Financial Times: Dirtballers are only real players from April to June [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

Financial Times: Dirtballers are only real players from April to June

Deboogle!.
05-21-2005, 02:05 AM
Natural but Unjust Advantage

By Mike Steinberger
Financial Times, UK
Published: May 20 2005 19:34 | Last updated: May 20 2005 19:34

Another clay court season, another Latin phenomenon leaves the tennis world momentarily agog. Last year it was Argentina’s Guillermo Coria, who won the season-opening Monte Carlo tournament, was runner-up in Hamburg and held two championship points at the French Open before succumbing to his compatriot Gaston Gaudio in a bizarre five-set match.

This year’s wunderkind is the 18-year-old Spaniard Rafael Nadal (pictured), who captured both Monte Carlo and Rome and who is, by virtue of those victories, favoured to win the 2005 edition of the French, which begins on Monday.

But put aside for a moment thoughts of Paris and red clay. Can Nadal demonstrate the same aptitude on other surfaces? Will he be competitive on the grass at Wimbledon next month? How will he fare on the DecoTurf at the US Open in late August?

The reason for asking these questions is because there is something of a double standard in men’s tennis nowadays. Players more at home on faster surfaces are routinely chastised for their clay court ineptitude, yet clay court specialists are seldom ever criticised for their inability to compete on faster courts. Where is the justice in that?

It is particularly unfair because the serve-and-volley types generally do better on clay than the “dirt-ballers” do on slicker surfaces.

Stefan Edberg, who twice won Wimbledon and the US Open, was a finalist at the French in 1989. Andre Agassi, not a serve-and-volleyer but reared on hard courts, reached the title match at Roland Garros three times, winning it in 1999. Boris Becker was thrice a semi-finalist in Paris. Even Pete Sampras, for whom red clay truly was quicksand, managed a semi-final appearance. And, of course, British fans are still savouring Tim Henman’s improbable run to the semis last year.

By contrast, most clay courters are barely competitive on other surfaces. True, Juan Carlos Ferrero reached the US Open final two years ago, and Carlos Moya, Alex Corretja and Gustavo Kuerten have all experienced limited success on fast courts. Generally speaking, though, the clay specialists come bursting out of the woodwork in April, peak in May and June, and are seldom heard from for the rest of the year.

Nadal has shown some promise on hard courts – he came within two points of beating world number one Roger Federer at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami in March – but he is going to have to give his second serve a lot more bite and sharpen his volleying if he ever hopes to seriously contend for a major title other than the French.

The issue here is not just results; it is also attitude. Players such as Andy Roddick of the US and Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt, who misses Roland Garros this year because of a rib injury, seem to welcome the challenge posed by clay. It will always be an alien surface for them, but they are clearly eager to do the hard work necessary to become more comfortable on it.

To be sure, they have an incentive to want to improve on clay; apart from the fact that one of the four grand-slam tournaments happens to be played on the surface, the three main tune-ups for the French – Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg – are all Masters Series events and rich in ranking points. But for Roddick and Hewitt, it is more than just a question of points; the desire to become more competent on clay is also a matter of pride.

It is hard to think of any clay court specialists who have expressed a similar determination to improve on fast courts. As regards Wimbledon, the clay courters are downright contemptuous: they despise the grass and spend most of their time in London loudly and proudly proclaiming their hatred of the green stuff. If the US players spent their time at Roland Garros carping about the clay, they would rightly be condemned as spoilsports, but no such condemnation ever rains down on the dirt-ballers, and therein lies the double standard.

Among tennis folk, it is widely agreed that a player raised on clay courts should have an easier time getting the hang of fast courts than a player reared on fast courts will have mastering the intricacies of clay. Clay court tennis cultivates good footwork, varied shot selection and, of course, patience – qualities that can also pay handsome dividends on other surfaces.

But this natural advantage means little if the clay courters are not willing to make winning on other surfaces a higher priority. And until they do, the clay court season will continue to feel somehow distinct from the rest of the tennis year.

robinhood
05-21-2005, 02:17 AM
What is this guy babbling about?

Clara Bow
05-21-2005, 02:18 AM
Boy- what a hateful and meanspirited article. It drips with contempt. Yes, it is true that clay courters don't do as well on other surfaces but there has been an increasing trend for a good number of "dirt ballers" to try to do better on hardcourts.

It is hard to think of any clay court specialists who have expressed a similar determination to improve on fast courts. As regards Wimbledon, the clay courters are downright contemptuous: they despise the grass and spend most of their time in London loudly and proudly proclaiming their hatred of the green stuff.

Yeah- that's why Nadal has said that the tournament he wants to win most is Wimbledon. And if I recall correctly (I may be wrong) hasn't JCF said he really likes playing on hard courts- which is a faster surface? And the last player who I remember bemoaning grass was Safin- who has won two GS on a fast surface. Which clay courter in the past three years or so has "proudly proclaimed their hatred" of the green stuff?

but no such condemnation ever rains down on the dirt-ballers

I would heartily disagree. I have seen plenty of condemnation (and sometimes it is quite meanspirited) towards clay court specialists.

And I know that this was discussed in another topic but might I say how much I hate the term "dirt baller". It just feels so ...I don't know, mean and dismissive. And since so many clay courters are from Latin America or Spain it also seems dismissive to me in another way. My family hates it as well. I dunno- my grandparents grew up in a time when they sometimes were called "Dirty Spics" etc. My abuelo has a lovely little story where some arsehole told him that apparantely his swim through the Rio Grande didn't wash the dirt off of him. A lot of times in the not so distant past (and maybe still in redneck circles today) "dirty" was used as a hateful way to describe someone who was Hispanic in certain parts of the US (i.e. Dirty Mexican, Dirty Puerto Rican, Dirty Spic, Dirty Wetback, etc.) The term dirt baller just has a little bit of nastiness to me (even though I'm sure most of the times it is not meant in a nasty way.) /steps off of soapbox

DanEd
05-21-2005, 02:22 AM
bad bad bad. gaudio is one of the few good clay court specialist without great results on fast surfaces.

Kuerten:a master cup title, a master series title, several master series final.
Ferrero: an usopen final (hard), a madrid title (indoor hard), a master cup final
Moya: a cincinatti title,a master cup final, an australian open final.
Coria:a final on grass, a miami final,a basel title,an uso quarterfinal.
Canas: a master series title, other two hard titles.
Massu:a gold medal on hard,a master series final in madrid.
Gonzalez:a title on hard, an uso quartefinal.
Nadal: a miami final.

robinhood
05-21-2005, 02:23 AM
Which clay courter in the past three years or so has "proudly proclaimed their hatred" of the green stuff.

As far as I remember, no one since Rios said grass is for cows.


I would heartily disagree. I have seen plenty of condemnation (and sometimes it is quite meanspirited) on clay court specialists.

I TOTALLY agree with you.
This article is a joke.

euroka1
05-21-2005, 02:23 AM
Thanks for the interesting article.
Federer usually can play pretty well on all surfaces largely because he is able to think out each point.

Fee
05-21-2005, 02:36 AM
Let's not count Nadal's Miami final as the strongest argument in this debate. That is a hardcourt, but it's a sloooooooooowww hardcourt.

edit: I was actually impressed with his USO results last year. I vaguely remember some people thought he would lose in the first round there.

Clara Bow
05-21-2005, 02:48 AM
Let's not count Nadal's Miami final as the strongest argument in this debate. That is a hardcourt, but it's a sloooooooooowww hardcourt.

Discounting that- he still made a good show at this year's Aussie Open. The only time he played at Wimbledon when he was 17 he made it to the third round, the youngest to do so since Becker. Also - the only time he played Wimbledon as a junior he made it to the semis.

But even discounting Nadal- this idea that all clay courters only want to do well on clay courts and can't do anything on hard courts is still not accurate. DanEd's post illustrated that quite well. This article is so 2000 - it just doesn't really hold water for me nowadays. Yes- you may have your Coria who won't do well at Wimbledon but gosh darn if he did not seem to give it his all when he did play in 2004. On on the other side of the coin you have player like Pim Pim- who will do best on fast courts but I don't think that makes him a player to be dismissed.

Discounting even that- there still lies that fact that much of what this guys says is unture. He makes it sound like when Wimbledon arrives all Spanish speakers (with the exception of Nalbandian - although I bet this guy doesn't even know who David is) go around yelling about how much they hate grass. So wrong.

Boy- this article really irked me. I get tired of the dismissive attitude that there is sometimes towards clay courters ("they don't play real modern tennis, they just get the ball back, don't need real brains to do what they do," etc.) I need to pack for vacation but now I'm tempted to write an email to this fellow. He may be my most disliked sports writer since the incredibly mean spirted/tennis hating Sally Jenkins.

BlackSilver
05-21-2005, 02:52 AM
let's shoot him :)

Chloe le Bopper
05-21-2005, 02:52 AM
A perfect example of somebody who just started following tennis yesterday. I don't suppose that this fellow is a poster here? ;)

I guess this is why we see so many cover stories with "the next great fastballer" written beside Roddick's head.

Mike? My avatar would like a word with you.

Chloe le Bopper
05-21-2005, 02:57 AM
Seriously, this article would have been a fantastic satire.

Clara Bow
05-21-2005, 03:01 AM
Mike? My avatar would like a word with you.
__________________


And could your avatar tell Mike that my sentiments are the same?

Thank you Becca's avatar.

Seraphim
05-21-2005, 03:04 AM
A perfect example of somebody who just started following tennis yesterday. I don't suppose that this fellow is a poster here? ;)


Mike? My avatar would like a word with you.

LMAO.

Tennis Fool
05-21-2005, 04:17 AM
What is Nalby generally considered :confused:

Chloe le Bopper
05-21-2005, 04:37 AM
What is Nalby generally considered :confused:
By this bafoon? ARG.

Action Jackson
05-21-2005, 05:50 AM
Mr Mike Hamburger

The grass season will be here in two weeks, then tennis can be fun for you again.

Kat!
05-21-2005, 06:38 AM
I stopped reading after the 4th paragraph.... I have better use of my time than reading that! :haha:

mandoura
05-21-2005, 07:05 AM
Boy- what a hateful and meanspirited article. It drips with contempt. Yes, it is true that clay courters don't do as well on other surfaces but there has been an increasing trend for a good number of "dirt ballers" to try to do better on hardcourts.

Yeah- that's why Nadal has said that the tournament he wants to win most is Wimbledon. And if I recall correctly (I may be wrong) hasn't JCF said he really likes playing on hard courts- which is a faster surface? And the last player who I remember bemoaning grass was Safin- who has won two GS on a fast surface. Which clay courter in the past three years or so has "proudly proclaimed their hatred" of the green stuff?

I would heartily disagree. I have seen plenty of condemnation (and sometimes it is quite meanspirited) towards clay court specialists.

And I know that this was discussed in another topic but might I say how much I hate the term "dirt baller". It just feels so ...I don't know, mean and dismissive. And since so many clay courters are from Latin America or Spain it also seems dismissive to me in another way. My family hates it as well. I dunno- my grandparents grew up in a time when they sometimes were called "Dirty Spics" etc. My abuelo has a lovely little story where some arsehole told him that apparantely his swim through the Rio Grande didn't wash the dirt off of him. A lot of times in the not so distant past (and maybe still in redneck circles today) "dirty" was used as a hateful way to describe someone who was Hispanic in certain parts of the US (i.e. Dirty Mexican, Dirty Puerto Rican, Dirty Spic, Dirty Wetback, etc.) The term dirt baller just has a little bit of nastiness to me (even though I'm sure most of the times it is not meant in a nasty way.) /steps off of soapbox


http://bestsmileys.com/signs5/4.gif

El Legenda
05-21-2005, 07:11 AM
Don't you have to go to college to be a sports writer? or do some reseach on topic

Chloe le Bopper
05-21-2005, 07:34 AM
Don't you have to go to college to be a sports writer? or do some reseach on topic
Most journalism students I know could jerk-off on to a piece of paper and come up with something better than this.

G O
05-21-2005, 08:44 AM
"Hateful" Clara?

Disagree, fine, but "HATEFUL". I would say the one wanting to give this poor writer the finger is the hatful one no? Pmessing are we Clara.

I think it's a pretty good article. Why write about what's obvious...that's boring.

I still say there's a double standard and judging by all your angry defiant post i'd say you do to. :)

Action Jackson
05-21-2005, 08:55 AM
"Hateful" Clara?

Disagree, fine, but "HATEFUL". I would say the one wanting to give this poor writer the finger is the hatful one no? Pmessing are we Clara.

I think it's a pretty good article. Why write about what's obvious...that's boring.

I still say there's a double standard and judging by all your angry defiant post i'd say you do to. :)

Greetings Mr Steinberger.

robinhood
05-21-2005, 09:00 AM
Greetings Mr Steinberger.
:lol:

G O
05-21-2005, 09:24 AM
Greetings Mr Steinberger.


I was waiting for that one.


Dude your so predictable. :rolleyes:

Action Jackson
05-21-2005, 09:26 AM
I was waiting for that one.


Dude your so predictable. :rolleyes:

Not as predictable as your trolling.

G O
05-21-2005, 09:30 AM
Not as predictable as your trolling.


No your wrong again Porgie. I am UNPREDICABLE! :wavey:

iliketennis
05-21-2005, 09:45 AM
I haven't really checked where this person comes from, but if he was from Spain, or any latin county, I suppose he would be saying the opposite. :rolleyes:

This article was posted in the ILIKETENNIS times-

Turfballers are complete and utter shithouse. They cry when they are exposed to slow courts, because they are too unfit to run after the ball. Without the help of many free points from winners and aces, these poor turfballers will be forced to actually work hard for points.

Just read into the horendous results of hard and grass court players on clay. Andy Roddick's best result to date has been a 3rd round showing. Rather than playing the larger tournaments that require more perseverance, Roddick opts to play in Houston. Of course, not as many matches means less work. The two larger tournaments proved to be hard for the US Open champ, he was eliminated in the first round of each.

Tim Henman made scarce attempt at changing his gameplay to suit clay. Instead, with the help of a practically walk-over draw, and his traditional turfball style, Henman struggled his way to the SF, where he was swept aside by real talent.

Meanwhile, the fantastic claycourters displayed their dominance on the other surfaces. David Nalbandian strung together an Australian QF, a US Open SF and a stunning Runner up performance at Wimbledon in a period of just two years. Arnaud Clement and Carlos Moya have both made the finals of the Australian Open. Sebastien Grosjean and Juan Carlos Ferrero have also acheived good results on the faster surfaces. And, in addition to all of these players, Gustavo Kuertan also has a good record on fast surfaces. He holds 5 hardcourt titles and has made the QFs of Wimbledon and the US Open. (Much more than can be said about those Yankies, Aussies and Pommies).

So with this much evidence, you decide. Don't proclaim those talentless turfballers and hardcourters as hard workers. Put things into perspective, they need the help of free points and less court movement to win.

Article written by Frenchman who doesn't follow tennis

BTW, this article is putting across a point and is by no means serious :D

blosson
05-21-2005, 10:04 AM
Mike Steinberger - being a writer representing a UK paper (rather prestigious one) must be biased towards Wimbledon and the fact most top clay players can't even get a seed in this tournament. It could just be his 'rant' about most clay courters ignoring the grass season. :) He might have something else to say when the Wimbledon draw is out.

sigmagirl91
05-21-2005, 10:51 AM
No your wrong again Porgie. I am UNPREDICABLE! :wavey:


Unpredicable? You can't be serious.
Anyhoo, this article sounds like a high school journalism piece.

Sjengster
05-21-2005, 01:06 PM
Most journalism students I know could jerk-off on to a piece of paper and come up with something better than this.

:haha:

When I saw the headline I thought this was another ignorant American article, but then I realised that it's actually one of our own papers. Well done guys! :yeah: :rolleyes: There's no criticism of claycourt players who scorn Wimbledon? What planet has he been living on for the past, ooh, ten years or so? This argument always falls down anyway because the players who really are claycourt specialists and get all their points on clay are ranked accordingly, on the fringes of and outside the Top 50. It's only because the clay season forms such a relatively small part of the calendar that there's this contemptuous attitude towards players who excel during it.

Alvarillo
05-21-2005, 04:19 PM
and this man is a journalist?
plese don't write about tennis anymore ....

chrissiej
05-21-2005, 05:18 PM
Why on earth is tennis in the FT? :confused:

Fee
05-21-2005, 05:29 PM
It's only because the clay season forms such a relatively small part of the calendar that there's this contemptuous attitude towards players who excel during it.

You need to take a closer look at the ATP calendar. There are ATP level clay court tournaments from February to August, and then two more after the USO. The idea of a 'clay season' is a myth and it is entirely possible for claycourters to earn enough points at those tournaments (and 3 Masters events) to be Top 30 or better and all they would have to do is show up and lose first round at the other three slams and 5 of 6 Masters. (I'm curious, how high would Nadal still be ranked without his AO or Miami points? I'm not that good with ranking points math.)

The only players who play tennis in 'seasons' are the so-called fastcourters, who start off with the slower, outdoor hardcourts down under, transition to the various indoor surfaces after the AO, move to the outdoor Masters events in the US, then to clay for 4 - 6 weeks, grass for 4 weeks, outdoor hardcourt for 4-6 weeks, then back to the various indoor surfaces to end the season (with a few outdoor tournaments in Asia). The players who can succeed under those circumstances are the ones I am more willing to follow.

Leo
05-21-2005, 05:31 PM
Ridiculous! I pretty much stopped reading after he said that fast court players are criticized for their lack of skill on clay while supposed clay court specialists are not ridiculed at all for being incompetent on faster stuff. Untrue in so many ways. The double standard is worse the other way around, for one.

Sjengster
05-21-2005, 05:41 PM
You need to take a closer look at the ATP calendar. There are ATP level clay court tournaments from February to August, and then two more after the USO. The idea of a 'clay season' is a myth and it is entirely possible for claycourters to earn enough points at those tournaments (and 3 Masters events) to be Top 30 or better and all they would have to do is show up and lose first round at the other three slams and 5 of 6 Masters. (I'm curious, how high would Nadal still be ranked without his AO or Miami points? I'm not that good with ranking points math.)

The only players who play tennis in 'seasons' are the so-called fastcourters, who start off with the slower, outdoor hardcourts down under, transition to the various indoor surfaces after the AO, move to the outdoor Masters events in the US, then to clay for 4 - 6 weeks, grass for 4 weeks, outdoor hardcourt for 4-6 weeks, then back to the various indoor surfaces to end the season (with a few outdoor tournaments in Asia). The players who can succeed under those circumstances are the ones I am more willing to follow.

At the highest level, the clay season is the European one that's mentioned in the title of this thread. In those terms the number of tournaments on clay is heavily outweighed by those on faster surfaces. The only Top 10 player I can think of whose results consist almost entirely of clay is Gaudio, and I rather think he earned it. Aussie Pim is hovering on the verge of the Top 10 having won one match on clay since the start of 2004.

Nadal may be back next year to defend those South American titles in Brazil and Acapulco, but I doubt he'll become a permanent fixture there. They got him up close to the Top 30, but it was the final in Miami that got him into the Top 20, and then a 17-match winning streak on clay that includes two TMS titles and the biggest optional clay event on tour that made him Top 5. Does anyone really think he's going to do nothing once the clay season is over?

I don't think all claycourts in every part of the world play the same, either.

Sjengster
05-21-2005, 05:51 PM
I just had a look at the Top 30 in the ATP rankings, and there are two players in there who have earned virtually all their points from clay, Gaudio and Volandri (and even Gaudio has some good hardcourt results at the AO and Miami this year). Hewitt is about to lose all his remaining claycourt points and it won't make any impact on his ranking in the short-term, because he's been a hardcourt machine ever since Cincinnati last year.

Sjengster
05-21-2005, 05:59 PM
Other claycourt specialists in the Top 50: Gasquet, Andreev and Puerta. That's about it. Yes, a ratio of 1/10 shows that dirtballers are unfairly dominating the top flight of men's tennis.

On the other hand, outside the Top 50, you have Martin, Horna, Starace, Acasuso, Costa, Almagro... these are the people who have survived on claycourt results over the past year.

NATAS81
05-21-2005, 06:05 PM
Moya won his share of HC, RObredo has gone deep. Zabaleta took a set off Federer at Miami.

The article is slightly skewed.

Sjengster
05-21-2005, 06:10 PM
Ironically, in large part due to injury problems over the past year, a couple of the most prominent clay specialists in the Top 50 at the moment based on results are Coria and Ferrero. I don't think anyone's going to be giving them the "dirtballer" tag anytime soon.

Here are some real claycourt specialists in the Top 50: Ancic, the Johanssons, Lopez, Kiefer, Dent, Soderling, Srichaphan, Rusedski, Mirnyi, Beck (!) and of course, Mardy Fish. These players maintain their positions while barely doing anything on clay, and why doesn't it matter? Because for them, and for the vast majority of Top 50 players, the claycourt season only lasts from April to June.

RogiFan88
05-21-2005, 09:34 PM
bad bad bad. gaudio is one of the few good clay court specialist without great results on fast surfaces.

Kuerten:a master cup title, a master series title, several master series final.
Ferrero: an usopen final (hard), a madrid title (indoor hard), a master cup final
Moya: a cincinatti title,a master cup final, an australian open final.
Coria:a final on grass, a miami final,a basel title,an uso quarterfinal.
Canas: a master series title, other two hard titles.
Massu:a gold medal on hard,a master series final in madrid.
Gonzalez:a title on hard, an uso quartefinal.
Nadal: a miami final.

Corretja: 7 out of his 17 titles were on hardcourt including Indian Wells, "Masters Cup", Indianapolis and Washington--beating Agassi in both finals :worship:

robinhood
05-21-2005, 09:47 PM
Corretja: 7 out of his 17 titles were on hardcourt including Indian Wells, "Masters Cup", Indianapolis and Washington--beating Agassi in both finals :worship:

WOW.
And of course, him battling Sampras in 96 USO quarters is one of the most memorable matches ever.

RogiFan88
05-21-2005, 10:49 PM
WOW.
And of course, him battling Sampras in 96 USO quarters is one of the most memorable matches ever.

Yep, Pete really spilled his guts in that match...literally. :ignore:

Sjengster
08-22-2005, 06:31 PM
*bump*

In the last two weeks Nadal has won his first hardcourt title in Montreal, and Gaudio, Puerta and Acasuso have all made QFs either there or in Cincy... so, how many claycourt specialists in the Top 50 now? Two?

revolution
08-22-2005, 06:39 PM
That is absolutely spot on.

Ferrero, Moya, Kuerten and Nadal deserve more credit though for winning big titles on other surfaces.

Neely
08-22-2005, 06:51 PM
Ferrero, Moya, Kuerten and Nadal deserve more credit though for winning big titles on other surfaces.
Absolutely... and Ferrero, Moya, Kuerten, Corretja did have good runs off clay also more frequently, something Gaudio, Puerta, Acasuso for example have not yet achieved. They showed that they can win a few matches off clay when not facing the best player material by reaching this Masters QF, but unless they back this up with more results on non-clay in future, I hardly see this as a "breakthrough" on other surfaces for them. Sure, it's a good result for them and why not?

Sjengster
08-22-2005, 06:53 PM
It doesn't have to be a breakthrough - definition of a dirtballer is someone who earns all their points and has all their significant results on clay in the course of a year. Masters Series QF on hard = nondirtballer. Somebody fax me when Srichaphan, Beck, Rusedski et al make a QF of any kind on clay.

Neely
08-22-2005, 07:08 PM
It doesn't have to be a breakthrough - definition of a dirtballer is someone who earns all their points and has all their significant results on clay in the course of a year.
yes, or somebody who is clearly better on clay than on everything else
dirtballer or claycourt specialist doesn't have to be a derogatory term

Sjengster
08-22-2005, 07:28 PM
But it was in the article posted in this thread.

Neely
08-22-2005, 07:35 PM
But it was in the article posted in this thread.
absolutely yes, no doubt

Action Jackson
08-23-2005, 05:10 AM
absolutely yes, no doubt

For once you see can see it as a derogatory term, even though I have given numerous examples of it being applied to people who don't deserve it and even in this thread these have been shown.

yomike
08-23-2005, 12:52 PM
Another idiotic writer who thinks he's the guru of tennis and writing all this crap. I'd love to whack this guy's head off.