Is Roger Federer an underrated clay-court player, as compared to what he has achieved and considering all the defeats against Rafael Nadal? The Swiss is unanimously considered an attacking tennis player, with a game of perfect tennis for grass-court and hard-courts and with good tennis on clay-courts, but less effective when compared with the other two playing surfaces.
And this is partly true. Federer has an attacking tennis player who prefers service, forehand and net games. But he is also a solid player from the baseline, and perhaps his performances on clay-courts have all too often been underrated.
The comparison is obviously Rafael Nadal. Roger Federer won a total of 11 titles on clay-courts, the Spaniard won 59. Considering the head-to-head on clay-courts, Nadal leads 14-2. Federer twice defeated Rafa on clay-courts, but there is one very important factor to consider: Nadal lost only 8 finals on clay-courts and a total of 38 matches on this surface.
The domination of the Spaniard on this surface is unprecedented. Think if Nadal had not been a tennis player: between 2005 and 2010 Federer could have obtained many more titles on clay-courts. In fact, often the excellent performances of the Swiss on clay-courts have been stopped by Nadal, who obviously took honors and glory.
In Nadal's Era, Federer nonetheless carved out an important space on clay-courts, and his performances were still dignified and, in my opinion, underestimated by many. Of the 38 matches lost on clay-courts by Nadal, among others, Novak Djokovic won 7, Dominic Thiem 4, Fabio Fognini and Gaston Gaudio 3, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and David Ferrer 2.
All those who managed to defeat Rafael Nadal on clay-court were able to achieve an extraordinary result, considering the domination of the Spaniard, and Roger Federer is certainly one of them.