With the clay season starting I was wondering how well Roger measures up on clay in terms all all time greats on the surface. I found the following list that someone posted on MTF:
1. Bjorn Borg
2. Rafael Nadal
3. Mats Wilander
4. Ivan Lendl
5. Gustavo Kuerten
6. Guillermo Vilas
7. Jim Courier
8. Sergi Bruguera
9. Thomas Muster
10. Roger Federer
11. Jan Kodes
12. Juan Carlos Ferrero
Taking into account that it is difficult to compare players across eras, I thought it was a pretty decent list. I put someone else’s list here because I can’t say how good Vilas or Kodes was on clay for instance, because they played before I started watching tennis. I have always thought that Roger would be top 10 all time on clay at least, and on this list he just makes it. The only two players that Roger played against on this list is Nadal(2-10 on clay) and Ferrero(3-0 on clay). Another player who Roger have played against who may have made this list is Carlos Moya(3-0 on clay). Other notables that Roger have played against may include Coria(2-0 on clay) and Gaudio(2-0 on clay). As you can see, Roger totally dominated the clay court specialists in his era who was not named Rafael Nadal.
If you look at his record against Nadal, who will most probably become a greater clay courter than Borg(if he isn’t already), it is actually not a bad record at all. Just to get the two wins against Nadal that he did takes some doing. Then they had other very tough matches on clay like the Rome final of 2006, the Monte Carlo final of 2006, and the French Open final of 2006. He had match point(s) in that thrilling five set match in Rome, with Roger playing at his absolute peak. I think Roger’s record against Nadal on clay is actually quite impressive, given what a freak Nadal is on clay. Aside from Borg perhaps, I doubt any of the other players on the list would have fared much better than Roger did. Personally I think Roger could be higher on that list. Other than Nadal, I think the guys he could have possibly struggled against was the absolute clay court specialists like Muster, Kuerten, and Bruguera.
Guys like Wilander, Lendl, and Courier wasn’t out-and-out clay court specialists, and I think Roger is at least as good, if not better than them. The main thing to take into account is that Roger played in the era of the clay court GOAT, and then you have to take into account how he fared against the other clay court specialists of his era. And as I have already shown, he totally dominated the other clay court specialists of his era. I am convinced that if Roger played in any other era than Nadal, that he could have easily won three French Open titles. Nadal is not only the GOAT on clay most probably, but he is a very difficult match up for Roger. The bottom line is that Roger is an immensely good clay court player, and it is obscured by the fact that he played in the era of Nadal. If you look at the list, there is only five players who won three or more French Open titles.
I know that French Open titles is not the only measure of greatness on clay, but it the most important as far as I’m concerned. So lets say Roger has won three French Open titles in another era, it would make him basically top five on the list. So in the end I would say that this list is probably a tad harsh on Roger. I would say that Roger is quite possibly in the top 5, and without a doubt in the top 10. What do you think? Feel free to disagree and share your own list here.
Ps. Roger played against Kuerten as well and had a 1-1 record against him on clay. Sorry about that.