Clay Season round-up and RG predictions – Allez!

Oooh La La! It is the eve of the second slam of 2015, which will be covered here in exhaustive detail once again including coverage of my third trip to Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday.

First though, a recap of the clay season which has been somewhat neglected on this ere blog.

And yes, I’m well aware that some tournies are still ongoing – but we can all blame this new fangled Sunday start in the French Capital for that.

Who look’s hot – the title winners.

MEN
Martin Klizan (Casablanca)
Jack Sock (Houston)
Novak Djokovic (Monte Carlo, Rome)
Kei Nishikori (Barcelona)
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (Bucharest)
Andy Murray (Munich, Madrid)
Richard Gasquet (Estoril)
Roger Federer (Istanbul)

The standout names here remain Murray and Djokovic, and not just because of the pedigree of their titles. It is significant that both overcame Rafa Nadal en route (and they weren’t the only ones) and it is why both should be seen as favourites over the next fortnight – but more on that later.

Usual clay suspects Garcia-Lopez and Gasquet triumphed and Nishikori and Federer nabbed a title each to remain relevant (although surely his best chance of capturing elusive Rome has now passed). Elsewhere, a huge thumbs up to Jack Sock to take his maiden title amidst a tough field of former champs in Houston.

Others to have shown decent form without any silverware to show for it include Wawrinka, Fognini, Monfils and Berdych – all will be keenly avoided by all in Paris.

WOMEN
Angelique Kerber (Charleston, Stuttgart)
Anna Schmeidlova (Katowice)
Teliana Periera (Colombia)
Elina Svitolina (Marrakech)
Karolina Pliskova (Prague)
Petra Kvitova (Madrid)
Maria Sharapova (Rome)

Again, Kvitova and Masha look to be the form girls going into RG2015, but Simona, Serena and frankly anyone is capable of upsetting the odds with les filles – especially on the dirt. Look no further than a certain Garbine Muguruza last year – the highlight of a stellar last twelve months.

Instead, Angelique Kerber emerges as the darkest of horses on clay form alone – the German steadily rediscovering her mojo after an inconsistent and largely frustrating couple of years.

Carla Suarez Navarro is always a threat on clay, and Caro Wozniacki, Svetlana Kuznetsova and the young duo of Madison Keyes and Camilla Giorgi enjoyed decent results too. There is strength across the age spectrum in the women’s game – let’s hope it delivers another cracking finale after last year broke the trend of one-sided Parisian curtain calls.

RG victor predictions

Well normally we’d be running through another long set of superlatives for Rafa in preparation for his inevitable run to the title. But without a clay title to his name this year – and not really a whole lot to show elsewhere, I cannot see a tenth title.

Djokovic has to be the favourite – he is head and shoulders above everyone else and is now backing up such form on his least favourite surface. Murray? Well I just think that draw is full of too many stern tests. Of course, we all know how tough draws work out for the Scot at majors.

The ladies remains tougher to predict, Serena seems shaky, despite the PR machine spouting out the contrary, whilst Maria can never be confidently backed I feel, although the defending champion is certainly in the running. Equally, Halep seems a little more beatable now – some intensity has been lost from the Romanian’s sparkling game.

I can’t wait to get stuck into the French Open this year, the draws have been printed and the seeds highlighted. Eurosport will be on the set constantly and most importantly? Me and a close friend will be gracing Chatrier and Lenglen in the opening days.

Until then – adieu

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