Men’s 2019 Clay Season Preview 5 Questions
Is Rafa Nadal going to win Roland Garros No.12?
Nadal has been back practicing on Clay while everyone else was getting all hot and sweaty in Miami.
Clay is kinder to Nadal’s much troubled knees and its where his aggressive baseline game is most effective. He’s got an abbreviated serve to help with his ankles and he’s got a more efficient game to help with the ageing process and all those factors coupled with his natural affinity for the red dirt mean he’s got to be the favorite for every clay event he enters until his first worrying performance says otherwise.
Nadal did not play his best clay tennis last year and still managed to win Roland Garros. He will need to be a lot better this year with Djokovic, his greatest Clay Court rival, back to his Grand Slam best. That’s the kind of challenge players like Nadal live for and a dynamic that makes this Clay season a little spicier than it has been in recent years.
Is Novak Djokovic going to win the Djoker slam 2.0?
Tennis is clearly all about the slams right now for Djokovic. It’s also about politics and motivation and staying healthy, but somehow it’s at the slams where Djokovic gets focused, hungry and fights through whatever’s bothering him physically.
Should Djokovic win the French, he’ll have held all four slams at once twice in his career (Wimbledon ’15-Roland Garros ’16 the first time). Only Rod Laver has done that before in men’s tennis, doing it twice in calendar years in ’62 and ’69.
Djokovic has a high chance of achieving that Djokerslam again. He’s won the last three slams, he’s virtually unbeatable over five sets, and he’ll have his entire schedule built around peaking for the first week in June.
How is Roger Federer going to fare in his Clay comeback?
The 2009 Roland Garros champion hasn’t played on Clay since Rome ’16 when he lost in the round of 16 to Dominic Thiem in straights.
This year, Federer’s scheduled to play Madrid and one would expect to see him at Roland Garros. It’s no farewell tour either- the aim is to not go into the Grass season cold like he did last year.
Federer winning Madrid would not be entirely out of the question. He’s won it twice in its current Clay guise, in 2009 and 2012, he’s just won Miami in a positive and healthy mindset and physical condition, his serve and style are perfect for lower bouncing faster Clay and he’s going to get an amazing welcome back reception.
Is Thierev going to become a big thing this Clay season?
Dominic Thiem, 25 and Sascha Zverev, 21, are certainly of age to be winning grand slams and if these two are ever going to compete with each other for a Major title, it’ll most likely be on Court Philippe Chatrier than on Center Court, Rod Laver or Arthur Ashe.
Thierev have come a long way since they first met on Clay in their ’16 Munich semis. Thiem is a Grand slam finalist and an ATP 1000 champ and Zverev is a three time ATP 1000 champ, a WTF winner, and a Grand slam quarter-finalist (Roland Garros ’18).
Clay is the surface both men broke out on and where they’ve played five of their seven matches (Thiem leads the h2h 5-2, 4-1 on Clay). Zverev has won arguably their biggest match, in the Madrid final ’18, the German’s serve and ground strokes setting him apart from his good friend and rival that day.
These two seem destined to contest a Roland Garros final sooner or later. Ranked 3 and 5 respectively, with Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer the other names in the top five right now, when the changing of the guard does take place, these two should be leading that long awaited takeover.
A glimpse of two of what lies ahead Thierev wise this Clay season will be most welcome. While their last two matches have been a little disappointing, they can produce the goods as they did in Nice ’16 and Rotterdam ’17.
Are there any Clay loving pros we should be keeping an eye on?
The Clay season has become predictable the last 14 years to put it mildly, but sooner or later, once Nadal and Djokovic hang up their rackets, a whole new set of potential champs and storylines will come to the fore.
For now, pay attention to Felix Auger-Aliassime, who has had a great run since Rio, Gael Monfils who seems back on track and has played some of his best tennis at Roland Garros, Diego Schwarzman who will be bring his fierce competitive nature every match, David Goffin who is the lurker no one will want to see in last 32, and Pablo Carreno Busta, the Spaniard who got his heart broken in Melbourne in that fifth set tiebreak vs Nishikori and who will be looking to piece it back together again on the European red dirt.
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