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The Top-Performing Nations On Clay In Men’s Tennis

Which nation is, performance-wise, the best on the dirt?

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DIACHRONIC ANALYSIS OF THE BEST-PERFORMING FIVE COUNTRIES

 

Let’s now look at the top five countries, namely Spain, the USA, Sweden, Argentina, and Czechia, focusing on their performance peaks.

It is worth mentioning the American peak of 1976 with a total of 7.25 points, 4 of them coming from Connors, 1.75 from Solomon, 1.25 from Dibbs, 0.25 from Stockton, and another one the next year peak with 6.25 points, 1.5 from Connors, 0.75 from Solomon, 1 from the late Gerulaitis, 0.75 from Dibbs, 2 from Gottfried and 0.25 from Stockton.

In the mid-‘70s, however, there were two different seasons on clay, one in Europe and one on North America, so that there were a maximum of 20 points available in 1975, almost twice as much as the current availability of 11 points.

The latest peak achieved by Americans was in 1992 with 4.25 points, while the total number of “empty” years is 19, which places in third place behind Spain and France in terms of fewest scoreless seasons.

As for Argentina’s performance peaks, they were achieved in 1977,  a 5.25 soliloquy by Vilas, and in 2004 with 6 points obtained by Gaudio (2), Coria (2.5), Nalbadian (1), Chela (0.25) and Zabaleta (0.25).

It should be noted also that at the Hamburg tournament in 2003 the players from Argentina were able to monopolise the tournament by sweeping all the semi-finals spot, something never witnessed again in a Masters 1000 event played on clay.

Sweden and the Czech Republic dominated the clay seasons of the Eighties, bringing to mind a rendition of the battle of Prague in 1648, a battle never completely won by the Swedes, with the Czech leader Ivan Lendl playing the role of Rudolf von Colloredo, a warrior able to fight back every single time against the Swedish siege. The pinnacle of Swedish grandeur was reached in 1975 with 4.5 points scored by an illustrious Viking named Bjorn and in 1984, when Wilander with 3 points, Sundstrom with 1 point, Edberg and Nystrom with 0.25 points each contributed to the national now bygone pre-eminence. Indeed, the Viking wave – sporting the three crowns flag – retreated after Soderling’s final runs in 2009 and 2010, “the “invincible armada” returned to take over.

In fact, even if we remove Nadal, the man who single-handedly rewrote the history of clay tennis, Spain would still lead the combined rankings anyway, leading the US by 12 points.

The latest Spanish zero in a season on clay happened in 1987, with Spanish tennis players never falling below the 1.25 points achieved in the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

Therefore, the peaks of Spain in the 1998 and 2010 seasons are noteworthy, with 7.25 points out of 11 available, but also in 1975 with 6 points out of 22.

In 2010 Nadal scored 5 ​​points, exactly like in 1975 when Orantes racked up 5.5, while in 1998 there was no standout player, and the point-grabbing appear more diverse. In that season Carlos Moya brought 3 points, Albert Costa and Alex Corretja both took 1.5, while Felix Mantilla had 0.75 and Alberto Berasategui 0.5.

However, at a closer look, since the beginning of the Nadal era Spain has never dropped below the 1.5 points mark from 2015 and 2016, years where the performance of the Manacor juggernaut was plagued by injuries, while many peaks where achieved in previous and ensuing years.

WAITING FOR ALCARAZ: A COMPARISON BETWEEN SPANISH GENERATIONS

All of this forces us to start an evaluation on the performance of the different Spanish generations, while trying to discount the aforementioned Nadal effect.

The aggregate performances of the generations of Spanish tennis players was calculated, obtaining 7 generations, as per the following, with birthyears in brackets:

First generation (1937-1942)Second Generation (1949-1958)Third generation (1962-1968)Fourth Generation (1971-1978)Fifth Generation (1980-1986)Sixth generation (1988-1995)Seventh generation (1996 onwards)
Manuel SantanaManuel OrantesEmilio SanchezCarlos MoyàRafael NadalRoberto Bautista AgutAlejandro Davidovich Fokina
Andrés GimenoJosé HiguerasJuan AguileraSergi BrugueraJuan Carlos FerreroPablo Carreno BustaCarlos Alcaraz Garfia
Juan GisbertFernando LunaCarlos CostaAlex CorretjaDavid FerrerAlbert Ramos VinolasBernabé Zapata
  Francisco ClavetAlbert CostaTommy Robredo Jaume Munar
  Jordi ArreseAlberto BerasateguiFernando Verdasco Pedro Martinez
  Javier SanchezFelix MantillaNicolàs Almagro Nicola Kuhn
  Sergio CasalAlbert PortasPablo Andujar Javier Barranco
  Tomàs CarbonellGalo BlancoFeliciano Lopez  
   Roberto Carretero   

Below the performances by each generation

GenerationsPerformances
First Generation3,25
Second Generation18,75
Third Generation7,5
Fourth Generation34,25
Fifth Generation73
Sixth Generation2,25
Seventh Generation0

It can be seen that, by removing Nadal’s points from the fifth generation, Ferrero, Ferrer, Robredo, Verdasco, Almagro and Andujar would have achieved 17.25 points, which is a very similar performance to that of the second generation, but the former achievement was spread between many more players.

The graph below summarizes these results.

The best Spanish generation in the opinion of the writer was the fourth generation, which expressed 9 players, even without an all-out legend:

CONCLUSION

At the end of this analysis based entirely on numbers, we think is fair to ask ourselves the following question: is it better to have an all-conquering champion with some young guns around him or to have many good players, an even-turfed lawn with a few flowers?

While the media are always in search of a mythical figure to write epics about, a setup that humans tend to be inclined to, the writer is partial to the even lawn concept, because it allows for a whole scene of different players to be at the forefront, as long as the results are consistent and fairly measured. Article and graphics by Andrea Canella; translation by Michele Brusadelli; editing by Tommaso Villa

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Another Stellar Order of Play on Thursday

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Thankfully, these seats will not be so empty come Thursday (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

All round of 16 matches will be played on Thursday, with 47 Major singles titles represented.  There is some rain forecast early in the day, but skies should clear by mid-afternoon, allowing all action to be completed.  And with fans on the grounds for the first time this week, there will be a whole different energy at Foro Italico.

 

Men’s round of 16 action features two matchups where top 10 seeds collide.  Overall, seven of the top 10 men in the world are still alive in this draw.  That includes Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have combined to win this event 14 out of the last 16 years.

On the women’s side, four French Open champions remain.  One of them is Garbine Muguruza, who will take on two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina.  The other three (Ash Barty, Iga Swiatek, and Jelena Ostapenko) all face unseeded yet challenging competition on Thursday.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s two most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play begins at 10:00am local time.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Matteo Berrettini (9) – Not Before 12:00pm on Grand Stand Arena

This matchup was scheduled to take place in February at the Australian Open, but Berrettini was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to an abdominal injury.  The 25-year-old Italian would miss nearly two months of action, though he’s now 10-2 since returning.  Matteo was the champion in Belgrade and the runner-up in Madrid, so he’s played a lot of tennis over the last few weeks.

Tsitsipas has been busy as well, with an 11-2 record during the European clay swing.  Like Matteo, he earned one title and reached the final of another event (Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, respectively).  They did play at the Australian Open two years ago, when Stefanos claimed a tight four-setter.  They also met in qualifying for the 2017 US Open, with Tsitsipas winning in a third-set tiebreak.  Stefanos’ form this past month on clay has been stellar.  And between this week and the last, he’s played significantly less tennis than Matteo.  Despite Berrettini’s hometown crowd rooting him on, Tsitsipas should advance.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Garbine Mugruza (12) – Not Before 6:00pm on Center Court

Svitolina won back-to-back titles here in 2017 and 2018.  Yet outside of those runs, she’s just 4-5 lifetime in Rome.  On Wednesday, Elina recovered from a tough opening set to defeat Amanda Anisimova in three.  Muguruza has reached three semifinals in Rome, though is yet to advance farther.  She too was forced to come from behind on Wednesday.  Garbine was down two breaks in the third set, when American Bernarda Pera tightened up, allowing Muguruza to take that set 7-5.

This will be the tenth meeting in their rivalry, which Svitolina leads 6-3 at tour level.  However, they’ve split their two clay court matches.  In 2021, Muguruza has been the better player.  She has accumulated a 23-6 record, with one title and two runner-up trophies.  Svitolina is 18-8 on the season, though she’s yet to reach a final.  And against the top 20, she’s just 2-4, with her only two wins coming against Petra Kvitova.  Muguruza did have to withdraw from Madrid last week due to a thigh injury.  But if she’s feeling close to 100%, Garbine is the favorite based on her recent form.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Q) – Djokovic has never lost before the quarterfinals in Rome, but could be challenged by the 21-year-old Spaniard, who is 10-5 on clay this season.  This is their first career meeting.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Veronika Kudermetova – Barty advanced comfortably on Wednesday despite some strapping on her leg.  24-year-old Kudermetova is an impressive 24-10 in 2021, and was a champion last month on the green clay of Charleston.  This is also their first meeting.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Denis Shapovalov (13) – Denis’ exciting win over Rafa at 2017’s Rogers Cup was his breakout moment, but he’s 0-2 against Nadal since that time.  Shapovalov was a semifinalist in Rome last September, while Nadal has failed to reach the quarterfinals here only once in 16 appearances.

Angelique Kerber vs. Jelena Ostapenko – Their only head-to-head matchup was a significant one.  In the 2018 Wimbledon semifinals, Kerber prevailed 6-3, 6-3 on her way to the title.  Neither player has won three consecutive matches this year, a feat one of them will achieve on Thursday.

Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (10) – They have split six previous encounters, though Rublev has claimed both their matches on clay, including last month in Monte-Carlo.

Aryna Sabalenka (7) vs. Coco Gauff – Sabalena is on a seven-match win streak, and is 11-1 on clay this season.  Gauff has already survived two three-setters this week.  They met twice last year, with each claiming one victory, and each match going the distance. 

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Kei Nishikori – Sascha and Kei just played last week in Madrid, with Zverev winning 6-3, 6-2.  That victory started Zverev’s current six-match win streak.  Like fellow Madrid champion Sabalenka, he’s only dropped one set during that time.

Iga Swiatek (15) vs. Barbora Krejcikova – The reigning French Open champ has won 11 of her last 12 matches on clay.  Swiatek defeated Krejickova in straight sets earlier this year in Miami.

Dominic Thiem (4) vs. Lorenzo Sonego – Thiem came back from a set down on Wednesday against Marton Fucsovics, while Sonego took out Gael Monfils in the last round.  When they met on clay in 2019, Thiem prevailed in straights.

Karolina Pliskova (9) vs. Vera Zvonareva (Q) – On Wednesday, Zvonareva upset another big-hitting Czech, Petra Kvitova.  Pliskova was the champion here two years ago, and the runner-up last season.  Three years ago in Moscow, Zvonareva dominated Pliskova, allowing her only three games.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Watchdog Files Complaint To Government Over Prize Money Discrepancies At Italian Open

The tournament has been accused of ‘an unacceptable pay gap’ by one of the countries leading independent agencies.

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A leading consumer watchdog in Italy has hit out at their biggest tennis tournament over what they say is unfair differences in pay between male and female players.

 

Codacons has issued a press release confirming they have filed an official complaint to the Department for Equal Opportunities (Presidency of the Council of Ministers). The political Authority directly in charge of gender equality and equal opportunities policies in Italy which are made up by a series of politicians from various parties. The move has been triggered by a report in national newspaper La Repubblica which notes that the prize money pool in the men’s draw is significantly more than the women’s.

The Internazionali d’Italia would be the only tennis tournament among the Masters 1000 of 2021 with an inequality in pay based exclusively on the sex of the players,’ Carlo Rienzi, president of Codacons, said in a statement.
“Based on what La Repubblica reported today to the winner of the prestigious event would be entitled to a higher remuneration of 37% compared to the winner of the women’s draw.’
“Analyzing the prizes up for grabs for the other rounds (eighths, quarters, semifinals and final) it turns out that the remuneration reserved for the players is significantly lower than those paid to male athletes.”

This year’s Italian Open is categorised as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a WTA 1000 for the women. In each round play the prize money available is significantly higher for male than female players. For example the differences in the first round are €12,000 against €8670. This year’s men’s champion will take home more than €65,000 more than their female counterpart.

“An unacceptable gender pay gap in 2021, which causes blatant discrimination to the detriment of women, and which today leads Codacons to denounce the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to the Equal Opportunities Commission for discrimination gender,” Rienzi concluded.

Whilst the Italian Open is a mixed tournament, both of the Tour’s have their own governing body with their own guidelines regarding prize money. Explaining why this difference has occurred. It is for this reason why there is also a difference in points on offer to players.

There has been no comment from the Italian Open, WTA or the ATP in regard to Codacons’ complaint.

2021 Italian Open: Men Vs Women

Prize Money

MenWomen
Winner245,085178,630
Runner-up145,000132,258
SF82,30070,161
QF54,10033,486
R328,20016,935
R218,00010,726
R112,0008670

Points

MenWomen
Winner1000900
Runner-up600585
SF360350
QF180190
R390105
R24560
R1101

Note: info via atptour.com and wtatennis.com

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Serena Williams’ 1000th Match Ends In Defeat To Podoroska

Serena Williams was defeated in Rome as she reaches a landmark milestone of 1000 WTA matches.

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Serena Williams (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Serena Williams’ 1000th WTA tour match has ended in a 7-6(6) 7-5 defeat to Nadia Podoroska in Rome.

 

The American made her return to tour for the first time in 84 days as she looked to build momentum heading into Roland Garros.

If the first few games were to set the tempo of the match then it would prove to be a long contest with Serena struggling to get any free points on her serve.

It was the Argentinian who got the first break of the match in the third game as she tested Serena’s stamina early on in the contest.

In typical Serena fashion, the 23-time grand slam champion produced some stunning ground-strokes especially from central positions to break to love straight away.

On serve, Serena looked fairly comfortable as she ended the match with eight aces although she only made a first serve percentage of 48%.

That was her key downfall as it was Podoroska who looked the more comfortable on return as she used some devastating angles to force unforced errors from the Serena racket.

A break for a 5-4 lead ensured that the last year’s Roland Garros semi-finalist would serve for the opening set.

However Serena used her power and good point construction to once again break back which was met with a roar from the world number eight.

Eventually the first set would head towards a tiebreaker with Podoroska dominating the majority of it.

She had three set points which came and went as Serena used her fighting qualities to roar back into the match.

But once again some unforced errors would cost the four-time champion as Podoroska took the next two point to claim the opening set in 66 minutes.

In the second set, Serena was the early aggressor as she dictated points better setting the pace of the match.

Again though Podoroska extended the rallies and made the American move all round the court exposing as much space as possible.

The Argentinian was rewarded for her court coverage when she broke in the sixth game as Serena began to tire.

As in the first set, Podoroska couldn’t serve out the second set as her cautious play lead to Serena levelling it up at 5-5.

However Serena’s serve was just not working when she needed it too and Podoroska secured the final blow to seal a fantastic victory for her.

For Serena its onto Roland Garros as she will look to improve her fitness in the next couple of weeks.

As for Podoroska she will play Petra Martic after the Croatian beat Kristina Mladenovic today 7-5 6-3.

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