The King of Clay. Sounds great right? Yeah, it has a certain ring to it. It rolls off of the tongue so easily. Of course, when you're talking about being a king of any surface, Rafael Nadal's name certainly is at the top of the conversation.
I think most people would agree that Nadal owns the "King of Clay" title for this generation, and possibly for all-time. Starting this weekend, Rafa will be striving to reach both his fifth consecutive Roland Garros final and fifth consecutive title. At 28-0, and 150-5 since 2005, he deserves his title like no other.
Now, most people would agree that Roger Federer is the King of Grass. First off, it doesn't roll off of the tongue quite like King of Clay, but nevertheless, it sounds great. But is it deserved?
I don't question Federer's greatness, nor his excellence on his most favored surface, but the problem I have is that there simply are not enough tournaments on grass to truly give anyone the title anymore.
Once, grass and clay were the primary surfaces for almost all tournaments, but not these days. Now there are three tournaments: Queens, Halle, and of course, Wimbledon. Halle and Queens are played right before Wimbledon, so the most grass court tournaments you can enter during the season is two.
Halle is a small tournament in Germany, but most top players are playing Queens in London, England, so Halle is almost always a sure bet for Federer with such low-ranked players there.
Federer has been, to be fair, an excellent 42-1 in grass court matches since 2005, but that pales in comparison to Nadal's record on clay during that span. That is nearly a 4-1 advantage for Rafa and solidifies his status as the master of the clay surface.
It is not that Federer's accomplishments on the surface should be questioned or made to look less fantastic, but with Wimbledon as the only real measuring stick anyone faces, it's tough to give him a title of a surface that is featured so little on tour.
I understand that he is 5-1 at Wimbledon since his reign began, which is amazing, but it is just one tournament. It's hard to be the king of anything when you only have one chance to unseat the person who is dominating it. It is simply not fair to call anyone the master of a surface with so few tournaments.
If there were only a couple clay tournaments during the year, I would not call Rafa the King of Clay. It would not be a worthy title.
It would be like playing one tournament on carpet every year and winning it for five straight years. Are you the King of Carpet? I guess so, but it's not a title that means much when you only play one tournament.
Clay and hard courts are plentiful on tour. Most people's game are geared towards hard courts, so it would be hard for someone to be a king of that surface.
So when someone says Rafa is the King of Clay I agree. He deserves the title. When someone says Federer is the King of Grass, I shrug and say he's a great grass court player, just like Sampras was, and I leave it at that. Neither they nor anyone else deserves that title until there are more tournaments on grass.
To me, there are more players from the '60s to the '80s who are far more deserving of that title.