Rafael Nadal and the 10 Best Clay Court Players in the Open Era

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Rafael Nadal and the 10 Best Clay Court Players in the Open Era
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Tennis was first played on grass starting in 1860 on the courts of Wimbledon.

Many at that time already thought the costs to maintain them were very expensive, while some had the idea to lower the charges and create another surface.

The Renshaw brothers, who claimed many Wimbledon titles, came to the rescue and discovered the clay.

In 1878, they decided to move to the southern coast of France, where the weather is much more appropriate to tennis and make a living by building tennis courts.

They were living in a small town between Cannes and Nice and found the idea to crush a great amount of flower pots, which are made in clay and turn them to a powder that would be used to slide on.

In addition to flower pot, they later discovered they would have the same results by crushing red bricks and turn them to a smoother powder.

Clay court tennis was born and the success was so huge that most European countries adopted the idea right away.

It's a surface which stick to your socks and shirt even if the  weather is good. The turf also adapts to the climate, turns to mud if it's raining, which is a nightmare for the great servers. The champions play on the slowest conditions possible. It's the opposite of fast court tennis.

In some regards clay is a different form of tennis as it requires different footwork—a “sliding-into-the-ball” approach. The terre battue slows the velocity of the ball enough to give players on the defensive just a little more time to save a passed shot that on a faster surface would otherwise be a winner.

As the clay court season is looming, we thought it would be time to rank the 10 best clay court players in the Open era.

The ranking will be based on the French Open results and not on the number of clay court tournaments won since I believe Roland Garros is the most difficult tournament to win—It's a best-of-five set format and there is no tie-break in the deciding set, which only allow the best of the best to win it.

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