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Sports Then and Now



French Open Champions: Best 8 in the Modern Era 14

Posted on May 13, 2012 by JA Allen

Rafael Nadal has won 6 or the last 7 French Open titles.

More than any of the other majors, the French Open often produces a special kind of champion who loves to burrow down and blast his way through the red clay.

What is more, today, these French Open supernovas often manage to translate the skills that allow them to win on clay to other surfaces.

Winning on clay demands players excel in developing points using the brain as well as brawn—utilizing defensive skills, often as the launching pad for offense. The clay-court match requires playing with a huge measure of patience—hence, the phrase grinding it out becomes relevant in tennis.

Many professionals point to the lack of clay courts in the United States as one of the reasons for the reported failure of U.S. tennis during the past two decades.

The number of clay courts in the United States has dwindled dramatically. Today’s American youngsters learn to play almost exclusively on hard courts, foregoing the lessons imparted to their European and South American counterparts on homeland clay courts.

Of course, grass and clay courts are far more expensive to maintain which explains why these special surfaces are dying out in most places.

When you look at the ATP calendar, the clay court season lasts approximately two months—from April to the first week in June.

The grass season is even shorter—one month.  The rest of the calendar is played on artificial surfaces of various textures and rebound strength.

The French Open has been played since 1891. Starting in 1928, the tournament was played on the red clay courts of Stade Roland Garros in Paris.

Naturally, no tennis aficionado can talk about the greats of tennis history without mentioning the great Four Musketeers of French tennis: Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and René Lacoste who were responsible for the great enthusiasm the French have for tennis.

Since the modern era began in 1968, however, there have been only a handful of multiple winners of the French Open.  The top eight French Open Champions of the Open Era have won the title more than once since 1968.

If titles are equal, then the number of finals reached is considered. If all else is equal, the winning percentage becomes the final determining factor.

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Top Ten French Open Legends from Agassi to Borg 2

Posted on April 17, 2010 by JA Allen
Top two active French Open finalists, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Top two active French Open finalists, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

What is it about the red clay at Stade Roland Garros that lifts some players to great heights while stopping others dead in their tracks? Is it a lack of patience or mental acumen that causes some great players to shut down on the red dirt?

The fact remains that in order to get to the very top of the men’s game, you must find an answer to the clay courts at the French Open.

For this ranking first consider the number of times a man made it to the finals of the French Open as the demarcation of greatness. Next consider the wins against the losses within a given number of tries.

No. 1 Bjorn Borg––6 French Open Finals

Bjorn Borg won the French Open six times in six tries.

Bjorn Borg won the French Open six times in six tries.

Bjorn Borg still reigns supreme in the record books at Stade Roland Garros, even after he retired from the game at age 26 almost 30 years ago. The red dust became the soul of his game. No one before him or since has ruled the red clay in Paris more definitively than the man from Sweden.

Borg won 41 consecutive sets and holds the record at the French Open.

He won the French Open six times starting in 1974––followed by victories in 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1981. He never lost in a French Open final.

If you think about how many more French Open titles Borg might have won had he continued, the mind boggles because no one was close to defeating him. But then, we will never know––nor should such thoughts linger when estimating his place in tennis history.

Borg’s winning percentage at the French Open was 96% (49-2).

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch
      August 7, 2021 | 6:59 pm

      Drew Pearson

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

      During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

      The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

      Read more »

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