So after a winter of uncertainty we’re back where we were in 2005, 2006, 2007, and pretty much every year since. It’s April, the men are swinging into Monte Carlo, and the world’s No. 1 player is wondering if he can find a way to overcome the world’s No. 1 clay-courter over the next two months.
In the old days, that No. 1 player was Roger Federer; for the last three years it’s been Novak Djokovic. The No. 1 clay-courter in both cases has been Rafael Nadal. While Federer and Djokovic have each recorded a couple of wins on dirt over Rafa, and Federer snuck in a French Open title in 2009, this has remained the Spaniard’s season. To say the least: This year Nadal will go for his 9th title in Monte Carlo, 8th in Barcelona, 7th in Rome, 3rd in Hamburg/Madrid, and 8th in Paris. Good luck to Nole, and everyone else.
Here’s a look at the upsides and downsides that each of the top contenders brings with him to the European dirt.