top 5 clay court champions of open era

TupeloDanger

Professional
1a. Borg
1b. Nadal
3. Lendl
4. Wilander
5. Kuerten

I think it's pretty impossible to make a sane case for Kuerten ahead of Lendl or Wilander.

Borg and Nadal were about equally dominant, and Borg retired at the top of the clay world, so he gets some benefit of the doubt, and a little extra cred for going out on top. At a minimum, I don't see a motivated Borg losing to teenage Wilander in '82 or Noah in '83, though.

Vilas may have been a better claycourter than Kuerten, but maybe not a better "champion?" Cutting it pretty fine either way. Giving Kuerten the edge due to overall awesomeness.
 

jean pierre

Professional
1a. Borg
1b. Nadal
3. Lendl
4. Wilander
5. Kuerten

I think it's pretty impossible to make a sane case for Kuerten ahead of Lendl or Wilander.

Borg and Nadal were about equally dominant, and Borg retired at the top of the clay world, so he gets some benefit of the doubt, and a little extra cred for going out on top. At a minimum, I don't see a motivated Borg losing to teenage Wilander in '82 or Noah in '83, though.

Vilas may have been a better claycourter than Kuerten, but maybe not a better "champion?" Cutting it pretty fine either way. Giving Kuerten the edge due to overall awesomeness.

I think Vilas is ahead of Kuerten. It's true that Kuerten won 3 Grand Slams on clay and Vilas 2 (+ 3 finals). But Vilas won 49 titles on clay (record) and Kuerten only 14.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
I think Vilas is ahead of Kuerten. It's true that Kuerten won 3 Grand Slams on clay and Vilas 2 (+ 3 finals). But Vilas won 49 titles on clay (record) and Kuerten only 14.
Vilas won a lot of small tournaments on clay without the top players. Not to mention in that era players generally hoovered up larger numbers of titles in general. I don't think you can equate Har-Tru with red clay and even if you did Kuerten won 3 clay slams competing at only 1 clay major, if he had access to 2 he might have won more - not to mention each of his FO titles was won when all the top players were participating unlike Vilas' FO.

Worth noting that Kuerten had some bad injuries when he was 26 and never recovered, he probably could have won several more clay tournaments at least a 4th FO otherwise.
 

jean pierre

Professional
Vilas won a lot of small tournaments on clay without the top players. Not to mention in that era players generally hoovered up larger numbers of titles in general. I don't think you can equate Har-Tru with red clay and even if you did Kuerten won 3 clay slams competing at only 1 clay major, if he had access to 2 he might have won more - not to mention each of his FO titles was won when all the top players were participating unlike Vilas' FO.

Worth noting that Kuerten had some bad injuries when he was 26 and never recovered, he probably could have won several more clay tournaments at least a 4th FO otherwise.

I think it's a legend that Vilas won a lot of small tournaments. Look at the finalists of the clay tournaments he won (almost only top 10 players) : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillermo_Vilas#Titres_en_simple_ATP_:_62
 

Tardigrade

Banned
I think Vilas is ahead of Kuerten. It's true that Kuerten won 3 Grand Slams on clay and Vilas 2 (+ 3 finals). But Vilas won 49 titles on clay (record) and Kuerten only 14.
Kuerten had horrific injuries including a busted hip. 3 FO titles trumps 2. Who cares about smaller titles when you have more FO titles?

Nadal
Borg
Kuerten
Lendl
Wilander
 

jean pierre

Professional
Kuerten had horrific injuries including a busted hip. 3 FO titles trumps 2. Who cares about smaller titles when you have more FO titles?

Nadal
Borg
Kuerten
Lendl
Wilander

The question is not only about the French, but about clay in general. In Grand Slams on clay, Vilas and Kuerten are very close to each other (Vilas : 2 victories + 3 finals / Kuerten : 3 victories), but on clay in general, Vilas results are better. By far.
 

Tardigrade

Banned
The question is not only about the French, but about clay in general. In Grand Slams on clay, Vilas and Kuerten are very close to each other (Vilas : 2 victories + 3 finals / Kuerten : 3 victories), but on clay in general, Vilas results are better. By far.
Each to their own tbh, I just value FO as more important, especially when talking about someone's clay prowess. Kuerten could very well have been a 5 time FO winner without injuries.
 
Top 2 are so obvious they don't need stating.

The positioning of 3rd-5th is interesting though. On career achievements, it must surely be Lendl in 3rd. However, in terms of highest level achieved, I'd put Kuerten in that position.

I'm going to be slightly controversial and put Kuerten ahead.

1. Nadal
2. Borg
3. Kuerten
4. Lendl
5. Wilander
 
I'm intrigued that many of you are putting Borg ahead of Nadal. This follows the trend I've seen in recent publications to move the Swede back ahead of the Spaniard, both in their overall ranking and even on clay (where I'd have thought that Nadal was a lock for No 1).
 

abmk

Bionic Poster
I'm intrigued that many of you are putting Borg ahead of Nadal. This follows the trend I've seen in recent publications to move the Swede back ahead of the Spaniard, both in their overall ranking and even on clay (where I'd have thought that Nadal was a lock for No 1).
overall yes , but where do you see recent publications putting borg ahead of nadal on clay ?
 

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
1a. Borg
1b. Nadal
3. Lendl
4. Wilander
5. Kuerten

I think it's pretty impossible to make a sane case for Kuerten ahead of Lendl or Wilander.

Borg and Nadal were about equally dominant, and Borg retired at the top of the clay world, so he gets some benefit of the doubt, and a little extra cred for going out on top. At a minimum, I don't see a motivated Borg losing to teenage Wilander in '82 or Noah in '83, though.

Vilas may have been a better claycourter than Kuerten, but maybe not a better "champion?" Cutting it pretty fine either way. Giving Kuerten the edge due to overall awesomeness.
In this case you need to be consistent and see that Lendl and Wilander benefitted from the early retirement of a top competitor. Achievements wise Wilander is slightly ahead of Kuerten, but peak wise I think Kuerten is better.
 

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
I'm intrigued that many of you are putting Borg ahead of Nadal. This follows the trend I've seen in recent publications to move the Swede back ahead of the Spaniard, both in their overall ranking and even on clay (where I'd have thought that Nadal was a lock for No 1).
People have short memory. 3 years ago Nadal was dubbed Greatest of all time and now it's nice if he makes the top 8 of all time great ranking! I guess 4 more slams don't mean much in term of greatness for some people.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
People have short memory. 3 years ago Nadal was dubbed Greatest of all time and now it's nice if he makes the top 8 of all time great ranking! I guess 4 more slams don't mean much in term of greatness for some people.
Nadal like Djokovic now was being rated on what people expected him to achieve. He was never greater than Fed.
 

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
Nadal like Djokovic now was being rated on what people expected him to achieve. He was never greater than Fed.
I disagree, some people considered him greater than Fed already, due to the H2H (weak argument), injuries (that's life, and also the result of his style and schedule and his peak level (much stronger argument), which has been completely forgotten . Now that Nadal is bad it's easy to focus on his achievement and these clearly don't compare with Fed, and you can argue they don't compare with Sampras either. But the man may have one of the highest level on all surfaces at his very best. No need to discuss it on clay. On grass he proved it against Federer in 2007 and 2008, on hard he proved it against Federer in 2009 and Djokovic in 2013. I would say these are worthy tests.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
I disagree, some people considered him greater than Fed already, due to the H2H (weak argument), injuries (that's life, and also the result of his style and schedule and his peak level (much stronger argument), which has been completely forgotten . Now that Nadal is bad it's easy to focus on his achievement and these clearly don't compare with Fed, and you can argue they don't compare with Sampras either. But the man may have one of the highest level on all surfaces at his very best. No need to discuss it on clay. On grass he proved it against Federer in 2007 and 2008, on hard he proved it against Federer in 2009 and Djokovic in 2013. I would say these are worthy tests.
People were just going for headlines, no one in their right mind would have considered Nadal greater. Nadal's got a match up edge against Federer, his victory in 2013 against Djokovic in 2013 means very little - poor quality match from Djokovic for the most part.
 

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
People were just going for headlines, no one in their right mind would have considered Nadal greater. Nadal's got a match up edge against Federer, his victory in 2013 against Djokovic in 2013 means very little - poor quality match from Djokovic for the most part.
Well Canada-Cincinnati-USO mean very little in my book.

Edit: also I forgot in my previous post that Nadal had probably the hardest competition of all champions.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
Well Canada-Cincinnati-USO mean very little in my book.

Edit: also I forgot in my previous post that Nadal had probably the hardest competition of all champions.
I find Nadal's competition hugely overrated. He has the three individually best slam wins of the era IMO (AO 2009, Wim 2008 and FO 2013 - either for total draw (2013) or level of finals/SF opponent) but overall his competition is overrated - Federer and Djokovic have thrown in so many stinkers at the FO in finals and his USO draws were soft like baby poo.
 

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
I find Nadal's competition hugely overrated. He has the three individually best slam wins of the era IMO (AO 2009, Wim 2008 and FO 2013 - either for total draw (2013) or level of finals/SF opponent) but overall his competition is overrated - Federer and Djokovic have thrown in so many stinkers at the FO in finals and his USO draws were soft like baby poo.
You are nitpicking.

Nadal competed with peak/prime Federer from 2005 to 2009, had one year of rest he take full advantage off and then had peak Djokovic until his further decline.

Nadal held both these great players at bay on clay, not because they played bad on these finals, but because his level is beyond what ever existed there. Fed and Nole can compete with anyone on clay, including the more achieved players. He also conquered their turf on several occasions.

Nadal has only 3 year-end at n1 because he had two of the greatest and most competitor of the open era in succession.

No one else can claim to have faced such competition.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
You are nitpicking.

Nadal competed with peak/prime Federer from 2005 to 2009, had one year of rest he take full advantage off and then had peak Djokovic until his further decline.

Nadal held both these great players at bay on clay, not because they played bad on these finals, but because his level is beyond what ever existed there. Fed and Nole can compete with anyone on clay, including the more achieved players. He also conquered their turf on several occasions.

Nadal has only 3 year-end at n1 because he had two of the greatest and most competitor of the open era in succession.

No one else can claim to have faced such competition.
I'm not nitpicking. Federer has competed with peak/prime Nadal and peak/Djokovic as much as either have had to deal with him. Likewise Djokovic has had both Federer/Nadal to deal with.

If you watch the matches it's fairly obvious that Federer and Djokovic's level on clay was lacking in many of those finals.

You're just spouting hyperbole right now.
 

KG1965

Legend
Red Clay + Har tru

achievements
1. Nadal
2. Borg
3. Djokovic
4. Lendl
5. Kuerten

talents, skills
1. Nadal
2. Borg
3. Djokovic
4. Federer
5. Lendl
 

KG1965

Legend
For top 5 positions, the tournaments on har tru not move much, because Borg won "only" 3 US Pro in Boston , and Lendl some good tournament, but from 6th place at the bottom instead of the 3 US Open 1975-77 , and the titles in States of Vilas, Orantes and Connors trace the three .

In the 70's in Indianapolis , Boston , Washington and North Conway were held great events ( sometimes in Louisville ) .

In the 80 tournaments lost importance , North Conway moved to Stratton Mt. , became a discreet Tournament Forest Hills WCT . But "the har tru torunaments" began the parable .
 

serve

Rookie
I'm not nitpicking. Federer has competed with peak/prime Nadal and peak/Djokovic as much as either have had to deal with him. Likewise Djokovic has had both Federer/Nadal to deal with.

If you watch the matches it's fairly obvious that Federer and Djokovic's level on clay was lacking in many of those finals.

You're just spouting hyperbole right now.
The difference is that both Djokovic (2015, 16) and Federer (2004, 05) had at least 2 years basically without any competition ... a luxury that nadal did not have! Also, peak Federer and peak Djokovic have never actually met ... Federer started to decline in 2010, peak Djokovic showed up in 2011! Again it is Nadal who had to compete with the peak version of both ;)
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
The difference is that both Djokovic (2015, 16) and Federer (2004, 05) had at least 2 years basically without any competition ... a luxury that nadal did not have! Also, peak Federer and peak Djokovic have never actually met ... Federer started to decline in 2010, peak Djokovic showed up in 2011! Again it is Nadal who had to compete with the peak version of both ;)
Nadal had 2010.

Federer and Djokovic have played more slam matches against each other than any other combination of Big 3 players.

Comparing just Federer to Nadal;

- Federer had the tougher competition on clay at the FO, obviously as he had to play Nadal
- Nadal had the tougher competition at Wimbledon on grass, due to Federer
- Federer's competition on grass was tougher than Nadal's on clay, Nadal in 07/08, Roddick in 09 and Djokovic in 14/15 are all easily as tough as Djokovic 2013 at the FO, which is Nadal's toughest match at the FO
- At the USO hands down Federer has had tougher competition, he's played Djokovic 6x instead of 3 as well as a plethora of other former and future champs of the USO
- Nadal's 2009 AO win is better than any of Federer's AO wins and he had Djokovic in 2012. But by comparison Federer has played Djokovic 3x at the AO when Novak was in top form

Federer's competition overall is easily as tough as Nadals
 

serve

Rookie
Nadal had 2010.

Federer and Djokovic have played more slam matches against each other than any other combination of Big 3 players.

Comparing just Federer to Nadal;

- Federer had the tougher competition on clay at the FO, obviously as he had to play Nadal
- Nadal had the tougher competition at Wimbledon on grass, due to Federer
- Federer's competition on grass was tougher than Nadal's on clay, Nadal in 07/08, Roddick in 09 and Djokovic in 14/15 are all easily as tough as Djokovic 2013 at the FO, which is Nadal's toughest match at the FO
- At the USO hands down Federer has had tougher competition, he's played Djokovic 6x instead of 3 as well as a plethora of other former and future champs of the USO
- Nadal's 2009 AO win is better than any of Federer's AO wins and he had Djokovic in 2012. But by comparison Federer has played Djokovic 3x at the AO when Novak was in top form

Federer's competition overall is easily as tough as Nadals
It looks like that mainly because of his amazing longevity though! The titles that make him the Open era Goat were with one exception won between 2003 and 2010. 16/17 grand slam titles fall in that period! All before Djokovic really got going (since 2011). That is not a knock on him, works the other way around as well ... Djokovic also won just a single grand slam title during Federers prime. People just do not seem to understand that Federer and Djokovic are from two distinct generations and although they played many matches against each other, their primes never really overlapped. Nadal is the one who had to compete with both prime versions during his own best years (2007-2013). An argument can be made for 2010, but Federer and Djokovic were both formidable players even in that year.
 

serve

Rookie
That is just my view on the big 3 though. The rest of the competition is just to difficult to compare. I would argue for example that Soderling was just as formidable an opponent for Nadal at FO, as Roddick was for Federer at Wimbledon ;)
 

KG1965

Legend
For top 5 positions, the tournaments on har tru not move much, because Borg won "only" 3 US Pro in Boston , and Lendl some good tournament, but from 6th place at the bottom instead of the 3 US Open 1975-77 , and the titles in States of Vilas, Orantes and Connors trace the three .

In the 70's in Indianapolis , Boston , Washington and North Conway were held great events ( sometimes in Louisville ) .

In the 80 tournaments lost importance , North Conway moved to Stratton Mt. , became a discreet Tournament Forest Hills WCT . But "the har tru torunaments" began the parable .
I forgot 3 reflections :
- Rome was very important and close to Paris in the early part of '70 .
- Hamburg and MCarlo became very important in the 80's .
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
It looks like that mainly because of his amazing longevity though! The titles that make him the Open era Goat were with one exception won between 2003 and 2010. 16/17 grand slam titles fall in that period! All before Djokovic really got going (since 2011). That is not a knock on him, works the other way around as well ... Djokovic also won just a single grand slam title during Federers prime. People just do not seem to understand that Federer and Djokovic are from two distinct generations and although they played many matches against each other, their primes never really overlapped. Nadal is the one who had to compete with both prime versions during his own best years (2007-2013). An argument can be made for 2010, but Federer and Djokovic were both formidable players even in that year.
Neither Djokovic nor Federer were particularly formidable in 2010 - Djokovic especially was in his worst year since 2006.

Nadal has won most of his slams on clay, whether neither Federer or Djokovic are at their best, he's won a few slams against them on there better surfaces but for those at the USO Djokovic was hardly in top form.
 

KG1965

Legend
IMHO..

The most important tournaments on clay in '70
1) US OPEN 1975-77
2) RG
3) ROME
4) INDIANAPOLIS
5) BOSTON
6) WASHINGTON
7) MONTECARLO
8) HAMBURG
9) NORTH CONWAY
10) LOUISVILLE

The most important tournaments on clay in '80
1) RG
2) ROME
3) MONTECARLO
4) HAMBURG
5) FOREST HILLS (TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS)
6) INDIANAPOLIS
 

KG1965

Legend
LAST REFLECTION LIMITED TO 70 : BOCA RATON , tournament between the 4 best in slam that competed in Florida .
It was a great event on har tru. And Borg won it three times.
 

serve

Rookie
Neither Djokovic nor Federer were particularly formidable in 2010 - Djokovic especially was in his worst year since 2006.

Nadal has won most of his slams on clay, whether neither Federer or Djokovic are at their best, he's won a few slams against them on there better surfaces but for those at the USO Djokovic was hardly in top form.
But that is too subjective for me. Djokovic in the US Open final 2010 for example played some great tennis and was just a few month away from total domination. I don't want to argue that Nadal had some horrible fate and would be otherwise hands down goat. Far from it, but there are reasons why he never had a similarily dominant period as Federer and Djokovic. And it does have a lot to do with competition.
 

KG1965

Legend
Indeed, the last thought is ... on Fedalovic .
How they played the big three oo har tru, in the American clay courts , faster than the red clay ? IMO Nadal would always formidable , but Federer and Djoker would win much.
 

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
Federer's early years
The difference is that both Djokovic (2015, 16) and Federer (2004, 05) had at least 2 years basically without any competition ... a luxury that nadal did not have! Also, peak Federer and peak Djokovic have never actually met ... Federer started to decline in 2010, peak Djokovic showed up in 2011! Again it is Nadal who had to compete with the peak version of both ;)
This is absolutely not what I meant when I said Nadal had the strongest opposition. Safin, Hewitt and Roddick were worthy competitors although not at the same level than the very best like Nadal, Federer, Djokovic.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
Kuerten had horrific injuries including a busted hip. 3 FO titles trumps 2. Who cares about smaller titles when you have more FO titles?

Nadal
Borg
Kuerten
Lendl
Wilander
Same players as my list. I also have Kuerten third. In my view, he was a better clay court player than Lendl and Wilander, and, had he remained healthy, may have pushed Nadal's FO titles back a few years.
 

Tardigrade

Banned
Same players as my list. I also have Kuerten third. In my view, he was a better clay court player than Lendl and Wilander, and, had he remained healthy, may have pushed Nadal's FO titles back a few years.

Kuerten is amazing on clay. A very worthy opponent for a prime Nadal on clay. His victory over Federer at FO 2004 was nothing short of remarkable; After hip surgery, he managed to straight set Federer 4-4-4. Federer didn't have his best day, but seriously who beat Federer in straight sets at a major from 2004-2007?



Of course, Nadal and Borg are the best two clay courters, but if I had to pick a guy who could potentially beat both of these players, Kuerten would be that guy. What a backhand! Best one hander I have seen for sure.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
Kuerten is amazing on clay. A very worthy opponent for a prime Nadal on clay. His victory over Federer at FO 2004 was nothing short of remarkable; After hip surgery, he managed to straight set Federer 4-4-4. Federer didn't have his best day, but seriously who beat Federer in straight sets at a major from 2004-2007?



Of course, Nadal and Borg are the best two clay courters, but if I had to pick a guy who could potentially beat both of these players, Kuerten would be that guy. What a backhand! Best one hander I have seen for sure.
Kuerten also had a pretty great forehand and a bigger serve than Borg or Nadal.
 

timnz

Legend
1 Nadal
2 Borg
3 Lendl
4 Wilander
5 Vilas
6 Kuerten
7 Federer
8 Muster

Lendl has to be above Wilander. They both have 3 French opens and 2 runner-ups , but Lendl has 6 Masters 1000 equivalents on clay, Wilander only has 3. Kuerten and Vilas were very close - guga has 3 clay majors and Vilas has 2. But Vilas has 3 runner ups at Roland Garros and 7 Masters 1000 equivalents on clay. Guga has 0 Roland Garros runner-ups and 4 clay masters 1000. Vilas has 49 clay court titles vs only 14 for Kuerten. Hence, I put Vilas over Kuerten. One more clay slam didn't outweigh 3 more runner-ups, 3 more Masters 1000 equivalents and 35 more clay court titles.
 
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Navdeep Srivastava

Hall of Fame
But that is too subjective for me. Djokovic in the US Open final 2010 for example played some great tennis and was just a few month away from total domination. I don't want to argue that Nadal had some horrible fate and would be otherwise hands down goat. Far from it, but there are reasons why he never had a similarily dominant period as Federer and Djokovic. And it does have a lot to do with competition.
Fed and Djokovic got really stiff competition in hardcourts , Fed defeated Hewitt, Nalbandian, Ferrero and Safin to win first hard-court slam, and even in 2007 when hardcourt competition was little bit weak he went through goating Roddick and Novak to win Us open. Novak defeated tricky Simon, Nishi, Fed and Murray to win last AO ( mind you everybody called this easy draw in AO ).
Compare to this Rafa draw of 2009 was tough( Verdo, Haas, Fed,Gonzo, Simon) but his draw in us open were joke.
Competition is toughest at hardcourt , anybody can punch above the weight on harcourt and Fed , Novak won more slams at hardcourt .
 
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