Is clay the weakest surface?

#52
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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The greatest players generally perform worse on clay because it is a surface that does not reward tennis talent as much. They also care about it less. That is why the "King of Clay" title exists - as a sort of consolation for those who excel on it.
 
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#53
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.
IMHO, the surfaces back in the day were so different that it always came down to coaching, travel, and just having enough clay matches on the calendar to develop your game. But I put it largely on coaching choices. Frankly, Sampras did not have enough matches to develop the movement skills or point-development patterns required to consistently win the top clay tournaments. Sampras has admitted repeatedly that he was stubborn and unwilling to change. That was his downfall. Case in point, Jim Courier, was the best American clay courter in the open era. With coaches like Cruz and Higueras -- that's no surprise. But Courier could never deliver on hard court (for exactly the same reason that Sampras couldn't deliver on clay).

There were VERY few players who were all-surface specialists. That's what made guys like Gonzales, Laver, Rosewall absolute giants. They commanded absolute mastery of all the shots, all the movement, and all of the point development patterns across all surfaces. Borg -- as great as he was -- still couldn't deliver on hardcourt. Very much for the same reasons that Courier couldn't. Although Borg's amazing success at Wimbledon should never be ignored.

These days, the surfaces and technology has so homogenized the game, that if you have a 120mph serve and can consistently bash on the baseline for hours on end, you can win all four slams. It's a totally different game now.
 
#55
IMHO, the surfaces back in the day were so different that it always came down to coaching, travel, and just having enough clay matches on the calendar to develop your game. But I put it largely on coaching choices. Frankly, Sampras did not have enough matches to develop the movement skills or point-development patterns required to consistently win the top clay tournaments. Sampras has admitted repeatedly that he was stubborn and unwilling to change. That was his downfall. Case in point, Jim Courier, was the best American clay courter in the open era. With coaches like Cruz and Higueras -- that's no surprise. But Courier could never deliver on hard court (for exactly the same reason that Sampras couldn't deliver on clay).

There were VERY few players who were all-surface specialists. That's what made guys like Gonzales, Laver, Rosewall absolute giants. They commanded absolute mastery of all the shots, all the movement, and all of the point development patterns across all surfaces. Borg -- as great as he was -- still couldn't deliver on hardcourt. Very much for the same reasons that Courier couldn't. Although Borg's amazing success at Wimbledon should never be ignored.

These days, the surfaces and technology has so homogenized the game, that if you have a 120mph serve and can consistently bash on the baseline for hours on end, you can win all four slams. It's a totally different game now.
Two-time AO champion couldn't deliver on HC?
 
#61
Generally clay is a surface which the largest number of top players have missed or skipped or not cared about. French open also has some of the worst guys as winners over the years
 

zep

Hall of Fame
#64
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.
The same argument is true for Nadal on grass and hard. He has played 14 finals on hard+grass but lost 7 of those to Fed+Djokovic who are better than him on grass+hard. He would have won 5-6 more slams on hard+grass if not for Fed+Djokovic. You can even add Wimbledon 2018 to that list. There's no way Anderson was beating him after playing 7 hours in semi.
 

zep

Hall of Fame
#65
I enjoy watching tennis on clay. Grass has a novelty factor each year because it has only one big tournament but between hard and clay I usually prefer clay.
 
#67
Sour grapes from NK. Has lost half of all his matches at RG. Not much better at other clay venues. Easily his worst surface so, of course, "it (the surface) sucks" in the he immortal words of Nick.
Nick has fallen since his his glory days of pushing cars. Even I've had to acknowledge his antics lately. But yeah, he hates the surface. He's not alone in that regard though. Nadal has taken my interest away over the years. That and Fed skipping. Hoping for a decent FO for once, but I don't know if we'll get it.
 
#70
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.

Percentage of SF's made has to be considered when you look at this era.

Bjorg 27 majors / 17 SF's ...................63%
Djokovic 56 Majors / 34 SF's.....61%
Federer 75 Majors /43 SF's.... ...58%
Nadal 55 Majors / 30 SF's........55%

Conners 57 Majors/ 31 SF......54%
Lendel 57 Majors / 28 SF's........50%
McEnroe 40 Majors / 19 SF's....48%
Sampras 52 Majors / 23 SF's....45%
Murray 48 Majors / 21 SF's.......44%
Aggassi 60 Majors / 26 SF's.....44%
Becker 46 Majors / 18 SF's.......40%
Edberg 54 Majors / 18 SF's.....34%

Do people really think competing in this era with the 3 greatest players had no impact on him? The guy got to the SF's many times only to have to meet one of the 3 greatest players to live. I think you have to judge him in this context.

He finished top 4 in the world 9 years, including one year he finished #1 over the 3 best players ever, and 2 other years he was better than at least 1 or 2 of the all time greatest players ever as well. These are hardly insignificant accomplishments in this era or the amount he even got to a finals over at least one of the 3 greatest players ever. Winning two gold medals is something as well, especially blocking Federer on Grass from a gold. The guy is an all time great, and had a more impressive career IMO than Edberg and Becker IMO given the context of what he had to deal with.
 
#71
Nick has fallen since his his glory days of pushing cars. Even I've had to acknowledge his antics lately. But yeah, he hates the surface. He's not alone in that regard though. Nadal has taken my interest away over the years. That and Fed skipping. Hoping for a decent FO for once, but I don't know if we'll get it.
Hopefully RF and Thiem will make it interesting for a while on the ATP side. Don't really need NK. I expect the WTA side of things could be a decent battle at RG.
 
#72
It is when the context is that he plays in an era with the 3 greatest players ever that block him. Just look at his SF totals, hard to fault him when he was always there and then had to face one of the greatest players ever and many times actually got by at least one of them to get to a finals.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic won most of their slams playing against each other, it's not like they had to face weaker opponents than Murray did. If Murray was on their level then he would have won a bit more finals than he did.
 
#75
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic won most of their slams playing against each other, it's not like they had to face weaker opponents than Murray did. If Murray was on their level then he would have won a bit more finals than he did.
No one has said he is on the level of the big 3 and greatest 3 by most any measure. I think the implication was specifcally he wasn't that was the context. I certainly think you can make the case he is on Becker, Edberg etc tier and one of the best open era players certainly which was the rest of the context of the question someone asked.
 
#76
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
Because Wimbledon was historically more important and more chances to win on HC, because most tournaments are on HC.
If USO was most important and there would be 2 clay majors, I'm sure most greats would have grass as their weakest surface.
 
#78
Murray is with Kuerten and Courier in the ATG list, then Wawrinka is not far behind. It's where on the ATG list these 4 players are is my question.
 

Lew II

Hall of Fame
#79
Murray is with Kuerten and Courier in the ATG list, then Wawrinka is not far behind. It's where on the ATG list these 4 players are is my question.
Murray destroyed anyone but three GOAT contenders for nearly 10 years.

Kuerten, Courier and Wawrinka struggled a lot with inferior players.
 
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