Prime Nadal on Clay vs Prime Sampras on "fast" Grass

Who wins more games over two matches played on grass and clay?

  • Prime Nadal

    Votes: 37 77.1%
  • Prime Sampras

    Votes: 11 22.9%

  • Total voters
    48

REKX

Rookie
So Nadal is now second in the all time grand slam list. Some people say Nadal's slams are too clay focused, but I don't understand he has won on other surfaces. Also clay is a grand slam, probably the hardest one to win of them all. Sampras did not get to a final of the French Open.

I think after the 15 grand slams with 10 in a single event, his greatest achievement in my mind was beating Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2008. Federer in my opinion is the greatest grass court player of all time, he beat Sampras when Sampras was champion - yet Nadal who was regarded as a clay court specialist at the time, somehow managed to beat prime Federer on grass. Federer was playing amazing in Wimbledon 2008, did not lose a set till the final.

But I respect some feel Sampras to rank higher than Nadal so let's investigate this hypothetical match between them.

Prime Nadal vs Prime Sampras over two matches. One at Wimbledon Centre Court with the old fast grass and one at Roland Garros - Phillipe Chatrier. Who would win the most games over both matches?

My Answer:

Old Grass

If I take Nadal from 2008 Wimbledon - the form that beat Federer at his best. On fast grass I think Nadal would have a lot of opportunities to pass from return of serve and general play. Because when Federer played Sampras whilst Sampras was champion and hit passing shots all afternoon. Nadal and Federer, although different styles are very good returners.

Nadal is probably the greatest of all time at passing shots. And in his return game he senses when an opponent comes forward and hits amazing return passes, he does this so often it is a part of his game. Let us also remember that todays best servers hit much much harder serves than Sampras (speed measurements prove this), so if Nadal can handle harder and faster serves, he should be able to with Sampras Serve.

In general player, Nadal would attack the Sampras backhand all afternoon and this will open up a lot of opportunities for him as Sampras would struggle with the high backhand. Even at a good height, Sampras backhands were not really potent and often landed short. I don't see how if Federer couldn't beat Nadal on grass in 2008, how would Sampras? But I would say the game finishes in 5 sets, and in the 5th Sampras steps up the first and second serve, gets a load of aces and beats Nadal.

Clay

This is a particularly bad matchup for Sampras at Roland Garros against Nadal at his absolute best. Sampras real weapon, his serve, is nullified by the slower surface - there are a lot less aces on clay than other surfaces. Sampras never made it to a final in the French, never really had an effective clay court game and I don't see how he could hurt Nadal even remotely.

Take Wawrinka for example, he is in my book a great clay court player. What he done against Djokovic the year he won it was amazing. The form Nadal was in on Sunday, Wawrinka's forehand and backhand are far more powerful than Sampras yet he couldn't even dent Nadal. I just don't see where the games for Sampras would come from against Nadal, especially when Nadal attacks the Sampras backhand.

Federer is a far far greater clay court player than Sampras, yet during his prime in 2008 he lost 6-1 6-3 6-0 to Nadal in the French Open. So considering Sampras has never been to the final, has a weak clay court game, I would say Nadal wins 6-0 6-0 6-1.

So over the two games, Nadal wins more games. Your thoughts?
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
I think the difference is that grass is a surface you can take advantage of but clay is a surface designed to remove advantages. That's why winning on clay can be so tough and repeat winners other than Nadal are rare. Plenty of all court players have dominated wimbledon using strong serve and volley styles in the past.

Pete never seemed to dominate even when he was dominant. He'd casually use his serve to hold all his service games then wait until it was 4-4 to finally break you once then serve out the set. 6-4 6-4 6-4 were the common Pete scorelines.

So Nadal totally gets more games on grass than Sampras gets on Clay.
 

tennis_pro

Bionic Poster
Sampras would need several aces to win a game against Nadal on clay.

Sampras also tanked the return games once he got the break on grass.

Easily Nadal.
 

KINGROGER

G.O.A.T.
Easily Nadal.

He can win some service games on grass vs Pete, and baseliner Agassi pushed him to the brink so 06-10 Grassdal can do the same.

On clay Nadal would rout Pete 6-1,6-0,6-1 or something like.
 

mightyrick

Legend
Sampras on clay would take more games. Just with the serve alone. You're talking about the GOAT server. You aren't going to break him if you can't return the ball. And Sampras was prolific for punishing weak returns. On grass, the same result.

Sampras' MO wasn't to bagel. Sampras was efficient like a robotic soccer team. You get a goal and then lay back, play solid, and see if your opponent can score.

All Sampras ever needed was one break per set. And he knew it. And for those unlucky times he didn't get the break, he still knew he was going to win the tiebreak anyways.
 

BeatlesFan

Talk Tennis Guru
On clay Nadal would rout Pete 6-1,6-0,6-1 or something like.
I disagree, Pete would make it much closer than that, though Rafa would win in straights. Don't forget that Pete's first serve was 135 MPH and he followed it to the net, even on clay. He would get quite a few cheap service games and exploit the fact Rafa stands back so far to return serve. No way does Nadal play Pete and allow him only 2 games. I don't care what surface it's on.

I really feel like most people commenting on Sampras here literally never watched him play.
 

mightyrick

Legend
I disagree, Pete would make it much closer than that, though Rafa would win in straights. Don't forget that Pete's first serve was 135 MPH and he followed it to the net, even on clay. He would get quite a few cheap service games and exploit the fact Rafa stands back so far to return serve. No way does Nadal play Pete and allow him only 2 games. I don't care what surface it's on.

I really feel like most people commenting on Sampras here literally never watched him play.
Exactly. I think the great majority of people on here simply don't understand Sampras' playing style and tactics. If newbies don't have the patience to watch many of his matches, all they need to do is go look at Sampras' margins of victories. He didn't need to have breadsticks and bagels. He didn't need to shoot you to shreds with a gatling gun to know you were dead. All he needed to do was shoot you in the gut and watch you slowly bleed to death.

Sampras was like a nearly incurable disease. The following things were certain with Sampras' opponents:

1) If you broke his serve, you have a slim chance of winning a set, but will still probably lose the match because you had to break him three times in a match (at least).
2) If you did not break his serve, you lose, because you can't win in a tiebreak.
3) If he broke your serve, you lose, because not only do you have to break back, you have to beat him in a tiebreak.
4) If you were on clay or got lucky on a slow surface, you might win.
 

REKX

Rookie
Exactly. I think the great majority of people on here simply don't understand Sampras' playing style and tactics. If newbies don't have the patience to watch many of his matches, all they need to do is go look at Sampras' margins of victories. He didn't need to have breadsticks and bagels. He didn't need to shoot you to shreds with a gatling gun to know you were dead. All he needed to do was shoot you in the gut and watch you slowly bleed to death.

Sampras was like a nearly incurable disease. The following things were certain with Sampras' opponents:

1) If you broke his serve, you have a slim chance of winning a set, but will still probably lose the match because you had to break him three times in a match (at least).
2) If you did not break his serve, you lose, because you can't win in a tiebreak.
3) If he broke your serve, you lose, because not only do you have to break back, you have to beat him in a tiebreak.
4) If you were on clay or got lucky on a slow surface, you might win.
Sampras 0 French Open Titles
Sampras 0 French Open Final Appearences

Explain your theory?
 

mightyrick

Legend
Sampras 0 French Open Titles
Sampras 0 French Open Final Appearences

Explain your theory?
There is no theory. The thread asked which (loser) would win more games. Sampras against Nadal on clay or grass. I'm saying that on clay, Sampras takes more games off Nadal. There's no way Nadal is taking more games off Sampras on grass. No way.
 

Rod Laver

Professional
There is no theory. The thread asked which (loser) would win more games. Sampras against Nadal on clay or grass. I'm saying that on clay, Sampras takes more games off Nadal. There's no way Nadal is taking more games off Sampras on grass. No way.
I applaud you for defending the great pistol pete. But it is much easier to hold on grass than it is on clay, no? I think people aren't giving sampras enough credit but I also think he wouldn't win as many games on clay as nadal would on grass for the reason above.
 

Purplemonster

Hall of Fame
Makes know cents to compare a player who was the gratest on phast grass to the gratest on clay. Both the gratest on those respective surphaces and just leave it at that.
 

NoleFam

G.O.A.T.
Sampras at the height of his powers would maul Nadal on Centre Court on old grass. It would be a slaughter. Nadal would slaughter Pete on clay but Pete has something Nadal doesn't have which is a GOAT serve. That would allow him to at least hold a few times before the inevitable defeat. I'm going with Sampras.
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
nadal obviously.

Its just easier to hold on grass.

he's going to hold more on grass than sampras on clay.
 
Nadal MUCH more accomplished on grass than Pete on clay. Not even a question.

Nadal might have four Wimbledon titles if he hadn't have to face prime Fed in 2006 and 2007 finals. Sampras never even made a FO final.
 
Even Fed can't win this contest against Nadal. Rafa's grass accomplishments >Fed's clay accomplishments. I admit that freely as a Fed fan.
 

ChrisRF

Hall of Fame
Sampras at the height of his powers would maul Nadal on Centre Court on old grass. It would be a slaughter. Nadal would slaughter Pete on clay but Pete has something Nadal doesn't have which is a GOAT serve. That would allow him to at least hold a few times before the inevitable defeat. I'm going with Sampras.
We are not talking about the Nadal who was beaten by Darcis and Brown (who indeed would have been “mauled” by Pete), but about prime Nadal who beat Federer at Wimbledon.

And there is no way this 2008 Nadal wins less games at Wimbledon against Pete than vice versa at Roland Garros.
 
D

Deleted member 77403

Guest
Pete would beat Nadal at Wimbledon and lose horribly at RG.

That being said, Nadal has much more chances of beating Pete on grass than Pete has of beating Nadal on clay.
Also, I think it's time we agreed Nadal is the greater player now. Not just because of 15 Slams but also because of how dominant he was to win his 15th at 31. Strange as it may sound but Rafa's longevity is more impressive than Pete's.
Yeah, agree. Got to give it to Nadal.
 

NoleFam

G.O.A.T.
We are not talking about the Nadal who was beaten by Darcis and Brown (who indeed would have been “mauled” by Pete), but about prime Nadal who beat Federer at Wimbledon.

And there is no way this 2008 Nadal wins less games at Wimbledon against Pete than vice versa at Roland Garros.
Well this is old grass which is nothing like the grass Nadal has played on. For one thing, Nadal is not good at low bouncing surfaces and with his huge backswings he would be at a great disadvantage against big serve and powerful grass players. I can't see him doing anything to the Pete serve in those type of conditions.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
There is no theory. The thread asked which (loser) would win more games. Sampras against Nadal on clay or grass. I'm saying that on clay, Sampras takes more games off Nadal. There's no way Nadal is taking more games off Sampras on grass. No way.
Sampras rarely blew people away in sets on graaa. It's also easier to steam roll opponents on clay because the serve is neutralised somewhat. Nadal would win more games 7/10 times.
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
Well this is old grass which is nothing like the grass Nadal has played on. For one thing, Nadal is not good at low bouncing surfaces and with his huge backswings he would be at a great disadvantage against big serve and powerful grass players. I can't see him doing anything to the Pete serve in those type of conditions.
Nadal doesn't have to. He just has to hold. Even one tb and 2 6-4 sets gets him to 14 games.

Don't think Sampras would cross that on clay.
 

Guitario

Rookie
While Nadal would be heavy favourite against Sampras on clay, there's no way he's playing 3 sets and only winning a single game. If he actually put effort into the clay season, he'd probably have a similar record to Federer on the surface.

Losing in 3 is the most likely outcome, but we're talking 3, 4, 4 rather than 0, 0, 1.

Also it wasn't the speed of his serve that made it great, it was unreadable and bloody accurate.. and he had a knack of serving well break point down.
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
While Nadal would be heavy favourite against Sampras on clay, there's no way he's playing 3 sets and only winning a single game. If he actually put effort into the clay season, he'd probably have a similar record to Federer on the surface.

Losing in 3 is the most likely outcome, but we're talking 3, 4, 4 rather than 0, 0, 1.

Also it wasn't the speed of his serve that made it great, it was unreadable and bloody accurate.. and he had a knack of serving well break point down.
 

The_18th_Slam

Hall of Fame
Even without considering the fact that the difference between them on Clay is greater than the difference between them on Grass, you'd have to give it to Nadal for the simple fact that the serve tends to be neutralized on clay, leading to more uneven scores.
 

REKX

Rookie
There is no theory. The thread asked which (loser) would win more games. Sampras against Nadal on clay or grass. I'm saying that on clay, Sampras takes more games off Nadal. There's no way Nadal is taking more games off Sampras on grass. No way.
I have tried to research your theory and found that it fails.


A match with Sampras playing in the French Open.

You can see Sampras groundstrokes forehand and backhand land way short consistently, Nadal is a punisher of short balls because of his technique, he hits it hard and it bounces in. Sampras also tries the slice, if there is one player you don't slice against its Nadal, Federer every time has lost out when he sliced to Nadal - again due to Nadal's technique, he gets under the ball and hits through it without worrying if its going out.

In the longer rallies, Sampras seems to lose out by hitting long or making unforced error, clearly his game is not set up for longer rallies.

The serve is about 120-130mph right? Which Nadal is used to, and secondly Nadal is an amazing returner on clay. He stands back, lets the ground take the impact out of the ball, uses time and his footwork to hit a return which keeps the point going.

With respect to Courior, Nadal is a far far far more complete player. I can't see how Sampras would deal with the high Nadal groundstrokes when he can't be effective with Courior's mid height ones.
 
Nadal would do better against Pete on Grass than Pete would against Rafa on clay, therefore the answer to this is simply Rafa
 

ultradr

Legend
So Nadal is now second in the all time grand slam list. Some people say Nadal's slams are too clay focused, but I don't understand he has won on other surfaces. Also clay is a grand slam, probably the hardest one to win of them all. Sampras did not get to a final of the French Open.

I think after the 15 grand slams with 10 in a single event, his greatest achievement in my mind was beating Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2008. Federer in my opinion is the greatest grass court player of all time, he beat Sampras when Sampras was champion - yet Nadal who was regarded as a clay court specialist at the time, somehow managed to beat prime Federer on grass. Federer was playing amazing in Wimbledon 2008, did not lose a set till the final.

But I respect some feel Sampras to rank higher than Nadal so let's investigate this hypothetical match between them.

Prime Nadal vs Prime Sampras over two matches. One at Wimbledon Centre Court with the old fast grass and one at Roland Garros - Phillipe Chatrier. Who would win the most games over both matches?

My Answer:

Old Grass

If I take Nadal from 2008 Wimbledon - the form that beat Federer at his best. On fast grass I think Nadal would have a lot of opportunities to pass from return of serve and general play. Because when Federer played Sampras whilst Sampras was champion and hit passing shots all afternoon. Nadal and Federer, although different styles are very good returners.

Nadal is probably the greatest of all time at passing shots. And in his return game he senses when an opponent comes forward and hits amazing return passes, he does this so often it is a part of his game. Let us also remember that todays best servers hit much much harder serves than Sampras (speed measurements prove this), so if Nadal can handle harder and faster serves, he should be able to with Sampras Serve.

In general player, Nadal would attack the Sampras backhand all afternoon and this will open up a lot of opportunities for him as Sampras would struggle with the high backhand. Even at a good height, Sampras backhands were not really potent and often landed short. I don't see how if Federer couldn't beat Nadal on grass in 2008, how would Sampras? But I would say the game finishes in 5 sets, and in the 5th Sampras steps up the first and second serve, gets a load of aces and beats Nadal.

Clay

This is a particularly bad matchup for Sampras at Roland Garros against Nadal at his absolute best. Sampras real weapon, his serve, is nullified by the slower surface - there are a lot less aces on clay than other surfaces. Sampras never made it to a final in the French, never really had an effective clay court game and I don't see how he could hurt Nadal even remotely.

Take Wawrinka for example, he is in my book a great clay court player. What he done against Djokovic the year he won it was amazing. The form Nadal was in on Sunday, Wawrinka's forehand and backhand are far more powerful than Sampras yet he couldn't even dent Nadal. I just don't see where the games for Sampras would come from against Nadal, especially when Nadal attacks the Sampras backhand.

Federer is a far far greater clay court player than Sampras, yet during his prime in 2008 he lost 6-1 6-3 6-0 to Nadal in the French Open. So considering Sampras has never been to the final, has a weak clay court game, I would say Nadal wins 6-0 6-0 6-1.

So over the two games, Nadal wins more games. Your thoughts?


There is no "old fast grass" courts. "real grass courts" vs "fake green clay courts".
 

rockbox

Semi-Pro
Sampras had a career record on clay of 90-53. He reached the semis once at the French and got straight setted and bagel by Yevgeny Kafelnikov [RUS] d. (1)Sampras 7-6(4) 6-0 6-2. Pete also lost 8 sets 6-1 at the french, with the worst being a 6-1,6-1,6-1 drubbing by Michael Chang in 1989.

Sampras would have no chance against Nadal. I would bet Nadal would bagel Pete at least one set.

I forgot to add that even with Sampras's dominance on grass, he's only bageled two players ever at Wimbledon. That just shows you how weak his return game was.
 
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I have tried to research your theory and found that it fails.


A match with Sampras playing in the French Open.

You can see Sampras groundstrokes forehand and backhand land way short consistently, Nadal is a punisher of short balls because of his technique, he hits it hard and it bounces in. Sampras also tries the slice, if there is one player you don't slice against its Nadal, Federer every time has lost out when he sliced to Nadal - again due to Nadal's technique, he gets under the ball and hits through it without worrying if its going out.

In the longer rallies, Sampras seems to lose out by hitting long or making unforced error, clearly his game is not set up for longer rallies.

The serve is about 120-130mph right? Which Nadal is used to, and secondly Nadal is an amazing returner on clay. He stands back, lets the ground take the impact out of the ball, uses time and his footwork to hit a return which keeps the point going.

With respect to Courior, Nadal is a far far far more complete player. I can't see how Sampras would deal with the high Nadal groundstrokes when he can't be effective with Courior's mid height ones.
Watch the point at 1:22:00! This alone shows how helpless Pete would be against Nadal.

I mean Pete would be lucky to win 5 games.
 

ibbi

Hall of Fame
Nadal would probably win more games, because it's easier to win games on grass if you serve well. On clay the serve means far less, and Nadal would probably take much more advantage of it
 

ibbi

Hall of Fame
Easily Nadal.

He can win some service games on grass vs Pete, and baseliner Agassi pushed him to the brink so 06-10 Grassdal can do the same.

On clay Nadal would rout Pete 6-1,6-0,6-1 or something like.
When did Agassi push Sampras to the brink on grass?
 
S

Stupendous1HBH

Guest
21‑Jun‑1993 Wimbledon Grass QF 1 13 (1)Sampras d. (8)Andre Agassi [USA] 6-2 6-2 3-6 3-6 6-4

With Pete taking the 1st 2 sets rather comfortably, even though it went 5, not sure if I would consider that match pushing Sampras to the brink. No tiebreakers in sight.
 

ibbi

Hall of Fame
21‑Jun‑1993 Wimbledon Grass QF 1 13 (1)Sampras d. (8)Andre Agassi [USA] 6-2 6-2 3-6 3-6 6-4
As an Agassi fan, i'd agree with the guy above. I don't know that eating double breaks in the first 2 sets could constitute pushing someone to the brink, and Pete had never even won Wimbledon at this point, i don't know that I'd consider it his prime anyway.

(Still, i always remember that match as less than 5 sets. Seeing that scoreline surprises me. Hated Sampras for a decade for that)
 

zep

Hall of Fame
Also, I think it's time we agreed Nadal is the greater player now. Not just because of 15 Slams but also because of how dominant he was to win his 15th at 31. Strange as it may sound but Rafa's longevity is more impressive than Pete's.
One of the reasons why Pete didn't push harder toward the end of his career is that he felt very safe with 14 majors. The only thing he didn't win was the french and he was not going to win that at that age anyway. Otherwise he felt quite content with his slam tally. If someone like Agassi had say 11-12 slams in 2002, I think Sampras would have continued to play on like Federer. Maybe not this long but he wouldn't have retired at 31.
 

REKX

Rookie
One of the reasons why Pete didn't push harder toward the end of his career is that he felt very safe with 14 majors. The only thing he didn't win was the french and he was not going to win that at that age anyway. Otherwise he felt quite content with his slam tally. If someone like Agassi had say 11-12 slams in 2002, I think Sampras would have continued to play on like Federer. Maybe not this long but he wouldn't have retired at 31.
Why do people say this? Where does it say Sampras stopped trying?

SamFederer beat Sampras when Sampras was 30 I believe. Sampras was the current Wimbledon champion when Federer beat him. How does one not try and become Wimbledon champion?

Sampras never won the French Open because hes game is not equipped to have done so. When did he not try?
 

Guitario

Rookie
I have tried to research your theory and found that it fails.


A match with Sampras playing in the French Open.

You can see Sampras groundstrokes forehand and backhand land way short consistently, Nadal is a punisher of short balls because of his technique, he hits it hard and it bounces in. Sampras also tries the slice, if there is one player you don't slice against its Nadal, Federer every time has lost out when he sliced to Nadal - again due to Nadal's technique, he gets under the ball and hits through it without worrying if its going out.

In the longer rallies, Sampras seems to lose out by hitting long or making unforced error, clearly his game is not set up for longer rallies.

The serve is about 120-130mph right? Which Nadal is used to, and secondly Nadal is an amazing returner on clay. He stands back, lets the ground take the impact out of the ball, uses time and his footwork to hit a return which keeps the point going.

With respect to Courior, Nadal is a far far far more complete player. I can't see how Sampras would deal with the high Nadal groundstrokes when he can't be effective with Courior's mid height ones.
You know Sampras won that match, right?

The complete disregard of Sampras here is comical. As is the confirmation bias. Cherry picking the very worst matches Sampras had on clay as 'proof' he's useless on the surface.

I assume everyone is going to post examples of his best clay matches, you know, to provide a worthwhile debate? Like the clay wins over Agassi, Bruguera, Kafelnikov, Costa, Corretja etc.. but I suppose that doesn't fit the narrative.

Christ, Tim Henman took games of Nadal on clay.
 

HoyaPride

Professional
You know Sampras won that match, right?

The complete disregard of Sampras here is comical. As is the confirmation bias. Cherry picking the very worst matches Sampras had on clay as 'proof' he's useless on the surface.

I assume everyone is going to post examples of his best clay matches, you know, to provide a worthwhile debate? Like the clay wins over Agassi, Bruguera, Kafelnikov, Costa, Corretja etc.. but I suppose that doesn't fit the narrative.

Christ, Tim Henman took games of Nadal on clay.
I remember watching that match like it was yesterday. That was back when the early rounds of the French used to come on USA. I remember Pete coming back from 2 sets down and Courier yelling "The guy looked like he had one foot in the grave a set ago and now he's serving lightning bolts."

That was not Sampras' worse match on clay. He lost in the 1R to Gilbert Schaller the year before. While Sampras wasn't useless on clay, his losses at the French to not very noteworthy players shows that his serve was largely a non-factor on the surface in the grand scheme of things. It is not unreasonable to think Nadal could have broken him multiple times over the course of a best of 5.
 

zep

Hall of Fame
Why do people say this? Where does it say Sampras stopped trying?

SamFederer beat Sampras when Sampras was 30 I believe. Sampras was the current Wimbledon champion when Federer beat him. How does one not try and become Wimbledon champion?

Sampras never won the French Open because hes game is not equipped to have done so. When did he not try?
It should be obvious really. Sampras had a sharp decline in 2001-02. As we have seen it happens to everyone in that age range of 29-31. At that time, his goal was to win one more major which he achieved at USO 2002. After that he didn't play a match because he didn't have any more goals. He was only 31 at that time. There is no reason why he couldn't play on for a few more years like Agassi did. But Sampras had no motivation to continue playing. If his slam total was in danger, he most likely would have continued.
 
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