Ranking the 90's clay courters

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
I said I don't care for your opinion. Doesn't mean I shouldn't post.


Bruguera has a better record on the biggest clay court tournament. This is my point. What don't you understand about this?
You weren't clear. I didn't offer an opinion. Merely counting major titles, alone, is a very superficial and flawed measure of greatness. By any reasonable measure, Muster's record on clay, and off, is far superior to Bruguera's.
 
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Mustard

Talk Tennis Guru
Bruguera over Muster? I don't see it.

- Bruguera won 14 career titles, 13 clay titles (including 2 FO's and 2 Masters), and 1 HC title.
- Muster won 44 career titles, 41 clay court titles (including 1 FO and 7 Masters), 1 carpet title (Masters at Essen), and 1 HC title.
- From the ATP website it appears that Muster is 12-3 vs. Bruguera H2H (4-2 on clay with one match in which the surface isn't listed).
Muster won 3 hardcourt titles, and 40 clay titles. The hardcourt titles were the 1990 Adelaide, 1997 Dubai and the 1997 Miami tournaments. Muster also won 8 Masters (3 Italian Opens, 3 Monte Carlos, 1 Essen, 1 Miami).
 

JasonZ

Professional
I started to watch tennis in 1995. My favourites have been Boris and Goran and i also liked Pete abd Andre. Players whose worse surface is clay and who never really cared about clay tournaments except the french open. Especially american players had this attitude.

Muster was my least favourite player and i disliked every other clay specialist of that time. Always felt that they are much less talented than the players i mentioned.

So i also never really cared about the clay season, except the french open, which is huge.

So i rate a player on clay achievements mainly on his achievements on roland garros. Thats why i even rate Agassi higher than Muster. Call it stupid, but thats how it is.
 

cataclysm

Rookie
You weren't clear. I didn't offer an opinion. Merely counting major titles, alone, is a very superficial and flawed measure of greatness. By any reasonable measure, Muster's record on clay, and off, is far superior to Bruguera's.

No, this is incorrect. Slams and WTF are measures of greatness. They are not the measures of ability, I will agree. But we are talking about the greatest clay courter of the 90's. Muster very well could have had the single best year out of the three I've picked.



Muster's stats outside of the FO are not good enough to put him ahead of someone who A) Has far more talent and B) Has one more FO title. it's not like Muster has had Djokovic 2011 level consistency outside of the FO, winning literally everything in sight and dominating the WTF and MS titles.
 

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
Thomas Muster is the best clay-courter of the 1990s, in my opinion. Anyone who watched those clay tournaments of 1995 and 1996 on channels like Eurosport will remember how he won so many tournaments, many of them after being so close to defeat in some matches. Muster won 11 clay tournaments in 1995, and another 7 in 1996. These tournaments were at all levels.
I understand it makes for awesome match and it is an extremely impressive feat of consistency, but it's still only a very short span a dominance during which he only won one french open. Saving matchs points in several smaller tournaments in impressive but it's not a demonstration of being the best of the best on clay. The demonstration of being the best on clay is winning the big prize.
 

shamaho

Professional
my 2 cents..

My vote goes for Muster - not because of title-count or whatever but because that general joke going around at the time among the pros, that anybody who would draw Muster, was inclined to already buy his ticket for the next tournament. :) that went on for quite a few years, and nobody else generated that fear - he was only surpassed by Nadal in that respect (maybe Vilas or Borg mut that time I cannot speak for).

For anybody else, everyone knew they had a shot, it was not a lost cause...
 

Gizo

Hall of Fame
my 2 cents..

My vote goes for Muster - not because of title-count or whatever but because that general joke going around at the time among the pros, that anybody who would draw Muster, was inclined to already buy his ticket for the next tournament. :) that went on for quite a few years, and nobody else generated that fear - he was only surpassed by Nadal in that respect (maybe Vilas or Borg mut that time I cannot speak for).

For anybody else, everyone knew they had a shot, it was not a lost cause...
I completely agree.

As I said recently on another thread, I attended the tournament at Barcelona in 1996, which had an incredibly strong field, and which Muster won; the 3rd clay court event after Mexico City and Estoril which he won in 1995 and then successfully defended in 1996. At first hand I witnessed and felt the aura and fear factor that Muster had generated for himself on clay. I spoke to a few of the players and other fans at the event, and they were talking about in reverential terms.

The only other players I felt that aura on clay were of course Nadal and Borg, plus Lendl as well at least at RG (Gomez publicly thanked him for skipping RG in 1990). Vilas didn't really have that same aura as even in 1977 it was widely felt that Borg was better than him on clay (and he won both their clay court matches comfortably that year).
 

JasonZ

Professional
I completely agree.

As I said recently on another thread, I attended the tournament at Barcelona in 1996, which had an incredibly strong field, and which Muster won; the 3rd clay court event after Mexico City and Estoril which he won in 1995 and then successfully defended in 1996. At first hand I witnessed and felt the aura and fear factor that Muster had generated for himself on clay. I spoke to a few of the players and other fans at the event, and they were talking about in reverential terms.

The only other players I felt that aura on clay were of course Nadal and Borg, plus Lendl as well at least at RG (Gomez publicly thanked him for skipping RG in 1990). Vilas didn't really have that same aura as even in 1977 it was widely felt that Borg was better than him on clay (and he won both their clay court matches comfortably that year).
What were the names of these players that were in awe of muster? I guess some other clay grinders. I dont believe that Sampras, Agassi, Becker or Stich ever had fear of Muster on clay.
 

cataclysm

Rookie
What were the names of these players that were in awe of muster? I guess some other clay grinders. I dont believe that Sampras, Agassi, Becker or Stich ever had fear of Muster on clay.

Don't bother. I think Kuerten with 3 FO titles would have generated a little bit of 'aura' at the very least. Its quite obvious who the better clay courter is.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
Muster won 3 hardcourt titles, and 40 clay titles. The hardcourt titles were the 1990 Adelaide, 1997 Dubai and the 1997 Miami tournaments. Muster also won 8 Masters (3 Italian Opens, 3 Monte Carlos, 1 Essen, 1 Miami).
Thanks! I was going with the Wiki page. The notion, of some posters, that Bruguera was a greater clay court player than Muster is ridiculous!
 
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Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
No, this is incorrect. Slams and WTF are measures of greatness. They are not the measures of ability, I will agree. But we are talking about the greatest clay courter of the 90's. Muster very well could have had the single best year out of the three I've picked.



Muster's stats outside of the FO are not good enough to put him ahead of someone who A) Has far more talent and B) Has one more FO title. it's not like Muster has had Djokovic 2011 level consistency outside of the FO, winning literally everything in sight and dominating the WTF and MS titles.
Ridiculous! If that were true then there would be no reason to play the rest of the tour. Muster conclusively demonstrated by his record, including his dominant H2H record against Bruguera, that he was the greater player on and off clay.

And, the cavalier manner in which the uninformed substitute the word slam for major is sad.
 

vive le beau jeu !

Talk Tennis Guru
Thomas Muster is the best clay-courter of the 1990s, in my opinion. Anyone who watched those clay tournaments of 1995 and 1996 on channels like Eurosport will remember how he won so many tournaments, many of them after being so close to defeat in some matches. Muster won 11 clay tournaments in 1995, and another 7 in 1996. These tournaments were at all levels.
i'm still amazed that 6 of his 12 tournament wins in 1995 we earned after saving match point ! :eek:
this is some impressively scary stat... ;)
By the way, the OP doesn't mention Alberto Berasategui, who was in excellent form himself at the 1994 French Open. The famous Hawaiian grip, where he hit the forehand and backhand with the same side of the racquet. He drove Goran Ivanisevic crazy in the quarter finals (Berasategui's only win over Ivanisevic), and beat Kafelnikov in straight sets (as always, without fail).
oh yes... that famous berasategui-kafelnikov H2H ! :p
 

joe sch

Legend
Flash,

That's really kind of a tough question. Muster may have had the best one year in the 1990s on clay but Kuerten may have been the best I suppose overall in his career. Can you really count Kuerten since two of his three French majors were in the 2000s? Courier won the French twice in the 1990s but really wasn't a top force on clay.

Sergi Bruguera won two French Opens and was in the final of another losing to some lousy red clay player named Gustevo Kuerten who just never could smile. LOL!

Muster won a lot more clay titles in the 1990s including one French Open, a few in Rome, Monte Carlo, Barcelona etc.

I'm going with Muster whose sheer volume of top clay titles may overcome the extra French Open that Bruguera won.
Just considering the FO 90s by the numbers then both Bruguera and Courier were the tops each with 2 FO championships and 1 runnerup. Also notice the AA had 1 championship and two runnerups that were 5 set losses both 6-4 in the 5th. Also the US did pretty well with Jim and Andre wins during the 90s at Paris.

1990
ECU Andrés Gómez
USA Andre Agassi 6–3, 2–6, 6–4, 6–4
1991
USA Jim Courier
USA Andre Agassi 3–6, 6–4, 2–6, 6–1, 6–4
1992
USA Jim Courier
TCH Petr Korda 7–5, 6–2, 6–1
1993
ESP Sergi Bruguera
USA Jim Courier 6–4, 2–6, 6–2, 3–6, 6–3
1994
ESP Sergi Bruguera
ESP Alberto Berasategui 6–3, 7–5, 2–6, 6–1
1995
AUT Thomas Muster
USA Michael Chang 7–5, 6–2, 6–4
1996
RUS Yevgeny Kafelnikov
GER Michael Stich 7–6(7–4), 7–5, 7–6(7–4)
1997
BRA Gustavo Kuerten
ESP Sergi Bruguera 6–3, 6–4, 6–2
1998
ESP Carlos Moyá
ESP Àlex Corretja 6–3, 7–5, 6–3
1999
USA Andre Agassi
UKR Andrei Medvedev 1–6, 2–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4
 
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deacsyoga

Banned
Mustard, I am just curious do you rank Muster over Kuerten on clay? If you do I totally disagree, although I respect your opinion. I would guess you rank Muster over Courier and Bruguera on clay despite 1 less French Open due to his overall record and much greater consistency/titles count/Masters count on the surface, and I do agree there. I think 3 RG titles is too much and the way Kuerten won those with such emphatic tennis.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
Mustard, I am just curious do you rank Muster over Kuerten on clay? If you do I totally disagree, although I respect your opinion. I would guess you rank Muster over Courier and Bruguera on clay despite 1 less French Open due to his overall record and much greater consistency/titles count/Masters count on the surface, and I do agree there. I think 3 RG titles is too much and the way Kuerten won those with such emphatic tennis.
It all depends on your criteria. It seems to me that Muster had the most accomplished clay court record of the 90's. Muster won a total of 44 titles, of which 40 were clay court titles (corrected from 41 thanks to Mustard), including one FO title, and 8 clay court Masters titles. The current ATP point allocation system (the fairest and most logical to date, in my view), awards 2000 points for a major title and 1000 points for a Masters title. That alone is equivalent to 5 major clay court titles.

However, comparing peak level of play, in my view, peak Kuerten, Agassi and Courier played at a higher level than Muster, but I don't include Bruguera in that group. Further, Kuerten's clay court level of play was probably the highest since Borg, and who knows how he would have fared against Nadal. We may have missed out on some of the greatest clay court battles of all time. Perhaps Nadal would have a few less FO titles had Kuerten remained healthy.
 

Mustard

Talk Tennis Guru
Mustard, I am just curious do you rank Muster over Kuerten on clay? If you do I totally disagree, although I respect your opinion. I would guess you rank Muster over Courier and Bruguera on clay despite 1 less French Open due to his overall record and much greater consistency/titles count/Masters count on the surface, and I do agree there. I think 3 RG titles is too much and the way Kuerten won those with such emphatic tennis.
Kuerten was a different kind of player to Muster. Kuerten played his way into matches trying to find his groove, and was often flat throughout, sometimes hot from the start, but usually took a while to find the groove. Muster was sheer relentlessness point after point. Who was better depends on which criteria one uses. Kuerten never dominated quite like Muster did in 1995-1996, but he was capable of amazing peak play and managed to win 3 French Open titles with some amazing standard at times. Kuerten's best clay year was 2001, but he was beaten in 3 straight sets by Hewitt in his hometown of Florianopolis in the Davis Cup on clay, and lost in 5 sets to Ferrero in the Italian Open final, so it wasn't all plain sailing. Kuerten was also 1 point from a straight sets defeat to Michael Russell at the 2001 French Open, saved with a 26-stroke rally. In the semis against Ferrero, Kuerten was sensational, and after the first 2 sets of the final against Corretja, Kuerten went into similar mode to win 6-2, 6-0 in the last 2 sets.
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
It all depends on your criteria. It seems to me that Muster had the most accomplished clay court record of the 90's. Muster won a total of 44 titles, of which 40 were clay court titles (corrected from 41 thanks to Mustard), including one FO title, and 8 clay court Masters titles. The current ATP point allocation system (the fairest and most logical to date, in my view), awards 2000 points for a major title and 1000 points for a Masters title. That alone is equivalent to 5 major clay court titles.

However, comparing peak level of play, in my view, peak Kuerten, Agassi and Courier played at a higher level than Muster, but I don't include Bruguera in that group. Further, Kuerten's clay court level of play was probably the highest since Borg, and who knows how he would have fared against Nadal. We may have missed out on some of the greatest clay court battles of all time. Perhaps Nadal would have a few less FO titles had Kuerten remained healthy.
Bruguera on clay at his peak was quite clearly better than Agassi. So was Muster.
Courier vs Bruguera is debatable, but I felt that Bruguera at his peak at RG was a tad better.
 

deacsyoga

Banned
Bruguera on clay at his peak was quite clearly better than Agassi. So was Muster.
Courier vs Bruguera is debatable, but I felt that Bruguera at his peak at RG was a tad better.
Courier at RG 92 was for sure better than Bruguera ever was there IMO. He was clearly playing better all event in 92 than he did in the 93 final for instance, and he narrowly lost that after leading in the 5th set. I also dont think Bruguera would go through such a tough draw as Courier's 92 RG one that emphatically.

I dont think peak Courier is much better than peak Bruguera at RG, especialy not losing to him twice in the finals/semis, but it is hard to see Bruguera ever topping the Courier of RG 92.
 
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abmk

Bionic Poster
Courier at RG 92 was for sure better than Bruguera ever was there IMO. He was clearly playing better all event in 92 than he did in the 93 final for instance, and he narrowly lost that after leading in the 5th set. I also dont think Bruguera would go through such a tough draw as Courier's 92 RG one that emphatically.

I dont think peak Courier is much better than peak Bruguera at RG, especialy not losing to him twice in the finals/semis, but it is hard to see Bruguera ever topping the Courier of RG 92.
Courier's draw in 92 was tough, no doubt. But Bruguera's in 93/94 were hardly easy (not much easier)

93 -- Leconte, Sampras, Medvedev and Courier. Bruguera was really dominant in this one until the final, triple bagelling Champion, crushing Medvedev. Medvedev was 11th seed here as opposed to being a qualifier in 92 when Courier beat him easily.

94 -- Medvedev, Courier, Berasategui. Bruguera lost only 2 sets in the whole draw, one to Courier and one to Berasategui. Medevdev had won both Monte Carlo and Hamburg , but Bruguera beat him in straights at the FO convincingly.



My opinion was also in part based on the 93 final , not just the end result. but the way things unfolded. Both of them played well, though both had multiple dips. I just felt that when playing well, Bruguera was just a step ahead of Courier.
 

cataclysm

Rookie
Dunno why Muster gets so much love; His style was awful to watch. Made tennis look **** to play and was an absolute bore. Kuerten made you want to play tennis.
 
D

Deleted member 307496

Guest
So before 89, clay had been dominated by Lendl, Wilander and Borg. Since 2005, Nadal is the man. Let's discuss for a change the players who have succeeded at the FO (and those who have been fierce competitors) from 89 to 2004.

We have a few hard-courters who triumphed, namely Chang, Courier, Kafelnikov and Agassi. These guys didn't win a lot of clay court tournaments, sometime they skipped large chunk of the clay swing, but still they won the French. Who was the best of them? And how do they compare with the true clay specialists?

Among them, Kuerten has been discussed a lot has he is clearly the most accomplished (and has so many fans), and Muster likewise because of his 95-96 run and his sole FO. But Bruguera? Hardly a word for written on him. Likewise for Moya, Costa, Gaudio, Gomez, Medvedev, Corretja, etc.

Please those who followed the 90's, give us some hindsights on these forgotten players. And rank them (so the thread can go on and on for a few month).
Moya was arguably as good on HC.
 

shamaho

Professional
What were the names of these players that were in awe of muster? I guess some other clay grinders. I dont believe that Sampras, Agassi, Becker or Stich ever had fear of Muster on clay.
Becker ? are you joking ? He did not win one single red clay event ! period.
 

joe sch

Legend
Courier's draw in 92 was tough, no doubt. But Bruguera's in 93/94 were hardly easy (not much easier)

93 -- Leconte, Sampras, Medvedev and Courier. Bruguera was really dominant in this one until the final, triple bagelling Champion, crushing Medvedev. Medvedev was 11th seed here as opposed to being a qualifier in 92 when Courier beat him easily.

94 -- Medvedev, Courier, Berasategui. Bruguera lost only 2 sets in the whole draw, one to Courier and one to Berasategui. Medevdev had won both Monte Carlo and Hamburg , but Bruguera beat him in straights at the FO convincingly.



My opinion was also in part based on the 93 final , not just the end result. but the way things unfolded. Both of them played well, though both had multiple dips. I just felt that when playing well, Bruguera was just a step ahead of Courier.

The final six players that Courier beat at Roland Garros (FO92) would have careers filled with memorable moments:

• Muster: In 1995, Muster won the French Open and would go on to reach No. 1 in the world.

• Mancini: As noted, Mancini won the two biggest tournaments on clay outside of the French Open in 1989. He also reached the final in Rome in 1991.

• Medvedev: After the French Open, the teenager won his next two tournaments. He’d get as high as No. 4 in the world and lost a memorable French Open final to Agassi in 1999.

• Ivanisevic: The biggest server in the game reached his first Grand Slam final just weeks after this French Open, at Wimbledon. In a heartbreaker, he lost the final in five sets to Agassi. After years of failing to win a major, despite reaching No. 2 in the world at one point, Ivanisevic finally captured one of the sport's biggest prizes in 2001. That year, he shockingly won Wimbledon as a wild card.

• Agassi: The American rebounded from his French Open loss with his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. He’d go on to have one of the game’s finest careers, and eventually won his first French Open title in 1999 to complete the career Grand Slam.

• Korda: It wouldn’t be until near the end of the decade before Korda reached another Grand Slam final. He made that appearance count, though, winning the Australian Open in 1998 over Marcelo Rios.

Between them, the six won 32 Masters 1000 titles and 11 Grand Slams over the course of their careers. All of them spent significant time in the Top 10, as well.

Yet for all they achieved, they were nothing more than minor obstacles in Courier’s path to Grand Slam glory in one of the most impressive performances in French Open history.

http://www.tennis.com/pro-game/2017/05/courier-delivered-slam-winning-feat-ages-25-years-ago/65693/
 
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deacsyoga

Banned
The interesting thing is after the generally conceded top 5 of Nadal, Borg, Lendl, Kuerten, Wilander you could really make arguments for putting Muster, Bruguera, Courier, Federer, Djokovic, Vilas, in pretty much any order from 6-11 in the last 40 years. The differences and pros and cons between Bruguera, Muster, and Courier are just an indication of that.

On another note it would have been interesting to see Bruguera win that 95 semi final over Chang and go for the 3peat against his toughest challenger, similar to Bruguera against Courier in 93. No disrespect to Chang, but everyone knew what that result would be. I think Muster would have won though, dethroning Bruguera and denying the 3peat, the same Bruguera did to Courier in 93.
 

tkramer15

Rookie
Dunno why Muster gets so much love; His style was awful to watch. Made tennis look **** to play and was an absolute bore. Kuerten made you want to play tennis.
That's all opinion-based. Many others would say that Sampras, Becker, Ivanisevic, Krajicek and other big servers or serve and volleyers of the 1990s were quite boring. For me, Muster's tenacity and topspin baseline grunting and grinding were far more appealing to watch.
 

tkramer15

Rookie
I will concede that I didn't really get into tennis until the summer of 1995, but I have followed the pro tour on a weekly basis ever since and have attended numerous tournaments, including Cincinnati every year since 1996. While I can't truly provide a full assessment of the earlier '90s, I feel like I have a very thorough grasp on the second part of the decade. As Moose Malloy accurately described, the 1990s landscape was far different than what we have seen in the past decade plus. The ATP Tour was far more surface specific back then. European or South American clay court specialists found ways to play on clay for the better part of the entire ATP season (even after the U.S. Open). Faster court preferring baseliners, big servers or serve and volleyers (yes, those still existed) tended to streamline their clay seasons into a couple of events before the French Open. Thomas Muster took a lot of flack for skipping Wimbledon almost his entire career, but I recall several other prominent Spanish clay courters doing the same thing on several occasions. The surfaces were viewed far more separately than they are now. There weren't many players who were legitimate consistent threats on all surfaces throughout the year, and thus guys looked to maximize their potential for success by sticking more closely to specific surfaces and tournaments. I'm not saying that this was a good thing for the sport, but it is what the prevailing landscape was.

With that being said, guys like Courier and Agassi certainly performed very well at Roland Garros in the early '90s without prioritizing clay in their scheduling. Does that mean that we can assume that they would've won numerous other tournaments on clay in those years had they bothered to enter? Maybe, but I don't think that's necessarily a fair assumption or that that should be used by anyone to then claim that they were better than Muster or others who did prioritize clay. Muster did win some smaller clay tourneys in the early '90s with weaker draws, but the field of clay court specialists got deeper in the mid '90s with the arrival of players like Moya, Corretja, Albert Costa, Rios and Mantilla who would all become Super 9 (Masters 1000) winners on clay. Bruguera was still around. As was Berasategui. Yevgeny Kafelnikov was a threat on all surfaces, including clay. Muster beat all of those players, some of them numerous times, en route to winning nearly every clay court tournament he entered in 1995 and 1996. Again, I do not mean to trivialize the fact that Courier won two French Opens and very nearly a third. If we are only looking at Roland Garros, then Courier gets the nod over Muster as far as '90s clay court results. Courier handled Muster in both the 1992 and 1993 French Opens when Courier was in the midst of his strongest period. Muster was certainly an established talent at that point, but he had not reached his peak nor is it fair to believe that he had totally found his place in the game following the car accident and knee injury recovery.

While Muster's dominance may have only spanned two clay court seasons, that short lived peak wasn't out of the norm in the 1990s. Did he underachieve at the French in comparison to his other results? Absolutely. But some of that was plain bad luck. Muster had some extremely rough early draws that never would've happened in the more modern 32 seed era -- #1 Courier in the 2nd round in 1992 while ranked 22; Agassi (19th) and then Rafter (26th) in rounds two and three in 1994. The loss to Stich in 1996 was obviously the one that hurt the worst. Stich had a brilliant game plan to attack and not let Muster get into a rhythm. While thought of as a horrific loss for Muster, I maintain that it was simply a very poor draw. Muster did not play well on that day, but Stich was a former Slam finalist with nothing to lose. He went on to nearly win the tournament. As poorly as Muster played on clay in 1997, most in the know still would've given him a pretty good chance to win the French that year had he found a way to get by then unknown Gustavo Kuerten in the third round. Muster squandered a 3-0 lead in the fifth set. Kuerten went on to famously win the tournament (and then two more).

When taking everything into account, I'm not sure how Muster isn't considered the clear best of the 1990s on clay. Yes, he was only truly dominant for two seasons and he won the French just once, but those two campaigns were far greater than anything anyone else put together. He won big tournaments like Monte Carlo and Rome in the early '90s and he beat a whole legion of talented clay court specialists over and over again in 1995 and 1996 en route to record length winning streaks.
 

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
I will concede that I didn't really get into tennis until the summer of 1995, but I have followed the pro tour on a weekly basis ever since and have attended numerous tournaments, including Cincinnati every year since 1996. While I can't truly provide a full assessment of the earlier '90s, I feel like I have a very thorough grasp on the second part of the decade. As Moose Malloy accurately described, the 1990s landscape was far different than what we have seen in the past decade plus. The ATP Tour was far more surface specific back then. European or South American clay court specialists found ways to play on clay for the better part of the entire ATP season (even after the U.S. Open). Faster court preferring baseliners, big servers or serve and volleyers (yes, those still existed) tended to streamline their clay seasons into a couple of events before the French Open. Thomas Muster took a lot of flack for skipping Wimbledon almost his entire career, but I recall several other prominent Spanish clay courters doing the same thing on several occasions. The surfaces were viewed far more separately than they are now. There weren't many players who were legitimate consistent threats on all surfaces throughout the year, and thus guys looked to maximize their potential for success by sticking more closely to specific surfaces and tournaments. I'm not saying that this was a good thing for the sport, but it is what the prevailing landscape was.

With that being said, guys like Courier and Agassi certainly performed very well at Roland Garros in the early '90s without prioritizing clay in their scheduling. Does that mean that we can assume that they would've won numerous other tournaments on clay in those years had they bothered to enter? Maybe, but I don't think that's necessarily a fair assumption or that that should be used by anyone to then claim that they were better than Muster or others who did prioritize clay. Muster did win some smaller clay tourneys in the early '90s with weaker draws, but the field of clay court specialists got deeper in the mid '90s with the arrival of players like Moya, Corretja, Albert Costa, Rios and Mantilla who would all become Super 9 (Masters 1000) winners on clay. Bruguera was still around. As was Berasategui. Yevgeny Kafelnikov was a threat on all surfaces, including clay. Muster beat all of those players, some of them numerous times, en route to winning nearly every clay court tournament he entered in 1995 and 1996. Again, I do not mean to trivialize the fact that Courier won two French Opens and very nearly a third. If we are only looking at Roland Garros, then Courier gets the nod over Muster as far as '90s clay court results. Courier handled Muster in both the 1992 and 1993 French Opens when Courier was in the midst of his strongest period. Muster was certainly an established talent at that point, but he had not reached his peak nor is it fair to believe that he had totally found his place in the game following the car accident and knee injury recovery.

While Muster's dominance may have only spanned two clay court seasons, that short lived peak wasn't out of the norm in the 1990s. Did he underachieve at the French in comparison to his other results? Absolutely. But some of that was plain bad luck. Muster had some extremely rough early draws that never would've happened in the more modern 32 seed era -- #1 Courier in the 2nd round in 1992 while ranked 22; Agassi (19th) and then Rafter (26th) in rounds two and three in 1994. The loss to Stich in 1996 was obviously the one that hurt the worst. Stich had a brilliant game plan to attack and not let Muster get into a rhythm. While thought of as a horrific loss for Muster, I maintain that it was simply a very poor draw. Muster did not play well on that day, but Stich was a former Slam finalist with nothing to lose. He went on to nearly win the tournament. As poorly as Muster played on clay in 1997, most in the know still would've given him a pretty good chance to win the French that year had he found a way to get by then unknown Gustavo Kuerten in the third round. Muster squandered a 3-0 lead in the fifth set. Kuerten went on to famously win the tournament (and then two more).

When taking everything into account, I'm not sure how Muster isn't considered the clear best of the 1990s on clay. Yes, he was only truly dominant for two seasons and he won the French just once, but those two campaigns were far greater than anything anyone else put together. He won big tournaments like Monte Carlo and Rome in the early '90s and he beat a whole legion of talented clay court specialists over and over again in 1995 and 1996 en route to record length winning streaks.
Good thread, thanks. But still I can't really get behind this kind of arguments. Beating strong players on the way of winning small tournaments, and losing to X and Y at slams is fully okay when we discuss the career of lesser players. But if you are going to award the titles of best clay player of a full decade, you absolutely can't excuse losing to Pat Rafter, on clay, in 1994! Even if you had to beat Agassi before. Beating Agassi is what the best clay courter does! At that time, Rafter was still waiting for his first title. I can't accept that drawing Rafter at Roland Garros in 1994 is bad luck. It's as lucky as you can be with the seeding system of the time, and for a player who some argue is the best clay courter of the decade.

But I see this comes down to how each of us value winning Roland-Garros versus winning Super 9 and smaller titles, and also how we value a short(ish) peak vs longer prime. So most likely we can't reach a consensus on who was the best. However, if I try to synthesis the opinions until now we have:

1-3) Kuerten, Courier, Muster. The 3 best of the 90's, ith a lot of people who have them in this order, and a lot who have Muster first.
4) Bruguera
5 and lower) Not really discussed yet. I will suggest:

6) Ferrero: Has SF, SF, RU and WIN for his 4 first RG, before injuries and illness stopped his top career. Also won 3 M1000 on clay.
7) Moya: Won RG in the beginning of his career then like Ferrero was derailed by injuries. Also won 2 M1000 on clay. I think both of them could have had much more success on clay had they remained more healthy. Also they were a new generation of clay courters, with better serve and forehand. It allowed them to have success on hard court as well. A bit like Courier was a hardcourter who could have success on clay with his weapons, but the reverse.
8) Agassi. I think Agassi has the least clay-friendly skillset on the whole list, and yet managed to win RG once, and reach two other finals and semi-finals, and win Rome at the end of his career despite having clay super 9 quite low on his priority list.
9) Kafelnikov. Kafelnikov won only 3 clay court tournaments in his career, but here we have a man I can agree was unlucky at Roland Garros: Berasategui in 1994, Muster in 1995, won it in 1996, Kuerten in 1997, Hrbaty in 1999 (went on to reach the SF), Kuerten in 2000 and 2001!
10) Medvedev. Never won RG but lost 6 times against the eventual champion! Also once against runner-up Norman. And won 4 Super 9 on clay.
11) Chang: Infamous 1989 victory with Lendl, Chesnokov and Edberg in the final. An additional final loss to Muster in 1995
12) Costa. 12 titles on clay, including the 2002 RG when he defeated Ferrero in the final. Seized his opportunity to win the thing.
13) Corretja: Twice runner-up to Moya and Kuerten, strong consistent results in super9/m1000 with a Rome title and many finals. I rank him before the next guy because I feel he too could have won the thing if offered so nicely by Coria.
14) Gaudio: You can't really be more a one-slam wonder than that. 8 clay titles, short career, few outstanding matches, and yet a RG title.
15) Coria: I know many will cough to see him that low. El Mago was loved. Gave us the magnificent Rome 2005 final against Nadal, my personnal favorite clay court match. Won 2 masters 1000, and lost 4 finals (Federer, Ferrero, Nadal *2). All of that in very short career cut down by injuries. But so many missed opportunities. RG 2004 against Gaudio, sandwiched between loss to Verkerk in 2003 and Davydenko in 2005...
16) Rios: First to win one of each clay master 1000, but never passed the quarters at RG.

Not ranked: Norman, whose career was terminated after his first extremely promising top season. Also Gomez, whose career spans before the scope of this thread.

Please use this post as a starting point for further discussion on these players. Feel free to add some guys that I left out (Berasategui, Mantilla, Rafter, Rosset...) Do you feel there are severe mistakes? Agassi, Kafelnikov, Coria?
 
Bruguera over Muster? I don't see it.

- Bruguera won 14 career titles, 13 clay titles (including 2 FO's and 2 Masters), and 1 HC title.
- Muster won 44 career titles, 41 clay court titles (including 1 FO and 7 Masters), 1 carpet title (Masters at Essen), and 1 HC title.
- From the ATP website it appears that Muster is 12-3 vs. Bruguera H2H (4-2 on clay with one match in which the surface isn't listed).
Styles... http://www.atpworldtour.com/en/players/fedex-head-2-head/thomas-muster-vs-emilio-sanchez/M099/S014

The sad thing is that Mr. Sánchez Vicario is not even a footnote in the current edition of the opuscule entitled "Dirtballers and moonballers". I don't need to tell you that i'm not addressing my comment to you.
 

ScentOfDefeat

G.O.A.T.
Kuerten had the highest peak and was the most successful clay court player.
But having watched A LOT of clay court tennis in the 90's, I still think the best clay courter overall was Thomas Muster.
Clay and Muster were basically synonymous in those years (especially 1995 and 1996) where he won almost every tournament he played.
Apart from Nadal, I have never seen anyone so naturally inclined to play tennis on the red stuff.
It's true that his Roland-Garros record is underwhelming for a player of his ability on that surface.
It's one of the great mysteries in tennis how he could never reproduce the form that saw him destroy everyone to win his first (and only) Grand Slam title.
 
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BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
I will never undertstand why Muster is so overrated on clay. Yes I know his amazing run in 1995 and 1996 but actually that is not enough to make up for his poor record at the French. He lost against Sampras, Stich and Rafter before Rafter even won a ATP tournament, let alone on clay which was always his worst surface. I know about his injury and what he achieved despite being overrun by a drunk driver is surely amazing but when rating him on the list of all-time greats on clay we can only go by actual achievements and not by "what ifs".

I also know tht his passing shots were crap and he therefore was vulnerable against serve and volley, but if you are so helpless against it that you go 0-4 against Edberg on clay or losing against Rafter at the French, then this alone rules out any dominance especially given that he played in the 90s with plenty Serve and volley players around.
 

ScentOfDefeat

G.O.A.T.
Mind you, serve and volley wasn't as useless on clay as some people might think. Today it would be suicide, but many players in the 80's and 90's had some success on the red stuff playing at the net. Noah won the French Open, McEnroe and Edberg almost did (and if they had - they were only a few points away - perhaps we wouldn't consider clay and serve and volley so antithetical), Stich reached a final. And it was also the perfect game to destabilise Muster, so I don't see why it would be such a scandal for him to lose against net rushers (on any surface).
 

BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
Mind you, serve and volley wasn't as useless on clay as some people might think. Today it would be suicide, but many players in the 80's and 90's had some success on the red stuff playing at the net. Noah won the French Open, McEnroe and Edberg almost did (and if they had - they were only a few points away - perhaps we wouldn't consider clay and serve and volley so antithetical), Stich reached a final. And it was also the perfect game to destabilise Muster, so I don't see why it would be such a scandal for him to lose against net rushers (on any surface).
I did not say it was useless, even though Clay is obviously the least suited surface for serve and Volley. My point is that if Muster was so useless against a playing Style being widely used in his era, then it is quite difficult to dominate since sooner or later you will run into some serve and Volley Player. Loosing against rafter or stich during your Prime is not acceptable for someone supposedly being the best player of a decade.
 

flanker2000fr

Hall of Fame
I was watching a lot of tennis at that time and, being French, most of the FO / MCO.

Had the privilege of watching Agassi - Muster live at the FO in 1994. Absolutely incredible game where both players were throwing the kitchen sink at each other.

It's very difficult for me to get past Muster, for the sheer level of domination he achieved on this surface for 2-3 seasons in the middle of the decade, even if he won only 1 FO. I mean, he was literally terrorizing everyone on clay during this time. "Musterminator", he was nicknamed back then.

Not to say that Bruguera and Kuerten were not fantastic clay players, but they didn't generate this kind of fear factor.
 

flanker2000fr

Hall of Fame
Dunno why Muster gets so much love; His style was awful to watch. Made tennis look **** to play and was an absolute bore. Kuerten made you want to play tennis.
By this measure, is Nadal awful to watch? Because Nadal on clay is basically the 1995 Muster with a modern racquet and poly strings.
 
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