French Open Preview: King of Clay Rounding Into Form

Since Djokovic won the Australian Open a lot has happened to suggest that we are about to witness an epic few weeks at the French Open. With the start of the clay court season, as well as a few of the hard court tournaments before that, there have been some very surprising results, coupled with some not so surprising Rafa dominance. Though Nadal is no longer world number one, he still is the King of Clay, center court at Roland Garros his castle. It is not a foregone conclusion however, that Nadal will simply roll at the French. As I said before, a lot has happened in tournament play following the Australian (has it really been four months?). Now let’s see if we can make sense of the current tennis landscape by analyzing the most intriguing results, in the order they happened, from a few of the 24 ATP tournaments that took place over the past four months .

2012 ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship
This tournaments not only signaled Federer’s resurgence, taking down Murray in straights in the final, but it also showed us that Djokovic is in fact not invincible. A loss to Murray in the semis may give the rest of the field hope, when in reality this result proves nothing. Talk to me when you’ve won a 5 setter on clay Andy.




2012 ATP BNP Paribas Open
Yes, Roger Federer is still very good. His record 4th tournament win in Indian Wells, which included a beat down of Nadal in the semis (in fairness it was a hardcourt tournament), was again overshadowed by another surprising Djokovic semi-final loss, this time to American John Isner.




2012 ATP Sony Ericsson Open
Djokovic was finally able to get over the hump following the Aussie Open and win this Miami based tourney for the 3rd time. Maybe more intriguing, was in his first meaningful ATP tournament since Australia, Nadal was unable to finish due to those creaky knees of his. Something to keep an eye on or simply saving himself for the clay court season?



2012 ATP Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters
Surprise, surprise. Three weeks later Nadal takes his first clay court tournament of the year. Ridiculously, this was Nadal’s 8th straight win in Monte-Carlo. I’m lucky if I remember to put on underwear 8 days in a row. All hygienic deficiencies aside, more importantly this win snapped Djokovic’s seven match win streak against Nadal. However, the death of Djokovic’s grandfather only days before the final, undoubtedly affected his performance.



2012 ATP Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell
In a tournament devoid of Federer and Djokovic Federer cruised to the title without dropping a set the whole of the tournament. This otherwise uneventful tournament also marked the fourth final appearance of the year (the first three wins) for the forgotten Spaniard, David Ferrer. When clay court season rolls around Ferrer, and every other Spaniard for that matter, should not be ignored.



2012 ATP Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open
Ah, the controversial blue clay. Both Nadal and Djokovic spoke out against this most unnatural color selection and subsequently were bounced from the tournament by Verdasco and Tipsarevic respectively. As these two pouted their way out of Madrid, Federer pulled out a gritty victory over Tomas Berdych in the final for his 3rd title of the year. Oh, by the way, he overtook Nadal as the 2nd ranked player on the planet



2012 ATP Internazionali BNL d’Italia
Well that didn’t last too long. With Nadal’s victory over Djokovic he took back the number two spot and made it two finals wins in a row over the Serb in the process. Without a doubt, this win will boost Nadal’s confidence going into the French Open, having taken the last four sets from Djokovic. If Djokovic wants to hold all Grand Slams at the same time it’s clear he’s going to have to go through Nadal to do so.



French Open Predictions

  • Favorite: Rafa Nadal (6 time French Open Champion)
  • Sleeper: Juan Martin Del Potro (Two 2012 ATP Titles, 3 Final Appearances)
  • American to Make it Furthest: John Isner (because who else will with Fish pulling out…)
  • Predicted Winner: Novak Djokovic (World # 1, Beaten Nadal last 3 times they have played 5 set matches)


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