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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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Men’s Tennis Power Rankings: Nadal Ready to Recapture No. 1 6

Posted on June 22, 2012 by JA Allen

Nadal focuses on winning during every match.

The tennis power rankings as created by Feng Rong were developed to objectively measure a tennis player’s current form. This is accomplished by weighting the outcomes so that the four most recent results count the most.

This ranking assesses the power in the men’s game as players get ready to do battle on the stately grounds of Wimbledon—this after leaving the normally dusty environment of Stade Roland Garros.

In 2012, however, dust was replaced by puddles as the rains fell profusely in Paris during week two of the Grand Slam tournament, postponing the men’s final until Monday.

Wimbledon, with its new retractable Centre Court roof, will be spared a troubled final in 2012 because the roof can be closed and lighting employed.

Who will win this year’s Wimbledon crown? No one knows, of course.

Will it be one of the top ten in our Power Listing? Only time will tell.

We survey the men’s top ten in our power ranking and speculate on their potential for winning the Wimbledon championship as well as looking at some other potential winners.

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Djokovic? Federer? The Odds-On Favorites to Win the 2012 Australian Open 52

Posted on January 12, 2012 by JA Allen

Roger Federer won his last Australian Open title in 2010.

It is that time of the year when the snow is blowing while ice drips off your nose in the Midwest. Meanwhile, tennis moves “down under” to the warmth of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The official draw unfolded on Friday. That is when we saw whether the No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic would face Roger Federer or Andy Murray in the semifinals, assuming all the usual suspects make it that far.

Last year during the Australian Open Federer faced Djokovic in the semifinals, losing in straight sets 7-6, 7-5, 6-4 while Nadal, suffering from injury, folded early in the quarterfinals to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.

At the 2011 French Open, Djokovic suffered his first defeat of the season during the semifinals when Roger Federer upset him 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6. Nadal, on the other hand, breezed past Murray 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.  In the final, Federer, who has never defeated Nadal at Stade Roland Garros, failed once again—losing 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1.

When the tour moved on to Wimbledon, Djokovic and Federer were once again drawn into the same half.  But this time, Federer did not meet Djokovic. He lost in the quarterfinals to an on-fire Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France—even after winning the first two sets, 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Nadal, once again, took care of Murray in the semifinals while Djokovic dismissed Tsonga.  In the final, Djokovic prevailed with surprising ease over the now world No. 2 Nadal 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

The 2011 US Open would prove to be the piece de resistance for Djokovic and a major blow for Federer. The Big Four made it to the semifinals where, once again, Djokovic faced Federer while Nadal manhandled Murray 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.  The other US Open semifinal should have gone to Federer who took the first two sets.  But even after serving for the match in the fifth set, Federer remained unable to close it out and Djokovic came back to win  6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.  In the final, Nadal was once again unable to dominate the Serb. Djokovic won 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1—claiming his third major title of 2011 and the No. 1 ranking.

After suffering a slump at the end of the year, pundits are once again pondering—can Djokovic do it again?  Only time will tell.  Right now, he must defend his title at the Australian Open.  Odds are in his favor at the moment.

Who will win the Aussie Open men’s title in 2012?  For a change of pace, Djokovic has been drawn into the same half as the No. 4 seed, Andy Murray while world No. 2 Nadal is scheduled to face Federer in the semifinals, should both make it that far.

Here are the top ten odds-on favorites to win the 2012 Australian Open.

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Can David Ferrer and Gael Monfils Upset the Balance at the US Open? 1

Posted on July 26, 2011 by Pete South

David Ferrer will look to break the hold of the "big three" in men's tennis.

Ignoring Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal in the build-up to the US Open might seem like tennis heresy, but it’s a worthy gambit, if only to turn the spotlight on the other players in the top ten of the ATP World Singles Rankings.

Spain’s David Ferrer, for example, is ranked sixth in the world, but is 80/1 in the US Open 2011 tennis odds, making him a rank outsider.

However, Ferrer reached the semi-final at the Australian Open, earlier this year and recently guided Spain to victory against the USA in the Davis Cup, where he beat world number nine Mardy Fish in the longest four-set match in the tournament’s history.

Ferrer has a supporter in Roger Federer, who referred to the Spaniard as “the best returner in the game […], together with Nadal”. Read the rest of this entry →

Novak Djokovic Triumphs on Clay to Capture The Top Spot in the Men’s Power Ranking 4

Posted on May 27, 2011 by Ronger Fengerer

Serb Novak Djokovic

Ever since early April, the clay war has been raging on in the world of tennis.

From Casablanca to Belgrade, from Monte-Carlo to Rome, tennis warriors have been fighting it out on the red dirt for glory and pride.

As for the past few years, it was predicted that the “king of clay,” Rafael Nadal, would once again rule the kingdom of clay.

Only this year, no one saw it coming. A “perfect storm”—named Novak Djokovic.

Besides the French Open—the ultimate prize of the clay season—there are four other significant tournaments in the calendar: the three Masters events in Monte-Carlo, Madrid, Rome, and the only 500 event in Barcelona. Nadal made it to the final in all four events, winning two titles against David Ferrer—but finishing runner-up to Djokovic in the others.

So this year, Djokovic has beaten Nadal four times, all in the finals of Masters events: two on hard-court and two on clay. Will the trend continue if they both make it to the final at Roland Garros?

And what is in store at Roland Garros for Roger Federer, who is yet to overcome Na-No this year? Will Robin Soderling finally be able to come out on top after finishing second-best in the past two French Open finals? Will the Fedal duopoly finally be broken by the Djoker?

Before we take a look at who is hot and who is not heading to Paris, here are a few players who made our top ten list last time but were dropped this time.

Dropping Out

Mardy Fish (Last Power Ranking: 4; ATP Ranking: 10)

Mardy Fish was in great form at Miami, advancing all the way to the semifinals before losing to the unbeatable Djokovic. Not long after that, he was able to crack the ATP top ten for the first time in his career. Unfortunately for Fish, actually for all American players, the clay season started right after Miami. Not surprisingly, he enjoyed little success on the red dirt. Though without many points to defend, he was able to retain his No. 10 ranking heading to the French capital.

Juan Martin Del Potro (Last Power Ranking: 5; ATP Ranking: 27)

Del Potro had an impressive season so far, especially considering that he was out of action for much of last season. The tall Argentine has already won two titles this year, including one clay title in Estoril. Unfortunately, he suffered a hip injury before his much anticipated clash with Nadal in Madrid and he subsequently pulled out of Rome as well. His performance at Roland Garros will largely depend on his health and fitness.

Gilles Simon (Last Power Ranking: 8; ATP Ranking: 19)

Gilles Simon had some success on hard-courts this season, winning the Sydney title and making to the quarterfinals at Miami. But he has been struggling on clay so far, winning six matches from five tournaments. This could be partly due to the fact that he missed the entire clay swing last season due to injuries. It is hard to see him have much success at the French Open this year.

Our power rankings try to measure the form of top players based on their recent results. This season-long series contains contribution from JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Feng Rong (Ronger Fengerer).

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David Ferrer Targets French Open Glory 1

Posted on April 25, 2011 by Pete South

David Ferrer hopes this is the year he can get past Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

David Ferrer must be sick of the sight of Rafael Nadal. His Barcelona Open final defeat by the world number one was his second tour final loss to that player in a week and his fifth at the hands of Nadal in his career, all of which have come on clay. In reality he should be encouraged, as any player who regularly runs into Nadal must be doing something right, as it generally means you are playing well enough to reach the latter stages of tournaments.

Those Monte Carlo and Barcelona defeats saw Ferrer push Nadal closer than most have in the king of clay’s current 34-match unbeaten run on the red stuff. He broke the champion on numerous occasions and created plenty of break points, leading 4-2 in the second set in Spain, but lacked the consistency to produce an upset.

In truth Nadal was not at his best in either match, a worrying sign for his rival that suggests a sixth French Open title is inevitable. It is certainly true that Ferrer is one of his likeliest challengers, although the calf injury he picked up in the Barcelona is a slight concern and those looking for French Open tips should bear this in mind. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • 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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