Hail Rafa, the Emperor of Clay

Anindya Dutta Roar Guru

By Anindya Dutta, Anindya Dutta is a Roar Guru

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    When Rafael Nadal raised his hands to the Monte Carlo sky in victory with fists clinched this Sunday, he had a smile on his face that reflected relief more than ecstasy.

    While waiting to be called on stage for the presentation, he looked at the giant screen flashing pictures of him holding the trophy each of the previous nine times that he had prevailed in this beautiful stadium by the Mediterranean Sea. Nadal shook his head in utter disbelief at how his life had panned out.

    And during his speech at the ceremony (after first congratulating and saying nice things about his opponent), Nadal spoke about his journey at this 110-year-old ATP Masters 1000 tournament which started as a qualifier in 2003.

    After a journey that included a 46-match winning streak between 2005 and 2013 and ten winners’ trophies, Nadal admitted he never even dreamt it could happen. “I can just say thanks to life for the opportunity,” was his humble closing remark.

    It is indeed difficult to comprehend the feat.

    By winning the Monte Carlo Masters on Sunday, Nadal became the first man in the Open Era to win ten titles at the same tournament.

    And just so we are under no illusion that this is a tournament the other top players do not bother to show up at, the Monte Carlo Masters 1000 is one of the oldest tennis tournaments in the world, and ranks just below the four Grand Slams. The only top-five player not playing this year was Roger Federer, who is clearly saving himself for Wimbledon.

    This elite list also has Nadal’s name in the next slot; he has nine titles each at the Barcelona Open and the French Open, both coming up in a few weeks’ time. So there is a possibility that by the time we get to the European summer, there will be three tournaments with Nadal’s name as a ten-time winner inscribed on the trophies.

    That would be a jaw dropping feat and difficult for anyone to match again. It is unlikely that the next man on that list, Roger Federer, with eight titles at Halle and seven titles each at Wimbledon, Dubai, Cincinnati and Swiss Indoors, will be able to play on long enough to achieve this milestone.

    At Monte Carlo, Nadal also became the only man in the Open era to win 50 titles on clay. From the King of Clay, he became the Emperor.

    Let’s pause here just for a moment to reflect.

    These 50 titles have been won playing 404 matches whereas when Guillermo Vilas won his 49th, he had already played more than 500 matches on clay, and went on to play 821 matches while his tally would remain at 49.

    Nadal has won 92 per cent of all matches he has played on clay in a career spanning 16 years on the circuit, and 82 per cent of all matches that he played. His closest rival in tennis, Federer, owns the hard court, with 61 titles, winning 82 per cent of all his hard-court matches played in his 19-year professional career.

    In a reflection of how difficult it has been to regain the momentum that was interrupted by injury and recovery time lengthened by advancing years, a relieved Nadal said after the Monte Carlo victory: “Thank you to my team. It has been a great start to the season. We were losing a few finals before this one, but finally we have a title.”

    And in typical Nadal fashion, who has learnt over the years to enjoy the moments of triumph, rather than focus on the uncertain future, he told Sky Sports after the win: “Today is a day to enjoy. The title here is such an important moment (for me). Tomorrow we will try to be focused on the next event which is Barcelona.”

    As Nadal approaches his 31st birthday this June, his fans will take heart from the fact that he is recovering well from the multiple injury breaks he has been forced to take over the past few years. All he needed was a scent of weakness from David Goffin in the semis and Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the finals to drive home the advantage.

    It will surely help matters that he enters the 2017 clay court season at a time when the top two players in the world are not at their peak and the next generation is struggling to make a mark. But whatever advantage he gains from that, will be because of Nadal’s own brilliance on the surface and hunger to keep winning.

    But no matter what he does, and no matter how he goes about it, Rafa’s opponents need not delude themselves about his hunger and his intent.

    As the media meet ended at Monte Carlo, Nadal was asked one last question about what ten titles at Roland Garros would mean to him. He answered in three words before walking off with a smile.

    “I want it.”

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    The Crowd Says (73)

    • April 25th 2017 @ 8:45pm
      Prakul said | April 25th 2017 @ 8:45pm | ! Report

      Nice article. I think the Emperor is all set to reclaim the French this year. Massive respect for the way he has forged himself back into the thick of things.

      • Roar Guru

        April 25th 2017 @ 9:05pm
        Anindya Dutta said | April 25th 2017 @ 9:05pm | ! Report

        Thanks so much Prakul! It will be a wonderful Clay season for Rafa and his fans if that’s indeed the case. And if he manages to pick up one or more of Barcelona, Madrid and Rome on the way, it will be the icing on the cake! Vamos Rafa!

    • April 26th 2017 @ 1:38am
      Ritesh Misra said | April 26th 2017 @ 1:38am | ! Report

      If anyone would say that someone may take ten wicketsin a test innings, i would say its possible but not probable. If someone will say Laker’s feat of 19 wickets in a test match will be equalled or broken , i would say its impossible. Similarly, if someone will say that a tennis champion will take 10 Titles in the same prestigious tournament, i would say impossible. Well guys, Rafa has done just that. And even more incredibly he is set to repeat it at the French Open by winning his 10th French Open Title. If he does it , then it will be unreal. And a record no one will break, except of course if Rafa comes back to win his 11th Monte Carlo and 11th French Open in 2018
      Vamos Rafa

      • Roar Guru

        April 26th 2017 @ 9:02am
        Anindya Dutta said | April 26th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Indeed Ritesh, and if he had not had all those injuries, this would have been done 2-years ago! Incredible feat and I shall even be a bit greedy and pray he not only wins the French but one of the other GS this year as well. That would be mind blowing.

        • May 2nd 2017 @ 10:25pm
          Ritesh Misra said | May 2nd 2017 @ 10:25pm | ! Report

          It is not being greedy. It is being realistic. A fit Rafa wins almost everything. It is quite possible that if he wins the FO, he will go on to win one of either W or US Open. In Wimbledon , in the 1st week he may be a little vulnerable against someone with aboom boom serve, but thats true for all. If he reached second week , anything is possible

    • April 26th 2017 @ 10:52am
      MonkeyMayes said | April 26th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

      Incredible that both Rafa and Roger are in a renaissance in the twilight of their brilliant careers,

      • Roar Guru

        April 26th 2017 @ 1:31pm
        Anindya Dutta said | April 26th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

        It really is. Shows what you can achieve when you have the talent, the commitment, the hunger and the will to stay fit to achieve more. A lesson the younger generation of players will do well to learn. I was watching the Barcelona Open yesterday and could not believe the casualness with which Alexander Zverev and Tomic were playing. Putting in minimal effort, not bothering to run for every point. Unbelievable.

    • April 26th 2017 @ 12:52pm
      Venkat said | April 26th 2017 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

      So well summarised…every win of Rafa makes me go back to his autobiography he had written years back.. Time he came out with a new version now…so many things have happened ever since…

      • Roar Guru

        April 26th 2017 @ 1:32pm
        Anindya Dutta said | April 26th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

        Thanks Venkat. Yes I imagine he will write a new one once he is done (which hopefully wont be anytime soon!). If you know him, please pass on my offer to write it for him ­čÖé

    • April 26th 2017 @ 1:05pm
      clipper said | April 26th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

      What a reversal from last year – Roger and Rafa back to their best, Roger beating Rafa 4 times in a row, Andy and Novak struggling and a real chance for Raft to grab No. 1 again.

      • Roar Guru

        April 26th 2017 @ 1:33pm
        Anindya Dutta said | April 26th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

        Ita all about the will, the hunger, the fitness. These two are just the best thing to have happened to Tennis in many decades. We are lucky indeed to be tennis fans in their age.

    • April 27th 2017 @ 12:53am
      Johnno said | April 27th 2017 @ 12:53am | ! Report

      Rafa is great on clay. I’m not sure I’ve seen a more dominant sports person in an individual environment or setting.
      Michael Jordan won 6 NBA titles and he never lost a grand final series, so that means his grand final record was 6 from 6.
      Rafa has won 9 French open titles and never lost one final. Amazing record at French and on clay.

      • Roar Guru

        April 27th 2017 @ 2:06am
        Anindya Dutta said | April 27th 2017 @ 2:06am | ! Report

        As usual a very thought provoking point Johnno. Complete dominance of a sport or a part of it specially in a super competitive environment he has had to contend with his entire career, is truly remarkable. That comparison with Jordan’s feat is interesting indeed!

        • April 27th 2017 @ 9:36am
          MonkeyMayes said | April 27th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

          This may seem like a strange comment, but does anyone feel that Rafa’s Grand Slam record with 9 French Opens in any way diminishes the significance of his overall 14 titles?

          • Roar Guru

            April 27th 2017 @ 5:33pm
            Anindya Dutta said | April 27th 2017 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

            Its not a strange comment. Its one I have heard many times from people who like to denigrate Rafa and his achievements by saying winning 9 of 14 on one surface makes him a less of candidate for one of the all time greats. Every tennis player in history has had a favourite surface that suits their style. Anyone who has played tennis on different surfaces (even if just on Clay, Hard and Grass) knows how difficult it is to play the same way on all 3. The way you move your feet is different, the way you run is different, the speed at which you need to react is different, the wear and tear on different muscles is different and how you approach the net is different. Clay, particularly, is different from everything else, and not an easy surface to conquer. So its madness to expect any one player to be good on all surfaces. But when one player is supreme on a particular surface, with the kind of dominance Johnno perfectly describes, how can you not respect that? And Rafa has won each Grand Slam at least once and remains one of the very few of the greats to also boast of an Olympic Gold to go with them!

            Lets have a look at the list of all the greats who have won at least 8 GS each

            Total A F W U
             Roger Federer 18 5 1 7 5
             Pete Sampras 14 2 0 7 5
             Rafael Nadal 14 1 9 2 2
             Roy Emerson 12 6 2 2 2
             Novak Djokovic 12 6 1 3 2
             Rod Laver 11 3 2 4 2
            ┬áBj├Ârn Borg 11 0 6 5 0
             Bill Tilden 10 0 0 3 7
             Fred Perry 8 1 1 3 3
             Ken Rosewall 8 4 2 0 2
             Jimmy Connors 8 1 0 2 5
             Ivan Lendl 8 2 3 0 3
             Andre Agassi 8 4 1 1 2

            I would accept that given the overall superiority and victories across surfaces that Federer is the best Tennis player the world has seen in the Open Era. And even he won only one French Open in a year when he didn’t need to play Nadal in the final. The only outlier other than Federer would be Borg who won 6 FO and 5 Wimbledons. But he never won in Melbourne. Sampras didnt win the French. Whereas Nadal has won all the GS, and except in Melbourne where he has only won one title (he could well have made that 2 this year), he has won each GS at least twice. So, the stats say he is the second best Tennis player to have walked the earth in the Open Era.

            • April 28th 2017 @ 6:07am
              express34texas said | April 28th 2017 @ 6:07am | ! Report

              Monkey, great question, and I’d emphatically say yes.

              Clay is the ultimate specialty surface along with being by far the least important surface. That’s why Sampras was highly regarded as the GOAT before Fed came along, despite only reaching 1 FO SF. I’d rather have Sampras’ GS wins over Nadal’s GS wins for sure. If you take away the best GS for all of the all-time greats, Nadal is only tied for 6th all-time, meaning he definitely loads up at the FO. If his 9 wins happened to be at Wimby or USO, the 2 most important GS today, then I’d view him higher. I probably still have him 2nd best all-time, though.

              This is one reason why I think Nadal’s not even close to Fed. Fed is absolutely phenomenal on surfaces. Nadal is great on all surfaces, but nowhere near the same extent as Fed. Fed is #1 all-time at Wimby, USO, and year-end final, while being #2 all-time at AO just behind Djoker. He’d probably have at least 4-5 FOs if he didn’t play in same era as Nadal, though Nadal would probably have a few more Wimbys, too, if he didn’t play in Fed’s era.

              • Roar Guru

                April 28th 2017 @ 11:31am
                Anindya Dutta said | April 28th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

                “being by far the least important surface”….Ouch! That’s a very extreme opinion, but then this is an opinion piece so you are entitled to yours ­čÖé

            • April 28th 2017 @ 10:11am
              clipper said | April 28th 2017 @ 10:11am | ! Report

              Borg only played once in the AO, so would be difficult to notch up many victories there.
              I don’t know if I’d go along with express34texas view that the FO is the least important surface by far – there are a lot of tournaments played on it and it tends to show up how good all round you are, hence Federer does well on it, Sampras very poorly – I think it actually diminishes Sampras’s all round standing.

              • Roar Guru

                April 28th 2017 @ 11:33am
                Anindya Dutta said | April 28th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

                Agreed Clipper on Sampras. As I said above to @express, that’s a bit extreme an opinion on the French Open itself and clay.

              • April 29th 2017 @ 7:04am
                express34texas said | April 29th 2017 @ 7:04am | ! Report

                Dutta, explain. Hardcourts make up 70-80% of the tour. Grasscourt tennis is how tennis basically began on and meant to be played on, and 3 of the GS were once played on grass. Wimbledon is the most prestigious and most important today, which is played on clay. Then, there’s clay. Grass is so expensive and hard to maintain, that’s probably the main reason why we don’t see as much of it. But, it’s still more important than clay. There’s only 3 surfaces, though different varieties of hardcourt, one of them has to be the least important, just the way it is. The FO is still important, though.

                The slower the surface, the more it brings the field into play. The faster the surface, generally we see the best player(s) distinguish themselves from the field.

              • Roar Guru

                May 2nd 2017 @ 1:19pm
                Anindya Dutta said | May 2nd 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

                @express – That’s bizarre logic mate. Tennis developed on grass because that’s what you had in England. Its because of the nature of the soil. Its impossible to make clay courts in England. The soil is muddy, rains all the time, not enough sun. That’s also why you had clay develop as a surface in Europe, and in Asia, where its conducive. Hrad courts developed because grass was difficult to maintain. Its also obvious that hrad courts are ideal for indoor play when players can also practice in all sorts of weather. And its long lasting from a cost point of view. So that’s the history, and because hard/synthetic surfaces have taken over, that’s why its such a high percentage of tournaments played on those surfaces.

                None of the above means that clay is “less important” than any other surface. If it was, players would not bother to play it. So, in your mind, what makes the French Open “still important”? I imagine its because it happens to be a Grand Slam, so lets be nice to it ­čÖé If Clay is irrelevant, then the FO should be irrelevant. There is no logic to suggest otherwise, except inherent bias in the matter.

                I am also staggered by your statement that “The faster the surface, generally we see the best player(s) distinguish themselves from the field.”. So what exactly are you saying? That the best players in Tennis are only those who have speed and power? That’s a damning statement about the best tennis players even if its your attempt at denigrating Nadal and his achievements. The best players in tennis are the ones who play the best tennis and are the most skilled at the sport. That includes the ability to play or slower or faster surfaces. This is exactly why the GS is divided among different surfaces, to cull out the best players in the world who are able to perform on all surfaces. Any top player will always be slightly better at a certain surface because the surface suits their particular style of play. But they are great players if they win each of the Grand Slams at least once, and even better if its multiple times. This is why I agree that federer is the greatest player who ever lived because he has this unique ability to perform at the highest level on all surfaces. Its another matter he has never beaten Nadal at the FO. Again, it shows how difficult it is to be equally good on all surfaces, and again, this is precisely why we have the GS on different surfaces.

                So its perhaps better if we don’t not denigrate either the surface or the player by making such sweeping statements that defy logic.

              • May 3rd 2017 @ 6:52am
                express34texas said | May 3rd 2017 @ 6:52am | ! Report

                Dutta, you might be right about the surfaces history, but regardless of the reasons for the surfaces, hardcourt is the overwhelming main surface today. Just because clay is the least important surface doesn’t mean players wouldn’t play it. It’s still important, but as I said earlier, one of the surfaces has to be the least important, and I mentioned a few brief reasons for that. If it was entirely unimportant, then yes, the argument why players still play on it would be relevant, but that’s not the case.

                If you don’t think clay is the least important surface, then what is?

                Not denigrating Nadal, just putting the importance of clay into perspective. I already said I probably consider him the 2nd best player ever. If that’s denigrating, then so be it. Sampras was widely considered the GOAT before Fed came around, and he only reached 1 FO SF. We’ve almost always seen the best players distinguish themselves from the pack on faster surfaces. Clay and slower courts bring the field much more into play. That shouldn’t be that hard to see. Clay is a novelty and a specialty. It’s important and certainly helps a player’s status to be able to play extremely well on it, but not necessary. Every year we see all these weaker players do well on clay, but not much else. Their rankings are often superficial. Weird logic statement.

              • May 3rd 2017 @ 9:28am
                clipper said | May 3rd 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

                express34texas – I can understand the view you’re taking, but you’re original statement was ‘by far the least important surface’, which I don’t think is correct. It may not be as an important surface, but it’s important in that it shows how good an all round player you are, and in that regard I very much doubt Sampras even came close to being considered a GOAT – most people still had Laver down for that honour, even very recently.
                Each surface requires different skills and quite often you can’t be a master of all. It’s like English and Maths – most people are either good at one or the other, not that many are good at both.

              • May 4th 2017 @ 12:26am
                express34texas said | May 4th 2017 @ 12:26am | ! Report

                Clipper, that might be true about Laver in Australia, but that was never the general consensus. Even when Fed was racking up all of these GS, I often heard he has to win the FO no matter what he does to surpass Pete. Laver probably got shafted some not playing his entire career in the Open era, but that’s basically how we have to rate players, and Sampras was clearly better than Laver in the Open era. Borg could possibly be the greatest ever if he played longer, too, but he obviously didn’t play long enough.

                And I could be wrong, but I don’t think Laver ever won on hardcourt. AO and USO were played on grass when he played. I mentioned before, maybe in another thread, but Laver would be much too small to seriously threaten the top guys. He’d be athletically overhwhelmed. The only way he’d be able to compensate for this is to have superior skills, and that’s not happening either. His serve/volley/forehand were his strengths, and just comparing him to Sampras, Sampras is better in all these areas.

                I stand by my initial comment about clay. And Fed could never have stepped foot on it, and he’d still easily be considered the GOAT. Actually, even more so, because those people who don’t understand tennis and matchups, couldn’t say Nadal would have the better H2H anymore.

              • May 4th 2017 @ 9:59am
                clipper said | May 4th 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

                express34texas – I beg to differ – often Laver was ranked higher than Sampras in America. Here are just two example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_Greatest_of_All_Time (from a us tennis show), http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/16371992/tennis-top-20-all.
                I do agree with your assessment on Borg – I would actually put him ahead of Sampras as he only played one AO open, if he had bothered to come down he would surely have racked up a few wins and I also agree about the H2H issue – the only reason Federer has a poor H2H against Nadal is that he beat all the other players on clay, so therefore met him far more frequently – if he had lost to clay courters earlier, his H2H against Nadal would be better.

              • May 5th 2017 @ 7:08am
                express34texas said | May 5th 2017 @ 7:08am | ! Report

                Clipper, a TV series and a list completed by the boneheads at ESPN hardly proves anything, and are only 2 examples of some people putting Laver barely ahead of Sampras. Your first example says that their top 100 list by compiled by a panel of ‘international’ experts, not American experts. And anything done by ESPN is always suspect. Laver’s up there somewhere, but the general consensus was that Sampras was the GOAT before Fed. Though, I suppose I could see Laver having a case being ahead of Sampras. Seeing Djoker 5th and Nadal 6th makes me really question that ESPN list, since it was compiled in June 2016.

              • May 5th 2017 @ 7:17am
                express34texas said | May 5th 2017 @ 7:17am | ! Report

                Clipper, don’t really agree about Borg. His only AO was a 3rd place finish. He also never won the USO, and played a few USOs on clay, too, in mid 1970s. I suppose he could’ve won the AO at some point, but based on his hardcourt failure at the USO, I’d predict no. I think Borg could win some GS today, but I don’t see him being any better than 4th in today’s era. If Borg played, I’d predict Fed would have about the same # of GS, though Borg/Nadal would be taking GS away from each other clay.

                You’re partially right about Fed/Nadal’s H2H. I think it’s more than just Fed being awesome on clay, but you’re right that’s a huge reason why the H2H is skewed in favor Nadal so much. The other part of it is styles and matchups. Nadal has a style that worked against Fed often hitting loopy balls to his backhand, but this doesn’t work as well against Djoker. Most players have at least one odd H2H against a much inferior opp for some reason. Krajicek/Hewitt have positive H2H’s over Sampras. Tennis is a lot about matchups. And then timing in tourneys. Maybe someone has a really tough previous match, etc. Could be a lot of different reasons. Or someone is slightly hurt. I remember Nadal beat Fed at Indian Wells once when Fed is injured and didn’t want to play, but the previous women’s match in the night lineup wasn’t played because one of the ladies withdraw, so Fed didn’t want the entire center court night lineup to be washed out, so he played the match.

              • May 5th 2017 @ 8:22am
                Rory said | May 5th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

                The Aus open was on grass in Borg’s day.

              • May 5th 2017 @ 3:19pm
                clipper said | May 5th 2017 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

                As Rory states, the AO open was on grass when Borg was around and he reached 3 US Opens on hard courts to be beaten by Connors and McEnroe – not easy to get past them in the US, so he could play on them. He won 2 year end Championships which I presume were on hard court..

              • May 6th 2017 @ 12:13am
                express34texas said | May 6th 2017 @ 12:13am | ! Report

                That’s true, but still only a 3rd place finish. I knew that, but was imagining the scenario we see today with the AO being on hardcourt. 3 of the 4 GS were on grass back in Laver’s day. Fed would probably have 30-35 GS if that was the case today.

                Borg does have a strong case for #2 all-time. And while McEnroe/Connors are probably top 10 players all-time to round out the list, they’re not even close to the top 4-5 guys all-time. If Borg can’t break through against them, do you really think he’s going to be able to break through against an era of Fed, Djoker, Nadal, and Murray? Not to mention guys like Delpo/Cilic each winning once when they’re absolutely playing out of their minds, which fast hardcourts suit their game very well, something not very ideal for Borg. I suppose Borg could’ve eventually broken if he played long enough.

              • May 8th 2017 @ 1:14pm
                clipper said | May 8th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

                express34texas – I think we’re on the same page, mostly, although I would not dismiss the potential of Borg to win AO’s with that 3rd round loss – everyone can have an off day and his victor, Phil Dent did win the AO the next year. I also think it would be hard for most players from the past to break through in this era – Djokivic and Murray’s returning skills would negate the powerful Sampras serve and I would think Federer would get the better of him on grass.

              • May 9th 2017 @ 1:50am
                express34texas said | May 9th 2017 @ 1:50am | ! Report

                Clipper, actually Connors beat Dent in the final. Dent destroyed Borg, too, which ended up being his easiest match of the tourney based on score. Didn’t realize, but AO was only a 64-player tourney then, and the best of 5 sets started in the 3rd round. I’m also guessing several top players didn’t show up either.

                Agree about past players mostly. I see the same things. Sampras did win 2 AO, but he had a very special specialty, and that’s very fast courts. He and Murray would be fairly equal at the AO, though I’d give slight edge to Sampras. With a slower WImby than during most of Sampras’ career, definitely Fed over him there. I’d still take Fed over him on the faster grass, too.

              • May 9th 2017 @ 11:16am
                clipper said | May 9th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

                Yes, my mistake. Connors only played the AO twice (as well as not be allowed to play 5 FO), McEnroe only a couple of times until ’89, Nastase only once, so most of the bigger players gave it a miss. The fast courts really helped Sampras, which perhaps explains why he did so poorly at the French, as the speeds were quite different between the two, a bit closer now.

            • May 9th 2017 @ 1:53pm
              express34texas said | May 9th 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

              Huh, interesting, didn’t know Connors was banned from FO for 5 years. And those were his prime years. Not sure if he would’ve won any though, but worth pointing out. Borg won the FO in 3 of those 5 years. I see Borg was banned in 1977 for same reason-played WTT. Weird French.

              Maybe the speed of Wimby hurt Sampras on slower courts, not sure. Though the 3-4 week short season of grass is played after the FO, not before. If you’d think the quickness of the grass would affect a player on clay, you’d think the transition would be from grass to clay, which wasn’t the case. I’d say it has more to do with Sampras just not being as good on clay as he was on grass/fast hard, which is obvious from his career record. He was a power player, not a finesse player. And most Americans, even the greats, play their worse tennis on clay. There’s almost no clay in the USA, and where there is, it’s usually green clay, not the red clay at most clay ATP tourneys. Someone like Fed grew up playing on red clay a lot. Yes, he’s a power player, but he has all the skills and can flourish on any surface. Someone like Wawrinka is a power player, but he also grew up on red clay and understands how to play on it a lot better than Sampras ever did.

              • May 10th 2017 @ 12:34pm
                clipper said | May 10th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

                It should be noted that the US open was on Clay (although, as you say green clay) from 1974-77 with Connors winning once and finalist twice, losing to clay court players, so he may have had a shot at the FO in the prime 5 years – he did get the the QF and SF on a regular basis.

              • May 11th 2017 @ 1:04am
                express34texas said | May 11th 2017 @ 1:04am | ! Report

                You’re changing my thoughts on Connors some. I’ve heard some Borg’s supporters still claim he’s the best ever, and I’m having a hard time not putting Connors over Borg now. Connors’ whole body of work probably looks better. I’m not seeing the dominance from Connors like we see from Borg, Fed, Nadal, but he was only playing 2 GS events for several prime years. Longevity should mean something as well, and Connors has the most wins/tourneys won ever, including nearly an 82% winning pct. I like his consistency, too. He made 26 consecutive GS QF in which he played, and 33 of 34 at one point.

                Actually, the USO was played on clay from 1975-1977, only 3 years. Connors won the USO on grass, clay, and hard. Borg only made one final at the USO when it was on clay. The 1977 USO only had best of 5’s starting in the QF.

              • May 11th 2017 @ 1:16pm
                clipper said | May 11th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

                Connor”s longevity was quite remarkable – even more so that he managed to keep his winning % at 82% when he played until he was 43. Had 16 years in the top 10 and could play on all surfaces, even beating McEnroe in his prime at Wimbledon, who was 6 years younger and played in a very competitive era.

              • May 11th 2017 @ 3:22pm
                Johnno said | May 11th 2017 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

                express and Clipper

                Jimmy Connor’s longevity is awesome and remarkable. He didn’t drop out of the top-20 until Feb-1990, at aged 37-years 5 months. I think he holds the record for longest length at world no 1 him or Lendl or Fed.

                http://www.atpworldtour.com/en/players/jimmy-connors/c044/rankings-history

              • May 11th 2017 @ 4:09pm
                clipper said | May 11th 2017 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

                He did hold the record until Lendl, then Sampras, then Federer. His record of 1535 matches played with 1256 won will take some beating.

              • May 12th 2017 @ 2:50am
                express34texas said | May 12th 2017 @ 2:50am | ! Report

                Connors did play until he was 43, but his career effectively ended after the 1992 USO at age 40. He played just 8 matches in 1993, 4 in 1994, 4 in 1995, and 1 in 1996. Haas is doing something similar this year. He’s effectively retired, but playing a few tourneys here and there on special exemptions or wild cards.

                Connors: 1256-279 109 titles
                Federer: 1099-246 91 titles

                Fed is within reach. And no idea why he’s not playing any clay tourneys. It’s not like he’s playing every week or almost every week like Nadal and others are doing. He must not be 100%. Can’t imagine him missing a GS if he’s healthy or going into it without a warmup clay tourney. Hopefully, Rome is on his schedule.

                Connors is a hard one to evaluate, especially since he missed so many AO/FOs.

        • April 28th 2017 @ 5:53am
          express34texas said | April 28th 2017 @ 5:53am | ! Report

          I’d rather Magic’s 9 Finals appearances, though, if he would’ve won 6 instead of 5. Though 5 titles in 9 appearances is probably more impressive than 6 for 6. Also, Jordan’s 2-year break allowed him to back fresher. No chance he would’ve been able to go 8 for 8 in that 8-year span.

          I don’t think it’s correct to neglect Nadal’s 4th loss to Soderling just because it wasn’t a final, losing to Djoker in 2015 nor withdrawing in 2016, actually these are worse than losing in finals.

          Nadal’s record at the FO is phenomenal, but we have a lot fewer dominant clay-courters in today’s game than we have dominant players on grass or hardcourt. Fed only has won 7 Wimbys, but has reached 10 Finals. That’s against much stiffer competition on grass, too.

      • April 27th 2017 @ 9:52am
        clipper said | April 27th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        Johnno – how about Heather McKay who never lost a Squash match from early on in her career until she retired – that’s pretty dominant – or Walter Lindrum or even Steven Redgrave.

        • Roar Guru

          April 27th 2017 @ 5:40pm
          Anindya Dutta said | April 27th 2017 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

          I know you asked the question to Johnno, but Redgrave got a Bronze in one of the events at Seoul if memory serves me right? Not nitpicking here @clipper, just remember that vaguely. I don’t follow Squash closely and not familiar with Walter Lindrum.

          • April 28th 2017 @ 10:15am
            clipper said | April 28th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

            He did win the gold in his usual event that year, but bronze in the coxed pair (as Rafa lost to Soderling), but would be regarded as the best rower ever at the Olympics – gold in 5 consecutive. Heather McKay would be my pick at absolutely dominating a sport.

            • Roar Guru

              April 28th 2017 @ 11:29am
              Anindya Dutta said | April 28th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

              Fair enough. Thanks for that info. Redgrave is a hugely impressive man. I lived in the UK when the 2012 London Olympics happened and he was all over the TV at the time with BBC showing all his races and loads of interviews with him.

            • April 28th 2017 @ 4:47pm
              MonkeyMayes said | April 28th 2017 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

              Heather McKay is really the forgotten champion of Australian sport. Very sad.

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