Top 5 clay courters of all time
Have you ever wondered why Nadal has had such close encounters with the other top guys constantly throughout his career but when its clay court season, he decimates the entire playing field time and again?
To understand this, one has to understand how clay courts work. The high spin of the tennis ball hitting the mud, or the ‘clay’ causes the ball to dig into the surface and as a result what you get is a slower ball which jumps higher. The slower ball means the player has more time to get to the ball and the height, which means that a more strategic player has more opportunities to crack the opponents’ game.
Combine this with the loopy whip mastered by Nadal, and it’s no surprise how the Mallorcan has been crowned as the ‘King of Clay’.
Over the decades, there have been a few players who have managed to stay above the finest cut during their peak and mastered the art of clay court tennis. Here are the best of among them.
#5 Gustavo Kuerten
Also known affectionately as 'Guga', Gustavo Kuerten has won the French Open three times – in 199, 2000 and 2001 respectively. The only Brazilian to win a Grand Slam in the open era, Guga was a thin-framed player who was known for his offensive baseline play, in contrast to defensive baseliners mostly seen in clay courts.
His heavy topspin on the single hand backhand and a very powerful first serve wore down his opponents game after game. Sadly, a string of injuries post 2002 didn't allow him to reach the level of tennis he could have produced to become one of the legends of the game.
Gustavo is still the only player to beat a prime Federer (who was world no.1 at the time) at a Grand Slam event before the quarterfinals. This happened at the Roland Garros in 2014.
"I didn't expect this trophy — that's why I didn't believe that it could happen. When I received the trophy from Borg, he was one of my big idols in tennis. ... It was the first time I really believed that I won."
- Kuerten, after clinching his maiden French Open title