Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Now for a bit of the Red Stuff

The ATP and WTA tours make their way from across the pond to start the long arduous clay court season as the top players in the world prepare for Grand Slam number two in Paris.

We’ve had the blistering heat of down under, and we’ve had the desert and the beaches of Indian Wells and Miami, with a small dose of Dubai and the Middle East added to the mix, but it’s now time for the part of the season where everything slows down a notch, and we are entertained by the clay court masters.

If your just starting to get into tennis or are thinking of getting into it, I wouldn’t suggest tuning in for at least a couple more months, because clay court tennis is all about patience, endurance, and most importantly of all, how to slide.

The clay court season is a weird and wonderful animal because it never seems to actually end and there are players who play in the lower reaches of the game, who will play on the red stuff all year round and you’ll be sure to find plenty of tournaments still to come once the dust has settled, literally, and we have crowned the Men’s and Women’s French Open Champions.

That though is another topic for another day.

Looking ahead to the French Open, the main man to watch on the men’s side is without a doubt the world number one Rafael Nadal.

Now I know it’s the easy way out, to back the number one, but the man from Manacor gives a whole new meaning to word dominance when it comes to matches on clay.

In 173 clay court tour level matches, Nadal has lost just 14, picking up 22 titles, four straight French Opens and going on an open era record run of 81 straight wins on a single surface, beating the record of the great John McEnroe, who won 75 straight matches in a row on indoor hard courts.

As for the others to watch out for, Federer is always there or there about’s but has certainly not been at his imperial best so far this season and clay is by far his weakest surface. Nadal though is literally worlds apart from anyone else on clay and it would have to be considered a massive upset if anyone but Nadal was to pick up the trophy at Roland Garros next month.

As for the women, it’s the same answer as to who are Nadal’s closest challengers, the answer being anyone’s guess.

Since the retirement of Justine Henin, there has not been one dominant woman at the top of the women’s game.

Last year’s finalist Dinara Safina would, in my opinion, is the favourite in Paris. The Russian has only improved since losing her first grand slam final at the French Open last year, the opposite that could be said of the victor in that match Ana Ivanovic.

Safina, who became world number one herself earlier this month, will be closely watched by the Williams sisters who have always performed well on the clay, which is something that you cannot say for their male counterparts, who always struggle at this time of year.

The only thing that is for certain is that the player’s socks are going to get awfully dirty, and Nadal will win in Paris for the 5th time in a row. The rest is up to you to find out over this long, demanding clay court season.

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