ATP Previews: Federer Leads Clay Estoril Field

Posted on April 14, 2008

The ATP spring clay court circuit begins Monday with the Estoril Open, Open de Tenis Comunidad
Valenciana and US Men's Clay Court Championship.

They are three of the 11 ATP clay court tournaments leading to the road to Roland Garros. Seven of the Top 20 players in the South African Airways ATP Rankings are in action, led by World No.
1 Roger Federer and No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko, the top two seeds in Estoril. No. 5 David Ferrer is
the top seed in Valencia and No. 8 James Blake leads the Houston field.

Other top entries include No. 17 Juan Monaco, No. 18 Tommy Robredo and No. 19 Juan Carlos
Ferrero in Valencia.

Federer, who has compiled a 32-6 clay court record the last two years en route to back-to-back
runner-up efforts in Paris, will be competing in his first non-ATP Masters Series tournament on clay
since Gstaad in July 2004. Of Federer's six losses on clay, five have come to Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who will make his spring clay court debut next week as the three-time defending champion at Masters
Series Monte Carlo.

World No. 1 Federer is trying to capture his first ATP title of the season. This is the first time since 2000 he has begun the first three months of the year without a title. It is also his longest final drought since the end of 2002 and first month of 2003 when he went seven tournaments without a final.

"I am disappointed not to see my name, playing in the finals," he said after his quarterfinal loss to Andy Roddick at the Sony Ericsson Open. "It's just disappointing seeing other guys battling it out where I think I have the game to obviously play there, be there as well."

Davydenko, who won the Estoril title in 2003 and reached the final two years ago, is coming off his
second career ATP Masters Series title in Miami. The 26-year-old Russian has advanced to the Roland
Garros semifinals two of the past three seasons. The Estoril Open is traditionally a platform for
future Roland Garros champions. Sergi Bruguera, Thomas Muster, Albert Costa and Juan Carlos Ferrero won titles in Portugal before going on to succeed in Paris. Even Gustavo Kuerten (1997) and Gaston Gaudio (2004) won the doubles at the Estoril Open the same year they lifted the Roland Garros
singles crown.

In Valencia, 2005 finalist Ferrer leads a field that includes ten Spaniards, including two-time defending champion Nicolas Almagro. The 22-year-old is off to a career-best 16-5 start this year with ATP titles in Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco. He also leads the ATP circuit with a 14-1 record on clay.

In Houston, Blake is looking to reach his first career ATP final on clay and takes on a field that
includes 2006 titlist Mardy Fish, who defeated three Top 10 players en route to the Indian Wells
final, and 2004 titlist Tommy Haas.
-- ATP