Monday, May 10, 2010
Chaos on the Clay as Roland Garros Nears
Rafa's dominance is clear, but the rest is up for grabs.
Three months ago it was the "big four" and the rest of the top ten that we pencilled in for the later rounds of the Masters events and the Grand-Slams. Now it's Nadal and the Spaniards, and it seems like you can flip a coin or throw a dart at an ATP bracket after that.
Sure, the European clay court season has always provided opportunities for the Spaniards, the Argentines, and other red clay connoisseurs to step up and challenge the big serving first strike players who usually rule the roost at the other three Slams, but this year there seems to be less rhyme and reason to it all.
Is it just me or does it seem like, with the exception of Nadal, that anybody can beat anybody right now? Am I hallucinating, or did I really see Isner and Querrey in the finals of a European clay court tournament yesterday? Have I just polished off four bottles of Bordeaux or has Ernests Gulbis really emerged as the only player with even the slightest chance of beating Rafael Nadal on clay? Am I sniffing too much glue or did Albert Montanes really trample Roger Federer on his way to a successful Estoril title defence?
Where is Djokovic? Can't breathe.
Where is Murray? Can't believe (but at least he's got his girlfriend back).
Where is Federer? Perhaps he'll show up in Madrid, but the Federer that has appeared on the court since his 16th Grand-Slam title at the Australian Open is a mere shadow of the player we've come to know and worship over the last seven years.
Where is Del Potro? Wrist surgery has sidelined him until at least late summer.
Where is Davydenko? He's got wrist problems too.
How about Roddick? Well he's in Madrid in body, but many feel that his spirit is getting ready for another run at Wimbledon in early July.
I could go on and on like this, mentioning all the so-called dangerous players that are either injured or in seriously less than stellar form at the moment. But it'd all be useless and truthfully, it's probably a little too early to panic about the games of guys like Cilic, Soderling, and Monfils.
They may not be peaking at the moment, but hey, at least none of them are peaking too early.
Maybe Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Cilic, Roddick, Monfils, and a host of other perennial Grand-Slam threats would rather go in fresh and fit than hot and worn down.
There are many who feel that Federer's chances at defending his Roland Garros crown are slipping away with each early exit that he makes this spring. They say if he comes up short in Madrid, he'll have zero confidence heading into the French, and that is something that not even the Swiss Maestro can overcome.
They may be right. But then again, who the heck knows what each individual needs to be in tip-top form when they arrive in Paris? Nobody thought Federer was in a good mindset last year but then he woke up in Madrid and the rest is ancient and memorable history.
Meanwhile the Spaniards who have been formidable foes all spring - most notably Verdasco, Ferrer, and Juan Carlos Ferrero - are all hoping that coming in hot, albeit a little fatigued, does portend good things.
It'll be interesting to see what happens when the French Open gets rolling in two weeks time.
A season that has been full of surprises is sure to have a few more twists and turns as we head down the home stretch.
Buckle up, get your popcorn ready, and enjoy!
Posted by a.k.a. Chris Oddo at 2:08 PM