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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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Dominic Thiem Rules Federer Out Of GOAT Debate

The Austrian puts forward his theory on who should be regarded as the best player in history.

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Dominic Thiem; e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger, 27.10.2022

The honour of which player deserves to be regarded as the greatest of all time (GOAT) should be decided based on one factor, according to Dominic Thiem. 

 

The former world No.3 has weighed in on the debate by suggesting that the argument should be settled by the number of Grand Slam titles a player has won as they are the most prestigious tournaments in the sport. In tennis, the four major tournaments are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

Thiem’s GOAT criteria have therefore ruled Roger Federer out of contention. The Swiss maestro was at one stage the frontrunner due to the numerous records he has broken throughout his career. However, he retired from the sport last year with 20 Grand Slam trophies under his belt which is less than both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who are currently on 22 each. 

“In my opinion, the Grand Slam titles should be the defining criteria when determining the best of all time, they are the four most important tournaments in tennis,” Eurosport quotes Thiem as saying. 
“Everything else is fine, but it’s not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams.”

Others will argue that more factors should be taken into account in the subjective debate. For example, Federer has won 103 ATP titles which are more than his two rivals, Djokovic holds the record for most weeks as world No.1 and Nadal has won more tournaments on clay than any other player in history. Furthermore, there is the players’ win-loss rate on the Tour and their records against the top 10 players. 

Recently at the Australian Open Djokovic won the men’s title for a historic 10th time in his career. An achievement that has been hailed by Thiem who was runner-up to the Serbian at Melbourne Park in 2021. 

“I am not very surprised, Djokovic still looks young,” he said. “Physically and mentally, because of the way he moves on the court. It’s like he was 25 years old.
“We have to be honest, he is the best, so his victory was not very surprising.”

Thiem has won one Grand Slam title which was at the 2020 US Open when he became the first man in the Open Era to come back from two sets down to win in the final. He has also been runner-up at the French Open twice, as well as the Australian Open once. 

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Andreescu edges Kostyuk to reach semis in Hua Hin

Bianca Andreescu is into the semi-finals in Thailand.

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Bianca Andreescu (@BenLewisMPC - Twitter)

The Canadian is into the final four in Thailand after beating the Ukrainian in straight sets.

 

Bianca Andreescu booked her spot in the semifinal of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after beating the Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in straight sets 6-0, 7-6 in one hour and 28 minutes.

The number one seed hit 19 winners and won 69% of her first serve points in a match where she had an amazing start but was dealt some adversity in the second set.

“I don’t think I started playing bad in the second set,” Andreescu said. “I think she just raised her game and she is always a tough opponent so I wasn’t expecting anything easy.”

The Toronto native who was making her first trip to Thailand came out to a flying start breaking three times in the first set en route to serving a bagel 6-0 set in a mere 25 minutes on court.

Riding the momentum into the second set, the Canadian broke again in the first game and at 3-1 went up a double break and found herself up 5-1 and a game away from the semis.

That’s when the number five seed started fighting back and at 5-2 broke Andreescu for the first time in the match and won the next two games to level the set at 5-5, using her powerful forehand to do it.

The set and the match were ultimately decided by a tiebreaker where the top seed got the early lead at 4-2 and served out the set and match at 6-3 in the breaker to secure the win.

After the match in her on-court interview, she was asked about her chances in the next match.

“I am hoping to win the tournament and I really believe in myself and if I get the support I need hopefully I can win the next two matches.”

Andreescu will face another Ukrainian in the semi-finals Lesia Tsurenko who had no issues getting past the German Tatjana Maria in straight sets 6-1 6-1 in one hour and 16 minutes.

In the other two quarterfinal matches, Lin Zhu of China beat the Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 15 minutes to set up an all-Chinese semi-final with the number seven seed Xinju Wang.

Wang needed three sets to get past the Brit Heather Watson 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 in two hours and 40 minutes.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 

 

But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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