It seems a little odd that, just as the men’s and women’s clay seasons have achieved lift-off, the stars on both sides are out of action this week. But it's understandable: There's a lot coming up. After Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Stuttgart, the big names take a little time to gather themselves before the dual-gender double-header in Madrid and Rome, where they’ll be joined for the first time by Serena Williams and Roger Federer.
In the mean time, those who can’t afford any days off are currently laboring in Portugal and Munich. Here’s a quick look at those draws, as we fans take our own breather before the big events to come.
Portugal Open (ATP)
$539,126; 250 ranking points
Draw is here
I shouldn't say all of the top players are gathering themselves. David Ferrer, world No. 4 and a man who shuns vacation time in general, is the first seed here. There are times when it seems that Ferrer overplays, but you can understand his choice this week—after losing his opener in Barcelona, he hasn’t hit a ball in competition for seven days! Ferrer opens against Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Joining him in what used to be known as the Estoril Open are fellow seeds Stan Wawrinka, Andreas Seppi, Fabio Fognini, Julien Benneteau, Benoit Paire, Horacio Zeballos, and Tommy Robredo. In Monte Carlo, it briefly looked as if Wawrinka, who has a new coach, Magnus Norman, may be ready to turn a corner. He’s looked that way before and never made the turn, but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Wawa this clay season. Could the same be true for Fognini? A writer once joked to me he that thought Fognini stuck around at tournaments long enough to earn “enough money to go dancing." Now the Italian, who made the semis in Monte Carlo, has suddenly started to seem like a threat. He’s on Wawrinka’s side of the draw.
Portugal Open (WTA)
$235,000; WTA International
Draw is here
The women’s version of the Portugal Open lacks a Top 4 figure like Ferrer, but it does have the usually entertaining Marion Bartoli as its top seed. The Frenchwoman, who has been hiring and firing coaches lately, opens against Peng Shuai.
Following Bartoli on the seeding chart are Dominika Cilbulkova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Carla Suarez Navarro, and Sorana Cirstea. The No. 6 seed, Varvara Lepchenko, has already gone out to that wildest of wild cards, Svetlana Kuznetsova.
First-round match to watch: Cibulkova vs. Ula Radwanska
Already out: Laura Robson, who lost her opener to Ayumi Morita in straight sets. As Robson and Sloane Stephens have discovered in recent months, it’s a long season; and, to paraphrase AC/DC, its a long way to the top if you want to...hit a ball.
$540,848; 250 ranking points
Draw is here
This is stay-close-to-home week: The Spanish have flocked to Portugal, while the Central and Eastern Europeans populate the Munich draw. Top among them are Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic, Croatia’s Marin Cilic, and Germany’s Tommy Haas and Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Also here: Alexandr Dolgopolov, Gael Monfils, Ernests Gulbis, Florian Mayer, and Mikhail Youzhny. Of those, I’ll be most curious about the rebuilding Monfils and Ernests “Trust me, I’m really much better than I am” Gulbis.
Unfortunate first-round match-up: Ukrainian Davis Cup teammates Dolgopolov and Stakhovsky face each other.