Are you ready for some dirt balling along the French Riviera? Seems a bit of a contradiction. I have already written much about my opinions of the clay, yet here we are on the eve (play is underway obviously) of the European dirt harvest.
Congrats to Steve Johnson for taking the U.S. Clay Champs last week in Houston.
In the other season opener last week, 20 year-old Borna Coric got his first title in Marrakech.
Look for unpredictability to rule the court in the coming days, hopefully with top guys finding their feet and their Roland Garros form. Of course, I am speaking mainly of Murray and Djokovic.
Djokovic’s draw includes a match against Simon tomorrow (today), Carreno Busta and then Thiem or Goffin with a chance to face the winner of the Nadal/Dimitrov quarter that includes Sascha Zverev who steam-rolled Seppi, and RBA. But, again, it’s clay so anyone can win at anytime.
Seeing Djokovic have to play Thiem and then Nadal could be interesting, if the bracket holds. This should give us a good idea about where Djokovic is following his Davis Cup success. People have brought-up the Serbia 2010 Davis Cup title, the country’s first, as a context for Novak’s amazing 2011 run. Could we see a similar cause-and-effect in 2017?
Murray should face Wawrinka in the top MC SF, but, again, who knows.
Certainly, the most interesting subplots here involve Murray, Djokovic and Nadal. Nadal would absolutely love to finally cash-in on his solid start to 2017. Federer has eclipsed the Spaniard’s incredible early season form. A win would mean a lot as he prepares for Paris.
Djokovic has everything to lose on the clay, in my humble opinion. He has to get his game together. Between the three big clay tournaments prior to Paris, he should be able to find some confidence, but that means he has to start finding some confidence.
Surely you do not follow me on Twitter, but I did recently point-out there that Djokovic recently said he has not been at his best. This flies in the face of the Djokovic fan club saying his form was back but he was simply the victim of outrageously difficult draws. I detailed some of my exchanges with fans here on this blog, trying to clarify this reality for them; hopefully his own admission helped clear things up. He has not been very solid since Paris last year (he did win Toronto, however). Again, Doha was ugly and the rest of 2017 has been an extension of the second half of 2016.
After the clay, he will have Federer, Murray, Wawrinka, Zverev and Kyrgios, et al at the top to deal with. A victory in Paris would be just what the doctor ordered for the Serb. We shall see, starting with some of these early matches with the likes of Simon, a potentially dangerous Spaniard and possibly Thiem before the stakes steepen in MC.
Murray is another question mark. We need to see some tennis before too much is said. The clay, I suspect, will help Murray find his form, giving him more than enough time to camp along the BL and use that solid defensive tennis of his.