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Top five players with most ATP clay court titles in Open Era

Published at :April 20, 2024 at 11:37 PM
Modified at :April 20, 2024 at 11:56 PM
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(Courtesy : Sky Sports)

Siddharthan P

Rafael Nadal leads the chart with 63 titles.

Tennis has been a global sport for more than a century, believed to have originated in France during the Middle Ages. However, it was in the 19th century that the game, in its modern form known as lawn tennis, was played worldwide. Apart from grassy lawn courts, it has primarily been played on two other surfaces: hard and clay.

Clay court are referred to as “slow” courts because balls bounce high and lose much of their initial speed upon impact, making it challenging for players to hit unreturnable shots. Baseliners with strong defensive games and consistency are favoured on clay courts, which is why players like Rafael Nadal, Björn Borg and Justine Henin have found success on this surface.

Let’s look at the top five most successful players on clay courts in the Open Era:

5. Ilie Năstase / Manuel Orantes (31 Titles)

Manuel Orantes is part of the renowned Spanish group that dominated the clay courts. He stood atop the podium 31 times, including a US Open Grand Slam in 1975 when it was played on clay courts. The Grand Slam is best remembered for his upset victory over the home favourite Jimmy Connors at Flushing Meadows. Ilie Năstase, one of the game’s greatest characters, was known as the “Bucharest Buffoon.” No player in history has perhaps been more gifted or enigmatic.

He was an unparalleled performer, delighting audiences with his antics and mime while simultaneously winning titles. Năstase was versatile, winning Grand Slams not only in singles but also in doubles and mixed doubles.

4. Björn Borg (32 Titles)

With his remarkable speed, power and fitness, Björn Borg was poetry in motion, epitomizing clay court tennis. His dominance during his era was evident in his French Open performances. Entering seven times between 1974 and 1981, Borg won six titles.

Throughout his career, the Swedish legend won 32 clay court titles, demonstrating his versatility. Borg achieved a win rate of just over 86% on clay courts, winning three titles in as many events as he tried his hand at the Italian Open and the Monte-Carlo Masters.

3. Thomas Muster (40 Titles)

Thomas Muster was one of the first players to challenge Spanish domination on the clay courts. Gifted with incredible balance from both hands, the barrel-chested Austrian was at his best when dominating from the baseline, wearing down his opponents with powerful topspin shots.

He cemented his status among the all-time great clay court players in 1995 with a 40-match winning streak on clay and his maiden Grand Slam at Roland Garros. That year, he won 12 of the 14 finals, stamping his class in the history books.

2. Guillermo Vilas (49 Titles)

Guillermo Vilas was renowned for his magic on the clay courts, recording a massive 679 wins, the most by any player on clay courts across eras. The year 1977 was one of the greatest seasons ever for a tennis player, when the Argentine won 21 ATP and ILTF singles titles, two majors (both on clay) and set the longest winning streak in the Open Era at the time, including a 53-match unbeaten run on clay. Known as the “Young Bull of the Pampas,” the long-haired Vilas was a joy to watch

1. Rafael Nadal (63 Titles)

Rafael Nadal and clay courts has been a one-love story. Nadal has dominated the clay courts of the French Open like no other. His domination from 2005 to 2014, where he won the French Open nine times in 10 years, is unparalleled.

In addition to his five further titles at Roland Garros, he has been a regular at the award ceremonies at the Barcelona Open (12 titles), the Monte-Carlo Masters (11 titles) and the Rome Masters (10 titles).

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