Sunday, April 5, 2009

Buckle Up, It's time to get DIRTy

Looking back on the 8 consecutive months of hardcourt play, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Dinara Safina, Roger Federer and Vera Zvonareva collectively dominated, but now tht the clay season is upon us, it's a whole new game. On the men's circuit, Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid are the crucial tournamets that lead up to the French Open. For the women, Charleston, Stuttgart and Rome lead up to Roland Garros, where Ana Ivanovic triumphed in 2008. The clay season is a whole different game, with slides, longer points and grueling 5 hour matches. You don't see those things during the hardcourt season. (With the exception of a 5 hour 15 minute Aussie Open semifinal between 2 Spaniards, wink, wink.) Roger Federer has made a bold decision to skip Monte Carlo this year, which will cost a lot of points because of his runner-up showing there last year. Rafael Nadal will be the favorite for every clay tournament he enters, as he has won the French Open , Barcelona and Monte Carlo for 4 consecutive years. The Spaniard has won Rome 3 of the last 4 years. Federer has finished 2nd at Roland Garros for 3 straight years, Novak Djokovic won Rome in 2008 and reached the French Open semis the last 2 years, and Nikolay Davydenko has reached the semis in Paris once. Unlike the men's game on clay, where Rafa Nadal dominates everyone in his sight, the women's game is more mixed up. After Justine Henin retired in 2008, Ana Ivanovic replaced her as the queen of clay, but after the Serb's recent struggles, the safest picks look to be Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva. Williams won Charleston in 2008, Safina defeated Williams and Henin to win Berlin last year, and Dementieva reached the finals at Roland Garros in 2004. Nobody really knows whats going to happen in this next 2 months of dirt tennis, but one thing is for sure. It's going to be a wild ride.

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