The World No 1, Andy Murray, hopes to make his competitive return in
Nadal has reached three finals this season and lost them all, but is imperious on the clay and will be hopeful of finally beating Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles.
The return of Maria Sharapova is dominating headlines when it comes to the WTA Tour, with the Russian scheduled to start her comeback from a doping ban at the Women’s Stuttgart Open, which begins on April 24.
Here are five questions we have ahead of the start of the claycourt season.
How well will
The first question mark hanging over world No 1 Andy Murray ahead of the claycourt swing concerns the date of his return.
The World No 1 has endured a miserable start to the 2017 season, suffering from shingles and illness since the turn of the year and was forced to withdraw from the Miami Open with an elbow injury.
He also suffered his earliest Australian Open exit since 2009 when he was dumped out in the fourth round by Mischa Zverev. It hardly helps matters that his return coincides with the claycourt season – which is easily his weakest surface.
But there are also reasons for
Plus a short break may have done the 29-year-old some good. There are few busier players on tour than
Short spells out of the game haven’t hurt the likes of Rafael Nadal or Federer: perhaps
Can Nadal maintain his fine form?
Few could have predicted Roger Federer’s 2017 renaissance. After battling back from knee surgery – the first major injury of his career – the 35-year-old won the Australian Open for the fifth time in his career before triumphing at both Indian Wells and the Miami Open, to seal the third Sunshine Double of his career.
In short: his start to the season has utterly overshadowed Nadal’s, who has also exceeded expectations this campaign.
But after losing finals to Federer in both
The Spaniard has won nine of the last 12 Monte Carlo Masters, and seven of the last 12 Italian Opens, not to mention nine French Opens since 2005.
If he can maintain his early season form and steer clear of any further injuries, he is likely to start as the favourite in every tournament he enters until the grasscourt season, and it would not be a surprise to see him finally surpass Pete Sampras’ 14 Grand Slam victories.
How long until Sharapova gets up to speed?
Maria Sharapova will make her comeback from a doping suspension on April 26, with the Russian star given a wildcard into the Women’s Stuttgart Open.
Thirteen months after she first called a press conference at a hotel in downtown
As well as the Stuttgart Open, Sharapova has also been handed wildcards to the Madrid Open and the Italian Open and will likely appear at Roland Garros – something which hasn’t gone down particularly well with the other women on tour.
No doubt Sharapova’s formidable claycourt game has something to do with their frustration; she has twice won the French Open and is a three-time Italian Open champion.
But it remains to be seen how strong her game is after so many months spent away from the tour, walking the red carpet and plugging her range of designer candy.
The emergence of several other talented players in her absence –
Can Evans get to grips with the red stuff?
“It’s almost a different sport,” a wide-eyed Dan Evans bemoaned after
Evans hates the red stuff: he has never won an ATP Tour match on the surface and has entered the French Open only once, in 2014, where he lost in the first-round of preliminary qualifying to a player ranked 181 in the world.
But this is the year Evans hopes to finally end his aversion to clay. Buoyed by his run to the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open, not to mention his growingly influential role in
Evans revealed ahead of
“It is part of the job to play on clay, so I will give it my best go,” he said last week. “I will have fun and see what happens.” British fans will hold their breath.
What will Serena Williams choose to do?
At 35 and with painfully recurring shoulder and knee injuries, Serena Williams has to manage her calendar very, very carefully, as she continues in her quest to win her 24 Grand Slam title, equalling the all-time record held by the Australian legend Margaret Court.
So a cursory glance at Serena’s career statistics would suggest she would be wise to avoid the claycourt season altogether, instead resting up before
In contrast, she has ‘only’ won at Roland Garros three times, while her two wins on the red clay of Madrid compare unfavourably with her astonishing eight triumphs in Key Biscayne.
True: Williams hasn’t always performed well on clay, and in 2012, she suffered the ignominy of being dumped out of the French Open by Virginie Razzano in the very first round.
But her record on the surface since that match stands at 81-5 – including two wins in