Prime Nadal vs Prime Sampras at the French Open - Only Sampras Serves - Who Wins?

Prime Nadal vs Prime Sampras at French Open (Only Sampras Serves)

  • Nadal

    Votes: 59 41.3%
  • Sampras

    Votes: 84 58.7%

  • Total voters
    143
"2008 Nadal-Federer at Roland Garros:
6-1, 6-3, 6-0.
It means Nadal won 14 of 18 (over 70%) of Federer's service games"

Clearly maths is not your strong suite - with that scoreline, do you think there were 18 Federer service games?
 
Apparently Sampras held 81% of the time on clay, Federer 85%. I remember a certain match where Federer got humiliated by Dull in some clay Slam somewhere and could barely hold his serve. The dynamic is different with there only being one server, but a Nadal win is not delusional.

Who would usually win though? Sampras.
 
2008 Nadal-Federer at Roland Garros:
6-1, 6-3, 6-0.
It means Nadal won 14 of 18 (over 70%) of Federer's service games. And Federer has a greater baseline/clay game than Sampras.

2017 Nadal-Wawrinka at Roland Garros:
6-2, 6-3, 6-1.
It means Nadal won 12 of 18 (over 66%) of Wawrinka's service games. And Wawrinka has a superior baseline/clay game than Sampras.

There is no reason to suspect Nadal wouldn't easily defeat Sampras if he serves all the time. Especially when clay is the slower possible surface and neutralizes the serve as a weapon.
From Where are you getting Wawarinka stats of 66%. At best it was 50%
 
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"2008 Nadal-Federer at Roland Garros:
6-1, 6-3, 6-0.
It means Nadal won 14 of 18 (over 70%) of Federer's service games"

Clearly maths is not your strong suite - with that scoreline, do you think there were 18 Federer service games?
6-1, 6-3, 6-8.
Nadal won 7 of 11 (over 65%) Federer's service games games at Roland Garros 2008. And Federer has a greater clay game than Sampras. So very doable for Nadal.
 
Yeah to be honest I wasn't really thinking the exact number of times he'd have to break.
18 games and it can still go to the tiebreakes, where Sampras serve will have more bigger say.
I just don't see Rafa breaking minimum 18 times Sampras serve, unless Sampras is having a really really bad day.
 
On clay Sampras won 81.5% of service games, Nadal won 43% of return games.

Stats wise, Sampras would murder him. Nadal is a more modern player though.
While this is true, its also interesting to dig deeper.

Federer has won 84.6% of service games on clay vs Nadal's 43% of return games won. Looking at that one would also surmise that Fed would murder Nadal in a match where only he could serve. Yet in the 2008 RG final, Nadal broke Fed 8/11 times (72.7%).

Now it is important to ponder a few questions about this:

1)Would Nadal have still been able to maintain a >50% break rate across the larger sample size needed to win a full Bo5 just returning?
2)Would a player have the same mental game in a match where they serve every time compared to the deflation they feel going down a break to Nadal on clay in a normal match?
3)Is this type of performance repeatable consistently?

My inclination is to say No to all 3 of these questions and therefore conclude that if they played say 10 matches under these conditions, Sampras would win the majority and therefore he would be the favorite in this situation.

However, the fact does remain that Nadal has shown the ability to take a GOAT contender with a fantastic serve and play a match at a pace against him to win through only breaking before. Hence in a 1 off match, I would not be so quick to write off Nadal having a chance to win as so many are doing in this thread.
 
From Where are you getting Wawarinka stats of 66%. At best it was 50%
6-2, 6-3, 6-1.
Nadal broke Stanimal's serve 2 times in the first set, 1 in the second and 3 in the third for a total of 6 breaks. Nadal won 6 of 12 (50%) of Wawrinka's service games. And Wawrinka has a greater clay game than Sampras. Of course he could break Sampras' serve 12 times and win in the tie-breaks or even break Sampras 14 or 15 times, since Sampras is worse than Wawrinka on clay.

Link to stats:
http://www.tennisabstract.com/chart...Garros-F-Rafael_Nadal-Stanislas_Wawrinka.html
 

Lew II

Hall of Fame
While this is true, its also interesting to dig deeper.

Federer has won 84.6% of service games on clay vs Nadal's 43% of return games won. Looking at that one would also surmise that Fed would murder Nadal in a match where only he could serve. Yet in the 2008 RG final, Nadal broke Fed 8/11 times (72.7%).
Didn't say Sampras would win all matches. Not always the favourite wins.
 
It is an argumentum ad hominem to all the people who believe Nadal would win, thus a logical fallacy. He did not criticize the idea that Nadal would win against Sampras. He criticized the people who held that view saying they have "poor mental level".


People say X.
You criticize the people who say X, not X.

That is an argumentum ad hominem, and very unclassy if you ask me. To call people who disagree with you "mentally inferior" is disrespectful and doesn't make you right since it is a logical fallacy.
Well, it’s clear this isn’t going in for you

(1) he said “math skills” not “mental ability”

(2) he referred to “math skills” NOT to say that Nadal fans are stupid THEREFORE you should believe Sampras would win (that is an ad hominem) . What he said was the maths doesn’t favour Nadal (according to him) therefore it isn’t stupid to believe Nadal would win.

Criticising a person is not an ad hominem but criticising a person to dismiss their argument is.

Again, unless you can correctly identify a formal fallacy don’t bring them up - especially on a tennis forum.

It is distasteful though, that I will grant you.
 
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Apparently Sampras held 81% of the time on clay, Federer 85%. I remember a certain match where Federer got humiliated by Dull in some clay Slam somewhere and could barely hold his serve. The dynamic is different with there only being one server, but a Nadal win is not delusional.

Who would usually win though? Sampras.
The best post by far in this thread. Yes Sampras would be the favourite and ein most of the time, but to say a Nadal win would be impossible is crap. Apart from the Federer match where he indeed won more than half of return games a score line of 6-2,6-2,6-2 in a normal match would already mean winning 50% or slightly more of return games. I do not see that out of the reach of possibility. Surely we also have to factor in dynamics of those specific ruleset but to say Nadal would never win is highly exaggerated.
 
Apparently Sampras held 81% of the time on clay, Federer 85%. I remember a certain match where Federer got humiliated by Dull in some clay Slam somewhere and could barely hold his serve. The dynamic is different with there only being one server, but a Nadal win is not delusional.

Who would usually win though? Sampras.
84.6% - 81.5%

But the tour-wide hold rate on clay was 5.0-5.5% lower in Pete’s day. This was doubtlessly attributable to the differences in equipment.

And Federer basically kamikazed half of that 2008 RG match away. It was a freak anomaly.
 
84.6% - 81.5%

But the tour-wide hold rate on clay was 5.0-5.5% lower in Pete’s day. This was doubtlessly attributable to the differences in equipment.

And Federer basically kamikazed half of that 2008 RG match away. It was a freak anomaly.
No doubt and this response was always going to come but my only point is that it's not impossible for Nadal to win in this delightful fantasy.
 
The best post by far in this thread. Yes Sampras would be the favourite and ein most of the time, but to say a Nadal win would be impossible is crap. Apart from the Federer match where he indeed won more than half of return games a score line of 6-2,6-2,6-2 in a normal match would already mean winning 50% or slightly more of return games. I do not see that out of the reach of possibility. Surely we also have to factor in dynamics of those specific ruleset but to say Nadal would never win is highly exaggerated.
Not impossible, but exceptionally unlikely.

See here:

Measured post.

Personally, I think Sampras with today’s strings would hold about as often as Djokovic and Federer do on clay against Nadal, perhaps even a tad more frequently. Where he would get mauled is on the return, to an even greater degree than Fed and especially Djoko. But there are a few big servers that were able to acquit themselves reasonably well on clay against Nadal. Isner is one; he has held serve 55 of 63 times against Nadal in 4 matches. That’s 83.9%. Of course, I don’t believe Sampras’ serve in a vacuum is as potent as Isner’s, but with the all-around game and poly? He’d probably hold serve at least 65-70% of the time, and that is a conservative estimate. Clearly Isner proves that even just having a massive serve and little else is enough to pull ahead in these ridiculous hypotheticals. Here are some other big-serving guys that held their own (relative to this discussion) serving on clay against Nadal:

Soderling, 64% service games won over 5 matches (4 on Chatrier, where it was 68.7%)

Ljubicic, 60% service games won over 4 matches (2 at RG, where it was 67%)

Berdych, 66.7 service games won over 7 matches. Yes, really.

Lopez, 60% of service games won over 4 matches.

Lest anyone thinks I am cherry-picking, those five guys were the only big servers I could find that played Nadal 4+ times on clay. ALL OF THEM held at least 60% of the time. If we go further down and limit it to 2-3 matches, you have:


Zverev, 3 matches: 49.4%
Delpo, 3 matches: inconclusive as only one match is charged on TA, but it appears he holds about 60% of the time
Gulbis, 2 matches: 80.0%
Tsonga, 2 matches: 63.6%
Kyrgios, 2 matches: 60.9%
Sock, 2 matches: 55.6%
Roddick, 2 BO5 matches: not tracked, but given that Roddick won a set, took another to a TB and two others were 6-4, it was probably around 60-65%
Querrey, 2 matches, only one was tracked, Nadal broke 5 of 9 times. However, their other match was a very competitive BO5 in DC, 6-7 6-4 6-3 6-4. So he’s likely around 65%



And that’s it. Those are the only big servers that Nadal has played multiple matches against on clay. See here if you’d like to add any that I missed:

http://www.tennisabstract.com/cgi-bin/player.cgi?p=RafaelNadal&f=ACareerqqB1s00&view=h2h


Only one of those 12 guys failed to hold serve over 55% of the time. That was Zverev, and his serve as a stand-alone shot might be the worst of the lot.


I would suspect that Sampras’ stamina and return would prevent him from ever challenging Nadal in a match under normal conditions, but serving-only? Sampras would win extremely comfortably. Nadal may win the odd set, but those would be few and far between.
Now, breaking 50% of the time under normal circumstances would be a really really tough ask for Nadal against a Sampras playing with today’s equipment. Imagine if he had to beat the odds twice (because he’s returning twice as often, so matches like RG ‘08 would only be halfway there, and they are incredibly anomalous as is)...goes from tough to laughably unlikely.
 
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No doubt and this response was always going to come but my only point is that it's not impossible for Nadal to win in this delightful fantasy.

I’m sure somebody more determined can run the numbers and figure out what the linear odds are of a Nadal who wins 28-34% of all games in this scenario (very fair estimate considering his success rate against other big servers on clay playing with poly) beating Sampras over a BO5.

Not impossible, but unlikely enough to basically dismiss as a hypothetical. And remember that the OP was arguing Nadal would be favoured, not that he’d win one out of every 100/150 matches or something.
 
I’m sure somebody more determined can run the numbers and determine what the odds are of a Nadal who wins 28-34% of all games in this scenario (very fair estimate considering his success rate against other big servers on clay playing with poly) beating Sampras over a BO5.

Not impossible, but unlikely enough to basically dismiss as a hypothetical. And remember that the OP was arguing Nadal would be favoured, not that he’d win one out of ever 100/150 matches or something.

I was wondering earlier what Nadal's stats are for breaks in final rounds of clay events. He often goes on very dominant runs and has had several such runs at RG, still exhibiting immense dominance against higher level opposition than Sampras. Then we'd need to figure out how many of those performance occurred against a player who at least have comparable success on their own service games for the tournament in question to Sampras, and preferably across a much longer span than just a tournament, with career being the longest span of course. I don't think this can be looked at in such a blanketed way, as much as I throw alleyoops to people to fill in the details whilst just getting at bigger picture takes. There may be many instances where Nadal, in particularly brutal form, destroyed opponents with high service game success even in the later rounds of events where the overall quality of play and pressure for Nadal to overcome should be greater. Also, we'd need to see what Sampras service stats look like deeper into clay tournaments. Did it suffer or stay at ~80%?

Sampras should be heavily favoured, but without going into detail as of yet, nonetheless, my instinct is that it isn't "laughably unlikely".

If we just take it for what we've actually seen and can imagine from it with the equipment both players happened to use, it becomes even more reasonable to expect that Nadal would claim a few wins out of say 100 simulations, rather than some astronomical odds. That might actually be an understatement as perhaps the tech and paradigm differences are greater than I imagine. For example, look at Sampras' second serve stats. I've seen people talk about that on this forum recently to suggest Federer has the better 2nd serve and pro commentators have even brought this up from time to time. I think this has very little to do with Sampras' 2nd serve and much more to do with Federer being a better baseliner but perhaps just as importantly that the tactics, the paradigm, of tennis behind the 2nd serve didn't make the most out of it. A bit like the lag of the NBA embracing the 3-point shot?
 
Not impossible, but exceptionally unlikely.

See here:



Now, breaking 50% of the time under normal circumstances would be a really really tough ask for Nadal against a Sampras playing with today’s equipment. Imagine if he had to beat the odds twice (because he’s returning twice as often)...goes from tough to laughably unlikely.
There were people claiming that Nadal would only win with 4-0 handicap lead in each set. Sure he is not the favourite but the Federer match alone is proof that it is not completely unlikely either. The cumulated soderling stats are also skewed a little due to their matches in 2009 and 2011. Soderling in 2009 was only broken twice out of 21 service games. His great performance was actually not really due to his serve he was only hitting 9 aces in a tough four setter. On the contrary, his baseline game was just clicking and he was firing service winners left and right, gar above the level Sampras could ever produce on clay. If we take the Rome encounter two weeks prior - even it was only best of three- Sod was broken in 6 out of 7 service games. The Isner match in 2011 John got broken 5 times out of 26 service games but this was one of the worst matches Nadal ever played at RG. So yes, Sampras at his very best would very likely win, but Pete also had a fair portion of off days on clay. In his best FO run he was broken 5 out of 13 service games by freaking kafelnikov. Can you imagine he would have played 2008 Nadal that day?? If they played at RG which is the hypothesis of the thread they would also very likely play in latter rounds so Sampras would also be gassed and due to his illness the chances for him having an off day would rise.
 
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No I absolutely do not.

Sampras is serving the whole match. I can't see any version of Nadal being able to break his serve 18 times. Even if it's clay the serve is still your most important shot and this isn't some ordinary shot.

I said when this thread came out, Imagine the chances Sampras would be able to take, with his 2nd serve, overall game.

It's hard to understand how anyone could Think Nadal would win. Maybe if he had a handicap like being up 4-0 every set or something.
In Sampras' greatest year at the French Open, he lost in straight sets 7-6 6-0 6-2 against Kafelnikov. Why did Kafelnikov dominate Sampras' service games? Do you not realize 2008 Nadal is far far superior to Kafelnikov?

In 2008 Nadal got three 6-0 sets and nine 6-1 sets against players like journey men and Federer in the final. Sampras was a journey man on clay and in the 2008 French Nadal winning 55% of return games - why are you not acknowledging this?

So Sampras, in his greatest year at the French, losing 6-0 and 6-2 sets vs Nadal who was winning 55% of return games against superior clay court players. How can anyone even argue Sampras has this? It is a miss match even with Sampras serving all games.
 
I’m sure somebody more determined can run the numbers and figure out what the linear odds are of a Nadal who wins 28-34% of all games in this scenario (very fair estimate considering his success rate against other big servers on clay playing with poly) beating Sampras over a BO5.

Not impossible, but unlikely enough to basically dismiss as a hypothetical. And remember that the OP was arguing Nadal would be favoured, not that he’d win one out of every 100/150 matches or something.
Well Nadal showed he can win 55% of return games over a whole tournament in 2008, against far far superior clay court opposition than Sampras. And Sampras was losing 6-0 sets in his best year, so it is advantage Nadal already.

But more importantly, the match up is worse for Sampras.

We've already seen the Sampras serve is nullified on clay, Nadal stands back and gets the ball into play. Serve and volley is no option here other wise it is easy pickings for Nadal.

Once the ball is in play, and it will be because it is clay, 2008 Nadal is favorite to win every point, Sampras forehand or backhand isn't strong enough to push Nadal back and Nadal will chase and return everything. The topspin forehand to Sampras backhand would hurt Sampras hard during this match, it is a easy winning strategy for Nadal here.

How do you think the points go once the ball is in play? How does Sampras hurt Nadal from the baseline?
 

Hitman

Bionic Poster
In Sampras' greatest year at the French Open, he lost in straight sets 7-6 6-0 6-2 against Kafelnikov. Why did Kafelnikov dominate Sampras' service games? Do you not realize 2008 Nadal is far far superior to Kafelnikov?

In 2008 Nadal got three 6-0 sets and nine 6-1 sets against players like journey men and Federer in the final. Sampras was a journey man on clay and in the 2008 French Nadal winning 55% of return games - why are you not acknowledging this?

So Sampras, in his greatest year at the French, losing 6-0 and 6-2 sets vs Nadal who was winning 55% of return games against superior clay court players. How can anyone even argue Sampras has this? It is a miss match even with Sampras serving all games.

LOL - Talk about being blind to what Sampras had to get through to get to that semi.

Did you know that he went five sets against Bruguera in the second round, then five sets again Martin in the third round, and then came back from two sets to love down to win in five against Courier?

That is three five set matches, in the last four matches before playing the semi. Do you have any idea just how tiring that is? Two of those guys are both multiple time RG champions.

Put a fresh Sampras there, and he will hold his own. Amazing how you are leaving all this out, then saying how anyone can even argue...
 
LOL - Talk about being blind to what Sampras had to get through to get to that semi.

Did you know that he went five sets against Bruguera in the second round, then five sets again Martin in the third round, and then came back from two sets to love down to win in five against Courier?

That is three five set matches, in the last four matches before playing the semi. Do you have any idea just how tiring that is? Two of those guys are both multiple time RG champions.

Put a fresh Sampras there, and he will hold his own. Amazing how you are leaving all this out, then saying how anyone can even argue...
Also it was incredibly hot that SF day, and Sampras had always troubles with the heat. I often have to say something if Pete is unrealistically overrated by nostalgic fans, but we have to be fair here. Just look at the Davis Cup final a few months before and see Sampras beating Kafelnikov in 3 easy sets himself. That RG SF wasn’t an indicator what normally happens between these 2.

However, after that Sampras was nothing but a total disappointment on clay. He always attended RG from 1997-2002 and only won 5 (!) more matches in those 6 years.

RG 1996 seemed to be faster than usual by the way. Not only because of Sampras reaching the SF at all, but in his match with Courier in the QF they both combined hit a total number of 55 aces (28-27 Sampras).
 
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Hitman

Bionic Poster
Also it was incredibly hot that SF day, and Sampras had always troubles with the heat. I often have to say something if Pete is unrealistically overrated by nostalgic fans, but we have to be fair here. Just look at the Davis Cup final a few months before and see Sampras beating Kafelnikov in 3 easy sets himself. That RG SF wasn’t an indicator what normally happens between these 2.

However, after that Sampras was nothing but a total disappointment on clay. He always attented RG from 1997-2002 and only won 5 (!) more matches in those 6 years.

RG 1996 seemed to be faster than usual by the way. Not only because Sampras reching the SF at all, but in his match with Courier in the QF they both combined hit a total number of 55 aces (28-27 Sampras).
Yes. Sampras run to that semi was brutal and after that, he just moved on from RG.
 
I was wondering earlier what Nadal's stats are for breaks in final rounds of clay events. He often goes on very dominant runs and has had several such runs at RG, still exhibiting immense dominance against higher level opposition than Sampras. Then we'd need to figure out how many of those performance occurred against a player who at least have comparable success on their own service games for the tournament in question to Sampras, and preferably across a much longer span than just a tournament, with career being the longest span of course. I don't think this can be looked at in such a blanketed way, as much as I throw alleyoops to people to fill in the details whilst just getting at bigger picture takes. There may be many instances where Nadal, in particularly brutal form, destroyed opponents with high service game success even in the later rounds of events where the overall quality of play and pressure for Nadal to overcome should be greater. Also, we'd need to see what Sampras service stats look like deeper into clay tournaments. Did it suffer or stay at ~80%?

Sampras should be heavily favoured, but without going into detail as of yet, nonetheless, my instinct is that it isn't "laughably unlikely".

If we just take it for what we've actually seen and can imagine from it with the equipment both players happened to use, it becomes even more reasonable to expect that Nadal would claim a few wins out of say 100 simulations, rather than some astronomical odds. That might actually be an understatement as perhaps the tech and paradigm differences are greater than I imagine. For example, look at Sampras' second serve stats. I've seen people talk about that on this forum recently to suggest Federer has the better 2nd serve and pro commentators have even brought this up from time to time. I think this has very little to do with Sampras' 2nd serve and much more to do with Federer being a better baseliner but perhaps just as importantly that the tactics, the paradigm, of tennis behind the 2nd serve didn't make the most out of it. A bit like the lag of the NBA embracing the 3-point shot?

I’ll address all of this later but for now I’ll say: Sampras holding % against the top 10 on clay for his career is 78.0% in 19 matches. 10 of those 19 matches were contested against French Open champions. In 39 matches against the top 20 (16 matches against FO champions), he is at 80.4% with the older equipment. The vast majority of these matches occurred at the latter stages of tournaments or in RR clay tourneys like Düsseldorf.

Maybe not the deep-dive you’re looking for, but little decline to be found here.
 
Well Nadal showed he can win 55% of return games over a whole tournament in 2008, against far far superior clay court opposition than Sampras. And Sampras was losing 6-0 sets in his best year, so it is advantage Nadal already.

But more importantly, the match up is worse for Sampras.

We've already seen the Sampras serve is nullified on clay, Nadal stands back and gets the ball into play. Serve and volley is no option here other wise it is easy pickings for Nadal.

Once the ball is in play, and it will be because it is clay, 2008 Nadal is favorite to win every point, Sampras forehand or backhand isn't strong enough to push Nadal back and Nadal will chase and return everything. The topspin forehand to Sampras backhand would hurt Sampras hard during this match, it is a easy winning strategy for Nadal here.

How do you think the points go once the ball is in play? How does Sampras hurt Nadal from the baseline?
Point-by-point refutation to come tomorrow, for now I’ll just focus on bolded: being the favourite to win the average point doesn’t mean the player favoured will win every point. This is pure nonsense.

Even just against the field, Nadal fails to get back about 12-17% of serves on clay. Against Sampras, playing with poly, that would probably rise to 23-28% ( conservative estimate.) and, like @abmk already touched on, a good chunk of the balls Nadal gets back will be put-aways for Sampras, a master of the wide-angle serve.

So, even if he only wins 40% of baseline points, he would be massively favoured to hold serve.

Beyond that, you’re resorting to using small sample sizes, as is becoming your MO. Djokovic has broken Nadal over 50% of the time in multiple matches on HC (Federer has done it once too, and another time on clay.) in fact, those two combined have done it more to Nadal than Nadal has done it to them.

What does this tell you?
 
Point-by-point refutation to come tomorrow, for now I’ll just focus on bolded: being the favourite to win the average point doesn’t mean the player favoured will win every point. This is pure nonsense.

Even just against the field, Nadal fails to get back about 12-17% of serves on clay. Against Sampras, playing with poly, that would probably rise to 23-28% ( conservative estimate.) and, like @abmk already touched on, a good chunk of the balls Nadal gets back will be put-aways for Sampras, a master of the wide-angle serve.

So, even if he only wins 40% of baseline points, he would be massively favoured to hold serve.

Beyond that, you’re resorting to using small sample sizes, as is becoming your MO. Djokovic has broken Nadal over 50% of the time in multiple matches on HC (Federer has done it once too, and another time on clay.) in fact, those two combined have done it more to Nadal than Nadal has done it to them.

What does this tell you?
I look forward to your point by point, but facts and history cannot be changed. Nadal demonstrated he can win more than 50% of his return games, clearly in 2008 over a whole tournament against opposition far superior to Sampras. Please explain.

I am cherry picking, but I stated this is the greatest clay court version of Nadal vs the greatest clay court version of Sampras. That is Nadal in 2008, his greatest year at the French, against Sampras 1996, his greatest year at the French.

If what you say was true about Nadal returning against big servers, then every big server would have held easily against Nadal at the French - history of course says completely different. Please explain.

And I am talking 2008 Nadal, what makes you think when less superior players to Nadal regularly returned Sampras serve on clay and got the ball in regularly, then Nadal wouldn't?

Sampras in his greatest year at the French struggled the whole tournament, didn't make it to the final and lost 6-0 and 6-2. If he was feeling tired against people in 1996, then you really wouldn't want to see him against a 2008 Nadal in any clay setting- it wouldn't be good watching for you.
 
There were people claiming that Nadal would only win with 4-0 handicap lead in each set. Sure he is not the favourite but the Federer match alone is proof that it is not completely unlikely either. The cumulated soderling stats are also skewed a little due to their matches in 2009 and 2011. Soderling in 2009 was only broken twice out of 21 service games. His great performance was actually not really due to his serve he was only hitting 9 aces in a tough four setter. On the contrary, his baseline game was just clicking and he was firing service winners left and right, gar above the level Sampras could ever produce on clay. If we take the Rome encounter two weeks prior - even it was only best of three- Sod was broken in 6 out of 7 service games. The Isner match in 2011 John got broken 5 times out of 26 service games but this was one of the worst matches Nadal ever played at RG. So yes, Sampras at his very best would very likely win, but Pete also had a fair portion of off days on clay. In his best FO run he was broken 5 out of 13 service games by freaking kafelnikov. Can you imagine he would have played 2008 Nadal that day?? If they played at RG which is the hypothesis of the thread they would also very likely play in latter rounds so Sampras would also be gassed and due to his illness the chances for him having an off day would rise.
Fair points, and I’ll give you a fuller reply tomorrow (I’m starting to sound like a broken record but bear with me.)

Bullet points for now:

- remember that the 6 of 7 mark against Soderling is still only 6 breaks...or, 1/3rd of the bare minimum amount of times Nadal would need to break Sampras in order to win this hypothetical match. Convert Kafelnikovs 5/13 into an 9/13 (but tennis matches/match-ups aren’t often so neat and tidy) and that’s also only a set and a half at most.

- interestingly enough, omit the 2011 match and Isner’s hold% rises on clay against Nadal.

- no evidence to suggest Pete’s serving stats decline on clay in the later rounds, tons to suggest they remain stable, while ill demonstrate soon
 
I look forward to your point by point, but facts and history cannot be changed. Nadal demonstrated he can win more than 50% of his return games, clearly in 2008 over a whole tournament against opposition far superior to Sampras. Please explain.

I am cherry picking, but I stated this is the greatest clay court version of Nadal vs the greatest clay court version of Sampras. That is Nadal in 2008, his greatest year at the French, against Sampras 1996, his greatest year at the French.

If what you say was true about Nadal returning against big servers, then every big server would have held easily against Nadal at the French - history of course says completely different. Please explain.

And I am talking 2008 Nadal, what makes you think when less superior players to Nadal regularly returned Sampras serve on clay and got the ball in regularly, then Nadal wouldn't?

Sampras in his greatest year at the French struggled the whole tournament, didn't make it to the final and lost 6-0 and 6-2. If he was feeling tired against people in 1996, then you really wouldn't want to see him against a 2008 Nadal in any clay setting- it wouldn't be good watching for you.
Djokovic and Federer are far superior to Sampras on clay because of their return games/groundstrokes, not service games. Djokovic himself held at 67% in their 2008 RG match, when he was yet to reach his clay peak and played with poly.

And, once more, here are Nadal’s success rates on clay against big servers playing with modern equipment:
Measured post.

Personally, I think Sampras with today’s strings would hold about as often as Djokovic and Federer do on clay against Nadal, perhaps even a tad more frequently. Where he would get mauled is on the return, to an even greater degree than Fed and especially Djoko. But there are a few big servers that were able to acquit themselves reasonably well on clay against Nadal. Isner is one; he has held serve 55 of 63 times against Nadal in 4 matches. That’s 83.9%. Of course, I don’t believe Sampras’ serve in a vacuum is as potent as Isner’s, but with the all-around game and poly? He’d probably hold serve at least 65-70% of the time, and that is a conservative estimate. Clearly Isner proves that even just having a massive serve and little else is enough to pull ahead in these ridiculous hypotheticals. Here are some other big-serving guys that held their own (relative to this discussion) serving on clay against Nadal:

Soderling, 64% service games won over 5 matches (4 on Chatrier, where it was 68.7%)

Ljubicic, 60% service games won over 4 matches (2 at RG, where it was 67%)

Berdych, 66.7 service games won over 7 matches. Yes, really.

Lopez, 60% of service games won over 4 matches.

Lest anyone thinks I am cherry-picking, those five guys were the only big servers I could find that played Nadal 4+ times on clay. ALL OF THEM held at least 60% of the time. If we go further down and limit it to 2-3 matches, you have:


Zverev, 3 matches: 49.4%
Delpo, 3 matches: inconclusive as only one match is charged on TA, but it appears he holds about 60% of the time
Gulbis, 2 matches: 80.0%
Tsonga, 2 matches: 63.6%
Kyrgios, 2 matches: 60.9%
Sock, 2 matches: 55.6%
Roddick, 2 BO5 matches: not tracked, but given that Roddick won a set, took another to a TB and two others were 6-4, it was probably around 60-65%
Querrey, 2 matches, only one was tracked, Nadal broke 5 of 9 times. However, their other match was a very competitive BO5 in DC, 6-7 6-4 6-3 6-4. So he’s likely around 65%



And that’s it. Those are the only big servers that Nadal has played multiple matches against on clay. See here if you’d like to add any that I missed:

http://www.tennisabstract.com/cgi-bin/player.cgi?p=RafaelNadal&f=ACareerqqB1s00&view=h2h


Only one of those 12 guys failed to hold serve over 55% of the time. That was Zverev, and his serve as a stand-alone shot might be the worst of the lot.


I would suspect that Sampras’ stamina and return would prevent him from ever challenging Nadal in a match under normal conditions, but serving-only? Sampras would win extremely comfortably. Nadal may win the odd set, but those would be few and far between.
A peak Sampras with modern equipment has about as good a hold game on clay as Fed or Djoko, in my view a touch better.

If you want to use the rest of Pete’s game against him in this discussion (fair game under normal circumstances), that’s your prerogative but it makes you look rather silly.
 
Crazy how misinformed People are to Pete's clay conquests. He's beaten:

-Courier
-Bruguera
-Agassi
-Muster
-Won Davis Cup pretty much by himself against the Russian Team on clay.

And Won Rome and has a few QF, one SF appearance at the French. All big names on clay. All multiple time winners on clay. People act like he was Roddick or something on clay. Good lord.

Nothing wrong with that resume at all. He was pretty dang good on Clay up to 1996. Afterwards he basically quit focusing on it and turned his attention to Just Grass/hards/Slam record.
 
Djokovic and Federer are far superior to Sampras on clay because of their return games/groundstrokes, not service games. Djokovic himself held at 67% in their 2008 RG match, when he was yet to reach his clay peak and played with poly.

And, once more, here are Nadal’s success rates on clay against big servers playing with modern equipment:


A peak Sampras with modern equipment has about as good a hold game on clay as Fed or Djoko, in my view a touch better.

If you want to use the rest of Pete’s game against him in this discussion (fair game under normal circumstances), that’s your prerogative but it makes you look rather silly.
You comparing Djokovic on clay against Sampras on clay?

I specifically chose 2008, I already explained in 2008 Nadal was breaking 55% of games, which is incredible. People have already addressed your points, you are not acing someone on clay because of the surface, balls will get into play. Again as people have said, you need a solid ground stroke game to be competitive on clay. You seem to think having a good serve means success on clay, if that were true Sampras would have been a multiple French Open champion. Please explain why much much lesser players were able to return Sampras serve (even in the first video I posted), why was Sampras constantly being broken throughout French Open 1996?

I really don't understand your point, the Sampras serve is not effective on clay, your own research shows serving for aces on clay does not happen.

So the ball will be in play in this match, how does Sampras gain the upper hand in rallies against Nadal? Magic? What weapons does Sampras have to hurt Nadal from the baseline? Nadal forehand to Sampras backhand, how can Sampras attack that from that high up? Of course we all know the answers because we know how Sampras did in the French over his career.

Bottom line, if lesser players than Nadal were able to break him regularly and win 6-0 sets against him, what do you think Nadal would do?
 
@REKX


You seem to think having a good serve means success on clay, if that were true Sampras would have been a multiple French Open champion
You are either shamelessly trolling or you’re worse at framing another persons argument than anybody I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

The reasons Sampras had comparatively little success on clay have little to do with his serve. No, I do not think the only thing you need for success on clay is a serve and Sampras is exhibit A in that regard; he has one of tennis all-time great serves/service games yet still only made one RG semi.

However, this is because his return game was far worse than other good/great CC’ers.

His hold % at Roland Garros, for his career, was 81.8% This is close to Djokovic and Federer, both of whom are in the 83-85% range (Djokovic, fwiw, is at 84.3% EXCLUDING matches with Nadal, and that’s playing with poly.)

Were Sampras to have served every game at RG, he would have waltzed to the title practically every year in his career.


I really don't understand your point, the Sampras serve is not effective on clay, your own research shows serving for aces on clay does not happen.
.....no?

Sampras unreturned serve % on clay ranged from 25-40%. Aces and unreturned serves are functionally equal.

From a cursory glance, even in 2008 Nadal missed around 15% of his returns against the field as a whole.

My own research shows that Sampras held serve on clay more than all but 9/10 folks in the open era; and that’s with equipment that enabled returners to break at a more frequent rate.



So the ball will be in play in this match, how does Sampras gain the upper hand in rallies against Nadal? Magic? What weapons does Sampras have to hurt Nadal from the baseline? Nadal forehand to Sampras backhand, how can Sampras attack that from that high up? Of course we all know the answers because we know how Sampras did in the French over his career.
What is your issue here? I conceded that Nadal would have the clear edge in baseline rallies on his serve.

However, he wouldn’t win every single point or anything close to that because he’s not an android. Sampras’ serve/net game would win him 30-40% of all points played alone.

From there, he can take a beating from the baseline and still win sets comfortably because he’s serving every game.

Only two players in that ‘08 draw came even close to having service games as formidable as Pete’s, Fed and Djokovic. One of them won 67% of his games on serve, the other utterly threw away the final set in a last-ditch effort to get something going (no doubt he’d be more at ease serving every game.)

Even with your minute sample sizes, you can’t seem to make a compelling argument for Nadal and are falling back on debunked strawmen.
 
The best post by far in this thread. Yes Sampras would be the favourite and ein most of the time, but to say a Nadal win would be impossible is crap. Apart from the Federer match where he indeed won more than half of return games a score line of 6-2,6-2,6-2 in a normal match would already mean winning 50% or slightly more of return games. I do not see that out of the reach of possibility. Surely we also have to factor in dynamics of those specific ruleset but to say Nadal would never win is highly exaggerated.
That is not what VB is saying - many of them (and the OP who said "I simply don't see any other outcome in this theoretical match other than a Nadal win.") are saying Nadal will win this one very easily.
 
While this is true, its also interesting to dig deeper.

Federer has won 84.6% of service games on clay vs Nadal's 43% of return games won. Looking at that one would also surmise that Fed would murder Nadal in a match where only he could serve. Yet in the 2008 RG final, Nadal broke Fed 8/11 times (72.7%).

Now it is important to ponder a few questions about this:

1)Would Nadal have still been able to maintain a >50% break rate across the larger sample size needed to win a full Bo5 just returning?
2)Would a player have the same mental game in a match where they serve every time compared to the deflation they feel going down a break to Nadal on clay in a normal match?
3)Is this type of performance repeatable consistently?

My inclination is to say No to all 3 of these questions and therefore conclude that if they played say 10 matches under these conditions, Sampras would win the majority and therefore he would be the favorite in this situation.

However, the fact does remain that Nadal has shown the ability to take a GOAT contender with a fantastic serve and play a match at a pace against him to win through only breaking before. Hence in a 1 off match, I would not be so quick to write off Nadal having a chance to win as so many are doing in this thread.
You forgot the most important factor...that you are cherry picking data from the single match that best supports Nadal having a chance to win. If you look at all of Federer and Nadal's matches on clay, it will probably become quite clear that Federer would have destroyed Nadal on clay if he served every game, at least most of the time. It might be possible for Nadal to win a single match, such as that 2008 RG match, but even that is questionable since he would have had to keep up his returning over a longer time period and Federer likely would have played better on serve if he was serving every game and not getting blown out. It seems quite clear that Federer (or Sampras) would beat Nadal on clay if they served every game. Actually, most top 30 players would probably beat Nadal on clay if they served every game. Unfortunately I voted for Nadal at first and cannot change my vote not after having had time to think about it more.
 
In Sampras' greatest year at the French Open, he lost in straight sets 7-6 6-0 6-2 against Kafelnikov. Why did Kafelnikov dominate Sampras' service games? Do you not realize 2008 Nadal is far far superior to Kafelnikov?

In 2008 Nadal got three 6-0 sets and nine 6-1 sets against players like journey men and Federer in the final. Sampras was a journey man on clay and in the 2008 French Nadal winning 55% of return games - why are you not acknowledging this?

So Sampras, in his greatest year at the French, losing 6-0 and 6-2 sets vs Nadal who was winning 55% of return games against superior clay court players. How can anyone even argue Sampras has this? It is a miss match even with Sampras serving all games.
This is called cherry picking data that supports your argument. It doesn't tell a complete story though. You could just as easily (actually much more easily) cherry pick data that supports the opposing argument.
 
That is not what VB is saying - many of them (and the OP who said "I simply don't see any other outcome in this theoretical match other than a Nadal win.") are saying Nadal will win this one very easily.
That is also crap. The correct answer is that Pete is of course the clear favourite but a Nadal ein is also possible. Maybe one or two out of ten matches.
 
Statistically Sampras would have a better chance of winning.

Even in 2008 Nadal was winning less than 50% of the return games on clay vs top players. And even on clay Sampras won 81% (career average) of all service games.
 
Fair points, and I’ll give you a fuller reply tomorrow (I’m starting to sound like a broken record but bear with me.)

Bullet points for now:

- remember that the 6 of 7 mark against Soderling is still only 6 breaks...or, 1/3rd of the bare minimum amount of times Nadal would need to break Sampras in order to win this hypothetical match. Convert Kafelnikovs 5/13 into an 9/13 (but tennis matches/match-ups aren’t often so neat and tidy) and that’s also only a set and a half at most.

- interestingly enough, omit the 2011 match and Isner’s hold% rises on clay against Nadal.

- no evidence to suggest Pete’s serving stats decline on clay in the later rounds, tons to suggest they remain stable, while ill demonstrate soon
Actually I think we are basically on the same page here. I am actually a big Sampras fan and also think that his ability on clay is vastly underrated in this forum. I am always arguing here when some geniuses talk as if Pete was a complete mug and by default give him 0-10 on clay in all these hypothetical matchups of 10 matches on each surface (against Fed, Djokovic or even Murray :D). I actually believe, that Pete's best on clay is not so far away from Fed's or Djokovic's best, his H2H against the best clay courters of his era (Agassi, Muster, Kafelnikov, Bruguera, Courier) is not so bad actually and I think overall positive. The problem with Pete is that he also had a lot of off days. So in this particular hypothetical matchup against Nadal, where only Pete is serving, he would of course be the overwhelming favorite, here I agree. The question is simply how realistic is a win for Nadal here and there. The Sampras of the Rome final against Becker in 94 or the Sampras of the Davis Cup match against Kafelnikov would destroy any version of Nadal under this specific rule set, that is for sure. But what if Pete from the 96 FO semifinal, or from one of his many early round losses in Paris would show up and face the Nadal version of FO 2008 or 2012? I am sure this could actually become much closer than many here think. I would assume over a series of ten matches Nadal would at least win one of them. Of course it is difficult to factor in the psychological aspect and the dynamics of this specific match. It could be that Sampras would play more freely, knowing, that being broken does not mean much as he serves every game. However, it could also happen, that he becomes nervous if the match gets close, because he is the huge favorite and let's face it, in such a handicap match has nothing to gain but everything to lose.
 
You forgot the most important factor...that you are cherry picking data from the single match that best supports Nadal having a chance to win. If you look at all of Federer and Nadal's matches on clay, it will probably become quite clear that Federer would have destroyed Nadal on clay if he served every game, at least most of the time. It might be possible for Nadal to win a single match, such as that 2008 RG match, but even that is questionable since he would have had to keep up his returning over a longer time period and Federer likely would have played better on serve if he was serving every game and not getting blown out. It seems quite clear that Federer (or Sampras) would beat Nadal on clay if they served every game. Actually, most top 30 players would probably beat Nadal on clay if they served every game. Unfortunately I voted for Nadal at first and cannot change my vote not after having had time to think about it more.
I specifically stated that this data does not support the premise that Nadal would be favored to win in this scenario (in fact I explicitly stated Sampras would be the favorite). My point was simply that data does exist that indicates Nadal might have a chance to win a 1 off match if he is playing his absolute highest level, and hence its not as ridiculous as it may initially sound to suggest he could win.
 
I specifically stated that this data does not support the premise that Nadal would be favored to win in this scenario (in fact I explicitly stated Sampras would be the favorite). My point was simply that data does exist that indicates Nadal might have a chance to win a 1 off match if he is playing his absolute highest level, and hence its not as ridiculous as it may initially sound to suggest he could win.
Yep, he could win a single match if he was playing at his absolute best and Sampras was not playing at his absolute best. I think we agree that Sampras would win the large majority of the time though.
 
I doubt so. Even with Sampras serving every game he will get broken like crazy.

Prime Nadal wins a high number of return games, almost 50% in RG.

Nadal's serve is always in trouble, he prefers to return in every game.

Sampras to win large majority of games? Think again. He couldn't ace anyone on clay.
 
I doubt so. Even with Sampras serving every game he will get broken like crazy.

Prime Nadal wins a high number of return games, almost 50% in RG.

Nadal's serve is always in trouble, he prefers to return in every game.

Sampras to win large majority of games? Think again. He couldn't ace anyone on clay.
If you win almost 50% of your return games and you return every game, you are going to lose more matches than you win, especially when you go against someone with one of the best service games. Your post is full of inaccurate statements. There have been many statistics posted throughout the thread, so I would encourage you to read the whole thing. If you do, you will likely change your mind.
 
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