Madrid Open Review How Did Four Tennis Stories Play Out?

Nadal Thiem

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The Madrid Open gave tennis fans four stories to follow this season featuring Rafa Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray– here is how those stories played out.

Nadal the heavy favorite in the event he is least likely to win

If you are going to beat Rafa Nadal on Clay, Madrid is the place to do it, the Spaniard more vulnerable in the faster conditions, and the fourth seed’s draw was lined up with potential spoilers- Fabio Fognini in round 2, Nick Kyrgios in round 3, David Goffin in the quarters, Novak Djokovic in the semis, and Dominic Thiem, the most in-form player in the top half, in the final.

Draws do not often play out as scheduled, or predicted, but this one did, and Nadal rose to the challenge, arguably his biggest one, draw wise, this season. The Spaniard needed close to three hours to see off Fognini in three sets, and handled Kyrgios, Goffin, Djokovic, and Thiem all in straights on his way to his 15th consecutive win, his third title in a row, a record 5th Madrid title, his 52nd Clay court title overall, (another record), and equaling Djokovic for the record of most ATP 1000 titles with 30.

The most historic record of them all is still to come- La Decima Part three at Roland Garros- and Nadal’s charge through a difficult draw in Madrid makes him even more of the heavy favorite to achieve that milestone with only a red-lining Dominic Thiem executing pitch perfect controlled aggression or his own body compromised by a grueling clay campaign looking likely to get the better of him.

Thiem Time

Tournament by tournament in the 2017 Clay court season, Thiem has stepped up his game – last sixteen in Monte Carlo, final in Barcelona, final in Madrid- and while Madrid was not the breakthrough many hoped for, his final appearance is his best result at the top of men’s tennis and helped the youngest member of the ATP top ten climb back up his career high No.7 ranking.

Thiem beat Jared Donaldson in round two, Grigor Dimitrov in a third set breaker in round three, avenged his Miami defeat to Borna Coric in the last eight, and defeated one of the tour’s strongest clay courters Pablo Cuevas in the semis in straights before taking Rafa Nadal to a first set tiebreaker in the final which he narrowly lost 8-10 before losing a closely contested second set 4-6.

Performing well in big finals is a positive sign that Thiem has what it takes to take over once Nadal and his fellow ATP 1000 and Slam haulers hang up their rackets, and the more he takes his chances in these kinds of draws, beating the players he should beat and pushing those he might not be quite ready to yet defeat, the closer Thiem will get to finally breaking through. As for now, the door is ajar, and the fight the Austrian put up for 2 hours and 17 minutes in Madrid versus Nadal suggests that while it may not exactly be Thiem time, the countdown has certainly begun.

Journey to the Island Djokovic 

Djokovic fired his whole coaching team before the Madrid Open and in his first outing with just his guru Pepe Imaz and brother Marco supporting him courtside, the Serbian achieved his best finish in the four big events (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Madrid) he has contested this season, going all the way to the semis.

The second seed was helped a little into the last four by the withdrawal of Kei Nishikori from their last eight match, but that also hindered Djokovic a little when it came to progressing further- he needed match practice, and a victory over Nishikori, achievable considering the match up and Nishikori’s tendency to under-perform in those types of matches, might have spurred him on to taking Nadal to three, maybe even capitalizing on the nerves Nadal showed serving out for the match.

That late second set resistance in Madrid versus Nadal showed us that while externally Djokovic’s camp might have been culled, internally, the fighting spirit which got him to where he was back at Roland Garros ’16 in the first place is still burning, just waiting to be stirred back to life.

djokovic nadal

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Murray and his first ATP 1000 title of the season

Murray won one match in Madrid, a straight setter over wild card Marius Copil before Borna Coric took him down 6-3, 6-3 in the last 16. Murray expressed concern over the loss at arguably his best clay court event, a loss in which in his own words he did very little to change his losing strategy until it was far too late.

Murray’s honest appraisal of his performance is encouraging with Rome coming up, the place where he gave us the first sign he was ready to mount a serious challenge to Djokovic for the world No.1 ranking. A year on, while Murray’s place at the top of the rankings looks safe for the near future, Rafa Nadal is leading the race to London by some way and if the Spaniard keeps gaining points in Rome and Roland Garros and Murray keeps losing them, Murray may find himself in Djokovic’s shoes last Autumn, plummeting from the top while an old rival shoots past him.

If Murray can take stock and made effective changes to his current game, and start playing like the current world No.1 and not just sitting by as the year-round one, tennis will have a narrative it has yet to have from the Big Four- Nadal and Murray engaged in a battle for No.1, another twist in tennis’ blockbuster tale which, like its protagonists on their best days, never quits running.

 

The Tennis Review

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Rome ATP 1000 Preview Who Needs A Strong Roman Run and Who Needs a Holiday?

Rome

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The final clay ATP 1000 event of the season is here, the Rome Masters, and the last chance for many of the pros to get some last week match play and confidence before Roland Garros. However, at the end of a long clay stretch, some players may need more of a Roman holiday than more hours spent sliding in the red stuff. The Tennis Review looks at which players could do with going deep on the dirt and which ones might need to brush themselves down and take a little rest.

In Need of a Deep Run

Andy Murray

The defending champion came back to the tour earlier than his anticipated Madrid comeback from injury so while his results may have been less than befitting of the world No.1, he does, at least, have more match play under his belt than had been expected.

Nevertheless, the Scot lacks the kind of wins needed to boost his confidence at a time he is struggling to re-motivate himself after his exhausting efforts to become the last of the Big Four to become the Big One. Murray was knocked out of his Monte Carlo third round by Albert Ramos Vinolas, lost a tough three setter to Dominic Thiem in the Barcelona semis, and was beaten by Borna Coric in the Madrid round of 32.

That Coric loss was especially worrying for Murray who felt that at least against Thiem he had put up a contest whereas versus Coric he did not change his losing strategy until it was too late.

Murray is going to have to be on his toes from the very first ball in his Rome opener versus Fabio Fognini who has the game to rob you of your rhythm and has been the player to give Nadal the hardest time over his dominant clay season.

If Murray manages Fognini, he could meet the very match fit Munich champion Sascha Zverev in the last 16, and defeating those two back to back would definitely leave him feeling a lot better going into a potential last eight clash with either Milos Raonic or Tomas Berdych, both of whom he matches up well against, before a semi final against whoever emerges from the very open quarter led by that most inconsistent duo of Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic.

The further Murray goes in Rome, the more dangerous he gets, and with a potentially tired Nadal and Thiem losing before the final, tennis fans could be presented with a repeat of last year’s final, Murray versus Djokovic, but one seen from a very  different angle this time, not their best sides as shown off last year, but their less photogenic ones, the ones who suffered early defeats in Melbourne and have yet to play an ATP 1000 final all season, sides which, given the chance could be turned round once again, to show once more the big title winning profile becoming of the world’s very best players.

Novak Djokovic

This will be Djokovic’s second event out on his own, and he can take some comfort from his Madrid run in which he beat Nicolas Amalgro in three sets, Feliciano Lopez in two, and then played Nadal a close second set in his semi-final loss.

Djokovic could face the in form Aljaz Bedene in the second round, and has a tough potential last 16 match versus either Nick Kyrgios, who has beaten him twice this season, Gilles Simon, who came close to beating him in Monte Carlo, Roberto Bautista Agut, who gave him nightmares in Roland Garros last season, or Pablo Carreno Busta who has been going under the radar this season and is ranked seventh in the race to London.

Another early exit or a heavy loss to a rival, which could be on the cards if Nadal and Djokovic meet in the Rome semi as scheduled, will not be too disastrous for the second seed- Roland Garros is a different game altogether with its five set format and the Serbian’s status as defending champion. which is worth a few free points here and there, but the Roland Garros draw could deal Djokovic a tough hand and it would help the defending champ if he could get some confidence boosting wins in Rome before going back to the venue of where he ended a perfect 12 months and started what has turned out to be a sudden and shocking slump.

Kei Nishikori

Nishikori did appear in Madrid after having to pull out of Barcelona, but he withdrew before his match versus Djokovic in the quarters.

The Japanese, who has played just two matches since Miami, is drawn to play the Serbian again in the Rome last eight, and he will do well to get that far with a potential second round versus David Ferrer or Feliciano Lopez and a last 16 versus potentially Juan Martin del Potro, Grigor Dimitrov, Kyle Edmund or Joao Sousa.

Nishikori’s career has been, down to physical injuries and mental struggles, one of stops and starts, but, aged 27, he still has, in the age of tennis players still winning big in their 30s, plenty of time to get going again. A strong run in Rome, if his body and mind can handle it, which looks promising after the seventh seed said in his recent Rome presser his wrist is feeling better and he can hit with more power, would certainly make things easier for him for now, though. The Japanese has a much better clay court game than a grass one, and with his best stretch of the season, the US hard court one, not far off, some strong performances and tightly contested matches in Rome could set him up nicely for Roland Garros and then, fingers crossed, a healthy breakthrough US Summer Swing.

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro will play only his second clay court tournament in 2017 in Rome, and the 2009 US Open champion was, once again in 2017, not cut much slack in the draw department, coming up against tenth seed Grigor Dimitrov, who took Dominic Thiem to a final set tiebreaker in Madrid,  in his opener.

Clay is arguably a better surface for del Potro than it is for Dimitrov, whose single handed backhand is vulnerable to attack from as big a forehand as del Potro’s. If the Argentine can pull off the upset, things will not get any easier with Kyle Edmund ,whose forehand is one of the better clay court weapons out there, a possible second round encounter, and then Kei Nishikori, David Ferrer, or Feliciano Lopez in the last sixteen. But for a man who has gone through both professional and personal struggles this year, the prospect of such a draw will not frighten him off, if anything it will spur him on to turn his 2017 around and get it off the ground.

In Need of a Holiday

Rafa Nadal

Nadal heads the ATP Singles Race this week with 4, 735 points, 690 points more than Federer, and 2,650 points more than third placed Dominic Thiem.

That lead comes on the back of three titles and three other finals, a run which has also seen him win his last 15 matches.

At the age of 31 and with arguably the most important slam of his career two weeks away, Nadal might need a bit of rest or risk becoming a victim of his own success on the Roland Garros Clay.

Dominic Thiem

Thiem has cut down on his schedule in 2017, and it has paid off. The Austrian, ranked 7 after his Madrid final appearance, has made an ATP 500 and an ATP 1000 final rather than cleaning up at 250s, getting some valuable big match experience in the process, defeating world No.1 Andy Murray and playing the greatest clay courter of all time in finals before his home crowd.

Thiem does not want to peak though before Roland Garros where he has semi final points to defend. If Thiem is feeling a little fatigued after his finals in Barcelona and Madrid, Pablo Cuevas might be the one to take advantage in a possible replay of their Madrid semi in the Rome last 32.

While that loss would not be what Thiem or his Fans would want, Thiem himself would at least be able to take advantage of some hard earned rest before trying to make the next step in what is proving to be a very promising career.

The Tennis Review

 

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Mutua Madrid Open 2017 Final Preview Rafa Nadal Versus Dominic Thiem

Nadal Thiem

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Tennis’ Clay King Rafa Nadal (4) goes up against its Prince, Dominic Thiem (8), in the Mutua Madrid 2017 final. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

The 2017 tennis season has seen two striking story-lines grab headlines- the revival of Fedal, and the next in line, the likes of Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, stepping up their careers.

Thiem, aged 23,  does not belong to the #NextGenATP, aged between 19 and 22, he belongs to the tennis class year above, the one he leads and made up of Jack Sock, Bernard Tomic and Lucas Pouille, a Generation overshadowed by the one above them, of Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov, and eclipsed by the Big Four, the quartet refusing to give up their seats at the front of the tennis Grand Slam school bus.

With Raonic, Nishikori and Dimitrov hitting the odd high but mostly struggling with the lows of injuries and slumps, with only David Goffin from their year looking like he might be healthy enough to fulfill his potential, Thiem and his class, and the Next Gen, have moved up a gear, with Thiem leading the way, the youngest member of the top ten, the first of his gen to contest a slam semi, and now the first to reach an ATP 1000 final.

Thiem

Photo courtesy of eluniverso.com

Fittingly, in his biggest match yet, Thiem, the best 20-something  clay courter out there right now, will meet the best clay courter ever, Rafa Nadal.

The Spaniard has, like Roger Federer this season, put an injury ridden 2016 behind him, and turned back the tennis clock to the days when he ruled not just the clay, but the ATP tour, too, the Spaniard, contesting, in Madrid, his 6th final this season, and due to lead the Race to London whatever happens in Madrid.

Whatever happens will be a remarkable result. If Nadal wins, he would have won three clay events in a row, the 52nd of his career, his 30th ATP 1000 crown, and be, potentially, in the middle of putting together, aged 31 and twelve years after he started putting together such runs, one of the most successful clay runs ever.

If it really is Thiem Time, and the Austrian can pull of a famous win, then we can say Thiem really has arrived at the top of men’s tennis, an ATP 1000 champion, a feat Nishikori, Dimitrov, and Raonic have not managed, and the kind of achievement that could give him the confidence to step up his game one more time at Roland Garros in just over a fortnight.

Thiem certainly looks ready. The Austrian, coming in on the back of losing to Nadal in the Barcelona final, fought off match points to beat Grigor Dimitrov, avenged his Miami loss to Borna Coric, and defeated Pablo Cuevas in straight sets.

Thiem will need to be ready, too- Nadal is playing his best tennis of the season, coming through a shaky close to three hour opener versus Fognini to then go on and defeat Nick Kyrgios, David Goffin, and Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

While Nadal’s form versus Djokovic suggests he is feeling on top of his game and unlikely to be stopped in his tracks by an ATP 1000 final rookie, if Thiem is going to break through on his best surface, there is no clay court better to do it at than Madrid. Nadal has won the title ‘ just’ three times since its clay overhaul in 2009, the faster conditions leaving him vulnerable to players executing world class attacking tennis, and those who have beaten him in Madrid- Roger Federer, Fernando Verdasco, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray- are as good as it gets.

Thiem has the game to join them- the Austrian knows how to use his powerful forehand, one handed backhand and transition game to attack Nadal, as he displayed in his 2016 win over him in Buenos Aires, and take time away from him, to stop Nadal getting into a rhythm, to thwart him exploiting the less time Thiem will have to set up his shots, and to prevent the Spaniard attacking his backhand with heavy top spin.

Knowledge, though, is one thing, execution is another. Nadal and the crowd are going to put  a lot of pressure on the 23 year old, who can over-hit when the pressure is on, and Nadal’s experience is likely to be the decisive factor in an encounter which will be for Thiem his biggest match yet and his first day on the ATP 1000 finals job, for the Spaniard, another day at the Big Match office.

Prediction: Nadal to win a tough contest, one which will strengthen his bid for La Decima Part three at Roland Garros even further, and one which will teach Dominic Thiem some invaluable lessons on his way to taking over from Nadal as the Clay Court King further down the line.

The Tennis Review

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Mutua Madrid Open ATP Preview Four Stories to Follow

Mutua Madrid

Photo courtesy of ponturi-bune.ro

This season’s 2nd Clay ATP 1000 event gets underway this week, the Mutua Madrid Open, and there are plenty of story-lines to follow as tennis’ top players try to get their games in the best possible shape in the lead in to Roland Garros. The Tennis Review previews four of those stories starring Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem.

Journey to the Island Djokovic 

Defending champion Djokovic added another twist to his post Djoko Slam career when he announced prior to Madrid he had let his coaching team go.

Going from having one of the most stable and experienced coaching teams around featuring the likes of Boris Becker and Marian Vajda to going it alone is a transition Djokovic hopes will shock him back into title winning action.

The Serb certainly needs a change- he has not won a title since Doha or even been to another final, and since winning Roland Garros last year, he has won just two titles (Toronto, Doha).

A change is as good a holiday, they say, and after winning four slam titles in a row even tennis Gods need a break, so just how will the climate be on Island Djokovic?

Djokovic will be looking to escape the stormy unpredictability of recent times for sunny, calm conditions, and he will need to be at his serene, positive best if he is going to defeat Tommy Robredo or Nicolas Amalgro in his opener, Gael Monfils or Gilles Simon in the round of 32, Kei Nishikori in the quarters, Rafa Nadal in their projected semi-final and then potentially Andy Murray. Dominic Thiem or Stan Wawrinka in the final.

Murray and his first ATP 1000 title of the season

Murray is still world No.1 by 3,785 points so he can afford an early exit in Madrid, which is a likely possibility with the draw putting the 2015 champion and last year’s runner-up up against the in-form Dominic Thiem, who beat him in three sets in Barcelona, in the last eight.

Murray will have a better chance this time around, though. Madrid’s relatively fast clay conditions suit Murray’s counter-punching skills which  means he will be able to make things more awkward for the powerful Austrian this time around.

A win versus Thiem could be the one which gets Murray’s stop and start 2017 going again, and spur him onto the a first ATP 1000 title for the season, the kind of titles he will need to start collecting if he wants to sit at the top all the way to another season ending No.1 finish.

Nadal the heavy favorite in the event he is least likely to win

Madrid, and its previous incarnation Hamburg has been the clay event Nadal has, during his reign as tennis’ dominant clay courter, been least likely to win, due to the faster conditions. Those conditions have, however, only hindered the Spaniard a little with Nadal still taking the trophy three times in Madrid and twice in Hamburg.

This year, the Spaniard has an awkward draw with Fabio Fognini potentially in round two, Nick Kyrgios in round three, a possible Monte Carlo rematch with David Goffin in the last eight, Djokovic in the semis, and Murray, who beat him in Madrid the last two years, in the final.

Tough as it may look on paper, Nadal is in better form than all of those players, and is the favorite to take the title, but if he is going to be stopped this clay court season, then Madrid is the place most likely, and the draw has placed some of the players most likely to in his way.

Thiem Time

Nadal’s tough draw, Murray’s rustiness, Djokovic in new territory, no Federer- this really is the time for Dominic Thiem to make a statement that he and his generation are ready to take on the tennis establishment at the very top of the game, and he has a great draw to do so at an event which, as a qualifier, he scored his first big win versus Stan Wawrinka in the 2014 round of 32.

Three years on, and seeded eighth, Thiem has come a long way since ’14, and this could be the event at which he takes another step further in his career, an ATP 1000 semi or better, with a potential third round with out of sorts Grigor Dimitrov, the vulnerable Murray in the last eight, one of the unpredictable duo of Wawrinka or Cilic in the semis, and a struggling Djokovic or Nadal, at the clay court tournament he is most likely to lose at, in the final.

Timing is everything in tennis, and with Thiem’s timing on his strokes as good as they have ever been, this is the time for Thiem to slide across the clay into his first ATP 1000 final and  compete for his biggest title yet.

The Tennis Review

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Roger Federer Tennis God Full Time Style Icon On the Side Top Ten Looks

Federer fashion

Photos courtesy of MarketingdelosDeportes.com

Roger Federer has not just been hitting the headlines in the tennis world with his wins at the Australian OpenIndian Wells and Miami– the Swiss star has also been gracing the world’s fashion pages with his recent GQ feature and turning heads at the Met Gala in his King Cobra tux. The Tennis Review celebrates Federer’s championship form, both on and off court, with a review of his top ten looks. 

1. Young Punk

federer

Photo courtesy of worldwidechat.com

Baseball cap back to front, baggy shorts, and a scowl at tennis not going his way, Federer is just another tennis kid punk impatient to make his mark on a game he still needs to grow into. The Federer who threw his racket and shed tears, the one Federer would have to defeat just like his rivals if he was ever going to realize a talent and soothe a temper only a tennis brat like the real baby Federer could get away with.

2. Dashing No.1

federer

Photo courtesy of federermagicblogspot.com

Federer did defeat his inner tennis brat, and bloomed into a dashing no. 1,  pictured above looking dapper in black, a color which makes him look even leaner than he already is, and compliments his slick jet black locks. Befitting of a fashion icon in the making, Federer gets the accessories right, too, with a matching black watch strap.

3. Tennis’ Golden Boy

Federer fashion

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

During Wimbledon ’08, Federer wore his personalized Nike RF label embroidered in Gold on a classic cardigan, a fitting outfit for the then five time defending champion of tennis’ most traditional tournament, tennis’ very own Golden Boy.

Alison Van der Lande, luxury tennis bag designer, gives her view on Federer’s look:

Federer is always so beautifully styled and groomed pre and post match, no matter how many sets! His self presentation is obviously a key element to his approach to the game and looking good helps to mentally boost his positive approach to the match ahead. This is also reflected throughout his wardrobe both on and off court. The gold detail on his jacket/cardigan is key, gold is the winner’s color….. he was going out to win!

4. Boy Next Door

federer

Photo courtesy of fanpop.com

When Federer is not creating history and fashion, he needs to relax and get his creative juices going again, and few sports idols can look quite as chilled when pondering world domination as Federer does in the above photo lying on a hammock.

The Swiss’ clothes basic and loose, his hair tidy on the sides, a little ruffled on top, Federer looks every inch the boy next door, but only if you live in Hollywood and the boy next door is 6 ft 1 inches all movie star top model.

5. Call Me Federer. Roger Federer.

Federer

Photo courtesy of http://tintuconline.com.vn

Talking of movie stars, Federer gave a few a run for their money when he turned up looking dapper as Bond at the 2016 Oscars, stealing the movie star show in much the same way he has the tennis one.

Federer can also add a bit of bite to the 007 look- check out the clip of him below wearing a Gucci tux with an embroidered crystal King Cobra on the back at the recent Met Gala.

6. Down to Earth Sunday Hit.

federer

Photo courtesy of earnthenecklace.com

Life cannot be all play when you are arguably the Greatest of all time. There’s plenty of practice to be done in order to settle that debate once and for all and Federer is as quick as anyone to put on some shorts and t-shirts and get out to work.

When Federer hits the practice courts, he does not wear any old t-shirt, though – this very modern tennis legend wears t-shirts with an emoji of his own face on them.

7. Smouldering Sex Symbol

Federer

Photo courtesy of http://smasoku.blog.jp

Clean-cut, check.

Punky look, check.

Long locked pretty boy, check.

Where do you go when you have pretty much done it all? How about Smouldering sex symbol five O’clock shadow look? Federer’s beard nearly overshadowed his impressive straight sets defeat of Novak Djokovic at the 2015 WTF, and you can see why from the above picture.

8. Men’s Fashion Icon.

Federer’s 21st century icon status was once again celebrated by his feature in GQ magazine celebrating his status as the most stylish man on earth and reminding us  how he looks just as good in expensive tailored outfits as he does in his tennis kit.

9. Mid 30s Grand Slam Champion

Black and white is as classic a fashion color combo as Federer’s smart serve and first strike tennis is a classic tennis style, and Federer did both styles more than justice on his run to the Australian Open ’17 title.

10. ATP Tour Race Leader and Three Time Sunshine Double Winner.

federer

Photo courtesy of twitter.com

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Federer has continued his winning ways in 2017, winning the Sunshine double, and kept on his Australian Open tennis kit pattern, too. The color was changed, of course, to match the Miami and Indian Wells tennis court side Green, the kind of deft touch you would expect from Federer, a man as gifted in his fashion sense as he is with his hands at the tennis net.

The Tennis Review is offering readers a 10% discount on Alison van der Lande‘s luxurious tennis bags ( see pic below). Check them out out here. Use code TENNISC1 when you email your order to info@alisonvanderlande.co.uk quoting promo code TENNISC1 and add some style and beauty into your tennis life this Spring. 

Tennis style

Photo courtesy of Alison van der Lande

 

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Rafa Nadal Wins Monte Carlo La Decima Part One is Done

Nadal Monte Carlo

Photo courtesy of NWZonline.com

Rafa Nadal’s Monte Carlo Rolex Masters trophy win was a historic moment for the Spaniard and tennis, the fourth seed becoming the first man to win La Decima – ten men’s singles titles at a tournament – a moment big enough, luckily for men’s tennis, to cover up the cracks in an event beset by big upsets both inside and beyond the baseline. 

How promising it all looked on paper. Nadal’s run to a historic tenth Monte Carlo trophy was drawn to be the kind which, had it delivered, would have gone down in tennis folklore as a real odyssey retold around the fireside for years to come.

The first chapter versus Kyle Edmund, a player with a forehand built for clay, the match up with the least expectations leading into it, turned out to be the one most worthy of staying up for.

The second chapter looked like it was worth stocking up on coffee for, too. In the last 16, the draw scheduled, and delivered  in the sense that both men walked onto the court, a Nadal match versus Sascha Zverev, against whom Nadal had battled over five sets on his run to the Australian Open final. The match, however, was served up cold and unappetizing to anyone but the most fervent Nadal fans, the Spaniard giving Zverev a 20th birthday double bread-stick when the young German, his fans, and neutrals had hungered for generous helpings of cake.

Under the weight of Nadal’s return to clay court mastery, the rest of his draw seemed to fall apart, a quarter-final clash against Grigor Dimitrov, another Melbourne five setter rematch,  failing to materialize, the Bulgarian sliding back into one of his slumps rather than through the red clay into a one handed backhand winner. Instead, the Spaniard took on Diego Schwartzman, a growing clay court talent, scraping by in a sluggish straight setter late in the day, the Spaniard’s game worryingly blunt early on in sets, but sharpened wisely when matters reached a business end.

A semi-final versus a struggling Novak Djokovic, a first Nadal victory since Roland Garros ’14 on the cards, caved in to a semi-final versus David Goffin, a player pumped up after a career best win over the Serb, primed to turn Nadal’s run to la Decima part one into the bulky page turner Nadal fans had been hoping for, the match to give his charge to La Decima some real weight.

That potential thriller is now doomed to be retold as a horror story round the fire, the umpire Cedric Mourier taking it on himself to play the villain, recklessly and needlessly spilling blood on the clay, and not just Goffin’s, but spectators and armchair fans, too, who had been enjoying the early fireworks, Goffin getting off to the best possible start versus Nadal, the Belgian fighting through an eleven minute game, consolidating an early break to go 4-2 up in the first set after a Nadal shot was correctly called long by a line judge.

As Nadal accepted the call and got ready to serve and get back to business, Mourier descended from his chair, unprovoked by Nadal or the line judge, turning the stadium into an inferno, calling the shot long, circling what he thought was the mark before a disbelieving Goffin, calling the point to be replayed. Five minutes later, boos bombing the court with every Nadal point won where there should have been fireworks bursting and oohs and aahs, the Spaniard broke back for 3-3 and a shell-shocked Goffin won just one more game.

If Nadal’s draw had been an unfair asterisks on his run to La Decima, worse was to come in the form of criticism Nadal could have given the point to Goffin. Nadal, however, on the other side of the court and blind to the mark, left that responsibility to those whose job it is to decide such things. Two wins away from La Decima, Nadal was too busy contending with Goffin, an opponent on a mission, and not worrying about the damage an umpire was doing to his own reputation and to his opponent’s psyche, Nadal, killer instinct ever ready to ignite, smelling the blood spilling from Goffin and pouncing, displaying the kind of mental toughness and survival skills that get you within two wins of La Decima in the jungle that is men’s tennis.

Goffin

Photo courtesy of www.VestiMK.com

That mental toughness and those survival skills took Nadal all the way to the final, but not the final that many thought worthy of deciding La Decima part 1. That final was supposed to have been versus Stan Wawrinka, one of the best big match players around, one of just five multiple slam champs on tour, a fitting obstacle for a slice of tennis history. Instead, this final was to be played against a an ATP 1000 final debutante, and a countryman, the kind of opponent Nadal overwhelms in big matches like an ATP 1000 final, and, in one of the most historic matches of his career, Nadal gladly let history repeat itself, defeating Albert Ramos-Vinolas, a man with the form, fight and forehand to bother him, but who Nadal reduced to a 6-1, 6-3 defeat in 76 minutes.

Six months after that painful last sixteen US Open loss to Lucas Pouille, when he had been once again on the comeback from injury, Nadal achieved what no male player, not even Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Rod Laver or Jimmy Connors, players to rival his longevity at the top, managed to achieve- La Decima, the first of a trio of potential La Decimas, Barcelona the next in line, then last but far from least, the third, La Decima at Roland Garros.

The Spaniard was unable to tell his first piece of La Decima history Federer fairy tale style, the draw collapsing like a deck of cards as his rivals battled more clay hardened rivals, injuries, and themselves, Murray losing from two breaks up in the third, Djokovic on the losing end of a tight three setter, Wawrinka upset in straights, Cilic losing from a break up in the decider. Nadal, meanwhile, made sure his La Decima did not turn into a nightmare, picking up a deck of cards landing more clumsily in the dirt than fans had hoped for, and with all the smarts and skills suiting a man on the verge of clay court and tennis history, spreading the cards out to reveal a red and gold peacock train, the upsets inside and beyond the baseline now hidden from view, all eyes instead on Nadal’s 50th clay court title, his tenth Monte Carlo trophy, La Decima.

The Tennis Review

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Does Ramos-Vinolas Have A Chance Vs Nadal in the Monte Carlo Final?

Ramos Vinolas

Photo courtesy of http://minkara.carview.co.jp

Albert Ramos-Vinolas (15) will be the underdog in his Monte Carlo ATP 1000 final versus Rafa Nadal (4), but the final is unlikely to be a walk in the park for the defending champion. The Tennis Review gives you five reasons Ramos-Vinolas has got plenty of bite to hurt the nine time Champion one match away from La Decima part 1.

Ramos-Vinolas has a match winning shot in his forehand

Ramos-Vinolas is a lefty like Nadal and when the two go forehand to forehand, their strongest wings will be going up against each other.

Ramos Vinolas is not afraid to takes risks on his forehand side in big moments and if Nadal hits his forehand short, the fifteenth seed is no stranger to stepping inside the court and punishing that weakness.

Ramos-Vinolas is on a career great run

Ramos-Vinolas has beaten top seed Andy Murray, coming back from two breaks down in the third, fifth seed Marin Cilic, coming from a break down in the decider, and came back from losing the second set to a pumped eleventh seed Lucas Pouille to command the final set.

Ramos-Vinolas is unlikely to defeat Nadal in straight sets in Monte Carlo, and if he is going to win, he is going to have to do it the hard way, and his run to the Monte Carlo final shows he can take Nadal to three sets and give himself a chance. Fighting back versus experienced, higher seeded opponents and riding through talented rival’s purple patches to then grab the momentum in a brief lull are signs of a player full of self-belief ready and unafraid to take their game to the next level.

Ramos-Vinolas may have a negative win-loss ratio, but he has some pretty big wins.

In 2015, Roger Federer was the heavy favorite to defend his title and win Shanghai, but Ramos-Vinolas defeated him in three sets.

The Spaniard has also had wins over Milos Raonic at Roland Garros ’16, and Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov at Chengdu ’16 so he knows how to exploit the weaknesses of top players, and aged 29 and ranked at a career high of 24, he is enjoying his best years in the later stage of his decade long professional career, his hard work, experience and talent coming together and earning him great results.

Nadal has lost all his three finals this year

On the positive side for Nadal, the two players who beat him, Roger Federer (Australian Open, Miami) and Sam Querrey (Acapulco) play first rate first strike hard court tennis. This final will also be played on Clay, Nadal’s best surface, and at a venue where he is extremely comfortable, though the incident with David Goffin in his semi-final may have made it slightly less so right now.

On the negative side for Nadal, losing in finals can eat into a player’s self-belief and while Nadal may be one of the mentally toughest players around, he has shown more vulnerability in that department in recent years, and if things get tight, Ramos-Vinolas has the match toughness to be able to feed off Nadal’s doubts.

Ramos-Vinolas is inspired

Ramos-Vinolas is, in his words, living his dream, and defeating Nadal in the Monte Carlo final would be as dreamy as it gets. If the fifteenth seed can get inspired in the final then, tennis being sport, anything can happen.

Prediction: Nadal is the overwhelming favorite, and rightly so, but he is going to have to play at a very high level because if he falls short, Ramos Vinolas has enough bite on that forehand side, the right positive aggressive approach, and enough hunger to win to go from underdog to top dog and cause one of the upsets of the year.

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Diamonds Are A Tennis Racket’s Best Friend 5 Questions With Bijou Tennis Founder Agnese Rozite

tennis equipment Bijou tennis

Photo courtesy of Bijou tennis

With 56 of the world’s elite players competing in one of the world’s most beautiful and prestigious tennis locations, Monte Carlo, this week, men’s tennis is all about exclusivity. To celebrate, The tennis review asked five questions to Bijou Tennis’ founder and creator Agnese Rozite about her stylish diamond studded tennis rackets, her tennis playing style, and which male player would look great swinging a diamond studded racket. 

What inspired you to design the world’s most expensive tennis racket?

 I have always been fascinated with the fashion world, and it has multiple price categories from discount to contemporary to a high-end designer.  Whereas in tennis, for the most part, everybody plays with the same price racquet. As an entrepreneurship major I just saw a new niche. I wasn’t necessarily going for the ‘’most expensive’’ but rather exclusive and more hand-made rather than large factory production. Lately, even the big brands are starting to do limited edition models, so these premier racquets are becoming more common. More importantly, I wanted to design something that has never been seen before and New York City lights inspired me to add shinning Swarovski crystals to Bijou racquets.

You are a former 3x All-American college tennis player- how would you describe your playing style and were any men’s tennis players your role models when you were growing up? 

 I love to go for the winners! I have never been a very patient player, so I had to become aggressive in order to win a point. Although I like to slice and drop-shot, there’s nothing like a clean forehand winner. I think in college some players were having a difficult time when playing against me because I am a lefty. During my teenage years Nadal and Federer where dominating the men’s tour so I naturally looked up to them. I definitely related more to Rafa since he grew up playing on clay courts and was also a lefty!

You are also a former coach- what kind of player would you recommend Bijou tennis rackets for and why?

I have coached at various places, such as college tennis, academy tennis and country club tennis. They are all very different as people are in different points in their life and in their tennis ‘’careers’. My market is definitely geared towards the country club crowd. One of the reasons is that we currently make our models on the lighter side in order to accommodate beginner and intermediate level players. Also, our clientele has a certain disposable income that they enjoy spending on high-end fashion and luxury goods.

The old saying goes “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, but I think in this day and age they can be a man’s best friend, too- which men’s tennis player do you think would look great swinging one of your rackets?

Women have always admired diamonds and men have always admired women so it’s been a way to impress them. But in our modern unisex times, style is cross-gender. Especially in major fashion metropolitan cities such as New York, London, and Paris.

A man with a Bijou racquet? I could actually see Roger Federer flawlessly swinging our silver model for charity. Another headliner that comes to mind is Nick Kyrgios who would have fun with the gold racquet. I think he brings a lot of entertainment to such a classic sport. I truly enjoyed their most recent match in Miami.

Bijou Tennis rackets are customized in New York- have you ever been to the US Open and can you tell us about your experience and which men’s players you saw live?

New York City is home to Bijou and the US Open, and we are currently looking to do some interesting events around the Grand Slam. I have been to the US Open numerous times and it just gets better and better every year. In fact, the entire air of New York is filled with tennis, not sure if it’s from the fuzz of the balls, or all the greatness of the players, but it is my favorite time of the year in New York.

Most recently with all the court renovations, the tournament is a must see for every tennis lover. I have seen most of the top 10 players play up close, but it’s another feeling when you see them next to you in the players lounge. I believe this year’s tournament will have some surprises from the youngsters on the tour so I will definitely try to watch their matches!

Follow this link to find out more about Bijou tennis 

The Tennis Review

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Monte Carlo Rolex Masters Who Can Stop Rafa Nadal and La Decima Part 1?

Nadal

Photo courtesy of http://ru.publika.md

Rafa Nadal enters the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters on the back of a strong first quarter of the season as he attempts his first La Decima of 2017. The Tennis Review looks at why Nadal is the man to be stopped and at the rivals who have a chance to stall his striding towards a piece of tennis history.

Why Nadal is the player who needs to be stopped.

Had Roger Federer not been fairy-tailing it up this season, then the award for best comeback would most likely be going Nadal’s way.

In 2017, Nadal has been to a slam final, an ATP 1000 final, and an ATP 500 final, and all on hard courts. Three of his five losses have come at the hands of arguably the best hard courter in tennis history, Roger Federer, another one to Milos Raonic, in Brisbane where the Canadian was defending champion and at a career high ranking of 3, and the other one to a player with the big serve and first strike tennis that bothers Nadal on faster surfaces, Sam Querrey.

That run on hard courts means Nadal, who only came back from wrist injury last Summer, has the confidence he needs entering the Clay court swing, where last year he got off to a tremendous start winning Monte Carlo and Barcelona back to back,

Nadal, who has been practicing on clay since his Miami defeat, looks primed to put all that hard work into trophy winning action, and there is no better venue to start at than Monte Carlo where he has won a historic nine titles (Nadal has the record for most men’s singles titles won at an event at no less than three different tournaments- Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros) and where he could become the first man in ATP history to win ten singles titles at one tournament.

Who Can Stop Nadal?

Round 2
Kyle Edmund or Dan Evans (Nadal has never played either of them).

Edmund’s best surface is clay and the Brit has enough experience now to hang with the game’s best across all surfaces and it may not be long before the 22 year old ranked 47 starts beating them, whereas fellow Brit Dan Evans, aged 26 and ranked 44, is a better hard court player, but has the self belief and flair to beat the big guys with wins vs Nishikori, Thiem and Cilic on his resume.

If the two Brits could form a hybrid then they might stand a chance, but on their own, the chances of either stopping Nadal are slim.

Round 3
Sascha Zverev (Nadal leads h2h 2-0)

The draw could have been kinder to Nadal. Zverev likes clay courts and big matches and has pushed Nadal close on two previous occasions, holding match points against him in Indian Wells last year and taking him to five sets at this season’s Australian Open.

Zverev’s backhand is a big enough weapon to stand up to Nadal’s forehand in cross-court rallies and if Nadal is hitting at all short on that side, Zverev will be able to come in and really attack him.

Zverev, though, is still a little green to finish Nadal off, but a breakthrough is going to come his way at some point, the question is could it be this week on the red dirt in Monte Carlo?

Quarter Final
Grigor Dimitrov (8) (Nadal leads 8-1).

Nadal and Dimitrov have met at this stage of the tournament before, going three sets in ’13. Right now, after a great start to 2017, Dimitrov has lapsed a little, and will have to be playing well to get past his section of the draw with a potential second round clash with Casper Ruud and a possible third rounder with one of the dangerous quartet of Bernard Tomic, Diego Schwartzman, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Roberto Bautista Agut, none of whom will turn down a shot at upsetting Dimitrov.

If Dimitrov does make his scheduled last eight Nadal date, facing Nadal at an historic event like Monte Carlo might inspire the Bulgarian to pose the kind of challenge he did to Nadal in the Australian Open semis earlier this season, arguably the match of the year so far.

Roberto Bautista Agut (12) (Nadal leads 1-0).

Bautista Agut could be a more likely opponent from the Dimitrov section of the draw, but while Nadal’s fellow Spaniard has plenty of game, his flatter shots are more suited to hard courts, and he lacks the clay court guile needed to beat Nadal on the surface.

Semi- final

Novak Djokovic (2) (Djokovic leads 26-23)

If Roland Garros is the end of first semester final for 2017, then this is the mid term test for Nadal.

Djokovic has had Nadal’s number since losing to him in the 2014 Roland Garros final, but since the Serbian’s recent struggles post his Roland Garros ’16 win, the two have not met, and while Djokovic’s struggles worsen, Nadal has been getting stronger.

Right now, in a rivalry that has switched hands from one to the other numerous times over the last decade, this could be Nadal’s chance to grab the momentum at an all important moment, with Nadal primed to reassert himself back at the top of the game, in what would be their 50th meeting.

Dominic Thiem (6) (Nadal leads 2-1).

Djokovic will have to get that far, though, and in four tournament starts in 2017, he has been past the quarters once.

Thiem may be the one to take advantage of Djokovic’s struggles, if the second seed has not overcome them, and would also prove a strong test for Nadal should they meet in the semis. The Austrian loves clay, has beaten Nadal on it before, in Buenos Aires last season, and, according to his coach Gunter Bresnik, is playing better than ever. The Austrian is still a little unproven though at ATP 1000 level, having yet to make it past the last eight in four tries, however he looks ready to take the next step and Nadal will need to apply plenty of pressure to prevent himself getting trodden on in that process.

David Goffin (10) (Never met).

Goffin, though, may be the scene stealer from the bottom half. The Belgian has the clay court skills to beat Thiem in the last 16, Djokovic, if he is sub-par, in the last 8, and challenge Nadal in the semis. Goffin winning versus Nadal would be a long stretch- he has never made an ATP 1000 final- and he does have a history of choking leads versus top players.

Inexperience, problems closing out matches, Goffin’s weaknesses are, unfortunately for the Belgian, ones Nadal is as adept at exploiting as he is winning matches on clay.

Final
Stan Wawrinka (3) (Nadal leads 15-3).

Former champion Stan Wawrinka (defeated Federer in ’14) is due a big title on arguably his best surface, has a nice Monte Carlo draw from the tennis Gods keen to see him do well, and is in the lighter top half with Andy Murray struggling on his serve, Marin Cilic in poor form, and seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who had a great early season but has been missing in action since becoming a father, a rival against whom he matches up well.

Wawrinka is a dangerous player in finals, and not one Nadal would choose to face from the top half of the Monte Carlo draw after losing all three finals he has played this year. Any hint of insecurity or vulnerability from Nadal and Wawrinka has the self-belief and weight of shot to send him stumbling across the red dirt rather than sliding through it.

If Nadal does makes it to the Monte Carlo final, though, and does so beating Djokovic on the way, he would be in pretty good physical, mental and technical form, and while the nine time Champion would face a rival who has proven he can beat him in big matches, on clay, Nadal has, if his forehand is working well and he can get his heavy top spin going, the upper hand in the match up.

Rafa Nadal

Nadal’s biggest opponent might prove to be none other than Nadal himself. The Spaniard has not won a title since Barcelona last season, has had to come back from yet another injury, and has not won his last three finals, including one in which he led by a break in the fifth set.

If Nadal’s 0-3 finals record or worries about his physical condition creep in, and his forehand falls short and his serve is vulnerable, his opponent will be able to exploit that, and another final loss, on clay, in Monte Carlo where Nadal has so many great memories, could seriously put a dent in Nadal’s chances of La Decima part 3 (the second is Barcelona) at Roland Garros.

But those kind of scenario’s are best left to be played out in Nadal’s nightmares. Nadal this season is all about living his dreams, and living in the now. The Spaniard was very positive after his Miami loss to Federer which he felt played out closer than the score-line, and very pragmatic about taking this season and his clay court chances step by step. So far, that approach has served him well, and Nadal, in his current upbeat, relaxed mood and mode, is unlikely to end up beating himself in a Monte Carlo final. Nadal will leave that responsibility, instead, to his rivals. Rivals who will have a much harder time staying in the now, and with Nadal, with all the nightmares the Spaniard will inflict on them, on one of his favorite courts.

A court on which Nadal has lived out plenty of dreams, a court on which whoever does beat the Spaniard will have to do so with a killer performance if they are going to stop Nadal becoming the first man to live a dream yet to be lived, the dream that is La Decima part One.

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Men’s Tennis European Clay Season 2017 7 Questions the Red Dirt Will Dig Up

Clay court season

Photo courtesy of http://revistatenis.uol.com.br

The 2017 European Clay Court season is underway and The Tennis Review could not be happier as we switch from blue and green to red and our favorite tennis players get sliding in the dirt. Here are seven questions we are going to enjoy seeing the answers to dug up on the red dirt over the next few months.

Can Juan Martin del Potro get lucky with a draw?

Since del Potro got his 2017 season started at Delray Beach, he has been hit by one bad draw after another- Milos Raonic in the Delray Beach semis, Novak Djokovic in the Acapulco round of 16 and the Indian Wells round of 32, and Roger Federer in the second round of Miami.

The Argentine is surely deserving of a break when it comes to draws, and the 2009 Roland Garros semi-finalist will take advantage if one comes along and get some momentum going on a surface which will give him time to run around his weaker backhand side and hit that match winning forehand, and in a season swing in which he has just 90 points to defend, providing del Potro with a great opportunity to climb up from 35 in the rankings and start working towards a top 16 seeding for the US Open, the slam where he made his name and where he has his best chances of really coming back again.

Will Stanimal be on the hunt or will he be hibernating?

The 2015 Roland Garros and 2014 Monte Carlo champion knows how to win big on clay versus the game’s biggest players, but Stan Wawrinka can also lose big, either suffering an upset or failing to deliver as he did for some of his 2016 Roland Garros semi-final versus Andy Murray last season.

So what will we get this season? The Stanimal who hunts- like he did so well versus Federer and Djokovic in those big clay finals- or the Stanimal who hibernates as he did versus Grigor Dimitrov twice last season and when he needed to be wide awake in last season’s RG semis?

This season, Wawrinka has been oddly consistent, making the Brisbane and Australian Open semis, and the Indian Wells final, and climbing back to world No.3. There have been the opening round shocks- he went out as Dubai defending champ in his opening round- and an upset in Miami in the last 16 to Sascha Zverev ( the #NextGenATP star proving to be a bad match up for Wawrinka), but Stan is delivering in the big events most of the time, and with the slow conditions of some European clay court events complimenting his big back-swing and heavy shots, the momentum seems to be building for another Stanimal pounce on a title, and the multiple slam champ, whose last title was the US Open back in September ’16, must be feeling a little, somewhat dangerously for his rivals, hungry right now.

Can big cats Murray and Djokovic chase the mice away?

The mice have been playing well while the tour’s biggest cats, world Nos 1 and 2 Murray and Djokovic, have been away, and the question is how quick of the mark will both men be to chase them back into their lower ranked holes?

They won’t have to deal with Federer until Roland Garros, but Rafa Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Nick Kyrgios could be, after great starts to the season, too strong to send scurrying away.

Both men might look to Federer and take inspiration from his all conquering return from injury, and they will need such inspiration with both men having a lot of points to defend this clay season- Djokovic has Madrid title points, Rome finalist points and the RG title, Murray the Monte Carlo semis, Madrid finals, the Rome title, and the Roland Garros final, and both men have the small matter of the first quarter of the season racing by with neither player making an impact on the race to London with Murray in 12th place (840 points) and Djokovic in 22nd (475).

Djokovic will be getting to work earlier than Murray, at Monte Carlo, and has a great chance to gain some ground after his second round upset at the hands of Jiri Vesely last season. Murray, meanwhile, will not be appearing until Madrid, the tournament that most compliments his natural game.

With Federer out until Roland Garros, neither man can afford to be too rusty- at a time when Federer has the tennis world once again at his feet, neither Djokovic or Murray want to go into the Grass season and face the Swiss where his fandom is at its most frenzied on the back of a clay season which not only failed to cover up any relative rust, but loosened the wheels even further.

How will Rafa Nadal play and will it be La Decima worthy?

Nadal has been taking 2017 step by step and is not even, he says, looking at Roland Garros, but just focusing on practicing on clay.

No expectations and no pressure might be just what is needed for the Spaniard who will have two La Decima narratives going on this clay court season, the first in Monte Carlo, the second at Roland Garros, and while Nadal may not want to think about both those stories coming true, his fans certainly will.

For good reason, too. Nadal is looking like he has a genuine shot at achieving what no other male in tennis history has done- winning ten singles titles at one slam, or any event. The Spaniard is back, once and for all, reaching the finals of Melbourne and Miami, and with Roger Federer, who has beaten him three times this season, out of the picture for a couple of months, Nadal is the player going into the clay season with the most momentum and confidence behind him.

There are still some questions to be answered before we get too excited on Nadal’s behalf such as the Djokovic question- Nadal has not beaten him since Roland Garros 2014 and with the Serb coming back from injury and a less than stellar start to the season, Nadal has a good chance to end that drought- and the most important question, as Nadal pointed out in his post Miami final interview, just how good he will be on clay after a year away.

We may find out in a fortnight when Monte Carlo and La Decima part 1 gets underway, and the thing Nadal is not thinking about, Roland Garros, starts to become clearer on a horizon the Spaniard’s fans will not, except for when they are keeping an eye on their idol’s progress, take their eyes away from.

Will Dominic Thiem take the Next Step?

Thiem has been having a patchy year, but he has won a title (Rio), been to the last 16 of a slam, and made the quarters of an ATP 1000 (Indian Wells) and with his best part of the season coming up, he should have enough confidence and match play under his belt to make the next step, which for Thiem would be the Semis of an ATP 1000, Monte Carlo and Rome the most likely stages for a player who has been threatening the last two seasons to become his generation’s answer to Gustavo Kuerten to go from a cameo role, like he played at Rome ’16 (QF) and Roland Garros ’16 (SF) to starring center stage.

Which big names will fall at the hands of the #NextGenATP?

Zverev, Kyrgios, Chung, Coric, Rublev, Tiafoe and Medvedev are all names no more established ATP player is going to want to see next to theirs in any clay court draw this season.

None of the #NextGenATP will be expected to walk away with any of the big events like Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome or Roland Garros, but they will have a chance to lift ATP 250 trophies like Munich and Nice and be tipped to cause some upsets with the right match ups.

Still, the way 2017 is shaping up, it might not be wise to dismiss the #NextGenATP’s big title chances. We learned this year anything can happen once already, and a second lesson at the hands of the colorful, dynamic and feisty bunch the #NextGenATP have turned out to be would be warmly welcomed.

Will the Lost Generation find themselves?

Tennis fans are as lost with the Lost Generation as that generation are with themselves. Grigor Dimitrov looked like he was back on track down under only to vanish in the North American Spring Swing, Milos Raonic ended 2016 on a high (No.3 in the world, the highest ranking of his generation) only for injury to take its toll once more, while Kei Nishikori continues to struggle with both body and mind.

All three players are still on tennis’ front line, but the current #NextGenATP are chasing behind them, and getting stronger all the time. However, while time is, in some sense, running out, a tennis pro’s life at the top has an ever lengthening sell-by-date and all three can take heart from Roger Federer’s 2017 success as they dig deep within their own hearts, working out what makes them tick, and what they need to do to find their way back to where they were, and then, if they desire, to climb even higher.

The Tennis Review will be posting at least once a week in the Clay court season so check in with us now and then to read the latest posts about what is looking to be a great European clay court swing.

What do you think will be the answers to any of these questions this European Clay Court Season? Or do you have some questions of your own you would like answered? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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