Tag Archive | "US Clay Court Championships"

Clay : You Have To Love It For It To Love You Back

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Clay : You Have To Love It For It To Love You Back


img_9979_bwFor as long as I live, when I think of the red clay at Roland Garros, the picture that will always come to mind is that of Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten tracing the contours of a heart on the ground after his grueling five sets win over Swede Magnus Norman in the 2000 French Open final.

Bar none, clay is the most demanding surface to play on. The points can be endless.  A men’s three set match can last longer than three hours. Thus, that type of court can exact a significant mental and physical price. Ironically though, clay is much gentler on the body than a hard court where joints can be prone to injury. Despite the clay presenting some significant health benefits, the list of players who excel on that specific turf is far shorter than that of those who perform well on hard court. Therefore, the question must be posed as to the source of this disconnection.

One explanation may be the competitors’ lack of familiarity with the surface. The majority of Americans and non- Iberian Europeans nowadays grow up playing on concrete. Red clay practice courts and tournaments have become a rarity in the U.S. Currently, the ladies have a choice of either Charleston or Jacksonville; many have characterized both as “simulated clay”. Players have described the green surface as a hard court dusted with clay which makes their movement feel awkward. For the men, their only option is the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Houston. Although it is more suitable than what’s available to the women, in many respects it falls short of the necessary requisite to offer a full fledge European red clay experience.

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Blake Slips Again Losing In Houston; Ferrer Reigns In Spain


In Houston, the U.S. Clay Court Championship final was played with 22 year old Marcel Granollers of Spain, ranked 75 in the world, taking on James Blake ranked 8 in the world and the top seed at this event. After losing the first set, Blake recovered nicely, effortlessly winning the second. The hope was that the tides had turned. After having an early lead in the third set, Blake went down a break. With Granollers serving for the match at 5-4, Blake managed to break back. Yet, Blake was unable to harness this momentum and allowed the Spaniard back in the match. On the subsequent game because of a bunch of unforced errors, Blake was on the ropes once again. This time though, the Spaniard did not falter and edged in front. With a solid service game, Granollers won the match and with it his first ATP career title 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.

This represents the second time this year that Blake has been beaten in the finals by a no-name opponent whom he technically should have defeated handily. At the tournament in Delray Beach, 19-year-old Japanese qualifier, Kei Nishikori, triumphed over Blake. The American continues to be inconsistent. Just last week, Blake was instrumental in terms of the USA advancing to the next round in Davis Cup play. Ernests Gulbis of Latvia and Rainer Schuettler of Germany won the doubles title.

In Valencia Spain, another clay court final was underway with two Spaniards David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro fighting it out. The latter, the champion the last two years, went down in a third set tiebreak to Ferrer who snatched his first Valencia Open title 4-6, 6-2, 7-6. The Argentinean team of Juan Monaco and Maximo Gonzalez won the doubles crown.

The next stop on the ATP tour will be Monte-Carlo which starts on April 20th where Nadal, Federer along with an elite field of clay court virtuosos will be in action.

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