Enough about the blue colored clay courts. WHO CARES! It’s a PR stunt! Tennis players have been playing for generations on different colored courts – some green, some red, some purple, some orange, some different shades, some checkerboard and yes, many of them blue! – without complaint, until now. Get over it!
Now that the Madrid draw is out, we can get that much closer to playing real tennis. That said, the courts – not the color – do seem to be an issue. Some say the bounces are low and the surface is slick, so perhaps a little advantage to those who serve big and hit the ball hard. And that with the altitude could play a role in deciding the champion – again, the surface not the color!
All eyes will be on the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, who seeks to extend his current 21-match run on his favorite surface. However the draw is actually a tricky one for Rafa. As the No. 2 seed after a bye he’ll open against either Ivo Karlovic or Nikolay Davydenko. Both players can give Nadal a tough time. Countryman Fernando Verdasco might await in the third round before a quarterfinal showdown against big bomber Tomas Berdych. Again, it might seem easy on paper but it’s a tough little section. If the courts really do help the power players like Berdych/Karlovic and kills Nadal’s high forehand kicker it could get interesting.
Staying in the bottom half, Andy Murray’s withdrawal leaves a wide open third quarter to JW Tsonga who’s matched with John Isner. Tsonga could meet Ryan Harrison in his opener, then Alexandr Dolgopolov who I like to pull the upset there against the Frenchman. For Isner, he’ll a tough start against either Albert Montanes or Marin Cilic, then Del Potro. In the end, I like Del Potro to power through this section. Big serve, big game, faster clay, altitude, should all help.
In the top half, defending champion Novak Djokovic is the class of a rather weak section. He’ll have Feliciano Lopez as his third round seed (Stan Wawrinka might get there), then perhaps friend and countryman Janko Tipsarevic or Gilles Simon in the quarters. Djokovic hasn’t been playing at his 2011 levels, but with minimal opposition he should still breeze into the semifinals where he could meet…
Roger Federer. The Swiss makes his long-awaited clay debut next week and his draw may not have been worth the wait. Federer will be tested right from the start against either Milos Raonic or former nemesis David Nalbandian. Then Richard Gasquet or Tomaz Bellucci in the third followed David Ferrer or Nicolas Almagro in the quarters. Tough matches for Roger who I think will get through thanks to the quicker conditions, but in my mind he could lose any of those especially if the surface is playing that slippery.
So as of now, I got Djokovic and Federer in one semifinal and I’ll take Del Potro and Nadal in the other. While I’d love to see Delpo pull the upset, I think it’s a rematch from 2011 and this time Nadal gets revenge!
Really, though, I could see any of the Big Three winning. But I give Nadal a slight edge based on recent form.
Among the many excellent first round matches, we have Melzer-Lopez, Simon-Fognini, Nalbandian-Raonic, Troicki-Young, Stepanek-Tomic, Montanes-Cilic, Kohlschreiber-Monfils and Karlovic-Davydenko. So plenty of good tennis before the big boys hit the courts Tuesday.
Matches at the Magic Box begin on Sunday for the men, Saturday for the women.
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