Filed by Steve Barrett
Plenty of tennis fans, me included, are awed by Spaniard Rafael Nadal’s win streak on clay courts. It’s 59 consecutive matches at this writing —; the most for any man in tennis history —; and I for one hope it’ll be 60 after he plays Roger Federer on Sunday in the finals of the French Open.
It takes the hardest work to win consistently on clay. It’s a slow surface, which makes for grueling rallies because players can run down more of their opponents’ shots than they could on faster surfaces such as concrete or grass.
I did a bit of research, though, and was reminded of a clay court streak even more impressive than Nadal’s. It is held by one Christine Marie Evert.
From 1973 through 1979, she won —; get this —; 125 straight matches on clay. That is more than double Nadal’s streak. It is, in fact, the longest by any man or woman on any surface.
But it gets better. After an extremely narrow three-set loss to good but troublingly perky Tracy Austin in 1979, Evert won her next 72 clay court matches, the Web site chrisevert.net points out. So even her second-best one-surface streak was 13 better than Nadal’s first.
Yes, the depth and competitiveness of the men’s game today is greater than in the women’s game in the 1970s and early ’80s. But Evert was facing battle-hardened foes including Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Evonne Goolagong and, yes, Austin, during that, the halcyon era of tennis. It wasn’t just Evert against a bunch of would-be runway models whacking backhands on the side.
If you think a 197-1 record on the toughest surface in tennis is not all that impressive, you might want to seek your sense of amazement from a different sport.
E-mail Steve Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org