Well we are officially in the clay court season as my new blog color suggests. If you look at the top bar where I changed the color you will also see a new tab called ‘Gallery‘ where I added photos from my blog since the beginning of 2014. I hope you like it and I will keep adding the images I use on my blog there as time passes. I also added the ‘Blog for me’ tab and updated just about all the other tabs so take a look. The first big clay event is only next week in Monte Carlo but already this week ATP 250 events are being played in Houston and Casablanca. I came up with the idea of making a kind of preview post of the clay court season while we are waiting for Monte Carlo to begin, as I don’t have much interest in Casablanca and Houston.
I think this coming clay court season will be interesting and important for several reasons:
1) Nadal’s confidence crises.
This is the first and foremost issue on most serious tennis fans’ minds going into the clay court season. Nadal has been going through a similar confidence crises Roger went through in 2013, ever since Wimbledon last year. Starting with Kyrgios he has lost to a string of low ranked players. It is difficult to compare the confidence problems of Fedal however because I think Nadal is now pretty much dependent on clay to find his confidence again, whereas for Roger he had more opportunities to regain his confidence given that he is a more complete and versatile player. If Nadal fails to do anything less than win the French Open this year he is in trouble.
I know it is not wise to ever write Nadal off but given the current situation you would think if he fails to win the French Open after only having ever lost there once before, it could really set him back. His slam winning days could be over. He will also drop out of the top five in the rankings for the first time since entering it in 2015 most likely. If he doesn’t win the French Open then how will he find his confidence again? It’s going to be hard to do on grass, on hard court, or indoors. And then it is another year before the next clay court season, and although you would never write his chances off to win in Paris for a long as he plays it will then get much harder for him.
So I think Nadal desperately needs to win the French Open after all the recent setbacks.
2) Djokovic’s quest for the career slam.
No doubt Djokovic is already one of the all time greats with eight grand slam titles. Right up there with Connors, Lendl, and Agassi in the open era. But he is still looking for that elusive French Open title which would give him the career slam. I am 99% sure he would have beaten Nadal in the 2011 final had God mode Fed not shown up against him in the semis. He also came awfully close in 2013 when he was a break up in the fifth set against Nadal. He must by now feel cursed in Paris and if he plays Nadal this year he may lose again. But he has also looked awfully good so far this year. It’s almost been 2011-like. And there is always the possibility that Nadal can be upset by the likes of Stan, Nishikori, or Dolgopolov.
He just has to catch someone on a good days like Soderling in 2009 and with his confidence still low he could be eliminated. Either way Djokovic has now won both of the last two slam finals he played in and he will believe that this is finally his year.
3) Federer’s packed clay court schedule.
Roger has of course added Istanbul to his clay court schedule this year and he is playing all three the Masters events. That is double the amount of clay court events he played in the last three years, and in the last two years he lost quarters and fourth round in Paris as well. And then of course last year he played that great match against Gasquet in the Davis Cup final to clinch the title for the Swiss. I think that match probably made him realize how good he can still play on clay and that his results on clay have been poor in the last few years by his own high standards. I don’t know if he will play all the clay events he is scheduled to play. Maybe he will skip Rome or Madrid if he does really well in the other events.
But it looks like he is looking to improve his result at the French Open this year and that he is taking the clay court season quite seriously. Remember last year he also sat Madrid out due to the birth of his twin sons which definitely affected his results. So I think this year he wants to play at least three warm up events for the French Open and try to make at least semis again at the French. He could also use the points after the third round loss in Melbourne. That was quite a big setback but hopefully Roger can make at least semis and regain his consistency at the slams. I wouldn’t look any further than that because after Melbourne that would already be a very encouraging result.
It would set him up well for the grass court season too.
So there it is. The three main reasons I think the clay court season will be very interesting this year. But those are definitely not the only reasons. I will also be eagerly following the progress with young Thiem who is currently training with Roger in Zurich. And then there is also the question of the effect that the clay court season will have on the grass court season and the rest of the year. I have already said that should Nadal fail to win the French Open he will probably keep struggling. If Djokovic wins the French Open he will still be in the running for the calender slam. I don’t think he will get it. I think winning the career slam will be hard enough. But if he fails to win the French he will be a serious threat at Wimbledon again.
Federer’s outfit for Monte Carlo/Istanbul/Madrid/Rome
Yes he will be a serious threat if he wins the French Open too, but that could take a lot of effort and the relief he may feel at finally winning it could open the door for someone like Roger to win a record eighth Wimbledon. The best scenario from my personal point of view would be if Djokovic wins the French and Roger wins Wimbledon. I just think Djokovic will win at least one of the French or Wimbledon, given how well he has been playing. And the worst scenario from my point of view would be if Nadal wins the French and Djokovic wins Wimbledon, with Roger missing out again. I am fans of both Roger and Djokovic, so I want Djokovic to get the career slam and Roger a record eighth Wimbledon.
Federer’s outfit for the French Open
And as far as Nadal goes he can just fade away. But yeah that is just my personal preference. Nadal could easily win a tenth French Open this year. But whatever happens there is no doubt that this clay court season could play a pivotal role in the careers of the big three. I am already looking forward to Monte Carlo where Djokovic, Roger, Nadal, Thiem, and most of the top 50 will be in action. You can view the entry list here. It should be a cracker!
The is in your court.