Greatest Clay Court Players in Tennis History

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Greatest Clay Court Players in Tennis History
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

After surveying hard-court and grass-court champions, thoughts turn naturally toward the clay.

While grass courts had a long run, being in place since the time tennis began, hard courts have a very broad one based on their popularity today.

On the other hand, the clay court's place in tennis annals remains steady but narrow as we look at that surface and how it impacted the history of tennis competition.

Today, for example, in the ATP, 37 tournaments are held on artificial surfaces—hard courts, both indoor and outdoor. Seven ATP tournaments are held on grass, while 22 clay-court tournaments dominate the action in April and May.

Clay courts remain popular in continental Europe and South America which has been true since clay courts gained prominence in the mid 1920s—especially with the opening of Stade Roland Garros in Paris.

Play on clay is slower, allowing the opposing player more time to react. It requires more stamina because rallies are extended and generally points are not over quickly. More that that, clay is a thinking player’s game with strategy an important ingredient.

The following 15 players are regarded as the best ever on clay. They have all won the only Grand Slam held on clay—the French Open—at least three times.

The starting point is 1925 when play at the French Championships was “open” to players from all nations.

Note: Suzanne Lenglen won six French Open Championships but only two since 1925.

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