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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Is it possible that Evert is getting an uncritical pass GOAT on clay? One of the things I have been persuaded , is that Evert's clay court competition was not as tough throughout some major stages of her career as Graf's. ( I tried to persuade them that the grass court minefield of all time greats more than made up the difference when so many slams were grass)

Graf and Evert have the same number of French finals with Evert converting on one more. Graf's era showcased the best of the best year after year with Sanchez, Martinez, Sabatini, Seles, second tier Maleeva sisters, Huber, and even some S& V''s who played well on dirt like Hana, Martina and Jana and Sukova and THEY ALL showed up for the French and most routinely played other clay events because they felt comfortable and competitive on the surface. Of course Evert's aces were those strings for years on end and those well attended US opens on clay with the loss of only one set. Still, not many great dirtballers rd after rd. For the record Evert has 5 italians, Graf 1. Graf has 9 Germans ( she lost 2 finals - both straight sets to Evert and Seles), Evert has 2. Evert has those Hilton head and US clay titles.

Hypothetically, would a prime Evert (1985-1986, when she had her great consistency and confidence, along with her maximum power, speed and variety she acquired to beat Navratilova) win most of slams with a comparable 90's racket in the early/mid nineties with the kinds of draws the RG event had? We do have better depth in early rounds in the nineties Would she do better than Graf did? Would Graf have done better in the 1970's/-mid 80s than Evert

But then there are two forms of clay to worry about and Evert's dominance on Har Tru is even more overwhelming than the red stuff, and any lack of interest by top players like King or Wade or Evonne in playing the European season in the mid seventies, was not shared in the states. Those draws at the US Open were top drawer and as deep as they got in the women's tour.


Those are the questions. Any answers before I share my conclusion.
 

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Is it possible that Evert is getting an uncritical pass GOAT on clay? One of the things I have been persuaded , is that Evert's clay court competition was not as tough throughout some major stages of her career as Graf's. ( I tried to persuade them that the grass court minefield of all time greats more than made up the difference when so many slams were grass)

Graf and Evert have the same number of French finals with Evert converting on one more. Graf's era showcased the best of the best year after year with Sanchez, Martinez, Sabatini, Seles, second tier Maleeva sisters, Huber, and even some S& V''s who played well on dirt like Hana, Martina and Jana and Sukova and THEY ALL showed up for the French and most routinely played other clay events because they felt comfortable and competitive on the surface. Of course Evert's aces were those strings for years on end and those well attended US opens on clay with the loss of only one set. Still, not many great dirtballers rd after rd. For the record Evert has 5 italians, Graf 1. Graf has 9 Germans ( she lost 2 finals - both straight sets to Evert and Seles), Evert has 2. Evert has those Hilton head and US clay titles.

Hypothetically, would a prime Evert (1985-1986, when she had her great consistency and confidence, along with her maximum power, speed and variety she acquired to beat Navratilova) win most of slams with a comparable 90's racket in the early/mid nineties with the kinds of draws the RG event had? We do have better depth in early rounds in the nineties Would she do better than Graf did? Would Graf have done better in the 1970's/-mid 80s than Evert

But then there are two forms of clay to worry about and Evert's dominance on Har Tru is even more overwhelming than the red stuff, and any lack of interest by top players like King or Wade or Evonne in playing the European season in the mid seventies, was not shared in the states. Those draws at the US Open were top drawer and as deep as they got in the women's tour.


Those are the questions. Any answers before I share my conclusion.
One think you might want to consider is there was a time when all the top WTA players participated in World Team Tennis, during the time the French Open was held. I wonder, just for debate sake, how many of those French Opens Evert would have won. Navratilova, King, Goolagong skipped those years, but I think Evert might have at three more FO titles to her name, and her legacy would be even more remarkable. Sure, Barker won one year, and she was no slouch. Ruzici was always a contender on clay, so I think Evert’s achievements are underrated. Someone said the early rounds were easier during Evert’s reign. If you look at the draws during the time of Graf, Seles, Sabatini, Sanchez Vicario they too benefited from draws that included wildcards from the French Federation as well as matches against opponents who didn’t play week in and week out on the WTA tour for the simple fact the WTA draws were tough to get in, and they would not have direct entry. At that time, these were fewer events offering qualifying. The “Futures” tour did offer some opportunities for players to earn a spot directly into a WTA/Avon/Virginia Slims event but those tournaments seemed to dry up. We really need to look at Evert’s draws, some of her opponents were not well known in the US, but they did play clay events endorsed by the ITF during that time frame and their success helped them gain entrance into the French Open and other clay events like the Italian and German Open.
 

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Is it possible that Evert is getting an uncritical pass GOAT on clay? One of the things I have been persuaded , is that Evert's clay court competition was not as tough throughout some major stages of her career as Graf's. ( I tried to persuade them that the grass court minefield of all time greats more than made up the difference when so many slams were grass)

Graf and Evert have the same number of French finals with Evert converting on one more. Graf's era showcased the best of the best year after year with Sanchez, Martinez, Sabatini, Seles, second tier Maleeva sisters, Huber, and even some S& V''s who played well on dirt like Hana, Martina and Jana and Sukova and THEY ALL showed up for the French and most routinely played other clay events because they felt comfortable and competitive on the surface. Of course Evert's aces were those strings for years on end and those well attended US opens on clay with the loss of only one set. Still, not many great dirtballers rd after rd. For the record Evert has 5 italians, Graf 1. Graf has 9 Germans ( she lost 2 finals - both straight sets to Evert and Seles), Evert has 2. Evert has those Hilton head and US clay titles.

Hypothetically, would a prime Evert (1985-1986, when she had her great consistency and confidence, along with her maximum power, speed and variety she acquired to beat Navratilova) win most of slams with a comparable 90's racket in the early/mid nineties with the kinds of draws the RG event had? We do have better depth in early rounds in the nineties Would she do better than Graf did? Would Graf have done better in the 1970's/-mid 80s than Evert

But then there are two forms of clay to worry about and Evert's dominance on Har Tru is even more overwhelming than the red stuff, and any lack of interest by top players like King or Wade or Evonne in playing the European season in the mid seventies, was not shared in the states. Those draws at the US Open were top drawer and as deep as they got in the women's tour.


Those are the questions. Any answers before I share my conclusion.
Peak year-ending ELO on clay:
Evert 2486 (1975)
Graf 2485 (1989)

Where's your in-depth analysis?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
One think you might want to consider is there was a time when all the top WTA players participated in World Team Tennis, during the time the French Open was held. I wonder, just for debate sake, how many of those French Opens Evert would have won. Navratilova, King, Goolagong skipped those years, but I think Evert might have at three more FO titles to her name, and her legacy would be even more remarkable. Sure, Barker won one year, and she was no slouch. Ruzici was always a contender on clay, so I think Evert’s achievements are underrated. Someone said the early rounds were easier during Evert’s reign. If you look at the draws during the time of Graf, Seles, Sabatini, Sanchez Vicario they too benefited from draws that included wildcards from the French Federation as well as matches against opponents who didn’t play week in and week out on the WTA tour for the simple fact the WTA draws were tough to get in, and they would not have direct entry. At that time, these were fewer events offering qualifying. The “Futures” tour did offer some opportunities for players to earn a spot directly into a WTA/Avon/Virginia Slims event but those tournaments seemed to dry up. We really need to look at Evert’s draws, some of her opponents were not well known in the US, but they did play clay events endorsed by the ITF during that time frame and their success helped them gain entrance into the French Open and other clay events like the Italian and German Open.
I look at that WTT thing as a clay court 'draw' in that era. Sure Evert lost three opportunities to win a major on red clay, but she was the only woman to grab the only 3 majors ever played on green clay. She has the same 10 clay majors either way, except she was able to prove herself as glorious on the green dirt for two weeks as the red dirt for two weeks and the draws were definitely deeper than she ever would have faced in those years over in Europe.

1975 US Open list of seeds and how they did ( only 8 seeded) along with Evert's scores all the way through.
1. Evert champ 2. Wade Sf 3.Navratilova SF 4. Goolagong F 5. Court QF 6. Morazova 2nd Rd 7. Durr 2nd rd 8. Heldman. 2nd rd.

Evert vs Hunt 6-1 6-0, Chlyveva 6-0 6-3, Overton 6-0 6-1, Reid 6-2 6-1, Navratilova 6-4 6-4 Goolagong 5-7 6-4 6-2.

1976 Open list of top 10 seeds and how they did ( 16 seeded)
1.Evert champ 2. Goolagong F 3. Navratilova 1st rd 4. Wade 2nd rd 5. Richey 2nd rd 6. Casals QF 7. Reid 2nd rd 8. Morazova 3rd rd 9. Barker 4h rd 10. Fromholz SF

Ist rd a Bye, then Evert vs Steven 6-1 6-0, Goles 6-0 6-0, Barker 6-1 6-0, Chmyreva 6-1 6-2, Jausevic 6-3 6-1, Goolagong 6-3 6-0

1977 Open list of top 10 seeds and how they did ( 16 seeded)
1. Evert champ 2. Navratilova SF 3. Wade QF 4. Barker 3rd rd 5. Stove SF 6. Casals 4th rd 7. King QF 8. Fromholz 4th rd 9. Reid 4th rd 10. Jausevic QF ( Turnbull the finalist was 12 seeded)

Evert vs Walsh 6-1 6-0, Whytcross 6-0 6-0, Anliot 6-2 6-2, Richey 6-3 6-0, King 6-2 6-0, Stove 6-3 7-5, Turnbull 7-6 6-2

She lost one set in three years at those 3 Forest Hills events, That kind of dominance works well, even into the eighties, in crushing hopes of inspired talent
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Peak year-ending ELO on clay:
Evert 2486 (1975)
Graf 2485 (1989)

Where's your in-depth analysis?
Anyone who knows me very well, knows I don't 'do' peak year' anything. Not much of a believer in any single year stat or defining a career peak in the first place. Mostly I look at careers as I intended this thread to do.
 

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Anyone who knows me very well, knows I don't 'do' peak year' anything. Not much of a believer in any single year stat or defining a career peak in the first place. Mostly I look at careers as I intended this thread to do.
I'm eagerly awaiting your justification of Evert's or Graf's career on clay being greater than the other's. In depth, as you say. Not ignoring the non-Grand Slam tournaments. Dealing with Evert's career during the 80s and Graf's during the 90s. Explaining the influence of Navratilova, Seles, Sabatini, Hingis, Richey, Sanchez Vicario, Pierce, etc.

And I'd still like to know which inspired talents had their hopes crushed by Evert.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
I'm eagerly awaiting your justification of Evert's or Graf's career on clay being greater than the other's. In depth, as you say. Not ignoring the non-Grand Slam tournaments. Dealing with Evert's career during the 80s and Graf's during the 90s. Explaining the influence of Navratilova, Seles, Sabatini, Hingis, Richey, Sanchez Vicario, Pierce, etc.

And I'd still like to know which inspired talents had their hopes crushed by Evert.
Before I engage, I like to feel there is a mutual and genuine interest in discussing and learning about the subject matter with people who quote me. I am not getting that vibe, Austimrunner. My father was by profession a DA, a part time judge, and a professor of law and I know an interrogational tone when I see one. Been there, done that as a child and a teen. So I am stepping off the witness stand right now.

My impression is that this definitely can be a positive interaction with a mutual goal of having fun, and exploring this topic in a more casual and friendly fashion.

I originally wrote this OP a few years ago when engaging in a chat elsewhere and thought it might be interesting here. I composed it. That line on crushing emerging talent was about a tangential theory of mine about how champions are often able to fend off possible challenges to their dominance later, by smothering it in the crib before anyone sees it as a threat. I probably should have deleted the line before reposting this as a derailing tangent here. LOL I forgot that line was even there!

Can you narrow your inquiry down a little to a question or two, or maybe just offer your own view on thrust of my OP? Your views are welcome, but I don't want to write a university dissertation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Was going to compare Har Tru tournaments here but the Family Circle Cup is the only one that lasted through both their careers. US clay courts in Indinanpolis stopped in 1986 ( Chris won 5), the Fort Lauderdale was only 1971 -1974. ( Evert won 3 of 4 years it existed) and Miami clay surface events ended soon after Evert retired. The VS of Houston turned clay around 1986 so Evert's was lower than Graf's (Evert won 3/4 finals from 86-89. Graf won in 1989). Suffice it to say, that Chris has astounding numbers of wins on green clay. If she entered it, she almost always won it and she was a shoe in for the final.

1981Chris Evert (6)Pam Shriver6–3, 6–2



1993Steffi Graf (4)Arantxa Sánchez Vicario7–6(10–8), 6–1
 

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Evert also lost to Manuela Maleeva in the semis of the Family Circle Cup in 1987. She lost a third set tiebreaker to Maleeva. Graf beat Maleeva in the final and therefore has four Family Circle Cup wins to her name.

Also, Graf won Houston in 1995, the final year of that tournament, not in 1989.1989 Houston was actually a famous win for another player. Monica Seles won her first pro title in Houston beating Evert in the final.

Chris Evert is definitely the most accomplished player on Har Tru. Many of the green clay events had died out by the time she retired and Graf usually played more on red clay in Europe, so her record on Har Tru is nowhere near Evert's.

Graf's Har Tru wins:

Family Circle Cup - 4 titles
1986 (d. Mandlikova, Evert), 1987 (d. Sabatini, Manuela Maleeva), 1989 (d. Sánchez Vicario, Zvereva), 1993 (d. Sabatini, Sánchez Vicario)

Amelia Island - 3 titles
1986 (d. Rinaldi, Kohde Kilsch), 1987 (d. Sabatini, Mandlikova), 1990 (d. Zvereva, Sánchez Vicario)

US Clay Courts - 1 title
1986 (d. Paz, Sabatini)

Houston - 1 title
1995 (d. Hack, Asa Carlsson)

Following Graf's first pro tournament win in 1986, there were only a few other green clay tournaments still left on the tour that she could have played.

The Eckerd Open in Tampa moved to green clay in 1987 and sold its license after its 1990 tournament. Evert (twice), Martinez and Seles were the winners. Graf never played Tampa.

The US Clay Courts folded in 1986. Graf was the last winner.

Houston folded in 1995. Graf played this event only in its final year.

FC Cup: Graf skipped the event in 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992 and then for the rest of her career starting in 1994. This tournament really suffered from poor scheduling for much of the 90s. It was more often than not held the week immediately after the Lipton, a two-week long Tier 1 hard court event. The last time Graf played Hilton Head in 1993, the FCC was held two weeks after the Lipton with the VS of Houston being moved to the week after Key Biscayne. Even in 1993 though she was a late addition to the event. The world number one at the time, Seles, was supposed to make her Hilton Head debut in 1993, but she fell off a bicycle and injured herself a few days before the start of the event. After Seles pulled out, the WTA asked the then #2 Graf to fill in so that the tour could meet its field commitments towards the event.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Evert also lost to Manuela Maleeva in the semis of the Family Circle Cup in 1987. She lost a third set tiebreaker to Maleeva. Graf beat Maleeva in the final and therefore has four Family Circle Cup wins to her name.

Also, Graf won Houston in 1995, the final year of that tournament, not in 1989.1989 Houston was actually a famous win for another player. Monica Seles won her first pro title in Houston beating Evert in the final.

Chris Evert is definitely the most accomplished player on Har Tru. Many of the green clay events had died out by the time she retired and Graf usually played more on red clay in Europe, so her record on Har Tru is nowhere near Evert's.

Graf's Har Tru wins:

Family Circle Cup - 4 titles
1986 (d. Mandlikova, Evert), 1987 (d. Sabatini, Manuela Maleeva), 1989 (d. Sánchez Vicario, Zvereva), 1993 (d. Sabatini, Sánchez Vicario)

Amelia Island - 3 titles
1986 (d. Rinaldi, Kohde Kilsch), 1987 (d. Sabatini, Mandlikova), 1990 (d. Zvereva, Sánchez Vicario)

US Clay Courts - 1 title
1986 (d. Paz, Sabatini)

Houston - 1 title
1995 (d. Hack, Asa Carlsson)

Following Graf's first pro tournament win in 1986, there were only a few other green clay tournaments still left on the tour that she could have played.

The Eckerd Open in Tampa moved to green clay in 1987 and sold its license after its 1990 tournament. Evert (twice), Martinez and Seles were the winners. Graf never played Tampa.

The US Clay Courts folded in 1986. Graf was the last winner.

Houston folded in 1995. Graf played this event only in its final year.

FC Cup: Graf skipped the event in 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992 and then for the rest of her career starting in 1994. This tournament really suffered from poor scheduling for much of the 90s. It was more often than not held the week immediately after the Lipton, a two-week long Tier 1 hard court event. The last time Graf played Hilton Head in 1993, the FCC was held two weeks after the Lipton with the VS of Houston being moved to the week after Key Biscayne. Even in 1993 though she was a late addition to the event. The world number one at the time, Seles, was supposed to make her Hilton Head debut in 1993, but she fell off a bicycle and injured herself a few days before the start of the event. After Seles pulled out, the WTA asked the then #2 Graf to fill in so that the tour could meet its field commitments towards the event.
Thank-you! You saved me tons of time with this thorough post. All I have left to do is tie up some loose ends on the Evert side.
 

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Was going to compare Har Tru tournaments here but the Family Circle Cup is the only one that lasted through both their careers. US clay courts in Indinanpolis stopped in 1986 ( Chris won 5), the Fort Lauderdale was only 1971 -1974. ( Evert won 3 of 4 years it existed) and Miami clay surface events ended soon after Evert retired. The VS of Houston turned clay around 1986 so Evert's was lower than Graf's (Evert won 3/4 finals from 86-89. Graf won in 1989). Suffice it to say, that Chris has astounding numbers of wins on green clay. If she entered it, she almost always won it and she was a shoe in for the final.

1981Chris Evert (6)Pam Shriver6–3, 6–2



1993Steffi Graf (4)Arantxa Sánchez Vicario7–6(10–8), 6–1
Much credit goes to you for all the incredible research and post. Wonder job, really gives an insight as to how these two dominated clay.
 

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I guess the question I have, and I am sure there is a poster out there with the information. Evert won 125 consecutive clay court matches until Tracy Austin snapped the winning streak at the Italian Open. I have read that some post feel Evert’s opponents were not as high a quality as those beaten by Graf. Do we know if that is true? All of Evert’s victims could not have been club players, juniors, wild cards or local tournament favorites. Is there a way we can find out where these players ranked at the time of their defeat to Evert? Granted Graf began her career later than Evert, but I don’t feel Evert’s accomplishments on the dirt should not be held in great esteem. Anyone care to comment?
 

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Was going to compare Har Tru tournaments here but the Family Circle Cup is the only one that lasted through both their careers. US clay courts in Indinanpolis stopped in 1986 ( Chris won 5), the Fort Lauderdale was only 1971 -1974. ( Evert won 3 of 4 years it existed) and Miami clay surface events ended soon after Evert retired. The VS of Houston turned clay around 1986 so Evert's was lower than Graf's (Evert won 3/4 finals from 86-89. Graf won in 1989). Suffice it to say, that Chris has astounding numbers of wins on green clay. If she entered it, she almost always won it and she was a shoe in for the final.

1981Chris Evert (6)Pam Shriver6–3, 6–2



1993Steffi Graf (4)Arantxa Sánchez Vicario7–6(10–8), 6–1
Wow, those eight victories by Evert were all in straight sets-amazing. Look at the quality of players Evert defeated.
 

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I guess the question I have, and I am sure there is a poster out there with the information. Evert won 125 consecutive clay court matches until Tracy Austin snapped the winning streak at the Italian Open. I have read that some post feel Evert’s opponents were not as high a quality as those beaten by Graf. Do we know if that is true? All of Evert’s victims could not have been club players, juniors, wild cards or local tournament favorites. Is there a way we can find out where these players ranked at the time of their defeat to Evert? Granted Graf began her career later than Evert, but I don’t feel Evert’s accomplishments on the dirt should not be held in great esteem. Anyone care to comment?
I don't know if I'd agree that Evert played only pigeons during her long clay-court streak. I suppose what one could say is that many of the top players on the tour at the time were attacking players who felt comfortable playing serve-and-volley. Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Virginia Wade, and (to some extent) Evonne Goolagong Cawley were usually far more formidable on faster surfaces even if they were all good enough to also win on clay occasionally. Well, maybe not Wade, but certainly Navratilova, Goolagong Cawley, and King. As btthegreat pointed out, even if we accept that there were no clay-court players even close to Evert's league in that era, it was more than compensated for by the level of competition she faced on grass and indoor courts.

On the whole I feel that things balanced each other out for Chrissie. Yes, she missed three French Opens in her prime, but she was also fortunate to get three US Opens in the same period on Har Tru. Had the US Open stayed on grass, players like Goolagong Cawley could, in theory, have claimed at least one or two of those US Opens in the 1975-77 period. Who knows, maybe even BJK wouldn't have retired in 1975 and would have stuck around to have a go at another US Open title, which would certainly have been within her reach if the tournament were still on grass.

Chrissie was also lucky enough that she played in an era when the ranking system didn't penalise players who took long breaks. She could afford to sit out the entire indoor circuit almost every year starting in 1981 and still not have her ranking plummet. She'd never have got away with that under the additive ranking system adopted in 1997 and her 3-month breaks would have sent her ranking crashing down. Those breaks kept her fresh and healthy enough to have a long and extremely successful career.

I think it was Rollo who once suggested that the relationship between Evert and the clay court tournaments in the US was symbiotic. Yes, Chrissie benefitted a lot from having more clay events in the calendar, but it could be easily argued that she was the reason many of those tournaments even existed in the first place. Evert was the biggest female tennis star in the world at the time and clay was her favourite surface. If you were a tournament organiser on the East Coast, particularly in Florida, and you were organising a clay court event, there was a very good possibility that you'd get this superstar to play and most likely win it.

When it comes to Graf, I'd agree that she faced probably the strongest ever clay court field in the late 80s and early 90s. One of our former posters used to refer to Graf, Sabatini, Sanchez Vicario, Seles, and Martinez as the Sorority of 90s Clay Court Sisters. We could also throw in someone like Capriati into that mix. Jennifer had some excellent clay results in the 90s and it usually took one of those Big Five players to deny her the big wins. However I don't know what that says about how Evert would have fared against them. Given that she was able to score wins over Sabatini, Sanchez Vicario, Martinez, and Seles even in her last two years on the tour, a younger Evert could certainly have handled them. At the same time I'd say it's unlikely she'd have stayed unbeaten over 125 matches on clay if she'd had to compete against clay court players of that calibre on a regular basis.

I've always said it's awfully difficult to compare players across eras, and this comparison is even more challenging due to the change in racquet technology. Evert herself played quite differently on clay in 1985-86 compared to how she played in the 1970s. Although there had been women players who employed a lot of topspin before (Sylvia Hanika comes to mind as one), players like Sabatini and Martinez took it to another level altogether. Even within the universe of the graphite era champs, compare how Graf played her Family Circle final in 1986 with how she approached clay matches in the 90s. In that final against Chrissie, Steffi played a steady, waiting game, patiently rallying with Chrissie, not making too many errors off her forehand, responding to Chrissie's occasional moonballs(!) with moonballs of her own(!!), and waiting for the right moments to unleash the killer forehand. Just three years later, Steffi was shown a tape of that match and she told Bud Collins she could never play the match that way again.

The same is true of Seles. Watch how she plays as a 15-year-old against Evert in that 1989 Houston final. Monica was playing good defence, moonballing Chrissie to death, and wearing out the great champion. If you then watch her matches from 1992-93 the difference is astounding and Seles is a far more aggressive player even on slow clay.

Ultimately I think of Evert as the Queen of Clay mainly because she dominated the era that she played in much more than any other player did in her own. And that's all you can ask of any champion really. We can turn the question on its head and ask how successful Graf, Seles, Sabatini, Sanchez Vicario, Martinez, Pierce, or Capriati would have been on clay if they'd played with wood racquets in Chrissie's prime.
 

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I don't know if I'd agree that Evert played only pigeons during her long clay-court streak. I suppose what one could say is that many of the top players on the tour at the time were attacking players who felt comfortable playing serve-and-volley. Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Virginia Wade, and (to some extent) Evonne Goolagong Cawley were usually far more formidable on faster surfaces even if they were all good enough to also win on clay occasionally. Well, maybe not Wade, but certainly Navratilova, Goolagong Cawley, and King. As btthegreat pointed out, even if we accept that there were no clay-court players even close to Evert's league in that era, it was more than compensated for by the level of competition she faced on grass and indoor courts.

On the whole I feel that things balanced each other out for Chrissie. Yes, she missed three French Opens in her prime, but she was also fortunate to get three US Opens in the same period on Har Tru. Had the US Open stayed on grass, players like Goolagong Cawley could, in theory, have claimed at least one or two of those US Opens in the 1975-77 period. Who knows, maybe even BJK wouldn't have retired in 1975 and would have stuck around to have a go at another US Open title, which would certainly have been within her reach if the tournament were still on grass.

Chrissie was also lucky enough that she played in an era when the ranking system didn't penalise players who took long breaks. She could afford to sit out the entire indoor circuit almost every year starting in 1981 and still not have her ranking plummet. She'd never have got away with that under the additive ranking system adopted in 1997 and her 3-month breaks would have sent her ranking crashing down. Those breaks kept her fresh and healthy enough to have a long and extremely successful career.

I think it was Rollo who once suggested that the relationship between Evert and the clay court tournaments in the US was symbiotic. Yes, Chrissie benefitted a lot from having more clay events in the calendar, but it could be easily argued that she was the reason many of those tournaments even existed in the first place. Evert was the biggest female tennis star in the world at the time and clay was her favourite surface. If you were a tournament organiser on the East Coast, particularly in Florida, and you were organising a clay court event, there was a very good possibility that you'd get this superstar to play and most likely win it.

When it comes to Graf, I'd agree that she faced probably the strongest ever clay court field in the late 80s and early 90s. One of our former posters used to refer to Graf, Sabatini, Sanchez Vicario, Seles, and Martinez as the Sorority of 90s Clay Court Sisters. We could also throw in someone like Capriati into that mix. Jennifer had some excellent clay results in the 90s and it usually took one of those Big Five players to deny her the big wins. However I don't know what that says about how Evert would have fared against them. Given that she was able to score wins over Sabatini, Sanchez Vicario, Martinez, and Seles even in her last two years on the tour, a younger Evert could certainly have handled them. At the same time I'd say it's unlikely she'd have stayed unbeaten over 125 matches on clay if she'd had to compete against clay court players of that calibre on a regular basis.

I've always said it's awfully difficult to compare players across eras, and this comparison is even more challenging due to the change in racquet technology. Evert herself played quite differently on clay in 1985-86 compared to how she played in the 1970s. Although there had been women players who employed a lot of topspin before (Sylvia Hanika comes to mind as one), players like Sabatini and Martinez took it to another level altogether. Even within the universe of the graphite era champs, compare how Graf played her Family Circle final in 1986 with how she approached clay matches in the 90s. In that final against Chrissie, Steffi played a steady, waiting game, patiently rallying with Chrissie, not making too many errors off her forehand, responding to Chrissie's occasional moonballs(!) with moonballs of her own(!!), and waiting for the right moments to unleash the killer forehand. Just three years later, Steffi was shown a tape of that match and she told Bud Collins she could never play the match that way again.

The same is true of Seles. Watch how she plays as a 15-year-old against Evert in that 1989 Houston final. Monica was playing good defence, moonballing Chrissie to death, and wearing out the great champion. If you then watch her matches from 1992-93 the difference is astounding and Seles is a far more aggressive player even on slow clay.

Ultimately I think of Evert as the Queen of Clay mainly because she dominated the era that she played in much more than any other player did in her own. And that's all you can ask of any champion really. We can turn the question on its head and ask how successful Graf, Seles, Sabatini, Sanchez Vicario, Martinez, Pierce, or Capriati would have been on clay if they'd played with wood racquets in Chrissie's prime.
Wow, you made some really valid point, wonder post. You are correct I feel, Evert benefited greatly when the US Open went to clay. Also, if an event was on clay in the US Evert was there, most of those tournaments are long gone. What shocked me is the US Women’s Clay Court Championships just disappeared. Evert dominated when she was there, but that event has been gone a long time. The one part I disagree with slightly is regarding the French Open in the early 70s, I thought Goolagong picked up a Grand Slam there while Evert was in the draw. I realize that is only one event. We also need to factor in the fact that the German and Italian Open were played. Granted they had Evert’s name written all over them. One thing I might ask - do you feel players like King, Wade, Casals even an older Margaret Court made less of an effort to improve their clay court game while Evert made a much more diligent effort to improve on all surfaces. Just something to ponder. I knew even Court had a victory over Evert in the early 70s at the French Open, so it could be done. Another clay court specialist, Nancy Richey Gunter, retired with a 6-5 edge over Evert on clay, so Chris did have competition. I believe Nancy was a bit older so experience paid off, but this was before Evert really peaked on clay.

Perhaps what I find headscratching is how well would Graf, Seles, Gabatini, ASV done against Evert had they all used wooden rackets like the one Evert used at the beginning of her career. Will never know, but it would be fascinating to see how everyone would have fared had they each had the same equipment during the same era.
 

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For btthegreat's reference, these are Graf's 32 tournament wins on clay over her career.

GC = Green Clay, RC = Red Clay

1986 (4)
Family Circle Cup, Hilton Head Island (GC)
Sunkist WTA Championships, Amelia Island (GC)
US Clay Court Championships, Indianapolis (GC)
German Open, West Berlin (RC)

1987 (6)
Family Circle Cup, Hilton Head Island (GC)
Bausch and Lomb WTA Championships, Amelia Island (GC)
Italian Open, Rome (RC)
German Open, West Berlin (RC)
French Open, Paris (RC)
Citizen Cup, Hamburg (RC)

1988 (3)
German Open, West Berlin (RC)
French Open, Paris (RC)
Citizen Cup, Hamburg (RC)

1989 (3)
Family Circle Cup, Hilton Head Island (GC)
Citizen Cup, Hamburg (RC)
German Open, West Berlin (RC)

1990 (2)
Bausch and Lomb Championships, Amelia Island (GC)
Citizen Cup, Hamburg (RC)

1991 (2)
Citizen Cup, Hamburg (RC)
German Open, Berlin (RC)

1992 (2)
Citizen Cup, Hamburg (RC)
German Open, Berlin (RC)

1993 (3)
Family Circle Cup, Hilton Head Island (GC)
German Open, Berlin (RC)
French Open, Paris (RC)

1994 (1)
German Open, Berlin (RC)

1995 (2)
Gallery Furniture Championships, Houston (GC)
French Open, Paris (RC)

1996 (2)
German Open, Berlin (RC)
French Open, Paris (RC)

1997 (1)
Strasbourg Open, Strasbourg (RC)

1998 - Graf missed the entire clay-court circuit due to injuries and returned to the tour the week of Edgbaston.

1999 (1)
French Open, Paris (RC)

Players whom Graf lost to on clay between 1985 and 1999:
Chris Evert (Hilton Head 1985, German Open 1985, French Open 1985)
Zina Garrison (Amelia Island 1985)
Hana Mandlikova (French Open 1986)
Gabriela Sabatini (Amelia Island 1988, Amelia Island 1989, Amelia Island 1991, Amelia Island 1992)
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (French Open 1989, French Open 1991, Hamburg 1993, Hamburg 1994)
Monica Seles (German Open 1990, French Open 1990, French Open 1992)
Mary Pierce (French Open 1994)
Martina Hingis (Italian Open 1996)
Amanda Coetzer (German Open 1997, French Open 1997)
Julie Halard Decugis (German Open 1999)
*Jennifer Capriati (Barcelona Olympics 1992) - not a tour event but still a very strong field with Graf, Sanchez Vicario, Capriati, Martinez, and MJ Fernandez present.
 
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Wow, you made some really valid point, wonder post. You are correct I feel, Evert benefited greatly when the US Open went to clay. Also, if an event was on clay in the US Evert was there, most of those tournaments are long gone. What shocked me is the US Women’s Clay Court Championships just disappeared. Evert dominated when she was there, but that event has been gone a long time. The one part I disagree with slightly is regarding the French Open in the early 70s, I thought Goolagong picked up a Grand Slam there while Evert was in the draw. I realize that is only one event. We also need to factor in the fact that the German and Italian Open were played. Granted they had Evert’s name written all over them. One thing I might ask - do you feel players like King, Wade, Casals even an older Margaret Court made less of an effort to improve their clay court game while Evert made a much more diligent effort to improve on all surfaces. Just something to ponder. I knew even Court had a victory over Evert in the early 70s at the French Open, so it could be done. Another clay court specialist, Nancy Richey Gunter, retired with a 6-5 edge over Evert on clay, so Chris did have competition. I believe Nancy was a bit older so experience paid off, but this was before Evert really peaked on clay.

Perhaps what I find headscratching is how well would Graf, Seles, Gabatini, ASV done against Evert had they all used wooden rackets like the one Evert used at the beginning of her career. Will never know, but it would be fascinating to see how everyone would have fared had they each had the same equipment during the same era.
Goolagong's only French Open title came in 1971 and Evert was not in the field. She did beat Evert on clay at the 1973 Italian Open, though, which was a fantastic win for Goolagong, especially considering the scoreline (7-6, 6-0).

You asked in an earlier post about the women Evert beat during her 125-match winning streak. Here are the details from Wiki. It's interesting to note how many more clay court tournaments were around. For instance, the Virginia Slims finals were on clay in 1973 as was the Canadian Open in 1974. Even more surprising is that Evert played only five events on clay between 1976 and 1978: three Family Circle Cups and two US Opens. It's scary to think how many more matches she'd have added to the already stupendous 125-match streak, had she played a full schedule on clay in those years!

125-match clay court winning streak from August 1973 to May 1979
  • 1973:
    • US Clay Court Championships, IN. (d. Pat Bostrom 6–0 6–0; Isabel Fernandez 6–3 6–4; Pat Pretorius 6–2 6–1; Linda Tuero 6–0 6–0; Veronica Burton 6–4 6–3 in final);
    • Columbus, GA. (d. Janet Haas 6–1 6–0; Francoise Durr 6–0 6–2; Laurie Fleming 6–4 6–0; Rosie Casals 6–3 7–6; won by default over Margaret Court – defaults not counted as matches in streak);
    • Virginia Slims Championships, Boca Raton, FL. (d. Kristien Kemmer-Shaw 6–2 6–3; Karen Krantzcke 6–0 6–0; Julie Heldman 6–2 6–4; Kerry Melville 6–1 6–2; Nancy Richey 6–3 6–3 in final)
  • 1974:
    • Ft. Lauderdale, FL. (d. Laurie Fleming 6–1 6–2; Wendy Overton 6–0 6–3; Betty Stove 6–3 6–4; Rose Casals 6–0 6–1; won by default over Kerry Melville);
    • Sarasota, FL. (d. Carrie Meyer 6–1 6–2; Sue Stap 6–1 6–1; Betty Stove 6–0 6–1; Olga Morozova 6–2 6–0; Evonne Goolagong 6–4 6–0 in final);
    • St. Petersburg, FL. (d. Pat Bostrom 6–0 6–1; Glynis Coles 6–1 6–3; Karen Krantzcke 6–7 6–0 6–0; Helga Masthoff 6–1 6–1; Kerry Melville 6–0 6–1 in final);
    • Family Circle Cup, SC. (d. Kerry Harris 6–1 6–2; Wendy Overton def.; Betty Stove 6–2 6–3; Rosie Casals 6–1 6–0; Kerry Melville 6–1 6–3 in final);
    • Italian Open, Rome (d. Lita Sugiarto 7–5 6–2; Marie Neumannova 4–6 6–1 6–4; Kazuko Sawamatsu 6–1 6–1; Olga Morozova 6–1 1–6 6–0; Martina Navratilova 6–3 6–3 in final);
    • French Open, Paris (d. Regina Marsikova 6–1 6–4; Virginia Ruzici 6–2 6–3; Vicky Baldovinos 6–2 6–2; Julie Heldman 6–0 7–5; Helga Masthoff 7–5 6–4; Olga Morozova 6–1 6–2 in final);
    • US Clay Court Championships, IN. (d. Helle Sparre 6–0 6–0; Roberta Stark 6–2 6–2; Virginia Ruzici 6–0 6–1; Carrie Meyer 6–1 6–2; Gail Chanfreau 6–0 6–0 in final);
    • Canadian Open, Toronto (d. Maria Nasuelli 6–1 6–2; Gail Chanfreau 6–0 6–2; Laurie Tenney 6–0 6–0; Kazuko Sawamatsu 6–0 6–1; Julie Heldman 6–0 6–3 in final)
  • 1975:
    • Family Circle Cup, FL. (d. Carrie Meyer 6–0 6–0; Rosie Casals 6–1 6–0; Francoise Durr 6–2 6–0; Evonne Goolagong 6–1 6–1; Martina Navratilova 7–5 6–4 in final);
    • Italian Open, Rome (d. Rosalba Vido 6–0 6–2; Sue Barker 6–1 6–3; Fiorella Bonicelli 6–1 6–3; Mima Jausovec 6–2 6–0; Martina Navratilova 6–1 6–0 in final);
    • French Open, Paris (d. Carmen Perea 6–2 6–2; Mima Jausovec 6–2 6–3; Renata Tomanova 6–3 6–2; Kazuko Sawamatsu 6–2 6–2; Olga Morozova 6–4 6–0; Martina Navratilova 2–6 6–2 6–1 in final);
    • US Clay Court Championships, IN. (d. Paulina Peisachov 6–0 6–2; Glynis Coles 6–2 6–0; Donna Ganz 6–1 6–2; Nancy Richey 6–7 7–5 4–2 ret. Evert recovered from 7–6 5–0 40–15 down to win this match and keep streak alive at 73 matches; Dianne Fromholtz 6–3 6–4 in final);
    • Rye, NY. (d. Gail Chanfreau 6–2 6–1; Mima Jausovec def.; Mona Schallau 6–0 6–4; Margaret Court 6–3 6–3; Virginia Wade 6–0 6–1 in final);
    • US Open, NY. (d. Lesley Hunt 6–1 6–0; Natasha Chmyreva 6–0 6–3; Wendy Overton 6–0 6–1; Kerry Melville 6–2 6–1; Martina Navratilova 6–4 6–4; Evonne Goolagong 5–7 6–4 6–2 in final);
    • Orlando, FL. (d. Janet Newberry 6–1 6–2; Isabel Fernandez 6–1 6–4; Linky Boshoff 6–2 6–2; Rosie Casals 6–0 6–2; Martina Navratilova def. in final);
    • World Invitational, SC. (d. Rosie Casals 6–0 6–1; Evonne Goolagong 6–1 6–1 in final)
  • 1976:
    • Family Circle Cup, FL. (d. Wendy Turnbull 6–2 6–1; Torry Ann Fretz 6–0 6–0; Betty Stove 6–4 6–4; Mary Struthers 6–0 6–0; Kerry Melville-Reid 6–2 6–2 in final);
    • US Open, NY. (d. Greer Stevens 6–1 6–0; Glynis Coles 6–0 6–0; Sue Barker 6–1 6–0; Natasha Chmyreva 6–1 6–2; Mima Jausovec 6–3 6–1; Evonne Goolagong 6–3 6–0 in final)
  • 1977:
    • Family Circle Cup, SC. (d. Bunny Bruning 6–0 6–3; Wendy Turnbull 6–1 6–0; Kath May 6–0 6–1; Mima Jausovec 6–3 6–3; Billie Jean King 6–0 6–1 in final);
    • US Open, NY. (d. Sharon Walsh 6–1 6–0; Pam Whytcross 6–0 6–0; Helena Anliot 6–2 6–2; Nancy Richey 6–3 6–0; Billie Jean King 6–2 6–0; Betty Stove 6–3 7–5; Wendy Turnbull 7–6 6–2 in final)
  • 1978:
    • Family Circle Cup, SC. (d. Beth Norton 6–1 6–0; Mima Jausovec 6–0 6–1; Renee Richards 6–4 6–3; Tracy Austin 6–3 6–1; Kerry Melville-Reid 6–2 6–0 in final)
  • 1979:
    • Fed Cup, Madrid (d. Sylvia Hanika 6–4 6–2; Brigitte Simon 6–0 6–0; Olga Morozova 6–4 8–6; Dianne Fromholtz 2–6 6–3 8–6);
    • Italian Open, Rome (d. JoAnne Russell 6–1 6–2; Janet Newberry 6–2 6–1; Ivanna Madruga 3–6 6–1 6–4; lost semi-final to Tracy Austin 4–6 6–2 6–7(4–7))
Statistics: 71 of the 258 sets (or 28%) were 6–0. Only 8 of the 125 matches were three-setters. From the beginning of this run, Evert did not lose a set on clay in 1973 or between 1976 and 1978. She had runs of 76, 65, and 50 consecutive sets won during the streak.
 
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Goolagong's only French Open title came in 1971 and Evert was not in the field. She did beat Evert on clay at the 1973 Italian Open, though, which was a fantastic win for Goolagong, especially considering the scoreline (7-6, 6-0).

You asked in an earlier post about the women Evert beat during her 125-match winning streak. Here are the details from Wiki. It's interesting to note how many more clay court tournaments were around. For instance, the Virginia Slims finals were on clay in 1973 as was the Canadian Open in 1974. Even more surprising is that Evert played only five events on clay between 1976 and 1978: three Family Circle Cups and two US Opens. It's scary to think how many more matches she'd have added to the already stupendous 125-match streak, had she played a full schedule on clay in those years!

125-match clay court winning streak from August 1973 to May 1979
  • 1973:
    • US Clay Court Championships, IN. (d. Pat Bostrom 6–0 6–0; Isabel Fernandez 6–3 6–4; Pat Pretorius 6–2 6–1; Linda Tuero 6–0 6–0; Veronica Burton 6–4 6–3 in final);
    • Columbus, GA. (d. Janet Haas 6–1 6–0; Francoise Durr 6–0 6–2; Laurie Fleming 6–4 6–0; Rosie Casals 6–3 7–6; won by default over Margaret Court – defaults not counted as matches in streak);
    • Virginia Slims Championships, Boca Raton, FL. (d. Kristien Kemmer-Shaw 6–2 6–3; Karen Krantzcke 6–0 6–0; Julie Heldman 6–2 6–4; Kerry Melville 6–1 6–2; Nancy Richey 6–3 6–3 in final)
  • 1974:
    • Ft. Lauderdale, FL. (d. Laurie Fleming 6–1 6–2; Wendy Overton 6–0 6–3; Betty Stove 6–3 6–4; Rose Casals 6–0 6–1; won by default over Kerry Melville);
    • Sarasota, FL. (d. Carrie Meyer 6–1 6–2; Sue Stap 6–1 6–1; Betty Stove 6–0 6–1; Olga Morozova 6–2 6–0; Evonne Goolagong 6–4 6–0 in final);
    • St. Petersburg, FL. (d. Pat Bostrom 6–0 6–1; Glynis Coles 6–1 6–3; Karen Krantzcke 6–7 6–0 6–0; Helga Masthoff 6–1 6–1; Kerry Melville 6–0 6–1 in final);
    • Family Circle Cup, SC. (d. Kerry Harris 6–1 6–2; Wendy Overton def.; Betty Stove 6–2 6–3; Rosie Casals 6–1 6–0; Kerry Melville 6–1 6–3 in final);
    • Italian Open, Rome (d. Lita Sugiarto 7–5 6–2; Marie Neumannova 4–6 6–1 6–4; Kazuko Sawamatsu 6–1 6–1; Olga Morozova 6–1 1–6 6–0; Martina Navratilova 6–3 6–3 in final);
    • French Open, Paris (d. Regina Marsikova 6–1 6–4; Virginia Ruzici 6–2 6–3; Vicky Baldovinos 6–2 6–2; Julie Heldman 6–0 7–5; Helga Masthoff 7–5 6–4; Olga Morozova 6–1 6–2 in final);
    • US Clay Court Championships, IN. (d. Helle Sparre 6–0 6–0; Roberta Stark 6–2 6–2; Virginia Ruzici 6–0 6–1; Carrie Meyer 6–1 6–2; Gail Chanfreau 6–0 6–0 in final);
    • Canadian Open, Toronto (d. Maria Nasuelli 6–1 6–2; Gail Chanfreau 6–0 6–2; Laurie Tenney 6–0 6–0; Kazuko Sawamatsu 6–0 6–1; Julie Heldman 6–0 6–3 in final)
  • 1975:
    • Family Circle Cup, FL. (d. Carrie Meyer 6–0 6–0; Rosie Casals 6–1 6–0; Francoise Durr 6–2 6–0; Evonne Goolagong 6–1 6–1; Martina Navratilova 7–5 6–4 in final);
    • Italian Open, Rome (d. Rosalba Vido 6–0 6–2; Sue Barker 6–1 6–3; Fiorella Bonicelli 6–1 6–3; Mima Jausovec 6–2 6–0; Martina Navratilova 6–1 6–0 in final);
    • French Open, Paris (d. Carmen Perea 6–2 6–2; Mima Jausovec 6–2 6–3; Renata Tomanova 6–3 6–2; Kazuko Sawamatsu 6–2 6–2; Olga Morozova 6–4 6–0; Martina Navratilova 2–6 6–2 6–1 in final);
    • US Clay Court Championships, IN. (d. Paulina Peisachov 6–0 6–2; Glynis Coles 6–2 6–0; Donna Ganz 6–1 6–2; Nancy Richey 6–7 7–5 4–2 ret. Evert recovered from 7–6 5–0 40–15 down to win this match and keep streak alive at 73 matches; Dianne Fromholtz 6–3 6–4 in final);
    • Rye, NY. (d. Gail Chanfreau 6–2 6–1; Mima Jausovec def.; Mona Schallau 6–0 6–4; Margaret Court 6–3 6–3; Virginia Wade 6–0 6–1 in final);
    • US Open, NY. (d. Lesley Hunt 6–1 6–0; Natasha Chmyreva 6–0 6–3; Wendy Overton 6–0 6–1; Kerry Melville 6–2 6–1; Martina Navratilova 6–4 6–4; Evonne Goolagong 5–7 6–4 6–2 in final);
    • Orlando, FL. (d. Janet Newberry 6–1 6–2; Isabel Fernandez 6–1 6–4; Linky Boshoff 6–2 6–2; Rosie Casals 6–0 6–2; Martina Navratilova def. in final);
    • World Invitational, SC. (d. Rosie Casals 6–0 6–1; Evonne Goolagong 6–1 6–1 in final)
  • 1976:
    • Family Circle Cup, FL. (d. Wendy Turnbull 6–2 6–1; Torry Ann Fretz 6–0 6–0; Betty Stove 6–4 6–4; Mary Struthers 6–0 6–0; Kerry Melville-Reid 6–2 6–2 in final);
    • US Open, NY. (d. Greer Stevens 6–1 6–0; Glynis Coles 6–0 6–0; Sue Barker 6–1 6–0; Natasha Chmyreva 6–1 6–2; Mima Jausovec 6–3 6–1; Evonne Goolagong 6–3 6–0 in final)
  • 1977:
    • Family Circle Cup, SC. (d. Bunny Bruning 6–0 6–3; Wendy Turnbull 6–1 6–0; Kath May 6–0 6–1; Mima Jausovec 6–3 6–3; Billie Jean King 6–0 6–1 in final);
    • US Open, NY. (d. Sharon Walsh 6–1 6–0; Pam Whytcross 6–0 6–0; Helena Anliot 6–2 6–2; Nancy Richey 6–3 6–0; Billie Jean King 6–2 6–0; Betty Stove 6–3 7–5; Wendy Turnbull 7–6 6–2 in final)
  • 1978:
    • Family Circle Cup, SC. (d. Beth Norton 6–1 6–0; Mima Jausovec 6–0 6–1; Renee Richards 6–4 6–3; Tracy Austin 6–3 6–1; Kerry Melville-Reid 6–2 6–0 in final)
  • 1979:
    • Fed Cup, Madrid (d. Sylvia Hanika 6–4 6–2; Brigitte Simon 6–0 6–0; Olga Morozova 6–4 8–6; Dianne Fromholtz 2–6 6–3 8–6);
    • Italian Open, Rome (d. JoAnne Russell 6–1 6–2; Janet Newberry 6–2 6–1; Ivanna Madruga 3–6 6–1 6–4; lost semi-final to Tracy Austin 4–6 6–2 6–7(4–7))
Statistics: 71 of the 258 sets (or 28%) were 6–0. Only 8 of the 125 matches were three-setters. From the beginning of this run, Evert did not lose a set on clay in 1973 or between 1976 and 1978. She had runs of 76, 65, and 50 consecutive sets won during the streak.
That was an incredible break down, I think you for diligence. Amazing all the 6-0 sets she won, and many were over established players (Durr, Casals wow).
Thanks again, I think looking at that breakdown. knowing the time period and opponents, and the quality of the racquets gives Evert at least a shot of being the GOAT on clay. I am sure Steffi admires will think otherwise but still an incredible record. A clay achievement I doubt will ever be surpassed.
 
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