The Greatest Tennis Players On Clay In The Open Era: An Analysis - UBITENNIS
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The Greatest Tennis Players On Clay In The Open Era: An Analysis

UbiTennis investigated the results of over 200 tournaments to ascertain who have been the most successful on the dirt in men’s tennis since 1968.

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NOTE: This study was conducted before the 2020 French Open. For those who might be interested in checking out the original dataset, click on the link below: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1TLJp3EYsRn5KE2FZKRv_rNA0K6ACOtmmC_XI8tan08o/edit#gid=0

 

The beginning of the clay season is generally perceived as a rebirth for European fans, partly because the elite of world tennis comes back to the Old Continent at the end of the Oceanic and North American trips, partly because the matches start to take place again at times that do not compromise circadian rhythms and private lives, partly due to the ancient association with blooms of the Romance spring, a double-edged sword in the context of the Roman May, especially for those allergic to poplars. The latter aspect has had no reason to exist in 2020, since the clay was re-invented in an unprecedented late-summer or early-autumn outfit, but in some ways the theme of renewal has never been more relevant, for reasons we all know. Given the caesura that the pandemic represented for tennis and beyond, our editorial team decided to sum up 53 Open Era tennis seasons on the surface, trying to find objective measures to see who they were the most dominant in this specialty.

The analysis focuses on the concept, which has risen to great popularity in recent years among Big Three fans, of “big titles”, that is Slams and Masters 1000 or whatever their name was since the creation of the Grand Prix (which took place in 1970) – since then, they have been called Grand Prix Super Series (until 1989, also including events of the WCT circuit), and then Championship Series, Super 9 and Masters Series, before being bestowed their current denomination in 2009. In the case of the clay, therefore, we will talk about Roland Garros (since 1968), Monte Carlo (since 1970), Hamburg/Madrid (this one since 1978), Rome (since 1970), and more, as will be explained.

To analyse the performance of the players in the aforementioned tournaments, two data types were chosen from the original dataset that would give a complete overview or at least allow them to be studied from several points of view. The first is the total score obtained in the above tournaments, with a very simple scoring system: 2 points for a Grand Slam victory, 1 for a final, 0.5 for a semi-final, 0.25 for a quarter final, 1 point for a win in a 1000 or Masters Series or Super 9 if you prefer, 0.5 for a final, and 0.25 for a semi-final. These data are the most relevant, because they permit to identify the best performers over the long term, that is, in short, who has actually won the most. 

The contrast for such a clear-cut figure is provided, obviously, by the average achieved by the players in the tournaments in which they reached the final stages (the defeats in the first rounds are therefore not part of the study, because the point of the article is to define the winning spirit of the various athletes). This is a more ambiguous but useful parameter when interpreted correctly and in synergy with the other, because a high average allows us to understand which players were able to win more often when it counted, i.e. when they reached the final stages of a tournament. The two variables were then graphed in a Cartesian plane by putting in abscissa the average points per event and in ordinate the total points obtained.

A brief digression: big data (or advanced statistics, or sabermetrics, or moneyball) are revolutionizing all sports, whether we like it or not, providing means to overcome the preconceptions related to a single sport, in particular from a tactical point of view. and they are infinitely more complex than the study reported here. Figures related to the length of the exchanges, the spin or the direction of the serve, and shot placement, help us understand the game as it happens, in some ways assisting the identification (within the limit of our knowledge of the psycho-physical conditions of the players, decidedly less predictable), whereas a ‘dry analysis of the performance’ such as this one (which exclusively examines the final results and their continuity) is completely a posteriori, and therefore has a purely historical value, it photographs and legitimises the existence of a previous state almost like the Domesday Book, straight out of Norman lore.

This article can at best be called a social media debate’s debate, that is, a social media debate in which the contenders bring concrete and unbiased data to support their arguments (perhaps even politely) – John Lennon would tell us that it is easy to imagine (if we try), however improbable it may seem. Out with deference and caveats, we can move on to analysis.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Frances Tiafoe And Jack Sock Ready To Rain On Federer’s Parade At Laver Cup

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Frances Tiafoe describes his first match at this year’s Laver Cup as ‘iconic’ but he is determined to seal victory with doubles partner Jack Sock. 

 

Tiafoe, who reached the semi-finals of the US Open earlier this month, will feature in what will be the final match of Roger Federer’s illustrious career. The Swiss maestro has announced that the team competition will be the last event he will play before retiring from the sport at the age of 41. Federer will partner up with long-time rival Rafael Nadal in what promises to be an emotional encounter for all involved on Friday evening. 

“It’s going to be iconic to be part of that,” Tiafoe told reporters in London. “Both guys are absolute legends, and obviously Roger’s last dance. We are definitely just out there trying to get a win.”

Looking at the wider picture, Tiafoe knows a win in the doubles could prove vital in team World’s bid to win the Laver Cup for the first time in history. Whilst on paper his achievements are overshadowed by those he faces, his current form gives him the edge. Federer hasn’t played a match since Wimbledon last year due to a knee injury. Furthermore, Nadal is still trying to get back to his best shape following an abdominal injury and was beaten by Tiafoe at the US Open. 

“This is a special night. I just think me and Jack are just looking for a special night, come out there, have fun,” he continued. “The crowd is obviously going to be for them. You understand that kind of moment, and just go out there and do your part and just try to get a win. It’s going to be a special night tomorrow. I’m just happy I get the opportunity to do it with Jack.”

Sock, who has won three Grand Slam titles during his career, echoes Tiafoe’s desire to seal victory over the two tennis giants. 

“I’m just stoked to be a part of it with my guy Foe (Tiafoe),” he said. 
“We will go out and enjoy the moment, but not going to hold anything back. Sorry, Roger. Don’t want to spoil the night.”

Federer’s final match at The O2 Arena in London is set to take place in front of a sellout crowd. Following his retirement announcement, ticket sales for the three-day event have exploded. Ace Odds have reported a 4020% rise in demand for tickets with prices starting from £900. An extraordinary outcome considering the most expensive ticket for the Laver Cup was originally £510. 

The doubles match involving Federer, Nadal, Tiafoe and Sock is estimated to start around 20:20 BST on Friday. 

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