Many of you may think that predicting the clay court tournaments are pointless, simply because Rafael Nadal wins almost all of them. True, Nadal will most likely go down as the best clay court player ever, but after 2 consecutive weeks of tournaments (Monte Carlo, Barcelona), Nadal could falter in Rome like he did in 2008. Rafa's lone clay court loss last year was to Juan Carlos Ferrero in Rome. Ferrero did get lucky because of Nadal's previous 2 weeks of work and blistering feet, but it's anyones guess as to whether that will happen again. Novak Djokovic took this title last year, then his play dropped a level the rest of the year, returning at the Masters Cup. Once again, Andy Murray was drawn to Nadal's side, while Djokovic was put on Federer's. Newly-wed Federer, who originally was not going to compete in Monte Carlo, played poorly in a 3rd round loss to Stanslas Wawrinka. Loyal Federer fans are forced to come up with new reasons every week of why Federer is struggling, but the tough times will most likely continue into Rome.
Nadal headlines this quarter, followed by his Davis Cup teammate, Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco and Nadal played 1 of the best matches ever witnessed 3 months ago at the Australian Open. That was on a hardcurt, and this time, it will most likely not give you goosebumps. Jo Wilfried Tsonga looks to be the next best bet to make a run, but he faces very tough competition early, as the Frenchman is matched up against Richard Gasquet first, and could face Nicholas Almagro after. James Blake, the 14th seed, will most likely not make any noise, as the American has struggled immensely this season.
Quarterfinal- Nadal def. Verdasco
Nikolay Davydenko has been injured for much of this season, but impressive results in Monte Carlo and Barcelona are looking like very positive signs. Davydenko gave Andy Murray quite a fight in their Monte Carlo quarterfinal, but was unable to capitalize on oppurtunities. Murray is the 4th seed here, and showed he has what it takes to play Nadal on clay. Murray's semi against the Spaniard in Monte Carlo looked good for the Brit. Barcelona semifinalis, Fernando Gonzalez, is the next highest seed in this quarter, and could definitely make a run to the semis. Marin Cilic could run into Murray in the Round of 16.
Quarterfinal- Murray def. Davydenko
Defending Champ Novak Djokovic is the 3 seed here, but is in jeopardy of losing his ranking to Murray. Djokovic has 1000 points to defend in Rome, whle Murray has barely any. Juan Martin del Potro is the 5th seed in this section, followed by the 1th seed, Stanislas Wawrinka. Wawrinka reached the final in Rome last year and reached the semifinal in Monte Carlo 2 weeks ago. Wawrinka played Djokovic in both of those matches, and went to 3 sets in both as well. The most anticipated 1st round match of the tournament will be in this quarter, as Tommy Robredo takes on Marat Safin.
Quarterfinal- Djokovic def. Wawrinka
Roger Federer was upset in the Round of 16 in Rome last year. He lost to Radek Stapenak in 2 tiebreak sets. Guess who Federer could meet in the round of 16 this year? Noneother than Stepanek. Federer has not won a title yet this year and has struggled wth his serve and forehand. He played a poor match in his loss to Stanislas Wawrinka in Monte Carlo, and fell apart against Novak Djokovic in Miami. Gilles Simon, who has also struggled, is the 8th seed in this section. David Ferrer, the 11th seed, is 1 of the best clay courters in the world, and had a fantastic tournament in Barcelona. Tomas Berdych could be a dangerous sleeper.
Quarterfinal: Ferrer def. Federer
Murray def. Nadal
Ferrer def. Djokovic
Murray def. Ferrer
Now, I'm off to enjoy the first beautful day of the year in Baltimore!