exact 60% in '95 - no #s available before '91) and for Gaudio you have to round it up a bit (59.7% in '05).

-Pete’s peak single year % of games won on clay is comparable to Fed’s, yes, but with smaller sample sizes one is likelier to find aberrant results that may not serve as accurate snapshots. Sampras played 18 matches on clay that year, and the years surrounding ‘93 are filled with comparatively pedestrian %s of games won. Federer, on the other hand, had a five year stretch where his % of games won on clay ranged between the high 50s and low 60s.
A fair point but 18 matches ain't that unusual in the '90s when lots of top guys played just 1-2 CC events before RG. Plus 58.6% in '94 and even 55.4% in '92 and 54.1% in '97 are pretty damn good for someone who "sucked" on clay! (For comparison Fed won 56.4% on clay last year, when he was still able to reach the SF at RG after a 2-year hiatus.) '95 and '96 were indeed poor campaigns on paper (funny how that worked out for his latter FO campaign, eh?), but as I've pointed out he had issues in those years that remain fairly obscure: ankle sprain early in the CC season and low 1st-serve % throughout '95, death of his coach and low RGW% in '96.

-surely Nadal’s near-imperviousness to upsets and outperforming of gw %’s (76-2 over two years, 60+ clay win streak is impressive no matter how granular one gets in evaluating his opposition) is a point in his favour when considering Bruguera lost to Haarhuis twice on clay in ‘93, lost to Koevermans, got blitzed by Edberg in the Madrid final (albeit in quicker conditions than Serg was accustomed to on clay), two matches to a young Medvedev (one in BO5) and one to a young Berasategui. Brugueras performance at RG was indeed impressive, but his games won are largely buoyed by his first four matches which neither him nor Nadal would ever be in realistic danger of losing.
Yes but dishing out bagels and breadsticks to the likes of Leconte, Pete and A. Med is still mighty sensational! Also Bruguera would half-ass most of the year a la Wilander, Guga and Stan only to wake up for the biggie, which is why I say the usual by-the-numbers comparison between him and Muster is misleading cuz I'm pretty sure (peak) Sergi would still get the better of his nemesis at RG despite their H2H.

Contrast that with guys like (again) Thomas or (as @Gary Duane pointed out) even Novak who post impressive stats only to flame out on the biggest stage. Between the two I know which option I'd take.


Pretty amazing what these old numbers can do when laid out side by side. You've had 'em for so long you think you know them inside out, but not quite. (A similar thing happened recently with Pete's unreturned-serve %s in his major finals.) Anyhoo this along with my earlier dissertation should put to rest for good the tired canard about (younger) Sampras' supposed suckitude on dirt.


Federer is the 3rd best clay court player of all time behind only Nadal and Borg.
Nonsense. He only has one French Open (one where Nadal was not his opponent, so...), the greatest clay event, so there is no way Federer is within a country mile of being the 3rd best in this category.

Deleted member 744633

Federer and Sampras on clay are like day and night. One is a baseliner whose game is suited to play on clay, the other is an aggressive S/V built for grass. Sorry, there is no comparison.


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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.
Stan beat peak Djokovic on clay and stopped him from capturing a CYGS . Stan is the 3rd best clay court player of all time behind only Nadal and Borg .
Still wasn't able to win Rome in my opinion the biggest hole in his resume-bigger even than Olympics. When Murray and Sampras can win it why not he also.And don't use Nadal comparison-Sampras won it in 94 comparable to 2004 in Fed age.Not Nadal yet.