This week is the official start of the clay-court swing of the men’s tour with tournaments taking place in Marrakech and Houston. As the focus of the players switch to the dirt, some are facing a critical two-and-a-half months on the tour.
Under the current ranking format, any points a player win at a tournament are theirs until the following year. Then they have the chance to defend those points. For example, at the upcoming Monte Carlo Masters, Rafael Nadal is the current champion and won 1000 points in 2018. Therefore, this year, he is defending 1000 points in the tournament.
Here is a guide to how many points players are defending on the clay this season.
Rafael Nadal (current ranking – 2)
2018 Points defending – 4680 :-
– Monte-Carlo: 1000 (champion)
– Barcelona: 500 (champion)
– Madrid: 180 (quarter-finals)
– Rome: 1000 (champion)
– Roland Garros: 2000 (champion)
Like every year, the clay court season is vital for Rafael Nadal. A player nicknamed as the king of the surface due to his record-breaking success on it. At the 2018 French Open he became the first man in history to win the same grand slam for an 11th time. Besides Roland Garros, he was also triumphant at two Masters tournaments and an ATP 500 event in Barcelona.
Along with his dominance on the clay comes a big challenge. No other player – man or woman – will be defending as many points as Nadal this season. To put this into perspective, in the current top 10 on the ATP Tour he is defending at least 2290 more points than anybody else.
Nadal’s season so far has seen him reach the final of the Australian Open, but he has also been bothered by injury issues. Withdrawing from his Indian Wells clash with Roger Federer due to a right knee injury and missing Miami afterwards.
So far in his career, Nadal has won 57 of his 80 ATP titles on clay.
— Yvonne 🏴 (@woody16668) April 9, 2019
Novak Djokovic (current ranking – 1)
2018 Points defending – 855 :-
– Monte-Carlo: 90 (quarter-finals)
– Madrid: 45 (round 2)
– Rome: 360 (semi-finals)
– Roland Garros: 360 (quarter-finals)
A lot has changed for Novak Djokovic since his last tournament on the clay. The Serbian world No.1 is currently on a 21-match winning streak in the grand slam tournaments. Should he prevail at Roland Garros later this season, he would hold all four major titles at the same time for a second time in his career.
There is a lot of optimism for Djokovic, who is undoubtedly in better shape both mentally and physically than that of 12 months ago. Although, he had recently endured a disappointing run in America with earlier than expected losses in Indian Wells and Miami.
With just 855 points to defend, Djokovic is in a prime position to strengthen his lead at the top of the rankings. Should he perform better at certain events, especially the Madrid Open where he lost in the second round last year.
Djokovic has contested 23 ATP finals on the clay so far in his career, winning 13 titles. However, his most recent triumph was back in 2016 at the French Open.
Nothing can stop Novak Djokovic in his training for the clay season. ☔
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) April 9, 2019
Roger Federer (current ranking – 4)
2018 points defending – 0 :-
– Didn’t play any clay tournaments in 2018
Swiss Maestro Roger Federer finds himself in a win-win situation. The 20-time grand slam champion is set to make his return to the clay at the Madrid Open next month. In what will be his first competitive match on the surface since the 2016 Italian Masters. In recent years, Federer has missed the clay swing due to either injury or opting to rest his body.
Due to his hiatus from the clay, any wins Federer records will add to his current points tally. Few regards him as a serious contender for major glory given the likes of Nadal and Djokovic, but should Federer achieve some deep runs in tournaments, he could rise further up the rankings. Placing him in a stronger spot heading into his beloved grass season.
“I’m not very confident going into this clay court season, I can tell you that, because I don’t even remember how to slide anymore. I’m taking baby steps at this point.” Federer told reporters in March.
“To be honest, I didn’t play one point — not one shot on clay, I don’t believe, last year. Two years ago I played two days. Three years ago I played not feeling great in Monaco and Rome and all that. So it’s been so little that I really don’t know what to expect.”
It was at the French Open where Federer played his first main draw match in a grand slam. Losing in the first round of the 1999 tournament to third seed Pat Rafter.
Alexander Zverev (current ranking – 3)
2018 points defending – 2570 :-
– Monte Carlo: 360 (semi-finals)
– Munich: 250 (champion)
– Madrid: 1000 (champion)
– Rome: 600 (runner-up)
– Roland Garros: 360 (quarter-finalist)
21-year-old Zverev is the only top 10 player in action this week after accepting a wild card to play in the Marrakech Open. A tournament where the winner can claim 250 points. The German is hoping to turn his fortunes around over the next few weeks following a roller coaster start to 2019.
Blighted by illness recently, Zverev was far from his best on the America hard courts. However, he has illustrated his talent during the first two events of the year. Reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open (losing to Milos Raonic) and the final of the Mexican Open (losing to Nick Kyrgios).
Zverev has the second highest amount of points to defend after Nadal. Last year he enjoyed his best-ever run on the clay, which was highlighted by a Masters title (Madrid) and reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. Zverev’s best grand slam performance to date.
Zverev will kick-off his Marrakech campaign on Tuesday against Denis Istomin.
Dominic Thiem (current ranking – 5)
2018 points defending – 2240 :-
-Monte-Carlo: 180 (quarter-finals)
– Madrid: 600 (runner-up)
– Rome: 10 (Round 2)
– Lyon: 250 (Champion)
– Roland Garros: 1200 (Runner-up)
It can be argued that Austria’s Dominic Thiem is at his most dangerous when playing on the clay. Illustrated by the fact he is one of only three of players to have ever defeated Nadal on the surface three times. The other two are Djokovic and Gasto Guido.
Thiem embarks upon the clay swing high in confidence after clinching his first Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells. He will return to action next week in Monte Carlo as the fourth seed in the draw.
“One thing that would never change is that clay is my home.” Thiem recently stated. “It’s my favourite surface. I grew up on it. I just feel great whenever I come back at it.”
So far in Thiem’s career, 14 out of his 19 ATP finals have been played on the clay.
Kei Nishikori (current ranking 6)
2018 points defending – 970 :-
– Monte-Carlo: 600 (finalist)
– Madrid: 10 (Round one)
– Rome: 180 (quarter-finals)
– Roland Garros: 180 (Round Four)
In 2014 Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese-born player to win a clay court title on the ATP Tour at the Barcelona Open. Meanwhile, at the French Open he has reached the fourth round or better every year since 2015.
The biggest challenge for Nishikori starts on Monday in Monte Carlo, where he will be defending 600 out of his 970 points on the clay. Last year at the tournament he scored wins over Marin Cilic and Zverev, before losing to Nadal.
“I’m not playing bad or terrible. I try to keep my head up. Clay court season is coming. It’s completely new season. I try to have a good practice, two more weeks, and be ready for Monte-Carlo.” Nishikori said following his loss at the Miami Open.
The other guys
Here is the amount of points some other members of the ATP Tour are defending this year :-
No.7 Kevin Anderson – 550 points (SF Madrid, R1 Rome and QF French Open)
No.8 Stefanos Tsitsipas – 575 points (R2 Monte Carlo, Runner-up Barcelona, SF Estoril, R2 Rome and R2 French Open)
*No.9 Juan Martin del Potro – 900 points (QF Madrid, QF Rome and SF French Open)
*No. 10 John Isner (SF Houston, SF Madrid, R2 Rome, SF Lyon and QF French Open)
No.13 Borna Coric – 235 points (R2 Monte Carlo, QF Madrid, R1 Rome and QF French Open)
No.16 Marco Cecchinato – 1091 points (R2 Monte-Carlo, Champion Budapest, R2 Rome and SF French Open).
* currently sidelined by injury
Note: rankings based on week commencing 8/4/19)
Rafael Nadal Claims Revenge On Tsitsipas To Reach 50th Masters 1000 Final
Rafael Nadal is into the Rome final after a 6-3 6-4 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas as he makes his 50th Masters 1000 final.
Rafael Nadal claimed revenge on Stefanos Tsitsipas with a 6-3 6-4 win to reach his 50th Masters 1000 final in Rome.
The world number two got his revenge from his defeat to the Greek star last week in Madrid by cruising to victory I the Rome semi-finals.
It’s his first final since the Australian Open and the 50th Masters 1000 final of his career as he looks for an eighth Rome title.
In the final Nadal will play either world number one Novak Djokovic or Diego Schwartzman.
It was a fast start from the Spaniard who broke in the second game for a 2-0 lead as he looked to send a clear message after recent struggles.
The world number seven though started to show why he should never be underestimated with his power from the back of the court and his positivity.
However some stunning forehands saw Nadal hold in a nine minute game as he sealed a 3-0 lead as he changed things up in his tactics.
Unlike in Madrid, the seven-time Rome champion used his forehand more than his backhand to punish Tsitsipas and be aggressive in the key moments.
Despite some good serving from Tsitsipas, it was Nadal who held firm to take the first set 6-3 and take the early advantage in this semi-final.
The second set saw Tsitsipas angry at the umpire at a few line calls as Nadal took advantage of the Madrid finalist’s emotional rollercoaster.
Some strokes of brilliance once again saw Nadal in the ascendancy as he broke in the third game for a 2-1 lead as Tsitsipas grew frustrated.
Despite Nadal threatening to break again Tsitsipas remained firm on serve as he wanted to force Nadal to at least serve out the match.
But some more insane shot-making and some fatigue from the Greek saw the former world number one close out the match and once again reach the final in Rome.
He. Can. Do. No. Wrong. 🙌
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 18, 2019
It was a good few weeks for Tsitsipas, who looks good to have a deep run at Roland Garros in just over a week’s time.
As for Nadal, it is his first final since the Australian Open and the 50th Masters 1000 final of his career, which comes as perfect timing ahead of the defence of his Roland Garros title.
A match against world number one Novak Djokovic or Diego Schwartzman now awaits the Spaniard in his bid for an eighth title in the Italian capital.
Alexander Zverev’s Search For Confidence Continues In Geneva As Roland Garros Approaches
Alexander Zverev is looking for some confidence heading into Roland Garros as he headlines the draw in Geneva.
Alexander Zverev’s search for confidence continues in Geneva this week as he looks for some momentum heading into Roland Garros.
The German has struggled for form this clay-court season having only won five matches in his six clay-court tournaments.
It has been a complete opposite from last year where he won Madrid, reached the final in Rome and made the last eight at the French Open.
This year has been different to last year though as he has had to deal with off-court distractions and has resulted in his lacklustre form.
Now the 22 year-old is looking to have some much-needed wildcard as he tops the field in Geneva this week on the last stop on the road to Roland Garros.
A first round bye means that Zverev has time to prepare for his first match against either Ernests Gulbis or Yoshihito Nishioka.
Should Zverev win that match, then a potential quarter-final against Andreas Seppi could await as he looks to hit top-form just in time for the second grand slam of the season.
Also in Geneva this week is second seed Stan Wawrinka, who begins against Feliciano Lopez or a qualifier and Munich champion Cristian Garin who begins against Taro Daniel or a qualifier.
There is also the possibility of Grigor Dimitrov being the main draw as he appears in the qualifying draw as he also looks for some confidence heading into Paris.
Canadians Headline Lyon
In the other ATP tournament this week Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime are amongst the headliners in Lyon.
Shapovalov will play either Ugo Humbert or Cameron Norrie, while Auger-Aliassime faces the winner of John Millman or Pablo Andujar.
The other two seeds with a bye are Nikoloz Basilashvili and Roberto Bautista Agut as they look to gain some momentum heading into Paris.
Other notable first rounds are Hubert Hurkacz against Pablo Cuevas while Monte-Carlo runner-up Dusan Lajovic takes on Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.
Here are the draws for both tournaments with play beginning on Sunday:
Geneva Open main draw pic.twitter.com/rmppa8cbV0
— Michal Samulski (@MichalSamulski) May 17, 2019
Lyon main draw pic.twitter.com/oZiHC8NUEz
— Michal Samulski (@MichalSamulski) May 17, 2019
Italian Open Saturday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day
It’s semifinal day in Rome, and hopefully the rain in the forecast doesn’t disturb the order of play.
Quarterfinal day actually carried over into semifinal day, as Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro battled well past 1:00am. Djokovic saved two match points and prevailed in an over three-hour affair. He and Rafael Nadal are just one win away from their first meeting on clay this year, an occasion the tennis world has been anxiously awaiting. But first, Nadal must face the man who defeated him last week, Stefanos Tsitsipas. In the women’s semifinals, two of the WTA’s most consistent performers face two surprise semifinalists.
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (8)
This is a rematch from last Saturday’s semifinal in Madrid, where Tsitsipas took out the King of Clay in his nation’s capital. Nadal will be eager to avenge that loss, and even more eager to gain more confidence just eight days before the French Open begins. Perhaps Nadal is finally rounding into form. In the three matches he’s played this week, he’s only dropped six games in six sets. He won three of those sets 6-0. However, Tsitsipas is a step up in competition from Rafa’s last three opponents, and should be well-rested after Roger Federer withdrew from their quarterfinal yesterday. It’s hard to imagine the 20-year-old upsetting Nadal on clay for the second straight week. I expect a hungry Nadal to prevail in straight sets.
Kiki Bertens (6) vs. Johanna Konta
With a win today, Bertens would usurp Simona Halep as the new world No.2. Johanna Konta, former world No.4, has already done enough this week to get her ranking back high enough to be seeded at Roland Garros. The British No.1 has struggled mightily since making the Wimbledon semifinals two years ago. And she’s never fared well on clay. In fact, she had a losing record on this surface in each of the last three seasons. But a run to the final in Rabat two weeks, where she lost to fellow Rome semifinalist Maria Sakkari, was the confidence boost she needed. Konta is now 9-2 on clay this year. However, Bertens is the WTA’s most winningest player on clay over the past few years, and is on an eight-match winning streak coming off her title run last week in Madrid. Bertens was completely exhausted on Thursday, but somehow pulled out two three-set matches in one day. She was surely thrilled to have a day off yesterday thanks to the withdrawal of Naomi Osaka. Bertens and Konta have split their four previous matches, though they’ve never played on clay. Bertens will be the favorite on the terra baute of Rome, but don’t count out Konta considering her current form and Kiki’s self-described exhaustion.
Other Notable Matches on Saturday in Rome:
- Novak Djokovic (1), who will be happy to be back in the night session considering his quarterfinal ended earlier this morning, vs. Diego Schwartzman, who defeated another tired player yesterday in Kei Nishikori.
- Karolina Pliskova (4) vs. 23-year-old Maria Sakkari of Greece. Their only previous meeting was last year at this tournament, when Sakkari upset Pliskova 7-5 in the third, and Pliskova repeatedly hit the chair umpire structure with her racket after a bad line call.
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