It’s hard to believe that Madison Keys is still only 24 years old. The Rock-Island-born player has been a regular on the WTA circuit since breaking through in 2012, but she hasn’t been able to live up to her early promise. Despite plenty of hype during the initial stages of her career, Keys has never previously won a clay-court title, but she’s finally broke her duck when wrapping up the Volvo Car Open in Charleston on April 7th.
Keys beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-6(5), 6-3 to secure $141,420 in prize money, as she became the 16th different winner on the WTA Tour this calendar year. She fought off two break points in the eighth game to force a tie-break, and avoid falling behind to the powerful Dane. It was a pivotal moment which helped swing the match in her favour.
It was her seventh visit to Charleston, and she’s always been a hugely popular figure at the tournament. The crowd got behind the right-hander throughout the final, and she admitted that it’s always been one of her favourite venues to play. Keys told reporters that it “feels like I’m at home” and spoke glowingly about the partisan support that she received from the stands.
The tournament, which is played on green clay, has previously been won by Serena Williams, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and it regularly attracts a high-quality field. It is one of the oldest events on the calendar, and prior to 2015 it was known as the Family Circle Cup. Over 90,000 tennis fans watched the tournament this year, and the locals always turn up in their droves.
It is one of a number of events throughout April which are generally regarded as a precursor to the French Open, which gets underway on May 26th. Madison Keys reached the semi-finals of the second Grand Slam of the season in 2018, but was defeated by her compatriot Sloane Stephens. It was viewed as a significant step forward for the American, who had crashed out in the first round of the competition 12 months earlier. As a result of her success in Charleston, her odds for the 2019 French Open have shortened, and she’s 22/1 in the latest tennis betting to secure her inaugural Grand Slam title at Roland Garros this year.
She cites Paris as her favourite city to visit, and her 2018 performance in the French capital was hugely encouraging. Although there is still plenty more tennis to be played ahead of the upcoming Grand Slam, she is likely to be feeling quietly confident heading into the clay-court event.
Keys has had her fair share of coaches over the years, but she’s recently been reunited with Juan Todero. She had previously worked with the Argentine five years ago, and he has been credited with helping her break into the top 40 of the WTA rankings. She recently split from Lindsay Davenport and Jon Leach, and has previously worked with both Jesse Levine and Thomas Hogstedt.
Amazingly, this was just her fourth WTA title, and her first since 2017. She’s previously been successful at Stanford, Birmingham and Eastbourne, but reaching the final of the 2017 US Open will also surely be amongst her career highlights. Remarkably, three of her four titles have arrived in tournaments held on the green clay.
It’s a step in the right direction for Madison Keys, and she’ll be keen to build upon her success in South Carolina. She spoke of her desire to “keep this up at a kind of high bar”, and she’ll be hoping to carry that momentum into the French Open and throughout the summer months.
Rafael Nadal entered as the French Open favorite and left as the French Open champion for the 11th time in his illustrious career. Nadal, the game’s best ever on clay (perhaps by some margin), dropped just one set the entire tournament as he cruised through a crop of solid ATP players to triumph in Paris yet again.
In the final it was Nadal against Austria’s Dominic Thiem, a player that beaten Rafa before on clay, but was contesting his maiden Grand Slam final (having previously reached the semis at Roland Garros). Thiem wasn’t a pushover, and on the surface he’d probably beat anyone else in tennis, but not Nadal. The Spaniard got off to a strong start and in every pressure moment, forced Thiem to buckle under his attack. Nadal prevailed 6-4 6-3 6-2, the scoreline reflecting how he took control of the match as the minutes ticked by. The final point securing Nadal his 17th Grand Slam overall as he continues to chase Roger Federer in tennis history.
Nadal’s path to the final saw him tested in his opening match against Simone Bolelli. The Italian put everything he could into the opening set and nearly took it, but in the end Nadal grinded his way to a three set victory. Guido Pella and Richard Gasquet put up far less resistance in rounds 2 and 3. Max Marterer played a good third set but still lost in straights. The quarterfinal match against Diego Schwartzman was Rafa’s toughest of the tournament. He struggled at the start and went a set and a break down, then the rain came. Forced to come back the next day to complete the match, Schwartzman couldn’t maintain his high level and lost in four sets.
Nadal took on Juan Martin Del Potro in the semis, Del Potro blitzed his way to that stage and was looking to be in great form, but then the Nadal hurricane hit as the Spaniard lost just 7 games and reached the final via straight sets.
Thiem’s path wasn’t so smooth, as he had to battle through the middle rounds. He put away Ilya Ivashka in straights, then defeated Stefanos Tsitipas and Matteo Berrentini in 4 sets. Kei Nishikori pushed him to four at the start of week 2, but after winning that Thiem really found his groove against an exhausted Alexander Zverev and upset hero Marco Cecchinato. Cecchinato stunned Novak Djokovic in the match of the tournament to reach his first ever slam semi, but the rising Italian was no match for Thiem.
French fans found some joy as Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut continued their strong doubles partnership and took the title over Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. It’s the third slam title for the French pair, and their first at their home slam in Paris.
Looking ahead, Nadal and Roger Federer will take their battle for world #1 into the grass and hard court seasons, while Thiem looks set to have a strong run on hard courts (at least), Cecchinato will look to consolidate his breakthrough, and Del Potro will look to stay among the game’s elite.
Rafael Nadal Has Clear Path to Another Roland Garros Final Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The first week of action is complete in Paris, and Rafael Nadal remains the favorite to capture yet another French Open title. Here is a look at the 16 remaining men hoping to capture glory at Roland Garros, and a look at whether anyone can topple Rafa.
Rafael Nadal, the tournament favorite, was challenged early by Simone Bolelli, the Italian veteran pushed him to a tiebreak but Nadal still won in straight sets. His second and third round matches were routs as he dominated Guido Pella and home favorite Richard Gasquet, surrendering just 11 games over 6 sets.
Fourth round opponent Max Marterer has extended his career year with a fantastic run at Roland Garros. The young German has a bright future, as evidenced by his wins against Ryan Harrison and Jurgen Zopp in straights, and Denis Shapovalov, another ATP young gun, in 4 sets. Zopp, a journeyman veteran, upset Jack Sock earlier in the tournament, and given his opposition, Marterer has really not been challenged.
All of that said, Nadal should blow past his lower ranked and less experienced opponent and I don’t see him dropping a set.
Reaching week 2 is a solid result for both players. Schwartzman hasn’t dropped a set, defeating Calvin Hemery, Adam Pavlasek, and Borna Coric with ease. Anderson dropped sets against Pablo Cuevas and Mischa Zverev in rounds 2 and 3, after a straight set win over Paolo Lorenzi in round 1.
Form would favor Schwartzman, but Anderson is a bit more accomplished and I’ll still tip him to edge this contest. This is a clash between one of the ATP’s shortest players, against one of the ATP’s tallest.
Cilic will be the favorite after dropping just one set in three matches, but Fognini has always had the potential to make noise on clay. The Croatian defeated James Duckworth and Steve Johnson in straights, dropping a set to Hubert Hurkacz in round 2.
Fognini had to survive a five set test against Kyle Edmund where he came back from 2 sets to 1 down to prevail. His other wins came with ease against Pablo Andujar and Elias Ymer. I’ll go with Cilic by a small margin.
A great opportunity for either player. Isner has beaten Noah Rubin and Pierre-Hugues Herbert in straights, and Horacio Zeballos in 4 sets to reach this stage. Del Potro dropped a set in round 1 against Nicolas Mahut but then breezed past Julien Benneteau and Albert Ramos.
Isner is actually a solid player on clay, but Del Potro is more well rounded and should win this.
David Goffin will face an opponent he just defeated in Rome. Goffin saved four match points against Gael Monfils and a hostile crowd in round 3, prior to that he survived a challenged from Robin Haase, who collapsed from 2 sets to love up, and put away Corentin Moutet in straights.
Cecchinato is having a career year and rising fast. The Italian defeated Marius Copil 10-8 in the 5th set, then recovered nicely to ease past Marco Trungelliti, a lucky loser who had to drive from Barcelona to accept his spot in the draw and then won his round 1 match. In the third round Cecchinato upset Pablo Carreno Busta, denying PCB a great opportunity to make a run in this soft section.
Cecchinato has a shot at another upset, but if Goffin recovers himself he’ll prevail.
Djokovic looked a bit shaky against Roberto Bautista Agut, but he still won that round 3 contest in four sets, and prior to that he got the job done in straights against Rogerio Dutra Silva and Jaume Munar.
Verdasco is having a late career resurgence on the dirt. The Spaniard with the powerful forehand was pushed to the brink against Yoshihito Nishioka, but after that five set win he defeated Guido Andreozzi and one of the higher seeds, Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets. Verdasco has the talent to push Djokovic, but you can’t pick against the former champion at this stage.
The match of the round it seems, Nishikori is back in form having won in straights against Gilles Simon and Maxime Janvier, and edging Benoit Paire in 5 sets. The Japanese #1 has played at Frenchman in France three straight times, and come out a winner.
Thiem is playing incredibly well on clay right now. He won Lyon in the run up to RG and then put away Ilya Ivashka, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Matteo Berrettini, dropping sets in rounds 2 and 3 but coming away the winner regardless.
This match could go either way but I’ll back Thiem’s form, this is his chance to do something memorable in Paris.
Despite being a heavy favorite in the early rounds, Zverev has struggled mightily after dispatching Ricardas Berankis in round 1. Both Dusan Lajovic and Damir Dzumhur challenged the young German star, with Lajovic succumbing to fatigue and Dzumhur failing to maintain his high level over the final 2 sets.
Khachanov has done nicely to make it this far, he’s not the strongest on clay but he put away Andreas Haider-Maurer, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and home favorite Lucas Pouille to reach this stage.
Zverev has all the ability but I’m far from sold on his mindset, and thus I’ll tip Khachanov in an upset.
Quarters Nadal d. Anderson
Del Potro d. Cilic
Djokovic d. Goffin
Thiem d. Khachanov
Either Del Potro or Cilic could win the right to lose to Nadal in the semis, though Del Potro has a better chance to win that semi. Djokovic should do enough to reach the semis, but Thiem has a chance to be the player of the tournament.
Semis Nadal d. Del Potro
Thiem d. Djokovic
I’ll back an upset in the second semi, but Nadal is not going to lose this championship, particularly if Djokovic doesn’t find form quickly.
Halep’s First Grand Slam Title: 2018 Roland Garros Women’s Singles Preview, Predictions Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
The clay season concludes with the second grand slam of the year. The French Open has arrived with Jelena Ostapenko looking to defend her crown whilst six players fight for the world number one. Will we see another shock winner, or will one of the elite step up to take the crown? Did I mention Serena returns? There is plenty to look at in our draw preview for Roland Garros.
The French Open has been the kindest grand slam to Simona Halep, but it has also been the cruellest. Twice a finalist, twice a runner-up, the Romanian will be hoping to go one further this year. Alison Riske is first up, but the first major challenge will come against Kristina Mladenovic in round three. The Frenchwoman is always dangerous in front of a supporting crowd, and she made the quarter final last year herself. Projected for the round of 16 is rising Belgian Elise Mertens who is fats becoming a staple in the top 20. The 16th seed has some tough matches in front of her, including a third round match against the tricky Daria Gavrilova should things go by the seedings. The Aussie has some tough names herself to get through such as Sorana Cirstea then the winner of Bernarda Pera and Elena Vesnina.
Caroline Garcia is one of the six player show can become worlds number one this tournament, and after a consistent clay court season she has is positioned to potentially go very deep at her home grand slam. The Frenchwoman struggled under the pressure here, but last year’s quarter final showing may have been a turning point. Garcia’s path is rather easy until the fourth round where she could face the in-form Kiki Bertens or Angelique Kerber. They are set to meet in the third round in what could be a good match between two of the tour’s best defenders. Garcia has had her struggles with both recently, but will the home crowd give her an edge should she meet one of them here?
A Halep vs Garcia quarter final on Phillipe Chatrier could be fireworks and I think we may head in that direction. The Frenchwoman has turned a corner in her home grand slam, but is it enough to go really deep? Halep may be the best claycourter in the world on her day and she may prove to be too tough of a hurdle for Garcia to pass.
Prediction: Halep def. Garcia
For Garbine Muguruza, the French Open brings back some fond memories. She announced herself on tour by thrashing Serena Williams here, then went on to beat her again in the final a few years later to claim her first grand slam crown. Her quest for a second Roland Garros title starts with a rough match against another former champion in Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian has not played much this year but she is still a difficult match to start with. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the first seed the Spaniard could come across with big serving Coco Vandeweghe projected for round four. The American struggles on clay though, so she could be ousted in the first round by Laura Siegemund. This is a really open section of the draw and one where an unseeded player such as Kuznetsova or a returning Bencic could make some waves.
The second half of this quarter is where the major interest lies. Karolina Pliskova is the seed, but she is not the story as Maria Sharapova and a returning Serena (who ironically plays Kristyna Pliskova first) have also landed in this part of the draw. The sixth seed will likely meet Sharapova in the third round as both have a relatively light draw until that point. Julia Goerges is the projected fourth round for the winner, but the German has a tough opener against Dominika Cibulkova and a possible meeting with Serena in round three. Pliskova will need all her new-found clay court prowess to get through this draw.
And I believe she might. Sharapova has shown signs of improvement but she is still not the player she was, and we can not expect much out of Serena after a long layoff. Pliskova made the semi finals here last year, so we know she is capable at Roland Garros. The question is, who awaits in the quarter finals? A lot depends on which Muguruza turns up, and whilst that could decide the quarter, I am picking the safer option of Pliskova here.
Prediction: Pliskova def. Muguruza
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Elina Svitolina’s 2017 campaign ended in a heartbreaking way for the Ukrainian, so she will look to put that right when she aims not only to win Roland Garros but become number one in the world. As one of the steadiest players in the draw, Svitolina is a good bet as one of the contenders, but she has struggled for that grand slam breakthrough. The Ukrainian has a good draw to the quarter finals though with not many dangerous clay courters standing in her way. Madison Keys is projected for round four, but she will likely not even make it that far, which could leave the door open for Naomi Osaka to make the last 16. Svitolina is a huge favourite to get out of this section however, and it will be a huge shock if she loses before the quarter finals.
Awaiting the Ukrainian could be the defending champion Ostapenko. The Latvian shocked the world with her performance here last year, and she will be looking for a repeat when she defends her title. She has a much tougher round ahead than Svitolina as Victoria Azarenka could await in round two then Barbora Strycova projected for round three. With Johanna Konta’s and Venus Williams’ struggles on clay, we could get an unseeded player such as Petra Martic and Qiang Wang in the round of 16.
It will be very difficult for Ostapenko to defend her French Open title with this draw, and even if she does make the last eight, she will have to battle to get there. Svitolina has a relatively simple draw to navigate and I expect the Ukrainian to make it out of this quarter.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Ostapenko
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Caroline Wozniacki finally broke her Grand Slam duck in Melbourne, so for the first time ever the Dane enters a major as a grand slam champion. Clay ahs never been Wozniacki’s best surface though, even with her defensive orientated style of play. The world number two has a potentially tough round one against Collins with former finalist Timea Bacsinszky possibly awaiting Wozniacki in round two. The Dane could face a hostile crowd in round three as she is projected to meet Alize Cornet there, but she has former finalist Sara Errani then Pauline Parmentier in her two matches prior to a possible Wozniacki meeting. Round four could get very interesting with promising Russian Daria Kasatkina seeded to meet her in the round of 16. Kasatkina has the dangerous Kaia Kanepi in round one though with Kirsten Flipkens possibly awaiting in round two. Carla Suarez Navarro is the round of 32 projected opponent, but she has a tough draw too with Ana Konjuh and Maria Sakkari in her section.
Petra Kvitova has found some big form this season and even won the title in Madrid in the build-up to this tournament. The Czech’s draw looks pretty good with an out of form Anett Kontaveit projected for round three and not too many dangerous unseeded players lurking. Sloane Stephens has also landed in this section, but her form on the clay has not been brilliant. Anastasija Sevastova could await the American in the third round.
There could be some upsets in this section with a few of the seeds not being at their best on the clay. Wozniacki may be the biggest casualty as I could see her losing out to Kasatkina in round four, but I think Kvitova will not suffer that same fate and will make it to the semi finals.
It is a hard one to call as nobody stands out above the rest in this draw, but I am going with Halep to break her duck. Third time could possibly be a charm for her when it comes to French Open finals.
Rafael Nadal vs. the Field At Roland Garros 2018: Your Full Preview Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 2018 French Open is here and it’s top seed Rafael Nadal vs. the field, as Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Hyeon Chung are among major outs for this Grand Slam. Read on to see whether Nadal will win another French Open title, or if a new champion will emerge.
Rafael Nadal will begin against Alexander Dolgopolov, with Joao Sousa or Guido Pella likely to be his next victim. Home favorite Richard Gasquet should await in round 3 unless his round 1 opponent Andreas Seppi makes a run. The Gasquet vs. Seppi winner takes on Malek Jaziri or Mikhail Youzhny. I’d be surprised if Nadal dropped a set in the opening week of the tournament.
The Denis Shapovalov vs. John Millman round 1 match could decide one of the tournament dark horses for this year. Both players have been solid on clay this year, but I’ll go with the Canadian to face off with Max Marterer (or Ryan Harrison) in round 2. Jack Sock should ease past qualifier Jurgen Zopp, and the Yuki Bhambri/Yen-Hsun Lu winner to reach round 3, with Shapovalov favored to win this section.
Diego Schwartzman should be good enough on clay to defeat Calvin Hemery and Adam Pavlasek/Mirza Basic to reach round 3. I have the veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber winning a toss-up round 1 match against Borna Coric, then defeating Thomas Fabbiano (or Matt Ebden) to reach round 3, where I’ll back him in against Schwartzman.
Kevin Anderson looks set to be a factor in week 2, his path to that stage is Paolo Lorenzi, Aljaz Bedene/Pablo Cuevas, and most likely Feliciano Lopez. Lopez faces Sergiy Stakhovsky and Mischa Zverev/Florian Mayer prior to round 3. Bedene/Cuevas have ability on this surface, but Anderson is the favorite to take the section.
Marin Cilic is in a great position to make a run, his first round opponent is James Duckworth, Hubert Hurkacz or Tennys Sandgren will be next in round 2 with Steve Johnson/Adrian Mannarino or Evgeny Donskoy/Jan-Lennard Struff set to feature in the following round. Cilic against Johnson is my expected third round matchup with Cilic advancing.
Fabio Fognini vs. Kyle Edmund in round 3 has the potential to be a thrilling contest. Fognini’s path will be Pablo Andujar, and Elias Ymer/Dudi Sela. Edmund faces Alex De Minaur, with Marton Fucsovics/Vasek Pospisil on deck. I’ll back Fognini over Edmund in the third round but the matchup could go either way.
John Isner has been presented with a tremendous opportunity, his path to the second week is countryman Noah Rubin, Horacio Zeballos/Yuichi Sugita, and most likely Tomas Berdych. Berdych is a struggling former star who opens with Jeremy Chardy, Peter Polansky/Pierre-Hugues Herbert awaits. Chardy has a real shot at upsetting Berdych, while Isner should win the section.
Juan Martin Del Potro looks set to benefit from the absence of other top stars, Del Potro faces Nicolas Mahut, Leonardo Mayer/Julien Benneteau, then most likely Casper Ruud or Albert Ramos. I’ll back the qualifier Ruud to defeat Jordan Thompson, with Ramos beating Mikhail Kukushkin before being upset by Ruud in the second round.
Fernando Verdasco vs. Grigor Dimitrov looks like the third round matchup in Dimitrov’s section, he needs to defeat Viktor Troicki, Nicolas Jarry/Jared Donaldson and either Verdasco or Taylor Fritz to reach week 2. Verdasco takes on Yoshihito Nishioka while Fritz faces Guido Andreozzi in round 1. I’ll go with Dimitrov over Verdasco in this section, with Fritz a possible dark horse.
Novak Djokovic was struggling but he found enough form to suggest he’ll be a factor in the second week. Djokovic’s path is Rogerio Dutra Silva, David Ferrer/Jaume Munar and most likely Roberto Bautista Agut in round 3. RBA needs to defeat Denis Istomin and Marcos Baghdatis or Santiago Giraldo in round 2. Ferrer is a shell of the player he was, and RBA lacks weapons, so Djokovic, presuming his serve holds up, should reach week 2.
Expect fireworks between Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic in round 1, I’ll back an upset in this section with Marco Cecchinato defeating Marius Copil and the Kyrgios/Tomic winner to reach round 3. Kyrgios fitness is a question and Tomic’s form is always a question, while the Italian has been rising. Expect Pablo Carreno Busta to roll past Jozef Kovalik, Federico Delbonis/Thomaz Bellucci, then defeat Cecchinato in round 3.
David Goffin struggled after injuring his eye, but he has been improving and Robin Haase, Ivo Karlovic/Corentin Moutet will be his first 2 opponents. Gael Monfils always thrills the fans and should beat Elliot Benchetrit in round 1, but I’ll go with qualifier Martin Klizan or Laslo Djere to upset Monfils in round 2. Goffin over Klizan is my pick for the section.
The other star player of the clay court season, Alexander Zverev, should ease past Ricardas Berankis and Dusan Lajovic/Jiri Vesely before running into Damir Dzhumur in round 3. This is a weak section for the #2 seed and I don’t see Dzumhur threatening him. The Bosnian has matches against Denis Kudla and Gregoire Barrere/Radu Albot before the third round.
Lucas Pouille has not been in good form, and despite home support I have him going down to the in-form Peter Gojowczyk in round 2. Gojowczyk faces Cam Norrie in round 1, while Pouille should get past the struggling Daniil Medvedev. Former champion Stan Wawrinka is not in good shape since returning from injury, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will take a crack at knocking him off in round 1, if that doesn’t happen, I’ll go with Karen Khachanov to beat Andreas Haider-Maurerer in round 1, and Wawrinka in round 2, before edging Gojowczyk in round 3.
Kei Nishikori looks set to roll into week 2 past Maxime Janvier, Benoit Paire/Roberto Carballes Baena and Gilles Simon or Frances Tiafoe. Simon is playing at home and taking on Nikoloz Basilashvili in round 1, with Tiafoe or Sam Querrey in round 2. Tiafoe is rising and has impressed on clay, but Simon’s pushing is always tricky. Nishikori over Simon should be the result in this section.
The final section looks to have a must-see round 2 match between Stefanos Tsitipas and Dominic Thiem. Presuming Thiem is fit he’ll beat Ilya Ivashka, while Tsitsipas should put away Carlos Taberner. I’ll go with Thiem to win a tough one then face Ernests Gulbis in round 3. The qualifier Gulbis will get help rebuilding his career with wins against Gilles Muller and Matteo Berretinni/Oscar Otte. Look for Thiem (or Tsitipas) to win out here.
Round of 16 Nadal d. Shapovalov
Anderson d. Kohlschreiber
Cilic d. Fognini
Del Potro d. Isner
Goffin d. Carreno Busta
Djokovic d. Dimitrov
Nishikori d. Thiem
Zverev d. Khachanov
Cilic/Fognini, Del Potro/Isner, Goffin/PCB, Nishikori/Thiem and Djokovic/Dimitrov are the toss up matches here. Djokovic has the experience, Cilic is more consistent, Del Potro I trust more than Isner on clay, Nishikori should be more fit, and I feel Goffin will rise to the occasion.
Quarters Nadal d. Anderson
Cilic d. Del Potro
Djokovic d. Goffin
Zverev d. Nishikori
Nadal looks way too good to lose before the final. Despite Zverev’s poor record in Grand Slams, you have to trust his solid clay season this year (and last year) over a still out of sorts Djokovic. Nadal should take the final.
We hit Madrid for one of the biggest tournaments of the season at the Caja Magica. It is an event I have covered a few times over the years and it rarely disappoints. Unfortunately, I can not make it this year, but there is still plenty to be excited about when it comes to the women’s draw, so let’s get to it.
The Mutua Madrid Open has been a kind tournament to Simona Halep who enters as the defending champion. The Romanian opens against dangerous lefty Ekaterina Makarova in the first round, who can be a tricky customer especially on the faster clay courts of Madrid. Young Belgian prospect Elise Mertens is a possible round two opponent with Madison Keys also in the mini section. The 13th seed has not done well here traditionally but her draw to the third round is very soft.
Karolina Pliskova has never been known as a traditional clay courter, but her win in Stuttgart may signal she is turning a corner on the surface. She is the sixth seed and will face Elena Vesnina in the first round. The big story in the section, however, is the return of Victoria Azarenka, Pliskova’s potential second round opponent. The Belarusian faces Alexsandra Krunic in her opener and there will be plenty of eyes on that one. This section is quite stacked and Sloane Stephens could be waiting either Pliskova or Azarenka in the third round.
That said, I am picking Halep to continue her good form in Madrid and win this section over Pliskova in the quarter finals.
Prediction: Halep def. Pliskova
Despite this being her home tournament, Garbine Muguruza has a mental block in Madrid. Despite being one of the best clay courters on the tour, the Spaniard has never made it past the second round here and has meekly gone out on several occasions. She will be hoping to change her fortunes this year starting with Shaui Peng then the winner of Vekic vs. Garcia Perez. Daria Kasatkina is the potential third round opponent, but she has a tough draw against Qiang Wang who did well here last year.
Clay has never been Venus Williams’ territory and given the lack of playing time, it will be difficult to expect much of the American in this draw. Annett Kontaveit is a tough opener even if she has not been at her best so far this season. This could open the door even more to former champion Petra Kvitova, who might be the favourite to make the semi finals out of this section. The 10th seed had a good week in Prague and the quicker Madrid clay courts suit her power focused style of play.
Petra Kvitova (Photo: Tony Callaio)
Muguruza vs Kvitova would be a hard-hitting quarterfinal battle and one to really get excited for, but I give the edge to the Czech here. She is a former champion and Muguruza’s Mental Madrid Block has to be taken into consideration.
Prediction: Kvitova def. Muguruza
Elina Svitolina enters Madrid as the fourth seed and one of the tournament favourites, but Madrid has not been a kind tournament for the Ukrainian in the past. Alize Cornet is the first round opponent with Barbora Strycova or Carla Suarez Navarro in the second round. There are no big hitters there but plenty of solid players with variety to open the tournament for Svitolina. Madgalena Rybarikova is the other seed in this section and she faces Johanna Konta in the first round. The Brit struggles on clay so this could be a good opportunity for the 16th seed, who faces a qualifier if she gets by Konta.
Caroline Garcia made her first semi final in Stuttgart before losing to Coco Vandeweghe, so she will be hoping to build on that result in Madrid after a so-so start to the season. She faces Dominika Cibulkova, a player she threw a 6-0, 3-0 lead away to two years ago here in the first round. The tough draw continues with Svetlana Kuznetsova or Petra Martic in the second round, but things could get really interesting with big hitting Julia Goerges in the third round.
I expect Svitolina to make it to the quarter finals, but Garcia–not so much. The Frenchwoman might be the favourite in her section but she can lose to anyone at any time, so I am picking Svitolina to make the semi finals.
Prediction: Svitolina def. Garcia
Caroline Wozniacki heads to Madrid with the World number one ranking in her sights. Clay has not been her best surface however, despite her more defensive style of play. Daria Gavrilova is a difficult opener with Ash Barty completing the Aussie double in round two. Anastasija Sevastova is not an easy third round draw either with her solid game, so it is a tough road for Wozniacki as she aims to top the rankings once more.
Jelena Ostapenko (Photo: Tony Callaio)
Jelena Ostapenko is back on the clay as she aims to build form ahead of her French Open title defence. The Latvian’s game should suit Madrid so she could have a decent run here if she plays well. That said, a big match against Maria Sharapova is on the cards for the second round. Coco Vandeweghe heads into Madrid In good form after a surprising final run in Stuttgart, but she has a potentially tough opener against last year’s finalist Kristina Mladenovic. Naomi Osaka is also in this section.
This is a tough quarter to predict but an in-form Ostapenko might have enough to make it past Wozniacki in the last eight.
Prediction: Ostapenko def. Wozniacki
Semi Finals/Finals Prediction:
Kvitova def. Halep
Svitolina def. Ostapenko
Kvitova def. Svitolina
Kvitova is a former champion here and of all the clay court tournaments, this will probably suit her the best. Add on top of that her good form, then you have the reason why I pick the Czech to win in Madrid
Rafael Nadal hasn’t lost a match on clay since 2017, a 46 consecutive set run that will perhaps never be matched again on the ATP tour. Nadal, a player that many thought was in the twilight of his career after knee problems, has already put together a pair of seasons on clay that are as good, if not better than his younger years, and now he has the Madrid and Rome Masters tournaments to come, followed by Roland Garros.
Given Nadal’s excellent form against even the ATP’s elite on clay, he has a very good chance of winning every match on clay this season, sweeping his way to an 11th Paris title, and perhaps not dropping a set en route. Nadal has only lost a match since the 2016 French Open. However, if an upset happens in Paris, or along the road to Paris, which player is most likely to trip up Nadal? We take a look at a few of the options.
Former world #1 Novak Djokovic is the first name that comes to mind, Djokovic hasn’t been healthy lately and he’s been undergoing major changes with his coaching team, but he’s still Novak Djokovic. The competitive fire and skill that made him world #1 and allowed him to compete with the rest of the big four, and frequently beat them, hasn’t entirely disappeared. Form is a finicky thing in tennis, and if Djokovic can rebuild his belief by stacking some quality wins together prior to facing Nadal, he could very well catch the Spaniard if Rafa is playing at less than 90% of his best. Djokovic’s seven wins on clay against Rafa far surpass any other active player in terms of h2h results.
Dominic Thiem is the last player to beat Nadal on clay, Thiem has a big game that is suited for the surface, but he’s yet to win a slam and hasn’t yet proven the consistent ability to put his talents to use. That said, in a one off match Thiem has a chance against Rafa.
Some sportsbooks list Djokovic and Thiem as having the same odds to win the French Open (+900) but that’s far from Nadal’s odds, which is set at a very favorable (-225). Nadal is basically going into this as the sure win and if you have as much confidence in him as most others do, this list of offshore betting sites will be your best guide to choosing the right site. Each one has been reviewed by experts so that you can trust them, just like how you can trust Nadal to take home the win. Outside of these top three players, the odds for other players are a bit of a stretch.
A big server such as John Isner or Milos Raonic could disrupt Rafa’s rhythm on clay, most big servers are not at their best on the surface, and they would need to massively improve their return of serve to win that matchup, but at least they possess the skillset to do it. Other players with weapons such as Juan Martin Del Potro, Fabio Fognini, and Gael Monfils also have a shot, of that group only Fognini (2 previous h2h wins) has done it.
Rafael Nadal Dominates All Comers to Claim Tenth Roland Garros Title Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Rafael Nadal moved to #2 in the world by virtue of claiming his tenth title at Roland Garros. The legendary Spaniard showed why he’s the true king of clay over the last two weeks, not dropping a set and finishing off his journey with a thumping 6-2 6-3 6-1 win over an in-form Stan Wawrinka in the final. He dominated the former Roland Garros champion to finish the clay court season with a 24-1 record and four clay titles in the bag a remarkable feat for a player that many had written off after he dealt with some serious injuries in recent years and slipped down the rankings. Two of the games greatest ever players, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have now claimed the two slam titles this season and head towards Wimbledon on a potential collision course, with a more neutral surface in New York at the US Open perhaps serving as the trust test of which player will be the season’s best.
Nadal moved well around the court and came up with some brutal shots, defeating Benoit Paire, Robin Haase, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta, and Dominic Thiem to reach the final. His most challenging opponents on paper, Thiem, who upset Novak Djokovic to make the semifinals without dropping a set, and Wawrinka who didn’t drop a set before knocking off Andy Murray in a five set semifinal battle. Murray performed well to find form and reach the semis yet again, and Wawrinka remains a slam contender, but Rafa entered the tournament as a deserving favorite, and left it as a clear champion. Thiem has been coming into his own recently as well, and the French Open looks to be his best chance to win a Grand Slam.
Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus beat Santiago Gonzalez and Donald Young for the doubles title, The American Harrison rising quickly to become a top men’s doubles player, adding to his already successful 2017 season.
GABRIELA DABROWSKI CROWNED FRENCH OPEN MIXED DOUBLES CHAMPION The Ottawa native becomes the first Canadian woman to win a Grand Slam
Gabriela Dabrowski and Rohan Bopanna Celebrate (Photo: Peter Figura)
Montreal, June 8, 2017 – On Thursday, Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa, ON) became the first Canadian woman to win a Grand Slam. The 25-year-old captured the mixed doubles title at Roland-Garros with her partner Rohan Bopanna of India. The pair defeated Germany’s Anna-Lena Grönefeld and Robert Farah of Colombia 2-6, 6-2,12-10 in the final.
Gabriela Dabrowski and Rohan Bopanna Celebrate (Photo: Peter Figura)
Dabrowski and Bopanna, seeded seventh in the tournament, advanced to the championship match without dropping a set. In the final, they saved two match points in the match tiebreak before claiming victory following a Grönefeld double fault after 1 hour, 26 minutes of play. This is the first Grand Slam title for both Dabrowski and 37-year-old Bopanna.
Dabrowski joins Daniel Nestor, Sébastien Lareau, and Vasek Pospisil as the only Canadians to win a Major doubles title.
French Open 2017 Men’s Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The second slam of the season and the pinnacle of the clay court season is upon as Roland Garros starts Sunday. Excluding Roger Federer, the world’s best are taking part in the French Open this year and here is your complete preview with predictions.
May 28-June 11, 2017
Prize Money: €16,790,000
Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Andy Murray (1)
2: Novak Djokovic (2)
3: Stan Wawrinka (3)
4: Rafael Nadal (4)
5: Milos Raonic (6)
6: Dominic Thiem (7)
7: Marin Cilic (8)
8: Kei Nishikori (9)
Roger Federer, who is skipping RG to rest his body, is the only notable absence from the tournament.
First round matches to watch:
(1)Andy Murray vs. Andrey Kuznetsov
Murray starts another slam as the world #1, but he’s had a miserable season thus far, and although he’s never lost to Kuznetsov, he needs to watch out that he doesn’t suffer yet another early tournament defeat. Murray has reached the semis or better for three straight French Open’s, and he reached the final last year, Kuznetsov is 9-4 on clay this Spring and is a steady battler. I don’t think Kuznetsov will have enough in his arsenal to win this given his 2-16 record vs the Top 10, but Murray could slip up.
(29)Juan Martin Del Potro vs. (Q)Guido Pella
Del Potro’s best result this Spring was a quarterfinal in Rome, he’s proven himself to be a dangerous competitor on tour, despite all of the injury problems, and he serves as a bit of a dark horse this tournament. That said, Pella is 12-7 and is a respectable dirt baller, this match should go more than straight sets, and JMDP should be on upset alert.
(9)Alexander Zverev vs. Fernando Verdasco
The veteran Verdasco is in decline, but he’s reached the second week in Paris four times, the last coming in 2014. The young Zverev is 16-3 on clay this year, and with Murray in his section, has a potential path to the final. Germany’s young hope will be a solid favorite and beat Verdasco in Madrid this year, but he can’t get over confident as Verdasco still has the forehand necessary to notch upsets and punish his rivals if he finds his range.
(27)Sam Querrey vs. Hyeon Chung
Querrey is the seed and at 29 he’s developed a respectable clay court game, the 21 year old Chung is a difficult opponent though, he has a semifinal and a quarterfinal on clay this spring and is making his move up the rankings. Chung is a name to watch in the future, and he should find a way to win this one and pull off the upset.
(18)Nick Kyrgios vs. Phlipp Kohlschreiber
The veteran Kohlschreiber has plenty of clay court experience, but he’s just 1-3 since losing the final in Casablanca. Kyrgios has lost two straight and due to personal family reasons his clay court action this year was limited. Kyrgios is the more talented player and can raise his game to a level that Kohlschreiber can no longer reach, but if Kyrgios is off, clay is not his best surface and Kohli could pull an upset.
(31)Gilles Simon vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili
Basilashvili broke through in 2017 and is now a solid tour player, he is coming off the semis in Lyon while Simon carries a disappointing 4-5 record on clay this season. Simon will have home support though, and his grinding wears opponents down in slams. Basilashvili will need to bring his best tennis if he’s going to get the upset.
(23)Ivo Karlovic vs. (Q)Stefanos Tsitsipas
Despite an 0-3 tour record, the 18 year old Tsitsipas came through qualifying and soon enough he’s going to make a bang in a grand slam. Karlovic has just two wins on clay this season and it’s by far his worst surface, the tour veteran is a crafty serve and volleyer, but if the young Greek can survive an early onslaught of big serves, he should be able to notch his first ever tour level win and get a big upset.
Murray and Del Potro look set to meet in the third round, but Murray needs to watch out for Martin Klizan, who has a couple of clay quarterfinals and opens with wildcard Laurent Lokoli and would face Murray in round 2. Del Potro could be upset by Nicolas Almagro, who has been solid on clay this year and starts his campaign against Marcos Baghdatis, who is poor on the surface. Presuming Murray ups his game for this slam, I see him beating Del Potro and surviving some early tests to reach round 4.
Current Lyon finalist Tomas Berdych should be consistent enough to defeat J.L. Struff, the improving young gun Karen Khachanov (who opens with Nicolas Jarry), and either John Isner or Paolo Lorenzi. Lorenzi will face Ricardas Berankis first up while Rome semifinalist Isner will take on Jordan Thompson, who is poor on clay. Isner will probably edge the dirtballer Lorenzi in a long contest, with Berdych as the clear favorite to make the round of 16.
After taking on Verdasco, Zverev should have an easier go against either Pierre-Hugues Herbert or Jared Donaldson, in round 3 he’ll have a challenging contest against Pablo Cuevas, a semifinalist in Madrid and quarterfinalist in Monte Carlo who is excellent on clay. Cuevas starts his campaign against young qualifier Maxime Hamou, then he’ll face either Nicolas Kicker or Damir Dzumhur. Zverev has more talent than Cuevas, and I’ll make him the favorite in that match.
Look for Chung to try and pull the upset against Kei Nishikori, Asia’s best player. Nishikori hasn’t had a great clay season, but should defeat Thanasi Kokkinakis, and Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who opens against Radu Albot. Chung faces the Ernesto Escobedo/Denis Istomin winner in round 2. Nishikori, despite his troubles, is still superior to Chung.
Current Geneva finalist and former Roland Garros champion Stan Wawrinka is finding form finally after a shaky clay court season. His tournament will begin against qualifier Jozef Kovalik, Wawrinka should then finish off dirtballer Carlos Berlocq, who begins against Alexandr Dolgopolov, who is currently a shell of the player he was. The dangerous Fabio Fognini awaits in round 3, Fognini’s path begins with Frances Tiafoe, an American young gun looking to improve on clay, and then he should face his Italian countryman Andreas Seppi, presuming Seppi defeats veteran Santiago Giraldo. Fognini could peak and knock off Wawrinka, but Wawrinka is a more consistent player and will be the favorite to reach round 4.
Richard Gasquet is just 1-2 on clay this year, and should watch out against qualifier Arthur De Greef. The home hero looks set to clash with fellow fan favorite Gael Monfils in round 3 though, Monfils needs to defeat Dustin Brown and either Thiago Monteiro or French wild card Alexandre Muller. Gasquet’s round 2 opponent will be either Victor Estrella or Teymuraz Gabashvili, both veterans. I have Gasquet as a slight favorite against Monfils, although both players are struggling.
Current Lyon finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had been struggling, but Tsonga, the best French hope this tournament, looks to have found form and should defeat Renzo Olivo, and either Gastao Elias or Kyle Edmund before running into Kyrgios/Kevin Anderson round 3. After Kohlschreiber, Kyrgios looks set to face big server Kevin Anderson, as Anderson should defeat Malek Jaziri. I have Anderson, who has been consistent on clay this spring, upsetting Kyrgios, and then Tsonga through to the round of 16.
Istanbul champion Marin Cilic will face Ernest Gulbis, a struggling and fallen ATP star, Federico Delbonis or Konstantin Kravchuk will follow. David Ferrer, who is also struggling, should get past Donald Young, given Ferrer is better on clay, and the winner of Feliciano Lopez/Bjorn Frantagelo. This is a weak section though and Cilic should ease into round 4.
Rafael Nadal, My Top SportsBook’s favorite to reclaim the French Open Title for a record tenth time, Nadal has three clay titles in hand from this spring and starts his tournament against Frenchman Benoit Paire. Paire’s form doesn’t suggest he can defeat Rafa, Robin Haase/Alex De Minaur also don’t look to be that imposing, and the winner of Viktor Troicki/Gilles Simon will probably be Nadal’s first serious test. I have Troicki defeating Evgeny Donskoy, and then Simon/Basilashvili to reach the third round. Nadal should win his first three without dropping a set.
Roberto Bautista Agut, a solid clay courter, looks set to make round 3, John Millman, and the winner of Mikhail Kukushkin/Tennys Sandgren are the only players in his path, Sandgren is rising quickly but he’s not great on clay, RBA should beat Millman and Kukushkin to setup a third round meeting with Jack Sock. Sock should beat the steady Jiri Vesely, then Aljaz Bedene/Ryan Harrison, although Bedene is a dangerous dark horse after catching fire a few weeks ago and reaching the final in Budapest. I have Sock powering past Bautista Agut for a spot in round 4.
Grigor Dimitrov has been in terrible form, he should still defeat a fading Stephane Robert and neither Tommy Robredo or Dan Evans are in good form, Taro Daniel should defeat Jerzy Janowicz before falling to Pablo Carreno Busta. PCB’s path to the fourth round goes through a struggling Florian Mayer, Daniel, and Dimitrov, a reasonable path for the Estoril champion.
Steve Darcis is at a career high ranking, but Milos Raonic looks to be in good enough form to win their round 1 clash and then defeat Rogerio Dutra Silva or Mikhail Youzhny. Gilles Muller has had his best ever clay court season, and that should help him defeat a struggling Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Marco Trungelliti/Quentin Halys in round 2. Raonic is a clear favorite to reach round 4.
Lacking a clay title this season, but working with new coach Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic will start his French Open title defense against Marcel Granollers. The veteran Granollers is a poor singles player these days, Joao Sousa has been terrible this season, and Janko Tipsarevic may not be fit. Djokovic should ease into the third round against either current Geneva finalist Mischa Zverev or Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman will take on Andrey Rublev first up, while Zverev takes on qualifier Stefano Napolitano. Schwartzman should reach the third round on clay but is no match for Djokovic.
Although he started the clay season well, Monte Carlo finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas is yet another struggling dirtballer in this draw. Ramos should defeat Marius Copil though, with Daniil Medvedev’s poor form likely limiting him to a defeat at the hands of Ramos after beating 20 year old wild card Benjamin Bonzi, who is making his slam debut. This is Budapest champion Lucas Pouille‘s section to lose, Pouille should have the edge against veteran Julien Benneteau, then the Frenchman should defeat Thomaz Bellucci, who begins against Dusan Lajovic. Pouille over Ramos is my pick for round 3.
The consistent David Goffin looks set to defeat qualifier Paul-Henri Mathieu, then dispatch either Sergiy Stakhovsky or Rendy Lu before running into Tsitsipas/Karlovic or Horacio Zeballos/Adrian Mannarino. Zeballos is solid on clay and thus the best bet to reach the third round before falling to Goffin.
Dominic Thiem has two finals and a semifinal this spring on clay, he’s in tremendous form and should defeat Bernard Tomic, who is poor on clay, qualifier Simone Bolelli or Nicolas Mahut, and then most likely Borna Coric, who should defeat Mathias Bourgue, and the winner of Steve Johnson/Yuichi Sugita to reach round 3. Look for Thiem to defeat the young Coric to reach the second week.
Dark Horses: Hyeon Chung, Kevin Anderson, Aljaz Bedene, and Horacio Zeballos
Chung has a nice shot at upsetting Nishikori, Anderson could upset Tsonga and make an unexpected run. Bedene could upset Sock and Bautista Agut, and Zeballos could emerge from the Goffin/Thiem section, although it’s unlikely.
Round of 16 Murray d. Berdych
Zverev d. Nishikori
Wawrinka d. Gasquet
Tsonga d. Cilic
Carreno Busta d. Raonic
Nadal d. Sock
Thiem d. Goffin
Djokovic d. Pouille
Murray, Wawrinka, Nadal, and Djokovic, the steady warhorses of this draw should prevail, with only Murray having the chance of getting upset this early. The young Zverev and Thiem should make their moves, despite facing challenging opposition, Tsonga should nip Cilic to be the last French man standing, and I have Carreno Busta upsetting Raonic.
Quarters Zverev d. Murray
Wawrinka d. Tsonga
Nadal d. Carreno Busta
Djokovic d. Thiem
A battle of contrasts in form, I have Zverev upsetting Murray given how good of a clay court season he’s had. Wawrinka, Nadal, and Djokovic remain favorites, although Novak should watch out against Thiem.
Semis Zverev d. Wawrinka
Nadal d. Djokovic
I’ll pick Rafa to take home the title, but I have Zverev as a surprise finalist. Wawrinka has not been that impressive this clay court season, and Nadal should have an edge over Djokovic on clay.