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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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THE ANALYSIS

To put it bluntly, the least interesting portion of this study was to establish who sat at the top: Rafael Nadal is the equivalent of the military-industrial complex denounced by Eisenhower, an economic structure of such magnitude as to make the American war budget greater than the sum of those of the countries ranging from second to seventh place – Nadal is exactly that. What the Majorcan has done in the last three decades on a single surface (with a small break in 2015-2016) is unparalleled in the history of tennis and perhaps in all sports, so much so that ESPN has just crowned him as the most dominant athlete of the twenty-first century for his 12 Parisian titles.

 

As is known, the only player capable of partially annihilating the competition on the dirt in the same way was Bjorn Borg, who still holds the record for the lowest number of games lost in a men’s Grand Slam (32, in 1978), but who, as will be seen, is comparable to the Bull of Manacor only in intensive terms (he dominated in the same way) but not in extensive ones (he did it for a much shorter time-span). Indeed, a first glance at the big titles on clay paints a very precise image:

  1. Nadal, 38 tournaments won (13 Slams+25 Masters Series/Masters 1000);
  2. Borg, 14 (6+8);
  3. Lendl, 11 (3+8);
  4. Djokovic, also 11 but with only one Grand Slam win (1+10);
  5. Vilas, 9 (2+7);
  6. Kuerten, 7 (3+4); 
  7. Federer, Muster, Nastase e Orantes, also at 7 but with only one Grand Slam win (1+6);
  8. Wilander, 6 (3+3);
  9. Bruguera e Courier, 4 (2+2); 
  10. Connors e Ferrero, as in the previous cases, 4 but with only one Major (1+3).

Therefore, Nadal has more big titles on clay than the three other highest-placed athletes combined, and has more titles at the Bois de Boulogne than the others, apart from the Swedish Bear, have in total between Slams and Masters 1000. This result is so disproportionate that is full-on mirrored in the first variable, the one related to the total points:

  1. Nadal, 55.75 points (26.25 Slam points, 29.5 Master 1000 points);
  2. Djokovic 24.75 (9.5+15.25);
  3. Borg 22.75 (13.75+9);
  4. Vilas, 21.75 (9+12.75);
  5. Federer, 20.25 (8.5+11.75);
  6. Lendl, 18 (8.5+9.5);
  7. Wilander, 14.5 (8.75+5.75);
  8. Orantes, 13.75 (4.5+9.25);
  9. Nastase, 12.75 (4.5+8.25);
  10. Connors 11.75 (7+4.75);
  11. Kuerten 11.75 (6.5+5.25) the same as Connors but with fewer Slam points; 
  12. Muster, 9.5 (2.75+6.75);
  13. Bruguera, 9.25 (5.5+3.75);
  14. Ferrero, 8.25 (4+4.25);
  15. Agassi (6+1.75), 7.75 (Courier has the same score but fewer Slam points,5,75+2).

As is noticeable, some values ​​are the same, while others differ slightly (Djokovic broke a tie with Borg by winning his fifth Rome title, Lendl is superseded by Vilas and Federer, and so on). Therefore, this aspect brings us to the variable concerning the average points scored per tournament:

  1. Borg, 1.197;
  2. Nadal, 1.115
  3. Courier, 1.107;
  4. Kuerten, 0.979;
  5. Lendl, 0.947;
  6. Bruguera, 0.9;
  7. Muster, 0.864;
  8. A. Medvedev, 0.821;
  9. Wilander, 0.763;
  10. Ferrero, 0.75;
  11. A. Gomez, 0.656;
  12. Panatta, 0.656 but less big titles;
  13. Gerulaitis, 0.656, same big titles as Panatta but without Slam on clay;
  14. Federer, 0.653;
  15. Connors, 0.653 but less big titles.

The data are much more compressed in this case, with Nadal in second place, surpassed not only by Borg, and, until his latest French Open steamrolling, by someone who has won much less than he like Courier, while people who have never won Slam on red sneak in (Andrei Medvedev and Vitas Gerulaitis) with higher scores than Federer or Djokovic – the Serbian isn’t even in the top 15.

To summarise the two very different rankings, you can look at the following graph. As anticipated, the total score is considered more relevant for this analysis, and in fact here is displayed the relationship between the two values ​​for players with a score of at least 5.75 points, 26 men overall (they might look like random numbers, but it was the maximum of number of players that could be computed without making the chart completely unreadable):

It should be observed that the average score for players with a point total greater than or equal to 3 is 8.62 points (7.675 if we exclude Nadal) and 0.663 when considering their average per event.

Aside from the urgence provided by the concurrent French Open, clay lends itself particularly to this type of analysis as it is an extremely circumscribed surface from a chronotopic and technical point of view, but at the same time very varied in terms of wins: as a matter of fact, the season of the four big tournaments on clay is essentially consumed in three countries (France, since the Monegasque Country Club is technically a French enclave, Italy and Spain, which replaced Germany) in less than two months (the abovementiond North American lysergic escapade aside), proposing climate conditions often very similar except for the altitude of Madrid which encourages a more aggressive game.

In addition, the three Masters 1000 on clay all use Dunlop balls, therefore with the same characteristics – the Roland Garros used Dunlop until 2010, then switched to Babolat and, from this year, to Wilson. Not only is the peak of the clay season condensed, but the surface itself offers (albeit perhaps not as much today, due to the 2002 Type 1 ball transition that speeded up the game, bringing it closer to that of the other turfs and favouring attackers who need more time to swing big, Kuerten’s epigones like Wawrinka or Thiem) a peculiar way of understanding tennis, based on specific tactical tricks and on advanced physical preparation.

The grass season also takes place in a temporal and geographical bubble (a fashionable word in 2020) but it has only one big event, Wimbledon – as is well known, many top-level players, including Nadal and Djokovic, tend not to carry out a specific grass training, although the Serbian has slightly changed the trend in recent years when he needed points and matches, playing at Eastbourne in 2017 and at Queen’s in 2018.

Conversely, hard-court tennis is played everywhere, all year round, on very different surfaces, and with balls ranging from Dunlop (Australia, Asia, Bercy, ATP Finals) to Wilson (US Open) to Head Penn (Sunshine Double and US Open Series). It is therefore difficult to, a) create a single ranking, and, b) create an interesting ranking, since the frequency of tournaments on hardcourts means that almost all the best players are amassing the bulk of their points on that surface – the ranking of the best players on hard courts already exists, and it is the ATP Ranking.

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Kei Nishikori Issues Fitness Update Ahead Of New Season

After a difficult season where he could only win two matches, the world No.41 is hoping to get back on track next year.

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Kei Nishikori (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori says he is eager to start competing against the best in the world again after what has been a troublesome season.

 

The 30-year-old has only been able to play four tournaments this year due to a combination of injury, the pandemic and illness. Nishikori underwent surgery on his shoulder in October 2019 which subsequently resulted in him missing the start of this season. Then he was forced to pull out of his planned return at the US Open after testing positive for COVID-19. Eventually he returned to action in Kitzbuhel during September but had to close his season early a few weeks later after injuring his shoulder at the French Open.

“We had a few tournaments (due to the pandemic) and my season came to an end when I was beginning to get my feel back,” Kyodo news quoted Nishikori as saying on Friday. “I really can’t wait for next year.”

Overall, Nishikori won just two out of six matches played on the Tour in 2020. Scoring wins over Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Rome and Britain’s Dan Evans at Roland Garros. The highest ranked player he faced was No.22 Christian Garin, who he lost 6-0, 6-3, to in Hamburg.

Despite his setbacks, the Japanese player insists that he is now back on track and his shoulder is at ‘a decent level.

“(My shoulder) has recovered to a decent level. It’ll be definitely okay for next year,” Nishikori said. “I’ll prepare (for the Olympics) assuming that they will take place.”
“I couldn’t face top-10 ranked players this season. I want to compete at that level again as soon as I can.”

One of Nishikori’s goals for next year will be the Olympic Games which are taking place in Tokyo for the first time since 1964. The Games have to be postponed until next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nishikori is the only player from his country to have won an Olympic medal during the Open Era after winning bronze in 2016.

I think it’s hard for athletes and the public to think about the Olympics right now. I just want to prepare well,he said in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nishikori has been ranked as high fourth in the world but is currently in 41st position. So far in his career he has won 12 ATP titles and earned more than $24 million in prize money.

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The ATP announces the nominees for the 2020 ATP Awards

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Nominees have been announced for the ATP Awards for all player-voted categories (Comeback Player of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Newcomer of the year, Stefan Edberg Sportmanship Award) and Coach of the Year. 

 

The Fans’s Favourite Award and and the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award Award will be announced later this month. Fans can vote for their favourite singles player and doubles team through 11 December. 

Three-time winner and 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will be up against 2020 Rome finalist and Roland Garros semifinalist Diego Schwartzman, US Open champion Dominic Thiem and John Millman in the Sportsmanship category. 

Schwartzman is among the nominees in the Most Improved player category and will be against Ugo Humbert, five-time ATP Tour titlist Andrey Rublev and 2020 Sofia ATP Tour champion and 2019 Next Gen ATP Tour champion Jannik Sinner. The Most Improved player of the Year reached a higher ATP Ranking by year’s end and showed an increasingly improved level of performance through the year. 

The nominees for the Comeback Player of the Year are Kevin Anderson, Andrey Kuznetsov, Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic. The Compeback Player of the Year has overcome a serious injury in re-establishing as one of the top players on the ATP Tour. 

The contenders for the Newcomer of the Year Award are Carlos Alcaraz (winner in three Challenger tournaments in Trieste, Barcelona and Alicante), Sebastian Korda (winner of his first Challenger title in Eckental), Lorenzo Musetti (title in Parma and third-round in Rome Masters 1000), Jurij Rodionov (first Challenger titles in Dallas and Morelos) , Emil Ruusuvuori (semifinalist in Nur Sultan) and Thiago Seyboth Wild (first title in Santiago de Chlle)

The Coach of the Year Award contenders are Juan Ignacio Chela (Diego Schwartzman), Gilles Cervara (Danil Medvedev), Nicolas Massu (Dominic Thiem), Riccardo Piatti (Jannik Sinner) and Fernando Vicente (Andrey Rublev). 

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French Legend Leconte Speaks Out On Upcoming Return Of Roger Federer

The Grand Slam finalist gives his view on Federer’s chances for 2021.

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A former star of French tennis says he is hopeful but wary that Roger Federer will be able to return to the pinnacle of sport next year.

 

Henri Leconte, who is a former French Open finalist that achieved a ranking high of No.5, admits that the Swiss Maestro may find it tough on the Tour given the rise of what he describes as the ‘younger generation.’ This season Dominic Thiem won his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open at the age of 27. More recently Daniil Medvedev defeated both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal en route to the ATP Finals title.

We want to believe it. We all want to believe it! It’s been a long and difficult year. Will the motivation still be there? Will this break, the fact of having been able to enjoy his family, have changed something or will he still have that renewed motivation that has always fascinated us?” Leconte told TennisActu.

Federer hasn’t played a competitive match since his semi-final loss at the Australian Open in January. Since then, he has been sidelined from action due to a right knee injury which required two surgical procedures. The second took place after the first failed to produce the desired results.

Despite the setbacks, 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer is eyeing a return to the Tour in 2021. He is currently the oldest player in the world’s top 100 and one of two to be aged 39. The other is Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.

No one can say it. We all wish him, we would like him to stop on a Grand Slam title but the train (momentum) is gone with this younger generation which has put in an extra speed,” said Leconte.
“I would like to believe it. Roger has done so many things, that’s why he makes us dream, we would like to see him at the top. It will be very, very hard. ..”

It is not the first time Federer has taken a lengthy break due to injury. He missed six months of the 2017 season due to another knee issue before returning to action the following year when he won the Australian Open.

Earlier this week it was confirmed that Federer will head into the new season being able to use his iconic ‘RF’ logo. He hasn’t been able to use the logo for the past two years after switching from Nike, which held the rights, to UNIQLO. However, he has managed to regain control of ownership which means he will be allowed to use it on his apparel once again.

“The RF cap is back,” Federer said in a video message to fans on Twitter.
“After a long wait and extensive fine-tuning, UNIQLO and I are extremely excited to announce the return of the RF hat in 8 fresh colours starting December 8th, 2020,” he also wrote.
“This hat has meant so much to me and to my fans over the years.
“It has given us a way to visibly connect, and I have appreciated the opportunity to thrive off this supportive energy.”

As it currently stands Federer’s first tournament is set to be the Australian Open. The tournament had been scheduled to start on January 18th but it is believed that the date has been delayed until February 8th due to travel and quarantine arrangements.

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