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Sports Then and Now



Ranking the Most Successful Male Clay Court Players of the Modern Era 1

Posted on May 17, 2013 by JA Allen

rafafrench2008Heading into the French Open, the second major of the season, most players prepare diligently for their final hurrah on clay. It remains as probably the least understood and least appreciated of the court surfaces players endure each year.

If the truth be told, players who learn to play on clay and who embrace the surface’s forgiving nature generally become better, more successful all-around players than those who learn the game on grass or hard courts.

The typical clay court player excels in patience by learning how to develop points as well as excellent defensive skills.

For a long time it seemed that some players segregated their careers by either avoiding clay altogether or by playing exclusively on the red dirt. But with the start of the Open Era and the necessity to play on multiple surfaces, some players built successful all-court games using clay court expertise as the foundation.

These male players achieved a top ten ATP ranking, a winning percentage in excess of 70 percent on clay throughout their careers—as well as double digit title wins on clay. Most also won at least one French Open, although not all.

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The Top Ten Champions of the ATP World Tour Finals 56

Posted on November 19, 2011 by JA Allen

Roger Federer will be looking to win Title No. 6 at the WTF in London.

For men’s tennis, the season is a long one—starting in January and ending in early December with the Davis Cup finals. The ATP, however, ends its year with the World Tour Finals which get underway on Sunday.

The tournament is the crowning event of the 2011 season where the top eight man do battle to determine the champion of the champions.

The World Tour Finals is the latest title for the ATP year-end tournament for men’s professional tennis to be held in London for the second consecutive year.

The Masters year-end tournament, first played in 1970, features the top eight players on the men’s tour selected based on accumulated calendar year ATP ranking points. The top eight men draw to create two teams with members of each four-man team competing with each other in three round-robin matches.

This year in Group A are Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych. In Group B we find Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish.

From each group, the two players with the best results move onto the semifinals where the top-ranked player from each group plays the second-ranked player from the other group.

The final is contested by the winners of the semifinal contests.  The winner of that match is accorded 1500 ranking points as well as the honor and prestige of winning in a field of the best eight players in the world.

Last year Roger Federer faced Rafael Nadal in the final which Federer won 6-3, 3-6, 6-1— giving the Swiss his fifth title in this event.  That ties Federer with Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl at five championship titles at the ATP year-end tournament.

So in the 41 years the championships have been held, who are the multiple winners of this event?  Who reigned as the best of the best at the end of the season?

We will count them down here.

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“Nobody Said Winning Was Easy,” Andy Roddick Admits after Wimbledon Loss 6

Posted on June 29, 2010 by JA Allen

Andy Roddick playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Andy Roddick’s result at Wimbledon Monday mirrors the state of men’s tennis in the United States––generally showy but lacking substance.  It is not enough to have a huge serve and powerful ground strokes, you must also pay the ultimate price which means putting in the compulsory hours to ensure you are mentally and physically fit to win a major championship.

The No. 1 American, Roddick, with his rocket serves and his majestic, powerful ground strokes failed to live up to his expectations, let alone his potential.  Why? Because the American skipped the most important ingredient in success on the tennis court this Spring––commitment and preparation.

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Splendor on the Wimbledon Grass: Has Rafael Nadal Surpassed Roger Federer Forever? 3

Posted on June 22, 2010 by JA Allen

Wimbledon 2010: Changing of the Guard even as Federer Lands the Top Seed…

Roger Federer seeded No. 1 at Wimbledon 2010. Rafael Nadal is seeded No. 2 despite being the No. 1 ranked player.

Throughout the wide vista of sporting events, there exists nothing quite as resplendent as Wimbledon draped in quiet dignity as it opens its gates for the fortnight.  The serenity of the grounds contrasts mightily with the sheer aggressive athleticism of its participants. Even grunting and groaning seem out of place on the hallowed green lawns.

The Wimbledon Championships sponsored by the All England Club, have been held since 1877.  It remains the only slam left that offers players a carpet of grass––a step back into the game’s storied past.

Roger Federer serves as Wimbledon’s standard bearer with his all-court game and his delicate movement across the grass.

With its new retractable roof, Wimbledon can now host night matches.

As part of its rich tradition, the organizers have given the number one seed to Roger Federer who has played on Centre Court during the finals for the past seven consecutive years.  The number one ranked player in the world, Rafael Nadal, was demoted to the number two seed this year at Wimbledon.  For those of you who think Nadal will not use this as motivation, you do not know the Majorcan very well.

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Wimbledon 2010: Rafa Rules Men’s Power Rankings 7

Posted on June 20, 2010 by JA Allen

Wimbledon 2010 ready to get underway on Monday June 21.

On Monday, as the sun rises offering the first view of the well-tended lawns at the All-England Club at Wimbledon, tennis aficionados breathe a deep sigh of relief, having survived the dust of the red clay and the sometimes ugly tenor of long grueling matches.

Grass is green, invigorating, inviting brisk movement and light, skipping motions across the lawns.  This is the moment the earth spins properly, as we begin to relax and drink in the panorama of spectacle Wimbledon never fails to offer.

Our pre-Wimbledon Power Rankings fail to reflect the full impact of the move to grass because, as we lament, the grass season is far too short.  It remains a tiny slice out of a season played primarily on artificial, often debilitating hard courts and the soft, forgiving but deadening spirit of the clay.

Those players at the top linger there primarily due to their success on the red clay.  Most hope to repair their strokes and adjust their footwork in time to excel on the grass of Wimbledon, the grandest of the slams.

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Juan Martin del Potro: The Next Man Who Should be King 3

Posted on June 06, 2010 by JA Allen

Juan Martin del Potro wins the 2009 U.S. Open over defending champion Roger Federer.

The road to the top of the game in men’s tennis is not an easy one, just ask Juan Martin del Potro who upped his ranking as high as No. 5 in the world after defeating No. 1 seed Roger Federer during the finals of the U.S. Open in 2009.

Federer was going for his sixth consecutive U.S. Open championship.  The Swiss had not lost a match at Flushing Meadows since 2003.  It was del Potro’s first win over the world No. 1 in six tries.

You cannot make it to the top of the men’s game without going through Federer.  Few have done it.  David Nalbandian stood tall defeating the Swiss in 2003 at the U.S. Open during the fourth round after Federer won his first major championship at Wimbledon earlier that summer.

Gustavo Kuerten took Federer down in the third round of the French Open in 2004. Then Marat Safin defeated the Swiss in the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2005, going on to win the Championship.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • George Musso: From Longshot to Hall of Famer
      August 5, 2017 | 4:52 pm
      George Musso

      George Musso

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month went from small college long shot to Pro Football Hall of Famer.

      When George Musso finished his college career at Millikin College in 1933, Chicago Bears coach George Halas offered the 6-foot-2, 265 pound lineman a tryout and eventually a $90 per game contract, but had serious doubts whether he could make the transition from small college football to the NFL.

      It took a year for Musso to adjust, but by 1935 he was an All-Pro tackle. Two years later, he moved to guard and again earned first team All-NFL honors. He became the first player in NFL history to earn first team All-League honors at two different positions.

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