Is clay the weakest surface?

Lew II

Hall of Fame
#1
Of the 13 greatest players of the Open Era 9 have in clay their lowest winning percentage:

Federer
Djokovic
Sampras
McEnroe
Connors
Agassi
Becker
Edberg
Murray
 
Last edited:

Red Rick

Talk Tennis Guru
#9
non-clay surfaces have generally been more prevalent in the tennis-calendar, so there is an obvious element of self-selection involved in this stat. The players whose favored conditions occur more on tour will obviously be more numerous on a list of greatest players.
I think this is especially true for the pre poly era. Poly made both the HC and grass game shift towards a style more similar to the kind of game on clay. Now it's also just the presence of RAFA that makes it very hard to judge results.

Also don't really think winning% is a great metric for grass cause the distribution of tournaments on that surface is very slam heavy which will bump winning%.
 
#16
Murray is great at everything except for slams which are the most important metric for greatness among majority of critics as well as the general tennis community. So of course for Lew he is better than players who have won more slam, cos Djokovic era Stronk. Didn’t somebody make a thread a few months ago mentioning that Murray is greater than Agassi?
 

ABCD

Hall of Fame
#17
Murray is great at everything except for slams which are the most important metric for greatness among majority of critics as well as the general tennis community. So of course for Lew he is better than players who have won more slam, cos Djokovic era Stronk. Didn’t somebody make a thread a few months ago mentioning that Murray is greater than Agassi?
TTW has voted that Wawrinka is greater than Federer.

https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/who-is-greater-federer-or-wawrinka.641490/
 
#18
The thread title doesn't make sense when you read the op.. Clay is the toughest surface going by your stats
My thoughts exactly. If clay was the weakest surface then the greatest players should have the most wins on it. I think clay is a surface that suits pure athleticism best.
 
#19
Of the 13 greatest players of the Open Era 9 have in clay their lowest winning percentage:

Federer
Djokovic
Sampras
McEnroe
Connors
Agassi
Becker
Edberg
Murray
I don't know what to conclude from this stat, nor how to describe any surface as being "weak".

As to Murray being Top 13 of the OE (excluding Laver and Rosewall and others who spanned eras), that seems about right. If we add(I assume) Rafa, Borg, Lendl and Wilander to make it to 13, who else is better in the OE?

Not looking at numbers, my sense is that of this group, Sampras is the only one who really dropped off on clay. I'd have to look more at Becker and Edberg.
 
#20
My thoughts exactly. If clay was the weakest surface then the greatest players should have the most wins on it. I think clay is a surface that suits pure athleticism best.
At time it does. I think his stats tell us that they probably grew up focusing on playing hard courts because that's the main surface. Plus, correct me if I am wrong but most are Americans? They don't do that Clay stuff often so it's hard to find a way to practice on it growing up.
 
#22
Of the 13 greatest players of the Open Era 9 have in clay their lowest winning percentage:

Federer
Djokovic
Sampras
McEnroe
Connors
Agassi
Becker
Edberg
Murray
No surface is weak or irrelevant. Each tennis surface is made for testing certain skill sets . Clay too tests merits of the players in its own way . If these players could not do well on clay then it is is an indication that they lacked what was needed to be successful on it, a flaw in their entire game not a flaw in the surface.
Therefore they have shortcomings in their playing style nothing to do with the surface.
 
#24
non-clay surfaces have generally been more prevalent in the tennis-calendar, so there is an obvious element of selection bias involved in this stat. The players whose favored conditions occur more on tour will obviously be more numerous on a list of greatest players.
This is only part of the answer, because grass has been even less prevalent than clay for at least the last three decades - since the Australian Open moved to rebound ace in 1988. Another part of the answer is that many players have tended to find less difference in success between hard and grass than between hard and clay, so almost all players had clay as either their weakest or their strongest surface. The four players of the 13 not on Lew's list include Nadal, Borg, and Wilander, all of whom had their highest winning percentage on clay, I believe. And is the other one Lendl?
 
#25
Of the 13 greatest players of the Open Era 9 have in clay their lowest winning percentage:

Federer
Djokovic
Sampras
McEnroe
Connors
Agassi
Becker
Edberg
Murray
The other four are Borg, Nadal, Wilander, and Lendl? Don't they all have their highest winning percentage on clay? Or at least all of them other than Lendl? If so, I think that confirms my hypothesis that this really just shows that clay is the outlier surface - more different from both hard and grass than the latter two are from each other.
 

Mainad

Bionic Poster
#27
Murray is one the greatest players in the open era? :unsure:
Well, isn't he? Of the 14 recognised Big Titles (Slams, WTF, Masters), he has won 18 of them and that's not including his 2 Olympic titles. Plus he is 1 of only 26 players in the open era to have achieved the #1 ranking and the only other 1 to do so in the era of the Big 3.
 
#29
Cause Nadal is too good on clay, not because the surface is weak or because they are weak players on clay. It is true that clay is Joko and Feder worst surface, but they would have 4-5 RG titles if not for Rafael.
If it weren't for Nadal, Djokovic would be roughly equally good on clay and grass, I think. Actually, if he played in the 1990s, I could see him doing better on clay than on grass. Agreed that clay is Federer's weakest surface.
 
#30
Yes. The French Open has more winners in the open era than real tennis slams.

The French Open was skipped frequently by many players for decades. And really, skipped by players most often even today.

Clay in general fits this same pattern.
 

davced1

Professional
#35
My thoughts exactly. If clay was the weakest surface then the greatest players should have the most wins on it. I think clay is a surface that suits pure athleticism best.
Good point. The more skilled players prevail on the other surfaces but clay gives the grinders a chance to win, fair enough.
 
#37
I don't know what to conclude from this stat, nor how to describe any surface as being "weak".

As to Murray being Top 13 of the OE (excluding Laver and Rosewall and others who spanned eras), that seems about right. If we add(I assume) Rafa, Borg, Lendl and Wilander to make it to 13, who else is better in the OE?.
Courier.
 
#39
Murray is one the greatest players in the open era? :unsure:
It depends on how much you buy into the idea that that the Big Three are better or more dominant than any other trio of ATGs playing at the same time. In on the fence about this myself because in the past, for the most part, careers have been shorter.
 
#40
Depends which point in time we are talking about. If it's right now grass is by far the weakest surface. There are no more grass court specialists. Clay on the other hand is the most abundant surface in Europe and the game is dominated by Europeans right now. All the players over there either grow up on clay or have extensive experience on the surface. We haven't produced any stand out talent in the States since Roddick, and a big reason we haven't is because there aren't a lot of clay courts here.
 
#46
Of the 13 greatest players of the Open Era 9 have in clay their lowest winning percentage:

Federer
Djokovic
Sampras
McEnroe
Connors
Agassi
Becker
Edberg
Murray
The title should be, WHY DO TOP PLAYERS STRUGGLE ON ONE OF THE TWO DOMINANT TENNIS SURFACES?

It is demanding physically, for skills, and for court IQ. I think more than hard court. Much of that being the ball can’t always be bashed past an opponent and you need to work harder to construct points. I actually like they have align hard court a bit more to require the same. The power game emphasized by equipment and training would have turned this to a very baseball like sport, with little other action than a lot of pitches (serves), some throws out at first (serve and putaway), and maybe a couple exciting plays in there for the whole game (a good point with more than 1 or 2 touches). Pretty much how grass ends up, even though they have tried to modify and slow that surface too, but still gives credence to servebots and baseline bashers.

Most opinions there are based on favorite players records and not the surface itself though.


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#47
Of the 13 greatest players of the Open Era 9 have in clay their lowest winning percentage:

Federer
Djokovic
Sampras
McEnroe
Connors
Agassi
Becker
Edberg
Murray
Murray is not part of the 13 greatest player of the Open era and it is highly debatable that clay is Agassis weakest surface. He has both one slam titles at the French and Wimbledon but an additional final in the former. For the rest of the players the following could be possible explanations:

1. For most of the OE clay and grass have been very opposite surfaces. With few exceptions like Borg, players who were good at one of them were mostly mediocre at the other one. For many years there were three grass slams and only one clay slam, meaning that players who were strong on grass had more opportunities to win slams. Later two of the three grass slams were replaced by HC, which however favored grass court specialists as well. There was a BIG correlation between the winners of Wimbledon and the US Open. Players who excelled on grass typically also excelled on HC while clay court specialists had more problems there. Due to all this clay court specialists like Kuerten, Bruguera, Muster etc typically only had one slam per year with realistic winning chances which does not allow you to get into the top 13 players of the OE.

2. In recent years Nadal won next to all FO so it is plain and simple obvious that others have clay as their least successful surface. I don’t think it would change much for Federer as he is too dominant on grass and HC, but imagine Nadal did not exist maybe Murray or Djokovic win enough FOs such that clay wouldn’t be their least successful surface.
 
#48
Natural surfaces should always be preferred over concrete for a outdoor running sports. Baseball is better on natural grass and dirt, basketball is better on wood, Tennis is better on natural grass and clay.

Hard courts are the bastardization of a more natural outdoor game purely for expediency and convenience.

But all those feelings aside, clay is not a weak surface. It's a different surface and therefore it requires a difference skill set than faster surfaces. The fact that most tournaments are played on faster surfaces always led to more fast surface specialists being over-represented in GOAT lists.

This is why I admire Bjorn Borg as the greatest tennis player of all time at his peak. Mastery over clay and grass when they were both very different surfaces indicate a well-rounded overall game.
 
#49
I think Sampras could have done a lot better on clay, but his heart was never in it enough to devote more time to it.

Competent Serve-and-volley skills on clay make holding serve easy compared to hard court.
 
#50
Natural surfaces should always be preferred over concrete for a outdoor running sports. Baseball is better on natural grass and dirt, basketball is better on wood, Tennis is better on natural grass and clay.

Hard courts are the bastardization of a more natural outdoor game purely for expediency and convenience.

But all those feelings aside, clay is not a weak surface. It's a different surface and therefore it requires a difference skill set than faster surfaces. The fact that most tournaments are played on faster surfaces always led to more fast surface specialists being over-represented in GOAT lists.

This is why I admire Bjorn Borg as the greatest tennis player of all time at his peak. Mastery over clay and grass when they were both very different surfaces indicate a well-rounded overall game.
There is nothing natural about a clay tennis court
 
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