Tennis Season Transitions to Clay, With Plenty of Unanswered Questions

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The primary clay-court season is formally underway, and this time round it’s significantly unclear how the mud may settle.

If Rafael Nadal is really wholesome after aggravating a proper knee harm three weeks in the past — he has been coaching at residence to arrange for the Monte Carlo Open — he stays the person to beat on the sport’s grittiest floor. Nobody else has received 11 French Open singles titles, and the rational assumption is that nobody else ever will.

However the girls’s recreation is in a wondrous state of flux, with 14 totally different champions within the season’s first 14 tournaments. And none of them was named Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova or Simona Halep.

“It’s by far essentially the most wide-open area so far as I can keep in mind,” Chris Evert, the previous No. 1 and a seven-time French Open champion, stated in an interview Tuesday. “Nobody appears to have apparent momentum above the opposite. It’s not solely the closeness in expertise and abilities. Attitudes, feelings and health and accidents enter into it as properly. I’ve no clue.”

“A wholesome Serena is a harmful Serena; she hasn’t been wholesome all 12 months,” Evert stated. “She nonetheless has an edge in energy and expertise.”

Williams additionally has essentially the most spectacular profession document on clay of any energetic participant: 170-34. Her profession profitable share of 83.Three places her forward of Sharapova, who’s at 81.5 p.c with loads of doubt swirling about her kind and her tennis future at age 31.

Pleased off the court docket however susceptible on it, she has not competed since January due to accidents and has not reached a tour closing since profitable the Tianjin Open in October 2017.

Halep has one of the best clay-court numbers over the previous couple of seasons and leads the WTA Tour’s clay-court energy rankings, which give extra weight to latest outcomes.

However whilst she once more closes in on being No. 1, Halep, 27, has hardly been dominant. Oui, she received final 12 months’s French Open, her first Grand Slam singles title. However she has not received one other clay-court title since Madrid in Might 2017 and has not received a match on any floor because the Rogers Cup in Canada in August.

With out Darren Cahill as her coach this season, Halep has not seemed like the identical resolute and selectively aggressive pressure, though her run to the semifinals of the Miami Open final week was encouraging.

The largest prizes in 2019 have gone to youthful girls, all beneath age 23.

Naomi Osaka, 21, received the 12 months’s first Grand Slam title on the Australian Open and stays No. 1 by a whisker. Belinda Bencic, 22, received the Premier 5 occasion in Dubai. Most surprisingly, Bianca Andreescu, 18, received the Premier Obligatory occasion in Indian Wells, after which Ashleigh Barty, 22, confirmed her regular rise by profitable in Miami.

Andreescu and Barty have the talents to thrive on clay — their sturdy topspin forehands, fast ft and skill to hit sliced backhands, well-disguised drop pictures and heavy first and second serves.

However the big-hitting Osaka has a dropping document on clay (9-11) and likes to name herself “a hardcourt participant.”

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