Tennis is played on a rectangular surface called tennis court and there are three kinds of courts: grass, clay and hard. Among these courts, grass court is the oldest surface and the hard one is the youngest category. There also used to be carpet courts which are discontinued after 2008.
Throughout a year, different competitions take place on these three surfaces, among which are the four Grand Slam. Further, all Grand Slam used to be played on grass but now only Wimbledon is grass court whereas Roland Garros is clay and Australian Open and US Open takes place on hard court.
All tennis players are able to play on any kind of surface, but everyone got a favorite surface where they can utilize their maximum potential. In this article, we will talk about some skilled players who made a mark on the history of tennis because of their phenomenal performance at clay court.
#10. Helen Wills
Helen Wills is the pioneer of women’s tennis and might be one of the most successful player in the history of tennis. The English lady ruled the tennis court during the Amatuer Era.
The Briton had a successful run in the grass court, further won numerous titles at Wimbledon and US Open. However, her success on grass cannot overshadow her success on the clay court. Wills is the first female player to win three consecutive Roland Garros titles. Even many sports pundits considered her the greatest female player of Amatuer Era.
#9. Monica Seles
Monica Seles might be one of the best young prodigies who stepped in a tennis court, as by the age of 20 she already won nine Grand Slam titles. However, her first major title was at a clay court of French Open in 1990 when Seles was just 16 and thus, the Yugoslavic became the youngest player in history to win a Grand Slam.
Apart from being the youngest player to lift a French Open title, she’s also the second player in Open Era to win three consecutive Roland Garros titles. The retired World No.1 could have won many more titles and could have even become the most successful player in tennis history, but after being stabbed, Seles lost her brilliant touch after that.
#8. Justine Henin
Justine Henin won seven Grand Slam titles, among which four are Roland Garros titles and also won French Open three consecutive times. Apart from the major title success, Henin also won numerous WTA titles, and most of them are at clay court.
The Belgian was blessed with great mental toughness, footwork and one-handed backhand. Even the great American legend John McEnroe declared her having the best backhand in tennis history. Henin’s playing style gave her a great boost on clay surface, as the retired World No.1 had a great success rate on clay.
#7. Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic might be the best player in the world at the moment, but the Serb is known as the ‘King of Hard’ after his nine Australian Open titles and three more major hard court success at US Open. But don’t let his hard court success overshadow his phenomenal performance on clay.
Djokovic might have only won two Roland Garros, but he has won many titles on clay at different ATP tournaments. Nole has 17 titles on clay, which makes him the second highest active player on clay. Nole also won his second French Open title in 2021, where he took down the ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal in semi-finals. There’s no further doubt why the Serb maestro deserves to be on this list of ‘the Greatest Clay Court Tennis Players.’
#6. Manuel Orantes
Manuel Orantes never won a single Roland Garros title throughout his career and only made it to final once in 1974. So you might wonder what is Orantes is doing on this list, but the Spaniard might not have success in Grand Slam but won many titles in other ATP tournaments which took place on clay.
The retired World No.2 has bagged 32 titles on clay courts throughout his career. The Spaniard was blessed with finesse and sneaky power, which resulted him with some poised and fluid stroked and had a great edge while playing on clay.
#5. Bjorn Borg
Bjorn Borg is one of the most successful player in the world, achieved great feats at grass and clay courts. The Swedish legend won 11 Grand Slam titles in his career, where six of them were French Open titles.
Borg also won many titles at the other clay tournaments and had a great success rate on clay. His baseline playing style with powerful strokes was the perfect arsenal he had to dominate the clay courts. However, Ice Man had a great success in his career and could have more titles at clay and other surfaces, but a vast success in short-period of time took a heavy toll on the retired World No. 1. Therefore, Borg retired from tennis at an age of 26.
#4. Thomas Muster
Thomas Muster is known as the ‘King of Clay’ but he only won a single French Open title in 1995, which is also his only Grand Slam title in his career. It might feel weird, this Australian legend only won a single major title on clay but still got a fourth place on the list of ‘the Greatest Clay Court Tennis Players’.
However, this retired World No.1 had a great success on clay court at other ATP tournaments. He had one of the best winning percentage on clay during his time. As the Austrian won 44 singles title throughout his career and 40 of them were on clay.
#3. Guillermo Vilas
Guillermo Vilas had one of the most successful performance at clay in the history of tennis. However, the Argentine only able to lift the French Open title once throughout his pro career. But this didn’t stop him from becoming a great clay court player.
The former World No. 2 won 62 singles title throughout his career and 49 titles were on clay. Vilas further made a name for himself for his 53 consecutive victories on a clay court. Guillermo is also one of the greatest retriever in the tennis history, whose deep and looping shots used force his rivals into making errors. His playing style was a great match for the player to dominate on clay.
#2. Chris Evert
The second best clay court player is none other than the American legend Chris Evert, who is also known as the ‘Queen of Clay.’ Evert had a great success in French Open, winning seven titles on the Grand Slam clay court.
Evert not only had clay court successful in Grand Slams but also at different WTA clay tournaments. The former World No. 1 also had a winning percentage in singles matches of 94.55% in her 17-year-long professional career, which remains a WTA record till this day.
#1. Rafael Nadal
The Rafael Nadal, the man who wears the crown of the ‘King of Clay’ is the number one on this article of “Ranking Top 10 Greatest Clay Court Tennis Players.”
The Spaniard has the best record on the clay court in Open Era, as Nadal won thirteen Roland Garros titles, and also his 62 ATP singles titles, including his 26 ATP Master titles. Rafa further 81 consecutive wins on clay court, which is not only an unbroken record on clay but also no one crossed these numbers on any other surface.
Without a doubt, Nadal dominated the clay with his baseline playing style, along with his powerful heavy topspin groundstrokes and speedy footwork. Nadal is the Greatest clay court player and he got many more titles to add in his clay court success collection.
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