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Martin Devlin: Who is the King of Clay?


By Martin Devlin

Published: 9:56AM Tuesday June 07, 2011 Source: ONE Sport

With six wins each on the famous red clay of Roland Garros, who would win the ultimate Paris-Match between Sweden's Bjorn Borg (triumphant in 1974-75, 1978-81) and Espana's Rafa Nadal (victorious in 2005-08, 2010-11)?

Yes it's one of those utterly meaningless, totally superfluous and ultimately winless sporting debates where a whole bunch of statistics duke it out with a series of apple-vs-orange arguments to determine an outcome which'll never physically happen anyway - in other words, trainspotter heaven!

Perhaps not surprisingly the numerical analysis of each man's achievements are, almost identically, equally impressive. Nadal's only ever lost once at the French (to Soderling in 09), his six wins coming in just seven yeas.

Borg won six in eight years (however he didn't play the 77 event due to some complex contractual hoo-haa), both his losses at the hands of the Italian Adriano Panatta. The Swede was a tender 18 when he first won at the big baseline, the Spaniard a mere year older - starting to get the picture?

The twin legends share two all-conquering records, the most consecutive tournament wins at four each, and most wins (two) without losing a single set.

Comparing one professional era of players with another has always been about as scientifically reliable as assuming people who "tweet" provide an instantaneous and factual barometer of relevant societal opinion - not that I have anything at all against the cacophony of convenient keyboarders, who are so continually willing to anonymously post their ill-informed belch at a moment's requested notice!

Let's be honest, it saves many a print journo these days from having to write anything even remotely resembling the truth.

The point being though that Borg, on paper anyway, had a much more impressive role call to repulse than Rafa's ever had. The Ice-Borg beat Vilas, Connors, McEnroe, Gerulaitis and Lendl to capture his crowns, while No-Sleeves-Nadal has only beaten Puerta, Soderling and some Swiss guy Roger (in fact four separate wins over the sport's all-time Grand Slam champ, clay being the one and only surface the Fed-Express has never quite got to grips with).

This "Fantasy French Open Final" would pitch the two best baseliners against each other in a classic left-hand/right-hand contest, the patient error-free top-spun assault of the coolest customer Borg vs the more aggressive emotive never-give-in court-coverage always consistent with Nadal.

In some ways it's probably a good thing they'll never meet given the final would be guaranteed to go even longer than that dreadfully tedious pitter-pat fifth-set serve-fest dished up by those two Wimbledon no-names last year.

Nadal's graphite titanium wand would give him a definite advantage over Borg's old wooden Donnay, although that edge instantly restored by Borg's retro-cool super-tight whites!

All things considered, if I was forced to pick a winner, I'd have to say& the sport itself! What other game wouldn't love to celebrate two such fiercely competitive, over-achieving, humble and gracious champions as this couple of legends?

Up until I heard the story yesterday about Ryan Giggs being accused of conducting a ten year clandestine affair with the wife of his brother, I used to think the same of him too...

Who would win? Nadal or Borg? Have your say below.

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  • samuelleague said on 2011-06-08 @ 12:10 NZDT: Report abusive post

    If you had a portal and could transport Nadal and Borg to the french open at the same time, nadal would win with ease. Athletes have greater conditioning and money to spend on improving themselves these days.