Top 10 male clay-court players of all time
With the clay-court season in full swing, Isaac Seelochan ranks the top 10 male tennis players to have set foot on the red dirt.
10. Manuel Orantes
Like many Spaniards, clay was Orantes’s favourite surface which saw him win 30 titles.
Although he never won the French Open, he has won the second most clay court matches in history (422) making him a deserved member of this top 10.
9. Rod Laver
Famous for being the only man to win the calendar Grand Slam on two seperate occasions, (1962 and 1969), clay was not Laver’s favourite surface.
Yet he was still formidable when he played on the red dirt and in 1962, Laver became the first man since Lew Hoad in 1956 to win the ‘clay court triple’ of Paris, Rome and Hamburg.
8. Gustavo Kuerten
The Brazilian had very little success on other surfaces, but when he set foot on the clay Kuerten was a completely different player, particularly at the French Open where he won his three Grand Slam titles in 1997, 2000 and 2001.
He also won five ATP Masters titles and unsurprisingly all five of them came on clay.
7. Thomas Muster
Often dubbed as the 90s King of Clay, Muster won the 1995 French Open becoming the first Austrian to win a Grand Slam title.
Muster won 40 clay-court titles including three at the Monte Carlo Masters and three at the Rome Masters. His 77% win percentage on clay is also one of the highest on record.
6. Roger Federer
Like Laver, clay was undoubtedly Federer’s weakest surface but his triumph at the 2009 French Open saw him complete the career Grand Slam, after finishing runner-up at the event to Rafael Nadal in the previous four years.
His eleven clay-court titles, in the era of Nadal’s dominance of the surface is also very impressive although he never managed to beat the Spaniard at the French Open.
5. Novak Djokovic
Few players have made Nadal feel uncomfortable on clay, but Djokovic was certainly one of them.
He famously ended two of Nadal’s unbeaten streaks on the surface, beating him in the final of the 2013 Monte Carlo Masters to end a 46-match winning streak at the event, before beating Nadal in the quarter-finals of the 2015 French Open after the Spaniard won the event five years in a row.
His 2016 French Open win saw him complete the career Grand Slam, after falling short in the previous two finals.
4. Ivan Lendl
With 28 clay court titles including three French Opens, Lendl was one of the most dominant players on the surface.
His heavy topspin game and baseline prowess, meant that he was able to dominate opponents like few others could. Even Nadal would have struggled against the Czech on clay on his day.
3. Guillermo Villas
Only Nadal has won more clay-court titles than Villas’ 49 and only Nadal again has won more consecutive matches on clay (53).
The only thing stopping him from being higher in this list is his comparably poor record at the French Open to those above him, with just the single triumph in 1977, although he did reach the final four times.
2. Bjorn Borg
Winner of six French Opens, including five in a row, Borg was the dominant clay-court player of the 70s and early 80s.
His 1978 French Open win was won with the least amount of games lost (32) than at any other Grand Slam in history and his 30 titles on the surface made him the greatest on the surface until a certain Nadal came along.
1. Rafael Nadal
The undisputed greatest clay-court player of all time, Nadal has won an incredible 54 clay-court titles including 10 French Opens and 11 Monte Carlo Masters trophies.
His lethal forehand and supreme defence saw him go 81 matches unbeaten on the red dirt between 2005 and 2007. Quite simply, if Nadal is at his best on a clay-court, there is only one winner.
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