Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's Clay Court Time

I am really looking forward to the clay court season of this year’s tennis calendar. Matches on clay courts are probably not the most popular amongst tennis viewers, but I believe it invariably makes for enthralling tennis. This year’s clay court season is that much more attractive because of the competition that it promises to produce. With the advent of Novak Djokovic one could probably say that about all tournaments this year, but I believe it holds true particularly for the clay courts. The now familiar issue of whether Roger Federer will win the French Open is of course at the top of most tennis fans’ minds and as usual it makes the French Open worth looking forward to. But apart from Nadal who is by some distance the best clay court player in the circuit and no doubt the favourite to retain his title at Roland Garros, there are other barriers this time between Federer and the elusive French Crown.

It must be mentioned that the young Serb, Djokovic is going to be more than just a thorn in Federer’s quest for the French Open. He did reach the semifinals last year and his confidence is sky high after his conquest of Federer in
Melbourne earlier this year. He is a personal favourite of mine and I feel he has the potential to dominate men’s tennis for years to come. Andy Murray is another player whom I believe has it in him to be successful in the clay courts. He has a good all round game and with the help of Alex Corretja who he has hired as his coach, I would expect him to stand up with the best in this year’s French Open. The likes of David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet and David Nalbandian can also be more than a handful on their day.

It is also important to reflect on the fact that Federer has had a very poor 2008. He only recently won his first title of the year at the clay courts of Estoril and that too courtesy a retirement from Nikolay Davydenko in the finals. But then one must never lose sight of the fact that Federer is no mug on the clay courts. He in fact grew up playing on clay courts, which is something not known to many people. He has a great all round game which is well suited for the clay and his ever improving defensive game is likely to stand him in good stead come the French Open and all the other tournaments leading up to it. Unlike Sampras who never looked like winning the French Open, Federer would have achieved the same at least twice over by now if not for Nadal. It’s probably a bit too early to make predictions for the French Open considering that the Monte Carlo Masters tournament has just begun and that the Hamburg Masters is still to be played. Having said that I am going to stick my neck out and predict that Federer is going to lift his 13th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros on June 8, 2008.

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