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Rafael Nadal and the Top 10 Clay-Court Players of All Time

Alex SandersonCorrespondent IIIJune 9, 2011

Rafael Nadal and the Top 10 Clay-Court Players of All Time

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    PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 31:  A general view of Court Chatrier during the men's singles quarterfinal match between Gael Monfils of France and Roger Federer of Switzerland on day ten of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 31, 2011 in Paris, France.  (Photo
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Last week, World No. 1 Rafael Nadal wrapped up his sixth French Open title in seven years.

    The win improved his career record on clay to 227-18, good for a 92.7 winning percentage. That mark is one of the best all time and has helped him earn the nickname "King of Clay."

    But where does Nadal rank on the all time list for clay court players among both males and females?

    Here is a top ten rundown.

10. Guillermo Vilas

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    MAR DEL PLATA, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER 22: Guilermo Vilas displays an Award of Excellence presented to him before the third rubber of the Davis Cup final at Estadia Islas Malinas November 22, 2008 in Mar del Plata, Argentina.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Gett
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    While Guillermo Vilas only had one French Open title, he probably would have had more if he played in a different era. His 46 clay court titles are the most among men in the Open Era as well.

    Vilas won two grand slams overall on clay. He won both in 1977. Unfortunately, he was playing in Bjorn Borg's prime and lost three French Open finals to him.

9. Mats Wilander

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    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 13:  Mats Wilander during his match against John McEnroe during day three of the Sydney Champions Downunder at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre on November 13, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Craig Golding/Getty Images f
    Craig Golding/Getty Images

    Mats Wilander is one of the few three time champions at the French Open. He combines with Ivan Lendl to help succeed Bjorn Borg's dominance on clay. His titles came in 1982, 1985 and 1988.

    His first title in Paris came the year after Borg won his fourth straight in 1981. He defeated another very good clay court player in the final of that event in Guillermo Vilas.

8. Justine Henin

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    PARIS - MAY 30:  Justine Henin of Belgium celebrates winning match point during the women's singles third round match between Justine Henin of Belgium and Maria Sharapova of Russia on day eight of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 30, 2010 in Paris,
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Justine Henin is one of only four women all-time to three-peat at Roland Garros. She was by far the best clay court player of her time and the WTA tour certainly missed her at this year's French Open.

    Henin won four French Open titles overall. More impressively she defeated one of the game's best on the way to each victory. She had to take out Serena Williams twice, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova.

7. Gustavo Kuerten

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    PARIS - JUNE 01:  Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil poses with the Philippe Chatrier Award at the ITF World Champions Gala on day ten of the French Open on June 1, 2010 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Besides having one of the better nicknames—Guga— in tennis history, Gustavo Kuerten is most renowned for his prowess at the French Open. While he did not have much success on other surfaces, Kuerten really made a name for himself on the red clay at Roland Garros.

    Kuerten won three French Open titles (1997, 2000, 2001) and probably would have won more if he was able to stay healthy. He only won 20 career titles of which 14 came on clay.

6. Suzanne Lenglen

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    Any time you have a main court named after you at a grand slam event you know you accomplished something. Suzanne Lenglen is no different for her efforts at Roland Garros in the 1920s.

    While four of Lenglen's six titles in Paris were events played only with the French national club, her efforts can not go unnoticed. She is also only one of two women to win the event four times in a row.

5. Ivan Lendl

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    ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 13:  Ivan Lendl of team International serves during his match against John McEnroe of Team USA during day three of the World Tennis Challenge at Memorial Drive on January 13, 2011 in Adelaide, Australia.  (Photo by Morne de K
    Morne de Klerk/Getty Images

    Ivan Lendl's clay-court success on the big stage got started in 1984 when he defeated John McEnroe in the French Open finals after being down two sets and a break. The amazing comeback gave McEnroe his first loss of the season.

    Lendl won three French Open titles overall, as his all court game took to the clay pretty well. He combined with Wilander to follow-up Borg's greatness in Paris.

4. Steffi Graf

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    INDIAN WELLS, CA - MARCH 12:  Tennis legend Stefi Graf of Germany signs tennis balls after participating in Hit for Haiti, a charity event during the BNP Paribas Open on March 12, 2010 in Indian Wells, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Steffi Graf's amazing career included six French Open championships over a 13-year span, including two repeat performances (1987-1988;1995-1996).

    Graf also had great success in general on clay-courts. She won 32 titles overall and put together an impressive career record of 284-37.

    Her most impressive run was her last in 1999, when she was just about to turn 30. She defeated the top three players in the world in the last three rounds, including three time champion Monica Seles.

3. Bjorn Borg

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    LONDON - JULY 04:  Bjorn Borg, the former five-time Wimbledon champion, poses for a picture on day eleven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 4, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finn
    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    It really is a shame that Bjorn Borg retired as early as he did. Borg won six French Open titles in the late 1970s and early 1980s in an almost invincible fashion.

    When you consider that Borg is about the same age that Rafael Nadal is right now when he left the game of tennis, you start to wonder how much damage he could have done on the red clay. His six titles came in just eight tries that he had at winning Roland Garros.

    Borg won 49 of his 51 matches in Paris with his physical style of play. His overall clay court resúmé wasn't too shabby either, winning 245 of 284 matches.

2. Rafael Nadal

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    PARIS - JUNE 06:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates winning championship point during the men's singles final match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Robin Soderling of Sweden on day fifteen of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 6, 2010 in Paris, Fra
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    With his 2011 French Open title, Nadal should pass Borg in terms of clay court prowess. He now has six titles in seven tries while Borg had six in eight tries. The Mallorcan also gets the edge because of his domination of Federer at the event.

    In order to win five of his six Roland Garros titles, Nadal had to take out the man who has the most career grand slam singles titles in Federer. It's not like Federer struggles on clay, he has fallen to Nadal in the final four times.

    Nadal is now 45-1 at the French Open and only has 18 clay-court losses in his career overall. His resúmé also includes an 81-match winnning streak on the surface in 2005-2007.

1. Chris Evert

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    TURNBERRY, SCOTLAND - JULY 16:  Tennis Legend Chris Evert follows Greg Norman's match during round one of the 138th Open Championship on the Ailsa Course, Turnberry Golf Club on July 16, 2009 in Turnberry, Scotland.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
    Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    While Nadal is closing on her fast, Chris Evert still has to be considered the best clay court player of all time. She has one more French Open title than Nadal (seven) and a 125 match-winning streak on clay to also outdo the King of Clay.

    Her seven titles at Roland Garros trail only Max Decugis for the most titles all time. Decugis had eight, with all of them being a French-only event. Evert was also amazingly consistent in Paris, reaching at least the semifinals every year between 1973 and 1987.

    Evert also won three grand slams at the U.S. Open on clay, meaning Nadal has four less grand slam titles on clay than Evert overall. Like Nadal who has owned Federer on clay, Evert owned her main-rival Martina Navratilova on clay, 10-3.

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