(#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~? - MensTennisForums.com
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post #1 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-26-2008, 11:06 AM Thread Starter
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(#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?


...interesting article about Nadal & his place in tennis~~ "clay court specialist...a backhand compliment"
#some Rafa fans will no doubt take offense, but still it`s not meant as a dig at Rafa!!
So feel free to leave your comments as to whether the author is right or wrong
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Nadal still considered a clay-court specialist

This is the business part of the season for Rafael Nadal. From Monte Carlo through Roland Garros, Rafa is not only expected to win, he has to win. There are simply too many ranking points for him to defend when he hits the dirt if he’s going to protect his No. 2 position from Novak Djokovic, let alone make a realistic play for Roger Federer’s top spot.

In the last few years, Nadal has been up to the challenge, as his jaw-dropping record on clay attests. Consider: In 2007, he was 31-1 (the loss, to Roger Federer in Hamburg, snapped an Open-era record 81-match win streak). Even more astonishing, since April of 2005, Nadal has a claycourt win-loss record of 93-1.



Rafael Nadal has won 18 singles titles, 13 on clay and five on hardcourts. His record in finals is jut the opposite - only one of his eight finals losses has come on clay, and the other seven all on hardcourts or grass (including two Wimbledon finals).

© Claude Paris/AP

These stats have come to define Nadal’s career up to this point. They paint a portrait of a legend in the making, a tenacious baseline warrior who grinds out his victories on the most physically grueling surface in tennis. But therein lies the rub. Although Nadal has a strong record on hard and grass courts, he is a clay-court specialist. The stats prove it. No other player comes close to equaling his record on the dirt. And as hard as he tries to do well on other surfaces, Rafa is the quintessential dirtballer.
It’s no knock on his accomplishments. Yet, you can’t help but think how the term “clay-court specialist” has become a sort of backhanded compliment in the sport.

Many fans and experts alike tend to view clay-court specialists in a strange light. Yes, they applaud the stained socks and souls and the five-set wars of attrition, but they also prefer to ghettoize these players by slapping them with a label. You don’t hear folks referring to James Blake and Andy Roddick as hard court specialists, even though they most certainly excel on hard courts more than any other surface, and are virtually helpless on clay. No one labeled Pete Sampras a “grass court specialist,” even though, were it not for Wimbledon, he wouldn’t be ranked among the all-time greats.

Sampras padded his resume with 7 titles at the All England Club, surely enough to earn him some derisive praise or at least an asterisk, no? But win a couple French Open titles, as Sergi Bruguera did in the 1990s, and you’re forever branded a dirt devil. Do people look at Gustavo Kuerten, who’s retiring after this year’s Roland Garros, as anything but a clay-court specialist? Not really. Is Thomas Muster remembered as being a versatile player who once captured Key Biscayne? No, he’s the guy who went to Umag, on clay, before the U.S. Open, to gobble up ranking points. Other players cast as clay-court specialists include Albert Costa, Alberto Berasategui, Andres Gomez, Guillermo Coria, and Gaston Gaudio.

The template for the clay-court specialist—the player who is glued to the baseline and wears down his opponents with heavy, safe topspin rather than trying to end points with penetrating drives or closing them out at net—was set by Guillermo Vilas in the 1970s. He reached the final of the French Open four times, winning the title once, and had the longest win streak on clay before Nadal hit the tour. While Vilas also won the Australian and US Open, he’s remembered for his exploits on clay. There were others at the time who excelled even more on clay, most notably Bjorn Borg. But Borg dominated on the grass at Wimbledon (hard courts were his bugaboo).

The high point (or low point, depending on your perspective) of the clay-court specialist was from the late 1980s through the late 1990s, when the likes of Bruguera, Muster, and later Kuerten, Coria, and Gaudio dominated on the dirt but struggled mightily on other surfaces. Indeed, many of the Spanish and South American dirtballers didn’t even bother to show up at Wimbledon and they didn’t exactly exude a desire to win in Flushing Meadows, either.

These days, the classic clay-court specialist appears to be a dying breed. Most guys on tour play a similar all-court game—it’s what TENNIS Magazine senior editor Peter Bodo has termed the “World Game.” Take a guy like Nikolay Davydenko. He’s a French Open semifinalist, but he’s also a threat at the U.S. Open and Australian Open. Same goes for many other ATP players. There is, however, one guy with bulging biceps keeping the tradition of the clay courter alive.

Nadal talks with passion about wanting to do well on all surfaces, and you must respect him for that. And his fans point out, rightfully so, that he’s won Master Series events on hard courts, plus reached the Wimbledon final. But try as Nadal might, he is, in mindset and style of play, a clay-court specialist of old. Topspin tedium and tenacity are his calling cards. Given the way he plays, he has far more in common with the Brugueras and Musters than the Djokovics and Federers. Of course, Nadal is a level or two above those guys in terms of pace and power, not to mention his speed and athleticism. He can also venture to net and rip an occasional shot for a spectacular winner, including off the backhand side despite the paucity of his technique. In short, Nadal hits with more bite and juice than, say, Coria could ever dream of doing.

Yet, Rafa is still most at home when he’s scrambling from corner to corner, counter-punching and digging out shots. Like the classic clay-court specialists, he mostly uses his serve to start a point, not hit an ace, and relies on his forehand, not his backhand. You won’t see Rafa smack big backhands down the line with the regularity or comfort level of a Djokovic or Federer. It’s a war of attrition for Nadal. That’s the plot—and he never deviates from it.

All this isn’t to criticize Nadal as a specialist, but to merely point out the type of player he is. Yes, Nadal reached the Wimbledon final last year and the year before, but don’t you get the sense that his performance was more a product of riding an incredible wave of momentum coming out of the French Open as opposed to exhibiting strong all-court skills. Traditionally, after Wimbledon, when virtually all events are played on outdoor hard or even faster indoor hard courts, Rafa’s record is less impressive.

Right now, if Nadal’s career ended, he’d go down as the game’s all-time best clay-court specialist. Unfortunately, history doesn’t always look kindly on players of his ilk (Bruguera, for one, got snubbed by the Hall of Fame this year) and are rarely considered among the pantheon of all-timers. If, like me, you’re a fan of Nadal’s game and the effort he puts into every single point, match, and tournament, you want to see him take a page out of Borg’s and Wilander’s playbook by winning a few Slams off the dirt. Otherwise, Nadal—as talented as he is, as passionate as he plays—runs the risk of being marginalized in the history books as a clay-court specialist. There are worse things to be called, of course, but Nadal and his fans desire a better fate.

James Martin is the editor-in-chief of TENNIS magazine

Last edited by CmonAussie; 04-26-2008 at 11:11 AM.
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post #2 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-26-2008, 11:11 AM
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Re: (#)interesting article:: <>RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label

Old subject matter, which has been done to death. The synopsis is the same.

Wilander, Muster, Kuerten, Corretja, Moya, just off the top of my head won Slams (Wilander), TMS events and also the end of season championships (Guga and Corretja) on non clay surfaces. Guess what they are still called clay court specialists.

Borg had to win Wimbledon 5x not to be labelled one.

It's simple, most of the big events are on faster surfaces, therefore the players that do well on those, don't have to improve their games on clay. Fast court fools just doesn't have the same ring to it.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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post #3 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-26-2008, 11:13 AM Thread Starter
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Re: (#)interesting article:: <>RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label

Quote:
Originally Posted by PMK is Innocent View Post
Old subject matter, which has been done to death. The synopsis is the same.

Wilander, Muster, Kuerten, Corretja, Moya, just off the top of my head won Slams (Wilander), TMS events and also the end of season championships (Guga and Corretja) on non clay surfaces. Guess what they are still called clay court specialists.

Borg had to win Wimbledon 5x not to be labelled one.

but is being labelled "clay court specialist" a "backhand compliment" these days, as the author suggests

also should players like James Blake be labelled "hard court specialist"
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post #4 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-26-2008, 11:17 AM
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Re: (#)interesting article:: <>RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label

Quote:
Originally Posted by CmonAussie View Post
but is being labelled "clay court specialist" a "backhand compliment" these days, as the author suggests

also should players like James Blake be labelled "hard court specialist"
Of course it is. If you are saying someone is a specialist, it's not exactly highlighting what they can do away from their specific surface.

Claycourt specialist when used correctly would be:

Gaston Gaudio
Kent Carlsson
Alberto Berasategui
Pippo Volandri
Albert Montanes
Sergio Roitman

When not used correctly are the examples of the guys I gave in the first post.

The stigma is not the same for someone who excels on faster surfaces, because the majority of events are on hardcourts . All those guys don't need to improve or do well on clay like Blake, Roddick, Hewitt even, though when fit, he has done quite well to maintain a high ranking.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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post #5 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-26-2008, 11:20 AM
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Re: (#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?

He'll be always called a clay specialist because... well, he IS one.
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post #6 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-26-2008, 11:20 AM Thread Starter
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Re: (#)interesting article:: <>RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label

Quote:
Originally Posted by PMK is Innocent View Post
Of course it is. If you are saying someone is a specialist, it's not exactly highlighting what they can do away from their specific surface.

The stigma is not the same for someone who excels on faster surfaces, because the majority of events are on hardcourts . All those guys don't need to improve or do well on clay like Blake, Roddick, Hewitt even, though when fit, he has done quite well to maintain a high ranking.
good points
...
so do you think there should be more clay tourneys & less hardcourt ones
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post #7 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-27-2008, 07:35 AM
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Re: (#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?

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good points
...
so do you think there should be more clay tourneys & less hardcourt ones
No comment on that. There are enough issues with the calendar at the moment, there are too many hardcourt events as it is, but that has been done to death as well elsewhere.

Back to this subject. I forgot Mariano Puerta could be classified as one as well, but what they do is like any stereotype. While there is a small amount of truth, for the most part it's a lazy label, that people don't actually bother to look further.

Example of a classic one. Nalbandian is a claycourt specialist. Why? Because he is an Argentine.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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post #8 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-27-2008, 07:36 AM
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Re: (#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GlennMirnyi View Post
He'll be always called a clay specialist because... well, he IS one.
Hehe.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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Re: (#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?

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Originally Posted by GlennMirnyi View Post
He'll be always called a clay specialist because... well, he IS one.

Wimbledon Upsets:
Safin def. Djokovic 6-4, 7-6, 6-2
Schuettler def. Blake 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Kudryavtseva def. Sharapova 6-2, 6-4
Tipsarevic def. Roddick 6-7, 7-5, 6-4, 7-6
Dancevic def. Nalbandian 6-4, 6-2, 6-4
Zheng def. Ivanovic 6-1, 6-4
Tanasugarn def. Jankovic 6-3, 6-2
Radwanska def. Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 7-5
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post #10 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-27-2008, 08:25 AM
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Re: (#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?

Who cares what you call him. The results are the only thing that will be remembered.

These sort of 'philisophical discussions' only exist to feed the ego of clowns like James Martin (he is the author isn't he?). "Look at me and how much I know about tennis ."
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post #11 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-27-2008, 09:29 AM
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Re: (#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?

It depends how you define a clay court specialist.

1. A player who beats players ranked higher than him on clay but loses on other surfaces. Does well only during the clay season eg. Mantilla, Berasategui.

or...

2. A player who is a specialist on clay but can play on other surfaces but is still seen as just a clay court specialist eg. Nadal.

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post #12 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-27-2008, 09:39 AM
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Re: (#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?

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Originally Posted by PMK is Innocent View Post
Example of a classic one. Nalbandian is a claycourt specialist. Why? Because he is an Argentine.
Wow, can't believe anyone really considers Nalbandian a claycourt specialist? That'd be complete and utter ignorance...

...
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post #13 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-27-2008, 09:44 AM
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Re: (#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?

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Originally Posted by Kolya View Post
It depends how you define a clay court specialist.

1. A player who beats players ranked higher than him on clay but loses on other surfaces. Does well only during the clay season eg. Mantilla, Berasategui.

or...

2. A player who is a specialist on clay but can play on other surfaces but is still seen as just a clay court specialist eg. Nadal.

Mantilla did beat Sampras and Hewitt on hardcourts, when they were number 1 in the world. An out and out clay specialist wouldn't be able to do that.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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post #14 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-27-2008, 09:55 AM
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Re: (#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?

It's a more compact form of "a player who has enjoyed the vast majority of his success on clay", how long will we keep hearing all that BS about that phrase?

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It's a sport after all and while it is very important for the players, the only reason they make money (and I mean tennis as a whole) it's because it's entertainment for us, the fans. So if we're watching, I rather watch something that pleases the eye, who gives a shit if a BOSS hotass model takes 5 more seconds in geting the ball to the player in Madrid? I'd rather wait those extra 5 seconds seeing those boobies bounce than watching some fatass kid burn away his bigmac meal.

I don't know, call me old fashioned but I like women
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post #15 of 62 (permalink) Old 04-27-2008, 09:59 AM
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Re: (#)article:: RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label~?

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Originally Posted by Rogiman View Post
It's a more compact form of "a player who has enjoyed the vast majority of his success on clay", how long will we keep hearing all that BS about that phrase?
When the stigma is the same for players being crap on clay, in other words, not happening.

On Nadal bumping him on the changeover, Rosol said: "It's ok, he wanted to take my concentration; I knew he would try something".


Wilander on Dimitrov - "He has mind set on imitating Federer and yes it looks good. But he has no idea what to do on the court".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
I definitely would have preferred Gaba winning as he needs the points much more, but Jan would have beaten him anyway. I expect Hajek to destroy Machado, like 6-1 6-2.
Machado wins 6-2 6-1
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