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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
:devil::angel::devil:
...interesting article about Nadal & his place in tennis~~ "clay court specialist...a backhand compliment":confused:
#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:confused:
www.tennis.com

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
 

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Forum Umpire:, Gaston Gaudio,
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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.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
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.

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

also should players like James Blake be labelled "hard court specialist":confused:
 

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Forum Umpire:, Gaston Gaudio,
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Re: (#)interesting article:: <>RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label

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

also should players like James Blake be labelled "hard court specialist":confused:
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.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Re: (#)interesting article:: <>RAFA unable to shake off "clay court specialist" label

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:cool:
...
so do you think there should be more clay tourneys & less hardcourt ones:confused:
 

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Forum Umpire:, Gaston Gaudio,
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good points:cool:
...
so do you think there should be more clay tourneys & less hardcourt ones:confused:
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.
 

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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 :rolleyes:."
 

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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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Forum Umpire:, Gaston Gaudio,
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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.
 

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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 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.
 

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When the stigma is the same for players being crap on clay, in other words, not happening.
What stigma?
Is Djokovic more appreciated than Nadal because he won his Slam on hard?

Are Hewitt and Safin more appreciated than Kuerten?

Everybody knows the Americans are crap on clay and they get a lot of stick for that both here and in the media.
 

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What stigma?
Is Djokovic more appreciated than Nadal because he won his Slam on hard?

Are Hewitt and Safin more appreciated than Kuerten?

Everybody knows the Americans are crap on clay and they get a lot of stick for that both here and in the media.
Safin and Hewitt are, they aren't labelled hardcourt or fast court specialists are they? Guga is?

Becker and Edberg are remembered more fondly than what Wilander is, when they won the same amount and guess which ones didn't win the clay Slam?

Ok, so you are saying it's Ok to stereotype because people are lazy?
 

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Becker and Edberg are remembered more fondly than what Wilander is, when they won the same amount and guess which ones didn't win the clay Slam?

Ok, so you are saying it's Ok to stereotype because people are lazy?
Lendl is held to a higher regard than those 2 and he hasn't won Wimbledon.
And it is your choice to take it as an insult. The facts are most of those players labelled "claycourt specialists" have won 75% or more of their titles on clay, not to mention players like Muster who wouldn't skip a clay tourney for the life of his.

I don't find their achievements any less impressive than players like Roddick who normally only wins big at home on hardcourts, quite the opposite. It is your choice to retain that point of view.
 

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Safin and Hewitt are, they aren't labelled hardcourt or fast court specialists are they? Guga is?

Becker and Edberg are remembered more fondly than what Wilander is, when they won the same amount and guess which ones didn't win the clay Slam?

Ok, so you are saying it's Ok to stereotype because people are lazy?
Hewitt won a grass court and hard court grand slam so can not be considered a hard court or grass court specialist. However, I see the reason Safin may be called a hard court specialist and Guga a clay court specialist.

Grass and hard courts are totally different surfaces yet you keep grouping them together.
 

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Lendl is held to a higher regard than those 2 and he hasn't won Wimbledon.
And it is your choice to take it as an insult. The facts are most of those players labelled "claycourt specialists" have won 75% or more of their titles on clay, not to mention players like Muster who wouldn't skip a clay tourney for the life of his.

I don't find their achievements any less impressive than players like Roddick who normally only wins big at home on hardcourts, quite the opposite. It is your choice to retain that point of view.
Agree. The dependency on a single surface is vital factor.

Becker won 3 grand slams on grass and 3 on hard courts while Edberg won 4 on grass courts and 2 on hard courts which is more surface diverse than Guga with all 3 wins on clay.
 
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