A counterargument to Nadal's top 10 record on hardcourt

Someone posted this earlier, and it's a telling stat:

Rafael Nadal has a negative W/L record against top 10 players on HC

Djokovic 158-57 (73.5%)

Federer 161-78 (67.4%)

Murray 79-57 (58.1%)

Nadal 69-70 (49.6%)

But what exactly is it telling?

That Nadal is an inferior player on hardcourt to the other three?

To Djokovic and Federer, certainly, but to Murray? I don't know.

Or that Nadal on hardcourts is worse than Federer & Djokovic on clay?

Again, I don't know about that. Nadal has 5 hardcourt slams in 30 tries (17%), and 10 Masters in 74 attempts (14%). Federer has 1 clay slam in 18 tries (6%) and 6 clay Masters in 45 tries (13%). Djokovic has 1 clay slam in 16 tries (6%) and 10 clay Masters in 38 tries (26%).

We can certainly say Djokovic is better in bo3 clay than Nadal is in bo3 hardcourt, and we can also certainly say Nadal is better where it matters more: bo5 hardcourt over their bo5 clay. Federer isn't superior in either aspect.

Now, back to the Top 10 issue:

https://preview.redd.it/3nswzpm570y51.png?width=258&format=png&auto=webp&s=c185f0991ccaa51d4d728478a1c175a52ff800dc

Given that Nadal's form and fitness spread thinner on hardcourt over 6 months and 6 Masters, while Federer & Djokovic get the luxury of concentrating form and fitness on clay for only 2 months and 3 clay Masters, it's logical to see why they have slightly better—but not meaningful—top 10 records on clay.

Federer: 32-29 (52.5%)
Djokovic: 41-31 (56.9%)

It's not a violent difference. It's minute. And given that they don't even play all 3 clay Masters in most years, you can see why they're getting minutely cushioned in the numbers.

Furthermore, top 10 players are not always top 10 players on clay, given that most ranking points are won on hardcourt. You'd have to look into clay ELO rankings to get a better idea of what the actual case is. So, when Djokovic beat #8 Tsitsipas in Madrid in the first week of May 2019, it wasn't really speaking of a top 10 win on clay given that Tsitsipas was #51 on clay ELO in that week (Source: Ultimate Tennis Statistics).

Don't fall for superficial, headline stats. Always look underneath.

Nadal has the highest win% despite his favorite surface being only played 2 months out of 9 every year. That looks bad on them, not Nadal. They get hardcourt 6 months a year, and still can't open up a significant gap.

We already knew Federer & Djokovic were better hardcourt players, so we're not really learning anything from the stat at the top of the page; given his knee management issues, it's not surprising he hasn't managed to maintain his form over hardcourt—the worst surface for lower body injuries—for entire calendar years, unlike them.

But we know his peak level is better than all bar 2 guys, which is why he has 5 hardcourt slams and Murray only 1. He's still the only man to beat the hardcourt GOAT in 2 hardcourt slam finals and won his hardcourt slam set beating the 2 best hardcourt players: Federer for AO (once), Djokovic for USO (twice).

submitted by /u/CP230391
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