Thought I’d humor you with a post in Roger’s absence about my thoughts of the clay court season so far, which kicked off in Monte Carlo a few days ago. It is quarter final stage which will give us an idea who is doing what at the start of the clay court season. Having said that, only five of the top ten players in the world have shown up at this Masters Series event which players now have the option of skipping. Top clay court players like Federer, Del Potro and Davydenko is not in action this week. However, three of the top four players in the world have been in action, namely Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray. Murray lost his first match to Philip Kohlschreiber, which is not all that surprising given his form of late and the fact that he is not exactly a clay court specialist. It was yet another lackluster performance from Murray, losing 6-2, 6-1.
I don’t see Murray doing much damage during this clay court season at all. He has been in a slump since that loss to Federer in the Oz Open final, and I don’t see him coming out of it on the dirt, which is his worst surface. I think last season was about as good a season as we will ever see from Murray on clay, and you can expect this one to be worse. Next is Djokovic, who hasn’t exactly set the tennis courts on fire with his tennis this year so far either. So far in Monte Carlo he has had straight set wins over Florent Serra and Stan Wawrinka. It’s been pretty solid, but the real test will come in his next match when he comes up against the dangerous and resurgent David Nalbandian, who I am cheering for in Federer’s absence to win the tournament. He is just such a talented player who is great to watch when he is on form.
Yesterday he fought through a tough three set match against Mikael Youzhny to win the final set tie break, and today he had a straight set win over Tommy Robredo. He definitely has the talent to beat Djokovic, and for me this will be the match of the quarter finals. Then Nadal have lost only two games in two matches so far. Impressive stuff. Nadal will be very hungry to make up for the last ten months or so and will probably be the one to beat again on the dirt. Judging by what has transpired so far that seems to be the case anyway. It’s early days though. De Bakker and Berrer is not exactly clay court giants. We will get a better idea when he plays against tougher competition like for instance his next match. He now comes up against Juan Carlos Ferero, who had a pretty impressive South American clay court run before Indian Wells and Miami.
He also had an impressive win against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga today, winning 7-5 in the third set. Tsonga played a terrible first set, but started playing to his full potential, which is a lot of potential, in the second set. It was just too solid from Ferero in the end, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he beats some big names during the clay court season. Beating Nadal is another story though. Despite a dismal last ten months or so for Nadal, he must be the man to beat again from now until the final Sunday in Paris. I’m not saying he is a bigger favorite than Federer at this point. I just mean that he will be Federer’s toughest opponent, especially with Del Potro still out with injury as well. I don’t think it is just a question of Nadal being the favorite to make a clean sweep of the clay season as he did in previous years.
It could well happen, but he has pressure this year which he didn’t have in previous years, and Federer has less pressure. Nadal knows he really needs to make a clean sweep of this clay court season to resurrect his career, while Federer now has the French Open in the bag. This in itself puts a different spin on the clay court season compared to previous years. In previous years it was basically a given that Nadal would own the clay court season, but after what happened last year and what has transpired in the last ten months, it would be foolish to be that assured of Nadal’s dominance again. Looking at the rest of the draw in Monte Carlo, Verdasco had a good win over Berdych in a tough three set match. Verdasco now faces Montanes, who is at home on the dirt and upset fourth seed Marin Cilic in straight sets today.
I think Verdasco has a great chance to make the semi’s here. In the remaining quarter of the draw I was happy to see Ljubicic back in action after what seemed to be a pretty serious back injury he sustained in Miami. He lost in straight sets to David Ferrer though. Ferrer faces Kohlschreiber in the remaining quarter final. It looks like Nadal will pick up an amazing sixth straight title in Monte Carlo, but not before we see some more good match ups and tennis.
If you haven’t voted for Roger in the Time Magezine’s most influential people list, you can do so below. Roger is currently at number 89. Lets get him all the way up there at number one where he belongs! You can vote as many times as you like!