Avoiding the Clichés
April 14, 2011 Leave a comment
It’s time to pack. To fly a plane to another continent, change the shoes and get ready to dirrrty the clothes, slide and overcome even slower courts – so slow you could even nap between the points.
I won’t do an unusual preview for the clay season here. Why? Because I wouldn’t add anything productive for you. We all know how it would play out: words on Rafa’s dominance, words on Nole’s rise and how challenging Nadal on his mother surface is the ultimate proof he is ready, how we can never rule Federer out even though he’s getting systematically beaten by both Nole and Rafa this year, and then we talk a bit about Rafa’s records, and how he will shatter everyone from now to the end of Roland Garros, and the absurd winning streak.
And it would end with a question. “Can someone dethrone Rafa or will he keep reigning untouched as the supreme king of the crushed brick?”
But meh. An article like that wouldn’t give me enough money to feed the kids and buy some diamonds for the wife. So, I will do something different.
Forget about Nadal, Djokovic and Federer. This is an article for the unsung heroes of the red clay. Or just call it you might want to take a look at them.
Where to start? Shall we look at the rankings? Robin Soderling and David Ferrer are the first names that draw my attention – and these two have quite a rivalry (Soderling leads the H2H, 9-4, as they have already played on all three surfaces and their first clash dates back to 2004). They both are enjoying the best years of their careers so far (Without a doubt for Robin, Ferrer said that himself), and much of that they owe to clay.
It was on clay Robin Soderling had his biggest win – and two Grand Slam finals. Enough reasons to love the dirt, no? And Ferrer… well, even though he’s yet to make a signature run at Roland Garros, Daveed will have to defend two semifinals and a final at the three clay-court Masters. Robin, on the other hand, has only 100 points to battle for at the two Masters left.
These two MONSTERS – each on his unique way, this being either hitting as hard and brainlessly as you can or running and giving 100% in every point – are pumped enough to make some noise, mainly at Roland Garros. The only problem for Soderling, however, is defending the finals for a second time – reach the same Grand Slam final three years in a row is extreme unlikely (but God and all my Twitter followers know how much I want him to go one step further). And Ferrer… well… as world no.6 you can always be drawn in Rafa’s quarter.
Next? Ok, let me make it easier for you.
Tomas Berdych – He’s an all-court player. And he is in the top-10. He also has to defend the semifinals at Roland Garros. The way he is playing these days, Tomas is constantly pulling steady runs to the semifinals – and then getting beaten by Rafa and Nole. In other words, he is a normal player. Who knows, depending on the draw, and if one of the top-dogs slip in the early rounds… Berdych can repeat his 2010.
Jurgen Melzer – Always heard he was a head case. Not a Gasquet-like head case, because Richard has potential in abundance. But a head case anyway. He had his late breakthrough at Roland Garros last year, winning a memorable – and nearly lost – match vs. Nole. Today, he already set two new career-highs, and currently sits as no.9 in the rankings, fighting with Monfils for the no.8. Aren’t you curious to see how will he do?
Gael Monfils – An entertainer, made the semifinals of his home slam in 2008. Clay is also his best surface. Might be enough, no?
Nicolás Almagro – Nico has a 9-3 record in finals – all of them on clay, but none of them above 500 level. However, Almagro is 25-2 (including his first two wins in Monte Carlo) on clay since last Roland Garros. He is not poised to threat Nadal, that’s for sure… but who knows? Maybe an upset win over Federer and boom, the first Masters final.
Alexandr Dolgopolov – The Dog made his name at the Australian Open, but don’t be fooled, the 22-year old is following fellow Ukrainian Medvedev steps. His style fits the clay. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly notice him in the semifinals of Madrid or Rome or, why not, Roland Garros?
Tommy Robredo – Surfer Tommy or The Pinball Wizard, as I like to call him, seems to be back in a decent form. And now that nobody pays attention on him, it’s easy to sneak in and suddenly appear as one of the last eight or four survivors at any event. So you don’t be surprised.
Milos Raonic – Guess which new sensation has ZERO to defend until after Wimbledon? Milos will be seeded at Roland Garros – his 3rd round effort at Monte Carlo has got him into the top-30 already… – his coach is from Spain and one of his best friends on tour is Nicolás Almagro, a clay specialist. I bet you’re curious. So am I.
Thomaz Bellucci – Are you Brazilian? No? Then, you probably don’t even know who is this guy. Whatever. He has the 4th round to defend at Roland Garros and currently, he’s not enjoying a period of mental stability.
Juan Martin Del Potro – He is in a situation similar to Milos. But Milos is trying to get where DelPo has already been – let’s not forget JMDP made it to the semis at Madrid and Roland Garros in 2009. And, oh, he’s Argentine. So, clay runs through his veins. After the well-deserved rest he took after the American swing, Del Potro is ready to rock in Europe, lift some dirt and continue his comeback.
I guess that is all. Did I miss/would you like to add someone?